Mar 232011

It has been a long time in coming, but today sees the return of the Beautiful Groan podcast, which I originally started in May last year as a weekly effort. It lasted just three episodes before the season ended, and that, along with various other life changes that reduced my time, meant the podcast faded away, waiting for ten months to be resurrected.

After a few technical hitches (dead microphone making me sound like a drowning robot, unfathomably loud laptop making me sound like I’m standing under a jet), I’m delighted to announce its return. The old features – interviews with Arsenal players, Room 101, reviews of the week etc – are all still there, alongside a couple of new ones.

On today’s show, I chat with the returning Jens Lehmann on his burgeoning reputation as something of a ladies man, look back at the WBA game and forward to the rest of the season, Room 101 gets all fashion conscious, and I start a new series of examining the status of players within the squad by looking at the life and times of Denilson. In addition, I round up the ‘best of the web’ with a top five tweets of the week and a pointer towards a particularly excellent article – I’ll be doing this every week, so feel free to get in touch with your own. I’ll read them all.

The podcast page is the place to go to see the details of every episode so far, which Arsenal player has been interviewed, who is mentioned in the ‘best of the web’ and so on. All subscription (ITunes, RSS) details can be found there as well as direct links to every episode. Alternatively, they are all at the bottom of this post.

After last year’s failed run, I am hoping to keep this going for the long term so, as a relatively new podcaster (if that’s even the right word) any feedback would be greatly appreciated, positive or negative. If you like something, say, if you hate a feature, tell me. I’d really rather know – I have no intention of churning out crappy segments that no-one likes every week. It’s for you, not me.

Also, feel free to get involved. If you write a blog and you’re not sure if I read it or not, send me the link. If you are on Twitter and talk about Arsenal a lot, let me know. If I don’t know of your work, I can’t include you in my ‘best of’ round up, and I would like to involve as many people as possible. The time for shameless self promotion is here – show me what you do.

Hope you enjoy it.

How to get hold of the podcast

You can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes by using the following link:

Subscribe in iTunes

Alternatively, you can subscribe via RSS here:

Or simply download the podcast directly from this link (27.9Mb).

If you want to get in touch about the podcast, to give feedback, suggestions, or comment on any of the issues I talk about, feel free to mail me or put something in the comments below. The email address is Any and all feedback is more than welcome.

Thanks for listening.

May 262010

After a week of speculation about our captain, we finally had some concrete quotes today, clearing the whole issue up. Well, sort of. Okay, so they didn’t really. We don’t know whether he is coming or going, but we do know that he is respecting his contract and leaving the matter entirely in the hands of Arsenal Football Club:

“I will only say one thing, I have great respect for Arsene Wenger, for Arsenal football club and for the Arsenal fans. Sometimes not even in my house I felt more love than I felt at Arsenal.”

“I had a long conversation with Arsene, it was probably the greatest conversation I’ve had with someone in my life and I respect him so much and I don’t want to say too much about this.”

“He told me to concentrate on my football, he told me to concentrate on the World Cup, he told me to leave it in his hands, he will deal with whatever happens in my future and that’s what I’m doing, just concentrating on football.”

“It’s not up to me anymore and it’s just now about Arsenal and wherever it has to be and that’s it.”

It is fairly apparent that at some point in that conversation with Wenger, Cesc expressed a desire to move back to Barcelona, and was extremely grateful for the manager’s reaction. That alone suggests that Wenger has indicated that the club would sell if the right offer came in, which I don’t think anyone has ever doubted. The question is: what is that price, and will/can Barcelona pay it?

I’m not going to read too much into the fact that Cesc talks about the love he ‘felt’ (past tense) at Arsenal – English is not his first language and it would therefore be churlish to over analyse.

What is fantastic to see is that he is handing control to the club, where it has always belonged. He has made his wishes known, but if the conversation was as enlightening and meaningful as he suggests, it was extremely likely to have been frank and honest on both sides. Cesc will have explained his reasons for wanting to leave, and Wenger will have made his position known.

Arsene is not a man to keep a player against his wishes as long as the club is suitably compensated, so that there is a price on our captain’s head is not in doubt. But by removing himself from all negotiations in such a mature and classy way, Cesc is refusing to bow to the pressure Barcelona are exerting. Their familiar and juvenile attempts to drive a chasm between player and club, in order to drive the price down, have failed. The two are as united as ever, and will only be separated if the move is beneficial to both.

Cesc will not come out and demand a transfer, and Arsenal will not contact Barcelona seeking to sell him. There is only one move available to the Spanish club, and it is the move they should have initiated proceedings with – an offer. If it is too low, and they refuse to move towards our valuation, Cesc’s respect for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger will see him return to the Emirates without fuss. Checkmate.

At last, a club and a player are insisting Barcelona go about their transfer business in the correct way. Be proud.

Elsewhere, one Spaniard is heading home – Fran Merida’s expected move to Atletico Madrid has been completed – a shame he could not make it at Arsenal, but perhaps La Liga will prove a more fruitful league to play in. Good luck to him.

Sol Campbell is considering a move to Celtic, but only if Arsenal do not offer him a new contract. Personally, I hope (and believe) that he will remain at the club next season – he still has plenty to offer, not only on the pitch itself but in the dressing room. One more year, Sol.

The podcast is back

After a week’s holiday, the Beautiful Groan podcast is back. It is shorter than usual thanks to there being absolutely no football to talk about, but there is still plenty on the show – Chamakh is welcomed, the Cesc situation is discussed (although it was recorded before today’s press conference), another footballing annoyance is consigned to Room 101 and there is even time to take a look at our defence, predicting what may happen to our back line this summer.

You can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes by using the following link:

Subscribe in iTunes

Alternatively, you can subscribe via RSS here:

Or simply download the podcast directly from this link (14.7Mb).

If you want to get in touch about the podcast, to give feedback, suggestions, or comment on any of the issues I talk about within, feel free to mail me or put something in the comments below. The email address is

Enjoy. And thank you Cesc for showing the class befitting our club captain.

May 122010

Historically, Wenger has often attempted to fix the problem of a leaky defence by adding players further up the field. In January of last season, when we were all clamouring for a central defender or a defensive midfielder to plug the gaps that were threatening our Champions League qualification, he signed Arshavin and was vindicated as our season recovered.

It is a romantic notion that everything can be solved by having the most destructive attack, and that campaign proved that impetus can be gained from such an approach, but when you’re looking to take the extra step and become champions once again, eventually the focus has to fall on the back line. I’ve collected a couple of interesting statistics about the sort of numbers we’re talking about:

  • Our tally of 83 goals was our third highest in the Premiership era. The two seasons we bettered it (85 in 2002/3, 87 in 2004/5), our defence was not tight enough to capitalise, and we did not win the league. Every time we have claimed the crown, we have actually scored less than 80.
  • Chelsea’s record of 32 goals against is the first time in seven years that a side has conceded 30 or more goals and gone on to win the title.

In most campaigns, you need to concede less than thirty to become champions, so our tally of 41 is far too high for us to have been realistic challengers, irrespective of our attacking strengths. Despite scoring 103 goals, Chelsea nearly didn’t win the league because of the 32 they conceded, proving that a watertight defence is critical in the long run. Sooner or later you have to win matches 1-0, and those are the games that make the difference.

The good news is that Wenger is aware of the problem, and will be making defence his priority in the summer:

“If you divide the season into two – going forward we have done very well but defensively we have been average. When you concede 40 goals you don’t win the championship and I want to rectify that.”

“My transfer policy this summer will be to keep our strengths going forward, add one player, and add more defensive strength to our team.”

The one player he is talking about is Chamakh (whose Wikipedia page amusingly has him listed as an Arsenal player already), so his words suggest that no other forward players will be arriving once the Moroccan’s deal is finalised.

That leaves the defence, and it is interesting to see him talk about the ‘strength‘ that needs to be added. Whether he is referencing quality or physical strength is unclear, but the re-signing of Sol Campbell proved that in the right player, both can be available. With Gallas and Silvestre leaving, at least one more central defender must come in, and that player has to be able to slot into the team as seamlessly as Vermaelen did last year. Tough ask, but that is what is required.

There will be many looking at the two departing central defenders and insisting that we need to replace both, but in reality one already has been replaced – Silvestre started last season as the fourth choice centre back (behind Gallas, Vermaelen and Djourou), but Campbell took that role in January. What we need is a direct Gallas replacement.

It is World Cup year, and Wenger likes to sign any players participating in the tournament before it starts (Rosicky was the one from four years ago), to avoid the inevitable price hike if they shine. For once, we may not have to wait until August for news. Let’s hope so.

Wednesday can only mean one thing

On to other things – it is Wednesday, so it is time for another Beautiful Groan podcast. On today’s show I have an exclusive interview with Cesc Fabregas*, who reveals just how many years he has secretly detested Sam Allardyce, I call the Spurs shop in an attempt to buy some matchday DVDs they probably don’t stock, another footballing annoyance is consigned to Room 101, the Fulham game is discussed and I take a look at the state of our goalkeeping situation.

*Cesc interviews are in no way spliced together from elsewhere. Oh no…

You can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes by using the following link:

Subscribe in iTunes

Alternatively, you can subscribe via RSS here:

Or simply download the podcast directly from this link (22.7Mb).

If you want to get in touch about the podcast, to give feedback, suggestions, or comment on any of the issues I talk about within, feel free to mail me or put something in the comments below. The email address is


May 052010

Afternoon all.

Not a huge amount of Arsenal news today, so this post is for one reason only – the launch of The Beautiful Groan Podcast, a show that will be coming to you every Wednesday.

The first episode is available now, and you can download it directly here (24.8 Mb – about 36 minutes). Alternatively, you can subscribe in your RSS reader using the following URL:

If you are an iTunes user, you can subscribe by clicking Advanced -> Subscribe to Podcast and entering the URL above. In the next few days I hope to have a direct link to the iTunes catalog entry for the podcast – it is currently going through the submission process.

So what can you expect from the podcast? On today’s show, I talk to Thomas Vermaelen, who gives a very frank assessment of Blackburn, and also to Alan, my United-supporting brother (yes, I know) who talks about both clubs, giving us an outsider’s view of where Arsenal are and what we need to progress.

On top of that, one of football’s annoyances gets consigned to Room 101, and I discuss the past few weeks as well as the Fulham game at the weekend.

More features will be added as the podcast grows (and once there is space because I don’t spend the first few minutes explaining what the podcast is!), so stay tuned for that. For up to date information on the show, and links to all episodes, visit the Podcast page.

As this is the first ever episode, any and all feedback is welcome (and in fact, requested). Anything you like, anything you don’t, or any suggestions you have – please drop me a line either from the Contact page or by mailing directly to the following address –

Listen, enjoy, and let me know what you think.