Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Available Now: My Morning Jacket - Circuital

(Updated on June 4th)

My Morning's Jacket sixth LP, "Circuital," is one hell of an album. I've listened to it at least once a day since its release on Tuesday, and I think it gets better with each listen. Even though I was hoping for something that would sound more similar to "At Dawn" and "It Still Moves," I'm still completely satisfied with the album and the variance in sound it offers. It's probably most similar to Z, which is a great album, but there is definitely a progression here. 'Holdin on to Black Metal' is such a fun song, and is certainly something we haven't heard from them before. My favorite tracks are: Circuital, Wonderful (The Way I Feel), Holdin on to Black Metal, First Light, You Wanna Freak Out, Slow Slow Tune. But really, every song is great. There are so many nuances within each song - whether it's Jim James' voice or a guitar riff, or a note from another instrument; there's a lot to love about this album.

I also want to say that the free My Morning Jacket concert on youtube Tuesday night helped me to appreciate this album even more. Their songs seem to sound better live, and I have had the pleasure of watching them play at one of the best venues in the country, Red Rocks outside of Denver, in the summer of '08. Though, unfortunately, I wasn't very familiar with the band  at the time (I only knew some songs off of Evil Urges and Z), so I wasn't able to fully appreciate their 3-hour set. This time around, I knew every song they played and it was a great experience.

Anyway, the track listing is below. I highly recommend giving it a listen.

1. Victory Dance
2. Circuital
3. The Day Is Coming
4. Wonderful (The Way I Feel)
5. Outta My System
6. Holdin on to Black Metal
7. First Light
8. You Wanna Freak Out
9. Slow Slow Tune
10. Movin Away

Friday, May 27, 2011

Top Twenty-Four Bob Dylan Songs

In honor of Bob Dylan's 70th birthday (which was on May 24th), and Rolling Stone Magazine's tribute to him in their listing of his 70 greatest songs, I decided to create a list of my own. Instead of listing my top seventy Dylan songs, I decided to offer my favorite 24 (in honor of the day he was born). So whether you agree with me or not, at least we can agree that Bob Dylan is America's greatest songwriter and is one of the most important/influential figures in contemporary music. If we can't agree on that, there's something wrong with you.

This was a pretty difficult task. I tried to include as many albums as I could - with a limit of four songs per album. I also decided, obviously, to omit songs that weren't written by Bob.

24. Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window? (Non-album single)
23. New Morning (New Morning)
22. On a Night Like This (Planet Waves)
21. The Man In Me (New Morning)
20. Talkin' New York (Bob Dylan)
19. Peggy Day (Nashville Skyline)
18. Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance (The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan)
17. Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You (Nashville Skyline)
16. Ballad In Plain D (Another Side of Bob Dylan)
15. Temporary Like Achilles (Blonde on Blonde)
14. Queen Jane Approximately (Highway 61 Revisited)
13. It's All Over Now, Baby Blue (Bringing It All Back Home)
12. I Shall Be Released (Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2)
11. Love Minus Zero/No Limit (Bringing It All Back Home)
10. Highway 61 Revisited (Highway 61 Revisited)
9. Absolutely Sweet Marie (Blonde On Blonde)
8. It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train To Cry (Highway 61 Revisited)
7. Don't Think Twice, It's All Right (The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan)
6. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat (Blonde On Blonde)
5. Boots of Spanish Leather (The Times They Are A-Changin')
4. Subterranean Homesick Blues (Bringing It All Back Home)
3. Song To Woody (Bob Dylan)
2. Visions of Johanna (Blonde on Blonde)
1. Like a Rolling Stone (Highway 61 Revisited)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Top Ten Albums of 2008

1. Dr. Dog - Fate
2. Delta Spirit - Ode to Sunshine
3. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
4. The Black Keys - Attack & Release
5. My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges
6. Okkervil River - The Stand-Ins
7. She & Him - Volume One
8. The Tallest Man On Earth - Shallow Grave
9. The Morning Benders - Talking Through Tin Cans
10. Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue

Honorable Mention: Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes, Conor Oberst - Conor Oberst, Murder By Death - Red of Tooth and Claw, Neva Dinova - You May Already Be Dreaming, Vetiver - Thing of the Past, The Whispertown 2000 - Swim, Titus Andronicus - The Airing of Grievances

Disappointments: Ryan Adams - Cardinology

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Samba To Arsenal?

I don't want to delve too much into rumor and speculation...but what the hell. Recent reports state that Arsenal have renewed their interest in the Blackburn captain, and will look to offer 12 million Euros for him. I am in full support of this move. And after considering it fully, I would rather have Samba than Gary Cahill, Per Mertesacker, or Sakho.

As I said, Samba is Blackburn's captain and he possesses true leadership skills...something our really lacked this season.  He also brings plenty of EPL experience (I think he would definitely hold his own in the Champion's League as well) and toughness. He's big and strong and doesn't get pushed around by any of the strikers in England. If Gary Cahill costs 20 million, I think all Arsenal fans will agree, there's no way Arsene will spend that kind of money for him. Samba would come cheaper and would be exactly the kind of player we need to partner with Vermaelen next season.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Available Now: The Elected - Bury Me In My Rings

Blake Sennett's third album (as The Elected) was released yesterday. It was a long time coming, and as I stated in another post on this blog, I wasn't sure this day would come. Every year since 2006 (when the brilliant Sun, Sun, Sun was released), I googled "Blake Sennett' and "The Elected" in the hopes that I would find an article telling me that another album was on the way. Blake officially retired from music in 2010. The funny thing is, I didn't even know until I came across an article stating that Bury Me In My Rings was going to be released. Had I caught wind of his retirement earlier, it would have given me the blues, so things really seemed to work out and I hope that a fourth album will happen in the near future.

Having listened to the album, I can report that I love it. It's very much its own album while not straying too far from the sounds of Me First or Sun, Sun, Sun. "Babyface" has a great Talking Heads sound and it's one of my favorite tracks. I also love "Look At Me Now," "Trip Around the World," "Have You Been Cheated," and "See the Light." The last two I mention feature some ukelele - something Blake has used in songs before, and it's just got a great sound. Especially when it's combined with a steel lap. Anyway, a great album and it'll be interesting to see where it'll end up on my top ten albums list for 2011.

1. Born to Love You
2. Babyface
3. Look At Me Now
4. Jailbird
5. Go For the Throat
6. This Will Be Worth It
7. Trip Round the World
8. When I'm Gone
9. Who Are You
10. Have You Been Cheated
11. See the Light
12. Time Is Coming

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Top Ten Films of 2010

1. The Social Network

I can easily say that this is the best film of the year. It is brilliant; it is complete. I've been a staunch supporter of David Fincher for the past ten+ years. He's underrated and was completely screwed over at the Oscars this year - a damn shame. Anyway, I was actually able to appreciate this movie even more after watching A Few Good Men. It began to feel more mature and less "Hollywood." The Social Network is an exploration of life that doesn't dwell within the confines of your typical Hollywood film. There are no clear heroes and villains; there is no clear resolution. There's no cheesy dialogue or unnecessary scenes. Everything about this movie works. Also on display here are some very fine performances - Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer, Rooney Mara, and Justin Timberlake are flawless and real. And I don't mean flawless in the sense that Eisenberg perfectly portrayed Mark Zuckerberg. I think that too many people are getting caught up in the debate of whether the film is one hundred percent accurate or not. No film is one hundred percent accurate. What I love about the script here is that it focuses on different points of view. We're not getting one story here - but several. And hats off to Fincher and Aaron Sorkin because the movie is never confusing or dull. You've also got to love the Trent Reznor score. Great all-around film.

2. True Grit

It's truly a gift that the Cohen brothers seem to put out a movie each year. True Grit is Joel and Ethan back to their best - both Burn After Reading and A Serious Man were good, but this one comes closer to No Country For Old Men. And speaking of Oscar snubs, Hailee Steinfeld should be the proud owner of one right now. I haven't seen the original John Wayne version, though I've seen some clips on AMC. I don't know that I will ever watch it because I honestly don't care for John Wayne, and my friend Sharon (who's currently reading the Charles Portis novel) has told me that the Cohen's version is pretty much a word for word adaptation. But she also stated that the movie was funnier, which I would expect. And that's really why I love the Cohens. They provide accurate portrayals of the books, and also do a great job of improving on them. And anyone who says that Jeff Bridges' version of Rooster Cogburn can't hold a candle to John Wayne can piss off. Jeff Bridges is the better actor (Wayne is only iconic as this point) and Bridges is so much better in True Grit than he is Crazy Heart - for which he won an Oscar.

3. Inception

Tough call here because I wasn't sure whether or not this movie would be usurped, after having just watched Blue Valentine. I'm going to go with Inception (for now), because of my love for Chris Nolan and because of the originality of this script. I've talked about this movie with Jeff many times. It should be viewed as a heist film - like Ocean's 11 - and that's why the script doesn't take the time to explain the stories of the other characters. In Ocean's 11, we only learn the most about Danny Ocean. In this case, we have Dom Cobb, played brilliantly by Leo. But yeah, there are too many complaints about this film that I feel are unwarranted. I love it for its ambition. I love it for the subject matter of dreams. The Science of Sleep was a fun movie, but Inception is such a better film. Nolan came up with a highly original concept, and I don't think he should be criticized for that, even if you think he ultimately failed. I get that Ellen Page's character is annoying and a fill-in for the audience. It doesn't really bother me, though. I've seen it multiple times and each time I get hung up in the love story between Leo and the beautiful Marion Cotillard. I was consumed by the cool persona of Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's respective characters. And that's without even mentioning the visuals. Gordon-Levitt's zero-gravity fight scenes are always a joy to watch. And that sequence was beautifully executed in Nolan's decision to make the set they shot in rotate. I also love the scenes with Ellen and Page walking through dreams -with her manipulating the architecture and the cafe and street exploding. Great stuff.

4. Blue Valentine

Maybe someday this movie will overtake Inception. I have to see how it sits with me, having just watched it. I've felt for a while now that both Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams were some of the best actors currently working. This film is a great showcase of that. The scene near the end of the film when Gosling confronts Williams at work is obviously very intense and real. It was interesting to see Gosling completely lose control in that way. He was scary and intimidating. He pulled it off perfectly. I also got a strong sense of Michelle Williams' character early on that I was able to understand why she felt the way she felt. That isn't to say that Gosling's character was such a terrible person who deserved to be divorced. But I could understand why she was just tired with him and why she couldn't do it anymore. Another interesting thing about the film is the use of flashback intermittently. I wonder if the audience is supposed to say to themselves, "Aw, they were once in love. They just need to realize it again" as if there is some hope for them. If you like someone, you want things to work out for them. You also have to consider their daughter in the relationship. But honestly, I never had the impression that the relationship could be salvaged. I don't know. Just a thought.

5. 127 Hours

James Franco is the shit! Sorry, I was watching Freaks and Geeks recently, and I felt that that needed to be said. He carries this film. I was never bored by it, and Franco and Danny Boyle both deserve a great deal of credit for that. Danny Boyle is one of those directors that if you watch any of his stuff, you instantly realize how talented he is. I don't know - it just seems obvious to me...and especially with this film. Think of the shot where the water travels up Aron's hydration pack or the shots of Aron's internal system. He's a very clever director. I haven't read Aron Ralston's story, but I think this film is a great tribute to what happened to him. The scene where he begins to see everyone from his life is very emotional and interesting. And yes, the end with the Sigur Ros track is definitely one of those scenes where you get chills down your back.

6. Black Swan

I feel like Natalie Portman's performance was a real transformation in this film. Obviously I'm not alone in that opinion, seeing as how she won every award this year, but I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge that. She was good in Closer, horrible in Revenge of the Sith, and fantastic here. And obviously Portman's character in the film undergoes a transformation as well. But I feel like she really embodied Nina Sayers. She is that sweet, innocent girl who has the potential to do very dark and mature things. Great stuff. Also, I really got the sense that Vincent Cassel character allowed for Darren Aronofsky to be a character in the film. And there I'm referring to the fact that Aronofsky played a lot of mind games with Portman and Mila Kunis. I love the ending - it's very dark and fitting...or, "perfect," as Nina says. And my favorite shot is when Portman is spinning on stage, and with each turn she turns more and more into a black swan.  Visually stunning.  Beautiful. But yeah, I'm not big on thrillers that make you jump in your seat - this film is the exception. 

7. Winter's Bone

The best part about this film is the acting. John Hawkes and Jennifer Lawrence are perfect and deserving of acclaim (too bad I didn't feel the same way about Hawkes while he was on Lost). Everyone in the film is authentic. Teardrop is a great character because he's both frighteningly intimidating and a caring, supportive Uncle to Ree. I really like the scene where Ree is talking to the Army recruiter. Your heart just goes out to here. Her life story is a tough one to watch, but Lawrence does a hell of a job in portraying it.

8. Shutter Island

When I saw this movie in theaters, I really loved it. Since then, my admiration for it is kind of on the decline. I'm not sure why, but it is. Once again, Leo is great. I'm glad Mark Ruffalo got the role as his partner Chuck - he's phenomenal. The script is captivating. It's a mystery that you never feel bored. And then there's Scorsese...a man who needs no introduction. And so, the cinematography is great and beautiful...even when the images are most disturbing. But I love the shot of when Michelle Williams dissolves into ash. The Concentration Camp scenes are also very haunting. But with that background for Teddy, you see that this film is really hitting on larger themes. The theme here being the idea that people can be absolute monsters. The scene were Teddy comes home to find his children in the lake is also very painful to watch. But yes, I wouldn't call this a perfect movie probably due to the extent that Ben Kingsley explains Leo's condition. I just feel it could have been done better, I suppose.

9. Catfish

I think this might be the only documentary that will ever crack my top ten. Maybe not, though. But this movie definitely deserves recognition. It deserves discussion and I would recommend it to everyone. Though, that recommendation comes with a warning: read nothing about this film and don't watch the trailer. I did see the trailer before watching it, though. I really wish I hadn't but it wasn't as if it ruined the movie for me. It's still an interesting story that's well-executed. There's some controversy as to whether or not the filmmakers staged the events in the film. I honestly don't think they did. Although, yes, I do have questions as to how something like this could happen. But there you have a talking point for a discussion. We live in the age of the computer. We do rely on it too heavily for social networking or other things. But yeah, the tagline is too true: "Don't Let Anyone Tell You What It Is."

10. The American

I was surprised by this film. I didn't think I'd like it as much as I did. Like many people, I'm very familiar with George Clooney. We're familiar with him because he pretty much plays the same character in each film (yet only Michael Cera seems to get shit for this). While Clooney doesn't necessarily stray from his usual persona, we do get a little something different here. The audience never really finds out much about him. We know he can kill a man with his bare hands. We know that there are people who are trying to kill him. We know that he enjoys the company of the beautiful Violante Placido. Beyond that, I don't think there's too much. But Clooney does a great job here. I thought the story was interesting and the cinematography was great. I also really enjoyed the ending. It was pretty sweet.

Honorable Mention: Exit Through the Gift Shop, Never Let Me Go, Inside Job, I'm Still Here

Shite Films: Alice In Wonderland, Prince of Persia, Date Night, Hot Tub Time Machine

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Shows I'm Watching: Game of Thrones

I admit, I haven't read any of the books from George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire book series (nor had I any idea that even existed a month ago), but I guess that just goes to show how much an informational tool television can sometimes become. Anyways, when I first saw the previews for Game of Thrones, I did an erroneous thing in assuming that it was a Tolkien/Lord of the Rings rip-off. I mean, come on, Sean Bean's in it! But anyways, Jeff (my brother) was stoked by the pilot and really wanted me to watch it.

So I watched the pilot, and suffice to say, I wasn't blown away in the way that he was. Sure, I loved the visuals (no doubt that the cinematography is beautiful in its lighting and shots), but the story didn't do enough for me. Obviously the purpose of a pilot is to establish the key characters and the environment that they live in, and so, patience is usually a necessity. Especially since it takes a while for the audience to develop a relationship with the characters and to fully understand the storyline. But while I may have prematurely misjudged the pilot, I was interested enough in the show to keep watching.

After watching the second episode, I was hooked. In fact, I felt the third episode was even better the second. My relationship with the characters began. Not only did I begin to understand the plot a little better, I was intently focused on it and began to theorize on what might happen to the characters next. It's my understanding that the show is very faithful to the material in the books. That's great to hear, though it might also eliminate the desire to ever read any of the books. But nonetheless, props to Martin and the shows developers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. The three of them have helped to give us one of the best new shows on television. I love the casting decisions; there's already talk of Peter Dinklage running away with Emmy and Golden Globe awards, and it's definitely deserved. He's phenomenal as Tyrion. Hell, if you can get me to like Mark Addy in anything, you're doing something right (sorry, that's not really fair).

Of course, all of the Stark children are interesting characters. A lot of people seem to be fans of Arya - rightfully so. I'm also a huge Jon Snow fan. He kicks ass and Kit Harington does a great job playing him. I'll also make an early prediction in saying that I think Jon Snow will go to be someone greater than just the leader of the Night's Watch. I'm thinking he might get the throne in the end. Something like that. And I really love the role of the direwolves as companions and protectors of the Stark children (completely blows that the Queen had Sansa's wolf killed). But yeah, I love the characters and the story does a nice job of providing real depth to each person. Each storyline is just as interesting as the others. Oh, and I also want to say that Viserys is a real piece of shit, so kudos to Harry Lloyd for making me hate him so much.

Anyway, I'm excited for tonight's episode and the forthcoming episodes. And it looks as if we're going to have seven years of engrossing entertainment...assuming George R. R. Martin isn't friends with Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse (yep, I'm still bitter).

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Available Now: Okkervil River - I Am Very Far

Let me start off by saying that the only Okkervil River albums I've listened to are The Stage Names and The Stand Ins (started listening to Black Sheep Boy the other day on Grooveshark), but I'm really using those previous two albums from the band to compare to their newest one, I Am Very Far. It's quite the departure from the previous two. Honestly, after listening to it the first time, I was unimpressed. I feel that Okkervil River works best as a rockin' jam band (think "Unless It's Kicks" or "Lost Coastlines"). But that isn't to say that I don't like the slower songs - I love "Plus Ones" and "On Tour with Zykos." I guess I don't exactly know what I want from them in terms of sound, but I was disappointed in this album.

"The goal was to push my brain to places it didn't want to go. The idea was to not have any idea - to keep myself confused about what I was doing," - Will Sheff. I pulled this quote off Amazon.com and it obviously addresses the difference in sound on I Am Very Far. I commend him for doing as much, and it would have sucked had he just recycled material from The Stand Ins. I'm glad he took his songwriting ability to a new place. But often you have to tread lightly with fans. Too much of a shift can be a bad thing. I don't feel this is a big shift, though. I do enjoy this album. "Rider" and "Wake and Be Fine" offer a sound that's most similar to some of their previous work. I feel that the album really picks up steam with "We Need a Myth" and my favorite tracks would have to be "Hanging From a Hit" and "Your Past Life as a Blast." The former is beautifully written (love the piano) while the latter is catchy and a lot of fun to listen to.

I wouldn't say that this album is a great showcase of Will Sheff's songwriting ability and voice, though again, the tracks I listed above are good examples of it. But the past two albums feature better lyrics and melodies, and they compliment his singing in a better fashion.

And so, in summation, there are definitely some great tracks on this record and I do feel it's worth listening to. But I'm slightly disappointed, too, because I did expect more. Anyways, check it out for yourself because it's available now. Below is the track listing.

1. The Valley
2. Piratess
3. Rider
4. Lay of the Last Survivor
5. White Shadow Waltz
6. We Need a Myth
7. Hanging From a Hit
8. Show Yourself
9. Your Past Life as a Blast
10. Wake and Be Fine
11. The Rise

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Simpsons Episode Rankings: Season 3

Okay, now this project becomes increasingly difficult. We're getting into the "golden years" of the show, where bad episodes don't really exist.  Even in the case of "The Otto Show" - it might be at the bottom of the list, but there are still some great jokes in it. Not to mention an appearance from Spinal Tap.

But anyway, "Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington" takes the cake. I especially love the first act with Homer's obsession with Reader's Digest. It's a very funny, well-written script from George Meyer (my favorite Simpsons writer).

1. Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington
2. Lisa’s Pony
3. Flaming Moe’s
4. Treehouse of Horror II
5. Separate Vocations
6. Black Widower
7. Bart the Lover
8. Homer at the Bat
9. Saturdays of Thunder
10. Bart the Murderer
11. Colonel Homer
12. Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk
13. Lisa the Greek
14. Dog of Death
15. Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?
16. Bart’s Friend Falls in Love
17. Homer Alone
18. Stark Raving Dad
19. I Married Marge
20. Homer Defined
21. When Flanders Failed
22. Radio Bart
23. Like Father, Like Clown
24. The Otto Show

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Top Ten Albums of 2009

1. M. Ward - Hold Time
2. Deer Tick - Born On Flag Day
3. Ben Kweller - Changing Horses

4. Vetiver - Tight Knit

5. Girls - Album

6. Monsters of Folk - Monsters of Folk

7. Andrew Bird - Noble Beast

8. Fanfarlo - Reservoir

9. Coconut Records - Davy

10. Cotton Jones - Paranoid Cocoon

Honorable Mention: Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros - Up From Below, Mumford and Sons - Sigh No More, Conor Oberst & The Mystic Valley Band - Outer South, Heartless Bastards - The Mountain

Disappointments: Devendra Banhart - What Will Be, Cursive - Mama, I'm Swollen

Arsenal 2010-2011 Season Review V

Manager's Grade

Arsene Wenger: F

At this point, I don't know who would argue with this grade. Just the players and Arsene Wenger himself. But with Arsenal's reputation, each trophy-less season should be seen as a failure. I have no idea why Wenger doesn't agree with that. However, I don't feel he should be sacked. Honestly, there's plenty to like about Wenger and I would give him another year or two (assuming he changes). I'll always admire and respect the way he feels the game should be played. It's certainly the most entertaining football in England. But after awhile, beautiful play must result in silverware. Six years without a trophy is too long of a wait...especially since he won two league titles in his first five years with the club.

In some respects, the team's problems are very obvious - we must spend during the upcoming transfer window, bringing in experienced players who play at a consistently high level. But I also feel that you cannot simply buy and expect things to change...though it would certainly provide a great start. Wenger must address his defensive philosophy. I've heard many commentators and former players criticizing the high-line in which the back four play with. We're often left vulnerable to counter attacks because our defenders are pushed up too high. It can be said that if you can beat the offside trap, you can beat Arsenal. A bigger concern, though, is our play during set-pieces. Often our players have mental lapses and forget to mark their men. This must be improved, and we need to start bringing in solid defenders who play tough in the box.

I'm sure if Wenger were completely honest, he would tell you that it doesn't matter if you concede goals, as long as you score more. This is a foolish stance because often teams will get a goal off of a set-piece against us and then just park the bus to get three points. The reason why a mediocre team like Manchester Untited (this year's version) won the league title and will possibly win Champion's League is because they don't concede goals. Their back four is extremely organized and tough to break down. This is Arsene's last chance to improve every aspect of Arsenal's defense. Again, I will give him a window of two years to do so. If the defense doesn't improve or we continue to come up short in the trophy department, then I'd be all for the introduction of a new manager...not sure who that would be, though.

I would hope that Le Professor has finally realized that his transfer/youth policy has failed by now (though I would never expect him to admit it publicly). We will not win a trophy with these players, Arsene. Bendtner, Rosicky, Denilson, Squillaci, and Almunia are all deadweight and need to be sold. I think we need something of a "clean house" approach to the team this summer. The psychologically of the team is clearly damaged, and the arrival of fresh blood would be most beneficial.

I want a trophy next season - preferably the Premier League Title. Both Manchester United and Chelsea aren't as good as they used to be, and I think Arsenal can win the league next year...assuming Wenger changes his transfer and defensive philosophies. We almost won the Carling Cup this - but both the players and the manager are to blame for that debacle. But even if we beat Birmingham at Wembley that day, I don't see how it would have changed much. Obviously, I would like us to win every trophy, but Arsenal should really be aiming for something greater. I want to see this side as a dominant team in the Premier League and a team that will be one of the favorites to win the Champions League. I know Wenger can make all of that possible. I just hope that he'll finally address the issues that have been haunting this team for the past six years.

I can't wait for the transfer window to open, but at the same time, I'm not going to get my hopes up. And if Arsenal haven't won a trophy this time next year, I'll be back here thinking about the next season. Arsenal till I die.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Top Ten Films of 2008

1. Synecdoche, New York
I could go on and on about this film. It might also be my favorite film of the decade. Charlie Kaufman is a genius; I love all of his films (okay, Human Nature...not so much). I wonder how Charlie will follow this one up, because, in my mind, he says everything you would ever need to say about life, love, hate, and death. It's a highly ambitious directorial debut and it doesn't disappoint in any way. It's also one that you can watch several times and take away something new each time. I can't praise it highly enough, and yet, it's disappointing that no one other than Roger Ebert has given this movie its due.

2. The Fall
I was completely blown away by this film; everyone should see it. Each shot is a work of art and the script is exceptionally original. The interactions between Lee Pace and Catinca Untaru are a joy to watch - both hilarious and heartbreaking. Really, it has everything I would want in a film. Storytelling at its finest.

3. The Dark Knight
I love Chris Nolan. Not only does he write interesting stories, but the guy has really re-defined the comic book/superhero genre (too bad no one else is following suit). This is more than just a comic book movie - it's grittier and more realistic. Now obviously you can't talk about this film without mentioning Heath Ledger. This was a complete transformation on his part and he rightfully won an Oscar for his performance (a damn shame that it was posthumously won).

4. Let the Right One In
I'm not a big fan of the horror genre, nor am I a fan of the Vampire subgenre. I guess I just needed to see this film. Visually - it's stunning; I love the shots outside with the snow. Also, the final scene is one that I don't think I'll ever forget. Very cool stuff in a fucked up kind of way.

Maybe it's my favorite Pixar movie? I love the fact that there's no dialogue until the middle of the second act. The film relies on visuals and physical comedy - something Pixar had not done on a large scale before, so I do commend them for trying something new. And the visuals are beautiful with junk-yard Earth and the shots in space. A side note on this film is that Jim Reardon (long-time Simpsons director) helped animate this film...so it gets points for that as well.

6. The Class
I don't really want to admit on this blog that I substitute teach, but it's obviously pertinent here. Now, even though subbing is more like babysitting than teaching, I was still able to connect strongly with the film. It's one hell of an accurate portrayal of the life of a teacher, and it really speaks to the challenges a teacher faces each and every day.

7. Milk
This was an important film to make because Harvey Milk's story needed to be told, since homophobia is just as prevalent today...if not, more so. Thankfully this story was told by all of the right people. Gus Van Sant is always a very interesting director. Sean Penn portrays Harvey Milk brilliantly and the rest of the cast matches his performance -props to Franco, Emile Hirsch, Brolin, and Alison Pill.

8. Tell No One
A very interesting mystery. It's one of those movies where you almost forget that you're watching a film because you're so immersed in it. The performances are all top notch and cinematography is great. I love the way the scenes at the lake are shot.

9. Doubt
I love the theme of this film, and even though I'm not a religious person, I'm still interested in the subject. The notion of faith is a strange concept to me, and what's stranger is that I'm in a minority with that opinion. The performances in this film are all great, as you would expect. With the script, I love the fact that you never actually find out what happened between Father Flynn and Donald Miller. Also, the conversation between Meryl Streep and Viola Davis is probably the best scene in the film - a great dialogue on morality.

10. Revolutionary Road
This movie makes the cut because of the performances. The script is a brutally honest one - I'm expecting as much (multiplied by ten) for Blue Valentine. This is a film that doesn't hold punches; it puts it all out there and doesn't apologize. The good thing about that is the cast. With a slightly weaker one, this film probably would have been much harder to watch. Leo, Kate Winslett, and Michael Shannon are all phenomenal, though. Shannon has followed this film up very nicely with his work on Boardwalk Empire.

Honorable Mention: The Reader, Religulous, Pineapple Express, Man On Wire

Shite Films: The Happening, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Happening, Step Brothers, The Happening

Friday, May 6, 2011

Arsenal 2010-2011 Season Review IV

Player Grades: The Goalkeepers

Vito Mannone: N/A

I really like Mannone as a goalkeeper, but I'm not really sure why Wenger doesn't. I base that comment on the manager's decision to give him minimal time in goal while Almunia and Fabianski displayed their mediocrity (and sub-mediocrity) last season, and his decision to put the young Italian out on loan all season with Hull City this year. I believe Mannone is the starting goalkeeper for Italy Under-21s and whenever I've seen him play, I've been impressed. I don't recall him ever making the mistakes that any of our other keepers have made. Nonetheless, Mannone doesn't exactly possess the experience I would want for a starting Arsenal keeper. We need someone with all the talent and ability of David Seaman. I'd like to keep Vito on the team for next season, but I do foresee the possibility of him leaving to find first-team action elsewhere. He's a great back-up to have, though. The rise of Szczesny has certainly made him more expendable. It'll be interesting to see what happens here.

Jens Lehmann: N/A

I'm still having trouble believing that the 41-year old German made a start for us this year. In that start he looked better than Almunia, but regardless...we should have never reached this point in the season. Wenger should have followed through on bringing in a goalkeeper. Now I know he tried to get Mark Schwarzer from Fulham, but he didn't try hard enough. I believe we put in a 2 million Euro bid for him, which is a bit low for an experienced player, even for a keeper. 4 million probably would have been sufficient, but that would go against the stinginess and the ego of Arsene Wenger. Anyways, thankfully Szczesny came back from injury at the perfect time. The short ballet between Jens and Almunia was a horror show. But I do commend Lehmann for coming back and wanting to help his old club. Kudos.

Lukasz Fabianski: B

Fabianski should easily be named our most improved player. Last year his play was abysmal. We saw blunder after blunder from him, and I wondered what the Arsenal faithful had done to deserve a player like him. But that was last season. You really have to take your hat off to Fabianski. He worked hard and corrected many of the problems that led to his mistakes. Lukasz has always been a phenomenal shot-stopper; it's easily his biggest strength. But his problem, like with all of the men between the sticks on Arsenal, is that his decision-making isn't always what it should be. Again, he has improved on this, but I do wonder if more improvement needs to be made before he hand the number 1 shirt. I'd like Arsene to sign an experienced keeper. Maybe he should try for Schwarzer again. I don't want to detriment the development of Fabianski or Szcznesny, but with the looming departure of Almunia, we'll need to bring in someone. Maybe that someone will be to bring Mannone back into the fold or to promote James Shea (I doubt he's ready, though). I honestly just wish that he had gone after Hugo Lloris last year. He'd be a brilliant keeper for us for the next 15 years or so. But yeah, it might be too late for that now.

Wojciech Szczesny: B

I toyed with the idea of giving both Szczesny and Fabianski B+ grades, but I decided on B's to emphasize my feeling that I don't believe we've solved Arsenal's goalkeeping problems (as I indicated at the bottom of my Fabianski grade). Getting that out of the way, though, Szcznesny had one hell of a first season for us. Like Fabi, he's a fantastic shot-stopper...and they've both made some pretty amazing saves this year. But again, they both have made some very poor decisions that have cost us points...and a trophy. The latter is certainly true of Wojciech. His mistake in the Carling Cup final cost us that trophy (it was Koscielny's fault as well, I admit). I'm not sure who I like in goal more - Fabianski or Szczesny. They deserve to battle it out during the preseason, but I still can't say that I'm 100% comfortable with either yet. But the good news is that this position isn't the pressing issue it used to be. The middle of the defense is easily the biggest weakness for the squad. And that might be more about Wenger's defensive philosophy than anything else.

Manuel Almunia: F

Yes, Almunia has never been a great goalkeeper for us, but I honestly don't remember him being this bad. The mistakes he's made this year (especially after the re-signing of Jens Lehmann) are some of the most perplexing mistakes I've ever seen. I honestly have no idea what's going on through his head while he's between the sticks. There's no explanation for the West Brom game. And I would seriously hope that Arsene Wenger is smart enough to admit that that performance was the final straw (though the final straw came much sooner than this with the Arsenal supporters). Almunia needs to be sold in the summer, though I'm not sure if Arsene can find a buyer at this point.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Top Ten Albums of 2010

1. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (kinda sucks that I agree with the Grammys).
2. The Morning Benders - Big Echo
3. She & Him - Volume Two
4. Surfer Blood - Astro Coast
5. Delta Spirit - History From Below
6. Band of Horses - Infinite Arms
7. The Tallest Man On Earth - The Wild Hunt
8. Beach House - Teen Dream
9. MGMT - Congratulations
10. The National - High Violet

Honorable Mention: The Walkmen - Lisbon, Harlem - Hippies, Fionn Regan - The Shadow of an Empire, Dr. Dog - Shame, Shame

Disappointments: The Black Keys - Brothers, Deer Tick - The Black Dirt Sessions, Dr. Dog - Shame, Shame

Arsenal 2010-2011 Season Review III

Player Grades: The Defenders

Gael Clichy: B-

I'm torn on Clichy. If I were to have him replaced, my ideal choice would be Leighton Baines, who has had one hell of a season for Everton this year. Clichy, like Nasri, is apparently close to signing an extension with the club. There are also constant rumors out there that Juventus is interested in buying him. I can't say that I would be disappointed if he stayed or left. Over the past few seasons, especially this one, Clichy has had both good games and bad games. He's a guy who does nothing terribly and nothing brilliantly. He's a very solid starter for the team. I just wonder if it's time for a change. A guy like Baines has more experience and is more adept at pushing forward. Not to mention his free kicks. Not only that, I feel he is a better defender than Clichy - who has a habit of being out of position. I also wonder, in talking about the defense, how much of our poor play is due to the individual players themselves, or Wenger's defensive scheme. We play a high line, which often leaves us vulnerable to counter attacks and teams with long passing attacks. I'm sure it's a combination of the two. Not only must we bring in new defenders, but Wenger should also reconsider his tactics with the defense.

Laurent Koscielny: C+

When the club bought Koscielny last summer, I didn't think much of it because I hadn't really heard of him before, and I assumed that Wenger didn't sign him to be the starting center back opposite Vermaelen. Stupid me. Laurent has made 40 starts so far this season and in that time, I feel he has assimilated a bit more into the English game...but I don't want him to be a starter next season. He's proved to be a reliable substitute for us, though, and I wouldn't mind at all if he were on the team again next season. During the Manchester United game at the Emirates, Koscielny shut down Rooney and Hernandez, and even made some nice runs forward. Unfortunately for him, he also had a hand in costing us the Carling Cup, so we've really seen both great and poor from him. Koscielny may have exceeded my expectations this year - so a job well done...but still, Wenger must purchase a quality CB this summer.

Johan Djourou: C+

Same as Koscielny, really. At times, Djourou has looked good enough to start for us. He possesses the height and strength we need at the back, but there have been plenty of games where his marking has cost us dearly. He seems to have mental lapses during set-pieces, so he must improve on that before he can be considered a regular for us. He'll be back next year, but we should really be seeing him only when one of our starters is out injured. Again, Wenger must buy someone to partner with the Verminator.

Bacary Sagna: B+

Sagna has been our best/most consistent defender this year. He's a hell of a defender, and he is able to make nice runs forward. Having said that, he still needs to work on his crosses; they often go nowhere, but then again...we don't often have height in the box during games. But that's really the only fault to his game. Another fine year from Bacary. He'll be with us next year and I hope for many years to come. The best RB in the Premier League.

Sebastien Squillaci: F

I was excited when Arsenal announced the signing of Squillaci. Honestly, though, it was primarily due to desperation. We needed depth over the summer due to the departures of Gallas, Silvestre, and Sol Campbell. I still can't believe how much Wenger neglected this position in the off-season, considering the fact that three centerbacks left the team (oh wait, yes I can). With Vermaelen's injury, it didn't take long for us to see Sebastian in action. Considering the number of caps he's had for France and the fact that he was a starter for Seville, I expected him to adapt to the EPL much better than Koscielny. Now we know, I could not have been more wrong. Squillaci is a oft a liability at the back. His positioning, marking, and tackling have all been extremely poor. There's a stat out there (I'd look it up, but it would make me pull my hair out) showing the percentage of goals Arsenal let up when Squillaci and Koscielny are paired up. I mostly blame Sebastien for this. He has been the worse of the two and there's no room for him in the squad next year. He's simply not good enough for the league and is certainly not good enough for Arsenal. He should be sold this summer, but somehow I doubt this will happen. Wenger needs to purchase one of: Per Mertesacker, Gary Cahill, Mamadou Sakho, Brede Hangeland, Benedikt Howedes, or Neven Subotic. I'm there are tons of other great candidates out there. But everyone knows we need a leader back there. Getting Thomas back from injury will help, but he needs a partner. I think Cahill is the most likely candidate to sign with us, and I wouldn't have a problem with that. Although, I do wonder how well he would hold up in the Champions League games.

Kieran Gibbs: C+

Last year I didn't really care for Gibbs. I didn't think he had what it took to be successful in the EPL; I guess it's pretty easy to criticize a young kid. Gibbs has improved as a defender this season and looks very solid. He needs to build up strength (he's another one made of glass), and must improve on his attacking - specifically his crosses. If we did sell Clichy in the summer, I don't think Gibbs would be ready to start (which is why I want to bring a guy like Baines in to show him the ropes until he is ready). He just needs another year or so, but I'm liking him as a player a lot more now.

Thomas Vermaelen: N/A

I feel awful for Vermaelen; it must be extremely difficult to sit out for the majority of a season. We really missed him this year and no one knows what would happened had he been healthy. Hell, Arsenal could be crowned league champions this week had he not been injured. But there's no point in playing that game. The Verminator made three starts for us before his ACL injury. There's a chance that he could start for one of the three remaining games left. It would be awesome to see him out there again, but our fate is already sealed and it might be dumb to risk him. Who knows, though. I'm glad he was able to do 90 minutes for the reserves match against Man U. He should be ready to go in August, barring any setbacks. I just can't wait to see him next season. Hopefully we'll have a great player to partner with him.

Great News!


I never thought this day would come, but a new Elected album entitled "Bury Me In My Rings" is coming out on May 17th. It looks to be a 12 track LP. The musicninja.com link features three songs from the album,"Born to Love You," "Babyface," and "Go For the Throat." I can't wait to hear the entire thing; thankfully Blake came out of retirement. I've waited five years for this day.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

An update on the MLK Jr. misquote...

So apparently, I, like many others have "somewhat" misquoted Dr. King yesterday. There's an article in the Washington Post about this here.

Anyways...the bottom of the article indicates that only the first sentence has come into question. Everything after that was, in fact, said by Dr. King. Although, the article also states that something similar to that first line was said by King - "No one should rejoice at the death or defeat of a human being." And so, because it isn't the exact quote, I do admit to mistake and I think everyone else who quoted it would admit to mistake. This clearly is an internet/wiki generation. Many of us, unfortunately, were not alive to hear any of King's speeches and we rely a little too heavily on the internet for information. I could have researched the hell out of all Dr. King's speeches to ensure it's accuracy..but honestly...why are blogs and Facebook posts held to higher scrutiny than the work of journalists or the assholes on Fox News? Anyways...

The first place I saw this quote yesterday was on Facebook. When I read it, I loved it. Before I re-posted it on this blog, I did a google search on it and was lead to the quote on goodreads.com. This, for me, was confirmation and I put it on this blog.

And so, again, we're all wrong (kind of) in misquoting King here. I don't have a problem being corrected because it's not a big thing for me to admit I'm wrong. However, and maybe I'm mistaken again, it feels as if those who are leading the charge to correct us are somehow gloating that we're wrong. The idea that we would use levelheadedness in a moment such as yesterday somehow disturbs those who celebrated the news of Bin Laden's death. Despite the fact that the quote is inaccurate, it doesn't change how I feel about the situation. It's just a little disturbing to watch people party and parade a murder (especially those who are Christian). What did Al Qaeda do on 9/11? They celebrated. Say what you want about Bin Laden (most of it is accurate)...but to sink to the level of a terrorist doesn't sit well with me. Shouldn't we hold ourselves to a higher standard?

Again, Bin Laden is only worth a "good riddance." I think Dr. King would agree. If not, maybe someone can misquote him to agree (see I can poke fun at myself and get over it - I only wish those who celebrated this death would do the same). Besides, this death won't end our war in Afghanistan; it won't mean the death of Al Qaeda; it certainly won't improve employment or the economy. I'd rather receive news of Lloyd Blankfein's arrest than of Bin Laden's death. Anyways, just some thoughts...

Also Available Now: Boy Meets World Season 5

My favorite season of Boy Meets World is also available today. I grew up with this show and have many fond memories watching it as part of ABC's TGIF line-up. This is easily the funniest season, without being overtly silly. Eric was dumb, but not Homer Simpson dumb.

During the fourth season, Ben Savage (as Cory) really perfected his delivery and has numerous quotable lines. Some of my favorite episodes are: Then There Was Shawn, The Witches of Pennbrooke, The Eskimo, and Honesty Night. Can't wait to watch these episodes again. Thank you, Lions Gate. Now if only you could make special features happen for us.

Available Now: Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues

1. Montezuma
2. Bedouin Dress
3. Sim Sala Bim
4. Battery Kinzie
5. The Plains/Bitter Dancer
6. Helpnessless Blues
7. The Cascades
8. Lorelai
9. Someone You'd Admire
10. The Shrine/An Argument
11. Blue Spotted Tail
12. Grown Ocean

This is a fantastic sophomore album from Robin Pecknold and crew. My favorite tracks are: "Montezuma," "Battery Kinzie," "Lorelai," and "The Shrine/An Argument"- though I could honestly list every song on the album; it's that good. Pecknold seems to have perfected this sort of hymnal folk sound and his melodies are all brilliant. It's definitely a front runner for Album of the Year.

Monday, May 2, 2011

An important quote for a day like today...

"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."

- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Bin Laden was an evil piece of shit who deserved to die, but I honestly don't feel the need to dance or party upon hearing this news. "Good riddance" is all he deserves.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Arsenal 2010-2011 Season Review II

Player Grades: The Midfielders

Cesc Fabregas: B

This is a tough call and I'm not only referring to his grade; whether we keep or sell Fab seems to be a annual debate now. I'm not sure what I want to happen to our captain. Don't get me wrong, I want to keep him. I want him to be a Gunner until he retires, but with Barcelona looming and his desire to return to the Catalonia...it's difficult to rule out his sale this summer or next. The positive in selling him would be that we would have plenty of cash to find a replacement or two. But really, that's where the positives end. The cons are obvious, I would think. Fabregas is one of the best midfielders in the world and he'll only get better. His long passes (and passing in general) are second only to Xavi, in my opinion. When he's in the line-up, he vastly improves our attack and makes those around him better. He is our most valuable asset on the pitch. But, a problem with Fabregas (a familiar problem) is that he is oft injured. I'm also starting to wonder whether or not he should be our captain. Many critics note that he doesn't possess the qualities of a leader. I can't argue with that too much. But stripping the captaincy would most certainly lead to his departure. I don't know how everything is going to shake out, but I would love to see Fab at the Emirates again next season. As far as this season was concerned, Fabregas didn't play as well as he did last year - when he seemed to transform into a goalscoring midfielder. This may be due to the world cup and certainly the number of injuries he picked up this season.

Samir Nasri: A-

This was a great year for Nasri. He scored 15 goals in 44 appearances and really seemed to take the next step in his career, which resulted in him being a candidate for PFA Player of the Year and making the PFA Team of the Year. Like Walcott, though, Nasri didn't look as dangerous after his injury. Sami and Arsenal will be involved in contract negotiations this summer and I can't wait to hear the news of his extension. He will be an important player for Arsenal as they attempt to end the trophy drought next season. If Fabregas leaves in the summer, perhaps Nasri can fill the void. He needs to find more consistency, though, as a playmaker and a goalscorer.

Jack Wilshere: A-

Jack has quickly become one of my favorite players on the team - I think every Gooner will agree. I love his technique and his attitude. His best game of the year was an unforgettable one - Barcelona at the Emirates. But for most of the year, he's been very consistent and fills his role flawlessly. Well, perhaps nearly flawless, because the one thing that Jack needs to add to his game is shooting. Used to be when you typed "Jack Wilshere" into a Youtube search, you'd find numerous clips of him hitting amazing shots for the under 18s. I know he can shoot, but for whatever reason, he never seems to. And that's why he's only got one goal on the season. He should have at least eight, in my opinion, and he's capable of even more than that. It's probably wrong to be too tough on him - he's only 19 and you have to think that with another season under his belt, he'll grow in confidence in the final third. Jack should remain in the starting line-up next season and I hope to see him in an Arsenal uniform for the next 15 years. He's a potential captain of the future and I can't wait to see him lifting trophies for the club.

Andrei Arshavin: C

I own an Arshavin jersey. I was his biggest fan when he joined the club. He's had many great moments in his short Arsenal career. The 4-goal game at Anfield made him a legend overnight and again, if you were to do a Youtube search of his goals with Arsenal, you'd fall in love with him all over again. I have to see past that, though. With Arshavin, you truly get the good, the bad, and the ugly. When he first came to the club, he was incredibly lethal on the wing; he could make a move past any defender and he would find the back of the net. This season, however, he has looked lethargic. There are days when I wonder whether or not he still cares to play for Arsenal. Perhaps he does want to go back Zenit, but he's a professional and he'll never say it publicly. His play has shown otherwise, for the most part. He has 10 goals and 17 assists this year in 43 appearances. While that sounds like a decent return, you should also look at his numbers from last season - where he had 12 goals in 39 games. He seems to be on the decline. He has lost his passion and he's often a liability when asked to come back and defend. I think I'm ready for his departure, with Eden Hazard being his ideal replacement. If not Hazard, perhaps Elia or Marko Marin from the Bundesliga. Both excellent young left wingers.

Abou Diaby: C-

I'm prepared to give Diaby one or two more seasons with the club. Maybe that's too generous, but there are times when he looks dangerous going forward. With those long legs of his, he's one hell of a dribbler and I do like watching him play...for the most part. There are other times when he makes horrible passes and clumsy challenges. He's better for Song than Denilson, but he should really only come off the bench for Wilshere. He's a decent sub to have, but must really improve on his strength and fitness. He's another gunner who seems to be made of glass. And so, his low grade is due to the fact that he's only played in 19 matches so far this year.

Tomas Rosicky: D

Rosicky should be sold in the summer. Arsene Wenger hasn't been playing him much lately, and because he can't be found on the injury list, I have to think that it means Tomas is on his way out. I hope so. The Czech captain, like Arshavin, has given us a few great moments over the years, but he has never fully recovered from the injury that kept him out for what seemed like decades. I wish things could have worked out better. During the 2006 World Cup, Rosicky was a rising star. He was a brilliant passer with great vision and possessed the ability to hit shots from distance. Now he's 30 years old and a shell of his former self. It's time to move on. We need to buy a consistent midfielder who can come off the bench for Fabregas. I would love to have Christian Eriksen on the team, but for whatever reason, the transfer rumors have only linked him with Liverpool. Perhaps we need someone with more experience as well. I'm not exactly sure who that would be (Riccardo Montolivo?). But back to Rosicky, his poor grade is due to the fact he can no longer be counted on to do the things we need from an attacking midfielder. His passing and decision-making are not as sharp as they used to be.

Denilson: F

Writing a long paragraph about Denilson would only infuriate me. I want to spend as little time on him as possible because that's all he deserves. I'm not sure where he fits in with the team; he can't pass and he can't tackle. I'm hoping his sale is imminent. We need to buy someone to fill in for Song or also to challenge him for his starting spot. I hate to keep targeting Ligue 1 players, but Stephane Mbia from Marseille would be an ideal candidate. We've been linked with him in the past and I hope to read similar things this summer.

Alex Song: B-

I gave Song a B-minus because I feel he was more inconsistent this year compared to the last. Every now and then he had a great game where he just dominated the midfield and broke up the attack of the opposition. But I feel that there were an equal number of games in which he didn't look as sharp. Alex did net five goals this season, which is impressive, but I still want more consistent dominance from him in the midfield for next season. Yesterday during the Manchester United game, Song put in a hell of a shift and limited the attack of the Red Devils. It was refreshing to see, and I hope he improves against top competition next year. We'll certainly need him to be at his best if we're to end our trophy drought. Competition might also be healthy within the team, though, and I do hope to see a summer signing that would allow that. Again, someone like Mbia would be nice. I also wonder if Frimpong will step up. It's certainly more possible than hoping Craig Eastmond will.

Aaron Ramsey: N/A

Easy to understand why Ramsey gets an N/A. It's wonderful to see him back out on the pitch again (and scoring a game winner against Man Utd!!). Aaron's recovery has been remarkable and I hope that he can recover mentally and rediscover that which made him a promising young midfielder. I love Ramsey's game and I think he fits in excellently with our style of play. Hard to see where he fits in, assuming he buy an attacking mid in the summer. Hopefully he does make plenty of appearances for us next season and doesn't go out on loan or anything. Along with Wilshere, the future does look bright for Arsenal (as it always does). Too bad we're currently stuck in the present. But honestly, Ramsey can be a key component as we look to end the trophy drought next season.

Emmanuel Eboue: C

I have Eboue listed as a midfielder only because that's how Arsenal.com lists him. As we all know, Eboue only sees time out on the pitch as a fullback...although there may have been one or two games in which Wenger deployed him as a winger. So again, I will list him here among the midfielders but will talk about him mostly as a defender. Not only is Eboue very quick, but his acting abilities have certainly led us to have many free kicks in the final third. Other than that, though, Eboue doesn't offer much going forward. There are times, yes, when he can pull of a decent Clichy or Sagna impression pushing forward...but Eboue isn't the greatest defender. His tackling is suspect and often stupid. I would like Arsene to add an RB to back up Sagna for next season, but this isn't as dire as us fortifying the middle of the defense...so it's not as if Eboue must be sold. I think it's also important to acknowledge the fact that since being derided by the fans a couple of seasons ago, Emmanuel has fought through that adversity by improving his performance. It's commendable and he has turned into a decent RM/RB, but perhaps it's time to find someone who can do better. Update: Arsenal might be looking to bring in 19-year-old Englishman Carl Jenkinson.