Our injury line up looks awesome….

After two weeks of Internationals, Internationals & Internationals (and the signing of Ozil)… we find ourselves at match day… it’s Sunderland vs Arsenal at the stadium of light… Bring it on…

For the last two weeks, without a shadow of a doubt, I’ve been looking forward to this game, but as today has grown closer and closer and we’ve seen our players taking knocks, being subbed, it looks like we’re going to find it hard to field a strong side today. In the England game mid-week, Wilshere and Walcott were targetted by the opposition… Ramsey was injured and Rosicky was taken out clean… the good news is that Wilshere, Walcott and Ramsey have recovered to take part in today’s game, but the bad news is that we have some injury and illness doubts…

Injury doubts today: Mertersacker, Vermaelen, Arteta, Diaby, Rosicky, Ozil, Cazorla, Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain

Will we see Ozil debut? Or won’t we?

Arsenal Smash Their Record Transfer Fee (3 times over!)

Whilst the club down the roads (ahem, Sp*rs)… broke their record transfer fee 3 times, in typical Arsenal style, we’ve smashed ours by three times! When you think about the fees that are being paid now… £86m for Bale, £30m+ for Willian, £30m for Lamela, £30m for Fellaini……… Mr Ozil looks like good value at £42m.

Personally, I never thought I’d see us spend that much money on one player, but times have changed and we’re back in the big league. Ozil is truly world class and astonishing that Real Madrid let go of him.

Jose Mourinho, had this to say about Ozil when he was manager :

“He is the best number 10 in the world. Everyone loves him and sees a bit of Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane in him. He will make history at Real Madrid.”

Well, he’ll make history, but down at the Arsenal instead. Before this week, I knew Ozil was class, but having watched about 20 YouTube video’s I’m convinced that he will be what Bergkamp was to us all those years ago….!

On signing for us, he said:

“When talking to Arsene Wenger, I realise what was missing. This is 100% faith in me. I want to help the club finally win titles again.”

Arsene said:

“We’ve watched him and admired him for some time. He has all the attributes that I look for in an Arsenal player.”

More to follow amigos, more to follow.

 

Always Behind The Game

‘Always ahead of the game’

These words are printed on the key ring from my members’ pack from a couple of years ago. Motto’s such as ‘Forward’ and ‘Victory Through Harmony’ also spring to mind when thinking about how the club tries to define itself. Let’s analyse.

‘Victory through harmony’: I have never seen so much disunity among Gooners as in recent years

‘Forward’: We have released a record number of players from the squad this summer without replacing them. That’s not forward movement.

‘Always ahead of the game’: The first game of the season is on Saturday and we haven’t signed anybody. Plans A-Z have fallen through. Others around us have strengthened.

We are not ahead of the game. We are a long way behind it.

Where did it all go wrong?

You could answer this question by going back many years. Dein’s departure, the refusal to spend the going rate on world class players, gambling on unproven prospects from the continent and the world over and the inability to retain the few top class players we had actually produced. I am going to spare you the stories you already know and focus on this summer in particular.

A few months ago the CEO came out and publicly stated that we have a lot of cash at our disposal, and that we will be spending it. The game that we are supposedly ahead of was over right there and then. We were doomed from that point on. In a market where clubs continue to demand outrageous fees for players, we immediately put ourselves in a weak bargaining position for negotiating transfers.

Liverpool’s valuation of Suarez is the easiest example to use. A player who is undoubtedly one of the top three in the league, Liverpool’s valuation of him in their negotiations with Arsenal reflect both the market and our openly admitting we have great sums of money to spend. If we want the player, we will have to use most of the kitty to get him.

It would also mean we can’t buy as many players as we want, let alone need. Most will agree that we need at least three signings, not one or two.

That calamity of a PR exercise proved to be our downfall this summer. Designed to ensure season ticket renewals, we are left in the uncomfortable (to put it lightly) position of having to wait until the brink of the transfer window’s closure to obtain the best possible price for players. Well, those who are left to buy anyway.

We have been duped. Again.

The problem we have is we are so addicted to this great club, that we submit to the promises made because our love for the team outweighs our hatred for the PR game played by the club. And so the cycle continues.

So where do we go from here?

There will be mutiny if no signings are made. The crowd will let that be known at the Emirates on Saturday, of that I am sure. However, we should give it until the end of the window before passing final judgement. Today on Arsenal.com Arsene Wenger is quoted as saying:

“There are 18 days to go in the window. We are active. We will be active until the end, that is for sure.”

He goes on to say:

“We are in a situation like Manchester United, like Chelsea, where everybody expects signings and at the moment not a lot has happened.”

Manchester United and Chelsea have won the Premier League and Champions league between them over the last eighteen months. Arsenal have won nothing. It is disproportionate therefore to compare ourselves with teams who already have squads that can and will challenge for major honours regardless of what transfers they may or may not make in the coming eighteen days.

Nonetheless, the intent to do business is there. Everyone at the club will be fully aware of the consequences should nothing significant be done. So we wait. Judgement day takes place on September 2nd and until then there’s not much we can do about it other than hope something happens.

In the meantime, there’s a game on Saturday against Aston Villa which everybody is excited about. Ultimately, and quoting a tweet by @fkhanage on Twitter, it boils down to this:

“Whatever your opinion on the owner, the manager or CEO, don’t let it ruin your support for the eleven boys wearing the shirt on Saturday”.

Regardless of what happens between now and September 2nd, our love for the team won’t change. The trauma and anxiety of another new season as an Arsenal fan beckons. Bring it on.

JAT (@j1mm7t)

Season Preview

With one week to go until the Premiership kicks off, it’s time to take a look at the squad, the summer and the season ahead…

As every Gooner (well, every footballing fan) knows, this Summer was meant to be a big statement. We were expecting signings, world class signings and in every department. We were expecting a goalkeeper, a central defender, a warhorse midfielder, a winger and a striker… The summer started well with interest in the likes of Bernard, Higuain, Juilo Cesar and Ashley Williams looking real. But as every day passed, those transfers passed and now we’re a week away from the start of the season, and sampling a thread-bare squad.

The “Deep Cull of 2013″ has been amazing to witness and we’ve shredded the squad of some dead-weight, but at the same time, we’ve also lost some first teamers in Gervinho, Coquelin and Mannone without replacement. Mannone was third choice, but we’re getting lighter in that department, and no matter what you think about the qualities of some of those players, you cannot deny that we do need a squad. Let’s take a look at who’s gone:

  1. Gervinho
  2. Arshavin
  3. Denilson
  4. Aneke
  5. Joel Campbell
  6. Santos
  7. Coquelin
  8. Meade
  9. Mannone
  10. Djourou
  11. Chamakh
  12. Park
  13. Squillaci
  14. Miquel

That’s 14 players who were in and around the first team, not to mention Bendtner and not to mention about 10 younger players who’ve also left the team. The worrying area for me is centre back, with Vermaelen injured, we only have 2 centre backs. That’s it… nothing else. No Djourou, no Squillaci and now no Miquel!

Let’s take a look at the players we have left…

Goalkeepers: Szcznesy, Fabianski

Left Backs: Gibbs, Monreal

Central Defenders: Mertersacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen (injured)

Right Backs: Sagna, Jenkinson

Central Midfielders: Wilshere, Ramsey, Rosicky, Cazorla, Arteta, Diaby (injured)

Wingers: Oxlade, Walcott, Podolski

Strikers: Giroud, Sanogo

That’s if you think Sanogo will be a first teamer… which he may well be…! Is that the smallest premiership team in the league? In fact it’s so small, you can fit the whole squad on one tweet!!

 

onetweet

 

Now, I’ve got no inside knowledge of anything at the club, but doesn’t this strike you as a little bit strange and almost alarmingly. What would happen if Sagna and Mertersacker pick up knocks… we literally do not have the players to fill in. Scary times. Whatever is going on at the club, I wish we knew the truth, because all this guess work and hoping and wanting is killing us. If we have cash, and the people in power insist we do (and lots of it), then why haven’t we planned for this summer. You may think there is a plan. Last summer we brought in Giroud and Podolski (meh) before we sold Van Persie… now that’s a plan. But 6 transfers in on deadline day? Now that’s not a plan… Judge for yourself, but we all know where this summer is going.

I worry that the management have lost sight of the actual way to win things and really don’t know. I feel like they are very amateurish in the transfer market, literally refusing to spend a penny over what they think a player worth. If you think Higuain is a £25m player and you’re happy at that level, then why not shelve out the extra £5m and get the player. Was Torres worth £50m… no, but they paid that because they wanted the player. Is Real Madrid reject Soldado worth £26m… hell no, but they paid that because they wanted the player… the story continues.

Suarez – great player but massive baggage. Is he an Arsenal type player – no! He is above board, good image, a team player? No. Has he had a dispute with every single club he’s played for? Yes. And for some reason, Arsene only target this summer has been the Uruguayan. Utter madness in my opinion. Unbelievable. And what about the other positions? Is the boss simply not looking for a centre-back?

We play Man City today and in reality, this will be a huge test for us… let’s hope all the existing players have an extra 50% in their locker, and let’s hope we have absolutely no injuries, let’s hope Giroud finishes top scorer and Bendtner signs for Galatasaray for £10m. Hope is all we have!

A Valiant Effort…

Winning 2-0 in Munich against a very good Bayern Munich side is no mean feat.

In fact, I have to say, I didn’t expect us to beat Bayern. I didn’t expect us to get anywhere near them. When I heard that we’d dropped Szcznesy completely, relegated Vermaelen to the bench and that there was no Podolski or Diaby in the squad, I feared for the worst. But the team did something great. They did what they should have done in the first leg and defended valiantly against a very good Bayern side.

As far as stats go, the home team had the possession, the shots and were more dangerous – but hats off to the back five who played their hats off – Fabianski’s best game by far, without a shadow of a doubt, pulling off great save after great save. Koscielny gave his all and Jenkinson and Gibbs showed why they are the future of the Arsenal.

The game ended 2-0 with an early goal from Giroud who looked so much better than he did in the first leg. If he could play like that every game, then we’d be slightly higher up the league than we are now and probably still in the Champions League. It’s great that we won and I believe it will be very good for us moving forward for the rest of the season. But why can’t we play like that all the time – well, the stats don’t lie, we weren’t very good – but at least we fought with passion!

Our very own Super Totti was out there in Munch supporting the team…

totti

And he witnessed a great victory… a victory which ended the game at 3-3, meaning we go out of the Champions League on away goals.

The best thing we can take from this is the spirit and fight we had. If we can take an ounce of that into the weekend, when we play Swansea, and pick up the three points we desperately need in the league, we could close the gap on Sp*rs and Chelsea and revive our last possible chance of getting into the top four.

It was a bold move by Arsene to drop Szcznesy and I was very happy with his deputy – Fabianski showed that he can challenge Szcznesy and perhaps should be in the sticks against Swansea. Another interesting move to relieve the captain of his duties. Vemaelen hasn’t been the TV5 we all know and love, he’s been out of sorts and Koscielny stepped in and showed why he should in the team.

Yes, we’re out of the Champions League, but today was full of positives – so let’s focus on them – and get behind the team – this weekend’s game against Swansea is our biggest of the season. We need Champions League football next season. Simple as.

Can we scrape into the top 4? It’s going to be hard…

Evening all…

This is probably the worst time to choose to write my first blog on the new look WOA site… but nevertheless, it is time… I’ll start by reflecting on today’s game against Sp*rs… the game was typical of the team at the moment, and three points sum up the game:

  1. Slow start
  2. Conceding silly goals
  3. Second half come back

Typical of a lot of games this season, and we fail to pick up the three points again…

At points in the game, it was very clear that we have a better team, but for the first half, our mental state was not in the correct zone and we really didn’t grab the game by it’s horns. We had a lot of possession, and to be fair the better chances in the first half, but we weren’t quite at the races until the game was out of our sight. Why? Let’s take a look and the key reasons – not just for this game, but I believe the undercurrent to our whole season.

Szcznesy’s Form

The keeper definitely got a great future ahead of him, but he’s a bit erratic and a little too cocky. He is capable of world class saves, and he’s won us quite a few points this season – Sunderland away comes to mind, when we could have easily conceded if it was not for the Polish stopper – but at the same time, he has no real competition and lapses of concentration mean that he undermines himself. His form is a Jekyll and Hyde and you have to think that this happens because he has too much license to roam around and do Cryuff turns. A better discipline from management and a serious threat from anther goalkeeper would be exactly what he needs.

The Central Defenders

We have three very good defenders in Mertersacker, Vermaelen and Koscielny. I say “very good”, but not excellent. Starting with Mertersacker – he is a great reader of the game in a one on one or long ball situation, but he doesn’t quite like the ball with pace and for some reason seems to not quite understand the offside trap. His lack of pace is a thorn in our defence sometimes – but having said that, he’s probably been better than the other two. Koscielny is having second seasons syndrome, he is generally excellent – he is actually one of my favourite players – but at the same time, a little clumsy and he seems to have a mistake in him at all times. And then you have our captain and unfortunately, I think the pressure of being captain is too much for him. He was Mr Reliable, but I don’t think anyone would disagree if I were to say that this is his worst season in an Arsenal shirt. A no nonsense defender with a strong mentality, a defender that no-ones likes to play against is what we need, and then one of the current three to compliment him.

Too much expectation from Jack

Without of a shadow of a doubt, there is way too much expectation on Jack at the moment. You could see against Sp*rs that there was an expectation for him to create something out of nothing and to carry the team and if he can’t then we don’t seem to be able to do anything… we need more personalities in the team.

Giroud

He’s our main striker but unfortunately for me, he just isn’t the number one we need up front. He’s miles behind the likes of Van Persie, Eduardo, Henry and even Ade… I watched the Real Sociedad game and Carlos Vela was so much better than Giroud, it was crazy. He doesn’t seem to ever stamp his authority on a game. Today he had the ball in very good areas and he just seemed to play like it was a training game. There was no fire in his belly, no desire to be the best and win the game for his team.

Tactics

Now this is definitely Arsene’s fault… playing the wrong players against the wrong teams. Today, Podolski, Rosicky and Koscielny should have started ahead of Giroud, Ramsey and Metersacker – yes, easy to say in hindsight, but I think most people agreed that before the game too…! Taking off Jenkinson and moving Ramsey to right back is just bizarre. Not just today, but most games, there is a weird surprise in the team selection. Every year their is a weird selection of personnel, a weird recruitment and selling policy which has resulted in a very unbalanced squad and a really laboring to achieve anything.

Can we scrape into the top 4? It’s going to be hard…

We’re fifth now and 5 points behind 4th. It’s not impossible, but baring in mind the above, it won’t be easy. We do have a series of winnable games, but when you lose to Swansea and Norwich, then you can’t consider any game as winnable unless we actually go out and try and win and bring home the three points.

The remaining league fixtures are:

  • Swansea (a)
  • Reading (h)
  • WBA (a)
  • Norwich (h)
  • Everton (h)
  • Fulham (a)
  • Man United (h)
  • QPR (a)
  • Wigan (h)
  • Newcastle (a)

We have a better squad than every team in the next 10 games except Man United. We can go on a run. Will we? We’ll have to wait and see. We have to wait for 13 days until we take on Swansea. And that game won’t be easy at all…

Welcome back to WOA and from now on, we’ll be blogging once per Sunday and once midweek, around Weds or Thurs… and instead of mini-blogs, we’re turning into more of a digest, a summary and a discussion…

Let’s discuss!

Make or Break 2013

Firstly, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all readers a happy new year. The blog has had a quiet few days after a busy start to the year for all our writers. My first post of 2013 may not be pretty reading for many. Eleven days into the new year we find ourselves discussing two serious concerns on the forums and twitter. One affects football as a whole, the other is a common problem that Arsenal fans have been pulling their hair out over in recent seasons.

The first concern is over ticket pricing and it has reared its ugly head again after Man City returned 800 tickets from their allocation for this weekend’s game, with some of their fans refusing to travel to away games in London due to the prices being charged from clubs in the capital. Good on them, I say. However as one blogger pointed out recently some 20,000 Arsenal fans have bought tickets in the same price category (£62) for this fixture. Football supporters as a whole are suffering from overpriced tickets. Arsenal fans in particular are feeling less and less convinced that such prices represent value for money. The quality of football on display at the Emirates has deteriorated in the last few seasons, and many feel that the money the club is receiving from ticket sales is not duly being reinvested into strengthening the squad.

The quality of football certainly is not what is expected. Gone are the days where we routinely break away from a corner with pace and devastation to score a goal of our own. The counter attacks of old just don’t seem to happen anymore. Also gone, are the frightening passes in between the lines, carving defences open in the Barcelona-esque dismantlement that used to see us create goals out of nowhere. Now it seems as though most of the game we play the backwards/sideways passing game, waiting for an opening to appear. With most Premier League teams now able to play a disciplined defensive game, we find ourselves frustrated at a lack of creative openings and opportunity.

The bottom line is that we have suffered immensely from not being able to fill the void left by Cesc. His ability to find the pass through the eye of a needle is missing in midfield. Arteta is a great footballer, but he doesn’t seem able to add those passes to his game. Santi Cazorla has shown he can be capable, but he lacks the consistency that we had with Cesc in the side. Jack Wilshere is undoubtedly going to become an important component in our midfield. But he is not there yet, he is still young and learning the game. We rely on him too much to perform a task he is not quite ready to perform.

Which leads me to the second concern – transfers. As stated above, many if not all of us are fed up with a lack of activity in the transfer market, especially given the amount of money we spend to support the team. The manager has come out with the predictable ‘we only buy top, top quality’ line once again and us fans are left scratching our heads. He has said this for the past few seasons, and the signings we made include Gervinho, Squillaci, Bischoff, Chamakh and so on. Top, top quality? The bottom line is we refuse to spend on players at market value. Yes, £20 million is an absurd amount to fork out on a transfer fee. But ambitious clubs at the top of the league spend that kind of money on players, and if they are willing to spend that money then it must be considered ‘market value’.

I am a supporter who is prepared to stay quiet and see what happens when FFP comes in. Gazidis promises a brighter future in and around 2014, when FFP takes full force and when the club can realise its true commercial potential, something it has been unable to do since moving to the new stadium. I am prepared to offer my support to this cause because, on the face of it, it seems like a feasible objective. However, the club needs to go into that new phase in a healthy position. Not just financially, but ‘footballistically’ too. We need to, at the very least, be a champions league team going into this phase. It would be a shame to spoil the chances of things going to plan because we dropped into the Europa League just before we head into this new era. A Europa League team does not attract the type of player needed to challenge at the top, and it would be a bad idea to start the age of FFP in a worse position than the one we are in now.

However, if we do not strengthen the squad now, we are playing with fire when it comes to finishing in a top-4 berth come May. We have been here before in January. The season has shown familiar inconsistencies.  Moments of attacking brilliance overshadowed by inadequate defensive frailty. In the past, we had the players to pull us through. Henry, Cesc, Nasri, RVP. Now we look at a squad where a contract rebel is being tasked with the job and we wonder if, finally, the task at hand is too much for the players we have at our disposal. It’s too much of a risk to rely on this squad without reinforcements.

Please Arsene, for the love of God, make a couple of big signings.

JAT

@j1mm7t

Happy New Year…

Happy New Year to all the Gooners out there… It’s been a mixed year for all of us, the highs and lows of being an Arsenal fan… but have we been entertained…? Hell yeah…! Let the footballing Gods be good to us, let Arsene do his magic and let’s get behind the team.

We face a mixed bag Southampton today who on their day can do anything, but can be equally bad… for us, it doesn’t matter how they play, it matters what we can do… Theo and Oxlade are very much looking forward to this game and when asked about the game, young Theo was literally giddy with excitement…

“It will be a very tough occasion against Southampton, but it is one I am really looking forward to. I am probably going to wrap myself in bubble wrap for the next few days! It will be a very special moment for me and Alex [Oxlade-Chamberlain], and also for some of the fans to see us come back to the club.”

It will be an interesting one tonight, as Theo has seized his opportunity as the main striker, through the middle, which is preventing the on-form Giroud from re-gaining his spot. With us in good form at the moment, you don’t want to change what’s working, which means I think we’ll see the French striker on the bench.

The injury news is Fabianski (ankle), Diaby (match fitness), Santos (match fitness), Mertesacker (doubt – sickness)… and therefore, the predicted line up is:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Gibbs

Arteta – Wilshere

Oxlade – Cazorla – Podolski

Walcott

I don’t think it’ll be another 7-3 but I do think this game has goals in it… The team is starting to gel, and having a relatively consistent back four / five (give or take) does help us a lot.

There is of course, the worry that Theo hasn’t signed his contract yet and he is now available to sign on a Bosman for a club outside the UK. BUT, let’s not worry about that until tomorrow…. we have a very important game today and that’s all that matters right now!

Come on you Gooners!!

Arsenal vs Newcastle Preview

After a week off, we find ourselves with a home game against a team who have been struggling of late – for us, we’ve seen 3 wins in 3 to get some sort of credible flight up the table, but just as easily as we’ve got there, we can fall out of it very quickly. With Sp*rs and Everton both winning in the festive period, we’ve already trickled down the table a little…

The good news for us is that we’re at home, we’re rested and we’ve got Giroud and Rosicky back in the fold. Apparently Diaby and Santos are about a week or so away too, so that’s good news for us. It will be interesting to see what happens if we ever do have Rosicky, Cazorla, Wilshere and Diaby in the same team – that would be one seriously talented group of players.

My line up is:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Mertersacker – Vermaelen – Gibbs

Arteta – Wilshere

Oxlade – Cazorla – Podolski

Walcott

Cazorla has been in the papers talking about his partnership with Wilshere and has been very positive:

“He has amazing potential,” Cazorla told Arsenal Player. “I did not know him well when I arrived because he was not at the training sessions due to his injury, and everyone was already talking about him, saying that when he returned, the team would improve, and that has been the case.

“Every day he is gaining more confidence, he is forgetting about the injury, and he is a key player that can influence the result in a game, and thus, we are all very happy to see him 100 per cent again.

“He was out for a long time and it was an injury that takes time to heal. It is always hard to come back from injury, especially if it is very long. You always have that fear up until you start getting your confidence back, and you start getting back to your old self, and he has done that quickly.”

Rosicky has also shown glimpses of great football since he’s been back. Something to very much look forward to. Newcastle are no rollovers of course, with Cisse and Demba Ba, they will always have a goal threat.

Tomorrow’s game is BIG, and it’s up to us to ensure that we take it as seriously as we can and take home the three points…

Merry Christmas….!

Wishing you all the best over the festive period…

With no games until the 29th of December… when we take on Newcastle at the Emirates, I’ll be off the blog for a few days to spend it with the family.

Christmas
Christmas

Merry Christmas to you all and a very happy new year!