Time to concentrate on transfers…

Morning folks. First of all, apologies for the weekend of no blogs. Having returned from South Africa last week, I quickly got onto another flight to Malaga to attend my cousins wedding in Marbella. What a wedding it was. It was unbelievable.

At the same time, the end of the group stage of the world cup took place and the first games of the round of 16 started – the highlight being of course, England vs Germany yesterday which saw the England team crumble to a humbling 4-1 defeat to a German side which was brimming with confidence and desire and more importantly self belief. You’ve probably read more words on that game that anything else today – I won’t go over spilt milk.

A few points to make, to explain our demise:

  • Inability to choose a first choice goalkeeper
  • Chosing Rob Green and then David James, when Joe Hart is clearly our best keeper
  • Choosing Jamie Carragher – who admitted he had his worst season
  • Not taking Sol Campbell when he has been much better than the likes of Carragher, Upson and Dawson
  • Taking the gamble on Ledley King with Carragher as back up
  • Insistence on a) taking Heskey b) Playing Heskey
  • Failure to pick Walcott and instead take the ineffective duo of Lennon and SWP
  • Having no option B, plan B, apart from replacing like for like
  • Inability to flex or change the formation to get the best out of players
  • Playing Steven Gerrard on the left, where he is uncomfortable and obviously drifts in, unbalancing the squad
  • The lack of playing time for Joe Cole, who was our best player in the pre World Cup friendlies
  • Ignoring top talents in the premiership like Gary Cahill (much better than Upson), Theo Walcott, Adam Johnson, Ashley Young, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Darren Bent, and especially Scott Parker.

I’ve bulletted those points above, as I didn’t feel to explain the further, they are self explanatory, plus I don’t want to dwell too much on England as it’s truly annoying to see a nation of people believe in a team and spend £1000′s to support them to be rewarded with such nonsense as above. The mentality of the players wasn’t right either and I don’t think John Terry or Wayne Rooney have made any friends this World Cup.

Moving away from England, the World Cup is starting to hot up and there are some excellent clashes coming up – especially later tonight as Spain take on Portugal. Our very Cesc has shown in his cameo appearances that he deserves a starting place and Portugal have shown that they’ve got a swagger about them. Holland will take on Brazil in the quarter finals, and Germany will take on Argentina – both will be outstanding football feasts. Even though England are out, there is still a lot of football to be played.

One thing we’ll see since England’s exit signals the real start of the transfer window… with players like Yaya Toure, Maicon and Di Maria on the verge of their various moves. We’ve already signed Chamakh and we look like our next signing is going to be Laurent Koscielny for around £8m. News from in and around the club is that the signing will be announced on Thursday and I won’t comment on the quality of the signing as I simply don’t know enough about the player. If the player is like the Sagna signing – a player who fits in well and was relatively unknown before, then I’ll be happy. One question is whether or not we can go into the new season with the quartet of defenders of Vermaelen, Koscielny, Djourou and youngster Nordtvelt.

If we do go for another defender, then I presume they know they won’t be first choice, it’s a tough one. If we did bring in Mexes, then does that mean Koscielny is coming in as 3rd defender and Djourou as 4th – would the resigning of Campbell without the likelihood of first team football be good for either club or player.

I think the next 7 days will see a few more moves happening, he confirmation of Koscielny and perhaps another player is on the horizon too – who do you think we need next – another winger, a defensive midfielder or a goalkeeper?

Til tomorrow… time for me to get some rest and get some work done!

A Very Arsenal Round Up (& a little WC)

Morning All…

Before I get on to the whole load of Arsenal related news I plan to talk about, I’m just going to touch on the world cup and specifically the tense set of games yesterday. First of all, England’s group of the US, Algeria and Slovenia is a group that England should have topped without doubt and the fact we’ve come second is virtually a joke of a performance over the three games. Yes, we have qualified, but we certainly haven’t done so in style and aren’t really setting the world alight. The next round sees us play Germany in what will be a very stern test of our credentials. Post that, the run in is Argentina, Spain and then Brazil. Ouch, ouch and ouch. If we are going to win this tournament, we need to beat four of the best nations on the earth, as well as finding our form. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s a big task now – but you know what they say – one game at a time.

Okay, onto Arsenal news… and Pedro is the latest Barcelona player to tap up our mercurial captain, saying all those standard lines like “I’d love to see him here” and “he belongs here”… as the World Cup progresses, my curiosity of Arsene and Cesc “greatest” conversation increases and increases, but I’ll be patient until the end of the tournament. However, I really think Cesc will stay at Arsenal next season – I don’t see him leaving – he’s the type of player you need to plan for if he leaves and I think Arsene will be signing a few more players to add to the squad to challenge next season.

Maroune Chamakh was the first signing and we don’t look like we’re letting go of any of Van Persie, Bendtner, Eduardo or Vela. In fact, Niklas Bendtner has been highly impressive in the World Cup and Vela as well (before his injury) with Mexico. We know what Van Persie is capable of, and that’s some strike force. We have to hope that Maroune Chamakh is / becomes a decent player. The next signing is Laurent Koscielny – all but agreed with club and player and he will be the replacement to William Gallas, who it looks like is off to Juventus. I’ve always said the Italian league is suited for older defenders as it’s not as fast paced as La Liga or the Premiership and it will most likely suit Gallas well. The former Arsenal captain’s agent said:

“I can confirm that Juventus are interested in the defender. I will meet the Bianconeri directors to find an agreement over his wages after having been in touch with them a few days ago. Juventus want Gallas and he would be happy to wear the Bianconeri shirt.”

You can almost read between the lines of the public quote re wages – Gallas intends to land a big contract and Juventus will pay big – they’re not in the Champions League, and I’ll need some confirmation from someone to determine whether they’re even in the UEFA cup after finishing 7th in the Italian league.

As we’ve mentioned before Francois Coquelin has been loaned to Lorient as part of the deal that will see Koscielny come to Arsenal and the club intend to play him in a more central and more midfield role – the role which attracted our attention in the first place. Lorient coach, Christian Gourcuff said:

“He’s a central midfielder. At Arsenal he has played as a right back but I don’t think it’s his best position. He’s a center midfielder, but he can play some games right midfielder.”

Which is good news, as I think he’ll get some game time and it’ll be an exciting role for him to take on knowing that there is a place in our midfield waiting for him on his return – well, unless Denilson or Diaby can step up a gear! Okay, maybe I’m being premature, but I do like Coquelin – I think he needs experience and that’s exactly what he should get at Lorient.

Finally, touching on a mix of World Cup and Arsenal – it’s funny as people deliberate who can unlock defences – and call for a player like Joe Cole to be included more often – as apparently Aaron Lennon and Shaun Wright Philips have not played well and were dropped for today’s game. The question remains, why on earth did Fabio Capello overlook Theo Walcott. He is so much better than those other two – it’s funny because non-Arsenal fans having seen Lennon and SWP falter at the big stage, now ask me why Walcott wasn’t included – the same people that said he shouldn’t be. Well, I’m not going to say “I told you so”, but let’s just put one thing in perspective – Walcott is a BIG GAME player – he’s best performances have come against Liverpool, Chelsea and Barcelona – surely that means he’ll be good at the World Cup… Anyway, not need to harp on about it…

Over and out for today…. I’m off to Spain later today, so your next instalment may be by the lovely JAT or lovely Debs. Adios amigos.

England vs Slovenia: Match Day Live

Afternoon fellow Gooners,

Today sees England play their biggest game this year and Fabio Capello has chosen a very narrow line up, with four central midfielders. Perhaps his plan is to shoot shoot and then shoot. It’s strange not to see Arsenal target Joe Cole in the line up – I have to say that he was one of the most impressive players in the games against Mexico and Japan.

The line up (not official yet) is:

James

Johnson – Terry – Upson – Cole

Barry

Milner – Lampard – Gerrard

Defoe – Rooney

I’d expect this to turn into a 4-5-1 when we’re defending:

James

Johnson – Terry – Upson – Cole

Milner – Lampard – Barry - Gerrard – Rooney

Defoe

Doesn’t look that great, no width, no wingers, no Lennon, SWP or Joe Cole… but if it works…

Words from Milner today:

“Actions speak louder than words. To win the World Cup you must win the big games. This game is in our own hands. We’ve just got to concentrate, enjoy our football and play with freedom. It’s hard to get that club unity at international level but it’s growing. We’ve been together for nearly a month and we are now unified. You don’t expect your first match to last just 30 minutes. It was just poor timing being ill three days before.”

And we all knew that James Milner had been ill, and therefore, it’s strange that Capello picked him!

The World Cup takes centre stage…

Evening fellow Gooners…

I’m back in the UK a few days earlier than anticipated… I had to give up my trip to Durban to see Nigeria vs South Korea as well as a match in Port Elizabeth to see England take on Slovenia in the last group game… why? My beloved work… No sarcasm intended of course, but when work calls, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. My trip was an amazing adventure to South Africa that took me to Johannesburg, Rustenburg and Cape Town – I managed to post various times when I’ve been away, so you have already got a small glimpse of what it’s been like, but I will upload some pictures to the blog and to facebook when I get a chance.

In terms of football, today we saw France and South Africa as well as Greece and Nigeria exit the competition. For us, France’s early exit was a blessing in disguise as Clichy and Sagna can do with a rest – they’ve both had long and arduous seasons. In terms of what the hell is going on in the France camp – I don’t know – it’s absolute chaos. Firstly, Domenach doesn’t choose the likes of Ben Arfa, Flamini, Vieira or of course our mercurial talent in Samir Nasri. Then he benches his best player in Thierry Henry for most of the competition. The players and the manager obviously clashed and sending Anelka home and stripping Evra of the captaincy on the eve of their most important game seems like complete idiocy. When Arsene and Domenach had their public falling out, it’s clear to see that it’s the latter who was clearly the insane one. There is probably more to it too, as Eric Abidal revealed all will be revealed very soon. One massive question mark is over the form of Abou Diaby – he looked half decent against Uraguay but ended the tournament looking completely out of sorts. I’m not sure if his form is linked to the issues within the France camp, but it’s not the kind of performance what I want to see out of an Arsenal player on the biggest stage.

Of course, our beloved England take on Slovenia tomorrow, in a game that is simply make or break. I had the honour to attend both of England first two dismal performances and spent literally thousands doing so (where is the appreciation Wayne Rooney?). There will be some changes, but I think we’ll start with Defoe up front and Upson at the back. Arsene still thinks we’ll qualify and had this to say:

“I think England at the moment are not at their best but they still should go through. They looked inhibited against Algeria and they played against a team that tried to defend very well.”

I think it’s touch and go. It’s not impossible that Slovenia can pull off an upset – they did play very well in the first half against the US – but I still think we’ve got enough. I just hope Rooney shows up and that we see a little of Joe Cole.

In Arsenal news, the signing of Laurent from Lorient (can’t spell his surname) is getting closer and closer. His agent said this yesterday:

“I can confirm negotiations are ongoing between the clubs but I don’t know how close they are to finding a deal. Laurent has expressed his desire to move to Arsenal to FC Lorient and has expressed his view to Arsene Wenger. He wants to come and play for Arsenal, and it is up to the two clubs now.”

If Laurent is talking to Arsene, then I can only presume that a deal has been agreed and as we’ve been discussing in the various previous blogs, the fee is around 10 million Euros. Lorient announced today that they have signed highly rated Arsenal youngster Francois Coquelin on a year long loan and many believe this is connected with the transfer of Koscielny to Arsenal. I really do think this one will come through and with Sol Campbell, Mikael Silvestre and William Gallas leaving, it’s a third one in after Johan Djourou returns from injury and Harvard Nordtveit from loan. Although, looking further than those four players, we’ve got Song and perhaps some youth. I wouldn’t mind getting in another face, but am pretty sure 4 centre backs + Song is Arsene’s quota – remember Sol was only brought in when we knew that Djourou wasn’t coming back. Senderos hasn’t been playing for us for two years so again, he’s not a loss.

This summer seems like a bit of a revolution or evolution down at the Arsenal, similar to a few years ago – when a few senior players left. With the aforementioned quartet of defenders leaving, it’s a big amount of experience leaving, but if we look at it player by player, it is their time to go. Gallas apart, all of the other players shouldn’t be first choice players for a big team vying for all honours and in reality, even Gallas looks past his sell by date.

We’ve been linked with the departure of Gael Clichy to Inter Milan and to Barcelona, which I believe is just paper talk – we’ve also been linked with a random Russian player called Renat Yanbaev as his replacement. Interesting rumours, but I don’t there is anything in them. We’ve been linked with the Algerian defender from Rangers, but again, it smells like a rumour too. Rumoured transfer target Hugo Lloris made a mistake for France today and that’s increased the liklihood that he will join Arsenal, as have the rumours around Rob Green. It’s funny that hey? I doubt we’d get either as both would be too expensive and I don’t think Arsene likes Green.

I’ll be back tomorrow and hopefully I’ll have a chance to take a look at more Arsenal related things… til then…

Greetings from Cape Town…

A quick blog post this afternoon as I wait for my taxi on route to the airport – am leaving Cape Town after a bitterly disappointing trip (in footballing terms) which saw a terrible game from my beloved England against an Algeria team who before the match said a 3-0 loss would be a good result… Ouch. In non-footballing terms – Cape Town is amazing and one of the best cities I’ve visited in my life – without a doubt – the stadium was fantastic and the general atmosphere in this town is second to none.

Tonight I’m off to the Brazil vs Ivory Coast game, which promises to be an exciting game, with two teams on form and looking good. Eboue is set to start and former gunner Gilberto Silva and potential target Felipe Melo are both looking to marshal the Brazilian midfield.

In Arsenal news, we’ve been linked with Jan Vertonghen, the former central defensive partner of none other than Thomas Vermaelen. See what Arsene is thinking there? We’ve also been strongly linked with the completion of the Laurent from Lorient transfer and Arsene has also confirmed the next signing will be announced before the end of the World Cup:

“There will be something happening before the end of the World Cup – certainly on the defensive side.”

Simple and to the point, that’s Arsene. The Lorient defender looks the dead cert as his agent has been in the news saying that an agreement is close. We’ve also been linked with the AZ Alkmaar goalkeeper,the Argentinian goalkeeper Sergio Romero – but then again, we’ll probably be linked with any and every goalkeeper and defender that are available – until of course, we sign a defender or goalkeeper.

I’ll hopefully be back tomorrow post Brazil and be able to post a proper overview and maybe some more pictures from my travels….

For now my friends, my cab is here, my time is up and it’s time to depart for Jo’burg…

PS, congrats to Niklas Bendtner for scoring the first goal of the competition from an Arsenal player… commiserations to Carlos Vela and Philippe Senderos who will both not play any further part in the tournament… With Cesc and Song not first choice for their countries and half our squad not selected or not going, we’ll be the freshest team out there at the start of next season.

Til later…

Some proper Arsenal news, finally!

So we haven’t signed any more players, yet, but the 2010/2011 season is getting closer, with the release of the fixtures list this morning! I don’t know about you, but at 9am this morning, I was on the BBC sports website, eagerly waiting for it to be out. Now it’s finally out, who’ve we got? Obviously, we play every team twice, but I’m sure the curiosity was about ‘Who’ve we got first?’, ‘When do we play the Big Teams?’, etc.

(You can access the fixtures list from the Arsenal website here, or from the BBC website here.

Like last season, we start our campaign away at Merseyside, this time against Liverpool. My first reaction was ‘Why Liverpool?!’ But as someone cheekily pointed out on twitter, we’re starting against a mid-table team! Given how the table ended last season, it’s quite accurate. You can’t argue with the facts! Having said so though, it’s definitely not an easy fixture! Going to Anfield’s never easy, but we’ve got out little magician who seems to love Anfield. And what with him not being at the World Cup, he should be well restsed and raring to go!

Unlike last season, we  don’t have games against the others in the Big 4 back-to-back. That’s such a positive thing, given last season’s disaster. But if that’s good news, we do have a bit of bad news in the sense that most of our matches after Champions League games are away! 5 out of 6, apparently, against teams like Sunderland, Manchester City and Aston Villa, compared to Sp*rs (if they’re lucky enough to get through the qualifiers!) with either 5 or 6 of them at home!

Anyways, those are (some of) the cards we were dealt with and we’ve got to deal with them.

I can’t help but mention the World Cup. Been looking forward to seeing Spain in action, and even recommended them to a non-football mate to support. The World Cup well and truly came alive, with Switzerland claiming a shock 1-0 win! Funny enough, before the goal, I was saying that the best thing that ought to happen would be for Switzerland to score as it would wake Spain up. They duly obliged, but well, Spain didn’t. That’s what they get for benching Fabregas! If at all there was any positive from him being benched all 90 minutes, it’s that he’d have a breather from those Barca lot trying to convince him to move to Barcelona! Anyhoo…

Although he’s no longer our player, I was really gutted to see Senderos go off injured, during the game. I hope his World Cup isn’t over.

Still on the World Cup, being Nigerian, I was so disappointed to see them lose today to Greece, thanks to the dumbest Red card you’ll ever see in the World Cup! Shame about the ‘keeper, though. He’s had a blinding first two games, and it seems his one and only blunder will cost Nigeria a place at the nest round. There’s still a bit of hope though, if the team don’t mess things up against South Korea and Argentina beat Greece.

Up next today is France v Mexico, or rather, Sagna/Gallas/Diaby v Carlos Vela! Good luck to all four of them! England play tomorrow and even though I’m still gutted Theo didn’t get picked, I do hope the team do well.

Adios, and fingers crossed none of our players get injured!

New Signings, New Signings, New Signings

Whilst the World Cup is taking place, the transfer market isn’t normally the busiest – for clubs, players and managers, it’s hard to negotiate and hard to get a player to think about a move whilst in the middle of the biggest International tournament of their lives. We’ve already signed Maroune Chamakh and will have to wait until the latter parts of the tournament or post tournament before we will see any more new faces.

One thing that does give me confidence that we will be signing more players in that agents and players alike are taking about and hinting at things – Arsene and the team are quietly going about their business, doing the deals and I honestly think we’ll be announcing a few more deals very soon… If you remember a couple of weeks ago, we were taking about Lorient defender Laurent Koscielny possibly joining the club. Having spent some time in the Lorient forums, a lot of information was extracted, talking about the various bids we have had for the player. More recently, the player has come out and said he wants to move to North London and join us, the details of the player’s agent quote matching the details from the forums.

“Laurent told the Lorient president and coach that he wants to move to Arsenal come what may. It is hard to ignore interest from Arsene Wenger. Lorient’s directors want to get over £8.3m from Arsenal. We have held talks with them, and with a sell-on clause inserted in the deal we are not far off agreement.”

Interesting, huh? Of course, this is good news because it allays fears of inactivity in the transfer market and also means we’re close to our second signing. Rumours are that we have agreed the price with them at £8.3m and Lorient also insisted on a sell on clause, as our history suggests we do sell players on for higher fees. Koscielny is yet to be capped, but can play for either France or Poland. He is 24 – has a good amount of experience, albeit not much in the top flight, but does look decent.

With Gallas’ contract having expired, Mikael Silvestre going to the far east and Sol Campbell going to Celtic, that is 3 players out in that department. I won’t include Senderos as a departee as he hasn’t played for two years, so doesn’t really need replacing. So 3 out and therefore 3 in? Koscielny would be our first choice next to Vermaelen most likely, with Djourou and Nortveit the backup players – but surely, another centre back would be required too, as we shouldn’t think of moving Song back as, personally, I think he is an essential midfielder in he way we play.

Peter Hill Wood recently admitted that we put in a bid for Schwarzer and we know that a no-goer. We’ve also heard rumours about a bid for Enyema, which doesn’t seem like it has materialised either, but it does look like we will be signing a new keeper at some point this summer. And it looks like it’s going to be either a golden oldie or a cheaper alternative. We have the two young keepers, but in reality, no-one can ever predict that anyone is going to be world class or even good enough for the premiership until they’ve played in it regularly and whilst we keep one eye on the future, we need to keep both eyes on the present. It means getting in a quality keeper who can deliver.

In World Cup news, Spain showed Cesc an example of how life would be if he moved to Barcelona – he’d be on the bench. With Spain adopting a similar approach to Barcelona with Xavi, Busquets and Iniesta edging out the Arsenal captain. Personally, I think it was what ultimately lost them the game. Cesc has scored more goals than Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Alonso and Silva put together and has scored recently for Spain too. He is a better player than Busquets and Alonso and really should have featured in their midfield. Cesc was in the press saying that the Spanish team spend a lot of time analysing their opponents, and admitted that it’s something that doesn’t regularly happen at Arsenal. But a fat lot of good that does, they couldn’t even beat the Swiss.

Finally, great news in my own World Cup journey as I’ve managed to get tickets for England vs Algeria on Friday – a little bit expensive as a flight and hotels are also required to Cape Town, but what a great adventure it promises to be… Tomorrow I am off to see Argentina vs South Korea, which promises to be a great game! I cannot wait. More pics and more info to come in the next few days…. Adios for now.

World Cup, Update III – Exciting Times…

Afternoon fellow Gooners… Today’s blog is your third installment of my World Cup travels, and in case you missed it, the last installment was the update about my trip from Johannesburg to Rustenburg for the England game… and of course, the first installment was the trip itself to South Africa. In the meantime, JAT has been discussing keepers – Rob Green for Arsenal anyone? So, here is my third installment…

Yesterday I travelled to the Soccer City stadium, for the Holland vs Denmark game, and there was a big Arsenal interest with voth Van Persie and Niklas Bendtner for their respective countries. The organisation in Rustenburg in relation to the stadium and the transport left much to be desired, but the organisation in Soccer City was much much better. A park and ride system was easy to get to and easy to get to the stadium.

And what a stadium! A 85,000 seater stadium, which was complete engulfed in Orange and the native Africaans were out in full force, outnumbered the Danes, 10 to 1. I was sporting my Arsenal shirt (which you’ll see later) and literally supporting two players – one in each team. Niklas Bendter actually played much better than a lacklustre Van Persie – whom despite his assist, was really woeful in front of goal.

That’s the picture from my seat by the way, which was awesome and I’ve had two awsome sets of tickets. Holland deserved their win as they did edge their opponents, but Denmark as a team were much better than the score line suggests, and had they not subbed the mercurial Niklas Bendtner, they may have equalised. Talking about Niklas Bendter – he was one of the many players (including Sorensen, Agger and the chap with long hair) that myself and fellow Gooner Bob met after the game. They were all very friendly, but not too talkative. For those of you following WOA on facebook, you can see all the pictures and a bit more detail, but for now, here’s a nice one of me and Niklas Bendtner…

As you can see, I’ve not been sleeping and I’ve been drinking a lot of beer! But nevertheless, Nikki B is another one to add to the long list of footballers I’ve been meeting recently (check out a long list from last weekend)… we didn’t speak much as Nikki B had his parents with him so I didn’t want to disturb him – after all, I am a gentleman!

Today is all about Brazil vs N. Korea, which the whole of Jo’burg is buzzing about – of course, there was an earlier game, Portugal vs The Ivory Coast, which ended in a 0-0 draw, with CIV edging possesion(51%) and Portugal edging the shots on target (5 to CIV’s 4) – Eboue representing Arsenal and having a decent game.

Onto Arsenal news, and we’ve announced the new Arsenal shirt, take a look here:

For those journalists out there – Cesc is on the picture – he is not leaving! The away kit does look pretty nice and it’s about time, as some of the recent ones haven’t been the best – I’m losing count of how many tops I’ve bought, but hey ho, time to pre-order.

There is still a lot of news circulating about Cesc and despite the rejection of the offer and the statement that we are not going to entertain any further communication on the subject, ex-president Laporta was quoted as saying:

“I will inform him [Rosell] of how negotiations with Cesc are going. The player wants to come, Pep Guardiola and Txiki Begiristain have told me the player hopes the deal will be done. I would suppose the same case for Rosell. Negotiations are now on standby. Barcelona want to pay as little as possible, while Arsenal what to sell for their top price. It’s understandable.”

Well, of course they’re on standby – how about for about 7 or 8 years!!! As JAT commented on yesterday, there is a severe infringement of rights and a clear case of tapping up – will FIFA do anything about it? I’m not sure. JAT did send a message to Sepp Blatter asking him what he was going to do, but as far as I am aware, he hasn’t had a reply…. yet.

Cesc has been keeping stum on the whole story and Arsene Wenger during his commentary with Eurosport has re-iterated that Cesc Fabregas will be staying. Cesc has spoken ahead of tomorrow’s game with Switzerland and was very modest about this chances.

“We’re a regular team and we need to go little by little. When we won the Euro nobody was talking about us. You have to be humble and only concentrate on the first game and we’ll see what happens. Group classification is the only importance.”

Well chaps, to summarise… the World Cup is hotting up tonight with Brazil playing their first game, tomorrow will see Spain in action in Durban before Bofana Bofana (South Africa) take on Uraguay in the evening – and tomorrow is a public holiday, so it’s going to be absolutely crazy! As for Arsenal news, there’s nothing much new in that department, same stories, similar quotes, no new signings and just a new kit. Although, it is a very nice kit!

Adios for now.

Rob Green for Arsenal!

Just kidding.

Green and Mark Schwarzer, two ‘keepers regularly linked with a move to the Gunners, have recently shown that they are capable of some absolute howlers. It does make you wonder whether Arsene will stick with his current batch of goalies – who else out there is available and good in enough to be Arsenal No.1? It became abundantly clear last season that we desperately need a new ‘keeper. We now have a perfect opportunity to examine the best ‘keepers in the world and I can honestly say that so far nobody has won my vote. Thankfully that’s Mr Wenger’s job and not ours, and he does have a huge task on his hands.

With the World Cup taking place it seems as though everything else in the world of sport, and Arsenal, has gone into a temporary coma. In case you weren’t aware, Lewis Hamilton restored some pride in English sport today by winning the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal. Congratulations to him, but I can’t say it comes close to neutralising the big downer caused by yesterday’s goalkeeping calamity.

Enough about England. Arsenal-related stories are quite bare, however. A few ‘papers have linked us with a move for Steven Pienaar after Arsene revealed his admiration for the player and that he has been following his progress since his Ajax days. Make of that what you want. Barcelona continue their public tapping-up of Cesc and if you’re not already bored of it…you should be. On that note I sent a message to Sepp Blatter on twitter (yes he really is on there) asking him what FIFA were going to do about the illegalities of Barca’s attempts to lure Cesc to the Nou Camp. You won’t be surprised to hear I am yet to receive a response. These Spanish sides really do have their own set of rules (or lack of) don’t they? As Dev likes to keep his blogs clean I won’t go into some of my true thoughts about FC Barcelona at this time.

It’s still early days in the World Cup and there will be a good number of Gooners on show out there this week. Tomorrow sees the potential line up of RVP against Nik Bendtner as Holland take on Denmark, although I hear B52 is struggling with fitness. You would imagine that Alex Song will also feature in Cameroon’s game against Japan. Portugal will be soiling their pants on Tuesday at the thought of facing Ivory Coast’s answer to Jesus. We know him as Emmanuel Eboue.

On Wednesday you can watch Cesc being chased around by Xavi, Pique and Puyol who will smother him with Barcelona shirts while their Spanish teammates try to take on Switzerland, and on Thursday our strong French contingent will face Carlos Vela’s Mexico. If France’s last game is anything to go by then it could be quite the sedative. You know something isn’t right in their team when Abou Diaby is calling the shots.

Then on Friday England take on Algeria in the second group game in which promises to be a classic England meltdown the turning point in their World Cup campaign. Fingers crossed all the Arsenal lads come out injury-free. Really looking forward to that Spain game though, and of course Brazil’s game on Tuesday. The World Cup certainly helps to soothe the pain of Arsenal withdrawal. Let’s hope there are some exciting games ahead in the coming days. Have a good week.

World Cup Update, Live From South Africa

Afternoon all, and greetings from Johannsburg and South Africa.

Yesterday was an adventure and a half, driving up to Rustenburg to follow England – a four hour drive up there, and then a two and a half hour drive back – was definitely an adventure. One thing England do is support their team and there have been an amazing amount of fans around Rustenburg. The colours were in full flow and the banter was rife. The atmosphere and stadium were packed and the scene was set. There was a strange reaction to the fact Green was chosen, most people were under the impression James would get the nod – Milner and Heskey raised some eyebrows too, as most rumours around the stadium had Joe Cole and Defoe starting. The atmosphere in the stadium was electric and it reminded me of the game against Man United (yes, the one we lost), whereby everyone was buzzing.

Of course as we know, we started well, with Heskey doing something positive in the lead up to the goal, but the performance on the whole wasn’t great and it was topped off my another one of those classic England goalkeeping howlers. Joe Hart needs to start and become an England regular for the next few years and next few tournaments – and surely in this tournament, two games against Algeria and Slovenia would give him the match experience and confidence to go into the latter stages – if we were to make it – he has the confidence of his defence. Our defence is another worry – with Rio Ferdinand out, with Ledley King out and with Sol Campbell not there, it looks like Carragher – a player who admitted having the worst season in his career – will be our mainstay in defence – how worrying is that?

A player who we didn’t see was Joe Cole and the rumours linking him with us are pretty much constant and since I’ve had internet access, that’s all I’ve read on the net – well, that and a repeat of Barcelona’s nonsense with Cesc… Touching on Arsenal news, it seems that the club have released William Gallas and he’s now a free agent. Peter Hill Wood had this to say:

His demands are extravagant and I don’t think we are prepared to go along with it. He is a good player, but you have got to draw the line somewhere.

Well, we’ll need another centre back in that case, and there have been quite a few on show this tournament (ahem)… of course, we need to be patient…

Okay, time is off the essence and I’ll have to dash, before I go, I’ll just show you a picture of me at the fan fest yesterday watching South Africa vs Mexico – it was simply amazing:

It’s Holland vs Denmark for me tomorrow morning, I’ll be tweeting away without a doubt, so tune in and join in… til then!

It’s a Bosman Summer – And Day 1: Departing for The World Cup…

For the next 3 weeks I will be blogging from South Africa – destination 1 – Johannsburg. It’s very exciting. I have my pseudo match tickets, my South Africa currency (the Rand), I have my passport and about 20 jumpers – it’s going to be cold over there. I’ll try to ensure my blogging is half about my trip and half about what’s going on at Arsenal – as those who know me – know that I need my daily Arsenal dose!

Let’s look at the Arsenal Centre Defence Exodus – ACDE – which has started with Senderos and we think Gallas too (his deadline for signing his contract was the 31st May) and will continue with Sol Campbell and Mikael Silvestre – both who are now expected to leave for Celtic and PSG respectively. And based on these players and the other “releases”, check out this team of players:

David James

Gallas – Senderos – Campbell – Silvestre

Belletti – Joe Cole – Ballack – Silvinho

Benjani – Petrov

There is a whole team of free transfers (bosmans) who could actually survive in the Premiership. For a mid-table team, for the likes of Fulham, Villa, Birmingham etc, any of these players could contribute to their team. For Arsenal, I think Joe Cole is one who could make a difference, and also, I wouldn’t mind adding Petrov in the mix. Will we sign any of them? I doubt it – as I’ve been tweeting about, I’m pretty sure that Joe Cole will end up at Sp*rs. I’ve had a few people talk to me about the signing of Ballack – to play alongside Cesc and Song – I really don’t think he’s an Arsenal type player. He’s the epitome of Chelsea’s era and I’d rather not – but from a pure footballing point of view, could he add something to our squad?

With four central defenders looking like they’re all on their way, we need to look to Arsene to bring in at least 2 as well as hoping that Djourou doesn’t get injured as well as keeping Harvard Nordtveit at the club next season. Yesterday I mentioned the potential signings of Koscielny and Mexes – nothing new on that front, but a very strong link to Hugo Lloris of Lyon – again – if it does happen, it will happen for £15m+ – he moved from Nice for £8m last summer.

I managed to catch some of Arsene Wenger on Sky Sports News and he was talking about the disappointment of Theo Walcott and Samir Nasri not going to the World Cup, saying:

“It’s disappointing but I hope they can transform that in the future of their career into even higher motivation, and come back with even more desire to show how good they are. That’s the only way we have in our job, and we forget many times that in this job you need to be strong mentally. There’s no big career without big disappointment, but it was a massive surprise, I must say. It was two massive disappointments for the players, of course, first. And for me, I must say it was hugely surprising on both occasions. I had contact with them after that and it is something that is very difficult to swallow, to be just out of the World Cup when you had a 90 per cent chance to be in.”

And personally, I still can’t understand the exclusion of both players – for me Nasri’s one is more of a shock considering his excellent form for Arsenal this season – looking at the French squad, you have to think that he’d get into that team. And if you are awake at 7am, you may want to tune in to SSN – apparently they have an exclusive interview with Arsene on the future of Cesc…

So, time to talk about the World Cup (well, my World Cup anyway) and I’m off later today to Johannesburg. I’ve got some of the WOA team (Bob + Nish) out in Cape Town and will be meeting them tomorrow morning. I have my pseudo tickets, which I’ll exchange at the airport. For those of you interesting, my game list is below – if you’re attending any of them, give me a shout via twitter, which will come straight to my UK  and South African phone!

C1 v C2 – England vs USA (12th June, Rustenburg, 20.30)
E1 v E2 – Holland vs Denmark (14th June, Johannesburg, 13.30)
F3 v F4 – New Zealand vs Slovakia (15th June, Rustenburg, 13.30)
B1 v B3 – Argentina vs South Korea (17th June, Johannesburg, 20.30)
G1 v G3 – Brazil vs Ivory Coast (20th June, Johannesburg, 20.30)
B2 v B3 – Nigeria vs South Korea (22 June, Durban, 20.30)

Now as we all now, when I go away, we normally sign one or two players, so fingers crossed we’ll get two centrebacks and possibly a goalkeeper!

Fingers crossed! Wish me luck!