The Emirates Cup Preview – And More From Arsene…

Morning All,

It was a very busy Friday in the World of Arsenal, and all ears were on Arsene “pre-Emirates Cup” press conference. I write that in inverted commas, because to be honest, the media weren’t interested in speaking about the Emirates Cup – they were more interested in Arsene’s view on Cesc Fabregas and whether he was going to stay or not – and of course, if we were going to sign more players – two questions which all the fans wanted to know the honest answer to.

And the responses regarding Cesc Fabregas were very positive. Let me start by running through what Arsene had to say:

“We do not negotiate. If I want to buy your house and you don’t want to sell, you don’t negotiate with me, that’s completely normal.”

And that for me was a statement and a half and a baby giraffe – why? Because it is loud and clear: we are not going to negotiate. Cesc has five years to run on his contract, and we want to keep him at the Emirates. He is not for sale, and it’s as simple as that.

“I have spoken to him directly [over the summer]. But I believe it’s important that meetings between me and the players remain secret. I never come out with the words I exchange with my players.”

The conversations between Cesc and Arsene will probably remain a secret for a long while, but ultimately I think it’s clear that Arsene made Cesc the player he is, he educated him to become one of the world’s best and demands that loyalty back. With Spain being filled with quite a lot of Barcelona players, there is going to be a certain commaradory that happens when Cesc is on International duty and those Barcelona players have been very disrespect about Cesc, about Arsenal and have shown that they have the highest disregard for people, persons and sporting behaviour.

On quizzed on whether he will stay “for one more year”, Arsene said:

“Look at the length of his contract and you will see he has five or six years to go.”

And one thing I don’t think Cesc will ever do is buy his contract out. He has more respect to Arsene and the club to do that and if Arsene extends his stay with us beyond his current term, we may not see Cesc leave us for some time.

Arsene continued:

“I always said Cesc Fabregas will be our captain next year and that we want to keep him. Despite all the speculation last season and the whole summer, nothing has changed. There’s a great attitude and spirit inside the squad and Cesc Fabregas can help us achieve these targets. He’s now at a good age, 23-years-old, and he has just won the World Cup. I believe he will grow in authority again for next season. The biggest achievement for him now is to help us win the title. I have known players who want to leave and then after they don’t want to leave any more. There are all kinds of situations but I believe what happens after is that when a player stays it is about how much he focused on playing football. It is always in the interests of the player to perform. If he is a champion, he goes on the football pitch and wants to be the best he can. All the rest is a poor excuse for a football player.”

But the interesting thing I can take from that is that Cesc did want to leave at some pont – as Arsene said above “I have known players who want to leave and then after they don’t want to leave any more” and that is the worrying fact. But if Arsene has changed his mind, then that’s obviously great news for us and great news for the club - I just hope his honestly wants to stay and play for Arsenal. I hope he forgets this whole situation, signs an even longer contract and stays for a long time. I hope he comes out and says to the world that he will never leave or contemplate it. One thing that Arsene has most likely reminded Cesc is that the future at the Emirates is the best forecast of any club – financially and player wise, with one of the best setups in the world and of course, a very rosy financial future.

Outside of the Cesc stuff, prior to the interview, Arsene did declare that he wanted to bring in another defender into the squad, citing the fact that you need 4 top defenders in the Premiership to be covered and the fact that we’ve only got three. I presume we are quite far down the line for a defender as it’s unusual for the manager to tell us he will buy someone if he is not close – I have a feeling that it’s between Zapata, Tasci or Metersacker – although having brought a foreign player in Koscielny, would an English one be a preference – a home grown? A rule that Arsene hates, but it’s something that is in force this season… the key thing for the future is to bring in re-enforcements and make sure the likes of Cesc never even think of leaving again!

But back to today’s big game and it’s the start of the Emirates Cup and the games today are:

Celtic v Olympique Lyonnais
at 2pm and

Arsenal v AC Milan
kicking off at 4:20pm

It should be an exciting affair with some a “proper” friendly to look forward to after the three slightly easy trio of Barnet and the two Austrian teams we played when on tour. I’m very glad we’re not in America trying to make money – we have seen the likes of Sp*rs, United and City suffer already with long flights, loads of games and injuries too, whereas our build up is rather inspiring – football is also about the make up and fitness of the team rather than just a money making business.

In all honesty, I really do feel like we’ve got a very good group of youngsters in players like Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Emmanuel Frimpong, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey that will the future of the Arsenal. If we can get a few re-enforcements here and there and realise the mistakes we made last season, then there is no reason why we can’t challenge. Arsene did mention that this weekend’s tournament was for players like Frimpong and Wilshere to show if they are ready for the Premiership and ready for Arsenal’s first team.

Being an Arsenal fan is a tough one, sometimes it is very painful not seeing the team get re-enforced in the way we think we need, it’s painful to always be so close. I’ve written many a blog asking Arsene to buy and fill the gaps – but when we look at the quality of the squad we have, and you look at the quality of the youth, coupled with the general style of Arsenal Football Club, we have to realise we’re lucky to be part of a steady, sound, well managed and well directed club. Amen!

For those of you going down to the Emirates cup today, have a great time, cheers on the boys and let us know how it went… WOA writer Debs is down there today and we’ll hear from her tomorrow on the first day of the tournament… Arsenal vs Milan, it’s going to be awesome!

The Keeper Conundrum…

Morning all… the transfer market has officially kicked off, and it looks like even we’re on the verge of another signing – albeit based on the fact that our two summer targets, Sol Campbell and Mark Schwarzer looks of our reach now. The Solman has signed for Newcastle, whilst Mark Hughes appointment at Fulham means that it’s increasingly unlikely that Schwarzer will sign.

So where does that leave us? Well, it leaves us short in defence and messy in the goalkeeping department. It feels like I’m a broken record, but it’s clear that it’s two positions that we need to fill. It’s a bit of an annoying thing for me as a fan to see that we had our transfer targets as a 35-year old centre back and a 37 year old keeper, but perhaps I don’t know what exactly is going on – perhaps this is all smokescreen – but we have started our pre-season friendlies and have the Emirates Cup coming up soon. You would want whoever was going to be the mainstay of the squad to be here already. Having said that, if it does take a week or so to get the two players we need in, then obviously the wait will be worth it.

I did a quick poll on Twitter yesterday (prompted by Gooner Get Ya’s post in the comments) asking who we’d like in terms of keepers, if we could have one of the following:

  1. Akinfeev
  2. Marchetti
  3. Schwarzer
  4. Stekelenburg

Who would we choose? Well, an overwhelming 75% of responses indicated that Akinfeev would be the number one choice, believed to be the most talented out of the group and with a lot of experience behind him. Schwarzer was second, ahead of both Stekelenburg, which I thought was strange considering the fact that he’s so much older and the fact that the latter was in a World Cup final. But the World Cup was a competition which let Stekelenburg down. His stock depreciated after a few blunders, but with his overall reputation still very good, and with the fact he has so much experience under his belt, plus the fact he is number one for his country and plays for a club who need to sell – Ajax – he could be a decent signing.

Marchetti came in fourth in the poll, and probably because he is more unknown – but out of the lot, he is probably the most likely player to come in. His club Cagliari have announced that he’s on the way out and have even mentioned that we’re the club interested, and it’s quite surprising after this quote, that the papers aren’t going mental.

“I understood from his words that he doesn’t want to stay with us. I would have preferred it is he had said so to me and not to the newspapers, but there aren’t offers for him. And there is full confidence in (reserve goalkeeper) Michael Agazzi. The only real club that is pushing for his signature is Arsenal.”

That quote was from club president, Massimo Cellino and it would be hard to see him making it up – which means it could be the signing we’ve all been looking for. The emphasis on the comment is “pushing” for his signature which means we’re trying hard. The stopping point is the price and rumours are that have offered £4m but the club are holding out for £6.5m. If we can stretch a little more, the Italian number one (well, at the World Cup anyway) could be down at the Emirates sooner than we think.

Edit: Sky Sports News reports that Marchetti was left out of the Cagliari’s pre-season’s friendly yesterday against Bastia.

And back to the defender we all know we need – especially with Djourou looking like he’s going to be a tad injury prone this season, as well as Koscielny looking like he may get blown away in the wind, the current target on everyone’s lips is Weder Bremen’s Per Mertersacker. Arsene commented on the defensive situation saying:

“We are still on the search for centre-halves. We have three and we need at least four. There are people we consider and are analysing and we look at the financial possibilities,”

There have been rumours that we’re in negotiations with Bremen, so I’ll be keeping an close eye on that one too. There were rumours that he was seen in a Highbury pub, but everything is still unknown about whether the picture was genuine or not…

For now, I would just like to leave you with a stubborn but very correct Arsene statement from yesterday:

“I am very happy with Cesc and we are all very happy at the club with Cesc. He is a very important player for us, he is our captain and we have worked very hard [for him] to be the future of our team and that is why we are always adamant about [not] letting him go.”

That’s it Arsene, tell them how it is… Cesc is staying…

Til tomorrow…

Exclusive: Interview with Kunal Torres & JAT

For those of you who are in the know, then you’ll know the name Kunal Torres. If you don’t, you will very soon. For those of you who don’t know JAT – he is a writer down here at the World of Arsenal HQ – and a massive Gooner. Kunal Torres, as you may have guessed is a Liverpool supporter and proclaims to be one of the biggest in the land – and in a bit of a twist, I’ve got them both in front of me and primed for a WOA exclusive interview.

We’ll start with the easy ones…

Who do you think will get relegated this season and why?

KT: Blackpool, simply because they won’t be strong enough to survive… West Brom because again, they just don’t have the strength and my random tip is Fulham – with their star manager now at my very own Liverpool, and without being able to attract a decent manager after the failed attempt of getting Jol in, I can just see doom and gloom for them.

JAT: Blackpool and West Brom for definite – the other teams that we down there at the end of the season have strengthened, the likes of West Ham and Sunderland have recruited well. One team I feel is running out of steam is Wigan – Martinez was on the end of some difficult losses, some crushing defeats and there hasn’t been much quality in.

Who do you think will win the Premiership and why? (You can’t choose your own team)

KT: I think it’s going to be the most open season yet – it’s hard to tell. Arsenal, United and Chelsea will always be up there – the latter two have been dominant in the last few years. As a Liverpool supporter, it pains me not to consider ourselves in the title race, but it’ll take a year or two to get back into the groove of things. Man City do look good and have some decent signings, but for me, with Essien back in the squad, my tip has to be Chelsea.

JAT: Okay, so I can’t choose Arsenal right? Definitely? Okay, then for me, it’s between United and Chelsea – United haven’t done much to strengthen and Scholes and Giggs will not be the players they have been recently. Smalling looks very shakey, as did Evans, Brown and O’Shea last season, and there is too much emphasis on Rooney to score – something you can carry for one season, but not for season after season. Chelsea meanwhile have strengthened where they needed too and with Drogba back and fit, Essien desperate to get back into the game and the little spark of  Benayoun and their strength in depth will set them on their way.

How do you [honestly] think Liverpool will do?

KT: I think we’ll surprise everyone and finish in the top four. With a combo of Joe Cole, Gerrard and Torres as an attacking axis – all with different styles and skills, we’ll definitely get a good number of goals. Our other signing Jovanovic is a very good striker too and should have an impact on the season.

JAT: I think top four is pushing it – especially with such a disheartened squad. I’m glad we dodged the Joe Cole bullet, as for me, we have enough small, skillful, injury prone players. They haven’t improved on last season and may even get weaker if Mascherano leaves – but top six is achievable and with Hodgson at the helm, very realistic.

How do you [honestly] think Arsenal will do?

KT: For Arsenal, it all comes down to whether their star players can stay injury free. If Van Persie can remain fit and get back to form, they’ll be challenging. Maroune Chamakh looks like an interesting signing – at one point, I thought he may coming to Anfield – but it will take time for him to settle in. If Arsenal don’t sign a keeper then they will struggle to top the table, but we’ll see how it pans out – I’d definitely say Arsenal were in a much better position than Liverpool.

JAT: At the moment, without the signings I wanted at the beginning of the season, it’s hard to say I am confident that we will win the title. I think we’ll fair similar to last season, a top three finish – I can’t see how we’ve strengthened out team over last season – Eduardo out, Chamakh in – the whole heap of defenders out and only Koscielny in. Like KT said, we’ve been notorious for big injuries to key players and if that is something we can avoid, then we will have a chance. If we can strengthen in defence and GK, then I’ll feel more confident.

Which player will you be watching out for this season? (You can’t choose your own team)

KT: I’ll be interested to see how David Silva fairs this season up at Man City – he’s been a very good and consistent performer in La Liga, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fairs.

JAT: I would have chosen Chamakh, as I think he’s got something about him – obviously watching Cesc at his brilliant best is awesome – but if I can’t choose an Arsenal player, then it will have to be Hernandez, the new Mexican player just signed for Man United – he looked good in the World Cup and I think he will prove a good foil for Rooney.

Finally, a random, but interesting one – if you could sign a former player of your team, who would be your pick?

KT: I’d bring Xabi Alonso back in a flash – we all saw the effect he had when he wasn’t playing for us last season; he was one of the most under-rated Liverpool players under Benetiz’s reign. He’d definitely be the one I’d bring back.

JAT: It’s a difficult one, we’ve had a few decent players who are still playing – like Flamini, Diarra etc, but I’ve struggled with this one. The likes of Henry and Pires are obviously past their prime now. The more I think about it, it has to Flamini. He had an excellent partnership with Cesc and also had some trickery about him too.

SC Neusiedl v Arsenal, Match Day Live

As usual, it’s as live as we can get it, without actually streaming the content – you may pick up a stream or two if someone (ahem) decides to comment on it below. Today’s game is our second televised game of our Austrian tour and the final game before the weekend’s Emirates Cup. We do take on Dagenham and Redbridge tomorrow, but that’s mostly for the kids / reserves. When I say mostly… I mean entirely…

SC Neusiedl v Arsenal

So the team line up is as follows:

Almunia

Nordtveit – Djourou – Koscielny – Gibbs

Wilshere – Rosicky – Frimpong

Walcott – JET – Arshavin

Over to the comments……

Random topic: If we could sign one player from Man City…

First of all, a big thank you and well done to Kieran Delaney, the newest WOA writer. Between Kieran, Debs, JAT, Will and myself, there is quite a significant team of writers on board all who have one thing in common – their love for the game and their love for Arsenal. With only 5 weeks left in the transfer window closes, the squads are starting to shape themselves. Down at the Grove, we’ve got a goalkeeper and a defender to add to the squad – most likely the re-signing of Sol Campbell and the signing Mark Schwarzer. And pretty much that will be our quota of players.

There is a massive problem down at Man City, and it’s obviously going to be a problem for them – I think, when the count was made, they had 39 players on their books – after the signing of their left back. If Bolletelli signs, it would make it a round 40. Now, that means that there is a whopping 15 players available or somehow, if Man City manage to include a player here or there, at least 10 players… which got me thinking, who would like to have down at the Grove next season…?

In the goalkeeping department, last season, I really wanted Joe Hart and thought he would be available, but with Given’s injury, it looks like Hart will start the season as number one, so any sort of acquisition is not going to happen… which leads me to the defence, and with the exception of new recruit Jerome Boateng, the rest are distinctively average. One player who will be out is Wayne Bridge, destination likely to be Sunderland, Newcastle or Liverpool, the latter don’t actually have any left backs.

But there is one defender who happens to have some England caps under his belt and is a Gooner – yes you’ve guessed it, Micah Richards – who has fallen way down the pecking order – would be a decent shout as backup for Vermaelen / Djourou…

The defensive midfield position is an interesting one – Citeh have just signed Yaya Toure and put him on £220k a week – ludicrious, hey? And you can throw in Patrick Vieira, Gareth Barry, Michael Johnson, Stephen Ireland and Nigel De Jong… now don’t the last two look like two players who could be very useful in our squad… well, either player could slot in next to Song and Cesc in our three man field. I really do feel sorry for Stephen Ireland – he was immense a couple of years ago, but ever since Man City started buying anything that moves, he’s had less and less game time – I really think he has a lot of potential and could make it – if not down at Arsenal, down anywhere but Man City.

Onto the wings and strikers, an area which City have strengthened no end, there are just too many players and when you hear Mancini talk about signing two or three MORE strikers, then you can understand the mentality of the club. I would love a player like Robinho, as despite his attitude and pay packet, he is a seriously talented footballer. Apparently he is speaking to a few clubs in Germany over his next move – but before signed for Real Madrid, when we were heavily interested – if we did sign him, he would be surely talked about in the same breath as Messi…

But other than that, they do have a long list of distinctly average players in Adebayor, Santa Cruz, Bellamy, Jo, Benjani, Caicedo, Nimely – although the signing of David Silva is some quality – but what on earth are they going to do with 7, 8 or 9 strikers. Doesn’t Platini or Blatter have anything to say about this? Well, we’ll see what happens when they have to choose their 25…

So there we have it… in order of preference, if we could sign one player from Man City, it would be:

  1. Joe Hart
  2. Nigel De Jong (can play in both defence and midfield)
  3. Stephen Ireland
  4. Micah Richards

Who would be yours?

Kicked Out Of The Premiership

Firstly I’d just like to say hello to the readership here at World Of Arsenal. I’ve been a regular reader for some time and, as Dev mentioned yesterday, an active commenter. One of the reasons I keep reading the WOA is the healthy debate in the comments and the quality of the writing – hopefully I won’t let you down!

EDIT: Ooops, I’ve duplicated some of Dev’s sentiments, blame it on a heavy wedding weekend!

As you’ve probably guessed from my title, I’m still feeling pretty terrible about Eduardo’s departure.  It’s probably for the best for both sides as Eduardo is going to get first team football and Arsenal have made some room for Chamakh in the squad. On that note, I realise last season we were stuck for large periods with no recognised striker as RVP was out, Bendtner was out and Vela was looking for his passport – some of you might be questioning the logic of replacing a striker rather than adding one – but even when Eduardo was fit he couldn’t buy his place on the pitch, sometimes even the squad. Why would we resort to playing Arshavin up front on his own, in a position he clearly didn’t want to be playing, when we had the Crozillian on the bench? Because Arsene had lost faith, and on the few occasions he got onto the pitch it seemed that Eduardo had lost faith in himself to. So I genuinely believe this is the best move for all concerned, especially with Jay Emmanuel Thomas shining and Simpson looking like he could be Arsene’s ‘Fox In The Box’ (except not shit like Blackpool bound Fanny Jeffers!).

But I digress – it should have never got to this. It’s not how it was meant to end and largely we have the lumbering man-golem Martin ‘Two-Bits’ Taylor to thank for that.

Eduardo arrived in the summer of 2007 and in his first season, a season where he was expected to take time to settle, made 31 appearances (22 starts) and created 20 goals (12 scored and 8 assists). That is an incredible return for a new addition to a top level team when put into perspective – he played for just 50% of the season, a season curtailed in the most extreme and horrific manner by the aforementioned Birmingham leg snapper. Had Eduardo not been injured on the 23rd February 2008, I have absolute certainty that I would not be writing this post.

Not everyone believes that – certainly it’s been two and a half years since the injury so it’s perhaps easy to forget the clinical nature of Eduardos finishing when he first arrived. The Daily Mail clearly have, with this terrible piece of shit ‘journalism’. Seriously, considering the source of such an ignorant pile of piss, they probably don’t like him because he can’t trace his ancestry back to the druids.

But for every piece of garbage peddled by the media, there is at least one rational mind talking common sense. Pete Gill on F365 sums up everything that is wrong with the Daily Mail article here:

Sympathy is not obligatory or even essential, but there is something deeply unpleasant in such phraseology as ‘he is leaving the Emirates like many before him: with his name almost as badly shattered as the bones in the ankle he infamously broke at Birmingham.’ If the analogy wasn’t so abhorrent, a retort to the intimation that Eduardo broke his legs without outside interference would be worth a paragraph of its own.

If you need any further proof that Eduardo’s career has been utterly derailed by his injury, since his return he has managed to convert just 6.3% of his shots. Before his injury he was converting 23.5% of his shots. Cut those numbers anyway you like, that is a devastating loss of potency.

I don’t want to dwell on the challenge, the subsequent knighting of Taylor as a defender of the British realm by the press and the vilification of Eduardo for a) being broken in two and b) diving at Celtic but clearly this has all helped shape a football size hole in DuDu’s psyche.

The trouble with an injury like this is not just the extended lay off which has visibly slowed Eduardo down but the consistent proneness to injury on the players return. Diaby has consistently had tweaks and strains and Nasri has taken an entire season to get back to full match fitness – both having previously suffered fractures. RVP seems like he might be over the worst of it, but he’s another player who seems to be constantly injured.

Outside of Arsenal, Michael Owen was never the same after serious injury and we’ve seen Torres struggle with every single muscle in his body for Liverpool and Spain this season.

And that’s really what I wanted to address. At the relatively late stage in his career (25 years old) when he was injured, DuDu was never going to be the same player on his return. Whether Taylor meant it or not, he kicked a bright star out of football that day.

Tough tackling has been debated over and over again and I’d prefer to skirt that issue right now – the long and short of it is this:

  1. Martin Taylor broke Eduardo Da Silva’s leg.
  2. Eduardo has left English football because he is no longer good enough to play top flight football on a weekly basis.

Whether or not you support/revile the tough tackling approach (or take both viewpoints depending on whether players are Dutchmen assaulting Spanish players or Birmingham/Stoke players breaking Arsenal players, right Alan Hansen?) the sad fact is that Eduardo has been kicked out of our game, and I promise you that is a very sad loss for English football.

The Price of a First XI…

Evening folks, and a very quick and to the point blog today… Our new writer, and twice commentator of the month, when we used to run the award back in the day, Kieran Delaney is joining the team at WOA and will be posting his first piece tomorrow… I’m very much looking forward to his post, an excellent writer and normally very thought provoking…

I thought I’d bring something to you today, something that I’ve been thinking about recently, but thought wise to write about… and that’s the price of a first XI. I’m going to quickly look at the top teams in the league and look at their first XI’s, along with the price that each player has cost (as far as my memory goes rather that factually researched)… not to make a point, I’m not lambasting any team for their spending or lack of it, it’s just an interesting exercise to do and to try and figure out the cost of a first XI. I’ll lay out the teams in what I consider to be their first XI’s…

Arsenal (£57.75m)

The following team selection is a mix of the most used team from last year and also what would be considered the first team this season (so far). I would obviously like to see Nasri in the centre, rather than on the wings, but last season, that is where he played. And Denilson too, seemed to play more in the middle than anyone else… (Diaby, Ramsey, etc)…

Almunia
£500k

Sagna – Djourou – Vermaelen – Clichy
£7.5m – £500k – £10m – £750k

Denilson – Song
£3.5m – £3.5m

Nasri – Cesc – Arshavin
£10m – £3m – £15m

Van Persie
£3.5m

There are a lot of other players who would be on the bench too, but that is not required for this exercise! One thing that strikes me as pretty damn good, is the deals for Denilson, Song, Djourou, Clichy, Cesc and Van Persie – amazing prices for such talented footballers…

Manchester United (£112m)

I’m not quite sure who is the first XI for United is, especially with the older lot nearing the end of their tether, but I’ll have a go at it…

Van Der Sar
£5m

Neville – Vidic – Ferdinand – Evra
Free – £7m – £31m – £6m

Fletcher – Carrick
Free- £16m

Nani – Scholes- Valencia
£17m – Free – £16m

Rooney
£32m

Now that in roughly double what our first XI cost…!

Chelsea (£169.2m)

Now you know that his is going to be a big one…

Cech
£7.5m

Ivanoic – Alex – Terry – Cole
£9m – £15.7m – Free – £25m

Essien – Mikel
£24m – £24m

Anelka – Lampard – Malouda
£15m – £11m – £13.5m

Drogba
£24.5m

One thing to note (and quite dodgy) is the transfer of Alex was £10m but the fee that PSV paid to Santos of £5.7m was paid by Chelsea; in addition, the transfer of Mikel was £16m plus £8m given to Man United.

I’ll leave it at that right now, as it takes ages to work out the fees of everyone… I’ll try and update this article later this week… I’ll look at Sp*rs, Man City and Liverpool next…

Is Our Squad Ready For The Season?

Morning fellow Gooners. First of all, apologies for the downtime, and comment system failure. We’re undergoing some changes down at WOA headquarters but as I understand, everything is back to normal… well, at least as far as the blog is concerned. Personally, I’m not sure exactly what is going on this summer in terms of clear out and regalvanisation of the squad. After a promising start to the transfer window, with the quick announcement of Maroune Chamakh, which was followed up by the protracted signing of Koscielny.

Both have looked “okay” in pre-season, but neither have really shone – yet.

There have only been two pre-season games, so a little more time can be given to the two new recruits. We have obviously deficiencies in the squad, and the big question is whether they will be addressed properly or not this summer. Before the start of the transfer window, we knew we need to replace the exiting defenders with some fresh blood and with the exits of Silvestre and Gallas as well as Sol Campbell and the final departure of Senderos, we do look thin on the ground in defence. We have four defenders in Vermaelen, Djourou, new signing Koscielny and loan returnee Nordtveit. Pretty much as a group of defenders they are inexperienced – albeit the captain of the last game, Vermaelen, who I would say was quite experienced, but has only one season in the Premiership. Numbers wise it looks okay. 4 defenders and maybe Song… but apart from Koscielny, we had all of these players on the books at Arsenal last season. So we’ve basically let Gallas, Silvestre, Senderos and Sol Campbell move on and got Koscielny in return. When you look at that stat, you have to think another signing is required. But is that signing the re-signing of 35 year old Sol Campbell? Yes he was good last season, but was he technically good enough?

If I told you before the summer that Eduardo, Gallas and Silvestre would leave the club and that we’d replace them with a free transfer, an unproven centre back from the French league who had been playing in Ligue 2 the season before, the resigning of a 35 year old Campbell and a 37-year keeper in Schwarzer, you would have laughed at me. The squad has been crying out for a real world class keeper since Lehmann fell from grace – Almunia and Fabianski have just not cut it. The squad has been crying out for a world class defender – we finished the season with the most goals conceded out of the top four, have we made our defensive unit better?

We’ve had to put up with high earners and low performers like Diaby, Denilson and Theo Walcott – the latter, a player who just seems like he has not progressed as he should have in the last couple of years – to the point where Capello picked the clueless Lennon and the hapless Shaun Wright Philips ahead of him for the World Cup.

Yesterday Arsene spoke on the defensive side of things, saying:

“There is no news on a defensive signing but numbers wise we are short in defence. The situation is still open for Sol Campbell and for the rest we are still looking.”

And my gut feeling is that Arsene would like to bring back Sol Campbell and thus conclude the addition of any further defenders.

I have to admit that I am genuinely worried at the pursuit of Mark Schwarzer. I don’t rate him – he is 37. Fulham want in excess of £3m for him. The star of the World Cup, Eduardo has now moved from Braga to Genoa for £3.4m who in my eyes was a better prospect. There are some rumours that there is a get out clause in Schwarzer’s contract and thus the fee wouldn’t be anywhere near £3m – not the case if the papers are to be believed.

Will the signing of Sol and Schwarzer really galvanise the squad? Does it appease the likes of Van Persie and Cesc, whom have both been with us for some time, without a sight of a trophy? Is this the extent of what we can do within our budget? Questions have to be raised, as Ade, Kolo, Eduardo have brought in just shy of £50m, and their wages have also been taken off the wage bill – as well as high earners like Silvestre and former captain Gallas.

Sol Campbell has shown us – again – that he is not as loyal as we want from a player whom we’ve supported through thick and thin and has tried to earn a package with Sunderland, West Ham, Celtic amongst others – all whom have decided against him – if he is not good enough for them – where Steve Bruce would rather sign the error-prone Titus Bramble instead – then how on earth is he good enough for us? I may be jumping the gun – there have been some interesting performances from the youth, and yes the future does look promising – but to win the biggest prizes we need top quality now – and with Man City and Liverpool back in the transfer market and Chelsea always there – if we don’t strengthen, when will be able to stop competing.

I don’t want to put a downer on things, but I really do hope Arsene can bring in some better players than the ones we’ve been linked with. It’s make or break…

A Tribute To Eduardo…

Morning WOA Gooners and today I’d like to bring to you a tribute to Eduardo. The first Crozilian to play for Arsenal and an excellent footballer in the package. As we all know, and the club confirmed yesterday, Eduardo has left us and joined FC Shaktar Donetsk on an undisclosed fee… An undisclosed fee of around £6m. I for one was upset to see him move on. From a club perspective, it was probably the right decision and the only decision which benefited both player and club. Arsene is a clever manager and of course, he would have reviewed his stats, his general ability before and after the injury and in the last 6 to 7 months, I’m sure he’s realised that he’s no longer the player that he was before the injury.

Thanks to regular reader, Berth for sending in this video link:

10 goals in 13 starts before Eduardo’s injury summed up the player that Arsene saw and brought in and the player that he could have been for us. Not only was Eduardo a great football player, he was a a gentleman and that is something that stood out in his “goodbye” message. It was a sensation message, so here it is…

“Before I start a new chapter in my career with Shakhtar Donetsk, I just wanted to send a message to all my friends at Arsenal. The past few days have been very emotional for me. Although I am excited about the challenge ahead with my new club Shakhtar Donetsk, I am so sad to be leaving my home for the past three years – Arsenal Football Club. Arsenal is a very special football club and I will miss so many people – my team mates, all the staff and of course, the wonderful Arsenal supporters. I would just like to thank everyone for your support during my time at Arsenal. When I first came to England, I could not speak the language and knew nobody, but as soon as I arrived I was made to feel at home and part of this big family. Also, I want to say thank you to the Arsenal supporters  - you have been fantastic to me and always sung my name and I will never forget this. I had some very difficult times with my injury, but Arsenal was always there for me – the medical staff, the management, the players and the supporters. Thank you everybody. Although I have now left the Club, Arsenal will always be in my heart. I will always look for the Arsenal results and of course, I wish Arsène Wenger and the great players at the Club well for next season and the future.”

That is one of the best messages I have ever read, and the one thing that stands out is the honesty that comes through the message. One of the things that all the journalists, agents, managers and fans whom have hand the honour to meet the player have always said is that he is very well spoken, very kind, always has time for people and always honest. A true gem of the game.

No one can question that the injury was the defining moment of his career was the injury – something that a few newspapers, such as the Daily Mail have mocked and even when he eventually moved on earlier this week, headlined the story.. ‘Flop Gunner! Eduardo was a big shot joining Arsenal…now he’s their latest striking failure’. Can you believe their ignorance? Let’s not dwell on that article.

In his 31 appearances and 22 starts before Birmingham, Eduardo contributed 12 goals at an average of a goal every 2.58 games, with a conversion rate of 23.5% from his shots in the Premier League. In his 36 appearances and 19 starts after Birmingham, Eduardo contributed seven goals, three of which were from the penalty spot, at an average of a goal every 5.14 games, with a conversion rate of 6.3% from his shots in the Premier League. (Source, football365)

All I can say is good luck to a true gentleman of the game, a truly honest pro and a talented football into the bargain. I really hope he does recover from his injury at Shaktar and goes on to have a career in the top level.

Thank you Eduardo, you’ll always be in our hearts too.

Why Nasri should play with Cesc & Song… In The Middle…

FC Sturm Graz 0 – 3 Arsenal

If you watched yesterday’s game between FC Sturm Graz and Arsenal, you’ll probably agree with the subject of today’s blog. Samir Nasri put on a show for us that reminded us all what a player we have on our hands and how effective he can be if deploy in the middle three of our 4-3-3. The player touted as the next Zidane looked head and shoulders above the rest and was in the heart of everything good. Of course, he caught the headlines with his two goals, but playing through the  middle alongside Wilshere and Frimpong (our future Cesc and Song), he really excelled.

Nasri has played for us pretty much on the wings since he joined us and it’s not his natural position – he isn’t as effective as I think he can be if deployed in the middle. Last year I really did question why players like Nasri, Rosicky and Diaby played on the top 3 of a 4-3-3 and in the friendlies so far, both Rosicky and Nasri have played more centrally – it’s a role that suits them much better. Nasri is refreshed and by not going to the World Cup, he’s been able to knuckle down and get himself into shape.

If Arsene does move Nasri into the middle, then our potential line up could be (I’ll explain the other selections later):

Goalkeeper

Sagna – Djourou – Vermaelen – Clichy

Nasri – Song

Walcott – Cesc – Arshavin

Van Persie

Which brings to an end the debate of why one of Diaby or Diaby finds themselves automatic picks, as they won’t. As you can see from the line-up above, I’ve chosen Djourou over Koscielny to partner Vermaelen. Djourou’s vastly experienced compared to his French counterpart and also very much more physically advanced. In what I’ve seen of Djourou since his return, he’s shown me that he can come in as first choice and do a job.

The two new signings Koscielny and Chamakh don’t look up to scratch right now – I know it’s early but I’ve not been exactly impressed with their performances. Koscielny does look much smaller than the Arsenal.com site made out he was and doesn’t look like he’s ready for the Premiership. Despite his transfer fee of £8.5m, I think he has been brought in as a player with a lot of potential and as third choice. I will obviously give you more feedback throughout the next set of friendlies and I hope it’s down to fitness and he comes good quicker than later. Chamakh has a few positives – he is always hungry for the ball, and also seems to be suited to the 4-3-3, a formation he played with Bordeaux. He looks like he needs games and that makes sense, he also looks like he needs to find some confidence as I can’t remember too many shots on target from the Moroccan. His touch did let him down a few times – but like Koscielny, it’s too early to judge.

Havard Nordtveit looked much better than I thought he would. He was solid, conventional, calm and technically very capable. His stock has risen considerably in my eyes and despite his lack of involvement in the Arsenal team since he was signed, he does look very much like he could fit in. He was deployed at an unfamiliar right back position, but did quite well. His favoured position is centre back and he could be ready to step up his game. I think we’ll see a bit more of him in the friendlies and maybe this year he’ll have a role in the cups and as fourth choice centre back. Sol Campbell is still on the website as a player, so he could still be back in Arsenal colours next season – although I’m unsure of whether it’s the best signing for us, considering the youth coming through – would Sol get a game?

The first half line up was:

Fabianski

Nordtveit – Djourou – Vermaelen (c) – Traore

Frimpong – Wilshere

Walcott – Nasri – Arshavin

Chamakh

and the second half line up was:

Szczesny

Nordtveit – Djourou – Koscielny – Gibbs

Eastmond – Lansbury

JET – Rosicky – Wilshere

Walcott

Although the positions I’ve mentioned may not be that accurate, as JET and Walcott switched a few times and Wilshere, Lansbury and Rosicky occupied mixture of positions.

A round up of the team now (well, those not mentioned above)…

Traore – made a few mistakes and still does raise an eyebrow – with Clichy and Gibbs ahead of him, does he really have a future at Arsenal? When he came on the second half for Wilshere (late on), he played up front in the front three, but wasn’t quite right up there either, although his crossing has improved.

Frimpong – A nervy start was followed by a steady game and he did look like Song in terms of movement. He is certainly in the reckoning at the moment, and I’d like to see more of him in the up coming friendlies.

Wilshere – Industrious, but never really stole the show as he has previously. A bad tackle earnt him a yellow, but I’ll need to see him again before I can really comment.

Eastmond – Does a simple job, more like Gilberto Silva than Song. He had a solid game with a few mistakes – I expected him to be stronger this term, but no real physical improvement.

Lansbury – This guy never ceases to amaze me, he scored a goal, but his overall play was exceptional considering his lack of playing time over the last couple of years. Definitely want to see more of him.

Rosicky – Looks more comfortable in the middle and looks to have finally shaken off his injury woes. Let’s see how he fairs in the next couple of games.

Walcott – Still looks a little hit and miss, but showed flashes of brilliance. The jurys out though.

JET – Personally, I thought he was brilliant. He took his chance, and in my opinion was more effective that Walcott. Some brilliant turns and some excellent passes show he has an all round game. Cited as being lazy before, but he looked very much up for the game and is an exciting player.

So, there we have it – another successful friendly. A decent run out for the team, who impressed you and who do you think will get into the team this season?

Til tomorrow…

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SK Sturm Graz vs Arsenal – LIVE… (Whilst Eduardo Signs for Shakhtar)

Afternoon all and today marks the return of some sort of Match Day Live as we take on FC Sturm Graz in a friendly.

The first half line up is:

Fabianski

Nordtveit – Vermaelen – Djourou – Traore

Nasri – Frimpong – Wilshere

Walcott – Chamakh – Arshavin

And also, the news of Eduardo leaving and signing for Shakhtar has been announced on their website:

Today on 21 July FC Shakhtar have signed a Brazilian-born Croatian forward Eduardo Da Silva from Arsenal London on a 4-year contract being anticipated by all the international media. All the details were agreed tonight at Donbas Arena in Donetsk. Within the nearest time the newcomer will be introduced to Ukrainian media representatives as well as to the Pitmen fans.

Good luck, me old man!