Henry (Emirates) Cup.

So the Emirates Cup was on this weekend, and with Henry’s team, the New York Red Bulls playing, the tournament had that extra special feel to it. Couldn’t watch the matches in Saturday, because ESPN and I aren’t friends, but I was at the Emirates today. There was a rumour going round Twitter that Henry would be playing the second-half in Arsenal colours, but it turned out to be false, (un)fortunately.

With us drawing yesterday against Boca Juniors, losing a two-goal lead in the process, we had to beat the Red Bulls (no, this isn’t an F1 blog post, I promise you!) to win the tournament. but obviously, it being pre-season, winning the tournament wasn’t as important as putting in a good performance.

Kieran should be blogging tomorrow, so I’ll try to keep this post as short as possible.

We started the match with a strong XI, with Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Song, Wilshere, Ramsey, Rosicky, Gervinho and van Persie starting. Not really sure what happened, but shortly after the match kicked off, Wilshere had to be subbed, with Afobe replacing him. He went straight down the tunnel, but hopefully it wasn’t/isn’t anything major.

The first half, and indeed the whole match, was typical Arsenal, or rather, the Arsenal of most of last season. It’s not surprising really, as the personnel has hardly changed. We saw loads of the ball, kept it relatively well, but it all managed to break down in the final third, with us always wanting that extra pass. I bet if we tried to shoot sometimes, it wouldn’t actually hurt us physically. Someone needs to let them know.  Henry’s team weren’t any better than us, but they were able to keep us a bit quiet, with Henry posing their main threat. He showed time after time that he’s still got it, forcing Szczesny to make top saves. We eventually made the breakthrough towards the end of the first half through *who else?* Robin van Persie, with Rosicky providing the assist. I’ve got to say, I was impressed with Rosicky today. Yes, he did lose the ball once or twice, but his application wasn’t faulty, sliding into tackles and trying to make things happen. Would have been great if he got a goal.

The second half was more of the same, with the Red Bulls a bit more of a threat, but we looked the more likely to score, so you can pretty much guess what happened. We dilly-dallied, bit of inspiration from Henry with an assist, and the New York Red Bulls were level, with Kyle Bartley unfortunately slicing the ball into his own net! I do have high hopes for Bartley, and I thought he’d get a chance this season, but apparently he’s back to Rangers on loan again.

With that goal though, we were no longer in pole position for the Emirates Cup, with NYRB winning it if we didn’t score again. There wasn’t much intensity throughout the match, with the Mexican waves being out in full force well before half-time, but the last 5 minutes got a bit intense, as the crowd tried urging the players forward to get that goal. But it didn’t come, and we ended up drawing.

It’s a bit hard to analyse this match, as it was a friendly, but good points to draw from it are the fact that Robin van Persie hasn’t lost his goal-scoring form; Rosicky looks like he *might* hit some good form; Vermaelen looks like he can play more than a third of the season, with his injury having fully healed (fingers crossed). I didn’t really see much of Gervinho today, and the little I did see of him, he reminded me of a shorter version of Adebayor, mainly because of his stature, I hope! It would have been great to win this match, and it’s slightly worrying that we haven’t won many matches in pre-season. But like someone tweeted, I’d rather have a bad pre-season and have a stonking season, than the other way round.

I still think we need to be more active in the window, but I’ll leave that to Arsene’s judgement as to who and what position, but it is obvious that we are one or two players short of a winning team- one in defence, one in midfield.

I think I’ll stop typing now, because there isn’t much left to be said. We might not have won the Emirates Cup this season, but seeing as it’s the only silverware we’ve been winning these past few seasons, maybe not winning it this year might be a sign that that we’ve got better silverware coming our way this season! Clutching at straws, much?

***Forgot to mention that it was absolutely brilliant to see Henry back at the Emirates, and I think him lifting the trophy, albeit for the NYRB, was like the perfect ending. Would have been GREAT if the rumours of him playing in an Arsenal jersey were true, but I guess we’ll have to settle for him finally lifting a trophy at the Emirates!

Are we actually resolving the problems from last season?

The question that is evident in my mind… is… Are we actually resolving the problems from last season? Or are we just trying to “survive” another summer, improve a little, try not to sell players… Now I know we have not yet completed our summer spending on transfers (well, let’s hope not), so perhaps there is more to come…

But it’s time to review what problems we had last season, and how we are going about or have gone about fixing them in the summer so far. The key issues we faced, which ultimately let us down are noted below.

  • Goalkeeping Issues
  • Defensive Problems
  • Individual Mistakes
  • Reliance On One Striker
  • Strength In Depth
  • Experience
  • No Variation In Play
  • No Flexibility In Formation

Let’s rattle through the list and see what we’ve done…

Goalkeeping Issues

Nothing has changed in the goalkeeping department over summer, and there is little or no noise about the position. I think many people see Szcznesy as our number one now and now that he’s had a few games under his belt, the experience factor may improve him next season. A lot of people, including myself thought Almunia would have left by now – but as of yet, there haven’t been any takers. As things stand, we’re going into 2011/2012 with Fabianski as number 2, Mannone as number 3 and Almunia as number 4… Good enough? No, I don’t think so. Szcznesy is a good player, but he is still young and inexperienced – would I like to see a new face in the squad – I would have loved to have brought in Maarten Stekelenburg, who is on the verge of a £6m move to Roma. Will it happen, no, definitely not.

Have we improved? No.

Defensive Problems

The defensive problems have been very evident for all to see – Arsenal fan or not. At the beginning of the transfer window, Arsene said we’d recruit experienced and tall defenders – possibly two. As things stand, we have yet to recruit one – despite failed bids for Phil Jones, Phil Jagielka, Gary Cahill and Chris Samba. Will we buy? I hope we do. Out of our 4 centre backs, only Vermaelen is reasonably good – Squillaci is very bad and Djourou and Koscielny wouldn’t be first choice at any other club.

Have we improved? No.

Individual Mistakes

There are 6 players who consistently make individual mistakes down at the ‘Grove. Clichy, Eboue, Walcott, Djourou, Koscielny and Almunia. Almunia, Clichy and Koscielny’s mistakes costs us over 15 points and the Carling Cup. Szcznesy cost us a few too – especially Sp*rs away. So how have we improved it? Well, for starters, we have sold Clichy, but will Gibbs be mistake free or will he suffer a learning curve which means he ends up making the same mistakes. Almunia has been relegated to #4 in the pecking order – or perhaps he will leave – has Szcznesy still got a few errors in him. Djourou, Koscielny and Walcott all have another year on them, so perhaps that will help and of course, the return of Vermaelen will mean the two defenders will play less. Eboue may also be on the way out – Jenkinson has already made a massive mistake in the crazy own goal he scored the other day, and how many more does he have in his locker?

Have we improved? Unsure. Probably not by much!

Reliance On One Striker

With Van Persie being our obvious first choice and Arsene not having much faith in the likes of Bendtner & Chamakh, there was a high level of reliance on one striker last season. This meant our play was predictable and it also meant that VP lost a little cutting edge. With the arrival of Gervinho, who has looked pretty lively so far in pre-season, it’s clear that we have another option. Although Bendtner is most likely moving on, Carlos Vela’s return may mean that we’ve got four striker to rotate including Chamakh – who, with another season under his belt, should be a little better…

Have we improved? Yes!

Strength In Depth

We’ve seen Clichy and Denilson leave – we’re about to see Bendtner and Eboue leave – we’ve brought in Jenkinson and Gervinho and have the returning Ramsey and Traore. Have been increased our strength in depth. No way, hose! We’ve done the opposite. We are now weaker. Ouch.

Have we improved? Hell No!

Experience

Arsene Wenger announced at the beginning of the season that the lack of experience had let us down. Considering the team has more Premier League appearances than most other sides, I don’t think experience let us down, I think it was more down to mental fragility. But, AW said he was going to buy experience and frankly, that’s not happened. Clichy was the most experienced, he’s now gone. Jenkinson is very inexperience – in fact, he’s never played a Premier League game – neither has Gervinho…

Have we improved? Hell No!

No Variation In Play & No Flexibility In Formation

I’ve combined the last two points into one. Last season, we saw the likes of Bendtner and Chamakh deployed on the wings. We also saw a 4-1-4-1 formation deployed permanently – if we were winning, losing or drawing – the formation never changed. In pre-season, there has been no sign of any change in formation – but perhaps the personnel are better suited to the position – players like Gervinho and Miyachi may fair better on the wings than Chamakh and Bendtner…

Have we improved? Maybe.

We have a month left in the transfer window and we all know it only takes a few days to get a transfer sorted. Fingers crossed we get the height, experience and strength in depth we all want. If we don’t, they as much as I love the Arsenal, I can tell you right now, it’s going to be a very tough season for us.

I’ve off to Luxembourg to see Lady WOA, but JAT and Debs will be looking after you in the meantime…

Here’s to an exciting Emirates Cup weekend, let’s see what we’re made of and start the season with a trophy! (Well, kind of!)…

Speak soon!

Should he stay or should he go?

The question of course is who is “he”…

It’s been a summer of change at the Arsenal, to a degree, and we’ve seen a few players move on. Two in particular, Denilson and Clichy have left, and with fans questioning both of their abilities in the last couple of seasons, surely it was the right thing to do. We’ve also seen the departure yesterday of JET – the talented forward, whom I personally thought would make it – although talented, he is very lazy and I suppose his departure to a non-Premiership team is testimony to where he is in his career.

“Obviously it came to the stage in my career at Arsenal where I needed to be playing games.I had a decision to make and Ipswich seemed the right place for me.”

So, outside of those players, we’ve got massive question marks over Nasri, Eboue and Cesc.

So let’s start with Nasri…

The ongoing debate within the Arsenal fan-world is continuing… should he stay or should he go? If Man City are really offering the numbers that have been touted in the press, such as £25m – for a player who could leave for free next summer, then I think we are mad to turn down the bid. If the rumours are true and Ribery or Mata are available and can be bought for £18m – £20m, then losing Nasri now for £25m and replacing him with a similar player is good  business. Losing him for nothing next summer and not replacing him is very bad business and borderline negligent. So the question is – what is going on? Either Arsene thinks he will sign – which is looking incredibly doubtful – especially, considering his words in the Sunday newspapers about not being offered a contract at the right time… or the offers so far have been so wide off the reported figures, that it’s not worth it – or a sale is imminent and Arsene is just not telling us. Last season, people close and a far commented on how good the player was getting and how he could be an Arsenal legend, but now, the bridges are burnt and most fans want to see the back of him – is it as simple as this? Or is there more to it?

And Eboue could be off too

Reports yesterday claimed that Arsenal had agreed to sell Eboue to Galatasaray – he didn’t feature much last season but he’s become a bit of a cult figure. Arsene obviously lost faith in the player at some point, hence the lack of playing time through out the season. The moment of truth came when we played Barcelona in the Nou Camp… yes,  I was there… and we saw Rosicky start on the right of midfield – a player who looked well off the pace… whilst Eboue – a player with an abundance of pace, which we all know Barcelona don’t like… was on the bench, twiddling his thumbs. Surely at that point, the player must have realised that the manager didn’t trust him and it could have been the turning point.

Eboue has always been known as the joker – the funny man of the squad – if he does go, he will be surely missed. £4m is not bad for a squad player who doesn’t get many games and with the arrival of the promising Jenkinson, perhaps his days are numbered!

I have sad news direct from twitterer and good friend, Tottz82, also head of the Eboue Appreciation Society…

“If Ebby does move, The EAS will unfortunately make the decision to close. ‘He comes from Africa, he’s better than Kaka…’”

Sad times my friends…

What about Lansbury?

With Denilson having left and potentially Cesc off, and with the recent transfer of Jordon Henderson to £20m, there has been an increased excitement to what the young midfielder could bring to us this season. Most people rate Lansbury as better than Henderson and for that reason have realised that we’ve got quite a player on our hands. There have been rumours that he will be sold – and further rumours that he wants to leave to gain first team football. I would hate to see him leave – he’s a local lad – he loves the club and he is coming along nicely.

Of course, I have to trust Arsene on the matter, so let’s wait and see where he is at the end of the transfer window….

And finally Cesc!

He was in the news today hanging out with the Spanish Prime Minister and the British PM, David Cameron, for the launch of Street League Football – Cameron getting in a cheeky reference to the ongoing tug of war between Arsenal and Barce…

“We’re now going to see Cesc Fabregas – one Spanish tourist who I hope isn’t returning to Spain.”

The whole Cesc thing has turned into a very long two year saga, and at the moment, the Barcelona tapping up process is in full swing… the question is now, who out of the whole Barcelona team hasn’t said something about Cesc joining them? Their manager has been in the press again and the Spanish PM has been whispering in his ear… this has turned into Country vs Country now… Do I believe Cesc will go? No, it’s not 100% – do I believe he will go? If Barcelona offer upwards of £40m, then maybe yes.

When will we know? Probably not until August the 31st…

And finally…

On a separate note, Bartley who performed quite well at Rangers last season, Miquel, who we all saw in action last season for a period of time or Squillaci, who may not be the best player in the world, but is our most experienced player… Bartley didn’t go on the tour, but has the fighting talk:

“I am a little bit different to the other centre-backs. I like the physical side of the game and I see myself as a leader. If Arsene decides that he wants me in the first team, that will be fantastic.”

Who would be your pick for 4th choice? Or 5th if we sign a defender!

Over and out… I’ll be back very soon boys & girls…

Xavi Announced as Cesc’s New Agent…

As Cesc’s new agent, Xavi has been in the press talking about the potential transfer of Cesc to Barcelona. Xavi, a current player at Barcelona, has officially been announced as Cesc’s new agent – and will try to secure his move to the Catalan club in the next few weeks.

“I spoke to Cesc in Ibiza and he said he was suffering because he wanted to come. It’s more like, he did everything he could to come and wants to leave Arsenal – although he made it clear that now everything depends on the selling club.”

Normally when I go to Ibiza, I also suffer, but we call that a hangover in Great Britain, in Barcelona, they call it “I want to come to Barcelonism”… Cesc’s new agent, Xavi, was keen to react to comments from our club manager, Arsene Wenger, who dismissed the words from Xavi as

“It seems absurd to me. I was only acting in the interest of Cesc”

And that’s what every good agent does – acts in the interest of his client!

Xavi has a massive insight to the dealings inside the walls of Arsenal and believes Arsenal will sell.

“I don’t really know the situation but it seems they are more disposed to sell this year than last year. Maybe we can be a bit more optimistic [this year] but it depends on reaching an agreement with Arsenal.”

I’m sure Xavi is keen for his client not to lose his “loyalty” bonus – if Cesc requests a transfer, he will lose out on about £3m in cash… and for that reason, Barcelona will want to force Arsenal’s hand – Arsenal aren’t stupid though – they won’t accept a lower bid for the Spanish International – knowing that they’d have to pay him the loyalty bonus for selling him.

Xavi concluded:

“All however depends on the agreement that Barcelona and Arsenal reach, because at the moment Fabregas is a player under contract with Arsenal.”

Yes, you’ve hit the nail on the head dear Xavism, it’s true, Cesc is contracted to Arsenal…

Wouldn’t it be funny if Cesc was sold, it was part-exchange for Xavi…??

——————————————–

For those of you who haven’t guessed yet – Xavi is not Cesc’s new agent… it’s just a joke, but it’s a believable one isn’t it?

Today there have been rumours that Everton have rejected a £10m bid for Jagielka – I for one, don’t believe we have bid for him at all. All the reports I can see (which is basically every news outlet) have this story, but no one has a quote from anyone – not even an unreliable source. Personally I think Arsene has other targets and basically won’t blow his whole budget on a £17m Cahill when he can get a player of equal skill and experience for less. With Man City selling Boetang recently and Chelsea after a new centre half, both Jagielka and Cahill may be involved in huge mega deals, and perhaps that is that is driving the price up and perhaps that is why we’re not in for the players…

And finally, there are rumours of us going in for Frank Ribery for £22m – a serious amount of money if true – Bayern are willing to sell – Ribery has been injured – but would we make him our record signing… or is he possibly a replacement for Nasri or Cesc… only time will tell…

Article by guest blogger, Jay “Gooner For Life” Patel

Cesctastical Developments… Is Guardiola lying? Or are Arsenal lying?

Afternoon all…

Today has been a cesctastical day of words from both our chairman in Peter Hill Wood and then Barcelona manager, Pep Guardiola. There has been a lot of debate about whether or not we’re going to sell Cesc Fabregas this summer and a lot of playing down by the manager and Gazidis. Both have been quite adamant that we’re not going to sell Cesc whatsoever, for any price at all.

There has also been a lot of speculation whether a deal was agreed last summer to sell. The club have rejected all reports regarding this and are insistent that they have never agreed to sell Cesc.

However, in contrary to the quotes from Arsene and Ivan, PHW spoke in the tabloids this morning and categorically said that if the right offer came in for Cesc, then we would sell.

“I am not sure how keen they are. There are still stories in the (Spanish) press, but they don’t talk to us. They’ve made one offer, which works out at around £26m, but that was ages ago. But at the moment our situation is very straight-forward: we don’t want to lose him. Obviously if they come up with an offer which was a very good offer we would have to think about it. We have told them a number of times that what they are proposing is unacceptable and yet they haven’t moved on it. I don’t approve of what they are doing, but unfortunately it seems the way of the world right now.”

It’s the first time I’ve really heard us say that we will sell and a sign that we’re now open to the move. Cesc didn’t have his best season last year, but his stats proved that he is a integral part of our team. I don’t think Arsene or Ivan want to lose him – but in light of PHW’s recent comments, how much do you think it will cost Barcelona to force our hand? There were rumours earlier in the season that Barcelona had gone up to £35m but no higher…

But if they came in at £40m, I think we would sell. And I think they know that – which is why they’re trying to get him for a cheaper price…

The next development of the day came from the Barcelona manager who gave us a massive insight to the situation… take a read:

“Last year we were interested in Cesc but Arsenal did not make him available. This year Arsenal have agreed to negotiate and we’re working on it. Prices in the market are what they are right now, but I hope that everything can be resolved. Everything we have done has been with permission of Arsenal and Mr. Wenger knows that. Cesc owes them.”

The question is, is Guardiola lying? Or are Arsenal lying?

Arsenal say no deal agreed, and no sale – Barcelona say he is available and they’re in negotiations…  Are we stupid to believe that our club would just say “no”, or are Arsenal the type of club that sells if the price is right? Adebayor and Vieira both say they didn’t want to go (the former’s words questionable), but were sold for high prices – if the offer is right, then surely we are a selling club? Man United parted with Ronaldo for £80m.

Would we part with Cesc for £40m, for £50m, for £60m….?

And if we did, who would replace him?

Gervinho Speaks, Gazidis Speaks & Arsene Speaks

Arsene Wenger was in full voice today and he spoke a lot about a lot and Gazidis chipped in too with some early words this morning on Sky Sports News… Let’s start off with Arsene, who commented on the arrival of Gervinho…

“Gervinho is a player that can play in a number of positions up front.  He can play on the right, on the left and through the middle.  He has qualities that I find very important, like his movement off the ball.  He has the qualities we like technically.  He is good one against one, he is strong and was the best provider in the French league with assists and he scored 15 goals. I think he is a very good addition to the squad.”

When were linked with Gervinho (and more recently with Joel Campbell), a little debate kicked off to whether we’d abandon or 4-5-1, I mean 4-3-3 formation in favour of a more orthodox 4-4-2… but if pre-season is anything to go by and if the statement about Gervinho is coupled with it, then it looks like our formation will remain the same this season. If Bendtner does move to Everton on loan or Dortmund for £10m –  I would prefer the former if he could then come back and be a super striker… then this leaves the plethora of strikers as such – Chamakh, Van Persie, Vela, Gervinho and Joel Campbell (if he does sign)… so we would probably see Vela and Gervinho play on either side of Van Persie… but then again, where does that leave Arshavin, Nasri and Walcott…? There will be lots of time to think about formations later, so let’s not worry about them right now…

Gervinho, always wanted a move to Arsenal and this is his dream move – he spoke about signing for Arsenal and said:

“It’s a great feeling to be an Arsenal player. I’m very happy. I’ve always dreamed to play for this Club. I’ve achieved this dream now and I am so happy. It’s one of the most beautiful days of my life. I’m very happy to have the chance to work with Arsène Wenger.  I came here because I believe that he can improve my game and help me reach another level, but the most important thing for me is that I bring a lot to the team for whom I’m playing.”

I’m very excited to see Gervinho in action – he seems to have something about him, a trick or two and a bit of pace too.

At the end of last season, I personally had a few areas that needed to be addressed – I short-listed a few players whom I thought had underperformed and through myself and all the regular readers, we had come up with a list of all the people we thought let us down and / or weren’t good enough to wear the shirt and / or should leave or be replaced…

A little refresher of that list:

  • Almunia
  • Clichy
  • Squillaci
  • Eboue
  • Denilson
  • Diaby
  • Bendtner

And in one way or another, it seems like these issues are being resolved… as we all know, both Almunia and Bendtner are in talks with clubs – the former may be on his way to Athletico Madrid and the latter may be on his way to a German team or Everton… we’ve also seen Clichy depart to join Man City and confirmed today that Denilson is returning to Sao Paulo (albeit on loan)…

On Denilson, he spoke about how much he will miss the team – perhaps a year on loan will change him as a player and he’ll come back a better one? Let’s hope so!

“I move away with sadness because I have so many friends at Arsenal and everyone has always been so supportive towards me. I want to say thank you to the Club, and of course, also a big thank you to all the Arsenal fans who are very special. I’m now focused on doing well in Brazil next season, but will always be looking out for the Arsenal results. It is a great Club with many great players, a good team spirit and a top-class manager. I wish you well for next season.”

Eboue has been marginalised by the arrival of Carl Jenkinson and has also been linked with a move away from the club – we’ll see what happens with that and that addresses a lot of the issues with the hit list…

Leaving only Squillaci and Diaby… For Squillaci, we have Kyle Bartley, who could replace him in the line up. Bartley was on loan at Rangers last season and did okay… he spoke on his position:

“I hope to know by the early part of this week what Arsene Wenger’s feelings are. I don’t want to be fifth or sixth choice at Arsenal. I’d rather be playing more regularly and Rangers would be perfect.”

In summary, the list is as follows:

  • Almunia – most likely to be sold, not replaced
  • Clichy – sold, not replaced, but Gibbs is now first choice
  • Squillaci – could be sold, Bartley / Miquel replacements and perhaps an additional centre backs
  • Eboue – marginalised by the arrival of Jenkinson, could be sold…
  • Denilson – on loan to Sao Paulo
  • Diaby – will never be sold, one of Arsene’s favourite player and will remain… surely he has to improve the season?
  • Bendtner – replaced by Gervinho…

I am also expectant of another centre back arrival, as I believe everyone is – with Denilson leaving the squad, I doubt he will be replaced, as we’ve got Ramsey, Diaby and Frimpong – but I do think we need another signing in central midfield – Song is excellent, but if he is injured, it leaves us a little light in the DM area…

Ivan Gazidis was on Sky Sports News this morning and he basically speaks on song, exactly what Arsene says, which is probably a good thing, but at a time when we’re looking for any little bit of transfer news, we’re not getting any new “juice” – he all but confirmed Arsene’s stance of keeping Cesc and Nasri for next season. The question that has been asked several times this transfer window – would you spend £20m + wages and sign Juan Mata for one year if you were Arsene? Hell no! So, why are we doing it with Nasri, which is effectively what we are doing…

We’ve still got a 6 weeks until the transfer window closes, so I’ll bite my tongue for now… onwards and upwards to Cologne now, for our next pre-season friendly…

PV4: A Legend Retires

In times like these it’s easy to get caught up in the furore surrounding players leaving and players joining The Arsenal. Cesc is going, Nasri too. Cesc is staying, as is Nasri. The former is suffering at Arsenal, the latter wants more money and trophies elsewhere. The reality is that we don’t really know the full truth behind either situation. I have some concrete facts I can share with you though. 1 World Cup, 1 European Championship, 3 League titles, 4 Serie A titles, 4 FA Cups, the captain of the greatest ever Premier League team. 279 appearances, 49 goals (and that’s just in the league with us). These are just a few of the many feats achieved by one of Arsenal FC’s greatest ever footballers, Patrick Vieira.

PV4 announced his retirement from professional football yesterday. He has played for many a reputable team. AC Milan and Inter, Juventus, Manchester City and the best ever France national team. Undoubtedly though, he will be remembered for his time as an Arsenal player.

That goal to seal the league title at WHL, his partnership with Emmanuel Petit in arguably the best central midfield pairing the league has ever seen, scorer of many classic Arsenal goals (against Liverpool at Anfield, against Leicester to clinch the ‘invincible’ record, the one that looped over Schmeichel) and, quite fittingly, the penalty in Cardiff, his last ever kick of a ball for Arsenal, winning us the FA Cup against Manchester United.

He wasn’t a clean player, the one stat I don’t have for you is how many yellow and red cards he picked up along the way. It is the soft side of this current generation of Arsenal players that has let us down over the years. It is no coincidence that with his eye-catching disciplinary record came the most successful period in the recent history of the club. We all loved his clashes with Keane, his tough tackling, and his giving 110% every time he pulled on the red and white jersey. He was the backbone of our side. We have tried to replace him ever since he left, unsuccessfully. That is because there is only one Patrick Vieira. Only one man who can, at his height, play with such grace and elegance as well as grit and determination.

I will never forget the joy I used to get, that rush of adrenaline, every time PV4 powered through the midfield up the pitch for us, starting a move that would typically end up with a goal several passes later. I felt the same thrill when those long lanky legs would wrap around the Gerrards and Lampards of the league to make an impossible tackle, saving us from a highly threatening situation, and showing those players that while they were good, he was better.

His was the autobiography I was most eager to read over any other Arsenal player. I will never forget his description of the day David Dein told him he was being sold to Juventus. How he broke down crying because he was leaving the club of his dreams. I have never seen him adored by another set of fans in the same way, nor see him adore a club he played for in the same way.

I will always remember the empty feeling I felt when he was sold to Juventus. I have never felt the same feeling of loss with another player, not even Thierry Henry who is my favourite. Patrick Vieira is one of the greatest Arsenal players of all time and one of the greatest ever to play in this country. A true legend and Arsenal hero has hung up his boots.

So while we all wonder/worry/stress about who will be in the Arsenal squad on September 1st, how we will fare next season and so on, I wanted to take this opportunity to remember and pay tribute to the career of Patrick Vieira. His style was breathtaking, he bleeds red and white to this day regardless of who he currently works for. He comes from Senegal, He plays for Arsenal.

Thank you Paddy.

 

JAT

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Malaysia XI 0 – 4 Arsenal…

Our pre-season round of friendlies kicked off in style against a Malaysia XI… and we managed to secure a decent victory over a technically apt team. Liverpool take on the same team on Saturday, so we can gage how well we’ve done with them too… Arsene used the game to take a look at some of his “new” signings, and we saw a start for Jenkinson at right back and Miyachi and left midfield – we also saw a start for Kieran Gibbs, who Arsene confirmed will be our new number three this season. The line up was:

Szcznesy

Jenkinson – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Gibbs

Wilshere – Song

Walcott – Ramsey – Miyachi

Chamakh

Two new players started the game – our new £1m signing Carl Jenkinson started at right back – contrary to some discussions that Jenkinson would play at left back (probably due to his YouTube videos and the sale of Clichy)…  and our new Japanese attacking midfielder Ryo Miyachi started at left midfield. Miyachi played well throughout the first half and showed that he’s got something about him. Jenkinson also fitted in nicely at right back and was quite good positionally.

We scored twice in the first half – the first from Aaron Ramsey from the penalty spot after a good burst of pace from Jack Wilshere saw him brought down – and it was Ramsey again who sent a nice through ball onto the right straight to Walcott who lobbed the keeper to make it 2-0. Only Ramsey, Miyachi and Jenkinson started the second as Arsene made whole sale changes which saw half the team replaced and also saw Nasri come on which was to a loud applause…

The second half saw a change around of the team… with a new XI:

Mannone

Sagna – Squillaci – Djourou – Traore

Frimpong – Rosicky

Vela – Nasri – Arshavin

Van Persie

Vela played a lot up front and there was a lot of movement between the front four – Vela finally getting free from a Rosicky pass and chipped the ball over the on rushing keeper – and it was Rosicky himself who got the fourth after good work from Arshavin from the left… The problem with pre-season is that it questions the need for more players as it’s obvious that we have two teams… but against Malaysia XI, we can do well, but can the best of the two teams really be good enough to beat the cream of the crop? Denilson did originally come on at half time, but was substituted at half time – believed to have an injury – he looked disappointed, so we will see soon whether it was for any other reason…

Arsene spoke after the game and I’d like to pick out two sections… firstly on Jenkinson and Miyaichi…

Jenkinson has shown power and good decision-making. Ryo Miyaichi has shown as well good qualities, he is always available, always keen to take people on, he works very hard. Both of them have shown interesting qualities.

He also commented on Samir Nasri and the fans reaction…

He has always had a very good attitude. We are a big club with many good young players so we are confronted with many rumours and speculation. But it doesn’t affect much what’s happening inside the Club. We have to live with that and you could see when he [Samir] played that he wasn’t disturbed by that.

More recently, Arsene also said that the board stand by his decision to keep Nasri despite him not signing a new contract and I’m not entirely sure of the reasons behind it – for me, we sell now and replace – instead of losing next summer and then having to find money to replace – or not replace! Arsene also commented on Man City’s £400m naming rights deal, which he said was unfair and in disrespect to the FFP rules from UEFA…

He’s got a point and everyone in football agrees too – let’s see if UEFA are man enough to do something about it…

Til tomorrow…

Malaysia XI vs Arsenal – Match Preview – Van Persie – Nasri – Theo News

I often wondered why news headlines and blogs sometimes had just the name of a player in their headline, but today I understand… the headline of today’s blog is really: “A preview of the Malaysia XI vs Arsenal game, a listen to what Robin has been saying in the press, a review of comments from Nasri’s agent and a discussion around Theo’s desire for new faces in the squad…”, but that would have been a seriously long title.

Malaysia XI vs Arsenal

So let’s kick off with the game which is going to kick off at 13:45 UK time; it’s our first pre-season friendly and will give us a few insights…

  • Who will Vermaelen be paired with?
  • How will Gibbs fair at left back?
  • Who will play on the left wing?
  • Who will play in the Cesc position?

I for one, think we’ll play the following team:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Gibbs

Wilshere – Song

Walcott  - Ramsey - Nasri

Van Persie

I think the formation will continue as 4-2-3-1, despite it’s failings last year and I think Ramsey will be given a chance to shine in midfield. Carlos Vela has returned to join pre-season, we have Miyachi, Chamakh and new boy Gervinho (eventually) replacing Bendtner – so the question is – how do you accommodate all 4 strikers when you only play one? Last season, we saw Bendtner play left and right wing, and I suppose Vela can play left wing – but I secretly hope we’ll be more adventurous with our formations this year… I would mind season a bit of this in pre-season:

Walcott – Wilshere – Ramsey – Miyachi

Van Persie – Chamakh

or even this:

Miyachi – Wilshere - Ramsey – Nasri

Van Persie – Walcott

Would love to see what we can do with the Wilshere – Ramsey combination – as we all know what Alex Song offers us. I think for 2011/2012, we need to be able to play 4-4-2 at home and 4-5-1 away and / or mix both formations up as much as possible. Last season, we were simply too predictable.

Theo: We need new players!

It was very interesting to see what Theo Walcott had to say on Sky Sports News when interviewed on tour with the team. He was quite honest:

“It’s important to keep all of our best players and it’s important for players to come in as well. Knowing that we were nearly there (last season), the last couple of months it went away from us, we need to know what we did wrong there. The boss will see what the players have got in pre-season matches and see what they have got to offer this season. The boss knows what he’s doing, he’s done it year after year. Us players need to go on and win something, because it’s been a long time. I don’t like to get into talks about other players, they make decisions by themselves. You just want to keep your best players and attract players as well. Only time will tell what’s going to happen. We are just looking forward to the pre-season matches and getting the season up and running. If players come or go, we just have to go on and try and win something.”

There was an element of understanding that the players need to win something soon – they need to perform better. There was also an honesty about where we were last season and a realisation of the hard work going required – listening to him further on Sky Sports News – it was clear that the players feel they’ve underperformed – he talked of the guaranteed third ending up in fourth and the disappointments around that.

It will interesting to see Theo in action in pre-season – where will he play and how will he play – as he will be the first to admit, that his second half to the season was pretty poor!

Nasri: Should we sell?

So, now let’s discuss the Nasri situation… we all know that the player hasn’t signed a contract. We all know that he has one year left on his contract. The big question… do we sell or do we keep him for another year… or will he sign? Most people seem to think we should sell – as if he doesn’t sign, we’ll lose a very good player for free next summer.

“Samir’s situation is clear for me – he stays. I’ve told you that we are in a position where we can say ‘No.’ And we will [in the case of Nasri]. It was put to Wenger that keeping Nasri with no guarantee that he will sign a new contract represents a £20million gamble – the fee his suitors are reportedly prepared to pay. You are the same people who reproach me for not spending money and now you reproach me for wanting to spend it! It is in the interests of the Club. Imagine the worst situation – we lose Fabregas and Nasri – you cannot convince people you are ambitious after that.”

I think there is a hidden message in that statement – and that is that we are going to lose Fabregas if the price is right. If he was really confident that we were going to keep Cesc, then surely he’d sell Nasri and then use the money to replace him with a similar player? How on earth Nasri was allowed to enter the last year of his contract, I don’t know… and in addition, Arsene doesn’t need to be stupid to prove that he spends money – if we sell now, we can get a replacement, if we don’t sell, we won’t get any money to replace him.

Of course, perhaps there is a slim possibility of him signing a new contract – but surely he would have already done so if he was going to. I hope Arsene isn’t being stubborn for the sake of it. Nasri’s agent has confirmed that United enquired and City have made a serious offer – Alex Ferguson seems to think Nasri is off to City too. We’ll have to keep our fingers crossed and see what happens in the next couple of days…

Van Persie: Invest!

Van Persie has called out to Arsene Wenger to invest (just like Theo and Sagna have done)…

“These days, proper players cost money. Sometimes you see players go for loads of money and you think, ‘Is he that good?’ It needs to be seen. Most of the time, they are. You need investment to keep up because, when you look around, Man City is buying loads of good players, Liverpool are doing it now, Man United have been doing it for years.”

When all the players start calling for investment and the manager isn’t investing and the players are being sold every summer, then eventually, we will drop down the league… and players will lose heart… and we will stop being able to attract players.

No matter what people are saying – Arsenal are more in need for a marquee signing – a big name – than ever before – for the players sanity more than anyone else!

AST Survey Results 2011… Let’s discuss…

Morning, afternoon, evening, where ever you are!

The Arsenal Supporters Trust Survey 2011 was released yesterday and it’s time to have a read through the report…

I haven’t commented on anything yet, the following notes are completely from the survey – my thoughts will come soon!

Ownership

Stan Kroenke will soon have a majority holding in Arsenal Football Club and control over all strategicdecisions. How important do you think each of the following areas of corporate strategy are?

  • Custodianship / looking after the long-term future of the club – 86% rated this extremely  important (5/5)
  • Accountability and openness to supporters – 67% rated this extremely important (5/5)
  • Financial management and enhancing Arsenal’s commercial operations: 89% thought this was very or extremely important (4 – 5 / 5)
  • Overseeing the manager and football performance of the club – only 44% rated this as important, 7% stating it was the least important

Now that Arsenal is more than 90 percent owned by two billionaire investors, do you think that relyingon the ‘sustainability’ model (where the Club only spends the revenues it raises) should remain a key corporate objective or is there a case for financial investment into the club by its major shareholders?

  • Retain self-sustainability model: 51%
  • Investment into Club by major shareholders (rights issue or donation): 38%
  • Don’t know: 11%

Once the takeover of Arsenal by Kroenke is completed, do you think he should make it a priority tocontinue to support both the Arsenal Fanshare scheme and to involve supporter shareholders in Arsenal’s ownership arrangements?

  • 96% of people said yes!

and that he should improve his communications with supporters including setting out his ambitions for the club and explaining the strategy he has to achieve them?

  • 96% of people said yes too!

Do you think Kroenke should invite Red and White Holdings, which owns a 27 percent stake in the Club, tojoin the Board?

  • 70% said yes, Usmanov should join the board

Selected quote:

The two main shareholders should work together. Minority shareholders and Fanshare members should be retained and AFC could develop a model of ownership that other clubs would aspire to.

Selected quote:

The question is, if Red & White were on the Board would this be constructive? The signs are that the difference in approach might cause disharmony

Would you support Kroenke paying a dividend or extracting management fees from Arsenal Football Club?

  • 94% said no to that question or refused to say yes (80% no, 14% not sure)

Do you think Kroenke Sports Enterprises should be more transparent in how it has raised the fi nance topurchase Arsenal Football Club?

  • 78% of people asked said yes

Football Performance

How satisfied are you with the football performance of Arsenal Football Club in recent years?

  • Highly satisfied, 2%
  • Satisfied, 22%
  • Slightly satisfied, 39%
  • Unsatisfied, 37%

Do you think that Arsène Wenger’s football philosophy takes too much precedence over the objective of winning trophies?

  • 69% of people agreed that the football philosophy was taking precedence

Now that the club is under new ownership, should former Board member David Dein be invited to return to theclub, in a football specific role, to support Arsène Wenger in delivering the club’s footballing objectives?

  • A high percentage – 69% – wanted David Dein to return

Selected quote:

Wenger needs to accept that he has taken on too much. Be brave and accept that help is needed

Selected quote:

It’s difficult to criticise Wenger or his great record but he has not strengthened the team with key players. What is needed is the Board to include someone who understands football – someone like David Dein

Do you think that if Arsenal does not win a trophy next season (which would be the seventh successiveyear without one) that the Board should conclude that Arsène Wenger has taken the club as far as he can?

  • 42% said yes, 40% said no, and 18% were unsure.

Selected quote:

I would like an explanation of the last 5-6 years of underperformance and whether there was money for big signings or not and how much the exit of Dein was a factor

Ticketing

Do you agree with Arsenal’s decision to increase season ticket and general admission ticket prices by 6.5percent this year?

  • Overwhelming 78% disagree with season ticket increase

Do you agree with Ivan Gazidis that the cost of attending live football is in danger of pricing supporters outof football and that the Club should make affordability a key priority of its ticketing review?

  • 96% of people agreed.

Do you think that the ticket prices Arsenal charge provide good value for money?

  • 50% of people think that ticket prices are NOT good value for money

How do you envisage the increase in ticket prices will affect your behaviour at Arsenal next season?

  • 20% of people will attend fewer games
  • 3.5% of AST members will not renewed (AST members are very loyal, so that number will surely be higher in the real world!)
  • 40% say that they will not spend on merchandise to accommodate increase in ticket prices

Sentiment And Expectations

Reflecting on your own relationship with Arsenal and reviewing recent years, do you now feel a strongersense of belonging to the club?

  • 50% of people said no to this question

Do you think the Arsenal Board and its senior executives are in touch with Arsenal fans and have a goodunderstanding of their hopes and concerns for the future of the club?

  • Only 8% of people said “Yes” they were in touch

Looking at Arsenal’s new ownership structure, its ‘sustainable’ business model, its football managementand squad strength, and comparing it to the other Premier League clubs, how optimistic are you aboutArsenal’s prospects during the next five years?

  • 43% were optimistic or extremely optimistic, 31% pessimistic or somewhat pessimistic!

If you would like to review the AST notes in their entirety, you can download it in full here.

For those of you who are not members of the AST, you can join here

Over to the comments…

“Gervinho is officially an Arsenal player”

Morning All…

Super blogging will be restored as of tonight, but as revealed last Thursday by World of Arsenal, Gervinho is officially an Arsenal player…

Arsene announced it at the press conference in KL for the Asia tour and had this to say:

“Gervinho has just joined up for training today at London Colney. He signed last Thursday, and has just come back from his holidays. He had a medical on Thursday: we sent him back home to sort things out for two days. He has a family with children. He came back yesterday and starts his fitness programme in London today. He is officially an Arsenal player now. I decided not to take him because he had had no training sessions”.

I’d expect an official announcement on the Arsenal.com site either today or tomorrow…

[Update - news article released on Arsenal.com]

Arsenal Football Club announces that Ivory Coast international forward Gervinho will shortly join the Gunners, subject to a regulatory process. Gervinho, 24, will arrive at Arsenal from French side Lille, who he helped to a Ligue 1 and Coupe de France double last season with 15 goals in 40 games. The campaign capped a very successful two years for Gervinho, during which time he netted 28 times in his 67 appearances for Les Gogues. Before joining Lille, Gervinho enjoyed two seasons with Le Mans, also in Ligue 1.

I’ll be back later for some super duper blogging master-piecing…