Crossroads

Morning Gooners,

A Saturday afternoon blog from yours truly as Dev is away for the weekend. The good thing is that Arsenal do not play until Monday so we can enjoy a weekend without having to go through the recent match day trials and tribulations. However the bad thing is Arsenal don’t play until Monday, so after what has been an extremely trying week, we need to wait until Monday to ‘move on’.

Dev has covered and reviewed the Bradford game so I won’t recover that old cold ground but I will say one thing, it has become the final straw that broke the camel’s back. Eleven internationals ended that game against a league 2 team. We had players that have captained their countries on the pitch but no one could inspire or lead the team to a routine victory that needed just little bit of graft. For me, this summarises the current problem from the board through to the players on the pitch.

I’ve purposely avoided the paper’s this week because the press have enjoyed jumping on the ‘sinking ship’ bandwagon that is currently Arsenal FC. The press have gone out of their way to get interviews and sound bites from those ready to criticise the team, the sacked Stewart Robson, now rich former board member Nina Bracewell and gobby Ian Wright just to name three.

Nina Bracewell Smith:

“If making money was the motivating factor, surely there are better ways?”

“”[Kroenke] shows he cares very little. Why he wanted to be part of AFC I do not know””

“Football is a business of passion. SK (Kroenke) has no passion for AFC.”

Didn’t Lady Nina sell her shares to Kroenke for a healthy lump sum? Odd to then critise him for looking to generate cash when you forget your own stake and passion at Arsenal.

Stewart Robson, who is a bitter ex-Arsenal player who was sacked by the club for his analytical work on .com, couldn’t wait to have his say:

“No structure, no disciple, they’re petulant”- factors which Robson blames on Wenger, as “[the players] take their lead from their manager”.

“ Wenger doesn’t coach [the players] and doesn’t allow anybody else to coach.”

“Arsene Wenger has put too many players on such big money that they won’t be able to get rid of the players they don’t want.”

 

Ian Wright, who always ready have his say to get his name in the paper:

 ”I wouldn’t say ‘surely he has to go’, but it is a unique position he’s in because I think any manager in any country in any world with a record like this and no prospects of light at the end of the tunnel, they would’ve been gone.

“People are holding onto the fact to what Arsene has done, and people are saying he is going to tarnish what he has done, but I don’t think that will ever happen.

“I feel there are a lot of deluded Arsenal fans who are out in the wilderness still saying ‘in Arsene we trust’ and stuff like that.”

There is a saying that I think fits in well here;

‘When the grass is cut, the snakes will show’

However, Martin Keown bucked the trend of former’s at the club and offered his support to the manager and called for patience.

“Now is not the time to judge this team, and it would be unfair to pin all of the blame on this current squad. There is this feeling that the defeat to Bradford leaves them at this crossroads, but I don’t subscribe to that.

“They should be given the chance to prove they have the ingredients to overcome their current difficulties.

“This is a new team, let’s see how they can cope. Wenger is hugely loyal to his players. He will stick by them through thick and thin.

“But trust me, you will only get so long under Wenger. Once that belief gets switched to another player then it is very difficult to regain it.”

Over the course of this week many of you would have had friends and colleagues very keen to talk about the state of the club and what happens next. Some will have been telling you Wenger’s going to get the sack, with a big smile on their face. Wenger is one of the biggest names in the history of the premier league, sadistic fans would see it their benefit to watch one of the elite managers get the chop. Others have said ‘it’s time to spend now’ as if that’s will be the solution to all our issues. I can’t totally agree.

I completely agree that this squad needs some fresh faces to boost morale and also fresh legs to allow effective rotation, there’s more to the current issues than splashing the cash will fix.

The club through the board, the manager and the players need to create a single direction, a single message that the fans fully buy into and back. The board are on one hand telling the high paying fans that ‘Arsenal are not only about winning’ and how healthy our bank balance is but then we see the manager skimping and buying budget players who aren’t good enough for the club. The result is that that players give limp and uninspiring performances due to poor personnel and fans vent their frustration.

A united message can go a long way to rememdy the frustrated feeling in the club. For example at Everton, a club I have a lot of respect for, have a message from life long bluenose Kenwright that money is tight so any buys will be funded from sales, the manager then goes out and picks up shrewd signings (like Jelavic, how good is he!) and the fans fully commit to getting behind the team regardless of if they are fighting relegation or Europe. The difference in the mentality of the players at Everton is that they fight with their every being to ensure they attempt to with the game for the club, manager and fans. A united message and the fight for a common goal.

Arsenal can sign players that are needed but if the board and manager do not have a unified message about their direction, then the problems will continue and the frustrated voices will just become louder.

Enjoy your weekend, bring on Monday.

~ Tottz

Feel free to follow my ramblings on twitter @Tottz82

 

Forward?

Morning Gooners

 

It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to blog due a holiday, work and illness. However, during that time the dark clouds have once again gathered over Arsenal FC. The worst thing about writing that sentence is the need to insert the word ‘again’ in to it. The fact is the dark clouds have never been far away over the last 3 seasons.

 

Last season the club made the decision to use the word ‘forward’ to create a motto for the 125th anniversary of our club. In some ways they were right, historically Arsenal have always been an innovative and forward thinking club. In the 1930′s Herbert Chapman pioneered the use of numbers on shirts, flood light games, revolutionary tactics and the naming of ‘Arsenal’ station.

 

Arsene Wenger has changed the mentality of the modern footballer through nutritional knowledge, a clubs use of their scouting networks, his footballing beliefs, creating success without spending millions and finally successfully moving Arsenal into a bigger and more lucrative stadium without suffering the same fate as other clubs who have move to new stadiums. (See Coventry, Middlesbrough, Southampton, Sunderland and others).

That was 2006, in 2012 is this club still moving ‘forward’???

Financially, most definitely. There isn’t another club in the Premier League or Europe in a better financial position that us. You can look at all the Forbes rich lists you want but the likes of United and Barca have debt levels they can not sustain. When we secured the cash to fund the move to the Emirates stadium, we locked into some pretty awful commercial deals as we needed money upfront to finance the big move. Fast forward to 2014 and many of these deals are now coming to an end. Emirates have already acted but committing £150million across 5 years to the club and from what I’ve read, I expect Adidas to complete a circa £25million per season a deal to be Arsenal’s new kit manufacturers from 2014. (Bringing us in line with Man United.)

If the financial fair play league is implemented with any vigour by UEFA or the Premier League, Arsenal will be in a very strong position indeed. However, if UEFA struggle to implant FFP, Arsenal will have ‘wasted’ years of direction and dedication to a policy that was never implemented. A massive risk.

What about where it matters, on the football pitch?

Well unfortunately, the ‘forward’ motto can not truly be applied. Since 2006, Arsenal have gradually moved ‘backwards’. Arsenal have always sold players who were close but past their prime; Vieira, Henry, Wiltord, Sol and more. However since 2006 we have unwillingly be ‘forced’ to sell players reaching their prime as their ambitions have outweighed our potential. The likes of Nasri, Cashley,Clichy, Cesc and recently RVP have all been tarnished with the brush of greedy footballers but deep down we all know they left chasing success along with a higher wage. Everyone of the players mentioned above have gone on to win trophies while Arsenal watch on with nothing.

Not everyone can win something every season but those that have ambitions will compete right? Unfortunately Arsenal are no longer truly competing for the top English and European honours. We are a tough challenge for teams at the top of the league but they do not fear us like they once did.

Our standards have horrendously slipped, from watching talents like Anelka, Vieira and RVP burst on the scene and create a devastating impact on the league, we now watch Gervinho, Ramsey and Walcott struggle to create any sort of impression on the first team let alone the league.

On Saturday 1st December 2012, Arsenal lost 2-0 at home toSwanseaCity.Swansea restricted Arsenal to 44% possession and simply outfootballed Wenger’s Arsenal in their own backyard. Saturday was a humbling with a large slice of humiliating served up on the side. When Arsenal previously dropped points through missed chances, I always said ‘as long as we keep create chances we’ll be fine’. Unfortunately we create little to nothing these days, see games against Villa,Norwich,Swansea and more for recent examples. We lack players willing to fight of the cause and the only one who I truly believe hurts like fans do, made the mistake that led to the second Swansea goal; Jenkinson.

I really could go on but something has to give soon. If the players are ‘jaded’ and ‘tired’ well we need a bigger squad, it’s only bloody December! We need to sign personnel in January.

If players don’t want to fight for the cause, move them on and bring in players that do.

Finally, if the manager is struggling to attract the players that could make a difference, motivate the squad to win simple games and tactically set us up to win games; then maybe we really are watching the end of Wenger’s reign.

Personally, I hope it doesn’t end like this.

~ Tottz

 

Feel free to follow me on twitter @Tottz82

A Case For Depth.

Morning Gooners,

Another interlull week means even less Arsenal related news.

Last Friday the Ox scored his first goal for the senior team against the might of San Marino.

Away from that Koscielny spoke his mind when asked who the hardest striker he has faced;

“He (Luis Suarez) is tiresome to defend against. He cheats. He pulls your shirt, giving small blows,

Koscielny said of the Uruguay international. “You always want to give him a kick but you have to be careful not to be red-carded.”

“He is a player who likes to dive as soon as there is contact. During a challenge we jostled a bit with each other and he fell. He started to talk to me in English, to say it was a penalty.”

Everyone’s favourite isn’t he.

While the Ox and Kos enjoy starting berths for their respective national teams, they have both struggled to hold down a starting position for the Arsenal.

Now if you listen to the lazy journalist or football pundit they’ll all come to the same conclusion regarding our team’s chances this season;

‘Arsenal lack depth to challenge’.

In previous season I would have struggled to argue this statement, also I would have been wrong but is that really the case this season? I think not and here are myreasons;  

Let’s break it down;

Goalkeepers;

Maybe not the best for me to start my argument really! Szcz has been injured for the majority of the season so far, I have absolutely no idea where Fabianski is but Vito Mannone has stepped up and put in some strong performances. If we had bought an experienced keeper we may not have lost to Chelsea but can you really fault him for any other goal?

Conclusion, Yes we are lacking in depth but I really think Don Vito stepping up will put much needed pressure on a cocky Szcz who has to understand he still needs to earn his right to be number 1 regardless of his talent.

Defenders;

The current back four of Jennkinson, Vermaelen, Mertesacker and Gibbs have really improved as a defensive unit since last season. Mertesacker has gone from the fallible fool to rightly being recognised as the calming leader of the back line. I’m not convinced with TV5′s defending still but he acts perfect partner for Per. With this being the case Koscielny, our most improved player from last season is stuck on the bench unless the manager needs him to handle a pacey striker. A nice luxury to have.

At full back, we now have two players for each position on the right and left. Jennkinson has been a revelation. He had made a hand full of appearances for Charlton before being snapped up as a complete unknown for The Arsenal. Fast forward a year and a bit, he was called up by Roy Hodgson to train with the England squad over the weekend. In the background is Sagna rumoured to be playing a game behind closed doors today to help his return to fitness. If Sagna was full fit for Saturday, who would start at right back? Jennkinson deserves to keep his place on his performance during some really tough games. Sagna benched.

Left back Gibbs has also been a star of the season so far. He grown into a stronger character and until a slight niggle at West Ham, he seems fitter than in previous seasons. Santos is a capable, although extremely different, left back and again demonstrates an depth in our full back options.

Conclusion; the defensive personnel is there if the mentality can be maintained throughout the season.

Midfield;

Let me just list the options available to the manager; Arteta, Ramsey, Coquelin, Cazorla, Arshavin and with Wilshere, Rosicky and Frimpong (and Diaby! Thanks @Palerme12 for that) all expecting to return by the beginning of November. The midfield is improving and ‘gelling’ in every game. Cazorla looks like a Premier League veteran when he takes to the pitch. Arteta is really taking to the deep lying midfielder/water carrier role and is the vital pivot the team is built on. Ramsey has much to prove to many but he has already made a positive start to the season.

The steady start to the season made by the midfield men also has a positive impact on the returning Wilshere. In previous campaigns the hopes of our season would have hinged on a player returning from a serious injury but for once we can be patient on Jack’s return as the current set up is performing admirably.

Conclusion; Depth is developing. Injuries to key players will test our resolve but if we can get Jack back and firing by November then the midfield trio of Carzorla, Wilshere and Arteta looks very attractive indeed.

Forwards.

Note I’ve used the ‘forwards’ instead of strikers, it was done for a reason. Giroud is our only recognised centre forward and links to a big move for a centre forward in January is no surprise. I think Giroud will develop into a strong centre forward (Did you know, he has the most assists than anyone else in the team with 4) but further help is needed.

Now let’s look to the wide berths, here are the options; Gervinho, Podolski, Walcott (sign da ting!) and The Ox. That’s four international players to take two postions in the team. Gervinho already has shown more this season then he did last season. Goals, assists and constant movement across the front line that makes him impossible to mark. Poldi needs no introduction, he’s a German master who will frustrate the Ox into improvement. As for Theo, well his positon within the squad is tentative until a contract is signed. Maybe Wenger does want to use him upfront, maybe he should start on the right but why would we give him the opportunity to flaunt himself in the shop window so close to him entering the last 6 months of his deal?

Conclusion; We lack another striker to help Giroud but the options out wide are fantastic. With Cazorla pulling the strings in the middle, creating chances should never be an excuse.

So the next time you here the usual conclusion from a pundit about ‘Arsenal’s lack of depth’, just ask yourself if he’s actually sat back and thought of all the options we have potentially. It may not be as bad as it seems.

Have a good week all, bring on Norwich away!

~ Tottz

Feel free to follow my ramblings on twitter @Tottz82

Another Interlull begins…

Morning Gooners,

It’s another Wednesday but this time I hope the gremlins that took down the WOA site including my Wednesday post last week aren’t up to any mischief this time round.

So since my rather glass half empty post we’ve managed to bag a couple of timely 3-1 victories.

Firstly against Olympiacos in the Champions League. Much has been written and over analysed about a ‘shaky and poor’ first half, while it wasn’t vintage, the Greek champions arrived with a game plan to close us down two to a man and deny us any space. This game plan worked and as a result our play looked sloppy. In the end, like when we take on teams lower in the Premier League, the Greeks tired in the second half and Arsenal secured a good win that puts them2 points clear from Schalke, who are up next at home. A job well done on the night, lets save the vintage performances for the latter stages hey?

Next up was a tough trip to Upton Park. A away London derby day, the return of Le Boss’, Fat Sam and a big target man in Andy Carroll. Better Arsenal teams have come unstuck at such a task, after the first defeat of the season to Chelsea, this was big test. The good news is that we passed with flying colours, as Dev wrote on Sunday: ‘Battled it out…’

Dev has covered most of the facts and details around this game, never the less it is worth stating again how much of a boost this result would have given our players (and fans). With all the other top clubs winning on the weekend, Arsenal couldn’t afford to playing psychological catch up as well as points catch up. The talk was rightly about Cazorla after the game, the little magician is really starting to show his worth and he also doesn’t go missing during the tougher games. His goal, well that was a thing of beauty. Body shaped in one direction but hitting completely across the ball to put it into the opposite corner. Top work, Santi.

That win unfortunately takes us into another interlull break. Yawn!

The interviews and headlines out there are rather tame, for example, ice cream loving Alex Hleb has said:

 [Guardiola is] not the best coach in the world because he coached the best team in the world with the best players. It is not difficult to win with a team like that. I think Villanova will achieve the same success. The best coaches in the world are Mourhino, Alex Ferguson and Wenger.

I learned more from Wenger at Arsenal than Guardiola, but he’s a great coach. It is also true that he was the coach of the strongest in the world, so we managed good results”

Thanks Alex, I’m sure Wenger will be happy to hear that after you turned your back on him. No mention of Alec McCleish in your list though?

The man who scored his first goal EVER, (forever ever ever?) on Saturday, Giroud has been talking about Arsenal life:

“I could speak basic English (before) but not enough to really talk with my team-mates, understand the coach’s talks and adapt to my new country.

“You have to adapt. You have to learn habits and customs of the country when you arrive.

“The easiest thing would be to remain with your fellow countrymen, and I can already see that here.

“I am not improving as quickly as I should, even if I’m speaking with English and foreign players.

“The Frenchmen tend to stay together when we eat and in the changing room. It is logical and only human. But I try to talk with others in English, even with the media.”

He added: “It is not easy to come to a new country. You are far away from your family. You have to be mentally strong.

“I think I am mature enough for England. It is the perfect moment now – I am 26 years old. I could not wait too much longer.”

On goal scoring…

“Unconsciously maybe I put myself under more pressure,” he added. “I think I can be honest with myself.

“I still feel a bit of tension when it is time to score, a lack of success. It is so tiny.

“But I’ve made good runs, I’ve already provided four assists and there is good support from my team-mates.

“You must not give up. You cannot be worried. I know what I have to do.”

 

Bless his rather large and perfectly formed frame.

Well that’s it from me, next weekend it’s Norwich away but until then let’s all pray all our players come back fighting fit.

Have a good one Gooners.

Tottz

Feel free to follow my ramblings on twitter @Tottz82.

Chelsea reaction & Olympiacos preview.

Morning Gooners,

It’s 4 days on yet I still can’t wash off the frustration of saturday’s first defeat of the season. The fact I felt rare bit of over confidence going into the game personifies the frustration, a case of miss placed optimism.

I want to write how it was just an off day and the defeat shouldn’t mean too much after 38 games but a large part of me can feel elements of recent actions repeating itself.

Lack of leadership at the back when defending set pieces. We have conceded 5 goals this season, which is actually quite impressive but 4 of goals have been preventable through better defending and an authoritive figure. Steve Bould can work on set piece defending in training all day but who will be his voice on the pitch to ensure these actions are actually followed?

I love the spirit and fight shown by Vermaelen but the repeat of defensive mistakes seen in previous seasons is again making me nervous. I agree with the sentiment (albeit in hindsight) that Mertesacker’s calming influence and leadership was missed on Saturday but with Captain Vermaelen as a guaranteed starter, Per had to make way for the pace of Kos.

With 51% possession and 17 attempts on goal, 4 on target, Arsenal struggled to really enforce their agenda on to Chelsea. We looked quite static and at time with a lack of movement and fluid play. Again, while this was just one game, these are traits we all all fear repeating themselves.

The pressure is really on Giroud not only to deliver quickly but deliver immediately. Having missed another chance on Saturday, the pressure is just going to intensify. No other striker in recent history has faced the same pressure as Giroud due to another striker being present to ‘pass the baton’ on to the new comer. Think about it from Wrighty to Anelka ; Suker to Henry; Greedybayor to RVP (at his 8th attempt), but poor Giroud just has the baton thrown at him. Regardless of what you think of him I question the decision by the club and player to let Bendtner move without helping to cover the goal scoring requirement. Remind me who paid his wages until September?

Anyway the chance to move on quickly comes in the shape of Olympiacos in the Champions league. The boss will be serving the 2nd match of his 3 game ban so Steve Bould will deputise. The Boss has also spoken about how an instant reaction from the Chelsea defeat is going to be key:

“They are still down of course, but we have a Champions League game in front of us at home and we want to put things right,” he declared.

“There were a lot of positives in that game as well, what was not good is easy to correct.

“It is about how we respond. I am impressed by the mentality of my team, but the mentality is as well about how you respond to disappointment.

“I am confident we will, but that is what we want to show tomorrow.”

.

 

That’s the photo we’ve all been waiting for, it’s taken 14months. I doubt we’ll see Jack in the first team until the end of October but light might finally be at the end of the tunnel for our number 10. I seriously can’t wait to see him back in action

“He came through it all right,” Wenger added. “There was no reaction.

“We are pleased but it is now down to taking the right time to ease him slowly back.

“We are all very happy, and he especially must be exceptionally happy, but he has been out for 14 months.”

With Arteta rated doubtful for tonight after sitting out training, the boss is deciding whether to risk him or not.

“Arteta will have a test tomorrow morning. We will make the decision then whether we include him in the squad or not. He has an ankle injury.

“We lost Diaby, who has a thigh strain. He is definitely out for three weeks as well. Apart from Diaby and Arteta, everyone came through well.

 

A win tonight and a win against West ham (and Fat Sam) on Saturday will definitely mean we’re back on track but with the old mistakes still looming in the background, we really need to ensure every game is treated with the utmost respect and concentration.

 

Come on the Arsenal!!

~ Tottz

Feel free to follow my ramblings on twitter @Tottz82

 

 

 

City, Theo & Coventry.

Morning Gooners,

After the battling point on Sunday at City, Arsenal return to action in the Carling/Milk/Coca Coca/Capital One cup against League One Coventry.

Before we get to that let’s cover a few hot topics doing the rounds;

City post mortem –

48 hours on, I’m still very happy not with our point but the performance too. Arsenal were in complete control during periods at the Etihad. With the majority of possession and over 200 completed passes more than City, we showed no signs of nerves or intimidation. On the contrary, we saw players such as Ramsey, Gibbs and Jenkinson step up to the challenge and arguably have their best game in an Arsenal shirt. Add that to Mertesacker reading the game better than a lonely chick read 50 shades of Grey on the train, Arteta the efficient water carrier and Koscielny reminding everyone of the quality left on the bench so far this season. This game was the second of three tests during a 2 week period, next upChelsea. With a win atMontpellierand a point at City, winning theChelseagame would complete the first big challenge ahead of us.

There were developments areas that did come out of the City game too; in particular the goal we conceded was frustratingly poor. Zonal marking, Man marking, whatever you want to blame, it’s just bad defending in my book. Mannone going walkies; two defenders standing underneath a jumping Lescott; heading in over Arteta on the line. No defence is perfect but we should have defended that set piece far better.

Gervinho, Gervinho, what do we do with our Gervinho. It’s easy to knock him after Sunday’s game (believe me many have!) but let’s not forget he was probably our best player against Montpellierand Southampton, he had earned his starting position. He started the game well but then he had that chance along with that touch. His confidence and game were over. Gervinho, however to his credit never stops. I have read recently that he has attempted (and maybe completed too) the most dribbles in the league, he constantly receives the ball in space and attacks the full back, however, he lacks something I believe it’s too late to teach him; composure. When was the last time you saw Gervinho stop the ball dead, have a look up, assess his options and pick out a player with a pass? Or when did you last see Gervinho infront of goal with a solid first touch and then calmly slot it in the corner? No, me neither.

Gervin-Nooo!!

Those lucky enough to follow me on twitter will have seen my tweet on Monday morning, ‘While Gervinho get’s his chance upfront, I wonder what the man who craves this chance is thinking…

Those lucky enough to follow me on twitter will have seen my tweet on Monday morning, ‘While Gervinho get’s his chance upfront, I wonder what the man who craves this chance is thinking…

Theo Walcott;

The Theo contract situation does not seem to be moving any faster but after watching Gervinho get the chance up top, I did wonder what he would have been thinking as this is the position he badly wants to be given a chance in. Funnily enough he answered my question later that day:

“I’m not a footballer who goes after the money,”

“It is all about the football. I signed as a striker and it is about time – I want to play up front. I am definitely a striker and feel I have matured in that position now.

“I have always said I want to win trophies at Arsenal. Thierry joined when he was 22 and started off slowly. I am only 23 and I want to be a legend like Thierry. Hopefully it can be with Arsenal.”

“Last season I played a lot, had plenty of assists for Robin and scored goals from the wing,” said Walcott.

“Now I want to develop and step up as a striker. Arsene has said he will play me up front more.

“It is a case of having trust in me. I have learnt my game on the wing but when I look at what I did last year I feel can do even more. I am desperate for the opportunity.”

“My time will come,” he said. “When I get the opportunity I will take it.

“I could play there against Coventry – that would be a nice gesture. I will play anywhere for the team but it’s about time I played up front.”

 

 

As always, Theo makes his pointed as a well articulated and measured young man, he comes across well and not like your typical dogging English footballer. I actually can’t argue with any of the points he makes above. We will all have our separate opinions about how well he would do up front but he was bought to develop into a striker, he wants to be a striker, before he commits his long term future, why not just check if this will ever happen?

However, the current difficulty for Theo is that he is currently stuck between a ‘rock and a hard place’; talk to the papers about what he wants or commit with faith in Wenger doing the right thing for him. For me,  Wenger is absolutely doing the right thing by not starting Theo right now. After Nasri and RVP had wonder seasons in the penultimate year of their contract and walked out; 6 amazing months from Theo will see him walk away for nothing at all. If Theo wants to play, he must commit to the club and team first.

And finally Coventry in the League Cup.

The Arsenal faithful (including me!) have done it once again by selling 60,000 tickets out for league cup tie against league one opposition. The League cup has always been a fantastic opportunity for the fans to see the potential stars of tomorrow at the club. Tomorrow’s game could include Eisfeld, Frimpong, Gnarby and some unknown Russian called Arshavin.

Wenger spoke about Gnabry and Arshavin in his press conference:

“Serge Gnabry is a great hope for the future,”

“I rate him highly. He is in the category of Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott – guys who have great power, great pace, good dribbling skills. Goal scoring potential and good vision as well for the final ball. He can play central behind the striker or on the flanks.

“He had some injuries. If he continues his development, I think he could play this season in the first team. At the moment he needs to work and ensure he remains fit.

“I have personally a great respect for Andrey Arshavin because sometimes some wrong ideas circulated about him – that he doesn’t care, but it’s completely the opposite,” said Wenger. “He’s a 200 per cent professional who works every day very hard in training. At the moment he’s a victim of the high level of competition that exists for places. I think he has a huge respect from everybody in the dressing room, and especially from the staff. We will give him of course some competition on Wednesday night.”

A big test ahead on Saturday too, a win against Chelsea and I really do think we could start to believe in what could be achievable this season.

Have a good one.

~ Tottz

Follow me on twitter @Tottz82

Pod-goal-ski!

Morning Gooners,

The Champions League returned last night with Arsenal travelling to the first time french Champions Montpellier. The team line up was close to what many should have expected:

Mannone; Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Arteta, Diaby; Podolski, Cazorla, Gervinho; Giroud.
Subs: Shea, Koscielny, Santos, Coquelin, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott.

Arsenal started the game with a booking in 21seconds as Diaby took ball, man and family with a crunching tackle, Away from that we looked in control as we knocked the ball about at the first ever Champions League tie at the Stade de la Mosson.

However, on the 9th minute TV made a really unnecessary tackle on the left edge of the box, won none of the ball but enough to bring the man down. Penalty. The players and most viewers looked on in disbelief but replays showed that the Spanish refereeing posse got the call right. Bellhanda, who was heavily linked to Arsenal, stepped up and chipped it in as Mannone looked on.

The boys didn’t panic and as always under Le Boss we stuck to our game plan and it paid off within 7mins as Podolski was put through by Giroud through ball (after a 19 pass move, trust me I was counting) and tucked it passed the keeper.

Arsenal had the bit between their teeth and were in the lead two minutes later. This time Jenkinson was released down the right hand side and crossed perfectly for Gervinho to tap in (albeit off the keeper!).

Chances were sparse for the remainder of the half but Montpellier came out all guns blazing in the second half. With chances hitting the bar and missed due a lack of composure, we were facing our first real test of the season.

Montpellier may have lost their star striker but their creative and defensive core was very much present. They refused to let us settle on the ball and were adventurous in attack. Arsenal couldn’t get the ball down to create anything worth mentioning.

Montpellier’s best chance to equalise came in the 80th min as Belhanda found himself 8 yards in front of goal, after Mertesacker dove in and missed, but he could only fire it straight at Mannone. I prefer to call that a good save.

Match day one, three points. It was by no means a vintage performance but an away win in the Champions League is always a precious win. A part of me is also very happy that the back line got a proper test today too. Steve Bould has done a fantastic job of organising the defence but this reminds all involved that the hard work has just began. A point to note about the defence is the new found maturity of Jenkinson and Gibbs. Many have rightly been nervous about their positional play and concentration but they have really stepped up this season.

The unfairly over critised Giroud worked hard up front and played a large part in both our goals; Gervinho looks like a different player from the one who returned from the ACN a broken man. The forward who I’m quickly falling in love with is Podolski. He works tirelessly, uses his experience on the ball and is lethal in front of goal.

That bloke who moved up north got 30 goals last season, a tough act to follow for any individual but if Podolski can get 15 goals, Giroud 10 (I’m being realistic!) and 20 between Theo, AOC and Gervinho; the void can be filled through a balanced team. Surely a more healthy solution for the all involved?

In other news, there has no been no movement on the Theo Walcott contract situation. Wenger, who hasn’t started Theo since the first game of the season, had his say yesterday:

“It can (change selection policy), but at the moment I still hope to extend his contract so at the moment, it doesn’t affect me. Of course at some stage…,”

“If in April it (the contract) is not done, you can think it will be difficult to do.”

 

He added In response to potential fans backlash toward Walcott (ehem, Fossie from row 8!);

“You want your players to be supported no matter what kind if contractual situation they are in,” Wenger added.

“I hope it will not affect him and that it will not affect our fans.

“Theo has gone through a lot at 23 years of age. A lot of positives, a lot of negatives and he is level-headed.

“We are lucky: I don’t know what they do at Southampton, but they bring players out, (Alex Oxlade) Chamberlain and him, with their feet on the ground.”

 

That’s it for today. The Champions league is off and running with three points already on the board.

Next up City away. The main aim is to go there and not lose. With City leaking goals we can definitely come away with something if we stick to our new found principles in defence and natural attacking instinct.

Game on!

Have a good one,

~ @Tottz82

Interlull over… Business time.

Morning Gooners,

It’s an interlull week already in the season so the news is pretty sparse this week to say the least.

I’m typing while watching the Ox not really get into get into an average England performance at home to Ukraine while also keeping an eye on Giroud’s France take on Belarus. Not much to report there from the big man either.

Staying in France, Abou Diaby played 90mins and scored in the victory over Finland. The now fat water carrier, Deschamps said;

He felt a bit of muscle pain in training…

Parts of the media and bloggers are reporting that as Diaby is knocking on heavens door, more respected outlets are saying, ‘he’s got a niggle, he’s been rested’. I’ve got a feeling it’s the later but given Abou’s luck with injuries, a small knock could escalate into a longer lay off.

The boss attempted to allay any fears about Diaby on French TV:

“[The injury] doesn’t seem serious to me at all. He has a small chance of playing on Saturday.”

I said last week he needs rotating and resting given the time he’s had out but with selfish international managers on the scene, our players will always be at risk. In fact, Arsenal have more players away on international duty than any other team in the league. Yikes!

Swiching over to Spain, Carzorla (who’s playing in the USA of all places this week…UPDATE:  OK correction, he was playing Georgia… I blame skim reading Arseblog! Thanks @Nitz21), has talked about how happy he is with his early season form:

‘They have paid an important amount of money for me and the role they’ve given me is the one I like,”

“I love the style of the team. Wenger’s philosophy is to control the game and I like to be on the ball. Furthermore, the boss has put me in a position, second striker, with all the freedom I want to have.

“He told me to be at ease and that he’d play me where I could most help the team. It surprised me in pre-season when he put me as the second striker.

“I’ve come to play on the wings with the freedom to move inside, but Wenger has immediately put me in this position.’

And long may he stay in this position. I do believe there will be a few tough nights ahead for him in the League. Your typical ‘he’s not that kind of player’ defenders will get wise to the fact that our Santi is the player to watch and attempt to bully him out of games through rough house tactics. If Graham Hunter’s quotes from last week are to be believed, Santi won’t be intimidated.

Cazorla went on to talk about the help of Arteta while settling in to English life:

“Arteta has advised me a lot, he told me football is much faster and less tactical than Spain. It’s more give and go,”

“Mikel has helped me to learn to see the game and said that if we play rapidly with the ball we’re going to create a lot of danger and we’ll beat most teams.

“Wenger wants him (Arteta) now as a defensive pivot and he’s doing it very well. He gives real balance and he can win the ball back and play it out because with the ball he’s spectacular.”

Arteta is the new engine room and yes, he can be quite spectacular.

Back in England, our fast improving prospect at right back Carl Jenkinson has made his intetions clear,

“My ambition for my whole career is to play for this football club. I want to be good enough and make my mark here.

“I won’t be happy until I’m playing week-in, week-out. That’s what I want to achieve.”

Carl Jenkinson is an Arsenal fan living the dream. From watching the team in the stands to being signed up to be part the squad. Have a look at the photo below. This is Carl Jenkinson’s actually bedroom he grew up in at home, he’s Arsenal through and through and part of a dying breed in the modern game. Carl Jenkison, you have my support Gooner.

Back to the real thing on Saturday with Southampton at home, there’s never such a thing as a ‘home banker’ when Arsenal are concerned so we’ll need to be on top of our game after the international break to take all three points. With Montpellier and Man City up in quick succession, it’s about to get serious again. Bring it on.

Have a good one.

~ @Tottz82

 

Cazorla & The D-Unit.

Morning Gooners,

And it’s still a good morning as many of us are still smiling from our first win of the season at Anfield.

Unfortunately I was unable not only to go to Anfield but actually watch the game at all due to a family birthday event. It’s the first time I haven’t watched a game in person or when televised for a very long time. Never the less, thanks to the world of twitter and push messaging services (thanks to @d_u_b_z) I was able to keep abreast of our performance.

Catching up on the highlights there were a number of notable positives;

Santi Cazorla

It’s only 3 games in but Mr Wenger’s done it again hasn’t he? Santi really is a talent. A playmaker who always wants the ball, ability to play with either foot; pace of mind & foot and a keen eye for goal or an assist. Reading quotes from Spanish football expert, Graham Hunter yesterday, he described Cazorla as “… a guy with the qualities that Nasri and Arshavin have, but this guy has bottle… He always turns up, home or away. He’ll be ferocious; fans will adore his attitude. He’s hungry all the time”. Exciting.

Ok again, it’s only 3 games and a lot can change but it looks like we’ve bought a player who can change a game in an instant with a single piece of vision.

The defensive unit

I touch on this last week but the defence is growing in stature and resilience in every minute played, say it quietly but it’s not even our first choice defence with Sagna, Koscielny and Szcz to return to full fitness. I was, and still am a big fan of Steve Bould, his influence is apparent. The team are defending as a ‘unit’ rather than individuals as in previous blundering years. For example when Gibbs was caught up field, Arteta moved toward the left to protect from a break, the team continued to close Liverpool down to turnover possession and create devastating counter attacks. Defending is a collective process and it can only be successfully achieved if every player is aware of their job to one another for the good of the team… See the George Graham years for evidence.

Abou Diaby

I write this knowing that within the next week Diaby’s luck may change and we’ll be talking about the player he could have been rather than the talent we all saw at Anfield. On Sunday, he was the Diaby we all want to see week in week out for The Arsenal. Strong on the ball rarely relinquishing possession, mobile, creative, simply a player you’d like to have playing for you than against you. Wenger has stuck by Diaby, almost as if he felt he owed it to him after that horrific tackle from the call operator who used to play for Sunderland. The Boss needs to rotate and look after Diaby for the next months but IF we can get 30 games this season from him, I’m confident we’ll all laud his influence.

We now enter an interlull break which is quite frustrating but with Wilshere and Sagna 2 weeks away from full training, it could also be seen as a timely break.

Away from the pitch, transfer deadline day turned into what I imagine Christmas is like for a Jehovah witness. I’m quite happy with the squad but I really do think a defensive midfielder would have given us a more solid option during games where the midfield is likely to be overloaded by the opposition. In the current set up Arteta is currently our deepest midfielder; while he’s not your typical DM he has the ability to play the role of the ‘water carrier’ very effectively. Gilberto was never the most combative in midfield but he had the ability to read the game so he was in the right place at the right time for the team. For what Arteta lacks in natural defensive expertise he make up in his abilities as an amazingly effective passer of the ball and a fighter. The steal in midfield will now need to come from Diaby, Frimpong and Le Coq, I’m sure I don’t have point out the obvious concern with those three players during the course of the season.

But this is now our team first team squad until January at least like it or not.  We could all talk about missed opportunities in the transfer window, talk about players who would have made us better, argue over players who should never have been sold but what has been done has been done and now it’s time to support the players that want to wear the shirt for The Arsenal.

The only team of the 92 league clubs in land not to have conceded a goal in their opening 3 games and players such as Sagna and Wilshere to return within the month how could you not be optimistic??!

Have a great Wednesday all.

~ @Tottz82

Boring Boring… Not just yet.

Morning Gooners,

So here we are again, another 0-0 draw, player(s) edging closer to the exit door and no strong rumours of any players making their way to the club.

Kicking off at Stoke on Sunday, I was actually satisfied with a point. Note I said satisfied with a point versus happy not scoring any goals. Stoke has never been an easy place for us to go; they hate us, we hate them and I hate Stoke more than both those put together. Stoke are our nightmare team, big powerful, love a set play and did I mention they hate us?

We controlled the game well, I really enjoyed watching us close down Stoke from the front, forcing errors and a regular turnover of possession that prevented Stoke from building up a head of steam (long balls) thus also silencing the crowd. However, controlling possession is all well and good but it really does mean nothing if you don’t create any chances that will allow you to win the game. I wouldn’t be as concerned if we’d miss chances as my sentiment would have been ‘next time will take a chance or two but at least we’re creating them’. For the first time I’m actually worried about the lack of creative edge in the team. If the chances had fallen to Giroud or Poldi then we could ask for patience but we’re struggle put anything up there for them to attack. Don’t get me wrong but Cazorla has been all that and more but time for Gervinho and others need to step up now.

Ok that’s the frustration out the way, onto the encouraging part of the performance, our defensive performance. I’ve never seen Arsenal stand up to and dare I say it, ‘get in the faces’ of Stokes players quite like they did on Sunday. The forward line pushed their defenders into mistakes, we pressed in midfield to stop the threat of direct balls and this relieved pressure on our defenders and stand in keeper, Vito. We prevented Zero corners (I won’t go into how many we wasted), we handled every long ball well and for once I felt calm about how were performed defensively. How? Why? It’s simple for me, the Steve Bould effect. From the reports about how and why Song left, Bouldy doesn’t suffer fools; he’s a strict disciplinarian who will ensure the old George Graham School of defending is passed onto this slack defence. We might have not scored any goals but a year ago we shipped 8 goals at Old Trafford.

"Exit door is that-a way slackers..."

Next up is a crunch tie at Anfield. Liverpool have suffered from defensive errors and have scored two great goals from set pieces. Neither Arsenal or Liverpool have picked up 3 points this season so you’ve got to believe something will have to give.

An interesting fact I found out the other day which slightly worried me is that Arsenal are yet to win a game in the last 3 transfer windows, that’s now a total of 8 games. Coincidence? I’d like to think so but this speaks volumes about the lack of stability at the club during periods where squad rotation is a real possibility. The club’s lack of cohesion around the future of players and the direction on the field come to a fore during this time and it having a direct affect on the team. I could be reading way too much into this but 8 games?

I seriously can not wait for Friday when the transfer window shuts. Last night there were rumours flying around about Theo rejecting a new contract, more instability before Friday? You bet.

Lastly, I made a promise to myself about not discussing transfer rumours to the club on my column as I didn’t want to be another one of those bloggers that pedal’s sh*t to get hits. I let myself down with all the Sahin goings on didn’t I?!

Have a good day all; bring on the close of the window and Sunday!

Come on The Arsenal.

~ @Tottz82

…And they’re back!

Morning Gooners,

We’re back baby…. With a nil nil draw, but at least we’re back right! So a nil nil bore draw and believe me it was quite boring, how did this happen? I hate to be the kind of guy that quotes himself but let me quote myself from a couple of weeks ago:

Back to the Arsenal, 18 days before the season starts and there’s plenty to be sorted out. Are the players fit enough? With only one friendly left to play (in Cologne) , Wenger has indicated that Podolski and Giroud may not be fit enough to start the season and will been to be introduced gradually. Those of you that read my blog last week will know my thoughts on the actually practicalities of a Far East preseason tour.  Yes, we’ve raised our profile in the Far East and we’re now likely to receive favourable commercial offers from the region but we’ve also got a squad who aren’t ready to start the season as we require. Like I stated last week, we’re not the only ones on foreign shores, so are we all willing to sacrifice the good of the team in the short term for long term commercial gain?  Apparently so.

Saturday’s performance was rusty, slight heavy legged, and ultimately we resembled a team that were a week or two short of full fitness. Giroud and Podolski had only played 45 off mins in Cologne, so to point a finger at their performance is completely unfair. As I said in the quote above we effectively sacrificed 2 potential points for commercial reward in the Far East.

Looking at the positives from Saturday, well it was nice and sunny for a start; also the hype about Cazorla may just be true. He was brilliant. It’s only one game but he single handedly controlled parts of the game and his ball distribution was that of a Spanish matador. Once (not if) we get Poldi and Giroud up and running, Cazorla will be enjoying the slack defending the Premier League has to offer.

Away from the pitch the transfer market has hotted up, out go Van Pursey (and the child inside him) and Alex Song. I’m not wasting my energy on the former but I was quite sad to see Song leave. Stories from some talk about his slack attitude and a refusal to negotiate a new contract even though quotes from Song contradict this. Regardless, he got his ‘dream’ move to Barcelona. I’ve been slightly annoyed at many on twitter playing down the impact Song had on our last season, while he did have his wandering moments, his contribution at times was vital. Unfortunately like many in the recent past, Song turned his back on the Wenger project seeking pastures new, so likes the others he will be replaced.

Nuri Sahin’s signing is imminent but the saga is dragging on with a  Mourinho led Real Madrid reluctant to agree a buy clause at the end of the loan deal, why? Because Madrid know that Sahin is likely return to form at Arsenal under Wenger’s stewardship and a reduced sell on fee will mean losing out in the long term.

Other players have been linked too, with many people waiting on the new messiah, the saviour of all our footballing sins, a defensive midfielder. Do we need one? I believe we do need a dependable screen but why can’t three midfielders (let’s say Arteta, Sahin and Carzorla) do this effectively? Those three players, in a mature and disciplined manner, would retain protection and through holding their positions but also constantly moving the ball. My point is this need for a defensive midfielder is turning into a search for a universal panacea but it’s not that simple , the players need to be disciplined enough to understand they have a role in defending as a team and this defensive midfielder does not give them free reign to wander.

Our favourite fixture is up next, Stoke away with Liverpool away the week after. We need to be up and firing asap. The first game of the season will always be tricky and the expectations by fans will out weigh the readiness of the players fitness, so let’s think of it as a point gained than two lost!

Come on the Arsenal!

Have a good day all!

~ @Tottz82