Reading v Arsenal, Capital One Cup 4th Round Preview

Tonight we take on Reading at the Madejski Stadium in a game that was rumoured to be the return of Jack Wilshere. We were all grateful for his early return against QPR at the weekend. After the game the manager confirmed he would be resting Jack in the week, to see how he responds after a long absence, and to (we hope) allow him to recover in time for the game at Old Trafford on Saturday.

It had been a difficult week with defeats against Norwich and Schalke in quick succession. So much so that I was really looking forward to the League Cup match. A game which will feature some fringe and reserve players, and a game in which you expect the commitment and urgency to be miles better than what we saw in those two defeats just mentioned. The QPR victory was, of course, welcomed with open arms, and the hope is that it represents the end of a two-game blip, and the beginning of an unbeaten run in what is looking like a very, very testing November. And November always seems to be a troublesome period for The Arsenal.

The performance against QPR was nowhere near what we were producing before the international break, but it was noticeably better than the utter rubbish we saw last week. When you’re down, the only way is up. Looking ahead to the game tonight, you would expect to see a completely different first XI to the game at the weekend. Here is my guess on what the lineup will be:

Martinez

Jenkinson Koscielny Djourou Miquel

Walcott Gnabry Frimpong Coquelin Arshavin

Giroud

On the official website, Szczesny is seen training with the squad for this game and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start ahead of Martinez, to get him back in the swing of things as quickly as possible.  Walcott played only 10 minutes on Saturday and with The Ox seemingly still injured I reckon Theo will start this one. A team along those lines would certainly cause problems, but our defence is by no means watertight at the moment so it could be a close one.

In the past we have seen some fantastic performances from our League Cup teams and I expect this to be an entertaining game with a few goals. Reading scored, but also shipped, three goals at the weekend and with our pacy youngsters I’m predicting more of the same. The game is the featured match on Sky Sports so it will be available to watch live to viewers in the UK. No need to find a dodgy stream for this one thankfully.

Reading will field their strongest team, but we are more than capable of overcoming them. Last week at the AGM Arsene quite rightly labelled this competition as our lowest priority. Realistically speaking, however, this and the FA Cup appear yet again to be our most likely chances of silverware, so here’s hoping we can progress to the Quarter Finals.

I will be at the game tonight and will be tweeting live from the match with photos and comments. I hope to provide a positive review tomorrow! Until then.

jat85

Twitter: @j1mm7t

 

 

The International Break is Broken…

Apologies for lack of blog activity this International break, but I’ve unfortunately had a close death in the family and it’s been a real blow to the family. Having spent much of the last week in temples and other functions, I’ve lost contact with the outside world and everything Arsenal. Thanks to all the messages I’ve had from the wonderful world which is the interweb, but back to all things Arsenal…

As you probably know already, Mr Theo Walcott was polaxed by the San Marino keeper and is out for a couple of weeks recovering… but in more interesting news, Carl Jenkinson has had some glowing reports in the media and his choice to chose England over Finland… and Roy Hodgson backed the player talking about his future inclusions in the side:

 ”On this occasion, we decided to… keep Jenkinson up our sleeves, but he’ll be very much in our thoughts when it comes to the next friendly match. After speaking to Arsène [Wenger] I am also conscious that his rise has been meteoric. He’s only 20 and it’s nice to temper things a little bit, but he wouldn’t be out of place in the squad.”

Basically, the only reason that he hasn’t been included at the moment is because they’re no need right now to add more to what’s going on in his life, considering the recent rise to the Arsenal first team that he’s experienced. For Jenkinson, the knowledge that people are keeping an eye on him and he’s in the thought process of the manager is all he needs to know right now.

Vice captain, Arteta, has also been on the main web site and the magazine talking about his new position:

“It’s a very important job, balancing the team between attack and defence, and that’s what I’ve been attempting to do. I’ve had to change my mentality a little bit – I know that I can’t go forward as much as I used to, and I need to sacrifice more in attack – but if it’s beneficial for the team I’m more than happy to do it. If you want to play at a top-level club like Arsenal you have to adapt to different roles and situations. We’ve got so many attacking players now, with a lot of quality going forward, and I know I now have more defensive responsibility. I need to assume that responsibility to help my team-mates and I’m very pleased to do it if we get the right results.”

With Coquelin, Wilshere, Diaby and Frimpong all back in contention soon, I’m sure he can share the burden… I personally think we’ll get a little more out of Arteta if he were to play with the likes of a Coquelin or a Frimpong, where he could look a little more forward, as we know he has an eye for a killer pass or two…

It’s the international break and not much is going on… so I’ll leave you with Arsenal Vision’s song for Theo…

Enjoy…

Stop Bad Mouthing My Club…

Life is a tricky affair.

Sometimes you hit the dizzy heights that everyone wants to be at and sometimes you have the horrible lows that we all try our best to avoid… And in the process, you experience many emotions. Happiness, sadness, frustration, jubilation… you name it. Whatever happens at the Arsenal, I am glad we have the board and the manager we do. As much as I think I know a lot about football, and as much as you do too… in reality, how much do we really know? Managing a real life football club is not the same as managing a club in Championship Manager, that’s for sure.

The emotions that we experience, the highs and the lows, are directly related to our expectations. We expect more and therefore anything less good than more is not good. It’s a silly way of thinking to be honest and I’m afraid most if not every Arsenal fan is currently sitting in a place that doesn’t seem right. None of us are financial experts, or even if we are, we don’t have the financial facts and figures to second guess what has happened and / or is continuing to happen at the Arsenal.

One thing I am certain about – and only if we don’t break it – is that our business model is sound. In the days where you see football clubs going out of business left, right and centre, it’s refreshing to have a club who actually has a desire to manage itself. Other clubs have sugar daddies and whilst this serves a purpose, can you really criticize a business which spends within it’s means… The business model of self-sustainment means that you have to spend wisely – it doesn’t mean you have to spend less or not spend. We’ve spent a lot in recent times – Arshavin, Walcott, Gervinho, Oxlade, Podolski, Giroud etc are all £10m to £15m signings we’ve made in the last few years. We’re competing against clubs who can spend £50m on a bench warmer in Torres.

For me, if Wenger didn’t win anything, and then built the stadium, and then we started finishing 4th and 3rd etc, surely he would be knighted twice! But the problem is, he gave us a sniff of success. It was him who was at the helm when we went unbeaten, it was him at the helm when we won the league & FA Cup. Having a 60,000 seater stadium is all about the challenge that the board set themselves – without a sugar daddy.

Arsene Wenger as manager brought in Arteta when Fabregas left, he brought in Podolski and Giroud to replace Van Persie, Ade and Eduardo to fill in the void when Henry left. The point of the matter is that players have a life-cycle. We begrudge a player if he leaves, but don’t when we sell him. We’re fans of the Arsenal, so of course, we back the club when buying and selling. But in reality, what would you do if you were Van Persie. You have been with a club for 8 years and you’re about to turn 29. You’ve not won anything. You have 3 years to play at this level before you will probably decline. Arsenal aren’t going to splash £100m on players this summer. We don’t need to. We need to assemble a squad that we think is good enough to challenge. Sagna – best right back in the league – cost £7m. Money does not equal value. Sagna is a £20m right back, is he not? We didn’t pay that for him. Vermaelen £10.6m vs Lescott £26m. Yes money does buy you players, but you have to understand that challenging for a title is made up of players, fitness and a bit of luck.

Van Persie has given us a great season, that’s fair to say, but based on history, this is the exception, not the rule. Bringing someone like Giroud is exciting for us – he’s four years younger and very hungry – surely a bit of good business to get rid of your older players and get in younger models. Every guy’s dream.

Yes, not winning is frustrating. But outside of United & City, no one has won the league in a while. Chelsea spend £200m every season or at least every other season, and they finished below us. Sp*rs have a sugar daddy, but our  squad was still better than theirs. As I said earlier, winning the league is a mixture of skill, injuries and luck and had Wilshere not been injured last season, had Sagna, Gibbs, Santos and Vermaelen all been injury free, who knows where we’d have finished last season.

Finishing 3rd, having a great future in players like Szcznesy, Koscielny, Gibbs, Wilshere, Oxlade etc… and having signed players like Gervinho, Podolski and Giroud, why are Arsenal fans so upset? The manager wants to win just as much as we do, if not more, the decisions he takes will be based on the ability to compete both on the pitch and without bankrupting the club.

Everyone may have differing opinions on who we should and shouldn’t sign, but one thing I ask of all of you. Ian Wright, this is aimed at you, Samir Nasri, you too, Robin, you too and of course, Usmanov. Stop bad mouthing my club. The Arsenal have given all of you players a home, they’ve educated you, they’ve paid you bucket loads. Sums that only we can imagine to earn in a lifetime, you earn in a year. Be grateful that you have been given the platform, the opportunity and education that you have been given. Usmanov – the only reason you’re involved is because you see the potential of the manager and players and the ground = potentially massive future and status. Say what you want about whatever you want, but leave the Arsenal alone – all the club have done is try their best to build a team for both them and you to mutually succeed. If you haven’t been good enough, then surely it’s your fault that we haven’t won anything?

All this beating up the board and manager is silly. Only time will tell, but I sincerely hope we don’t do too much damage to our beloved club. Arsenal are taking a beating by the media at the moment, but in reality, there is no other club I’d rather support ever.

Victoria Concordia Crescit.

As England lose in the Euros QF, attention goes back to Arsenal…

England’s tenure in the Euro 2012 Championships has come to an end. For the first time in many years, fans understood the limits of the team and understood that an exit at this stage was the fair and correct result. Even through we lost on penalties, it is clear that we were outclassed by the Italians. They had 35 shots compared to our 9.

There has been an extra-ordinary amount of praise towards Pirlo this morning, and whilst I can understand that he is given such accolades from the team, in reality, the deficiencies of the England team are to blame. I’ve been a fan of what I’ve seen from Hodgson. Defensively and tactically, we’ve been a better team than under previous managers. He seems to have understood what we’ve got and played to our strengths – or in another word or two – not played to our weaknesses.

Personally, I think Hodgson made two mistakes against Italy by choosing Wellbeck and Young. For me, Ashley Young has been one of our worst players in the tournament. Against an Italian side where we needed a spark, the Ox should have started and he would have really given the Italians a torrid time. And secondly, Wellbeck offered nothing, and Carroll’s such a threat in the air and around the box, that he would have also really tested the Italians in ways that would have made them uncomfortable.

Hey ho, the dream is over. Bring on Brazil 2014 and perhaps the midfield will contain both Arsenal flying wingers, Theo & Ox and the maestro himself in Jack Wilshere. By then Kieran Gibbs will have superceded Ashley Cole and hopefully he’ll be able to score a pen or two…

Theo reflected on the team and had quite a bit to say… here is a little bit of it…

 “There are a lot of young players who gained good experience, me being one of them. Going into the next tournament, we will be better and there are loads more players who can get into this team as well. It is most important we have a rest now because it has been a long season for everyone. I thank everyone involved and I have enjoyed every minute of it. In a short amount of time, the way Roy [Hodgson] got his team to play was great at times to watch. We are only going to be better players coming into the qualification matches because we will learn more, we will play teams that aren’t as good as the teams we have played in this competition. Everyone is down and it is a cruel way to go out. With penalties, it’s a flip of a coin. It’s a shame we didn’t do it for the fans because they were fantastic, while everyone back home showing their support means a lot. It is just luck the way you go out on penalties. “Everyone needs their head raised up high because it has been a good tournament. We had the late arrival with the manager but it worked well. Our luck ran out in the end.”

As expected, since the Euro’s are now over for the nation, despite some mouth-watering semi’s in store… all attention should and will fall on the transfer window.

Down at the Arsenal, all talk is about French International, Olivier Giroud… who spoke about his move to Arsenal:

“I am so happy to be signing for Arsenal – it is something that represents so much for me. I’ve always dreamed of playing in the Premier League and Arsenal are a great club with many French players.”

His record in France last season (in 36 games) was…

  • 135 shots
  • 70 shots on target
  • 21 goals

He seems like quite the poacher…

I’d expect to ramp up the transfers now, with RvP revealing his plans – whether he is going to stay or go. Arsene to sign M’Vila, and Walcott to sign a new contract… with Chamakh, Bendtner, Vela & Denilson still on the books and in the transfer window, there should be quite some activity in the net week or two…

I’m Offski, as Arsenal get Milan in the Champions League…

Ladies & Gentlemen, Boys & Girls,

Today, myself and fellow WOA writer @Tottz82 will embark on a mission with  @i_am_jai and @bhavnishpatel to show the world how to ski… the blog, cleverly titled, I’m Off-Ski… getit? Meanwhile, back in the wonderful world of Arsenal… we have drawn Milan in the Champions League… and that’s one of the toughest of the group for sure…

Arsene before the draw:

“You cannot avoid anybody. You would say Basel but they were a very difficult opponent for Manchester United. So you take the draw as it comes, analyse it and plan for the game. The Italian teams have a history but you don’t know how it will go.”

The draw in full was:

  • Lyon v APOEL Nicosia
  • Napoli v Chelsea
  • AC Milan v Arsenal
  • Basle v Bayern Munich
  • Bayer Leverkusen v Barcelona
  • CSKA Moscow v Real Madrid
  • Zenit St. Petersburg v Benfica
  • Marseille v Inter Milan

Each one of the ties is favoured to one team – I’ve bolded the team I think will win the two legs overall – but for us, it’s a very tough tie. AC Milan have improved a lot in the last couple of years and can now boast the likes of Ibrahimovic, Pato and Robinho up front, with the likes of Mexes in defence, not to forget the likes of Van Bommel in midfield. We’ll have to be on top of our game.

David Miles, club secretary said:

“It’s probably the pick of the round. They’ll be two fantastic games. If I’m being honest, there are some other teams I would have preferred. Last time we played them in season 07-08, we actually went through after winning 2-0 in the San Siro so our recent history against them is good.”

The pick of the round, it is…

With Milan secretary also keen to praise the magnitude of the tie…

“Tie of the round. For the quality and the appeal of the two clubs it is a fantastic tie. Last time we lost 2-0 to Arsenal at the San Siro and we were knocked out by Tottenham last year. We are determined to go through. Last year we had lots of injuries but right now we are in a better status than Arsenal. But lots can change in two months. They have a great player in Robin van Persie and Arsene Wenger is a great coach.”

Lots of things can change in two months, that is for sure… first, we need a good old fashion victory against title rivals Man City, starting this weekend…

But for now, I’m offski…

AGM: Was that really an AGM?

Yesterday was the AGM (the annual one, not the ones in between)… and it was an informative AGM to some degree but at the same time, it was a bit of a run of the mill marketing exercise from the management. I don’t mean to devalue the meeting, but hearing Stan Kroenke, Ivan Gazidis, Peter Hill Wood and Arsene Wenger say pretty much the same thing, but in 4 different ways isn’t quite what an AGM is all about.

Putting that aside, the fact that they all did come and listen to the questions and the fact that we had so many representatives down there was quite impressive. Our ever present @j1mm7t was present and reporting live from The Emirates. The start of the AGM was a little more heated that you would have thought – particularly towards Ivan Gazidis and Peter Hill Wood.

The problem of course is down to our start of the season, and multiple losses – coupled with the departure of Nasri & Cesc to two teams who seem to be doing very well… but in the last month, our form has turned around and the mood has changed a bit. Perhaps it’s quite timely that this AGM didn’t happen a month ago.

Arsene summed up the start of the season, and it did seem to add perspective to what has been an awful start.

“Not many people at the moment are behind us, but I believe we can be a positive surprise so let’s stand behind the team this season. We started at the Emirates this season with a very difficult environment because people were very sceptical, but they understood two things – firstly if they do not get behind the team we have no chance, and secondly they have realised that this team has the right attitude and spirit. Even during the difficult periods in the last few home games, the fans have been absolutely fantastic and behind the team. It is time to realise that, yes, times are more difficult, but yes we can still be successful under one condition, that we all stand behind the team, and are united. Then at the end of the season, we will see where we stand. If we give absolutely everything and fight together for every single game in every single competition we can still look back at the end of the season and be proud of our attitude and what we have achieved,” he said.

And the boss is right – but the major question is why we had these issues. Why did it take all summer to sort out a very simple set of transfers. The problem is that this mad management of transfers seems to happen every year. Either we don’t strengthen in the right places or we strengthen too late and find ourselves a month behind the rest of the Premiership.

After the AGM, the interviews with the supporters who attended were clearly abject, with many supporters questioning the direction. I personally think that’s a bit harsh on the management – it seems like a lot of people want everything and forget the efforts that it will take to get there.

The speeches at the AGM have been made public & free on Arsenal’s website, so check it out if you can:

http://player.arsenal.com/home/player/1117-wenger-at-the-agm

I’ll be back tomorrow for the big Chelsea vs Arsenal preview…

Arsenal: Learnings This Week…

At the office, every week an item on the agenda is “learnings from the week”, and in most businesses, it’s an important part of their processes for self improvement and world domination…

Down at the Arsenal, we’ve been taught a few lessons this season, without a doubt and when we look back at the start of the season, it’s fair to say that things have improved and there is more discipline and a sense of unity about the squad. We’ve just had a decent run of 7 wins out of the last 8 games, and the big test is against Chelsea this weekend, whereby a good performance and a point would go a long way to understanding where we have come in the last month… but before all of that… the big question is – what have we learnt this week. Of course, by this week, I am referring to the two games, firstly against Stoke and then more recently against Bolton…

Learning #1: Van Persie is very important

Now that is what I call stating the obvious! Quite obviously against Stoke, we lacked a level of sharpness up front and that sharpness came into the game with the introduction of Van Persie. The problem is that Van Persie will get injured and when he does, we need to ensure someone can come in and make a difference or at least ensure we have an attacking threat. The good thing is that Gervinho looks very exciting, so does Park. But so far in the league, it’s been Chamakh who has been chosen and to be honest, he has been worryingly bad.

Learning #2: Arshavin through the middle is better

The performance from Arshavin against Bolton was probably the best all round performance from the Russian in the last twelve months.

He scurried and closed down, he had a turn of pace about him, he looked switched on, he was a threat for the entire game.

“I have to say that the experienced players took charge of the game and made the difference. Andrey loves to play behind the strikers and he scored a goal and gave an assist. He is an exceptional talent, everyone knows that. He loses the ball sometimes because he takes a gamble because he is a creative player.”

His goal was a very obvious reminder to us all that shooting is a good thing… there have been many times whereby we’ve been in a similar position but tried to pass – good to see Arshavin being direct – in all fairness, he is always quite direct and playing in the middle may make him more dangerous.

Learning #3: Vermaelen may get injured again (but is very good)

Vermaelen hasn’t played that much football in the last couple of months let alone the year. He played against Bolton and show moments of defensive magic. However, he got injured and had a calf strain. This is something that we will have to learn to accept and he will be in and out of the team a lot this season. News yesterday was that he has recovered from his injury and can play this weekend…

“I feel great. I trained yesterday with the team and I felt good straight away so I felt confident for tonight. Personally I don’t believe in that [needing games to regain sharpness]. If I come back from injury after a long time I don’t believe in coming back and getting rhythm. I think it is just in your head and a mental thing – if you are a football player you have to be there straight away. That’s why I wanted to play today and I think it’s good. It was a good game for us, we fought hard and it was a deserved win for us I think.

But there is a massive question that all Arsenal fans are asking each other – do we put Vermaelen back into the centre of defence against Chelsea? The partnership of Koscielny & Mertersacker has started to grow and is it wise to break up that partnership?

If we don’t break it up – do we play Vermaelen at left back – four centre backs across the back in Vermaelen – Koscielny –  Mertersacker – Djourou – but obviously this will have some affect on our forward play.

Learning #4: Park Ju Young could be the back up for Van Persie

If you watched the game on Wednesday, you will have seen a very spirited performance from the Korean. Arsene took time out after the game to comment on his peformance:

For me I am very pleased with his performance. He had a very, very good game. He has shown intelligence in his link play with others. The quality of his movement was exceptional and his finishing is absolutely fantastic. He has shown tonight that he is a very, very good player. He is ready to play in league games, yes. Compared to the player who played in the first match [against Shrewsbury] where he was a bit inhibited, tonight I felt he played with freedom and has showed what a good player he is.

I’d like to see more of him. If we’re winning a game (and can rest RvP) or need an extra striker, perhaps Park is the answer rather than the somewhat not-so-useful Chamakh…

Learning #5: Chamakh is definitely not the back up for Van Persie

What has happened to the Chamakh that scored 10 goals in 15 at the beginning of last season. Indeed, he went for first choice to third overnight, but still, we have to expect more from an International player who plays for Arsenal on the wages he gets. Arsene did come out with a plethora of excuses about Chamakh’s performance after the Stoke game:

I think he worked very hard. He is running after a goal at the moment. I felt there were two or three occasions in the first half where he was nearly there on crosses and just didn’t get in front of Shawcross. I am pleased with his effort. I think he knows in his mind that at the moment Van Persie is untouchable. Because we play with two wingers it is very difficult to play with two strikers because you are too open in the middle of the park. So unless I change the system it will be him or Van Persie. It is difficult. But he will get confidence by playing games and scoring goals like all strikers.

Arsene says this, but of course, it’s a problem that can’t be solved – well, it could have been solved if Chamakh got a nod against Bolton – he would have gained some level of “playing games and scoring goals” – but it’s obvious that Arsene doesn’t really fancy the player and obvious that he prefers Park – actually, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Park overtake Chamakh in the pecking order…

Let’s hope we’ve learnt from the last week and take our learnings in the next game… the big one…!

Til tomorrow…

True Gooners…

In a vicious world of football, where players seem to be motivated by huge sums of money, status and extra curricular activities… the amazing dedication and loyalty that we saw from previous legends has been lost in the modern game. The sums of money in football is nigh on ridiculous and £250k / week players like Carlos Tevez, who refuse to play for their team and try and engineer a move every summer. We’ve seen Samir Nasri jump ship for the lure of wallets of cash and we’ve seen Cesc Fabregas “go home” several years before anyone thought he would…

But in this change of temperament, what we’re seeing down at the Arsenal is a crop of new players, dedicated to the cause, with the passion and desire to succeed, and succeed at Arsenal. Players like Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Emmanuel Frimpong, Szcznesy, etc have Arsenal instilled in their hearts, their blood, their veins… you name it…

If you’re on twitter, then you may have seen the exchange between Frimpong and Wilshere, when the latter gave Nasri a nice tweet…

Wilshere’s tweet: ‘Good luck to my friend @Nanas08 (mr Nasri) learnt a lot from him. World class player! Will be missed!’ wrote social network heavyweight Wilshere.

Frimpong;s reply ‘Pfffff come on Jack’…

Frimpong showing a classic “club comes first” attitude..

More importantly for us, were the words we heard from Jack Wilshere himself earlier this week…

“No disrespect to Manchester City but Arsenal is the perfect home for me. Some players have got their price, but to be honest that’s not the way I look at the game. All I think about is playing at the highest level and in the top competitions so I can measure myself against the best in the world. I really am happy at Arsenal at the minute. Obviously I want to win things and I want to do it with Arsenal. I have been at Arsenal since I was nine and I have grown to love the club. There are players there who have been there as long as me and I think we are starting to build something special there with the likes of Emmanuel Frimpong and players I have seen in the youth teams coming through. In a couple of years, they’ll be big players for us. Obviously I want to play in the Champions League and that is the aim for Arsenal and everyone at the Club. We started a bit slowly but we still feel we can finish in the top four.”

The way that Bergkamp, Henry, Adams, Bould, Keown, Winterburn, Dixon all loved the club and would put their bodies on the line has been lost in recent years. The likes of Wilshere is the kind of player we need in the heart of our midfield. Someone who’s got Arsenal DNA… In fact he’s already tapping up Cesc in an attempt to bring him back from Barcelona…

“If you look at him now, he’s flying. It’d be nice if he came back one day – the door is always open for him because of what he did at Arsenal. You’d almost say he’s an Arsenal legend now and I think the fans would welcome him back as well.”

Now talking about Barcelona, I’m sure you’ve all heard the very unsavoury reports that Barcelona want our new number one goalkeeper Szcznesy…. he’s been in good form for us and is starting to make a name for himself around the world. We’ve kept faith in him and he has repaid that faith with some match winning performances. The link to Barcelona is annoying and moreover the reports that he is trying to steal the captain’s armband… the Polska Times reported this:

“Yes. I have friends in London, friends, not just in the senior squad, but also the youth team. I cannot imagine a situation where I leave the club for money. I can’t declare that I will spend my entire career here, but if I leave I will have a very important reason or I will go to Barcelona.”

Well our new captain had something to say about that…

“I got annoyed with a few things about myself in the media recently so I’m gonna set the record straight. 1) I never said I deserve an Arsenal armband. I said that I would love to one day take a responsibility of being an Arsenal skipper. RVP is doing a great job as a skipper and he fully deserves an armband. 2) I AM injured and had to be pulled out of Polish national team. Hope to recover asap. (Thats for Polish media) 3) Please continue the “Szczesny to Barcelona” rumours. Makes me laugh everytime I read it haha”

Classic retort!

It may all be a bit tough right now, but there is a definite bond with the current crop of players and the club. A bond that will make them really work for the colours and the badge… I know we all want it to be now, but with injuries to Wilshere, Vermaelen and Sagna, we’ve lost a very active and powerful spine… I know you all hate “putting up with it”… but believe me, no one wants to lose. Especially not Arsene…

The future is bright, the future is red & white… (i.e. Arsenal)…

Til tomorrow…

Surely a defensive coach wouldn’t be a bad thing?

Arsene Wenger has been very quick to dismiss the need for any coaching re-enforcements this season and in fact was quite angry at suggestions that he needs a new member of the team, quipping to one reporter:

“I have just completed 30 years of coaching. I don’t want to answer this kind of question.”

But it could be the way in which the media have approach this one and of course, the inability of our board to recognise any failings that couple up with the dismissal of such an idea. I definitely think it will be a good idea, and why I am qualified to make such a comment. Well, it’s simple maths to me. Previously, we had a back four of:

Sagna – Gallas – Toure – Clichy

We’ve gone through mixes of this which have seen:

Sagna – Toure – Vermaelen – Clichy

And even now we’re kind of going between these back fours:

Sagna – Mertersacker – Koscielny – Santos

And

Sagna – Mertersacker – Vermaelen – Gibbs

What is evident there is that there have been several different players in each of those positions, and the outcome is pretty much the same with all of them… individual mistakes and problems communicating and playing as a unit…

Now let me take your mind back to 2005/2006 when a certain Arsenal side managed to make it all the way to the Champions League final with a makeshift defence which looked something like this:

Eboue – Toure – Senderos – Flamini

Four players who you will most likely cringe at if you saw them play at the back together

Former manager Terry Neill said this at the time:

“The ingredients are there. They have the qualities to do as well as their predecessors. They have good examples to follow in what the former players have done. Behind the scenes Martin Keown has been there on the training ground doing his coaching badges and I don’t think they could have had better mentors than Keown and Pat Rice. George Graham made sure the back four defended and kept clean sheets whereas Wenger likes his players to have the freedom and express it and go forward more. The famous back four had a long time together without the disruption of injuries, that makes this makeshift back four all the more remarkable.”

The key thing that was present was that Martin Keown was at the club taking his coaching badges at the time – and what a difference he looks to have made to 4 players who (with the exception of Senderos) are naturally defenders. If Keown’s presence can shake Eboue, Toure, Senderos & Flamini into an unpenetrable fortress, just imagine what he could do with the likes of a Mertersacker, Vermaelen, Sagna and Gibbs / Santos.

Surely it’s worth a go?

Mixed Reactions, Mixed Emotions…

A week to go against Swansea, means a week of discussion, analysis and bemusement over the last 3 months since the end of last season. We’ve done our transfer dealings and we’re done for the summer, but there are a lot of mixed feelings about how we’ve done in the window and the manner of which we’ve done it.

At the beginning of the summer, Arsene said he was planning on strengthening defensively and with experience… but as the summer kicked off, it was clear that we had a few potential departures on the horizon. With Cesc, Nasri & Clichy in positions to move and as an Arsenal fan, those names departing were not unexpected.

Why didn’t we sell earlier in the summer?

Selling a player isn’t an easy as many people may think – Arsene Wenger wasn’t keen on selling either player and therefore had the intention of keeping both. It only became apparent throughout the summer that Barcelona would move for Cesc – in the first few weeks of the transfer window, they hadn’t bid for him and coupled with our intention to keep him, meant that there was no need to strengthen that position. Cesc was also keen on a move, and to bring in £30m for a player where he would only go to one club, although less than the value of the player if on the open market, was high enough to allow it to happen.

With Man City’s desire to buy Nasri increasing and the bid, which started at £10m ending up at £25m, we reluctantly had to sell the French playmaker. Again, although half expected, based on his refusal to sign previously, Arsene would have kept onto him if he could – but the money was too good to refuse.

Why didn’t we buy earlier in the summer?

We live in a footballing world in which we compete for players with the likes of Man United, Man City & Chelsea and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to act earlier on in the transfer window when the vultures sniff around. We had talked to Blackburn about Phil Jones and Valencia about Juan Mata, but as soon as United & Chelsea found out, they swooped in, offering the clubs more money and the players a great salary.

One thing to remember, is that Gervinho had come in earlier in the summer and the return of Miyachi and signing of Oxlade & Jenkinson meant that we’d spent a chunk of money earlier on. However, I believe it was always Arsene’s intention to bring a few more players to the club. The sales of Cesc & Nasri went some way to distracting the summer activities and if two of your best players leave, then you’ve not got too much time to act and you have to act fast.

Did we panic?

I don’t think we panicked, and despite the result at Old Trafford, we were always looking to buy the players we bought – the exception being Mikel Arteta. Mertersacker had been in the offing for a while and our centre back choices this summer were torn between him, Cahill and Jones. The German international is still a quality player. After we sold Cesc & Nasri, the question is surely, why didn’t we buy immediately, before the games came thick and fast – what stopped us buying Mertersacker & Santos 2 weeks earlier?

I believe that we operate within our means, and therefore it was the sale of Nasri that ultimately allowed us to bring in more players. With Arsene looking for super quality early on, I’m sure there were a lot of targets on the radar and when you’re trying to strengthen multiple positions, it’s a balancing act which allows you to get the best group of new players rather than one major stars and then a few average players.

Should we be happy?

This summer has been a difficult one for Arsenal fans and one thing is clear – if a player doesn’t want to play for Arsenal – then they should move on. The departures of Cesc, Nasri & Clichy may not be a negative thing. We’ve satisfied the requirements at the beginning of the summer; Arsene wanted experience, he has brought in 2 captains, a player with vast experience in the Premier League; Arsene wanted defensive re-inforcements, he’s not sold a centre back and brought in a top quality one; Arsene wanted better depth and players like Benayoun, Santos, Jenkinson, Miyachi, Oxlade will offer us more options in the various positions they play in.

In the summer of 2008, Arsene said this:

“The strategy of the club is to sell every year and to buy less expensive players. We manage at Arsenal to maintain all our football ambitions—national and European—while having to free up—for 17 more years—an annual surplus of £24million to pay for our stadium. The club’s strategy is to favour the policy of youngsters ahead of stars and to count on the collective quality of our game.”

And as a result, being able to correct the balance of our squad, adding quality where required, and to remove the players who have often disappointed us (loans for Bendtner & Denilson and sales of Clichy & Eboue), can only be a good thing.

The acquisition of Arteta for me was one of the transfer stories of the deadline day, he’s one of the very few players who plays the Cesc role in the way in which Cesc plays it – he is a very talented footballer and most Everton fans believe he was their best. Of a poll of best buys by Sky Sports, Arteta came top – I am very excited to see him in an Arsenal shirt.

We’ve got a new team, one with more experience, and one that looks like it has more passion, desire & drive. We’ll have some of the missing 8 players returning soon – our season kicks off against Swansea in roughly a week’s time.

It’s time to reserve judgement and support the team…

Benfica vs Arsenal Preview & Transfer Update

Today see Arsenal take on Benifica at their ground, a tough away game against decent opposition, and I think today we will be a good game to see how prepared we are – how are fitness levels are and to understand the shape that the squad is in. The squad for today’s game was announced yesterday and the 19 players who travelled are:

  • Szczesny, Fabianski
  • Djourou, Squillaci, Vermaelen, Traore, Miquel, Jenkinson, Sagna
  • Frimpong, Ramsey, Rosicky, Song, Lansbury
  • Miyachi, Van Persie, Gervinho, Arshavin, Chamakh

As normal with pre-season friendlies, we will probably see a lot of changes at half time, but for the first half, I think Arsene will experiment with the following line-up:

Szcznesy

Jenkinson, Djourou, Vermaelen, Traore

Frimpong, Lansbury, Ramsey

Gervinho, Chamakh, Miyachi

There were several players who didn’t travel for various reasons, the likes of Cesc, Nasri, Eboue & Bendtner have not travelled and there is a lot of speculation regarding all four of them leaving the club. The manager was in the news today and had this to say:

“Walcott is back in training but he is not ready just yet. Wilshere is injured on his ankle and it is very difficult to set a concrete deadline on his comeback. Nasri has a muscular problem. Cesc is just coming back from injury and he is not ready to play in the game. Diaby is out and Koscielny has a small muscular problem. Bendtner and Eboue are not in the squad because they might be going out of the Club. Koscielny and Nasri might be back for the start of the season. I don’t think Fabregas will be ready to start the season because he has been out for a long time and has had no games. Walcott might be back and, as for Wilshere, it is very difficult to say.”

There has been a lot of speculation on Bendtner & Eboue and proposed moves – at the same time, we’ve heard that a lot of clubs can’t afford them – the clubs that come in for them are the 2nd tier clubs, and with Bendtner on £60,000 / week and Eboue on £50,000 / week, it’s proving difficult for them to find new clubs. Galatasary and Athletico are favourites for Eboue, whilst Sporting have just signed a striker, so Stoke look favourites to land our promising and cocky Danish striker!

Looking at the news from Arsene above, I think the Fabregas saga is starting to unfold itself – it’s clear that Arsene is preparing himself for life without Cesc – there is no reason why Cesc shouldn’t be fit by the start of the season compared to the likes of Van Persie etc – but it’s clear that if Arsenal do sell Cesc for the £40m odd which is being demanded, an injury leading to a failed medical or a cup-tied Champions League player would lower the price or scupper the deal. Arsene most likely understands that he will not be able to prevent Cesc leaving so has to do the right thing by the club and play without him.

Interesting news on Jack Wilshere and it looks like he has suffered a bad injury which will keep him sidelined for a while – when Arsene says stuff like “it’s difficult to say”, that normally means, “it’s serious, but I can’t tell you otherwise I will shock you”… we need to keep our eyes peeled out for news on Jack. Lansbury was potentially leaving the club a few weeks ago and now we’re hearing that he may stay – perhaps related to the Wilshere injury – personally, I think Lansbury has done fantastically well on loan – and he’s a gooner, I hate see the passionate players leave!

On incoming transfers, we’re still linked with the usual crop of defenders, and a lot of our supposed targets are disappering before our eyes, but Arsene has reassured us that he is working hard:

“Ideally I would have finished all [our business] but it doesn’t work like that. We work very hard, we are non-stop working throughout the summer. I am positive because we have good quality and a style of play that is known by the players. So we want to add not quality but super quality.”

And the boss did offer a timeframe when he said:

“We hope to give you some good news soon. Next week, something might happen.”

Let’s see what happens…

Welcome back to the Football season, Benifica tonight, the charity shield tomorrow and then a the real stuff starts… Exciting times…