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

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

Malaysia XI vs Arsenal

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

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

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

Szcznesy

Sagna – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Gibbs

Wilshere – Song

Walcott  - Ramsey - Nasri

Van Persie

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

Walcott – Wilshere – Ramsey – Miyachi

Van Persie – Chamakh

or even this:

Miyachi – Wilshere - Ramsey – Nasri

Van Persie – Walcott

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

Theo: We need new players!

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

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

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

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

Nasri: Should we sell?

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

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

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

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

Van Persie: Invest!

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

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

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

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

Cryptic Words From Cesc…

Afternoon All…

So, we’ve finally heard from our beloved captain Cesc Fabregas on his future at Arsenal. There were some interesting quotes yesterday, so first thing’s first, let’s see what he had to say:

“Barcelona are the best team in the world and going there guarantees titles. Any player who says he is not frustrated at not winning titles is lying. I am ambitious. But I owe myself to Arsenal.”

This was a snippet of a slightly bigger quote:

“I’m very happy where I am. If I said anything else to you I would be lying. I’m an Arsenal player, we have a great team and a great coach. If one day I have to leave Arsenal then I’ll speak that same day, not before. I haven’t spoken to the boss. He’s the one who makes the decisions and I don’t know if they want to sell me or not. Everyone has their way of interpreting things, but in these decisions not everything depends on the player. To say anything else would be to lie and to give way to speculations that aren’t true. I have my values and after everything I have lived in the team for eight years, I’m not going to say something that could ruin everything. I have always acted with discretion. I’m in a very complicated position. I’m not one of those who will talk (to the press) so a signing can be sorted out. Last year I think I made a mistake but that’s passed now and you learn from your mistakes. Last year was hard. I came out and gave my position and maybe I was wrong to do so. Barca are the best team in the world and going there guarantees winning titles. Any player who says they are not frustrated by not winning titles is lying. I’m ambitious I’m not going to talk about any team, but you can never say never to anyone because in the future you never know what will happen”.

I’m not exactly sure how you take this, but a lot of the Arsenal sites and a lot of the papers have taken this as “Cesc stays at Arsenal”… but I see a cryptic message within these words. Words that imply that he “won’t say he wants to join Barcelona”, thus implying he does. Heck, he said so later summer, so obviously he does.

Sandra Rossell, Barcelona president threw in some annoying quotes too:

“Cesc? I guess he’d like to join us, like a lot of players would, but we won’t go mad and offer silly fees. Last year we offered 40M for Cesc, this season his value is less. What we can offer will also depend on his salary.”

Personally, like Real Madrid did when they wanted Ronaldo, pay the silly money – give us £100m in cash… and then and only then, will you get your player. Otherwise, just stop talking about him like an obsession! Barcelona fail to remember that Cesc has 6 years left on his contract (well done Arsene for tying him down)… His value is still the same – invaluable!

What do you make of the quotes?

One player who is obviously worried about his place in the team is Johan Djourou – who despite a mid season purple season – has been pretty bad at the end of the season and was frankly shocking for England vs Swizterland. The Swiss defender said:

“I’ve been here a long time, I want to keep my place and become a better player. When you play in the top flight each player has to push himself and battle for his place, and I am no different. I know I can improve and that I have a lot in me, so now I have to improve in time for pre-season and be ready for the team. I hope it’s the case that other players look to me because I have experience, and that the manager continues to have confidence in me. Last season, I had a little shoulder injury at the end, but I think overall it was very good for me.”

Arsene is closing in on one of Gary Cahill or Chris Samba (who would you prefer?). I am pretty sure I’d prefer Cahill. He’s English after all, and has a bit about him. If we did sign Cahill, you would have to presume Vermaelen and Cahill would be first choice, which would leave JD and Koscielny as #3 and #4 respectively. There have been some rumours that we will sign both Cahill and Samba and Vermaelen will move to left back – can you see it happening? I don’t think so… well, if Clichy goes, them maybe, just maybe it could happen…

There is more transfer news surrounding Gervinho and Sagna has backed his acquisition, should it happen…

“This season he was a key player for Lille, and really helped his team to be champions. He’s got a wonderful technique on a football field, and I’m sure he would be welcome.”

Lille general manager, Paquet, did say this:

“We are in negotiations with Arsenal over Gervinho. We received an offer from London and although our intention is to offer a new contract to our striker we will talk to Arsenal.”

Fingers crossed he will sign, he does look good… he is a winner and he’s better than Chamakh and Bendtner. Talking about the Dane, it’s rumoured that he’s in a bit of a tug of war between a £10m bid from Bayern and a £12m bid from Sporting Lisbon. Both agreed to pay his extortionate wages!

I’ll be back later… ’til then… Adios…

AST Meeting – April 2011

Morning All…

It’s been a whirlwind last couple of days, and personally, for me, having arrived back to the UK late last night, there has been quite a lot to take in in the last 24 hours or so. (Yes, that sentence needed two in’s!)… First of all, massive thanks to @j1mm7t for Friday’s blog on X and to @kieran_delaney for yesterday’s post. Both very good reads if you haven’t already done so.

Last night, I had the privilege of attending the Arsenal Supporter’s Trust meeting – for those of you who don’t know what the AST is – it’s a trust of supporters and shareholders whom have the interests of the club at heart. The AST has been the prime instigator of the new Fanshare system that has allowed many fans to own a part of the club.

Before I review the meeting from yesterday, here are a few key points about the offer:

  • For each Arsenal Share, Arsenal Shareholders will receive £11,750 in cash.
  • The Offer values the entire issued share capital of Arsenal at approximately £731 million.
  • KSE is a Delaware corporation wholly-owned by Mr E. Stanley Kroenke.
  • KSE has entered into a call and put option agreement with DF Nominees (the company holding Mr Daniel David Fiszman’s interests in Arsenal Shares) in respect of 10,025 Arsenal Shares, representing approximately 16.11 per cent. of the issued share capital of Arsenal.
  • In addition, KSE has received irrevocable undertakings to accept the Offer from Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith and the Arsenal Directors who hold Arsenal Shares (other than Mr Fiszman and Mr Kroenke) in respect of all the Arsenal Shares which they hold, representing in aggregate 10,448 Arsenal Shares (approximately 16.79 per cent. of the issued share capital of Arsenal).
  • Taking into account KSE’s existing holding of 18,656 Arsenal Shares (representing approximately 29.99 per cent. of the issued share capital of Arsenal), the call and put option agreement referred to above, and the irrevocable undertakings it has received, KSE now has an interest in or commitments over a total of 39,129 Arsenal Shares, representing approximately 62.89 per cent. of the issued share capital of Arsenal.
  • The Offer will be made in accordance with Rule 9 of the Takeover Code and will be conditional only upon KSE receiving acceptances which will result in KSE and its concert parties holding more than 50 per cent. of the Arsenal Shares.
  • The Offer will include a Loan Note Alternative.

Arsene commented on Stan Kroenke’s new level of involvement and said this:

“I have worked with Stan Kroenke at board meetings over the past couple of years and I believe he has the best interests of Arsenal at heart. He understands the Club’s heritage and traditions and our ambition to run the Club in a way which protects our long term future.”

My personal opinion is that this takeover is very much different to that of the other clubs in the Premiership. United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City have 4 different types of ownerships – some have a lot of debt, and some have sugar daddies. What we have at the moment, in terms of stability and our economic plan, will not change with the takeover. Yes, Kroenke has much more of the club – but in reality, he will not be in a position to then take over the club financially. In fact, much of the current takeover if deferred payments and loan notes – advantageous for the people buying (money is deferred) and good for people selling (tax earnings can be split across multiple years).

The key points to take into consideration regarding the takeover:

  • KSE will not leverage the club to pay for the investment – in fact, as they own less than 75%, they cannot use the club as leverage
  • With Usmanov having 27% (ish) and additional 9% being owned by smaller groups and individuals, it will be hard to get to the required amount – Usmanov unlikely to sell
  • Fanshare and AST can continue, as there is no legal obligation to sell their share

Other interesting points of note:

  • 70% of all profits that the club makes going into a “team fund” – this is use solely for the team and playing staff and cannot be used for anything else – this protects the money and stops any ulterior motives
  • 2013/2014 will see new sponsorship deals – which the club will agree in 2012/2013. Injection of money will come from this too.
  • There is currently £35m in the bank team fund, a lot of which comes from the sales of Toure and Adebayor – this fund is used for player contract and sign on fees, so does not represent the possibility of a £35m player.

If you’ve picked up a paper today, you’ll see much more on Arsenal, I think there is a lot more to be said!

Outside of Arsenal, tonight it is Man United (1) vs (0) Chelsea, let’s see what that game has in store for all of us, should be an entertaining game….

It Hurts Because…

It Hurts Because…

We all asked for Arsene to sign a proven striker in the summer. With the departures of Henry, Adebayor and Eduardo, all our proven goalscorers are gone. Whilst Van Persie is an excellent striker, you cannot rely on one player, one striker to win games for you. If Van Persie isn’t on form, then we’re screwed. If he is man marked by two players, then we don’t have another striker on board. Putting faith in Bendtner and Chamakh as backups to 2 main strikers could be passable, but when you consider the opposition have the likes of Anelka, Drogba and Torres or Rooney, Berbatov and Hernandez – then it put’s our lack of quality it into perspective.

It Hurts Because…

We definitely asked Arsene to buy a quality centre back in the last 5 summers.

Djourou was unknown, Squillaci was a golden oldie from Sevilla reserves, Koscielny only had one season of top-flight football. Gallas had gone, Toure had gone the previous summer. We needed perhaps two world class centre backs, but at least one – at minimum, we needed a top defender. Was it really time for Gallas to go? He’d formed a decent partnership with Vermaelen the season before. But he did, and it was time to replace. The great form of Djourou is something that Arsene could not have banked on – so in reality, we should have got one. The defensive crisis we’re facing where we’ve had to play Miquel this season tells a definite story.

It Hurts Because…

The goalkeeping department is still inadequate. Almunia was brought to this club on a whim that he could perform at the highest level… but he can’t. He wasn’t a first choice at his previous club – in fact, he was on loan at another club as he didn’t make 3rd choice – Arsene brought him in and put faith in him. But he clearly is not up to the standard that a Premiership goalkeeper should be – and therefore definitely not up to the standard of the Arsenal.

It Hurts Because…

Sp*rs are doing so well in the Champions League – a competition that was supposed to be a fish to big for them to fry. A competition that Gooners consider theirs. They seem interested, have a desire to win and have the tenacity to want to win. Whereas, we don’t seem bothered – we don’t seem like we want it. We were given an easy group – a group where we finished second, which in itself was poor. Yes, we have our moment, like Barcelona at home, but we simply don’t want this as much as we should.

It Hurts Because…

Man United have given us ample opportunities to take over this league. We’ve had home games against Sunderland, Blackburn and West Brom, where we’ve only picked up 3 of a possible 9 points. We’re 7 points behind and we could easily be one point behind. We’ve spent all season and got ourselves into a good position, only to throw it away at the end of the season – we do this every season. We stop playing football, lose all our ideas and can’t seem to win anything. This team doesn’t have a winning mentality, even when it’s put on a golden platter – who else would throw away a Carling Cup final at Wembley against Birmingham – only the Arsenal.

It Hurts Because…

We all know that playing 4-5-1 at home is not the formation we should be playing. We know it’s way too defensive to play at home against teams who put 10 men behind the ball – but we continue to play it season after season. Why? Only Arsene knows (or doesn’t know)

It Hurts Because…

We don’t spend on proper players. We spend £10m on Walcott and £10m on Koscielny, but we don’t spend good money where it counts. Ashley Young went to Villa for £12m and we could have got him for less the year before, but we weren’t interested. We could have got Jermain Defoe (who would score bags of goals if played in a 4-4-2 with Van Persie), who is a Gooner and wanted to come. We could have got Adam Johnson, and players alike who we need. We need a backup DM, but we’d rather spend £5m on a 17 year old midfielder than £4m on a player like Tiote. Luis Suarez anyone?

It Hurts Because…

We’re not young any more. We were young 6 years ago when the likes of RvP, Cesc etc were bottling it – but years on, and the crux of the team is 23 to 27. That’s not young. They’ve all had seasons of Premiership football behind them. That’s serious game time. The excuse of “this is a young team” is just not good enough. If it’s a young team, then buy some older players – not a 37 year old Campbell or a 41 year old Lehmann, players just older than 25!

It Hurts Because…

Arsene continually backs “his” players. The likes of Denilson, Diaby and Bendtner are not of the quality, mentality or consistency that is required at the Arsenal. They are a part of Arsene grand scheme of things since the stadium, but they’ve not performed and if anything, gone backwards. Yes we see glimpses, but the three aformentioned players are not first choice players for the Arsenal and Arsene needs to realise that it’s time to refresh the team and lose the players who can’t contribute – hell, they couldn’t even beat the likes of Huddersfield, Leeds or Ipswich!

It Hurts Because…

It happens every season. The same issues, the same problems – they’re not addressed. The same progression, the same hope – when there is no pressure, we do well, but at the end of the season, when it matters, our injuries expose a fragile team. A team which doesn’t have it in them. The lack of a striker, centre back and goalkeeper keep coming back to haunt us. We’re living in ground hog day – and I fear the same thing will happen next season.

The Season Continues…

Indeed, my friends, the season continues and no matter how disappointed we all are – we have to put the recent final defeat behind us and focus on the games ahead. The recent loss of Walcott & Cesc as well as the even more recent loss of Van Persie has put us into a very precarious position in terms of personnel in the next 3 weeks or so. Our first choice players will have to consist of Bendtner, Arshavin, Rosicky and Chamakh – players who have not performed well at all in the last couple of games (Arshavin aside). I’ve been raving about the difference between last year and this – talking about the players who we will have this season compared to last – but up to the lead up to the game – suddenly we’re dropping like flies.

We need to decide which competitions we want to win and then focus on them. The Carling Cup has been an obvious distraction. It’s meant we’ve used more of the first team that we should have – it’s had counter effects on our league form and also the team we choose for the FA Cup – 2 replays already… and the fatigue and injury is evident for all to see. I’m confused to why we have so many players on loan and also confused to see why we want to go for all trophies with a relatively small squad.

Where we are right now, personally, we need to focus on one competition – unfortunately for us, we have 4 games in the next 10 days ranging all the three competitions… so we’ll see how Arsene prioritises in the next week or so. Focused on the Premiership is the obvious thing, considering Man United’s recent loss to Chelsea. We’re 4 points behind them with a game in hand and it’s essential that we win our games in hand and really give it a go.

Check out the run in for both clubs:

United

Currently on 60 points, with ten games to play.

  1. Liverpool (a)
  2. Bolton (h)
  3. West Ham (a)
  4. Fulham (h)
  5. Newcastle (a)
  6. Everton (h)
  7. Arsenal (a)
  8. Chelsea (h)
  9. Blackburn (a)
  10. Blackpool (h)

Arsenal

Currently on 56 points, with eleven games to play.

  1. Sunderland (h)
  2. West Brom (a)
  3. Blackburn (h)
  4. Blackpool (a)
  5. Liverpool (h)
  6. Sp*rs (a)
  7. Bolton (a)
  8. United (h)
  9. Stoke (a)
  10. Aston Villa (h)
  11. Fulham (a)

Our run in looks relatively easier than United’s but with the number of games we’ve played, the fact that we are the Arsenal and the injuries we have got too – who knows which is the easiest run in? Outside of the Premiership, the next game is Leyton Orient away and it would be nice to win the game – at the same time, United away is the next one if we do win it – one of the hardest games of the season, a game where our first team failed to turn up to…

We’ve got injuries to Song and Koscielny for the game, so it looks like we might just give Miguel another run out… My predicted line up for the game is:

Almunia

Eboue – Squillaci – Miguel – Gibbs

Denilson – Diaby

Bendtner – Rosicky – Arshavin

Chamakh

With a bench of Szcznesy, Sagna, Djourou, Clichy, Wilshere, Nasri and a youth product, perhaps?

All that is left to say, is that we all need to keep the faith, not over-react, back our team and get a win against Leyton Orient!!

The Andy Gray Saga…

Morning All…

First of all, where has this week gone? And can you believe it’s Thursday…

Footballing life as we know it will never be the same with the recent departure of Andy Gray and Richard Keys from Sky Sports… love him or hate him, Andy Gray was definitely a presence on the box – and love his views or hate his views, they were always worth hearing… I know he is a Man United loving individual, who bias was all but plain to see – but I compare him with who else is doing a simple job and actually, there aren’t many better.

Jamie Redknapp is a really really annoying presenter – probably the most anti-Arsenal one out there – he seems to forget what he’s talking about half the time and somehow manage to blabber on about irrelevant topics whilst telling the world how amazing Sp*rs are… Paul Merson, well, he just doesn’t have a clue – and I say that even though he is one of our own…!

Chris Waddle, Stan Collymore and Robbie Savage are simply not with it enough – Waddle doesn’t really know much about how to commentate or present and literally makes mistakes everytime he talks. Collymore – well, he is just a pathetic excuse for a footballer let alone anything to do with football – and Robbie Savage, well, he simply doesn’t know enough about the Premiership clubs, players or coaches to warrant inclusion…

Then you’ve got the BBC’s lot – the Linekers, Hansens, Shearers et al… and are they really the people you want to be listening to on Monday Night Football? Lee Dixon is a massively dark horse, who actually makes sense and despite his years at the Arsenal is quite balanced in his views…

But despite the fallacies of Andy Gray and Richard Keys – for all their sins – I think I will miss them annoying me every week (if that makes sense)… yes, their comments were inappropriate, but is it really a sack-able offence? Who I am to judge anyway…

I’ll leave you with some fighting talk from Jack Wilshere – who was my man of the match earlier this week against Ipswich – a player who is simply sublime, and getting better game by game…

“There is a hunger among the players to win something – it has been so long that we have almost forgotten what it is like. We need to bring that back into the football club – this is a big football club and we need trophies. Any trophy is a trophy and if we can win one in February, it will give us confidence for the rest of the season. Before the game, everyone was saying this was a great opportunity – just get a goal and it’ll open up and it did. ”It would be massive for the Club – any trophy is a trophy and it has been five years since we won our last one. We know that if we win one, hopefully it’ll come along, and then it’ll open up more for us.”

And he also spoke about the last time we won a trophy:

“I was 13,” he recalled. I remember the game – I was sat at home with my family and Vieira scored the last penalty. You could see what it meant to them and we just want to do that again.  Being a member of the team, they [the older players] feel hungry for trophies and it rubs off on you. Even though I have only been here a year, I want to win trophies – that’s what this Club is about and we need to do that. We know we are going to Wembley now and we will see what happens in the other Semi-Final. We know that West Ham or Birmingham will be strong on the day. It’s a cup final and everyone wants to win those. We must look forward to our Premier League games now until then and when it comes along, get ready for that.”

And that team is Birmingham, after they managed to beat West Ham after extra time is a cracker of a game (so I heard) and it will be London vs the Midlands, Arsenal vs Birmingham on Sunday the 27th February… for our first trophy of the season… perhaps…

That’s it from me today… until tomorrow, Adios…

Buying A Defender Could Win Us The Title…

Morning Fellow Gooners,

Today I am writing the blog with the help of “Lady WOA” who is talking to me about aliens and monsters and how they are in a film together. Whilst I maintain some sort of interest, I am actually thinking about the defensive crisis that is imminently looming. I’m not one who goes on about needing new signings and I do have a lot of faith in the current squad – but there are certain times when you need to buy to ensure that a crisis doesn’t happen – i.e. if two of your four centre backs are injured and the remaining two are injury prone and inexperienced.

With Nordtveit having left the club despite being our most promising youngster in summer and Miquel being promoted to the fringes of the first team despite never having played for our first team, we’re simply down to the two centre backs that we’ve seen in action for the last three games…

My main worry is that the two we have – although excellent at times – both have an error up their sleeve – we saw a bit of a shaky performance from Djourou in the last game against West Ham and we also saw a bit of a shaky performance from Koscielny against Leeds. Last season, our defensive mistakes were the undoing of us – we lose confidence and lose swagger. If either Djourou or Koscielny get injured or sent off, we have no other option…

Except the option of breaking our formidable midfield trio of Song – Wilshere – Cesc… “WilshCescSong”… doesn’t have the same ring as TheoNasVanCesc… but the last thing we want to see is Song going back into the defence and seeing Denilson come into midfield. Despite being quite pro-Denilson last season, I’ve done a complete u-turn this season and in light of the fact he has been our worst player this season, the thought of NOT having Song in the midfield and having Denilson in there – when it matters – and having Song in defence – doesn’t appeal to me at all!

We all know that we won’t see Squillaci for three weeks or so and we won’t see Vermaelen for the next 6 weeks – if his operations goes well… a big IF…

Vermaelen admitted yesterday that he is going under the knife…

“I’ll undergo this operation in Sweden. According to the specialist who will operate on me it’s a little tendon situated beside the Achilles tendon which is provoking the irritation.”

Arsene also commenting:

“It’s not a real surgery. It is to take out a little [tendon] next to his [Achilles] tendon. It is to open it a little bit and cut out the [tendon] that has been causing the friction. It is a procedure, that is the right medical term. We are very optimistic that [this will cure the problem]. But of course it is now what you call in football a little bit longer delay of four to six weeks.”

So, we have to buy…

Arsene, if you’re reading this, then there is no other option. Unless you honestly think the untried, untested and young Miquel is honestly an option, which I don’t think you do! Don’t live in the dreamland that we can make it through and Thomas Vermaelen will be back and fine soon – he hasn’t played since September!

Well… If I am correct, the gaffer did say that there was a chance that he’d be back in less than a month… er… dream land?

“Let’s count the weeks to Barcelona and you will know. I count a minimum of four weeks, maximum six, so it is not an unrealistic target.  But don’t forget as well he is a little bit in the situation of Aaron Ramsey, he has not played since the beginning of September, that means he will need some games to be completely fit.”

But the time is now to buy another centre back!

Squillaci is not good enough at this level, Djourou and Koscielny are good, but they would thrive learning off and playing with someone experienced… Arsene did say if he did buy it would have to be someone with Premiership experience.

Just imagine if we signed Gary Cahill or Phil Jagielka from Bolton or Everton respectively – not the worst touts as signings – but it would send a huge message to our rivals. It would mean that we had backup whilst Vermaelen is out, and a long term replacement for Squillaci and more time to develop the likes of Miquel… Perfect signing, right?

It could just win us the title…

Thierry’s back, and it could be the start of something special…

Morning All…

The big news yesterday was the return of Thierry Henry. Yes, the great man is back, but as you may or may not know… yet… he’s back training with us only! The legend of Arsenal’s most recent past will spend the break from the MLS in America training with the Arsenal team.

The website announced yesterday:

The Gunners legend returned to London Colney on Monday to train with Arsène Wenger’s squad. The short-term arrangement will help Henry maintain his fitness ahead of the new MLS campaign, which begins in March.

Henry joined the New York Red Bulls last year and helped them reach the play-offs where they lost on aggregate to San Jose Earthquakes in November.

The former Arsenal captain scored a record 226 goals during a glittering career in north London and was a member of the ‘Invincibles’ squad that completed an unbeaten campaign in 2003/04.

For me, Thierry was one of the greatest at the Arsenal and one of the best players ever to have graced the Premiership. What he brought to the club – other than a phenomenal amount of goals and assists – was a certain swagger, a certain exuberance, a certain standard of excellence - based on sheer class, desire to play the game and desire to win. When Thierry left, he did leave a void in quite a few of those areas – something that we’re just beginning to fill in now.

Thierry coming back to train with us will give the existing players a massive boost – for players like Van Persie, Cesc, Clichy and Walcott will remember the times they trained with Thierry and played with him in games – the rest will remember his legend, what he brought to the club – new players to the team like Wilshere, Chamakh and Koscielny will learn something vital from the great man. The desire to win and the class you can have as a professional footballer.

I will always remember one thing about Thierry – he let his football do the talking. Remember this?

If he can instil some of that style, that panache and the calmness in front of goal in Van Persie, Chamakh, Bendtner and Walcott, then we that will be pretty awesome – and I think all the players are quite excited to have Thierry around for the next month or so!

In other news, our reserve team lost 10-1 to Aston Villa in what was their heaviest defeat as far as I can remember… but they were without a lot of their first teamers (does that make any sense) and were playing with 10 men for the best part of the whole game.

But in slightly more uplifting news… something we found out last week and were of course tweeting about furiously – the fact that Arsene Wenger won the “coach of the decade” award ahead of the likes of Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho. It’s a great tribute to all the hard work he has been doing behind the scenes at Arsenal, the players he has made, the style of football he has created… so from everyone at WOA…

Congratulations Mr. Wenger!

It’s a tribute that rightfully awards the best coach over the last 10 years with recognition. For me, spending vast amounts of Money (like Mourinho) on the likes of Essien and Drogba is one thing, spending £30m on Wayne Rooney (like Ferguson) is another…

But identifying talents from the lower leagues, such as Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey… nuturing talent like Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs – finding players like Van Persie for under £4m, as well as maintaining a standard of football, going through a season unbeaten and doing all of this whilst moving to a 60,000 seater stadium is a remarkable feat.

The tributes came in from some of the existing squad yesterday…

Cesc saying…

Congratulations to Mr Arsene Wenger for being nominated best coach of the decade. What an achievement that is. Proud to be one of his players.

Jack Wilshere added

“Congrats to my boss Mr Arsene Wenger, manager of the decade!! [A] pleasure to work with him.”

And just to top it all off, Cesc was quoted yesterday talking about his future at Arsenal:

“Why would I want to leave? It is fantastic here. It would be a dream to lift trophies for Arsenal. It has always been my wish. Afterwards you can always be attracted by something else, like a new objective, or new challenges because, for me, life is all about challenges. But my real challenge as captain of Arsenal is to bring this football club success. This is the biggest dream I can have. I want to end these five years without a trophy and, hopefully, I can do it this season.”

Fighting talk from our captain fantastic… Today’s blog has been quite a pleasant one, hasn’t it?

Til tomorrow, mes amigos…

Will we buy anyone in January?

As the end of the year draws near, it’s time to look ahead to January and look at our squad and speculate on what we need, where we need them and whether or not we’ll get them this January… with the snow enforced winter break – 2 weeks / 14 days without an Arsenal game… we bloggers have a fair amount of time on our hands (outside Christmas shopping) and Shakira concert going (how hot is that woman!)…

Anyway, where was I? Ah, yes, January sales…

So let’s go department by department…

The Goalkeeping Department

So, we’ve finally shift of the number one jersey from Almunia to Fabianski to Szcznesy. Rumours were rife that Szcznesy would start against Stoke had that game not be called off and this means it could be permanent. So, Szcznesy is our new number one, Fabianski is our number two… Almunia would surely be off and Mannone would come back to cover him, right?

Out: Almunia
In: Mannone (back from loan)

Defence

Defence is a conundrum… we are currently playing Squillaci and Koscielny when in reality Vermaelen and Djourou are probably the better defenders. We’re also playing Clichy at left back, and we all know very much that Gibbsy is the better of the two – if only he wasn’t always injured!

Out: None
In: None

Midfield

So, we probably need a better DM than Denilson and a less injury prone CM than Diaby… but we probably aren’t going to get either – with Ramsey and Diaby a month away from being back into first team action, I doubt we’re going to get any midfield re-enforcements. In fact, I know we’re not! I would eat a hat if we did – preferably a chocolate hat!

In: Ramsey back from injury like a new signing… Diaby back from injury like a new signing…
Out: None

Striker / Attacking Wingery

I woke up half dreaming and for some reason thought we had signed Ronaldinho… I thought it was a bit of a weird signing and then search the net and alas, it was all just a dream… well, kind of… remember, we have signed the “New Ronaldinho” in 18 year old Japanese midfielder / cum striker, Ryo Miyaichi…

In the attacking department, we have Robin Van Persie and Niklas Bendtner back to add into our squad, we have Walcott and Rosicky as backup for Nasri and Arshavin – the likelihood of us buying: zero – the only problem is that with Nasri aside, they are all badly off form…

In: Ryo Miyaichi
Out: None

And just in case you thought Arsene was going to surprise us all with a whirlwind signing… he’s not…

“Because we respect our budget. You look at the clubs who lose £100million or £150m and if we do that then we go bust. It’s as simple as that. We pay what we can afford. I’m amazed that people are amazed that we do that. I think what is surprising is that people don’t respect that. If I tell you we can win two more points but we lose £150m, what will you say? Win two more points. But when I ask a second question, where do we get the £150m in? Maybe you don’t have the same answer. The beauty of the competition and this club is to be successful while respecting the balance and the funds of financial balance and all the rest for me doesn’t look normal. People will maybe realise one day that it’s not as easy to stay at the top and as well to cope with financial compulsories that you have at the top. We face rivals who do not respect the financial fair play. Instead, of us being accused, maybe people should look somewhere else.”

Yep, Arsene ain’t going to spend any cash…

Til tomorrow, til tomorrow… is Wednesday too early to start previewing next Monday’s Chelsea clash?

Quick Hello

Hello Guys!

What a crazy start to the week – tube strikes, fog, snow… could we squeeze more action into a Monday morning?

I’ll be very quick as I think Kieran D is blogging a little later today…

In the meantime, Arsene has been talking about the team tomorrow and says it will be strong…

“We will play with a strong team. But don’t forget that we have played every three days for one and a half months so I have to see how we recover and who I rest [on] Tuesday. But we will play with a strong team. You will see regular players. Van Persie? I don’t know. Do I get him a week of work or do I play him? I have to speak with him frankly to see how he feels. We will see [on] Monday.”

There will be a proper pre-match preview tomorrow, but with players such as Theo Walcott, Robin Van Persie and Nikki Bendtner – and of course, Carlos Vela – in need of games, will we see a four prong attack – Arsene needs more out of those four players and tomorrow’s game could really help us get them some match time.

We’ve got Leeds in the FA Cup, which will be on Saturday 8th January at the Emirates, and hopefully we’ll score a lot and do them over – nobody likes Leeds, do they?

And one more snippet – tonight is El Grand Classico – Barcelona vs Real Madrid at the Nou Camp… it should be a cracker as we’ve got the whole lot fit and raring to go – from Messi, Xavi and Villa to Ozil, Ronaldo and Kaka… and Higuain and… wow, this should be a feast…!!!

Let’s hope for a great spectacle tonight… speak to you later…!

Boy do I hate November…

November is the one month of the year that I simply hate – the lesser number of fixtures, the better – down at Arsenal, it’s a bogey month – a month where we lose games that we wouldn’t expect to lose and a month when any form we previously had goes straight out of the window. A 6-0 win against Braga at the Emirates turns into a 2-0 defeat over there – with virtually the same team, give or take a little.

Many people thought that we’d get a massive reaction out of the team after the collapse against Sp*rs and personally, I don’t believe we did. I don’t believe we saw the fight that we want to see from the team. The collective spirit was missing, and worst of all, our actual ability to play football has deteriorated. Many people say Arsenal lack a “plan B”… but what exactly is our plan A? Pass it sideways? When shooting is possible, pass the buck to another player in worse position? What exactly is going to win us this league or any competition?

These players have only one target – that’s the Carling Cup. Djourou has been in the press talking about our desire to win a trophy – well, based on the last 3 defeats in the league and 2 defeats in the Champions League, we’re not ready to win either of those trophies.

“We want to win a trophy. That is the main focus of the team. We have the quality and luckily we are not too far from the top. I feel we can definitely win a trophy this season. It has been a difficult week, we have had two straight defeats but now we have to bounce back. And what better place than Villa? We have the quality to do it. Now it is how much we want it. We are big enough to stand up for ourselves and be ready for Villa. The lucky thing in football is that you can always do better in the next game.”

The only problem with Djourou’s statement is that we did have the opportunity to play better and qualify for the Champions League against Braga after the abysmal result against Sp*rs. The other unlucky thing, in the same manner, is that we can always do worse in our next game.

I don’t want to put a downer on the season, or rid us of all ambition, but if we are going to get anywhere this season, then something has to change.

News is that Cesc Fabregas is out for 2 weeks, so he’ll miss Villa, Wigan (in the Carling Cup), Fulham (at home) and Partizan (at home) in the Champions League – he should be back for the Manchester United game, so that’s good news – also good news to hear Aaron Ramsey coming through 45 minutes of the reserve game. He’ll still be a month or so away from a competitive game, but progress is progress. On the bad news front though, Eboue is out for a month now. I’ve kind of missed him in recent games – I was looking forward to seeing more of him – at least both of these players have a forced Winter break.

Arsene spoke on Cesc:

“It is a big blow because it will question how cautious we have to be in the future with him. Cesc has played 50 games a year since a young age. We may have to be more cautious with him, especially in the next two months.”

As long as we don’t rush anyone back, we should have some fresh players for the second half of this crazy season, and they could last the distance… the last thing we want to do is turn Cesc into a 15 games a season (RvP style) player…

I’ll be back tomorrow, hopefully more enthused, more excited and with a big Aston Villa preview… til then…