Saturday, 30 July 2011

Arsenal need more reinforcements.

Whilst the prospective signing of Juan Mata has lightened the fans' mood over transfers, but even if the classy young Spaniard does sign, it does not take away form the fact that we have other main priorities.

Centreback is the most important issue, with one, or even two needed. Vermaelen is our best option but can't be trusted to play every game after he was out all last year. Djourou and Koscielny both had very impressive matches last year, but too often suffer lapses in concentration and make mistakes. Over time they can eradicate these from their game and be excellent defenders, but we don't want them learning week in week out in the first team. Other than those names, Bartley is very young, too young perhaps and the less said about Squillaci the better.

Another weak link in our defence is, and has been over a number of year, the Left Back place. Clichy was another very inconsistent player and continued to make costly mistakes, not progressing into the world beater he could have.

Gibbs and Traore are worse options than Clichy though. Gibbs looks bright but is predominantly a left midfielder and is still learning the position. What doesn't help the young Englishman is the fact that he suffers constant injuries and cannot be relied upon to be first choice at the moment. Traore is even less reliable too. He may have returned a better player since his loan spell at Juventus - as youth expert Jamie Sanderson has stated - but he hasn't been overly impressive in pre-season.

An option for this position is Jose Enrique, who seems desperate to leave Newcastle and the club desperate to sell. With only one year left on his contract, we could easily pick him up for less than 5 million pounds. A bargain option. Enrique is solid defensively, and is an excellent crosser of the ball which is something we lack throughout the squad.

The position that goes unmentioned most regularly though is striker. With Bendtner's exit almost a certainty, the only strikers we have at the club are Van Persie, Chamakh and Vela - who can't play the lone striker role.  Van Persie is an excellent option to have upfront and would get into any team in the world with his technique, but like so many Arsenal players he cannot be relied upon to play a whole season due to his injury history.

At some point Van Persie will get injured and we'll have to rely solely on Chamakh and Vela. Since goals win you trophies, a strike force containing those two does not fill me with great expectations. Look at Tottenham, a main reason they missed out on the top 4 last year is because they lack a top European Striker in their ranks. We would enjoy a similar problem is we are left with only Chamakh and Vela.

Chamakh did have a good start to last season, he scored goals and won a lot of penalties at important moments. A lot of his goals may have been easy finished into an empty net, but as long as he's scoring goals we can't criticize him.

After November though, the lanky Moroccan enjoyed a barren spell in front of goal for months. He lacked any presence in front of goal and you wouldn't have put money on his scoring again after the chances he missed. Even in pre-season he didn't look like scoring against very weak Asian opposition.

After waiting a year to get Chamakh, and seeing him in action I don't want him being our second choice striker next year. Our rivals all have amazing strength in depth up front. United have Rooney, Hernandez, Berbatov, as well as Owen, and Wellbeck who have all scored multiple goals in the Premiership.

Chelsea have Torres, Drogba, Anelka and Sturridge and Man City have probablythe most impressive list of all. Tevez, Aguero, Balotelli, Dzeko, Adebayor, Santa Cruz and more. Even Liverpool have Suarez, Carroll and Kuyt and N'gog. Clearly we have to shape up if we are to even think about winning the league.

Even looking at the first team squad number, no-one is filling the number 9 shirt, and that just shows that we lack a true number 9 centre forward. Someone who'll score us goals when it truly matters, like the 90th minute at the Nou Camp. Links with Joel Campbell are decent, the Costa Rican looks very raw but could have all the skills needed to be a quality striker. But we cannot rely on someone adapting form South America at only 19 years old to be our 3rd or 4th choice. We need someone from the Premiership who is capable of scoring goals.

In the next few days I will put out an article on who could be our striker targets. Thanks, and Come on Arsenal in the Emirates Cup today.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Jagielka vs Cahill

Given all of the talk surrounding these three player sand the likeliness of their transfers to Arsenal, surely one of them will be joining the Gunners this summer?

All the are quality Premier league defenders and regularly give nightmares to rival attackers (especially Arsenal) but which one is the best defender? And which one is most suited to the way Arsenal play and the defender we need?

In this article I aim to answer these questions by comparing their stats and styles of play to come out with some answers to these and other similar questions.

A week after Arsenal made a £10 million bid for him, lets start with Phil Jagielka. The Everton man is 28 years old, and is set to be 29 in August so is the oldest out of the defenders, but also the most experienced and has 428 career appearances for Sheffield United and Everton, scoring 26 goals in the process. Jagielka stands at 6 ft tall and although not tall, he is more than comfortable at defending balls in the air, something Arsenal defenders are not comfortable with. He also has excellent positioning, which has improved with his experience making his one of the best defenders in the Premier League.

The Manchester born player is the more versatile defender and is known to play comfortably in midfield and occasionally at right back, as well as his main position in central defence - he is also handy when he needs to go in goal. A former Championship player of the year, Jagielka has 8 caps as a full England international, although personally I think if he had been at a bigger 
club (like Arsenal) he would have far more than that.

Valued at 18 million pounds, Arsene would have to break the transfer record to buy the Everton man, who has 4 years left on his contract, though having been a fan of him for some time he may be willing to pay that price.

Gary Cahill has been the other target Arsenal have been linked with over the last few years and many cite his as being the answer to Arsenal's defensive problems. The Bolton player is 6 ft 2in and is stronger in the air than Jagielka, although I think Jagielka has better positioning.

The 25 year old defender - 3 and a half years younger than Jagielka - has amassed 182 career appearances for Bolton and Aston Villa, as well as on loan at Burnley and Sheffield United. He also has 3 England caps and is seen as the future heart of the England defence as Ferdinand and Terry's careers begin to dwindle. 

Cahill is the heart in Bolton's defence and his excellent performances have saved Bolton on many occasions and nearly helped them to a Cup final place. Cahill has only one year left on his contract, but Bolton will still demand 15 to 17 million for their star player.

Jagielka's Everton (a better team than Bolton) conceded 45 goals in the Premier league last year, whilst Bolton conceded 56 goals. However, if you compare the players' aerial duels Cahill has a 66% success rate in his 563 duels compared to Jagielka's 58% success rate in 215 challenges.

Both players though compare well to Arsenal's defenders though, who struggled with high balls in the air especially last year with Vermaelen out injured. This is shown as the club allowed opposition sides 82 headed shots last year, a 52% rise form the 2009-10 season.

 Only Djourou (61%) and Vermaelen (60%) have higher success rates than Jagielka and both are less than Cahill's. Koscielny and Squillaci have only a 53% success rate, which explains the unsuccessfulness of their partnership last season. However, arguably the best defenders in the air - Vidic and Samba - have above 70% success in Aerial duels, in some cases 20% more than Arsenal's defenders.

Jagielka (6716minutes) has played a lot less football over the last few years than Cahill (8794), due to severe injury problems. Given these injury problems, as well at his age, Wenger may decide to go for Cahill, who will offer more years playing at the top level.

Both players will improve our defence immensely, and ideally i'd like to sign them both, but that's just not going to happen. Given the news that we've had a bid rejected for Jagielka and are preparing a new one seems like we have gone for him, but I wouldn't rule out Cahill just yet. Hopefully we sign one of them soon.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Arsenal Make Move for Mata

As the futures of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas at Arsenal becomes increasingly confusing, Arsenal look to have started work on securing a replacement. After missing out on potential other targets Downing and Cazorla, Wenger has deiced to go for Juan Mata of Valencia.

The recent under 21 European championship winner, has had a transfer to the Gunner mooted over the past month although given Valencia's presidents recent comments over his future the transfer looked set to be off. 
Manuel Llorente had said:
'The decision is clear and money will not change our position. Valencia will not sell to any club that wants to buy Mata.'

However, over the last 24 hours it seems the deal is very much back on, and many sources are saying that we have made a bid for the former Real Madrid youth player. 

Apparently we have made a bid of between 13.5-18 million pounds for Mata, and some papers are saying that it has met his release clause. If the deal is done anywhere near this price Arsenal will be getting the deal of the summer. Although, Spanish expert Graham Hunter believes his clause is is more than 20 million - though that is still a brilliant deal since Aguero is set to join City for 40 million.

Despite also being linked to Tottenham, Mata's father and agent practically dismissed his sons transfer to Spurs by saying:
 “Juan is a wanted man in England. A number of clubs are after him, but he will want to play in the Champions League. I am sure he will do well in England.”
He also said:
 “We have not received any formal offer. We are not sure what is going to happen at this moment.” 
Another key figure, Guillem Balague, a Spanish football expert had this to say on the proposed Mata deal:
"About Mata: Arsenal interested, Valencia DO sell for 18m euros plus no matter what they say."
These comments seem to show that a deal is quite close, and reports that Mata's representative are on their way to discuss a move are very positive. We can only hope the deal happens quicker than Fabregas'.

The versatile 23 year old is more than comfortable on both flanks and even though the middle. Although if we were to secure his services I reckon he'll be playing mainly on the wing. With either Nasri or Fabregas (one is sure to leave) in a central position.

Another Arsenal target, Chris Samba has also made comments about his future. The Blackburn captain is keen to leave the North West club and join a team in the Champions League. 

Speaking of a proposed move to Arsenal the giant Congolese defender said:
"I don't know what is happening with Arsenal because I am not dealing with it and it's not my problem, A player who has no ambition to play at a higher level has made a mistake and chosen the wrong sport." 
Currently i'm unsure that we'll end up signing Samba this summer, even despite his best efforts to force through the transfer, as I think Arsene is more keen on Jagielka and Cahill or even Scott Dann. But considering that Samba will be cheaper than both, he may be considered if things don't materialize with the other deals.

No-one knows for certain what will happen regarding Arsenal's transfer dealings this summer, but the main thing is to qualify for the Champions league, or we won't be able to attract the quality of players we need to improve our squad. Moreover, since the match is worth close to £25-30 million it may have a big effect on our transfer dealings.

What also must be considered is that Van Persie and Nasri have to serve suspensions for the qualifier, so the game will be even trickier. Not to mention the injury scares over Theo Walcott. All the results of the first leg of the 3rd round qualifiers can be found here.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Eboue, Enrique, Technology & More

As the players continue their training in Germany and get ready for the new season, plenty is going on behind the scenes at the club as we look to strengthen and get rid of weak links in the first and reserve team squad.

The latest news is on Eboue, who looks set to join Turkish club Galatasaray in a £4 million deal. Eboue, like Cesc missed our Malaysian tour with the excuse of "injury" and his replacement on the tour - new signing Carl Jenkinson - impressed Wenger. With Jenkinson under 21, he could free up a place in our Premier League squad for any additions we do make.

Although he has never been the greatest player, and has made countless mistakes for Arsenal, I am sure he will be sorely missed if he manages to agree terms with the Turkish side. The love for the club, as well as his mentality to come back from the taunts of the crowd show he is a great man, if not a great player.

The Mail reports that, after his recent twitter outburst, Jose Enrique is almost certain to leave Newcastle this summer, with Arsenal and Liverpool most interested in the 25 year old Spaniard. However, given Arsene's recent comments about Gibbs and Traore, i'm not sure whether we will end up signing a left back this summer, even if Enrique - a proven Premier league player - is available at a cut-down price.

Also in the mail, it looks like we've missed out on Santi Cazorla as he looks set to join the Qatari owned Malaga in an £18 million pound deal. If we were  interested in Cazorla, then i'm sure we were only waiting for the transfer of Cesc to Barcelona to go through be fore making our move. As it turns out they have yet again stalled and stalled, meaning we may have missed out on a main target this summer.

More bad news shows that Valencia are unwilling to sell their star player Juan Mata this summer. The club President Manuel Llorente said:
'The decision is clear and money will not change our position. Valencia will not sell to any club that wants to buy Mata.'
Seems pretty conclusive from that statement, although Presidents are renowned for their trustworthiness. I would love Mata at the club this summer if we needed a Cesc or Nasri replacement as he has the potential to grow into one of the world great players. Something tells me we haven't heard the last of this transfer though, and we haven't missed out on the Spaniard just yet.

Another possible replacement for Fabregas, or Nasri (as at least one of them is certain to leave Arsenal this summer) could be James McCarthy of Wigan. Wenger has admired the young midfielder for a while now and if he receives a large budget form the sales of key players he could make the Wigan midfielder and Arsenal player by the end of the summer. This one could possibly go through, although the success of the midfield three of Wilshere, Ramsey and Song in pre-season probably rules this rumor out, for now at least.  

On the Nasri transfer, the player loved by Arsenal fans Patrice Evra has been at his usual antics again. Why can't he just shut up for once and keep his stupid cunty mouth closed. It annoys me that he seems to always mention Arsenal in every press conference he conducts and is just obsessed with the little prince too.

Lastly, it seems like FIFA - the ever respectable organisation running football - have blocked Arsenal form using goal line technology in the forthcoming Emirates Cup matches. It seems to like they are just scared of it being implicated as it will be such a success. I just don't understand why they don't want to improve the game and rid it of some of the injustices that us fans have to endure.

Anyway, more to come on our incoming defenders and Nasri and Cesc's futures soon.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Youth Players to Watch Next Season

Here are 11 of our reserve and youth players who have a chance to make a step up to the first team this summer. They are all very talented and many were out on loan last season.

In Wellington and Botelho's case, they have already been loaned out for the season and i expect many in the list to follow them in the some of the top European leagues.

Damian Martinez - The young Argentinian has been very impressive for the under 18s last year, and for the Argentinian youth sides. His great shot stopping even led to a surprise call up to the national team squad this summer, after an emergency goalkeeping situation.

He surely has a bright future at Arsenal, but at only 19 years old we'll have to wait a few years till he's even though of for the first team.

Carl Jenkinson - The new signing had an impressive time in Malaysia and also came out top in the fitness tests at the beginning of pre-season. The versatile defender, is tall, strong, fast and comfortable in possession and, if he makes good progress in the next few weeks could lead to Eboue's departure, and a step up to second choice right back.

Ignasi Miquel - The Spaniard featured twice for the first team last campaign against Orient and barely put a foot wrong. The Catalan centre-back is tall but needs to bulk up if he wants to be ready for the physicality of the English game. 

With Arsenal's common defensive problems he definitely has a chance to get into the first team, although he is looking very likely to leave on loan to a Premier league side - possibly as a makeweight for the Cahill deal.

Kyle Bartley - Kyle was very impressive in his loan spells at Rangers and Sheffield United. He looked like a player we've missed over the last few years; strong, brave, good in the air and hard in the tackle. He, like nearly all Arsenal youth graduates is very comfortable in possession and even featured in midfield during his Rangers loan.

His future at Arsenal next year is unclear right now, but recently he stated his desire to make a first team place his own. Personally i'd prefer him to Squillaci and maybe our other defender too, but with the possible arrival of another defender, and Rangers waiting patiently, the future Bolton defender may see his future elsewhere.

Pedro Botelho - The Brazilian had his best spell on loan last season at FC Cartagena and looked dangerous and exciting playing both left back and left midfield. After Clichy's exit, and Pedro finally being able to apply for a work permit, we may have expected to see him stake a claim for the left back position, but instead he has moved out on loan to Rayo Vallecano who are new to La Liga. 

Henri Lansbury - Henri will always be remember by Arsenal fans for scoring at White Hart Lane as Arsenal smashed our closest rivals. However, he would prefer to be remembered for winning titles with the Gooners, and he may be able to help doing that this season. Fresh from an impressive loan at Norwich, he could easily slot into the midfield place vacated by Denilson, and with Coquelin away with France u-20's he has a head start in pre-season. 

Henri, who is more than capable in central midfield and out wide on the right, has recently been subject to a bid from Norwich to join them permanently in the Premiership, but the bid was rejected. He may go on loan to a Premier league team similar to Wilshere a few years ago, but if things go his way he could be making a more telling contribution.

Emmanuel Frimpong - Frimpong probably has the best chance of a first team place next year. Song needs competition to continue improving, and with Wenger reluctant to open his chequebook for a new defensive midfielder, Denilson leaving on loan and Coquelin in international duty, the 19 year old has an excellent chance, especially if he has a pre-season similar to last years. 

Whilst on tour in Asia he looked very hungry to retain possession and was strong in the tackle. His positioning was sometimes suspect, as was his passing, but he looks physically ready and defensively solid. He'll probably get another few chances against Cologne and in the Emirates cup to prove himself capable.

Conor Henderson - When he featured in our FA cup game against Orient at home, it was a big surprise. Unlike JET, Frimpong, Eastmond and the other young British players in our reserves, Conor was not well-known among fans.

However, the young Irishman has an excellent passing range and could be seen as a dead ball specialist. He is also very highly rated by the boss, who after the Orient game said his future lies with the first team. That may be hard to achieve though, as Arsenal have a massive range of ball playing midfielders, and Conor is set to turn 20 in September. Is he's good enough though, we'll soon see him in an Arsenal shirt.

Hopefully the injury he picked up against Cologne on Saturday won't disrupt his season as feared too.

Ryo Miyaichi - Fast, skillful, good crossing, great dribbling, amazing technique and only 18 years old. Plucked form Japanese high school Ryo looks set to be another gem Arsene and his scouting network have secured. In the Asian tour he was impressive and didn't look at all out place in the first team squad, the only shame is that he may have work permit issues so may have to go out on loan.

That may end up being a blessing in disguise though, as the first team football he got week in week out at Feyenoord last years led to him making a vast improvement and a similar loan could make him be excellently prepared for the first team.

Wellington Silva - Silva was extremely hyped up before his transfer to Arsenal from Fluminese. We thought he could be in the first team, even though we'd only seen minimal footage of him playing on youtube. He then went on to have a disastrous spell on loan at Levante, where he only made two substitute appearances, and his attitude was put down regularly by the Spanish press.

However, the exciting Brazilian hope to have turned a corner this season as he again went on loan to Levante, although this time with a different, more professional attitude. His new found attitude has landed him with 2 starts in 2 pre-season games and hopefully he can become a major player for the La Liga side this season. If he does progress dramatically, he could be very knocking on the doors of the first team very shortly- although work permit issues could disrupt this.

Gilles Sunu - Sunu is another who has dipped under the radar of many fans. If one of our other players scored a goal in the final of an international tournament, he'd be very close to the first team but Sunu went straight on loan to France in January. He played 9 times for Lorient in the French first division, and even though he failed to find the net, he made a good impression and may return there on loan next season.

Sunu has bags of pace, and can finish too as he has shown when he's got chances. He will get more chances to play if he returns on loan to Lorient, and game time will really help him improve his game. He still has a while until we will know whether he can progress into the Arsenal first team, but he is making the necessary steps by playing regularly for French youth teams, and featuring occasionally in Ligue Un.

And 5 to watch out for in the next few years:
Ebecilio, Afobe, Bellerin, Aneke, Toral.

All 5 are very exciting young players. Ebecilio has shone for Holland at youth level this summer and Afobe even featured for the first team briefly against Cologne. His partner Aneke has been scoring freely for Arsenal reserves in their preseason, whilst the young Barcelona pair (Toral and Bellerin) seem to be settling in very nicely and could be featuring for the reserves and under18 sides a lot next season.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Transfer Update - Jagielka,Mata,Cesc+Chamberlain

So following up from my last post, it looks like Wenger has gone for Jagielka as the man to amend our defensive problems. Well, at least according to the press.

Apparently we've made a £10 million bid for the Everton man, which is £2million less than what we bid for him last summer. Surprisingly a large number of Arsenal fans seem disappointed that we seem to prefer Jagielka to Cahill, Samba or even Mertesacker, and I cannot understand why.

Jagielka is a proven quality defender, with all the attributes needed to be an outstanding defender at the highest level. He is even underrated by many and carries a lot of experience which will benefit our defence more than we can imagine. Cahill is another quality defender, and would also improve our defence and Samba has all the attributes that most of our defenders lack and Mertesacker has also looked great for Germany whenever he plays. 

However compared to Jagielka, they come up short. Cahill is probably the closest to him, but even he's involved in a leaky defence at Bolton which conceded goals last season. Samba's team Blackburn also have a terrible defensive record over the last few season, and him and Mertesacker seems to lack the pace and technical ability that all of our defenders need in our high line. Per has also had a terrible season for Werder Bremen and reports from Germany say he's not the player he used to be.

Incidentally, Simon Kjaer looks set to be playing his future elsewhere and could be available for 15million euros. He may well be an excellent choice for a new defender, although that looks highly unlikely.

There has also some movement regarding Cesc, as he looks set to miss the squads trip to Cologne. apparently Arsenal and Barcelona officials had some discussions yesterday, although no bid was made. Later on, Barca completed the 26million euro signing of Alexis Sanchez form Udinese, meaning they lost a significant chunk of their transfer budget.

With the exits of Bojan and a few other fringe players, added to the remainder of their 45 million euros budget for this summer they should have 30-35million left for Cesc. But that still comes up short of our £40million valuation. However, considering the difference is only about 10million euros, i'm sure if Barca truly want their man - and that's what every single player, coach and even the mayor have said - they will pay the extra. So watch this space.

If Cesc does leave, we may well step up our attempts to sign Juan Mata, as we will need some more attacking prowess and creativity in our side. Mata would not take up the "Cesc role" but is more likely to take a place on the wing, with either Ramsey or Nasri taking up the vital space in our team.

Meanwhile, Chamberlain has apparently been fined 2 weeks wages for say he wants to move to the Premiership, which is frankly absurd if you ask me. It will probably speed up his transfer out of the club, although if we are interested I think we should sign a centre-back first. And should we sign him anyway, £12million on a very young winger who wont be ready for our first team for years, that money could be reinvested in the first team to much better effect.

I'll leave you with some great stats form the excellent Orbinho on Jagielka vs Cahill. Very interesting.

Cahill-Jagielka Aerial Duels 563-215 Aerial won% 66%-58% Tackles 158-173 Clearances 1169-736 Blocks 107-79 Interceptions 160-158 Fouls 78-33

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Transfer Targets: Jagielka, Jorgensen, Cahill or Samba?

One cannot argue with the fact that Arsenal need at least one new defender this summer. Our Achilles heal has continued to hamper our chances of success through needless defensive errors. We lack communication at times and leadership too, although Vermaelen's absence last season may change that.

At the moment we have 5 Centre-backs at the club in Vermaelen, Koscielny, Djourou, Squillaci and the young Kyle Bartley. Vermaelen is proven class and won many fans as he starred in this debut season at the club, although after missing the whole of last year with injury, he may suffer little injuries as he returns to peak fitness.

Koscielny and Djourou are different, they both had excellent spells at times last year and occasionally looked like a solid partnership. However, they do both make silly, schoolboy errors at times and cannot be called proven Premier league players yet.

In Squillaci we have a former French international who looks like he's forgotten how to play football. Everytime he plays, we know an error is not too far away and he brings up memories of Silvestre's spell at the club. he may improve next season, but I for one don't like seeing him wearing the Arsenal shirt.

Kyle Bartley may even be ahead of Squillaci. his excellent but short loan spell at Rangers showed he is a classy player, with all the attributes needed to succeed in the Premiership. he may be the answer, but he looks like he may be loaned to Rangers again.

So who are the targets to improve our much maligned defence?

Phil Jagielka -

The 28 year old Everton centre-back is a quality player, and has been an outstanding performer in the league for the last few seasons. The 6 foot defender shows excellent positioning and power and aggression when in the tackle. He may lack the height that we so desire but, like Vermaelen, he is more than capable in the air.

Having recently become a regular member of the England set up, he wouldn't come cheaply, but at a reported £15 million pounds he is not overpriced in this market. With Everton's recent interest in Bendtner - and former interest in Rosicky - we could even knock off a significant chunk of his price too.

Mathias Jorgensen -

Jorgensen is another mooted target, and is a lot less well known than either of the other three I am looking at. The Copenhagen player is the youngest too at 21 years old and lacks experience that we need, having only made 92 career appearances in a lesser league.

At 6 ft 3in he is tall and seems physically ready for the Premier league, although he would take a while to settle in. He also seems composed in possession and can be seen as the "typical" Wenger signing - young, cheap and full of potential. At £4 million he is cheap and may be a good option, but not my preferred choice.

Gary Cahill -

We all know a lot about Gary, having been linked to him constantly over the last few years. Having had certain doubts over the 25 year old's ability in the past, last season he really matured and showed why is feared by the Premier league's strikers.

Similarly to Jagielka, the 6ft 2in Bolton defender has recently been admitted to the England squad and has seemingly improved as a result of this. He has the needed Premier league experience and power that us fans want, and also the technical ability that Wenger needs in his defenders.

Cahill has only one year left on his contract, but Bolton remain bullish over his price and want £17million for their star player. Loan deals for Lansbury and Miquel may sweeten the deal, but as Cahill could star in our defence for the next 8 years, I think we should pay the £15 million needed to land him.

Christopher Samba -

Samba looked very close to joining us earlier in the summer, but that was probably all fueled by the constant speculation. The 6ft 4in giant is probably the most powerful player in the Premiership and has been the fawn in our side whenever we come up against him.

The Congolese and Blackburn captain has amazing power and experience in two of Europe's biggest leagues. His technical play is also underrated and he continues to improve year on year. Samba is one of those players that opponents fear, and that is something we have missed since Vieira, Keown and Adams' departures.

Samba has not hidden his desire to leave Blackburn, but having already sold their other main defender, Blackburn will fight tooth and nail to keep their captain and thus his price will be driven up. We could land him for £12 million pounds, although I presume Wenger wants to spend no more than £10million for the 27 year old.

Overall, all of these players could improve our defence in some way (who couldn't) but in Jagielka and Cahill we could really improve with proper organisation and leadership. My next choice would be Samba, and due to his price being cheaper than the others he may be a more likely option.

Here's to next season!

Friday, 15 July 2011

Transfer Update- Denilson set to leave

News coming out this evening seems to show that Denilson is on the verge of securing a deal back to his former club according to reports from BrazilSão Paulo have apparently pipped Fluminese to his transfer after flying all the way to China to finalise the deal.

The news is no surprise. Denilson stated his desire to leave Arsenal very early on in he transfer window, with the hilarious remarks that he was "a winner." However, the Brazilian found it hard to find a club that would take on his services and high wages that he has been earning at Arsenal.

This resulted in him being picked to join the club on it's Asian tour, where he suffered humiliation after being substituted after coming on as a substitute himself. He stormed out and probably helped fast-track his way out, in what looks like being a loan deal.

In other news, we have finally been linked with some strikers. The Sun says we are preparing an imminent £14 million bid for Romelu Lukaku, Anderlecht's 6ft 3in giant starlet who has previously been linked with a host of Europe's top clubs.

Romelu is a very bright prospect and is a key player for Anderlecht where he has 31 goals in 71 games for his side, many whilst he plays as a lone striker. He has also played 9 times for the Belgian national side, scoring 2 goals.

The other striker Arsenal have recently been linked with is rather less well known. Joel Campbell, nicknamed "the Panther", is a left footed 19 year old Costa Rican international. He is a promising centre-forward who is powerful, and has great pace and finishing ability.

Gunnerblog shows a video of Arsenal chief executive Richard Laws arriving in Costa Rica to negotiate over the player's transfer, which is expeted to be in the region of 2-3 million pounds.

Lastly an update on Juan Mata, who is remaining calm despite the reported Arsenal and Tottenham interest in him. The Spaniard has gone on record saying:
"It is true that teams have been linked with me but this is a good sign that I am playing well, I am well aware of the rumours but this is not the first summer I have had to deal with this, so they do not worry me."
 Early this morning the Mail has repeated claims that Arsenal only have to cough up 20 million pounds to secure the 23 year old's services. A great deal for a wonderful talent in my view, especially in today's market where players like Downing and Henderson are going for similar prices.

Hopefully we get some more business done soon.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

25 million pound loan

What is the most Arsenal have ever paid for a player?

The answer to that question is 15.8million pounds on Samir Nasri, closely followed by 15million pounds on Andrei Arshavin. Both quality players, both worth it. That record highlights the frugal business that Arsenal have carried out (and continue to carry out) in recent years, and the fact that we can challenge our rivals who spent double or triple that on a regular basis is a big achievement.

However, this season Arsene is keen to make a big statement. Not the one we want him to make though (a  big signing) but he doesn't want to be a 'selling club' saying this on the pre-season tour of Malaysia:
"Big clubs hold onto it's big players and send a message out to all other big clubs"
I agree with him that we can't be seen losing big players, and if I were on the board i'm sure Barcelona would have received  a fax saying 'fuck off' on multiple occasions such are their cheap and disrespectful bargaining over the price of Cesc Fabregas.

At the moment though, it is more than likely that we'll lose our talisman and captain. and to make matters worse it will be for a price much lower than his value in this inflated market.

But should we keep Nasri? A player who has been trying to engineer a move to our biggest rivals and who may well leave to them next year for free. 

I think not.

Effectively, if we keep Nasri we'll be paying 25million pounds plus for a season long loan and no player is worth that much. Wenger may work his magic on Samir and even convince him to sign a new contract, but there's a massive risk that we could have a repeat of the Flamini situation. Something Wenger categorically denied would happen just a matter of months ago.

Nasri did make a 20 minute cameo appearance against a weak Malaysian team and so far hasn't shown signs of sulking. To be fair to him, he's been very professional, but can we trust him to be there for us at key moments of the season when he doesn't really want to be here.

This is a player who even went missing at key stages last season, and is not the proven world class player that Fabregas is. Unlike Cesc, Nasri is replaceable.

For the £25million that we're paying for the "loan" we could easily acquire Juan Mata of Valencia. Mata has shown great signs of becoming a world class talent and has been the heartthrob of Valencia's attacking prowess since the exits of Villa and Silva.

The 23 year old has already made 11 appearances for Spain's national side, and was integral as the under-21s won the European Championship.

A lot depends on the ifs and buts of Cesc's transfer, or non transfer to Barcelona, but ideally i'd rather have Cesc and Mata at Arsenal than Cesc and Nasri.

Also if this key decision backfires for Wenger, it could be one of his biggest mistakes in management, and we can't afford to get much more key decision wrong.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Pessimistic review of last season

We could have easily won something last year. Multiple things even. But, even though we managed to build and sustain a title challenge (until April)  and reach the final of the Carling Cup, as well as beat Barcelona, United and Chelsea was it an improved season?

Last season involved some of my greatest and worst moment as an Arsenal fan to date. The Chelsea game on boxing day was magical and probably the best Emirates atmosphere since the 5 minute comeback vs United in 06. The Barcelona game was probably one of the finest achievements any team can have at the moment too, as they are probably the greatest team ever.

However these amazing games - incidentally mainly occurring at night - only paper over the cracks of last season. The dismal defeats at home, the inability to hold a fucking lead, and the defensive mistakes we continued to make. Not to mention the fact we finished the season empty handed (again) and in 4th position so we have to qualify for the Champions League.

Losing 2 points away to Sunderland in the 94th minute set the tone of our season, but looking back on the season it was just a little drop in the sea of bad results and performances. Much worse was going down 3-0 at home to West Brom which really hurt me, even though we made it 2-3 later on. Losing at home to Newcastle was a heartless, gutless performance too.

The worst game though was the Spurs game, which was unbearable. Losing a 17 year old record like that was hard to watch, made worse by the fact that we lost it so easily. 2-0 up at half time and we could and should have got 5 but we manged to concede 3 stupid goals and lose to our biggest rivals. One can't help but think that the defence of Keown, Adams and co would have dealt with those Spurs players for fun. Kicking the shit out of them in the process.

Other notable matches were the scraped victories against Birmingham, Fulham and West ham, as well as the defeats away at Chelsea and United in which they brushed aside out attacking threat so easily, before bullying our defence into mistakes and what felt like inevitable defeat.

As if that wasn't enough, the defeats in the champions league away at Braga and Shakhtar were probably two of the worst performances under Wenger, and the club just didn't do our amazing fans justice. The air crew strikes in Portugal meant it took days of travelling for some Gooners to go to Braga, and for what? Can anyone remember anything of note from the game?

And all of that was only in the first half of the season.

We did start the second half of the season brightly, except in cup games where poor results against second rate, lower division teams lead to uncountable replays in which we had to wheel out first team player which probably contributed to their tiredness later on in the season. These abject displays also showed the weakness of our second string of Denilson, Rosicky, Chamakh and co. who failed to stand out against League One opposition.

Then came Newcastle.

The biggest comeback of any side in Premier League history. The capitulation of our defence and mindset. The game where we were winning 4-0 in the 70th minute but ended up drawing 4-4 to a second rate side, who had just been promoted and were without a recognized striker. This game played a massive part in our season, and will next season. We wouldn't have dropped point against Liverpool if we had won this. We wouldn't have dropped point at Tottenham if we had won this. We would have won the Carling Cup if we had won this.

This game epitomizes our season. Class, pace, power, skill throughout the team, which was capable of beating anyone. But an incredibly weak backbone and mentality that meant we would continue to collapse again and again as the season wore on. Defensive errors made at the wrong times, and the inability to defend when we most needed to, not forgetting constant conceding from set plays.

We were able to beat Barcelona just 11 days later, but the signs of the weakness and low confidence we had gained from that result were there for all to see in the Carling Cup final. We were abject and lifeless again throughout the final, and although I still think we deserved to win - and would have if it had gone to extra time - we shot ourselves in the back again by making yet another defensive error. How many times have I said that in this post?

In the last 14 games after the Final we only managed 3 victories. One against Leyton Orient and another against Blackpool. We managed to fail to score at home for well over 270 minutes before Van Persie bundled in a 98th minute penalty to take the lead over Liverpool. And we even ended up drawing.

We did show some fighting spirit against West Brom to come back form 2-0 down, but at the end of the day it was 2 points dropped. Again. Similarly we should have beaten Tottenham and Bolton with ease, but instead of rising to the challenge, our players shirked away at the pressure.

The player carried on playing abjectly in the final three games of the season (even without any pressure) and we lost at Stoke, at home to Villa and drew with Fulham.

I want to finish on a brighter note though, as I try to be optimistic usually. The United result towards the end of the season, where a weakened 11 beat the champions' best team quite comfortably does show we do have quality throughout the squad.

The amazing victories against our rivals away at City, and home against Barca, Chelsea and United show some signs of progress we've made in the last year too, and will give us confidence to challenge them again next year. But last season overall was not a progression -we finished lower and on lower points than previously- and was easily the best chance of winning silverware we will have for the next decade.

Our rivals were weak, and will undoubtedly strengthen this summer, wheras we will probably lose one, if not two of our best players as well as our first choice left back.

Here's to next season though!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Doubts over Downing

It's not been the week I thought it would be.

That's the feeling almost every Arsenal fan has had during nearly every week of the transfer window for the past 5 seasons or even more. But the fact that we still haven't made one signing - alright Gervinho will be confirmed soon and Jenkinson may play a bit this year - yet is very annoying.

Pre-season is well underway and preferably we'd like to have our squad together and gelling before we start the season. Wenger's interview wasn't the most enthusiastic one either, and he only mentioned 'one or two' good new signings.

By my calculations we need about 4 or 5 new signings if we are to make a proper challenge for the title, and maybe more if we lose players of Cesc's and Nasri's ability. He also hinted that he may not sign a replacement for Clichy, who completed his £7 million deal to Man City this week, and said that Gibbs needs a chance to progress.

That would be all well and good if Gibbs wasn't as injury prone as Van Persie and seemingly incapable of defending at times. If you compare him to Chelsea and Uniteds left backs two he comes up very short, and they are meant to be our biggest rivals.

There is some new news this week though, and today we were linked with a deal for Stuart Downing of Aston Villa. He is a good player, but not the type of big name that we are in need of and, dare I say it, not much (if at all) better than what we have.

To make things even more un-realistic, the price Villa seem to want is close to £20million. Will Wenger pay that kind of money for anyone? Let alone only a good Premier League player, who is not the world class player we need.

Overall I see the transfer as very unlikely. Perhaps more likely is a deal for Juan Mata of Valencia. The young Spaniard is very exciting and has been tracked my many of Europe's top teams for years. Apparently Valencia only want around £20million too, and with the losses of either (or both) Nasri and Cesc, we need a player like Mata.

Another player i'd love to see in an Arsenal shirt next year is Hugo Rodallega. Yesterday he revealed that we have been monitoring him, as well as other European clubs, and with the seemingly abrupt exit of Bendtner combined with the doubts over Marouane Chamakh's ability, singing Rodallega would give our strikers more strength in depth.

Rodallega has a good record and a few years Premiership Experience, he always can play as a lone striker so will know what is needed to exceed and score goals. Last year he scored 9 goals in 36 Prem appearances and the year before 10 in 38. At a club like Arsenal that could easily rise, as we lay on more chances for him.

In other news, Wellington has traveled to Valencia to secure his loan to Levante for next season. Whilst last season's 6 month spell there wasn't the most successful (he only managed 2 substitute appearances) we can be more optimistic of him gaining playing time this year, and he could be joined shortly by Pedro Botelho - who widely impressed last year.

Thats about all there is for now, till later.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

World Class Van Persie

The recent season has been analysed and scrutinised by many fans, bloggers, journalists and even by the players and manager. It had it's ups and also it's downs and, after a more than disappointing ending, most of us are pleased to see the back of it. 
However, over the next few weeks I aim to conduct some blogs that give a more positive message from Arsenal's 2010-2011 season, and look at some of the good things that happened over the course of the year. In the last post of this series, I look at the impact Van Persie has had on our season.

Where would we have been last year without this man?

Van Persie was simply exceptional in the second half of the season, leading the team from the front scoring goal and after goal and being the main creative talent in a team which included Fabregas, Nasri and Wilshere.

The 27 year old managed 22 goals in 33 appearances for Arsenal in all competitions as well as 7 assists. His form in the second half of the season - after yet another injury ravaged start to the year - was breathtaking, and he broke many records along the way, as well as scoring his first career hat-trick against Wigan. His records included most consecutive away goals, as well as equaling the 18 goal record since the turn of the year.

Next year he can definitely be regarded as one of our best players, even if Cesc, Samir etc. don't leave. His touch is audacious and, even though he doesn't play in his favored position he scores goals and creates them too. If Cesc does leave this summer we could even revert to 442 with Van Persie behind the main striker, but hopefully we won't be in that situation.

His best moment was probably the fantastic goal against Barcelona at the Emirates. Everything about the goal was sublime. The inch perfect ball by Clichy before the Dutchman finished off the move with an outrageous shot, which buried itself in the bottom corner of the Barcelona net. It was a Bergkamp-esque goal or sublime quality, and one which personally i'll never forget.

His worst moment also probably came against Barcelona, when after getting a stupid booking, he was sent off in what is a massive injustice and probably led to us getting knocked out of the champions league. It was an awful decision by the ref, but  if he hadn't received the first booking then he wouldn't have been in the situation to be sent off.

Robin does seem happy at Arsenal right now, but if we lose our best players he may not be for much longer. Hopefully he'll be scoring (and not be getting injured) a lot next season. And he really has to improve on his set-pieces.