Thursday, 25 August 2011

Hazard deal imminent?

News in the last hour is that Arsenal have reached an agreement with Eden Hazard's representatives over his transfer to Arsenal. 

Hazard in action for Lille

The club, after having a 30 million euro bid rejected, are now set to launch a 35 million euro bid which should be enough to secure the Player of the Season last year. Eden is keen to join his ex-teammate Gervinho in North London, and with Arsenal's place secured in the Champions League group stage it seems he is set to complete his transfer.

Arsene Wenger has been a long time admirer of the 5 ft 7in Winger/Attacking midfielder - who has previously attracted the interest of prestigious clubs such as Real Madrid - and sees the Belgian as an ideal candidate to take up the creative burden left behind after the exits of Fabregas and Nasri. Last season he scored 12 and assisted 10 as he helped Lille to the double and Champions League qualification.

Whilst spending a big bulk of his budget on the 19 year old may be a risk, Arsene knows about attacking talent and Eden can be playing for Arsenal for years to come. Hopefully the news which has broken from Mercato 365 - one of France's most prestigious sports websites - turns out to be true.

The news comes as a surprise after Lille's president has repeatedly dismissed stories of Eden's departure, most recently saying:
"Eden will not be leaving this season," said Paquet. "We are aware of interest from some of the biggest clubs in Europe but we are not prepared to sell."
Whether Hazard will end up at Arsenal this summer is not certain, but if the stories are to believed, we have made a big step forward to securing his signature before next weeks deadline.

Zarate set to move to North London

Lazio forward and former Birminham City loanee Mauro Zarate is set to leave Lazio and could be heading to either Arsenal or Tottenham.

Earlier this month his agent declared that both sides had been making checks on the 24 year old Argentinian, but with Adebayor finalising his deal to Spurs earlier in the week, Arsenal remain favorites to sign the 5ft 9 1/2in striker for around 20 million euros.

Zarate has excelled at Lazio and has scored 25 goals in his 103 appearances, instantly becoming a fan favorite at the Roma based club (he even ended up sitting with their right wing curva whilst being suspended). Mauro would fit in well at Arsenal and his versatility along the forward line would be a massive help to our threadbare squad.

He has experience at one of Europe's top leagues and has even performed admirably in the Premier League in a spell at Birmingham where he scored 4 goals in 6 starts as a 21 year old.

Having signed for 20 million euro s (£17.6million) Lazio would be keen to recoup as much of the transfer fee as possible, but seem resigned to losing the striker after admitting they will listen to offers for the forward.

The expected departure comes after a supposed fall out with the manager and president at the club, even after scoring 9 goals and getting 7 assists last season. Zarate's agent and brother said recently:
 "Mauro loves Lazio and wants to stay, but not under these conditions," 
Mauro himself added he was open to a Lazio exit:

"In these conditions it is practically impossible for me to remain With my team-mates everything is okay. It's the president who must decide. We must see."

With the news that a deal for Eden Hazard is all but over, Mauro could also prove to be the creative fulcrum of Arsenal's attacking play in the next few seasons.

Possible Arsenal team (not including other transfers)

Having scored the winning goal in the under 20 world cup final, as well as scoring a crucial goal and penalty to help Lazio win the Coppa Italia, Zarate has shown he has the nerves for a big occasion. At 24 years old he is experienced, but is yet to reach his prime and would be an excellent addition to the current squad.

Szczesny Saves the Day - Match Report

Udinese Calcio 1 - 2 Arsenal

Great performance, great win.

In just those four words you can explain the team's excellent victory in an hostile stadium in Udine, Italy. Arsenal, the "crisis club" as labelled by the press, were billed as underdogs before the match despite the slender 1-0 lead we took to Italy.

Despite our young side, we started the match brilliantly and were clearly making our best performance of the season so far. Udinese though were no pushovers either and were led brilliantly by their inspirational captain Di Natale - the leading scorer in Serie A for two years running.

The game was played at an electrifying tempo with fast end to end football, excellent attacking but not the defending you'd expect from either team. Udinese threatened every time they attacked and hit the post twice, but the best chance of the half came after great work from Gervinho found Walcott in acres of space in the box, however the Slovenian goalkeeper Handanovic made an excellent save to add to his one's form the first leg.

Minutes later we were made to pay as that man Di Natale peeled off Djourou and found space in the box before making an amazing header that looped over Wojciech and brushed off the post before settling into the net. Not the best defending from Arsenal (again) giving acres of space to numerous players throughout the build up to the goal.

After the goal Arsenal's youthful team struggled to maintain it's composure and in the end half time was warmly welcomed. During the break the energetic Frimpong, who had enjoyed yet another impressive performance, was replaced by Rosicky.

Arsenal started the second half with much more zest to their attacking play and, after yet more good play by Gervinho, new captain Van Persie popped up at the right time and place to level the game and get the crucial away goal.

The goal seemed to deflate the Italians but they were given a lifeline after one of the assistants gifted them a "generous" penalty, after judging Vermaelen to have handled. Up stepped Di Natale who hit the ball hard and high to the left of Szczesny's goal. But, out of the bloom, the Pole flicked out his arm to make an excellent save right out of the top draw.

The penalty save was perfect. The Italians were completely deflated and Arsenal rejuvenated. Not to mention the previously brilliant Di Natale being demoralised and ineffective for the rest of the match.

For the remaining half an hour Arsenal passed the ball expertly with Ramsey, Rosicky and Van Persie never losing the ball. We added a third after good play by Jenkinson keeping possesion, before great combination play between Sagna and Walcott led to Theo finishing brilliantly. 2-1 to Arsenal, 2 away goals and game over.

Man of the Match - Wojciech Szczesny. The penalty save encapsulated an excellent performance in only his third champions league appearance and, despite a great goal he never looked like being beaten by anything. His confidence and control of his area demands performances from the rest of the team and to hear the fans chanting his name was brilliant. £20million for De Gea? I know who I'd prefer in goal on Sunday.

Positives - Finally a good performance this season, and something to smile about for an Arsenal fan. The reaction the the result has improved the mood of the fans and will hopefully inspire the team to get a result on Sunday. Jenkinson was solid and excellent on the ball, whilst at left back Sagna (despite being troubled in the first half by the skilful Isla) stepped up a gear in the second half and showed why he is regarded as one of the best full backs in the world.

Song and Frimpong showed that, despite news of a £20+ million offer for M'Vila, we are competent in holding midfield (but we are in desperate need for one on Sunday) compared to other positions. Ramsey was superb too, and his 92% pass completion rate is astonishing, even better when you consider that 54 of his 71 passes we medium to long distance. Rosicky gave his best performance for Arsenal since his injury and if he performs like that every week we've gained an experienced player of real quality.

Up front, Gervinho looked threatening every time he was on the ball and his dribbling skills will give us another dimension this season. Walcott, playing on both wings was much better than at the weekend and, although he should have scored in the first half, his goal was well deserved. Between the wingers was the new captain Van Persie who gave a great captains performance. He led form the front and got his goal with his only chance, scoring at a vital time too.

Negatives - Despite all the positives, the fact that we had to field such a youthful side shows the threadbare nature of our side, and the lack of options on the bench was worrying. The defence looked anything but solid in the first half and another defensive error led to their goal. Undoubtedly we still need a centre back and Sagna cannot continue to fill in at left back either, but with the Nasri deal completed and a big pay day secured by qualifying we are free to spend our money and have a week to secure quality players for the club.


Szczesny 8.5 Sagna 7.5 Vermaelen 7 Djourou 6 Jenkinson 7 Song 7.5 Frimpong 7 Ramsey 8 Gervinho 8 Walcott 8 Van Persie 7.5
Subs: Rosicky 7.5 Traore & Arshavin N/A

Here's to Sunday!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Wenger Eyes Bayern's Schweini

This is the third guest post on my site, enjoy!

London club, Arsenal, are alleged to be lining up a move for German midfielder, Bastian Schweinsteiger.

The footballer, who currently calls the Allianz Arena, Munich, home, would be a perfect replacement for recently-departed player, Cesc Fabregas. However, the German international could prove a difficult catch for Arsene Wenger, especially as the transfer window is just a few days from slamming shut on the Frenchman's fingers. The acquisition of this player would surely help their Premier league odds.

Schweinsteiger, who began his sports career as a junior skier, has been playing for Bayern Munich, in some form or another, since 1998, when he was just 14-years-old. 'Schweini' has notched up 26 goals in 252 appearances for the former Bundesliga champions, where he currently operates as the vice-captain, under Philip Lahm.

Given Schweinsteiger's lengthy history at Bayern, it is debatable whether Arsenal – or indeed, any club – would be able to tempt the German away from the side. He has reportedly drawn the interest of Manchester United and Chelsea, in recent years, but their wooing has, thus far, come to naught.

Schweinsteiger has come under fire at Bayern, in recent days, for his “lack of leadership” on the pitch, alongside skipper, Lahm. Former Bayern 'keeper, Oliver Kahn, ignited the debate by accusing Schweini and Lahm of being the reason for Bayern's “lull in titles”, but football legend, Franz Beckenbauer added to the chorus, yesterday, by stating, “I think Oliver Kahn is right”.

However, Schweinsteiger has already demonstrated his commitment to Bayern, over the past decade, which makes a sudden 'strop and exit' seem unlikely, even in the face of a critique from his seniors.

Perhaps more importantly, Bayern Munich are attempting to bring in new blood, to buoy their chances of re-claiming the Bundesliga crown, next year. The team may not want to sell any players at all, let alone one of their star midfielders.

Arsenal, who haven't won a major trophy since 2005, have also been linked to Real Madrid's, Kaka, and German player, Per Mertesacker, of Werder Bremen to boost their chances of trophy success this year. Look out for them in the FA Cup betting.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Arsenal prepare spending spree

Here we are, just over one week to go and we still have the same problems regarding Defence, Midfield and Attack, basically all along the spine and throughout the team needs strengthening.

Former legends at the club have advised Arsene to go out and spend on experienced players form George Graham to Robert Pires.

Finally though, Arsene is about to open his chequebook and spend some of the approx.100million pounds we have. The boss said:
“Yes overall we will buy. Maybe people feel I am stubborn, but I am not, I just want to do the best for the team and buy the right players. If I have shown one thing in the last 15 years, it is that I have brought in good players. We will bring as well experienced players. People just say 'buy' but it is to buy the right player which is difficult.”
All well and good comments there, but ideally we should have done this business in June and July, not with just over a week left in the transfer window.

We have now launched a repeat bid for Jagielka, with Everton having to sell to balance the books, and it should be around the £15 million mark. However Everton manager David Moyes has stated "It will only be if Everton want to do it, I certainly don't want to do it, neither does Phil." We are also monitoring his team mate Leighton Baines, who would cost a similar amount but is one of the best left backs in the league, as Traore edges closer to a QPR loan deal.

Also on Arsene's radar are two of his most monitored players over the last few years. Both quite young and form the French league, but both quality players and could be world class.

Yann M'Vila has been making steady progress in the French national team and has attracted Europe's largest clubs in recent years. The Guardian today reports that we have launched a 12 million pound bid for him, although other sources say we have had a £20million bid rejected.

The Rennes president has said that M'Vila is not for sale, but that means little in football these days. Arsene has previously said exactly the same thing for both Cesc and Nasri and what's happened with them. If we pay the right money, we can secure anyone.

Eden Hazard is the other player we are interested in, and being the best play in the French league we will have to pay £20+ million for the Belgian international. Hazard's transfer will have to depend on us beating Udinese though, as he feels he has to be playing Champions League football after winning the league with Lille last season.

If we signed those four players we could really press on and, despite our slow start, challenge for the title. Hazard has tremendous creative qualities from the wing and in central positions, whilst M'Vila, Song, Frimpong and Coquelin bout enough strength to deal with the hardest of opposition.

In defence Jagielka is one of the most underrated players in the league and his leadership and experience will work wonders for the rest of our inexperienced squad. Along side him Baines is the Sagna of Left backs and is always dependable, although he can actually cross a ball and gets many goals and assists from his set plays.

Breaking News is that we have also made a bid for Sochaux player Kevin Anin, who has previously has a trial at Tottenham. The player apparently went on strike this weekend when news reached him of a possible deal to Arsenal. Having not seen him play, I cannot say if he will be a good addition to the team.

Nasri: Will he stay or will he go

The deal we all thought was so close to being completed now seems to be at least a mini Fabregas saga away from completion and is threatening to distract us during this vital week in the history of Arsenal football club.

Just last week the Frenchman looked destined to leave North London and some major news outlets were reporting his medical at City was imminent. Nasri himself seemed determined to leave things on a sour note with the fans by responding to chants about him on his twitter page. 

However, due to our incessant midfield injury woes, Samir was included in the squad to face Liverpool, and even more surprisingly he started. Much was made over the reception he would get but personally I think the fans treated him brilliantly, even chanting his name after his brilliant run.

News of him starting was met by news from France that his deal to City had broken down, although after the game Wenger, as he so often does, could not confirm or deny this. All he did say was that the deal was the deal was "far form being done."

Yesterday though, after City's win at Bolton had put them top, Mancini seemed to threaten Arsenal over Nasri's transfer, demanding that he not be included against Udinese. The Italian said:
"It’s a big problem [if Nasri faces Udinese] but I’m sure we can close in 24 hours, maybe 48. For Nasri it will be important he can play in all the Champions League matches."
Coupled with the Barcelona wrangling for two years while trying to get Fabregas, just what do a club have to do to be accused of tapping up these days? Mancini shouldn't be allowed to mention Nasri's name let alone demand that he not be included in a match - although to be honest I doubt Nasri was going to feature anyway.

Mancini went on to say:
“For 40 days I’ve hoped in two days, three days [that the Nasri transfer would be complete]. I don’t know why we haven’t closed it."
 The deal us rumoured to have broken down over agents fees but if City really want their man, then they will pay anything to get him (as we saw with £24 million Joleon Lescott) and the deal will end up being concluded at some stage.

One thing is certain though, we cannot let this distract the team as we enter this most important of weeks. Udinese away can cost us at least £25million (or "a Nasri") if we fail to go through, not to mention the lack of transfer targets we will be able to secure if we can only offer Europa league football. After the trip to Italy we face United and if we lose we could be bottom going into September. 

Hopefully the Nasri deal will be concluded, and soon so we can spend the money wisely. But we've been hoping to sign 3 or 4 quality players all summer and that hasn't happened. Lets pray then that both of those problems are sorted out this week then.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Why we can't replace Cesc from within

As Cesc has departed, and Nasri seems on his way our squads creativity seems to be losing more power and depth. We have to sign a replacement, no matter what Arsene says about the players at the club currently.

I have identified 5 players who may be asked to take up this role, but simply can't as they lack the craft and vision of Fabregas.

Van Persie - The closest player we have to Fabregas now is our new captain Van Persie. He is probably our only world class player left and as well as his super, pin point finishing he can pick a pass and create many chances for team mates. If we did change our formation, he could drop slightly deeper into a Cesc or even Bergkamp role, but we don't have any strikers at the club to takeover his position.

Chamakh is lightweight and Bendtner is on his way, and moving Van Persie backwards (even if it is to his favoured position) may mean we miss out on his goals which have become so vital to us lately.

Ramsey - Aaron Ramsey was identified by Cesc as he was introduced to the Catalan public as his replacement, and he has all the qualities to make the position his own. However, judging by his performances in the opening two games he doesn't seem ready to carry this most important of roles on his shoulders.

His creativity will not provide to 3 or 4 chances each match the Fabregas would, and throwing him in at the deep end could mean he loses confidence after a few sub-par performances. He will end up being Cesc's heir, but we need another reinforcement for a few years.

Arshavin - The Russian has taken up a similar role to the one which Fabregas had enjoyed when playing for his national team, but to have him playing there would be too much of a luxury. His powers also seem to be on the wane as he gets older and his assists and creativity from out wide has been precious to us and is something we don't want to lose.

Rosicky - Rosicky is not good enough to play for Arsenal any more. That may be slightly harsh, and is not something I want to say about someone who used to be my favourite player, but it is true. His ball retention is awful, especially for a man with so much experience, and his creativity is almost non-existent. This season, he has started like a Denilson with only backwards and sideways passes or simply giving the ball back to the opposition.

He may be carrying slight injury problems, but that shows how unreliable he is with his injury record. He may be useful as a squad play, but the fact that he's started our first two matches highlights the fact we need reinforcements, and as soon as possible.

Diaby - Diaby probably could play the "Cesc role" and he probably would be one of the best players in the world too. But he is far too inconsistent and injury prone and as for his effort and work rate, that's about as visible as a trophy in our trophy cabinet.

Abou is fast energetic and when on form his power destroys even the best defences but it will almost always be a what might have been regarding how talented he could be. Any good performance we get from Diaby would be a plus for our season at the moment and his reliability to play the whole season - or lack of it - shows how we need reinforcements to our shaky midfield. 

I would have included Wilshere, but he has cemented his position in the box to box role and his performances in that position last season against Sunderland especially were quite unimpressive.

Overall, I'm not trying to have a go at our players, but merely showing just how much we need players. For the Liverpool game we only have 2 fit mid-fielders at the moment. One of them has only played 25 minutes of competitive football in his career. Lansbury might be on his way to Blackburn, and Nasri's transfer may be delayed just so he can fill in for us.

We need players and we need them soon. You can see my review of some Fabregas replacements here:

Friday, 19 August 2011

Make or Break

A crucial time has now approached the club we love. Arsenal appears to be at a crossroads, and the action taken at this moment will likely influence their fortunes for many seasons to come.

We have gone through the last 6 season trophy less with many big stars leaving the club, starting with Viera to more recently Fabregas. Where does that leave the club? Arsenal are now left with, well mostly, a bunch of youngsters. 

Over the last few years Wenger has urged fans to be patient; telling fans our time will come again while developing young players through the system. Watching a young player come through the ranks in a club, his love for the club growing in his heart can be great, there’s no doubt about it. With an ultimate goal of growing up together, understanding each other and becoming a trophy winning team. 

The problem with this strategy is if no trophies are one, players will begin to leave. Apart from the money side of things players want to win trophies. If they can’t win trophies with their current club they will seek success elsewhere.  Experienced players will leave, youngsters coming through and the cycle just continues.

Unless, something changes soon. Players need to be brought in and brought in fast. The squad need a lot of depth added to it, there are many players, but not enough world class players.  What happens is if no players are added to the current squad and we don’t win anything this season or next, I fear we will have to say goodbye to some of our stars. 

As young as players like Jack and Ramsey are now, they will want to win trophies; their ambitions will outgrow the ambitions of the club and Arsenal cannot just watch that happen. 

A new period of success may just be around the corner for Arsenal, but only if Wenger and the board are going to go against what has been set up a few years ago and change the policy. The club need to show everyone, rivals and fans included, that they mean business and that they are ready to put in a good challenge for the title. 

Otherwise Arsenal will turn into the famous youth academy that produces and develops players for other clubs to buy. The club, and Wenger, are at a cross roads and it really is make or break time for the club…

Written by Michael Garcia.

Follow him on twitter @DBergkamp_10

Also check out his great blog here

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Who can replace Cesc?

As Fabregas has finally completed his inevitable move to Barcelona, and Nasri is set to join him in out the exit door in the next few hours, our problems in the transfer market - now with only 12 days to go - are getting worse. 

In our opening two games we have struggled with performance. The creativity has been non existent and we've been abysmal in the final third. In fact, against Udinese there seemed to be a massive area just where Fabregas would usually be roaming.

In our 4-2-3-1 formation the player in the middle of the "3" carries a massive burden to create chance after chance, but they also get a lot of freedom too. Right now, Ramsey has not looked good enough to carry this burden for a whole season and Rosicky looks miles away form any kind of form, so here are 10 possible candidates to replace our departed captain. That is of course if Wenger will ever spend any money.

Juan Manuel Mata - The little Spaniard is my ideal choice, he's not too young but will relish the opportunity to play in the Premier League and has shown for Spain and in La Liga what he is capable. After David Silva's (how I'd love him at Arsenal) exit from Valencia, Mata took up the creative responsibilities from the wing and central positions and ended last season with 9 goals and 15 assists.

We seem to have left this deal a bit too late though, as Chelsea seem interested and his price has risen due to the expiration of a buy out clause. We have enough money though, and £25 million for Mata would be a shrewd investment by Wenger.

Eden Hazard - Fresh from winning the double with Lille last season, Eden is one of the promising bunch of player emerging from Belgian at the moment. The 20 year old was brilliant last year, and can influence the team from out wide or through the middle.

He is fast and deceptively strong, with great skills and finishing too. His attributes and technique have led to countless comparisons with Messi and Ronaldo, and Hazard looks destined for a long, successful career at the top of European football. One flaw in his transfer though is that there are rumours of an agreement not to buy Eden this summer between Arsenal and Lille, which was made during the negotiations over Gervinho. Hopefully that was just speculation though and that Arsene can spend the 20 odd million to secure Hazard.

Jadson - Jadson is another player who has been linked a lot with Arsenal recently, and the Shakhtar man would suit Arsenal's play perfectly. The 5ft 6in Brazilian has been excellent whilst in Ukraine and plays a similar role there to what Cesc plays at Arsenal. He is versatile too and can play anywhere across midfield whilst is capable of scoring goals as his tally of 38 in 162 matches shows.

The little man has even played a lot for Brazil, but is keen on a transfer to one of Europe's "big leagues" to start playing regularly for the national side. At under £10million Jadson would be a good buy, but would take a while to settle in to English football.

Mario Gotze - The German Messi, is the latest talent from Deutschland to get the world excited. Mario was brilliant last season in helping his club Dortmund to the German title and his speed and technical ability make him one of the best players in the German league. In his first full season last year he scored 8 goals and contributed 15 assists, and is well on the way to improving that tally with one goal and one assist in his two matches this season. 

It is understood that Gotze is happy at Dortmund right now, and is ready to play in the Champions League with them this year, but with the money we now have available we are in a good position to tempt the 5ft 9in 19 year old to North London.

Marvin Martin - Another great talent from France and he could potentially be leading the line for Les Bleus in the 2012 championships. Marvin or the "little Xavi" as he is referred to has excellent vision and passing ability and is improving all the time. He stepped up last season for his club Sochaux by getting a league topping 17 assists as well as 4 goals.

Marvin would be another cheaper option and would love to join the French players at Arsenal and would be available for under 12 million. He may take time to mature but could compete with another signing for the place vacated by Cesc and Nasri.

Youann Gourcuff - Youann seems to be a forgotten man in football, apart from the mind of Chamakh who still remains his good friend after their days together at Bordeaux. After a £15million move to Lyon last summer, he only managed 4 goals and 5 assists and couldn't help Lyon secure the title.

The 25 year old still posses excellent technique and skill on the ball though and is probably about to hit his prime. After not succeeding at Milan, Youann would be determined to show his worth at the highest level and I don't think a move to Arsenal is out of the question, especially with Chamakh's links to the attacking midfielder. A 15-20 million pounds move is unlikely though.

Alan Dzagoev - The CSKA Moscow player has been regarded as Russia most exciting young talent and has shown his worth for club and country already. Last season he achieved 8 goals and 10 assists and this season he's got 1 goal and 5 assists in his 20 matches. He has been capped for Russia 14 times and is known for his intelligence on the field, and well as leadership qualities too.

His passing is capable of winning matches in any league and Dzagoev looks likely to have a long career. Maybe at Arsenal...

Willian - Willian is another star for Shakhtar and is equally adept on the wing or in attacking midfield. His pace,skill and exuberance were cast around Europe as his 2 goals helped defeat Roma last season.

Having played almost 200 games already, Willian has experience of someone much older than his 23 years. He may not be the most desired option at the Emirates, but he is better than Rosicky.

Douglas Costa - The previous Man Utd target has been worth every penny since his 6 million euro switch to Shakhtar in 2010. The 20 year old attacking midfielder/winger has scored 12 times in his 57 matches since the switch to Ukraine and was linked to Arsenal earlier in the summer in a swap deal for Denilson.

Shakhtar didn't want the now Sao Paulo player though, but are interested in selling if the right money comes along.

Hernanes - Hernanes was the best signing in Serie A last year for Lazio. The 25 year old Brazilian playmaker helped contribute to the attacking football on show throughout the league and his passing was a joy to behold.

He ended up scoring 10 goals in his 28 matches and was worth the 11.1 million euros Lazio paid for him. He is now worth closer to 25 million euros but would be a great addition to Arsenal's midfield.

Who do you think we should sign? Are these players good enough to replace Cesc? How many of these players should we get? Leave a comment on your opinion.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Everything wrong but the result

After more than sufficient time to reflect on yesterdays game, the same feeling of uncertainty remains as to whether this Arsenal team is good enough.

Good enough to achieve what you may be asking? But even that is a question i struggle to know the answer of. What do The Arsenal - as George Graham always referred to them - want to achieve this year.

Do we want to win the Champions League, I highly doubt it since we've sold our best player to the team which is already miles ahead of us. Do we want to win the Premier League? I doubt that too, as although Arsene, Gazidis, the rest of the board, the team, and the fans know that we are in dire need of reinforcements, in defence and creative positions, we have done very little this summer.

In fact, the club has probably raked in 70 million pounds (80 million if we sell Bendtner for the price we want to) while we've only spent 20 million on Jenkinson, Chamberlain and Gervinho. Add the that the freeing up of wages amounting to 200k/week we are more than capable of bringing in 2 or 3 quality additions.

The very most we can expect at the moment is a cup win and Champions League qualification - which I would take right now - but that is the very minimum a club of our size should be expecting/achieving. Frankly though, judging by the last 2 performances, we'll be lucky to achieve that.

The Udinese game was a worry, as many expected the fans to get on the teams back, which certainly wouldn't have helped the team in probably the most important game we've played in a while. Instead we started superbly, with Walcott, Ramsey and Gervinho looking very dangerous and combining well for a goal in the 4th minute.

You may have expected us to press on and dominate the game after that, but the Italians were no pushovers, Di Natale especially, their captain and Serie A top scorer last year was very dangerous, and the pace of their attacks seemed to unsettle our defence. The aforementioned Di Natale hit the bar from a free kick, and Szczesny made a great save from Amero as he ran from his own penalty box like an olympic sprinter.

In the second half, the defence had to reshuffle after an inevitable injury to Gibbs. The lad has had so many injury problems in his short career and this season he's only lasted 135 minutes. Minutes later Djourou - Gibbs' replacement - was taken off with a similar injury and Carl Jenkinson was brought on to make his debut. Although Wenger have have been impressed with his first choice centre back partnership of Vermaelen and Koscielny, the fact that our defence looked so threadbare even at this early stage in the season is a big worry, and the defensive issue must be addressed.

The Italians seemed to dominate the second half and Song, Ramsey and Rosicky were overran in midfield, with the latter being replaced by the industrious Frimpong. Walcott and Gervinho looked like our best players, and nearly combined for a goal but for a brilliant save by Handanovic. Chamakh continued where he left of last season and was rubbish, those excited by the departure of Bendtner should look at the Moroccan who will now be Van Persie's only back up.

In the end we survived for the 1-0, and in fact we can take pride in the fact that we denied them from making too many clear cut opportunities, despite their domination. We didn't play well, but we won and if we score in Udine, they have to score 3 goals to go through.

We lacked a lot of creativity, with a massive space in our final third where Fabregas would be. Nasri too will be missed this season, but I'm glad he leaving. Van Persie would have made a big difference too and will hopefully in the second leg, whilst Wilshere's exuberance and ability to retain possession has been sorely missed in the opening to this season. Gervinho's ban as well as Song's - who accepted his charge of violent misconduct - will mean 

Arrivals simply must come, and ideally by the weekend's clash with Liverpool and if not then by the time we play United next week. Gervinho's ban as well as Song's - who accepted his charge of violent misconduct - will mean we will be without the pair for those games, and could be playing a very youthful, inexperienced side in three of the biggest games of our season. If we perform badly in those 3 games, we could be bottom going into September, and out of the Champions League, so there really is a lot to play for even this early on. The performance has not been there in the first two games, but at least we got the result yesterday, and kept a clean sheet. Onwards and Upwards, hopefully.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

London Riots

There's only one story on my mind at the moment, and it put all the Arsenal transfer talk into perspective, with people's live been ruined and crushed by stupid idiots. All of this is happening on my doorstep too.

 Building burning in Tottenham

London is my City, and I've always lived here, so seeing it become overrun with gangs and mobs is very upsetting. Almost everyone in London will have at least one connection with the riots, be it knowing someone being sacked, or someone whose house was burned down, or even just seeing their local shop being smashed open on the news. All of this is happening in a major western city, about to hold the worlds biggest event in less than a years time.

The riots started in Tottenham, just miles from my North London home, after previously peaceful protests against police turned sour. Since the outbreak of violence on Saturday, the violence has spread to all corners of the city, and into other cities such as Birmingham, Liverpool & Nottingham. The  first protests which sparked the violence were against the killing of a local man by the police, but I bet 90% of the people rioting will even know his name.

Since then though criminals, arsonists and anarchists have hidden under the name of "protestors" to rip up and burn down their communities. If you asked the people burning down Reeves furniture shop, a family run business since 1867, what they were doing it for I doubt any could give a reputable answer. Let alone know the name of the man shot by police. Just tonight on Sky News a reporter asked a looter what she was doing this for and she replied "we is getting our taxes back init" is that how stupid our countries inhabitants have become?

Picture posted on twitter of looter

All of this has happened with little reaction from police too. They may be unprepared, and under staffed (especially since recent cuts) but surely a more hard line approach would have stopped the spreading of violence and looting across the city and country. After news of violence in other cities, I agree with the calls for the Army to become involved and eradicate the problem, but everything would have been every different in other situations.

At outbreaks of violence in football matches, tear gas is regularly turned on fans - of all ages - and has helps lower the problem of hooliganism in football undoubtedly. In Northern Ireland too, when riots occur Water hoses clear the masses of people and seem to stop and slow down the problem. Even at the student protests, the Police had a more hard line approach, and their actions were much less violent than the riots now.

With the police and Government finally starting to make an effort in stopping the troubles adequately, the riots may hopefully stop as soon as possible. But after the copycat riots across the city, it may be harder than it should have been.

The Police and leading politicians should take some blame over the violence and the way they have dealt with it. Over the last few nights apparently 16000 police have been out and will use the full force of the law to deal with the criminals.

The stupidity of people across the country has shown as the awful violence has spread, and people have died trying to protect their neighborhoods and communities. Thankfully things seem to have calmed down now, but we cannot forget the thuggery of so many people in our country which has ended and ruined innocent people's lives.

Bore Draw Highlights Lack of Creativity

Newcastle United 0 - 0 Arsenal

There wasn't much excitement or optimism before the start of todays game. We were happy to have the football season starting up again, but quite disheartened with the imminent departures of two of our best players, who have not been replaced yet, and the lack of a centreback signing.

The line up was alright and expected, although you may have expected Walcott to start over Arshavin.

Szczesny Sagna Koscielny Vermaelen Gibbs Rosicky Song Ramsey Gervinho VanPersie Arshavin

We started the game alright, with new 10.5 million pound signing Gervinho making skillful, effective runs and looking dangerous. The defence was solid enough, with Vermaelen and Koscielny looking like a good partnership. Gibbs was also bright and was giving us a constant option on the left hand side, as well as being solid in the tackle.

We may have been solid defensively but there was very little creativity coming form the midfielder three of Ramsey, Rosicky and Song - something we may have to get used to in the coming season. In matches like todays we need someone of Cesc's calibre to find that key pass and unlock the defence.

There were only minimal chances in the first half. In the first minute we had a half chance after some neat footwork by Ramsey in the box, he layed it back to Rosicky who sliced it wide. Then in the 18th minute after a Gervinho run the ball ricocheted into Van Persie's path, but the dutchman's effort was blocked.

The familiar short passing around the centre circle was evident and the team looked clueless going forward at times. In the second half not much had changed, if anything the team looked worse than earlier. There was no urgency, or even effort to score and with the thoughts of last seasons match you always had the feeling we might regret it.

 Rosicky was very disappointing. He was meant to be the creative hub of the squad yet he kept giving up the ball, or giving our players dodgy passes. As an experienced player, you'd have thought he'd know the importance of keeping possession in key areas but he reminded me of Denilson by constantly passing sideways and backwards and still losing the ball.

The only real chance of note in the second half was a Van Persie freekick, which almost dipped in at the far post. Walcott entered the game in place of Arshavin, who picked up form last season in being seemingly inexistent for most of the game. Walcott had a chance but Tim Krul was more than capable of saving the shot.

Then came the main point of interest, all surrounding the one man Joey Barton. Alex song seemed to have stamped on Barton after a strong challenge. A few minutes later, Gervinho cut in form the left and went down - quite easily - from some contact in the box. A penalty was not given but Joey Barton, yes The Joey Barton dragged up the player off the floor and was strongly gripping his shirt. Gervinho responded with a tame slap on the "hardman's" head and, after a couple of seconds standing on his feet, Barton went down like he was shot. So much for English players being honest and not diving.

Subsequently Gervinho was sent off, yet Barton was only yellow carded. A complete joke. Barton showed how much of a twat he is and I hope that no Arsenal fans still want him at the club. For all his "qualities" on the pitch, he is still a classless thug, and not somebody we want representing our team.

The incident completely changed the game, and left us hanging on for the remainder of the match. Wenger ended up bringing on Djourou and Frimpong, a defender and holding midfielder respectively as the game stuttered out into a bore draw.

Positives -

The main problems our team was supposed to have in defence were unnoticed, but you can argue that we are yet to face a side of decent attacking quality. Gibbs showed why he was preffered to Traore and put in an excellent shift at left back. Similarly Szczesny showed why he was first choice with an excellent performance, coming for crosses, sweeping up after the defence and doing everything that was needed from him.

Negatives -

Last year we visited St James' Park on two occasions and came back with 4 goals both times. This year we only managed 4 shots on target and never looked like scoring. For that I don't blame Van Persie - who never got a chance to continue his record of scoring in every away game - or Gervinho, who was our best player before his red card.

Rosicky and Arshavin were very disappointing, especially as they are our most experienced players. Ramsey didn't convince me that he can be a Cesc replacement and play every game. Fabregas and Nasri need to be replaced before next week's fixture against Liverpool, who will want to bounce back after drawing with Sunderland, and we still need an extra defender. Hopefully this team - with maybe Wilshere returning after injury - will have enough to beat Udinese, but we cannot doubt the importance of that game.

Lessons -

We showed that the weaknesses everyone thought we have were not apparent, and i'm sure that Arsene will argue that we'd have gone on to win the game had Gervinho remained on the pitch.

However it was a disapointing performance, and showed exactly why fans are disapointd with the lack of movement in the transfer window. This squad is nowhere near complete, and you cannot expect it to even challenge for the title in our current state.

Squad Season Preview

After starting with the much maligned positions of defence and Goalkeeper yesterday, I shall now move on to the midfield and attack.

Midfield -

With the imminent exits of Fabregas and Nasri, the midfield obviously needs strengthening and the countless names of attacking midfielders we've been linked to shows that not many people are certain who to

In our 3 man central midfield we are anchored by Alex Song, who can be one of the most underrated players in the league. Last season he did have a slight dip in form towards the end of the season (who didn't) but I put that down to lack of competition. This season he has Frimpong, who is hungry for first team action, and the return of Coquelin will give him even more. We may be short in this position when Song leaves for the African Cup of Nations, but luckily there is a chance Cameroon may not qualify.

Also in midfield we have two of the brightest young British talents in Ramsey and Wilshere. Both are fantastic players and hopefully the pressure of being leading payer in the first team won't hamper their natural games. In back up we have Diaby, Rosicky and Lansbury which does mean we lack creativity from central positions. With the addition of one or more of the creative players we've been linked to I think our midfield will be more than comfortable.

Forwards - 

Our front 3 is probably our strongest position this year. We have great strength out wide with pacy, skillful players, hungry to make an impression in the first team. We might even be adding to ourdepth in this area with a Nasri replacement like Mata.

Arshavin is older, but looks a lot fitter this year and hopefully could realise the form he had when he first arrived. Back then he was touted as our second or third best player, and was on the verge of being declared world class. If he can get anywhere near to his best the loss of Cesc and Nasri will be swallowed a lot easier.

In addition to Walcott, in the new first team additions of Gervinho, Miyaichi and Chamberlain, Wenger has addressed a problem we have faced in recent years; lack of pace. Walcott has always had blistering speed, but with 4 lightning quick winger we can scare a lot of opponents and stretch teams more easily. Gervinho has been great in pre season and has briliant movement and finishing. I think he will get a lot of goals for us and at 10.5 million pounds he could go down as a bargain.

At the figurehead of the front 3 we have our supposedly new captain and best player in Robin Van Persie. Van Persie has amazing quality and technique, and whilst playing in a position he is not comfortable in he has excelled over recent years. If he picks up where he was at the end of last year he will be a great bet for top scorer, although he can't be trusted to play a whole season because of his injury record.

His back up does worry me though. Chamakh started well last season but was awful in pre season and his confidence is at rock bottom. I don't think we can trust him to play as Van Persie's back up when he inevitably get injured. I'd also have Bendtner ahead of him, but he looks to be on his way. Vela isn't ready and could be going out on loan, whilst the new signing Joel Campbell is very raw and will be tired after a summer of continuous tournaments. We are definitely short in this position, and hopefully some of the Cesc/Samir/Bendtner/Eboue transfer money will be reinvested in this area.

Overall our squad is short in a number of positions, and is probably not ready to start the season just yet. We can hope that the eleven that we put out today can beat Newcastle today, but they will not have enough to win the title. We are in a worse position than we were last year with the exits, and last year we finished 4th - albeit we should have finished a lot higher.

At the very least we need 3 (or 4) new signings; A  defender, a midfielder (or 2) and a striker. Right now we have the quality to make the top four, and possibly win a cup, but unless we get those reinforcements then we can't expect to win the league. The Udinese game is vital and is worth 25 million pounds to our future revenue, so that may be delaying some of our money being spent, but we need to do our business soon and get the right players to improve our team.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Squad Season Preview - Part 1

Going into the new season, it's clear our squad is short at the moment and is very likely to get worse before late Saturday afternoon. However, before we start the season I will be going over the personnel we do have in the squad, and if together they are capable of making a serious title bid. I'll start with the 'keepers.

Goalkeeper -

I can comfortably say that I will not be too worried about our goalkeeping position this season. That is something that I have not been able to say since Lehmann's departure, and even when he was our number one sometimes I was sceptical.

Sure I would love to bring in Reina, who wouldn't? But In Wojciech Szczesny we have our number one for the next decade or two, and although he will make the odd mistake, his confidence is admirable and he is the best option we have.

The big Pole is 6ft 5in and commands his area like a proper goalkeeper, and some of the saves he made last season were incredible. In his PL debut he was our best player at Old Trafford, in his CL debut he helped us beat the best team ever. Szczesny is the present number one, and the future number one of Arsenal football club.

Even Szczesny's understudy doesn't scare me when he plays - something rare for an Arsenal goalkeeper. Fabianski was unlucky to lose his place last year due to a freak injury and will be wanting to win it back as soon as possible.

In some instances he is even better than Szczesny, and against Wolves he literally won us the game. Something that barely of the any other big teams could do at Molineux. Mannone and Almunia still scare the living daylight out of me though, so in any injury crisis (something that happens frequently at the club) we can be expecting the worst.

Defenders -

Hopefully the defence will be improved as soon as possible, because currently it is not good enough to win the Premier League. You could even put up a credible argument that it is weaker than it was last season, which does not put us in good stead.

At left back we waved goodbye to Gael Clichy and welcomed back the injury prone, defensively dodgy Armand Traore to compete with the injury prone, defensively dodgy Kieran Gibbs. Unless one of the progresses quickly, and without too many mistakes we will struggle against quality right wingers, although since we've had Clichy playing there for the last few years hopefully it can't get too much worse. (Spiteful I know)

At centre back we have the Fantastic Four in Vermaelen, Koscielny, Djourou and the tremendous Squillaci. In back up we have Ignasi Miquel, who is very promising but young and not ready for too much important first team football in an Arsenal shirt. Here is a quick summary.

Vermaelen's absence probably cost us the title last summer, and if he stays fit we will have much better organisation. Djourou looked good at times with Koscielny, but makes too many errors and has giant lapses in concentration, hopefully he can improve on this though. Koscielny can be excellent at times, but is still learning and that is clear for all to see. He makes irrational decisions and cost us a lot of penalties last year. As for Squillaci....he was a good player but his errors last year seemed to have sapped all his confidence and, together with age, he is the shell of what he used to be and will never be good enough for us. 

I am confident we will reinforce the centre of defence in the very near future and hopefully that signing will have the qualities that some of our others (most except Vermaelen) lack; Defensive organisation, Leadership, Good in the air, Winning mentality.

At right back we have Mr Consistent, Bacary Sagna who is the best right back in the league, and one of the best in the world. His deputies are Eboue and Jenkinson, but with Eboue facing a likely exit Jenkinson will make the step up into the first team. The young Englishman seemed very bright in pre-season - despite the hilarious own goal - and will end up being a bargain signing at only 1 million.

I'll do the midfield and strikers later, partly as this is getting too long but also because there may be significant changes to the team.