How we compare – Vol 2: Full Backs

 

Dixon

This isn’t meant to sound like a snipe at our current full backs (we’ll get into that debate later), but I miss Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn. I’m not going to justify that last statement…….. I just do!

Winterburn

It’s a shame that, when discussing our full back options, I cannot talk about the best player in his position in the world. This especially gripes as one of them actually came through our youth system. The ‘Ashley Cole argument’ has been done to death, but love him or hate him (and I would say high percentages are the latter) he is a phenomenal full back. Still, we’ve had five years to get that out of our system.

You only came to see Eboue, apparently...

I seem to remember this time last year, after a good season from Eboue and the emergence of Gibbs, people saying that we had the best choice (if you include replacements) of full backs in the league. I’m not saying that I ever fully agreed with that sentiment, but it wasn’t a position that worried me. It’s a different picture now. Clichy has gone! Gibbs seems to have developed Rosickyesc injury proneness (although I feel he’ll get over this eventually and become a very good full back). Eboue looks to soon be on his way, after a terrible season last year. All this in a position that, with our current formation, is the most exposed of any (especially if a certain Russian is playing in front of you).

Gibbo

As it stands at the moment, we have Traore back from two season long loan spells to Portsmouth and Juventus. He may have improved significantly to become Gibbs’ understudy, but I would be surprised if that is going to be the case. We know Thomas Vermaelen can fill in that spot, but I think as it stands we cannot do without him in the middle. We’ve seen Carl Jenkinson in a few pre-season friendlies, and I’ve been really impressed. However, he’s still untried at Premier League level. My guess would be that if Eboue goes, Jenkinson will be Sagna’s back-up.

Yes way Jose?

I personally would like to see us bring in another left back to challenge Gibbs for a starting spot, or at least play when he’s inevitably injured. A prime candidate for this would be Jose Enrique at Newcastle. A very competent left back with several years Premier League experience, who has openly expressed his desire to leave the Geordie side. I’m presuming Liverpool will be interested too, bearing in mind their pursuit of Clichy, but we should definitely be looking into signing him.

In comparing where we stand with our Full Backs compared to our rivals, I’m going to assume that none of the teams in question will be signing anyone in that position:

Spurs potentially have one of the best young English full backs around in Kyle Walker. He was impressive at Villa last year, and also with the England under 21’s side in Denmark this summer. He is only 21 though, and seems a little too one-dimensional at the moment. I would still have him above Corluka and Hutton, but (essentially) I would have Sagna above all three. Benoit Assou-Ekotto, if you exclude Monkey Boy Bale, seems to be the only recognised left back around the first team at the club. After a couple of years of obscurity, his last two seasons at SHL have been quite productive. He is an athlete and is consistent. I would say that his level (at the moment) is very similar to Gibbs. Assou-Ekotto is more reliable on the injury front, but Gibbs has the potential to a much better player. I think Arsenal are stronger at full back, but only very marginally.

Liverpool are in a very similar position to Arsenal. They have one international quality full back, and some very promising young players coming through (I know they have Aurelio but I’m not much of a fan). I think Johnson is, quite possibly, on a par with Sagna. You could argue that Johnson is weaker defensively, but you could also rightly say his is better going forward. Amongst the players coming through at Liverpool are John Flanagan and Jack Robinson, a right back and left back respectively, they played a few games for the 1st team last year (including the 1-1 debacle at the Emirates). I know Martin Kelly played several times for the reds at right back last year, but essentially it is my understanding that he is a centre back. To be honest, I don’t think there’s much difference in the strength of the two teams in this position.

Great defender, bad haircut

It’s a shame we’ve strengthened one of our rivals, but I think it was right for Clichy to go. No one could ever accuse him of ever not giving 100%, but his sporadic mind farts were beginning to irritate many a Gooner. With him, Koralov and Bridge (although it’s expected that the Englishman will leave this summer) it is not a bad competition for places at left back. Joleon Lescott has also played numerous games at left back, including internationally. On the opposite flank the re-invigorated Micah Richards has a strong season last year, and at 23 years old, he’ll probably continue to improve. With the more than adequate back-up of Paulo Zabaletta, Manchester City look comfortable. City are stronger.

Probably the largest resource of full back talent (closely run by City) comes from Chelsea. With three options at both right back and left back, the West Londoners have plenty of cover. At right back Jose Bosingwa has flattered to deceive (although dogged by injury) since his arrival three years ago. Ivanovic provides defensive stability, and strength to the position. He is also deceptively adept (although not dynamic) at going forward, as well as threatening at set pieces. Paulo Ferreira makes up the first team trio of options and was one of Jose Mourinho’s first signings. He is solid cover, but is not going to scare any of his opponents. At left back, Chelsea have Ashley Cole. As stated previously, I have no love for the money grabbing/womanising scumbag, but I have to say he is currently the best left back in the world. He is backed up by Yury Zhirkov, who is probably more at home further up the pitch, but can cover in Cashley’s absence. Ryan Beltrand is the youth option for the Blues. Soon to turn 22, Ryan (as well as injury) has been keeping Kieran Gibbs out of the England U21 side. From what I’ve seen of him, he looks a good prospect, and I expect him to stay at Chelsea this year and get some game time. Chelsea are stronger in this area than Arsenal.

So, onto the reigning Premier League champions. Gary Neville has retired and Wes Brown and John O’Shea have moved to Sunderland, taking away three full back options for Manchester United. Last season saw the full emergence of Brazilian twins Fabio and Rafael. On Manchester United’s official website Rafael is a right back and Fabio is a left back but in truth, they both fill in on either side. Patrice Evra is probably second only to Ashley Cole with respect to left backs in the Premier League, and a very solid performer. Looking at their first team squad, these are the only three recognised full backs listed. I don’t know whether Sir Alex is hoping to add to this position in the summer, or whether he has a couple of likely lads in the reserves. Maybe the option of playing Jonny Evans or (new recruit) Phil Jones at full back is an option, or maybe they have other players I’ve totally forgotten about. Either way, it does seem to be a weakness in their squad. They could be in trouble if Evra picks up a long term injury. I’m sure the Wiley Scotsman has a plan. Either way, at the moment, I can’t say they’re in a stronger position than us. I’d say we’re about the same.

So, with the exception of Man United, unfortunately we’re looking up in envy at the teams that finished above us last year. We definitely could do with some reinforcements…

Thanks for reading!

Big Dave

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And so it goes on

I'll miss you so much

I’ve been debating having a summer holiday for a while & I’ve finally taken the plunge & booked something – It’s nothing fancy, only a little place in a remote English village. My wife was expecting one of those fancy spa retreats & I guess in a way I’ve gone for something similar as there are ‘treatments’ of sorts – Japanese water torture, sensory deprivation, solitary confinement, water boarding, keelhauling & sleep deprivation to name a few.

Now I know that may not be to everybody’s taste but right now I’m pretty certain that any of the above methods of torture would be more enjoyable then the continuation of the ‘Cesc Saga’. 

I thought that now Big Brother was no more we wouldn’t have to spend an entire summer seeing/hearing/watching morons bleat on & on & on… 

Don't say f*ck or bugger

Xavi has become the new Davina McCall, impressive to look at but you wish to Christ the pair of them would shut up! *with regards to the diminutive Spaniard being impressive to look at I mean watching him play football, I’ve no idea if he looks good in a dress.

Instead of the newspapers speculating on who is going to be the last to leave the house they’ve moved on to speculating on Arsenal’s cut off date for Barca to stump up the required cash. For a few weeks now it was supposedly this Friday, but as this Friday draws ever closer whilst the deal seemingly doesn’t the date or ‘C-Day’ as it were has been moved to Monday.

Will it ever end?

It appears we’re no closer to seeing any new arrivals at the grove prior to the much maligned Emirates Cup this weekend. I’m sure folks are looking forward to seeing the Arsenal but with the lack of any big signings and the above mentioned balagan not even the impending return of Thierry Henry (albeit in a New York Red Bulls shirt) can raise the lack of excitement  or hype surrounding the mini tournament.

Theo Walcott could miss the games against Boca Juniors & NYRB after heading home early from the German training camp with an ankle injury. There is no news yet on how serious it is but it must be more than a knock if Theo has had to return to London Colney for treatment rather than stay with the team in Deutschland. Lets just hope it’s nothing that could force him to miss the start of the season, he needs to keep as injury free as possible this year.

Tractor Boy

Jay Emmanuel-Thomas completed his move to Ipswich Town yesterday in a £1.1m deal, it seems that for all the individual talent the captain of the FA Youth Cup winning side may posses it was his attitude which ultimately lead to Wenger feeling he had no long term future at the club. I certainly wish JET all the best for the future and hope he doesn’t crash his new tractor.

Emmanuel-Thomas could soon be followed out of the exit door by Craig Eastmond & surprisingly Henri Lansbury. I’m not sure we could go as far as to say this is the end of ‘Project Youth’ but it is interesting that Arsene seems more prepared to let young players leave the club, especially those he had earmarked as future first teamers, unless at the end of the day the players in question just maybe didn’t cut the mustard?

After strong suggestions that Emmanuel Eboue was close to completing a move to Galatasaray yesterday it’s all gone quiet however we Arsenal fans know better than most that transfers can drag on a little sometimes.

Have you seen this man?

Finally I would like to put out a missing persons report – since being spotted by 42,000 people in the Emirates car park last Thursday French international Franck Ribery has not been seen.

Right I’m off to stick pins in my eyes while listening to recordings of Xavi talk about Cesc, lovely.

Have a good day, thanks for reading.

Up The Arsenal!

How we compare – Vol 1: Goalkeeper

More titles than Almunia

Until recent years, in my lifetime, Arsenal had always had a solid number 1. The earliest goalkeeper I can remember is John Lukic. From my memory, he never really let us down (in either spell at the club). Then George Graham signed David Seaman from Queens Park Rangers and for a decade we had one of the best and most consistent Goalkeepers this country has ever seen.

Safehands

We replaced the pony-tailed legend, after we sold him to Manchester City, with Jens Lehman. I’m not going to go into our various No.2 ‘s during this period, but it is worth noting that in the 2001/02 season we had three goalkeepers (Dave Seaman, Stuart Taylor & Richard Wright) who all picked up Premier League winners medals. This means they would’ve had to play at least 10 league games. Jen’s (god bless him) was as mad as a box of frogs on Angel Dust, but a competent goalkeeper. I suppose being behind a back four led by the imperious Sol Campbell would have helped, but Jens (although susceptible to the odd clanger) was solid enough. He was no Dave Seaman, but he was a part of ‘The Invincible’s’ and that can’t be underestimated. His constant bitching and moaning if (heaven forbid) an opposing player stood within five foot of him was irritating, but was an endearing imperfection we grew to love.

Ze German

In recent years, however, our goalkeeping situation has become some sort of punch line to our lack of silverware. I must admit, until last season, I always thought Manuel Almunia was a competent number two. That combined with Lukas Fabianski who, although capable of amazing saves, is equally likely to ‘throw one in’ as they say.

Oh dear...

 Last year we saw the emergence of another Young Pole who has gone a long way to re-establish Gooners faith in their stopper. I remember seeing Wojciech Szczesny for the reserves as a 17 year old and thinking, ‘This guy could be special’. I wasn’t expecting it so soon though. Not without his early drama’s, Wojciech broke both of his arms (not good for a goalkeeper) in a freak accident lifting weights. He’s a little bit arrogant and a little bit mad. He endeared himself to Arsenal fans everywhere in the North London Derby at WHL last season by polaxing Gareth Bale  (fairly) and giving Johan Djourou a cheeky wink afterwards.

 He’s got a Physical presence; I think he’s 6’ 5″ tall! He’s vocal, I’ve heard him shout at the defence from the upper tier at the Emirates (hopefully that’s not too much of an indictment of our fans). One of his most impressive attributes though, has to be how un-fazed he seems to be by what’s going on around him. This is particularly impressive when working behind our current defence. I think he could go on to be a really impressive goalkeeper, world class even.

 So, where does this compare us to our rivals in the Premier League? I’m going to narrow it down to what is now being called the big 6:

Firstly there are our local rivals. Gomes has dropped more clangers in the last couple of years than Almunia and Fabianski put together, although he would always end up having a blinder against us. Arthur Daley….er, I mean Harry Redknapp has brought in American Brad Friedel on a free transfer. Now Friedel is a proven Premiership quality goalkeeper, but he is now the wrong side of forty and surely must have his best days behind him. Arsenal are better off.

Liverpool have Pepe Reina, who has been one of the most consistent goalkeepers in the Premier League in the last 4-5 years. Arsenal (apparently) tried to sign him this time last year, but Liverpool gave us the all too familiar Foxtrot Oscar. His blooper against us on the opening day of the season at Anfield last season was just a blip, and he remains a top quality keeper. At the moment, I think Liverpool are better off. Though I feel young Wojciech has the potential to be better than the Spaniard.

 In May 2006, Man City paid £500,000 (rising to a maximum of 1.5 million) to Shrewsbury for Joe Hart. He has since established himself as the Citizen’s and England’s number 1. He has a lot of talent. In fact, he has a lot of similarities to Szczesny. He too is 6’5″; he’s very vocal and has a good presence. He is (as any young goalkeeper is) prone to the odd mistake, but has the potential to be world class. Playing regularly in a top side is sure to accelerate his progression. His parallel’s with Wojciech are extremely close. At the moment I don’t think there’s much between them, but on experience you’d have to give it to Hart, but he has almost 5 years on Szczesny!

In Petr Cech, Chelsea have (arguably) the best goalkeeper in the Premier League. A couple of seasons ago it looked like the high standards he had set himself had dropped, but last season saw him return to top form again. Since Van Der Sar retired at the end of last season, Cech (in my opinion) is now the keeper all others are looking up to.

Manchester United’s new number 1 is the biggest unknown to the Premier League this year. De Gea, the young Spanaird, certainly comes with a big reputation for such a young man. To be honest, from what I’ve seen of him, he looks like a really good prospect. That said, he’s never played in the Premier League, and Szczesny has! I personally (although I’m sure fans of other clubs may disagree, even though they’ve hardly seen anything of him) think there is not too much between the Pole and the Spaniard right now.

Essentially, as you may have gathered, I’m happy with Szczesny as our number 1. I do feel, however, that we should bring in an experienced number 2 as back up. This is not as easy as it sounds. If an experienced keeper is getting first team football somewhere, it’s not easy to convince him to come and be an understudy to a young upstart. That said, the pull of coming to Arsenal Football Club should not be underestimated. I think Wenger will stick with Fabianski as our number 2 for this season, and maybe keeping Mannone as third choice (although he may try and force a move if he is that far down the pecking order).

It’s quite a gamble making such a young keeper your number 1, but as the saying goes; ‘If you’re good enough, you’re old enough’. Have a look how old Iker Cassillas was when he started in goal at Real Madrid. We have to accept he might make the odd mistake, but his class will show through in the end. Wojciech Szczesny could have a long, illustrious career to come at Arsenal.

Thanks for reading.

Big Dave

Friday round-up

Well today is a day of pure speculation really and in all honesty none of it very interesting, exciting or groundbreaking.

Lets start with the most absurd – The continued ‘alleged’ sightings of Franck Ribery in and around the grove.

Incognito

Many of these sightings seem to have taken place in the Emirates car park which makes me wonder if Ivan Gazidas has some kind of Batcave down there, a secret sanctuary where he negotiates transfers. It also makes me wonder how many people are down in that car park at any given time & what the hell they’re doing there?

My guess is that it isn’t Franck Ribery, it’s the guy inside the Gunnersauraus suit, all hunched and scared like the Frenchman after so many years trapped inside the costume.

French International Footballer?

The shock signing of Ribery would certainly be classed as BIG, which might be enough to appease Steve Howard. What would appease me is the chance meeting of Mr Howard & the business end of a combine harvester.

There is no doubt that such a signing would certainly be welcome but to be honest I can’t see it happening.

Next up is the suggestion that we might be back in for Joel Campbell. DearArsenal broke the news last night that Mario Segura were reporting that we had offered the front man an improved deal of a higher wage & other improvements including, somewhat oddly, life insurance (Is that a standard contractual addition?)

There are no quotes as yet attributed to anyone who has anything to do with the deal so it could all be something or it could all be nothing – the player has also been heavily linked in recent days with Sevilla & Fiorentina, which makes you wonder about the supposed Man Utd interest?

The Daily Mail (Urgh) suggest that it will take a bid of £18m to prise Phil Jagielka away from Goodison – After the toffees fleeced City on the transfer of Lescott they expect to earn that from every sale of an Englishman (But hey who doesn’t these days) Everton are also in a position where they have absolutely no finances of their own so need to make as much money as possible from sales in order to be able to reinvest in their already threadbare squad.

If we’re supposedly unprepared to spend £17m on Gary Cahill I can’t see us stumping up £18 in straight cash for Jaqielka. I suggested on Twitter yesterday that we should offer them cash money, Sebastian Squillaci plus the season long loan of Nicklas Bendtner. Now I know that sounds a little bit like a Championship Manager type offer but not many would shed a tear at the departure of the French centre half & with no one seemingly 100% interested in Nick (Or it could be that he isn’t interested in those who have come in for him) it would allow him a season playing week in week out in his favoured position and would certainly put him in the shop window.

We get the player we want (or rather that Arsene wants) Everton get a ready-made replacement *he-he, cash on the hip & a seasons work out of a decent Premier League striker (Yes I think he is actually!)

The last part of our speculation special concerns Cesc *Yawn…

Unsurprisingly he is not expected to travel with the squad to Germany for tomorrows friendly against Cologne. Barcelona reps may or may not have been in Ivan’s Batcave yesterday ( I would be surprised if they were considering the Spanish club were busy wrapping up the signing of Alexis Sanchez) but have still to make a bona fide offer.

Who knows, maybe Cesc is on strike after all but coupled with the vow of silence he seems to have undertaken he is unable to tell anybody?

That is about that for today, except that Patrick Vieira has been telling the Mail (Them again ‘eh) that we’re just not tough enough these days. Cheers Paddy! I look forward to you telling us tomorrow that water is wet…

Can you tell I’m fed up today?

Thanks for reading.

Up The Arsenal!

 

Make it stop, please make it stop

So far this summer I’ve tried not to discuss the Cesc saga too much in my posts, but I’m now at the point where I have gone far beyond fed up with the situation.

It seems that the Catalan club have actually only made one concrete offer of £26m, that in my eyes is incredibly laughable and disrespectful firstly to the player himself but more importantly our club and that’s where it stands for me – Our club is more important than Barcelona’s wants & desires and more important than Cesc Fabreagas.

I’m not going to waste time quoting Xavi, Rosell, Guardiola et al, their words are little more than irritation to me. Wenger, Gazidas & PHW have made our position quite clear so I’m not going to go quoting them either. The person I would like to hear from and be able to quote is Fabregas himself & I don’t mean any of the sitting on the fence patter he has given previously.

Now I’m not saying I want us to sell the Spaniard, I’m not suggesting we would be better off without him or anything of the kind but I am saying that if he really wants to stay he would come out and say so. It would be simple, all he would have to do is sit in front of the assembled press and say “I do not want to return to Barcelona, I want to remain at Arsenal and as such would ask Barca to end their futile chase. I ask my friends at the club to stop speaking on my behalf, these are the only words that matter – I want to stay at Arsenal

But we all know we’ll never hear that and we know why…  Cesc does want to return to Barcelona! Not in a few years, not one day in the future… Now.

And you know what, that’s ok with me (I’ve always thought he be off after Euro 2012 anyway). Maybe in these days of player power I’m a naïve old romantic but my opinion is – If you are not fully committed to the club then move on with our best wishes.

We hear a lot about how Cesc is as unwilling to say that he wants to leave as he is unwilling to say he wants to stay, this is apparently because of the respect he has for Arsene Wenger, the club & the fans. I appreciate that & respect it but I don’t think it is right any longer. There is no need for Cesc to go down the Modric road and release statements akin to that of a kidnapped child, that would be disrespectful to all those people at the club he respects but I see no harm in him saying “I want to return to Barcelona but I know and so do they that this can only happen if they meet Arsenal’s valuation of me

That I would respect because it is the complete truth. If the required bid still failed to materialise then Cesc would know how much Barca & his hero Pep Guardiola really want him, we’ll still respect him because he was honest, and hey come on we’ve always known he had the desire to return anyway.

I’m sure if  everyone laid their cards on the table & the deal didn’t come off then Cesc would continue to give the same amount of effort & commitment to the Arsenal as he always has done. If he wants to go and feels we’re denying him the opportunity then surely he is more likely to give less than 100%?

So again, I’m not saying I want to sell or that we should sell but it is time for Cesc to speak up as well as Barca paying up (As Arseblog says ‘Cough up or Cock off’)

In an ideal world he would truly want to stay no matter what but in an ideal world we would have this starting XI at the peak of their powers each time we play – Seaman -Dixon-Adams-Keown-Winterburn-Limpar-Vieira-Merson-Pires-Bergkamp-Henry (Well in my ideal world anyway)

The one thing I would remind Cesc is that a return to Barca means a return to the god awful Barnet!

Check out the guns on Jags

In other news it is reported that we’ve had a £12m bid for Phil Jaqielka rejected by Everton. According to Sam Wallace in the Independent  the former Sheffield United man remains Wengers first choice centre half and the player himself would reject any move to North London. We’re also being linked with Cahill, Samba & Dann still but I’m starting to get a feeling that we won’t see any of the defensive reinforcements we’ve been expecting, not unless one of our current centre halfs leave and who the hell is going to sign Squillaci?

Needs to visit Sagna's barber

It seems that Chelsea have made a bid for Anderlecht’s Romelu Lukaku – This is a player I really would like to see us sign. Strong, powerful & pacey, experienced enough to make an immediate impact, young enough to improve. Alas the Belgian is a big admirer of Didier Drogba and Chelsea & AVB most likely hold more of an attraction than us at the moment, that’s before you even get into money matters and as Mr Hobbs tweeted last night on that aspect of any potential bidding war “To be honest with our philosophy on spending we’d have been buggered if Blackpool had put in a bid”

Whats that you're lifting Sylv?

Lastly – Sylvain Wiltord has come out of retirement to sign a one year deal with fallen French giants Nantes at the age of 37. Good luck to him next season, I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out to see how he gets on. Who will ever forget this!

Lastly, the site stats show that plenty of you have been visiting and reading of late so it would be great if we could get some discussion going in the comments section below each post.

Thanks for reading.

Up The Arsenal!

Missed targets – Do we really care?

There was a good two-week period at the start of the transfer window when Arsenal looked set to capture an unknown Argentinian player by the name of Ricardo ‘Ricky’ Alvarez from Velez Sarsfield. The noises coming from the player, his club and other interested parties was that the deal was all but wrapped up and the attacking midfielder was on his was to Ashburton Grove.

So for a week or two we sat and waited, watching and re-watching a nine minute YouTube clip of the player, trading whispers that this guy was going to be the new Freddie Ljungberg and growing increasingly impatient that the deal wasn’t being concluded quickly enough.

Rumours began to circulate that the gunners were not prepared to pay Velez Sarsfield the full £10m* they wanted, *depending on who you believe. Some people started to get a bit edgy and the club was being urged to stump up the cash to get the deal done, no one wanted to see a repeat of the Mark Schwarzer debacle.

Suddenly the whole thing was over & Alvarez had signed for Internatzionale

Fast forward a couple of weeks and from out of the blue Arsenal were being linked with an even lesser known player – Costa Rican striker Joel Campbell.

Our interest in the 19-year-old was initially broadcast via Twitter by Gunnerblog and the usual flurry of chatter began, and before Campbell’s father Humberto could start flirting with anyone with a cheque book many Arsenal fans were claiming it was a done deal, that Campbell would be a direct replacement for Nicklas Bendtner (despite doubts over the South Americans eligibility for a UK work permit) and that he was the new Nicolas Anelka. 

Guess what happened next… Yep… Other clubs started to show an interest and the move slowed down. Arsenal supporters once again started to voice their dissatisfaction at the clubs supposed inability to wrap a deal up quickly. Then BAM! Arsenal pull out of negotiations after the player & his representatives failed to attend a scheduled meeting with Arsenal’s Dick Laws. 

It appears that the player and his father were playing silly buggers and have either been wooed by another club or are holding out until they are. *Reportedly Manchester United

Unsurprisingly the cacophony of doom mongers drowned out the sound of rational thought and debate and the club were again being criticised for their transfer dealings.

Now don’t get me wrong, the perceived lack of transfer activity has certainly aggravated me over the course of the summer – I’ve even written about it but…

While an apparent reluctance to stump up the required cash or to just simply pull our finger out and get on with the signing of an established Premier League centre half that we desperately require is undoubtably frustrating, missing out on a couple of players who the vast majority of us had never heard of a short time ago, let alone seen play or dreamed of seeing in an Arsenal shirt, is no great travesty and shouldn’t be viewed as such.

At the moment it is easy to become annoyed at every single so-called failure on the part of the club and the manager, I’m often as guilty as most, but let’s be honest do any of us really give a tiny little rats arse about these two players?

Now, with regards to a centre half – whilst there are still plenty of whispers in regard to Bolton & England’s Gary Cahill as well as Chris Samba at Blackburn & Everton’s Phil Jagielka and almost certainly a requirement for us to add depth in this department, Kyle Bartley has spoken of his determination to break into the Arsenal first team.

I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t be going after at least one of the above mentioned defenders but at the same time I really would like to see Bartley given a chance this season, especially if it’s at the expense of Sebastian Squillaci. The reports of his time on loan at both Sheffield United & Rangers were very positive. In fact both sides expressed a very strong interest in another loan spell or indeed a permanent move.

Bartley has said that Wenger is reluctant to sanction another loan move at the moment and that he wants to step up and make it into the first team – that is the kind of positive attitude our squad needs. The 20-year-old has returned to the club for pre season training after recovering from the medial ligament injury which dampened the end of his time north of the border and he was subsequently left out of the Asia tour in order to work on fitness and form part of Neil Banfields pre season Arsenal XI.  After completing 45 minutes against Woking last Friday & playing the full ninety minutes against Hastings last night he’ll now hope to travel to Germany and face Cologne this Saturday & play some part in the Emirates Cup the following weekend.

The club is often criticised for its failure to produce quality defenders so it would be disappointing to see Bartley denied the chance of breaking this mould.

Thanks for reading.

Up The Arsenal!

Transfers – An objective fans eye view

20110718-194819.jpg

First of all, I don’t profess to have any ‘inside knowledge’ of the transfer dealings at Arsenal. I don’t walk the dog of Ivan Gazidis’ tea lady, or organise the air conditioning maintenance at London Colney (although I could if asked). I am a huge football fan, and most importantly… I’m a Gooner. What I’m trying to do here is give a non-rose tinted and objective view on current transfer sagas at the club.

Samir Nasri –

20110718-192601.jpg

This one really is a double edged sword. Do we cash in on him, but subsequently improve one of our direct competitors? What if we keep him for the remaining year of his contract with a distinct possibility of one of the following happening:

1) He stays for the year and doesn’t really put a shift in for the team, leaves for free next summer, leaving us kicking ourselves we didn’t get £20M+ for him.
2) He shows the form he showed in the first half of last season which helps deliver a trophy.
Although we still wouldn’t get the money, Arsene’s decision will be vindicated.

You never know, maybe Arsene will convince him to stay! *That’s more in hope than judgement.

The worrying issue is, it looks like he’s burnt his bridges with many Arsenal fans already, and that might be unrecoverable. We, as football fans, are a strange breed. We expect loyalty from a Frenchman who has only lived in England, and had Arsenal in his life, for 3 years. He has the opportunity to go to a club where he can earn more money, and (as much as I hate to say it) probably has more chance of winning a trophy. If the shoe was on the other foot, would we show the loyalty we expect? How much did we pay for Chamakh again? Let’s not open the Sol Campbell can of worms either!

My verdict – Wenger will take a huge gamble and make him stay.

Cesc Fabregas –

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I’ve been saying for years, “Cesc will go back to Barcelona eventually & when he does, I’ll wish him well and move on.”

In hindsight, that is probably a bit simplistic of me. Kind of like when you explain how to deal with a hypothetical problem such as winning the lottery…

This constant summer wrangling with Barca is starting to get on my nerves now though. No one can move on. Not us and certainly not Cesc. Our position is very clear the player is under contract for four more years, we value him at £XXm (I’m not sure anyone outside the club actually knows what that is) & if Barca can’t meet that fee then he stays.

I actually think Barcelona are batting clever here. They don’t really need Cesc now, but will continue to make derisory offers to let the player know that want him to return (eventually). Meanwhile they’ll hope there may be a small chance that Arsenal get fed up with it all and accept, what would certainly be considered, a reduced fee. In a couple of year’s time Xavi will be a bit older, as he’s only 31 now (I say only as it’s the same age as me) and he really will need replacing. Plus, Cesc’s contract will only have two years left to run, so we won’t be in such a strong position.

My Verdict – At least one more year at the Grove.

Incomings –

Every May I tell myself I’m not going to listen to any transfer rumours. I won’t open every twitter link which states ‘Arsenal chase X’, but the fact is… I can’t help myself. I spend the best part of 3 months looking forward to the start of the new season, so it’s only natural for me to want to know who’s going to be wearing the red & white of the club I love and will be travelling up and down the country to see play.

Most people (including myself) have no real understanding of all the different processes that make up a transfer in modern football. Some people need to realise that it isn’t the same as playing Football Manager on your laptop at home. I’m sure we would all like a return to the days when two managers agreed a deal on the phone (or in a pub) and then asked their secretaries to complete the paperwork, but that’s life. I do feel we haven’t acted as quickly as we could (and maybe should) this summer though.

We’ve shown interest in both Chris Samba and Gary Cahill, but for some reason nothing has materialised. I would personally be happy with either. If we’d put a £17m bid in for Cahill or a £13m bid for Samba on 23rd May, I’m sure at least one of the two would now be an Arsenal player. Now, I know many people would argue with me that they are not worth that money, and they would be entitled to their opinion but the fact is a player is worth what someone is willing to pay for him & with that in mind and looking at what defenders have been transferred for recently (Jones & Luiz particularly), those prices aren’t far off the mark.

Left back is a position that has raised an issue since Clichy’s departure (good luck to Gael as well). I think most of us feel Gibbs will be a good player, but his fitness record worries me. In Kieran’s defence though Clichy had similar problems at his age. Traore could be an adequate replacement (Again, I know many would disagree), we don’t know, we haven’t seen much of him for a while.

I think we have to leave it to Wenger’s judgement. To be honest I haven’t seen many left back’s in world football that have made me sit up and take note recently.

On a positive note, we have made a couple of signings. Gervinho was chased by several English clubs, and he’s chose Arsenal, but we haven’t seen him on the pitch yet (I’ll reserve judgement until we do). Again, with Carl Jenkinson, we don’t know yet but his two pre-season outing’s so far have been promising. Definitely cover for Sagna rather than Eboue.

This is just my opinions guys, I know you’ll have yours too so it would be great to get a discussion going – please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Thanks for reading.

Big Dave

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