Overcoming International Interuptions

Where is everyone?

Morning all,

Can you feel it, the vortex of international football sucking you into its pit of despair?

Well not me, not this time! I’ve decided that during this two-week period, when Arsenal have sixteen players away with their respective nations, I’m not going to attempt to cobble something of little merit and/or importance together each morning because I feel it would only serve as a series of turgid reads and frankly I think you deserve better. Plus I really don’t want to get into the kind of transfer speculation that has started doing the rounds..

There is talk and rumour this morning focusing on our supposed interest in German trio Mario Goetze, Kevin Grosskreutz and Marco Reus.

We’re only two months away from the reopening of the transfer window so we can expect to see a lot more of these stories appearing on the back pages and in the blogsphere. That is understandable and I certainly expect Arsenal to at least attempt to do some business in January as for once the winter window may be a better time to secure new recruits then the summer due to the European Championships and that kind of economical value will be right up a certain Frenchman’s street, but it’s not what I want to spend my time writing about.

I know you can all get a fix of speculation and gossip from the likes of Caughtoffside, talkSPORT, Footylatest and the BBC Gossip Coloumn and a million over places. I’m certainly not once of those who professes to be ‘in the know’ when it comes to the transfer activity of our or any other club so I’ll never add anything tangible to the conjecture and I don’t want to spend a portion of time analysing players we may never sign.

No, during this period I’m going to utilise my time on finally putting together a few articles I’ve wanted to write for a while and which I hope you will enjoy reading and appreciate the time spent upon them. I hope to have the first of these up on the site within the next few days and then one or two others before the Premier League reconvenes.

Obviously If some important Arsenal related news rears its head I’ll certainly be reporting it, if not in the form of a full blog post then at least via my Twitter feed and in the mean time I would like to invite you to maybe go back and read some of the historical content of this blog such as this homage to Anders Limpar, Andrew Allen’s look at the players who have crossed the North London divide, Big Dave Taylor’s dreams of being a football agentmy inspirational pre Chelsea post, this post that has a picture of Arshavin’s pony, or just take pot luck by typing something into the search box in the top right hand corner. I’ve come out with some odd stuff since I started this blog so who knows what you might find..

I’ll also suggest that you check out the fantastic Arsenal Collective site starting with my submission to the memory bank which looks at my first ever trip to Highbury

Plenty to keep you occupied for a day or two while I put the finishing touches to something that I’m really enjoying researching and writing.

If you have any suggestions for articles you would like to see covered here then please feel free to send your suggestions my way.

Enjoy the old stuff and try not to let the international boredom crush you.

Thanks for reading.

Paul.

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Continuing Momentum… At a stroll

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It was a mild afternoon for November, but you could tell the winter months were soon to be upon us. I think it will be the last game for a while without my big winter coat.

I must admit, although I consider myself optimistic, I’m never really confident going into games. I think I’ve always been like that, I don’t think it’s due to our relatively recent proneness to losing games we should be winning. That being said, walking up the road to the ground I just couldn’t see anything but an Arsenal win. Obviously we’ve been doing a lot better recently, but there’s still a long way to go. However, I watched West Brom’s game against Liverpool last week, and I just thought they were poorer than most other teams I’ve seen this year. I got the feeling I wasn’t alone in my view; there was a confident buzz around the ground.

The biggest selection question mark was over the central defence partnership. With Thomas Vermaelen back fit and ready for selection, and the good form of Koscielny and Mertesacker, for what feels like the first time in ages, we have options in central defence. Mr Wenger took the decision to play Vermaelen and Koscielny together, which seemed fair as the big German has played almost every game since he got to the club. The other question mark would be over the right back position. Would Johan Djourou get the chance again, or would Arsene show continued faith in young Carl Jenkinson? Jenkinson got the nod.

The Emirates Stadium observed the minute’s silence for next week’s Remembrance Day before the game. I don’t know about you, but a period of reflection before a game always seems to give a sense of perspective.

It was obvious from kick off what West Brom’s game plan was. They were going to stay disciplined with their shape, and not commit much going forward. From watching their game last week, I can’t say I’m surprised. Considering what they did to us last season though, you could rightly accuse them of lack of ambition.

Arsenal took control of the game early on, and were allowed a lion’s share of possession without being able to find the breakthrough. Walcott, Gervinho and Van Persie were interchanging well, making inroads and finding space in amongst the West Brom backline. Santos and Jenkinson, who were not under any pressure defensively at all, had free reign to join in the attacks. You got the impression that it was only a matter of time until we made the breakthrough.

Just over twenty minutes into the game, Arsenal had the ball in the back of the net. It was from a familiar source with our talismanic Dutchman on the score sheet, he won’t get an easier one all season. The architect of the goal was Aaron Ramsey. He played a fantastic defence splitting pass through the inside of West Brom’s left back. Theo was in behind the defence. He bore down on Ben Foster and attempted to put the ball through his legs. The ball caught one of keeper’s legs, but rolled straight into Robin’s stride, and he simply rolled it into the empty net. One-nil to the Arse-a-nal!

I began, although only very briefly, to feel sorry for Simon Cox. He was the only WBA player to have any real attacking responsibility. They just seemed happy to pump the balls into the channels and let him chase them. Even in the rare occasion he made it to the ball ahead of a man in red, there was no one in a striped shirt within 50 yards of him.

Arsenal’s second goal of the game came (indirectly) from a corner. West Brom failed to clear a corner properly. Alex Song put a deep cross into the far post from the left, Robin had timed his run perfectly. Realising the acute angle made it almost impossible to score; he pulled the ball back across goal. Thomas Vermaelen was still up the pitch from the corner side-footed the ball past the flat-footed Ben Foster. Robin who was gifted an easy opportunity for the first goal, did the same for a team mate for the second.

As the whistle blew for half time, I turned round to Darren and said, “Have they had a shot yet?”………they hadn’t!

As the second half got underway, you got the feeling that Arsenal were not going to put West Brom to the sword. Having gone two goals up without getting out of second gear, you got the feeling they were going to finish the game off without getting out of first.

Freed up by West Brom’s reluctance to put Arsenal under any pressure, Jenkinson was making some fantastic runs down the right flank overlapping Theo Walcott. The pleasing aspect with this was the fact that when in the good position, his delivery into the box was fantastic. He was unlucky not to get an assist in the second half.

With only twenty minutes to go, Arsene felt it was time to make a change, and I felt it was right. The game needed some renewed impetus. Arsenal made a double substitution with Benayoun and Rosicky coming on for Ramsey and Gervinho. The change had an immediate impact. Yossi and Tommy Ros were busy and interchanging passing moves.

They were not on the pitch for five minutes when Arsenal added their final goal. Robin Van Persie moved forward with the ball and played it out to Thomas Rosicky, he found Robin in the penalty area. Robin (who obviously has the whereabouts of his team-mates etched in his brain) played the ball out to the edge of the box to the waiting Mikel Arteta. Mikel side footed the ball into the corner of the net to wrap up the game.

West Brom made a final throw of the dice to salvage some pride, but it came to nothing. It was as comfortable a victory as you can ask for.

I was pleased with the performance in general, although I haven’t seen a team as poor as West Brom this season (well…. apart from a certain performance at Old Trafford in August). Along with Wigan, they are looking in serious trouble to me.

Robin continued to look like a world beater with a goal and two assists. Ramsey’s recent good form continued, and he seems to be growing as a player with every performance. I was also particularly pleased for Carl Jenkinson. He’s had a fair amount of criticism this year. He’s definitely not the finished article yet, but his improvement is particularly encouraging. Let’s face it; the lad’s a Gooner….. he’s living the dream, and I for one wish him all the best.

We now enter another teeth pulling International break. I, for one, will just be praying we don’t pick up any injuries. Then it’s Norwich away! I’ve never been to Carrow Road, and I’m really looking forward to it. Still, another weekend…….. another win! What Crisis?

Thanks for reading,

Dave (Follow me on Twitter @bigdavetaylor)

When I grow up…. I want to be a Football Agent

John-Marc Bosman has a lot to answer for doesn’t he?

With a bit of hindsight, I wish I’d found out what qualifications a Football Agent needed when I was at school. I would have done it, because now (at age 31) I think I could have retired – Let’s face it; I was never good enough to be a professional footballer, so surely becoming a rich man on the back of them is the next best thing.

The Bosman ruling came into force in 1995, I don’t think anyone could have imagined the effect it (plus the increase in TV and Champions League money) would have on the value of a player’s contract.

We have seen this summer (with Samir Nasri) that when you get to a certain stage of your contract, the player holds all the cards. I won’t bleat about this! Let’s face it; we have been the beneficiaries of such situations in the past. Obviously most people won’t be too overjoyed how we benefited from Bordeaux with Marouane Chamakh, but let’s not forget our ultimate scoop in getting Big Sol from behind enemy lines. We have also made the most of this country having a differing employment law to that of the continent, being able to offer players full-time contracts before the country of their origin (you know who I’m talking about).

The issue we have now, is that a few of our first team squad will be in the same position as Nasri was this summer unless they sign a new deal in the next 6 months. More importantly, our captain and vice-captain are included in their numbers.

Overall, I don’t criticise players for wanting to get the best deal for themselves, but there is definitely a limit to where my empathy will go. What a lot of us fan’s struggle to come to terms with, is that everyone in the first team squad is on more money a year then we will earn in a lifetime (*if this doesn’t apply to you then congratulations). Therefore, why are they being so greedy? The thing is, it’s all relative. We may consider £30,000 pa a decent wage. For a footballer, that’s the weekly for their first decent contract. I don’t like it, but the money’s in the game, where else is it going to go?

Before I discuss the players in question, let me first admit that I have no links with the players and the club. My knowledge of their contracts comes purely from what I think is common knowledge, and what a basic internet search tells me. If I’m wrong, then please feel free to put me right in the comments section.

From what I can make out, Thomas Rosicky’s contract is due to expire at the end of this season. I think many people will reluctantly say, ‘thank you and goodbye’ to the Czech. From a move that promised so much when he signed just before the 2006 World Cup, he has disappointed in the last few years. Granted, injury’s have taken their toll, and robbed him of some of the prime years of his career, but it’s time to say goodbye.

The players that are more interesting are those who contracts expire at the end of 2012. There may be more, but Robin Van Persie, Thomas Vermaelen, Theo Walcott and Andre Arshavin are the focus of this article. I put them in this order intentionally too, as it is (in my opinion) their order of importance to the club but.. I’m going to look at them in reverse order starting with Andre Arshavin.

The diminutive Russian has flattered to deceive for many Arsenal fans in the last three years. We have been treated to moments of brilliance, but they have been too few and far between. After his heroics at Anfield in 2009, we all thought we had signed a world beater, but that would prove to be a flash in the pan. My main problem with him is his work rate. The formation we play means that it leaves our full-backs extremely exposed, and this is amplified when the person playing in front of you doesn’t work hard enough. He would argue he should have been given more of a chance playing centrally (in the midfield), but I don’t think Wenger can trust him in there due to his lack of physicality. With respect to his contract, he is going to be 31 at the end of this season. How much money would we get for a 31-year-old player with only a year to go in his contract? The answer should be not much, but with some of the silly money rolling around in Russia at the moment, we can’t be too sure. If both Zenit St. Petersburg and Anzhi Makhachkala are interested in the Russian captain, there is a chance we might get a few quid for him. If that’s the case, I definitely think we should cash in. If they are not too interested, then I would be inclined to hold onto him and let his contract run down.

Theo is a totally different kettle of fish to Andre. Firstly, he will only be 23 at the end of this season. Secondly, he is English! Theo is a very frustrating player for Arsenal. He is capable of turning a game on its head with his pace, but just as capable of looking like he has never seen a football before let alone kicked or controlled one. We understand, however, that Chelsea made an inquiry for him this summer. Reports out in the continent suggest that Juventus are also interested in the speedster. His pace is such a threat that it scares teams to death, they defend deeper, and that creates more space on the pitch. We need to hold onto Theo in my opinion. It wouldn’t surprise me if he is looking for some element of assurance that he’s going to be given a chance as a central striker – For this to happen on a regular basis, I think we need to change our formation. I can’t see our manager doing that, so Wenger’s silver tongue will be needed to convince Walcott of his future. This isn’t as so when the manager’s own future is being brought into question. My initial inclination is that Theo will sign a new deal, even if there is a clause in it that he can leave for X amount of money for a Champions League club (presuming we do not make it).

The missing link for us last season, and the start of this one, could arguably be Thomas Vermaelen. He has been fantastic since he signed for us two years ago. The partnership he built with William Gallas looked as solid as we’ve had here for a long time. As the song went at Craven Cottage at the end of last season, ‘we missed him all year’ last year. He has also been the most quiet about his future, and so it is hard to gauge what his stand point is. There have been no rumblings from other clubs, and hopefully that is because is agent isn’t agitating for movement. That fact is though, teams throughout Europe will be interested. There is a massive linchpin in Thomas’s situation though, and that’s how he returns from his latest injury. All parties (Arsenal, Thomas, his agent & prospective buyers) will be looking to see if he can regain his form of 18 months ago. If he gets a few good months under his belt, you will start to hear noises from other clubs. My view is, we should try to tie him down before he looks the finished article again. Then, hope our faith and loyalty will be reciprocated by the player. It’s a very difficult one to gauge but I’m hoping he will stay, and provide what we’ve been missing for the last year or so.

Finally, and most importantly we have our captain – Robin van Persie. For obvious reasons, he has been the most talked about player. All reports (the validity of them could be questioned though) suggest that Robin is looking for assurances that we are going to compete on the pitch. Unfortunately, on this season’s evidence, we haven’t really put much weight behind our argument. Maybe he is waiting to see what Ivan and Arsene have up their sleeves for the January transfer window? Many Gooners would argue (me being one of them) that the amount of time he’s spent in the treatment rooms in the last 8 years warrants a little bit more loyalty than his current posture is perhaps suggesting. I know loyalty is becoming rarer and rarer in football, but I’m a romantic and think there could still be a place for it the modern game. Saying that, I don’t really blame our club captain for asking questions about where the club is going. Let’s face it; we’ve been doing the same thing recently. We will be asking him to sign a (minimum) four-year contract. Who knows what sort of position we will be in then? I don’t think you can underestimate how important Robin’s commitment is to the short to mid-term future of the club. What message does it send out to the current squad, and prospective imports, if your captain and talisman’s future is uncertain? One of the worrying factors is Robin has moved to Darren Dein for his agent services, a man who has previous for engineering players moves away from North London. I hope it doesn’t set a precedent. I’m going to lead with my heart rather than my head on this one, and predict that we convince Robin that his future lays at the Gunners. Fingers crossed.

You will notice that I haven’t talked about wages for the four players in question. It may sound ridiculous, but I don’t think that money will be the ultimate motivation for their departure or stay. I think Thomas, Theo and Robin will be given their desired pay deal (even if it involves breaking the current wage structure).

These are pivotal months for the current playing squad. You cannot replace players like this very easily. That said, we are Arsenal, we will continue to be a big club even if they do all go. This is not going to be a rarity in the future. Every season we will have similar battles to retain our top stars. It’s not just an Arsenal issue; every team around the world will have the same problem. Thanks a lot John-Marc Bosman…

Thanks for reading.

Dave (Follow me on Twitter @bigdavetaylor)

The Age of Sweeping Statements

Arsenal 1-0 Swansea City

Szczesny, Sagna – Mertesacker – Koscielny – Gibbs, Frimpong – Arteta – Ramsey, Walcott – Arshavin – Van Persie.

Yesterday’s football exploits started off as home games often do for me…….. in the Blackstock pub. I was meeting an old friend of mine who is from Swansea, and a Swans fan. He was entering the match with concern that his team were going to be on the end of a backlash from the gunners after what happened at Old Trafford two weeks ago. I thought he could be right, and the feeling I got from many gooners was that a lot of us felt the same.

It was good (but not a surprise) to see both Arteta and Mertesacker making their debuts. Obviously our injury situation didn’t give us much choice. Both slotted in fairly seamlessly. Mertesacker was obviously trying to be very safe and deliberate, which is what I would expect from a brand new centre half. Arteta slotted seamlessly into the side with our passing game suiting the Spaniard’s style of play. With Andre Santos, Yossi Benayoun and Ju Young Park on the bench, all five last minute summer signings had the chance of making their debut.

You really got the feeling that the Arsenal fans wanting to get behind their team, which as we all know isn’t always the case at the Emirates. Maybe they were spurred on by the efforts of the away support up at Old Trafford in our last outing, or it could have just been the excitement of our new signings. Either way, you hoped the expectation would be met.

In the first minute Arsenal had a great opportunity to take the lead when Arteta and Ramsey linked up well, but the Welshman failed to finish. It seemed to me that he tried to change his stride just as he got to the ball. The result was high, wide and not so handsome.

Both teams were getting the ball down well and producing some really good passing football. It was Swansea who made the next breakthrough though. A ball was played in from the right, Danny Graham got in front of Per Mertesacker and got a toe on the ball. Szczesney had to change direction and get very low to save it, but save it is what he did. Fantastic goalkeeping!

After quarter of an hour a lovely through ball from Andre Arshavin to Theo Walcott gave the Englishman a great chance to put Arsenal in front. He slid the ball past the Vorm (the Swansea goalkeeper), but it was cleared off the line by Ashley Williams.

There was again a lot more patient build up from both teams, without ever really causing the goalkeepers much trouble. Then, just before half time, Theo had a shot deflected that looked to be travelling out for a corner. The Swansea goalkeeper sprinted and managed to catch the ball and keep it in play. Danger over…….. or so we thought. Vorm attempted to role the ball out of defence, but it hit the back of Angel Rangel’s heels. The ball rolled straight to Andre Arshavin, who from a tight angle and with his wrong foot, hit the ball first time into the empty net. One nil to the Arsenal.

Swansea started the second half the better, and not long into the half the Swans caused the Arsenal backline problems. Scott Sinclair used his pace to ghost roust Koscielny, who brought him down. I’m sure a lot of Arsenal fans had their hearts in their mouths, as they thought that for a fourth league game in a row the Arsenal would be down to ten men. In truth though, there was plenty of cover, and a yellow card was the correct decision by the referee. The resulting free kick clipped the top of the cross bar and Arsenal had escaped punishment.

A few minutes later a jinking Van Persie move on the edge of the box resulted in a right-footed (his chocolate leg) shot that clipped the outside of the post. This sparked Arsenal into taking charge of the game for a period. The consistently got themselves into good positions, without ever really troubling the Swansea goalkeeper.

We saw the introduction of Yossi Benayoun who (like Arteta) slotted seamlessly into our way of play. It was another replacement who nearly put us in an unassailable lead. With barely five minutes to go, and Chamakh having entered the fray as a replacement for Van Persie, Arsenal did trouble the goalkeeper. Gibbs was unleashed down the left, and with a great first time cross that was met by the big Morrocan. His header, however, was saved by Worn.

There was time for one final chance for the visitors. A corner (yes they still trouble us) was flown in to the danger area. No defender got a head to the ball, and Szczesny ended up in a tangle with two Swansea players. The ball landed at Danny Graham’s feet, bit his turn and shot blazed over the bar. It was a let of for Arsenal. A late equalizer for the Swans would have absolutely destroyed the Arsenal team and the fans.

So…….. three points, nothing more nothing less. No statement was sent out, but we did what we needed to do. We’ve got a big game on Tuesday, and have to travel up to Blackburn on Saturday. This result gives us something to build on.

A word on the opposition: they played some delightful passing football, but no final product. If we are Barcelona light, then Swansea are Arsenal light. I think both teams have a case of too much foreplay with no ejaculation!

Leaving the ground I was a little frustrated with some of the Arsenal fans. I heard the following sweeping statements on the route to Finsbury Park station:

“One-nil against this lot, that’s as low as you can get” – Surely it’s not, we could have drawn or lost. The fact is we needed three points. A five or six nil win might send out a message of intent, but then we would have had the fact that it was only Swansea thrown in our face.

“Frimpong isn’t ready for this level” – Why? He was castigated for not keeping his head against Liverpool. Yesterday, he did a very professional job. He went about his job quietly and efficiently. He can’t seem to win! He is Alex Song’s understudy, and when Alex is available he will be on the bench. I think he did a good job yesterday.

“That’s not good enough for Arsenal” – You may be right, but you only get three points for a win. The same as Man United only got three points when they destroyed us. I’m not saying everything rosey at the club, or questions shouldn’t be asked. I just think some people aren’t happy unless they’ve got something to moan about!

Still……. onwards! We’ve got a massive game on Tuesday to look forward to.

I’m looking forward to going to the Arsenal Supporters Trust meeting tomorrow night with Paul. Should get a slightly more insightful look at where we are as a club at the moment.

Regards,
Dave

Jack: Why… and what now?

Sunday’s revelations that young Jack Wilshere is going to be out until November has been met with much distress by many an Arsenal fan. Injuries are of course a part of the game, and every club has them. The question we all seem to be asking is; why do we always seem to get more than anyone else? *This morning we’ve awoken to the news that Thomas Vermaelen is set for another spell on the sidelines, but we’ll get to that at the end of Dave’s post (Paul)

Jack loves a tackle

Let’s start with Jack. One of the things that endeared him to us all (apart from his fantastic vision and skill) is his ability to take knocks – pick himself up – dust himself off – and get on with the game. I’m sure Wenger had no intention on him playing the 50+ games he did for club and country last year. It was a culmination of Wenger being under intense pressure, other players having injury’s (Cesc/Rambo/Diaby/Rosicky) and ultimately Jack playing in a manner that was making him undroppable. It’s very easy (and I see many doing it) criticising the manager in hindsight, but if Arsene had dropped him last year, we all would have been up in arms demanding the reintroduction of our talisman, which at the time he undoubtedly was. It does show, however, why Arsene was so against him going away with the Under 21’s. Personally I don’t understand why, after getting his way about the U21 situation, he didn’t give Jack an extended holiday and let him recover fully. I could then go on to say how we should have brought Arteta/Benayoun in July so he wouldn’t be missed as much, but I’d just be covering old ground.

At the end of the day the manager made his decision, and now he must deal with the consequences. I’m sure he regrets playing him ‘in the red zone’ but what choice did he have. If he’s rested him for any of Liverpool (H), Spurs (A), Bolton (A) or United (H) last season there would have been mass hysteria amongst the fans.

Going on to the larger picture of the injury history we’ve had over the last few years, I’m a little bit undecided. Firstly I’m in no doubt that our players are some of the fittest in the game. It’s one of the reasons we seem to be able to cause major problems in the final ten minutes of the game but, like a precision piece of machinery, the more highly tuned and intricate it is, the more chance there is that it will go wrong. There is also a school of thought that we just seem to have accumulated fragile players (although I think that’s a little bit too simplistic).

The good doctor

I have heard people criticise our medical team, but I refuse to believe that we haven’t got the best we can get in that department. I’ve always felt a little bit sorry for Colin Lewin. Since his cousin Gary (still the only physio I’ve heard have his name sung by fans in the stands) went to work full-time with the England set-up, Colin seems to have taken flack from some quarters as if to suggest he isn’t as good a physiotherapist. Now, this might be true, but none of us really know. What I am sure of is that if Colin wasn’t as strong as Gary, Arsenal would have replaced him before now. We do have a wealth of experience in the medical team. Club doctor Gary O’Driscoll (who is also Brian O’Driscoll’s cousin) has worked for the Irish Rugby team and the British & Irish Lions as well as Arsenal. Although rugby is a totally different sport with different injuries, if he felt we were doing something wrong then I’m sure he would make it known or at least be attempting to improve things.

Bad techniques?

The one thing left to analyse is our training techniques. We all know Wenger has been credited with revolutionary training systems since he arrived in England 15 years ago. It is now, however, coming under scrutiny. Wales’ Dutch conditioning coach (Raymond Verheijen), who has a huge amount of experience in both domestic and International football, has openly criticised Arsene Wenger’s set-up. He seems to think we train at too high an intensity. I suppose you are then in the catch 22 of not being as fit (as I’m sure that’s why our players can keep going when others can’t) or having more injuries. I don’t know enough to judge it myself, but I do know Arsenal have had their training independently reviewed recently, so maybe times they are a changing. It doesn’t bring Jack back any quicker though does it!?!

So, we have to get used to life on the pitch without young Mr. Wilshere for now. Let’s face it at least we have an alternative option now. Obviously, in the immediate future, a lot depends on what condition people return from International duty in. Rambo has almost been expected to take on the mantle this season, somewhat unfairly as he & Jack are different types of players, and the Welshman has a massive (and I’m sure bruising) game against England to get through unscathed tomorrow night before we can start counting on his inclusion against Swansea. I’m sure many people will assume that Arteta will just slot into the advanced midfielder slot and therefore be a direct replacement for Cesc. If you have watched Arteta over the years for Everton though, since he moved centrally from wide right, he sits a lot deeper than people realise (much the same as Jack). He also is a lot more combative than people give him credit for (much the same as Jack). In fact, I think our new signing would be more comfortable filling Jack’s boots than he would Cesc’s.

A new hope

This still gives us the problem of who is going to fill the advanced role of the midfield trio. Well Yossi ‘No medical’ Benayoun could play that role, but I’m not sure having two new signings in the midfield straight away would be wise. This is especially poignant as the third is likely to be the young and inexperienced (albeit highly regarded) Emmanuel Frimpong. I think for the Swansea game (injuries permitting) Rambo will play and he and Arteta will share the playmaking responsibilities. Are we then in danger though, of getting into a similar position with young Aaron as we are with Jack? He is (along with Monkey Boy Bale) the poster boy of the Welsh team and at the moment I can’t see him getting much rest!

There is a school of thought that Arshavin should be given the chance to show what he can do centrally. The Swansea game would arguably be an ideal time to do this, but with the start we’ve had I think we just need to get three points and build.

What is the Russian for 'Pull your finger out'?

I always get a little bit restless during the Interlull, but I can’t wait for the two home games we’ve got coming up. We will get the chance to see all the new signings (if not against Swansea then against Shrewsbury). Plus I think many of us see Saturday as a chance to get back on the horse again after licking our Manchester United inflicted wounds. League wise, we are entering a three game run where we should be looking at a minimum 7 point haul if we want to take something substantial into the derby on the 2nd October.

Either way, it’d be nice to talk about football again rather than transfers and injuries.

Thanks for reading.

Dave

*Well sadly its injuries that are once again the major Arsenal talking point. As reported at the top of this post Thomas Vermaelen is set to miss the next two months after undergoing surgery on his ankle in Stockholm yesterday.

Broken again

It’s a major blow to both the player & the team, we’ve only just got used to having the Belgian back after he missed much of last season with an achilles injury.

It seems that this is just pure bad luck, the centre half took a kick in the game against Udinese and has failed to recover sufficiently during the intervening fortnight leading the club to sanction surgery in the hope that Tommy can avoid another lengthy enforced absence. The nature of the injury and indeed the medical procedure undertaken to treat it are not as yet clear but all this means that Per Mertesacker is going to have to hit the ground running & form an understanding with Laurent Koscielny.

Instant impact required

There are still many Gooners adamant that we should have signed Gary Cahill ahead of the German, or indeed as well as, and no doubt those voices of discontent will now be crying out again and will go into hyper drive should the German international make even the smallest of mistakes in his first few appearances for the club. If there is indeed an error made by the giant German then I hope that there isn’t a flurry of outrage and cries of ‘Not good enough’ because we’re once again asking a player to step into a team devoid of some of its best and most pivotal players, expecting new additions to instantly fill the breach and look as if they had played in this team their whole careers. Hopefully that is what will happen but we can’t go heaping expectations or indeed throwing tantrums and call for heads to roll at the sight of slight mishaps.

With any luck Vermaelen will be back much sooner than two month window that has been suggested but until then it is yet another center back partnership for the Arsenal – Mertecielny.

Paul.

New Faces, New Options

I’ve been promising Paul I’d write a piece about how we’ll line up, or at least the options we have for a while now.  I kept delaying it because, like most Arsenal fans, I thought that signings were going to be imminent.  I didn’t want the piece to be outdated as soon as it was posted!  Now, however, after the crazy day that was Wednesday I have a better idea how we may line up.

If you look at the players we’ve brought in, it’s feasible that (everyone being fit and available) three of the signings are in our starting eleven, those players being Mertesacker, Santos and Arteta.  Out of those three, you could argue that only Arteta is nailed on!  I think both Gibbs and Koscielny would count themselves relatively unlucky to not be first choice, but if the last week has shown us anything it’s the importance of the squad players.

My first choice starting eleven with everyone available (which less face it is rare) would be: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Song, Wilshere, Arteta, Walcott, Gervinho, Van Persie.  

It might surprise you to see that I’ve put Gibbs in ahead of Santos, but I’ve personally seen hardly anything of Andre Santos and am sticking to what I know. Now, what I’ve heard about him is quite positive, but there’s still only a handful of people who can give an informed opinion (and when I say informed I don’t mean seeing him play against Scotland at the Emirates). Still we were desperate for cover there. Arguably, we were more in need of a left back than we were of a centre back. He has International and Champions League experience and he has also won the league in Turkey. All boxes ticked as far as I’m concerned.

Yossi Benayoun is a player I have admired from a far for some time now (Not because of his looks I might add). I was a little bit disappointed we didn’t try for him when he left both West Ham and Liverpool. I know many of you will be thinking that it’s all very well saying that now he’s at our club, but I remember having the conversation with a Liverpool fan last year. The creativity he’s got is something that Liverpool missed last season after he moved to Chelsea. The worry we have is his injury proneness. He hasn’t had the best record in the last couple of years, and I’m always suspicious of the thoroughness of a medical of a signing so late in the day. He is, however, going to have an important place in this squad.  He is able to fill a role as the advanced central midfield role (the Cesc role), or one of the wide forward roles. The way deadline day panned out it looked like we would get either Benayoun or Arteta. I said at the time (as I’m sure we all did) that I would like them both, and was chuffed when we actually did complete both signings.

In Mikel Arteta we have a player that I’m sure we’ve all muttered the word’s, ‘he’s an Arsenal type player’ about. He plays with the Spanish swagger that we were spoilt with when Cesc was here & he’s been in the Premier League for six years too.  If I remember rightly from last season’s game against Everton at the Emirates, he doesn’t mind a tackle either. Although I’m sure that night I was cursing his name when I felt he was a little over-zealous. At a push he could fill in a wide role, but more probably be able to interchange during a match (dare I say it, much the same as Nasri used to). Arteta is probably the poster boy of our signings. I think most of us think he (with Mertesacker) is likely to have the biggest impact on our team. This is surely due to people associating him with Cesc.

The situation we now have in the midfield is that we have options. Song or Frimpong (or Frimpsong as Paul is collectivley calling the pair), Wilshere or Ramsey, Arteta or Benayoun, and that’s without taking Rosicky or Diaby into the equation. That is what we needed as much as anything. With our history (both historically and currently) with injuries and suspensions, we need to have that strength in depth.

Per Mertesacker coming in to bolster our defensive line could be our most important signing. I have a lot of time for both Vermaelen and Koscielny, but (let’s face it) how often do we need to supplement for an alternative?  I used to have a lot of faith in Johan Djourou, but he seems to have been on a gradual decline since February. This coupled with the fact that Squillaci has never shown the proven Champions League player that we were all sold last year. *I’m well aware that is a massive understatement, we’ve all said a lot about the Frenchman’s failing over the last year.

A lot of fans (me included) wanted to see the Englishman Gary Cahill come into the club.  We were obviously interested in the final days of the window. I definitely would not go along with idea that we got the poor relation though.  Mertesacker is only 15 months older than Cahill. The German, however, has an additional 75 international caps and Champions League experience. It’s not like those International caps came for Malta or an equivalent crap nation. He got them for Germany, a team that consistently achieve better than England in major tournaments!  Since his debut six years ago, he has missed less than ten games for his country. I’m aware people are concerned about his pace, but he wouldn’t be the first/only defender to succeed in the Premier League with limited pace. If you read the game well enough, it shouldn’t be an issue. How quick is Terry, Carragher or Vidic?.  Still I could be proved wrong, but I’d be surprised.

The position in our squad that still worries me is up front. As with Andre Santos, my knowledge of Chu-Young Park is pretty limited. He did, however, score a hatrick yesterday (Friday) for South Korea.  From what I’m told, he could occupy the central role, or one of the wide roles. One thing is for sure, you know he’s going to work hard for the team. I don’t think the South Korean’s know how to be lazy!  My biggest worry with the forward line is, if Robin’s out (which is inevitable at some stage – although he walked away unscathed after scoring four goals in Hollands demolition of San Marion last night), we are relying on ‘Ju’ to fill in or on Chamakh (who is so low on confidence at the moment I just want to give him a hug). This shortfall has been highlighted more due to the departure of Bendtner and I think we may see Walcott playing through the middle more than he has previously.

It’s been a very topsy-turvey week for Gooners. One that could not have started worse has actually finished with a very buoyant mood. I’m sure I’m not the only one who can’t wait for the Swansea game to see our new acquisitions. It’s the sort of feeling you for the first game of the season, which we’ve been robbed of recently (no offence to Gervinho). Do you think the FA will make the first three games of the season void, I think we’re in much better shape now to start again…

Thanks for reading, and if you are so inclined you can follow me on Twitter

Dave


A kick up the Arsenal

Arsenal 0-2 Liverpool

Arsenal – Szczesny – Jenkinson, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Sagna – Frimpong, Ramsey, Nasri – Walcott, Arshavin, Van Persie

Liverpool – Reina – Kelly, Carragher, Agger, Enrique – Lucs, Henderson, Adam, Kuyt, Downing – Carroll

Early kick off’s always mess with my pre-match routine. As it turns out, it meant that my post match drinking was longer than usual (hence that delay in this report). I was reading the programme in the Blackstock pub before the game, and I just couldn’t believe how threadbare our squad looks. I must admit I didn’t expect Nasri to play, but as soon as I found out he was, there was only one thing that went through my mind: “thank god for that”.

To be honest I surprised myself with that response. I don’t want to sound hypercritical, but leading up to the game I felt he shouldn’t be anywhere near the team. However, for all Wenger’s failings, he would not put him in the team if he didn’t think the team would benefit from it.

As expected Samir got a bit of stick to begin with, but as soon as we saw he was putting a shift in, a majority got behind him. To be honest I’ve never and will never boo an Arsenal player, manager or board member! I’m not judging those who do, but I just find it counter-productive. On the other hand, I won’t sing his name again, unless he commits to the club.

I was looking forward to seeing Emmanual Frimpong start. He is more renowned for his social media exploits than those on the pitch at the moment, but that will change. I’ve been following this lad since he was sixteen years, and have always thought he’s gonna be one hell of a player. Granted I would prefer to see him blooded gently to gain experience, but that’s a luxury that we don’t have at the moment (due to Alex Song’s stupidity).

Liverpool won the toss and turned us around from our usual end. Sitting in the North Bank, that irritated me, but still…….. hey ho. We started the game well enough, with evidence that both teams are going to try and get forward score goals (something the away side were not as keen to do in the corresponding fixture last year). The writing was possibly on the wall for Frimpong when he arguable should have been booked for a foul on Agger after a minute.

Liverpool were mixing their play up well, with long ball’s up to Carroll and good play through the midfield. I think they still lack the same midfield vision that we do though. I’m starting to realise what a great player Cesc was, but as the old saying goes, ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone!’

Frimpong was booked after an altercation with Henderson on the touch line, but after watching it again this morning; he was very unfortunate to be booked. I think Atkinson realised Frimmers got away with the initial tackle earlier and felt he had to make up for it! Atkinson continued to frustrate Arsenal fans with baffling decisions against Walcott and Koscielny.

With twelve minutes gone a massive blow happened for Arsenal. Laurent Koscielny pulled up with a back spasm, and Ignasi Miguel was introduced. Let me reiterate we now had Jenkinson, Frimpong and Miguel on the pitch. I’m not belittling these players, I’ve already waxed lyrical about Frimpong, but it is worrying how our first team resembles what would have been our League Cup team a couple of years ago!

In the twentieth minute, Andy Carroll found himself in space and his header needed a good save from Szczesny . A few minutes later Liverpool were causing problems down the left with Jose Enrique looking to exploit Carl Jenkinson’s inexperience. The most irritating thing about that is the fact that I had highlighted him as a replacement for Clichey when he left. At £6 million, it is fantastic value.

Both Jenkinson and Arshavin delivered good balls into the Liverpool box, only to be met by…………………… no one!

With nearly half an hour on the clock Charlie Adam got delusions of grandeur with a speculative shot from his own half. Szczney was up to the test though. A minute later saw Frimpong coax a good save from Reina, after a shot from twenty-five yards. Unfortunately that would be a best effort of the half. Samir Nasri made a fantastic run which took him from his own half to the edge of the Liverpool box resulting In a shot which went just wide. It was just what the Frenchman needed to get the fans on his side!

Atkinsons’ inconsistency was beginning to frustrate the Arsenal fans and players. Now I’m not really one for criticising referee’s, but being petulantly concise about certain parts of the rules and then not even awarding a free kick from a blatant tackle from behind really irritates me.

With it goalless at half time it was probably a fair reflection of how the game was panning out, although if I was forced, I would probably reluctantly say Liverpool edged it.

Into the second half and it was becoming abundantly clear that players were looking at each other to make something happen, rather than do it themselves. I don’t really credit Liverpool with a realistic title challenge to be honest, I think it’s the for the Manchester clubs to battle for. If, however, you look at their midfield they have options to play in a multitude of ways. We seem to be stuck with Plan A, and not sure how to change it.

The game seemed to be stagnating to an extent with a Martin Kelly strike and a tame Robin Van Persie effort being the only chances of note. In Robin’s defence the pass from Arshavin did take a very slight deflection which prevented him from getting a clean contact.

Then with twenty minutes to go (annoyingly just as it looked like we were getting the better of the Scousers) Frimpong was sent off for a second bookable offence. I rate Frimpong and have followed his progress over the years, and one thing is for sure; this might be his first red card, but it will not be his last. I just hope he learns from this and matures.

Liverpool were intent on making their numerical advantage count, and the arrival of Luis Saurez to the fray gave them a different dimension.

With thirteen minutes to go the deadlock was broken in dubious circumstances. A through ball was played to Suarez, when Ignasi Miguel made a tackle the ball deflected off Aaron Ramsey’s chest and looped over Szczesny’s head into the net. If it wasn’t so disastrous, it would have been funny. It was, however, offside and shouldn’t have stood.

You sensed that the players knew they weren’t going to get back into the game, and Wenger’s introduction of Bendtner did not to change that. The second goal, with us chasing the game, was inevitable. The manner of it, when it came, was disappointing. A well worked move by Liverpool, as they waltzed through our back line, and culminated in a tap in for Luis Suarez. It was a deserved win for Liverpool.

So…………. We’re entering the biggest week I think we’ve had in a long time, definitely during the Emirates era. I know we have injuries and suspensions, but we need bodies. What are the bets we try and get ourselves a bargain with five minutes left of the window? Then when we fail, we will get the all too familiar ‘we tried’ bullshit.

Frustration/anxious/bewilderment, words that are all too poignant for Gooners at the moment. Two massive games to come this week, I’ve got to admit…………………………. I’m nervous!

Dave

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