What is wrong with Xhaka?

November 26, 2016

Just a quickie.

My guess is that if you were to ask 100 Gooners whether Xhaka would start against PSG, well over 90 would have said “Yes”. So, why didn’t Mr Wenger agree? The simple answer is that I have no idea! However, as we need a post I will make some suggestions.

  1. Against PSG Mr. Wenger wanted to give Ramsey a role further forward, not on the left or right wings and more central. However, AW does not believe Xhaka can curb his attacking instincts and required a more disciplined DM. Coquelin is the obvious choice.
  2. Xhaka is still on the naughty step. Perhaps he is lethal on the training pitch and AW was concerned that the diving (and combative) PSG midfield would have encouraged GX’s aggressive tendencies.
  3. In training the Xhaka/Ramsey axis simply doesn’t work. It looks fine on paper and many pundits have predicted they are the future for AFC, but in a recent game Elneny was chosen ahead of GX which raises some questions. One of which is where does Elneny fit in?
  4. It seems as though Mr Wenger’s first choice midfield is Cazorla and Coquelin, when Santi returns where does Xhaka fit in? Can Xhaka and Santi combine or is this too attacking?
  5. Mr Wenger was disappointed by GX’s very quiet performance against Spurs, a game of great importance in which he was anonymous and unable to  have a real influence. With both MU and PSG he wanted more experienced players (like Iwobi!)

We have yet to see the best of our second most expensive signing. I am excited to see how good he is as the portents are very good. He can shoot which it a major positive. Like Fabregas, he can control the tempo of the Arsenal attack, picking up the ball from deep and using both short and long passes to change the focus of attack.

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Mr. Wenger when questioned about Xhaka’s absence replied that he needs time to adapt to the PL. Strange that Mustafi doesn’t need the same bedding in!

If you were to ask 100 Gooners if Xhaka will start tomorrow I guess over 90 will say “Yes”. We could be wrong.

written by Big Raddy

 


Nil – Nil to the Arsenal, Nil – Nil to the Arsenal…. Match Report.

August 27, 2012

Having just returned from a holiday in the South of France; a country with a wonderful climate and a farming industry that provides its people with more or less everything that one could wish for – French supermarkets are the closest earthlings can get to heaven, if you are, like me, one of those who lives to eat rather than eats to live – I cannot help but wonder what the likes of Giroud (French, born in Chambery, situated in the wonderful French Alps), and Cazorla (Spanish, born in Llanera, North-West Spain) made of their trip to the Country of Wrath – The Land of the Orcs.

Just imagine our new signings pronouncing the word(s): ‘Stoke (on Trent)’: I reckon it would sound like somebody choking on a lump of baguette. Compare that to the poetic sounds of ‘Chambery’ and ‘Montpellier’, or ‘Llanera’ and ‘Malaga’, and I think you know where I am coming from.

Going to the North-West/East has seldom or never been easy for Arsenal, and Sunday’s trip to Stoke was the first big physical and mental test for both Arsenal as a ‘new’ team and for our new arrivals in particular.

Luckily, in quick succession, the Northern ‘B-teams’ – Blackburn, Bolton, Blackpool, Burnley – have dropped out of the Premier League in the last few years, resulting in fewer visits to that doomed corner of the country this season. And long may it continue.

Whatever Santi and Oliver made of the place, and its physically/intellectually/emotionally challenged people (booing Aaron Ramsey sums it all up), they showed no signs of weakness or need to adjust to their new surroundings.

That, combined with another fine performance by our defence, are the main positives we can take away from Sunday’s game.

First Half

From the start, it became clear Stoke expected us to dominate play and a row of 4 defenders and five midfielders were positioned in front of their goalie, in order to make life difficult for us. Arsenal combined well and was able to pin Stoke back from the first minute. The ball was being passed round the way we have become so used to over the last few years, and we were able to breach their bus-shaped defensive walls on a number of occasions. If, now and again, we lost the ball in Stoke’s half – especially Diaby and Gervinho had a few moments of weakness at the start of the game – our defenders pressed the opposition quickly and forcefully, resulting in us regaining possession almost instantly. On Sunday, we owned the area between their box and the mid-circle once again, and long may it continue.

We were bullying the Orcs and it felt fecking brilliant!

There were a number of opportunities in the first half. As early as the eight’s minute, Giroud combined with Podolksi in the box and the latter had a decent opportunity to score. The Stoke defender Wilkinson lost his balance as a result of Giroud’s and the Pod’s quick movement, and whilst falling over, the former, serendipitously, ended up in the path of Pod’s attempt on goal. He handled the ball but I don’t think it was a penalty, and we are not Chelsea of course; so nothing given.

The excellent Prince Poldi, who often could be found away from his left wing position, made a mazy run through the middle and was cynically fouled by Huth. The subsequent free-kick, from a promising position, just outside the box, was wasted by Cazorla. Unfortunately, it would not be the last free-kick to be wasted by Arsenal during the game.

Another good move led to a cross from the left which Giroud just could not reach with his head. On top of that, Cazorla had a number of shots at goal from distance, and all in all we deserved a goal from our efforts.

However, it is fair to say, that although we created a number of chances in the first half, we still looked quite rusty in our attacking efforts.

This should not come as a big surprise to us, as except for Gervinho, all our attack-minded players are new. On top of that, Diaby has not played regular football for a long, long time and Arteta has only just returned from a long-term injury as well. They will need time to gel so they can become more instinctive and effective, and the only way to do this is by training hard, and especially by playing more and more competitive games together.

Stoke were only able to get a few set-pieces against us and our defence, including our stand-in goalie Mannone, remained calm and organised – never allowing the crowd any satisfaction. Once again, we were the ones who controlled the game.

Second Half

I can be short about the second half. It was disappointing to see we could not move a gear up with regards to our attacking efforts after the break. I have seldom seen Arsenal so risk averse. The FB’s did not offer as much support to our wingers as we’ve got used to over the years, and the CB’s stayed continuously behind. I felt Cazorla got more and more isolated and tired as both Diaby and, the once again excellent, Arteta sat back more and more. Diaby and Arteta helped out our defence when it really mattered though in the second half, which was great to see, as well as crucial.

The substitutions of our ‘wingers’ Gervinho and Podolski, by Theo and The Ox, made sense, but they also could not make a significant difference. There were still a few half-chances for Giroud, but a combination of tiredness and over-eagerness, meant he was not able to turn them into goals – although he almost clinched the three points for us with a beautifully imagined, and subsequently executed diagonal lob over the goalie from 25 yards or so. But, it was not to be.

Conclusions

I watched the game in a busy and loud pub, which made it difficult to analyse the game with a bit more depth. I would love to watch the game again with just one objective: to check out how much support both Arteta and Diaby gave to our attackers.

Having watched a couple of Chelsea games and also the game between Dortmund and Bremen in the last few days, I came to realise once again how important it is for one of the two deeper laying midfielders to support the attacking midfielder as much as possible, in order to dominate the opposition in front of their box and add creative thrust (without losing positional discipline of course). Chelsea’s Mereiles really impressed me on Saturday against NU. Every time he came forward to support the attacking players, the Barcodes were put under severe pressure.

In our game, I felt that Diaby and Arteta were not always effective enough in their support of our attackers/AM, but I would need to see the game again to see whether this was indeed so. Dare I say it; I thought we missed Song yesterday, although I also believe that both Arteta and Diaby will get better at supporting the sole AM as the season develops: they are both well-rounded, quality midfielders.

However, I thought both Arteta and Diaby supported our defence really well when it mattered, and I was pleasantly surprised by Diaby’s physical/aerial presence; especially in the second half.

I thought our defence played with discipline and focus and, on the few occasions they were called into action: they were a joy to watch.

Unfortunately, the departures of brave sir robin and Song means we will have to go through another year of transition. But I have no doubt that Cazorla, Giroud and Podolski are quality additions to our team, and whilst they are gelling together with our other players, they will get better and better.

The most important thing, though, is the back-to-basics approach with regards to our defence. We will not win anything anymore until we have a mean, lean, defensive machine again, and the first two games have been very encouraging with regards to establishing just that.

With Liverpool away, Southampton at home, City away and Chelsea at home, between now and 29 September, our defensive will face tougher tests ahead, but like many others, I am getting more and more confident that Steve Bould has been making real progress in making us defensively sound, this summer.

Add to that, that Giroud and Cazorla have come through the ‘Northern Test’ very successfully (and I expected nothing else from the Pod – the man is simply indestructible), and that Wenger keeps hinting there will be one or two more signings in the coming week, and there are plenty of reasons for us to be positive, despite the somewhat dull second half today.

After all, only the Southern Oilers have been able to win all their games and, as unlikely as it may sound after two draws, we are above the Spuds and Pool, just two points behind the Northern Oilers, and only one point behind the Mancs and the Barcodes. It looks like Lady Luck is helping us to settle this new team in this time!

Player ratings

Mannone and defence: 7.5 – all solid, disciplined and focussed – a real unit: 7.5.

Arteta: 7.5 – quickly getting back to his very best.

Diaby: 7 – better second half, despite tiring at the end. If he can stay fit for a while, he will become better and better. Fingers and all other body-parts crossed!

Cazorla: 8 – real quality: our new dynamo and a natural strings-puller. MOTM.

Gervinho: 5 – worked very hard, but this was not his best day.

Podolski: 7.5 – loved his energy, physicality and thrust. Really happy to see he can play effectively for us on the left wing. Goals and assists are just a matter of time.

Giroud: 7.5 – loved his energy, physicality, thrust and link-up play. Obviously, he is very eager to score goals and they will come. He just needs to settle in a bit.

Total Arsenal.


Slotting in our new players

August 20, 2012

Three signings have already been confirmed in Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla, and a forth is possibly going to happen in Şahin from Madrid. But it is like when it is like the weather in England, we moan when it is too cold and then moan when it is too cold, we moan when we don’t sign anyone and now some fans are moaning that we have no where to play them! Some people are never happy!

Well, firstly let’s start with Podolski. If you were alive recently in June and the start of July, then you would have seen the Euro’s. You may have also seen the most entertaining team in it, Germany, where Podolski was a regular starter. If you did watch our first signing of the summer transfer window, then you would have noticed that he play played on the left wing. This is not actually Podolski’s natural position, even though he is left footed. He is more of a centre forward, a player that sits behind the striker, but he does naturally drag the ball towards the left so he can have a shot on his stronger foot. He can also do this upfront.

So that centre forward position, do we already have players that play there? Well I personally believe that we don’t have a player that is actually meant to play in that position, although we do have some players that can. We have players like Walcott, Gervinho and the Ox who can play behind whatever striker starts upfront next season, Giroud or even maybe a new striker we sign, although that would obviously mean they were replacing Van Persie. Arteta could probably even play behind the strikers if he was asked too.

But it all depends on the formation that Wenger plays the team in this season, Podolski may play on the winger or behind the strikers. In past seasons he has opted to have ‘copied’ Barcelona with the 4-3-3 formation with two defensive or holding midfields and one in front of them, and one central striker.

I think that the formation will be changed next season, we will have Giroud, so he may play a 4-2-2-2, although Podolski would have to play on the wing in that formation, and we would only have two midfielders in the centre, which we put us at an disadvantage against a team which plays a lot of midfielders, for example in a 4-5-1 formation, even a 4-4-2.

I think that to accommodate all of the fresh talent brought in to the club, we would have to play a 4-2-1-1-2 formation, with Arteta and ?Diaby at defensive midfield, Cazorla in the centre attacking position, and Podolski sitting behind Giroud. This would mean Cazorla and Podolski are free to drift over to the wings.

Our second signing of the transfer window is French international striker Olivier Giroud, who is twenty five years old, he has been a professional football player for only three years, so his football mental age is younger than twenty five. He is tall, although he isn’t actually just a central striker. He is deployed upfront, although he does run onto the wing and crosses to the other striker. He finished the 2011 / 2012 season off with twenty five goals and eleven assists in the league , one more assist in other competitions. This proves he can create goals as well as score them, something Van Persie did do as well, almost the same stats between the two. A big difference between those two is that Giroud isn’t injury prone.

Our third signing is Cazorla, his signing was almost as painstakingly long as Podolski’s was this year. We knew we had signed him, so did all the players, he had flown to Germany with the squad, all before the announcement of his arrival, Malaga’s financial problems preventing us from revealing his arrival. He is a player that operates on the wing, although can also play in the centre of the park. He can’t be deployed at high up the pitch as Podolski can, but he is a player that can attack on the wing, or help control the game with Song and Arteta in the centre of the pitch. He can score, nine goals in La Liga last season, and he provided vital assists.

We do actually have players that can play in his position, Arteta can if asked, the Ox is now being played in a central role, and possibly Diaby can, but once again, we don’t actually have a nippy little player who can attack quickly and can help in defence will waiting to begin a break. Cazorla is the type of player that top teams have, for example Man City with Nasri, Man United with possibly Carrick and Chelsea have Hazard who can play there. He may single handedly, along with the form we had towards the end of the season, make us a title contending team finally. He may be our new Ljungberg or Pires.

Fans are worried that we are going to have too many players, especially if we finally confirm the signing of Madrid’s Şahin, a central player, and some fans will want to see certain players and they aren’t played. I personally believe that we will have some nice competition between the players to get into that starting line up, especially for the Champions League, which Man City especially have, and it hardly did them any damage.

Wenger also stated while in Asia, before the news of Cazorla’s transfer was taken seriously, that any more players arriving depended on how many players left. Well not one left before Cazorla arrived, except six youth players not signing senior contracts and Almunia. Now Vela has left, and Bendtner may also be following him out, as well as Squillaci, who has been rumoured to have been bid for. Chamakh played in the Asian tour, so he may still have one last chance. Qpr are also contemplating whether or not to bid for Arshavin, a player who arrived all guns blazing, but just lost it after that. This all may suggest more signings, which every Arsenal fan wouldn’t mind, we have been deprived of signings in recent years, but now things may have changed, finally Wenger have dipped into that pocket of his, rumoured to have around forty million in. Has he learnt his lesson, youth may not always be the answer, Arteta, an experienced player, defiantly proved that.

I have said this before and I am sticking to it, the summer transfers are a long way from over, lets see what the next few days brings.

Written by Miles

 


Failure to Beat Sunderland: We’re All Doomed (and Player Ratings)

August 19, 2012

Well, all those hoping for quick and easy answers to what our season holds will be disappointed.

There were not enough positives in our 0-0 with Sunderland to have the optimists planning their outfits for the Champions Parade, nor enough negatives for the pessimists to start slashing their wrists.

The performance can probably best be summed up as “OK, in the circumstances.”

Not that that has stopped the media from going overboard with stories about how we’re doomed never to score again without the magic left boot of Brave Sir Robin and how Giroud is our latest French flop.

My favourite headline was from a website called Emirates 24/7 (not an Arsenal site – it’s based in the United Arab Emirates, I think). It said: “Van Persie Haunts Arsenal As Giroud Crumbles.” To whoever wrote it, take a bow son for the best load of hyperbollix on the net yesterday.

And so to the game.

Arsene Wenger gave starts to two of the new boys – Santi Cazorla in the attacking midfield role (despite him having travelled across the Atlantic and back with Spain midweek) and Lukas Podolski in the central striker role.

Well done Big Raddy for getting 10 out of 11 starters right in yesterday’s pre-match (Gervinho instead of Giroud was his only miss).

The home team took the field with a spring in their step and to a noisily positive reception from the crowd. The away team’s clapped-out old Greyhound bus sputtered onto the pitch and parked itself in front of their goal.

From the off it was clear that Sunderland were playing for a 0-0, but there were plenty of positive signs for Arsenal in the early stages.

Cazorla oozed class, controlling the ball instantly, turning on a peseta and always looking for the killer thrust. He’s a real midfield matador and could become our most important player this season, even if he could apply the “coup de gras” to Sunderland’s bull.

Gervinho was offering plenty of threat down the left, beating the Sunderland defenders and getting to the byline on several occasions, one of which gave Cazorla a good shot on goal, although it went narrowly wide.

Walcott, who struggled to create anything, scuffed a decent half chance after a Mertesacker knock-down and Diaby forced a good low save from Filet Mignon in the Sunderland goal.

At one point Walcott got to the touchline and pulled the ball back for the onrushing Podolski in the six yard box, but our new signing was crowded out by a posse of blue shirted defenders.

This was all still in the first half and it was becoming clear that something special would be needed to break down Sunderland’s resistance.

To be fair, the Black Cats did not need nine lives to survive, but their defending was full of commitment and effort. However, along with their time wasting almost from the first whistle, it made zero contribution to the spectacle. We know that many teams will come to the Emirates and will try to frustrate us like Sunderland. If we don’t score early on it gets harder and harder, so we really need the famous Plan B (of which there was no real sign yesterday).

Sunderland had a couple of breakaway chances in the first half – and, given our tendency to concede to the opposition’s first attack last year, I had my heart in my mouth – but a combination of well organised defending and good alertness from the Pole in Goal averted any catastrophes.

The second half was more of the same. Walcott tried an ambitious volley from a tight angle with an unmarked Podolski screaming for the ball in the six yard box; we had a few long range shots (including from free kicks), all of which went high; we tried to pass our way through the packed ranks of the bus boys… but as time wore on a goal seemed ever less likely.

Arsene switched out Podolski for Giroud and Diaby for Ramsey. We continued to press without much end product until Cazorla set up Giroud with a beautiful reverse pass into the box. Our striking (in more ways than one) Frenchman hit it first time and put it wide. It wasn’t a shocking “missed a sitter” moment of the kind trademarked by Fernando Torres last season, but it was a good chance and his shot should have been on target.

That said, it was one attempt and all strikers miss these sorts of chances. In fact they miss them more than they score them – even Brave Sir Robin. I have seen some people already describing Giroud as a flop on the basis of that one miss, which seems (to me at least) a spectacularly inane attitude. He may or may not turn out to be a good striker for us, but screwing one shot wide tells us very little either way.

With the clock running down and the Sunderland bus dented but still standing, we got the one big surprise of the day – a cameo from Andrey Arshavin. The Russian – looking slimmer than last year (which may tell you more about the quality of food back in Russia than about his fitness regime) – looked busy around the Sunderland penalty area, but also, frustratingly, gave away possession in the midfield several times just when we were trying to build momentum.

The final whistle led to Sunderland celebrations – they had got exactly what they came for – and a mixed reaction from the Arsenal faithful. The already-disillusioned felt it was déjà vu, and that we would lack firepower all season (as if we didn’t have any nil-nils when van Persie was playing). The more optimistic felt they had seen promising signs and were prepared to give it time.

You won’t be surprised to know that I’m in the latter camp. We lacked fluidity overall and there was little mutual understanding in and around the Sunderland box, but we created enough chances to have won, we were solid at the back on the very few times Sunderland threatened and there were some very encouraging individual performances.

When Cazorla gets used to the playing style of his new team mates I really expect big things to follow.

Arsene said we lacked sharpness and fluency and our passing wasn’t fast enough. All of which will improve.

Next week we’re away at the Orcs, which will give us a good indication of where we stand. I read somewhere that the FA have decreed that all pitches have to be the same size this year, so the Orcs will not be able to use their habitual tiny pitch trick, designed to assist Rory Delap’s basketball efforts. The little bit of extra room might be just what we need to give them what they deserve.

Player Ratings

Szczesny: Sunderland’s timidity meant he had little to do, but on the couple of occasions when he was called on, he did just fine. 7

Jenkinson: I noticed a mixed reaction to Jenks in the comments after the game. For me he didn’t do a lot wrong and put in a steady shift. He’s still learning but does not seem out of his depth. 6

Mertesacker: Typical performance by big Per: confident on the ball and good at anticipating the Sunderland threat. He wasn’t stretched but did what he had to do perfectly well. 7

Vermaelen: His first game as club captain. He was solid at the back and tried to drive us on for a winner. 7

Gibbs: He looked very comfortable defensively. I would have liked to see him him give more support to Gervinho at times, because on several occasions the Ivorian got to the byline with two or three defenders in front of him but did not seem to have the cut-back option on. 7

Arteta: Not his most showy display, but he was typically tidy and disciplined. 7

Diaby: First of all it was great to see him complete 70 or so minutes and look fit. He showed good attacking intent and did a solid job in the midfield. There’ll be better to come, hopefully. 7

Cazorla: Tired a bit in the second half, when the transatlantic jet lag must have kicked in, but he looked a class player throughout. A couple of clever reverse passes into attackers in the box were pure Cesc. MoTM 8

Walcott: Seemed uninvolved for long periods and unable to make much happen. Playing against the parked bus is not his forte and yesterday it showed. There are rumours that he, too, is about to leave. Maybe that played a part too. 5

Gervinho: A strange performance. He saw lots of the ball and was our most consistent attacking threat, mostly down the left. He made a couple of good openings for others, but most of the time his end product went awry. I can’t quite figure him out, but, based on last season and yesterday’s game, I find I’m getting less excited when he takes on defenders because I don’t expect much to come of it any more. On the other hand he is lightning fast and can skin fullbacks for fun and kept trying all game. For me though, the jury’s out. 7

 

Podolski: Plenty of effort but it didn’t really click for the German/Pole on his debut. It’s clear these players need to get used to each other and maybe Pod will feel more comfortable coming in off the left wing. 6

Subs

Giroud: Made good runs and had a great chance to be the hero of the day. Looks promising but time will tell.

Ramsey: Busy as ever. Won’t have changed anyone’s mind about him.

Arshavin: We know he’s gifted and carries a threat. His casual passing in midfield was frustrating.

RockyLives


Man in Cologne – Match Report

August 15, 2012

As most of you will have watched highlights or even the full Köln-Arsenal match, I won’t bore you with match details, and will stick to my personal view of the game, and a few bits of information picked up along the way!

Well it was certainly a gloriously day for a game – the sun shining and the wind, which had been gale force earlier in the day, dropped to a gentle breeze.

Köln is a very civilised place to watch a match! You can grab a beer and chillax on the grassed park outside the stadium – no police enforced drinking exclusion-zones here!

Chillaxing pre-match with a civilised beer

The local fans seemed to be in carnival spirit – I guess they were all here to see off Podolski. Interestingly, many of the new 2011-12 shirts worn by the fans have Podolski’s name on the back, even though he’s left. Put simply, he is their Thierry Henry!

The Arsenal fans in attendance were a strangely mixed crew. About half, I would guess, were your die-hard North London bunch. The rest were a mix of noisy Poles, smiley Swedes and a fair number of ex-Pats gooners from the local area happy get to see Arsenal in their adopted city for the second year running.

I normally wait to the last minute to go into the Emirates (one of the many drawbacks of being a smoker), but decided for once to have a look at which players would warm-up for the match. I certainly didn’t expect to be able to drink and smoke in my seat, which was a pleasant surprise!

And so to the action….

Before kick-off, Stevie Bould did ten or so laps of the pitch with Miquel Arteta, so he’s obviously not too far off from match fitness.

All the players looked fit and relaxed in warm-up, with Van Persie taking the central place in an extended one-touch keepy-up exercise.

At kick-off, we had ourselves a triple debut. Carzorla, Giroud and, of course, Podolski. Must be the first on this scale since Overmars, Petit and Grimandi back in 1997.

Podolski looked very sharp and I expect we will see him very early in the season (perhaps even straight away). He gets a massive reception from the Köln fans.

Giroud makes a lot of space – he’s tall and agile and looks like a very intelligent player. Strikes me as a straight-forward Chamakh upgrade.

But it’s Carzorla that really catches the eye. There’s a puzzle in the Radio Times every week with a wheel of letters and one letter in the centre, and you have to make as many words as possible, but always use that centre letter. That centre letter is the closest I can come to describing the role that Carzorla has in the first half. And even when he doesn’t touch the ball, his positioning and his runs make space for the move to progress. His two-footedness is quite a revelation, as is his balance, which seems impossible to read. Expect him to win a lot of free kicks this season from less intelligent centre-backs.

Cazorla’s link-up play with Oxlade-Chamberlain is pure poetry to watch. Fast, penetrating passes which leave the Köln midfielders dizzy.

The Arsenal defence doesn’t have much to deal with, but looks surer of itself that last season. I also believe that we can expect to see Arsenal holding possession much longer this season, and that, based on more passing options being available now, loss of possession will tend to occur lost further up the field. Both of which should help with the goals-against column.

So, three-nil at half-time:

Bouldy-style flick-on by Mertersacker converted by a Vermaelen bullet-header;

Ox wins a penalty which Podolski converts;

Podolski gets his second – a clinical finish from a low Gibbs cross.

The Köln fans sing Podolski’s name for both goals as if he had scored for them!

Half-time brings cool Kölsch beer delivered to your seat!

 A beer? In view of the pitch? It’s unthinkable!

And the second half kicks of with eight or nine changes, I believe (the accumulative effect of the local ale is gradually take its toll!)

Gervinho looks more settled than last season and scores a lovely goal to make it 4-0.

From this point on the game goes into kick-about mode. It’s almost as if Peter Hill-Wood had wandered into the dressing room at half-time and said: “OK chaps, one more goal and then clam it down. Don’t forget we are guests here!”

When RVP comes on at about the hour mark, the booing commences. By two big fellas who hadn’t made a single noise up to this point. A few of the Poles join in – they are by now quite drink! Most of the Arsenal fans tell them to shut up, which they gradually do. The two fat chaps carry on booing, and seem pleased with themselves.

Booooo! Booooo!

So it all gradually grinds to the halt of the final whistle. Vier-null to the Arsenal. Podolski is the very last to leave the pitch and spends a good ten minutes with the Köln fans saying his goodbyes. I expect he will be back here once his Arsenal days are over.

As I walk back from the ground I am accosted by a middle-age couple who wish to show me photographs on their iPhone. I am naturally quite anxious about this. However, it turns out that they had entered a half-time competition for the Köln fans, and had won the opportunity to talk and have photos with an Arsenal player straight after the final whistle. They just didn’t know who he was. The pictures shows a very happy, smiling Robin Van Persie, who the couple said was really funny and joking and talked to them for 20 minutes or so.

Is this the same RVP who was supposed to be sulking in a dark corner of the away dressing room, desperately trying to reach his agent for an immediate move to Old Trafford because he couldn’t stand the boo-boys (or at least that what The Sun would have us believe).

In any case, did we see the birth of Wenger’s Arsenal version 4.0 today? Quite possibly. We will see tougher opposition, and blind refs, and northern swamps, all of which will test this new experiment.

But it’s looking promising. Very promising. Can’t wait until Saturday!

Written through a beery haze by mjc


Would Arsenal benefit from purchasing M’Vila and Cazorla?

July 25, 2012

Arsenal have always not been big spenders in any transfer window, always opting for purchasing players at the age of 15 and 16 for £400,000, rather than spending £25 – £30 million on proven talent, and hoping they become the next big thing. Fabregas is one of the rare occasions where it has actually worked. When Arsenal has been linked to players who have proved themselves at high levels and play for a smaller teams (which happens a lot), we never seem to win the signature of the player, fas was the case with Hazard, and now seemingly Hulk.

This transfer window may be different. The purchase of Podolski before the window and Giroud early on for a total of around £23 million represents more players than had been expected – but is that a good thing?

We have continuously been linked with M’Vila, for months before the Euros. Arsenal fans have differing opinions of him. We are now being linked with Spanish international Santi Cazorla.

M’Vila is a defensive midfielder, like Song, who was voted our second best player last season. What you may not know, is Arteta, our fourth best player of the season, was a trainee for Barcelona, and they planned for him to replace Josep “Pep” Guardiola, as a centre defensive midfielder. It was only at Everton, that he was made to play in a attacking role. At Arsenal, he has gone back into that defensive role with Song, which I love to see, and then he can attack when he wants, as well as going into defensive when needed. That’s two defensive players. Wilshere is also due to return early next season, who we have missed, who plays as a box to box midfielder, who is started in a defensive midfield position. So M’Vila would be our fourth defensive midfield player, and like the other three, he would expect first team football.

I have seen M’Vila in a few matches and he is an obvious talent, but he is a player with a poor temperament He was fined by the French FA for his strop after being subbed in the Euro’s, and he reminds me of players who think they are better than they actually are, Bendtner for example. Would Wenger be able to control a player with his attitude? I think the mixture between Arteta and Song’s attacking and defending talent is good, and better than if M’Vila was in the mix.

Then we come to Santiago Cazorla, a talented winger, but again, there is the same problem of already having players in that position. Walcott firstly, if we extend his contract. He’s a player who seems to under preform continuously, we see him start and many think ‘if he doesn’t play well we need to sell him’ and then he plays well for a game or two. Frustrating!

We already have the amazingly talented Oxlade-Chamberlain. Fans beg Wenger to start with him, even Rvp was moaning when he was subbed against Man United.

In addition there is Podolski, a goal machine for Germany. We can’t say whether or not he will be any good, I believe he will. Add to those the young and inexperienced Ryo Miyaichi, who impressed when on loan at Bolton, as did Wilshere. I think he will be the next best thing personally, and hopefully he will. Do a mixture of experience and youth there, and again, all of them want first team and Cazorla would as well.

So both of these players will want first team football. One has attitude problem, and both would be trouble if they weren’t played every week.

But again, both have a lot of talent. Would you like one of them or both at Arsenal?

Written by Miles