Goodbye Silvestre, Gallas and Campbell – Boy Wonder Number 10.

July 8, 2010

Its getting exciting now – you know the season is impending when people are making travel arrangements for our annual trip to Barnet.

This week, Arsenal.com put up the pictures of those of the first team not on international duty who came back for some fitness work. It was nice to see Kieran Gibbs back in training, and word is Aaron Ramsey is back running without any trouble. Our latest recruit Maroune Chamakh seems to have a new BFF in Samir Nasri.

Laurent Koscielny is an Arsenal player. To all those who think he can’t be up to much because he comes from the second tier of French football, consider this; Arsenal is notoriously frugal in its spending and yet we’ve lashed out £8.5m for him (reportedly) when FC Lorient only paid £1.5m a year earlier – he’s going to be some player believe me.

While having a look around the site, I had a look at our lovely new kit again – only problem is the large sponsorship font, but beggars and choosers and all that… Anyways, I went into the online shopping section and happened upon something very interesting.

It seems all the ifs and buts are answered. William Gallas, Mikael Silvestre and Sol Campbell would appear to be no longer Arsenal players. In the drop down section that allows you to select a personalised name and number, the options of Campbell, Silvestre and Campbell are no longer available. (Oddly you can still get Gilbert on your shirt – two things, WHY? and he was released last week, memo mustn’t have gone out). I doubt this is because of uncertainty over their contracts, it must be because they are going and honestly none of the three are a shock.

Silvestre no-body will cry over. Campbell was always bound to go wherever he could get a nice signing-on fee (sorry Peaches) and while Gallas has been a good player for us overall, he’s become increasingly injury prone. What is key here, is that all three are CBs. Its a broken record by now, but signing Koscielny won’t be enough. Vermaelen is now our only tried and trusted CB, Djourou is largely untested and coming back from a long lay-off. We don’t know what Koscielny is like, and I won’t sit here and judge before I see just because I’ve not heard of him. Alex Song can play there but he is needed in midfield, so Wenger must be looking at, at least one more defensive signing – none of the youth’s look ready to come up and its far too risky to chance it. Wenger must know this by now.

Aside from Silvestre’s, Campbell’s and Gallas’ numbers being unavailable (at least in the drop down menu) its also worth noting that Robin van Persie has applied to have his number changed for next season. As Arshavin hasn’t applied (he being the other option) I expect the boy wonder to drop down a number next season and become number 10. Bergkamp is his hero and how nice that he can wear the same number at the same club as his hero once did.

That is unless Cesc is leaving and the number is for a new play-maker but all things considered, its going to Robin – why else apply for a change of number?

World Cup is coming to an end and Barnet is just around the corner – new look Arsenal is beginning to take shape, I hope!

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Summer Signings – expect to be ‘slightly disappointed’

June 28, 2010

 

Since when did telling it like it is make anyone a pessimist?

I expect to be slightly disappointed by our transfer activity this summer for the fifth season in a row, but I am eagerly looking forward to next season, full of the optimism  and 100% behind whichever Arsenal players take to the pitch.

If I had to stake anyone’s house on it, I would guess that by the time the transfer window closes, Cesc will still be an Arsenal player and we will not have signed any players over the £10m mark. If he goes, we may look for another midfielder but I still would not expect us to pay over £20m for a ‘replacement’ (possibly Gourcuff) even if we get £45m for Cesc.

My disappointment will be that it doesn’t look like we will be in the market for another holding midfielder to protect the back four. A player who could either cover for, or play alongside Song. I don’t think Diaby can concentrate for long enough periods to be a reliable DM and Denilson lacks the physical presence. We need a player who will allow our numerous attacking midfielders to play with more freedom, a system that Brazil have executed very effectively in this World Cup.

In the belief that the deals for Koscielny and Schwarzer are in the bag, this is how it currently stands:

IN IN THE BALANCE OUT
Chamakh Campbell Merida
Ebecilio Fabregas Senderos
Koscielny Almunia Gallas
Schwarzer Joe Cole Silvestre
Player ‘X’ Player ‘X’ Eduardo

Forget about labelling anyone as a pessimist – wake up and smell the coffee …this is how it is……

  1. The dynamic of footballer transfers has become polarised by the emergence of billionaires who see owning a football club as a status symbol, and at the other end of the scale, by the growing debt of clubs at all levels. We are not even going to enter into a bidding situation over a player if the likes of citeh, chelski, Real or Barça are interested.
  2. Our Board and manager are ‘prudent’ in the extreme and have formulated a business model for the club that is held up as THE way to run a football club in the 21st century. As is often pointed out on this site, it is a small miracle that we have achieved the level of success we have in terms of league position over the last five years under the financial constraints imposed due to the building of the stadium.
  3. In terms of priority, playing attractive football that entertains and attracts supporters and TV audiences and keeping the club solvent is more important than winning trophies. Arsène has said that qualifying to the Champions League is ‘winning something’ and in terms of revenue to the club that cannot be denied.
  4. The media and internet community are responsible for 99% of the rubbish that is disseminated regarding transfers, but it is also so pervasive that it is virtually impossible for any club to land a ‘surprise big signing’. All of our recent player acquisitions have been flagged up for weeks in advance. The process is often protracted as we negotiate hard to get the player at the best possible price.

Arsène has come out again and said “We will soon sign a player on the defensive front”. Translated that means the deal for Koscielny is already done and we are just sorting out the fine detail. This will allow the club’s PR department maximise the impact and announce the signing before the end of the WC in line with Wenger’s promise.

Unless one of the major shareholders takes the plunge and makes a successful takeover bid and decides to recklessly gamble their own money on buying players, I expect our involvement in the transfer market for the rest of the Wenger era to be pretty much at the level demonstrated this summer. We are not going to pay £30m+ for the likes of David Villa. The so-called ‘warchest’ was club spin to say that we are in a better condition financially this summer and we can spend some money if Arsène chooses – not that we are going to splash out £40m on a high profile player.

I choose to support Arsenal in the knowledge of these limitations and have to reluctantly accept that winning trophies is not our right or even our main priority. If we do win anything next season it will be a huge bonus. If we don’t, we will be entertained by some wonderful football.

On the positive side, I expect Chamakh to be our top scorer, Koscielny to be another ‘Vermaelen’, Ramsey to return and become a great player and Cesc to give us one more quality season. On the negative side, I expect we will suffer more than our fair share of injuries, we will go out of the cup competitions by the quarter final stages and we will still lose points to the likes of Stoke and Blackburn.

That’s not pessimism, it’s realism!

Written by Rasp


Could we be a stronger team if Cesc leaves?

June 14, 2010

Following Raddy’s article yesterday exposing the press reporting of ‘Arsenal’s behind the scenes dealing’ for the fanciful unsubstantiated speculation it undoubtedly is, I thought I’d be obtuse and join in with the speculation by putting myself in the shoes of a supporter who is prepared to believe some of the stronger rumours that are circulating.

Just for those who may read the headline but not the article, I am not suggesting that we would be stronger BECAUSE Cesc goes to Barca, just looking for the positives IF he does.

Here are some of the mooted changes in personnel at the start of next season if our worst fears are confirmed and Cesc leaves. FC Lorient and Fulham have both confirmed that Arsenal have made an enquiry about their players whereas the Joe Cole story is just a rumour that many are prepared to believe.

Out: Cesc, Gallas, Sol, Silvestre, Merida, Almunia (maybe not sold)

In: Chamakh (already signed), Koscielny, Schwarzer, Joe Cole

Would the balance of those changes make us a stronger team next season?

Starting from the back; even after conceding 4 goals last night, I think Schwarzer is better than Almunia. He’s not top top class but he would give Szczesny the couple of years he needs to grow into our first choice keeper. I’d send Fabianski out on loan to try to rebuild his confidence and keep Szczesny as our number two, maybe giving him the occassional start in the side.

Koscielny is an odd one. I don’t know that much about the player. Arsène is obviously very keen on him, so I suspect he will turn into a gem in the mould of Vermaelen and hopefully bed into the side as quickly. I think he could be better for us than Gallas in terms of motivation, freedom from injuries and aerial power in defence although he lacks experience. A lot rests on the continued fitness of Djourou as it is certain that one, or both of our CB’s will be lost to injury at some stage so we may have to rely on Song to fill in at the back at some stage.

A defensive midfielder to cover for Song is the player I feel we really need but will not acquire, so I hope that Eastmond gets a few first team games as he seems to be the player coming through who is best suited to the role.

OK, Joe Cole is not as good as Cesc, but he’s a clever player who is direct and creates chances for others. He can score goals and play anywhere across the midfield. He has a battling temperament and will give his all for the team. Cole would also allow us to rest Arshavin who I believe was playing with injuries for a lot of last season and struggled to come to terms with the physical demands of  the premiership. The arrival of Chamakh should mean that AA is never called upon again to play the lone striker role.

I fear we have relied too much on Cesc. He has been the focus of our play and this has created scenarios similar to Henry’s last season where players in possession of the ball were clearly looking for Cesc rather than making the quick pass to another available player.

Chamakh will give us a much greater physical presence up front.  He is strong, tall and he can head the ball. The only thing that worries me a little is whether he will be able to build a partnership with RvP (not that we will play 4:4:2), but he is a great link-up player and will be able to play wengerball.

With these changes, the spine of the team should be stronger – certainly at the top and the bottom. The loss of Cesc’s genius would be replaced by a potent attacking force in the final third with the inclusion of Chamakh and Cole. We should not forget Ramsey who I believe will become a fantastic player in our midfield. Diaby should show us more of the attacking brilliance that we witnessed in a run of games last season.  I expect Theo and Nasri to demonstrate their ambition by reacting positively to the disappointment of being left out of the world cup and put in meatier performances next season.

Obviously we will be a far stronger team if Cesc stays and we also add to the squad, but who can be sure that will happen? Consider what the acquisition of Koscielny, Cole and Schwarzer would bring to the team if Cesc leaves. I would expect either TV or RvP to be appointed captain and we would be addressing some of the areas of frailty in the current side.


May 2010 – A Team Chasing Shadows

May 4, 2010

Sadly, I remember London saying how difficult it was to write the match report after the 2nd defeat by the chavs earlier this season.  Yesterday’s game is not deserving of a match report – if someone else wrote one I probably wouldn’t read it –  and as a result of that poor display, I’m going to have to wrap my Arsenal heart in cotton wool for a few weeks and probably not talk football as I’m not sure that I can make any sense of the last three defeats we’ve suffered.

In all three games against the spuds, Wigan and Blackburn there was a team wearing the red and white of Arsenal but they didn’t seem to be Arsenal footballers. Obviously they were getting paid to be Arsenal footballers but somehow they didn’t really know what they should be doing. They were, by and large, a collection of not very good footballers who weren’t trying very hard to play the Arsenal way. A couple of exceptions in van Persie and Sol Campbell who seemed to be the only Gooners on the pitch yesterday.

Why is this Arsène? When the Carling Cup team of 1st team elect players comes up against a premiership side they pull out all the stops and play with freedom and no fear. Some will argue that yesterday’s team was part Carling Cup team of old and possibly it was but where was the passion? where was the desire? It was embarrassing to watch.

Arsène complained about the pitch, complained about the treatment that was metered out to Fabianski, complained that we could have had a penalty. Blackburn’s captain Samba stood head and shoulders above  everyone in our penalty area – why was our goal-keeper muscled out of the way, why was he sitting in his goal when Samba headed home the winner? Because he’s not big enough and not strong enough. Arsène, if you think that we can go another campaign without a world class goal keeper then I’m sorry for you because you must have contracted a very strange illness that stops you seeing what thousands of Gooners see.

Most of us accept that a player can have an off day, that players returning from injury are not going to be sharp or match fit but at least if they try, if we can see that they want it, that they’re disappointed for the team when things go badly then on the whole we’ll be forgiving. A defeat is always hard to accept but yesterday’s game wasn’t even two teams competing. We are pale shadows of the Arsenal team that existed 6 years ago and the small nimble players we have now cannot compete against the big lumps of Blackburn or figure in the ranks of most other Premiership sides.

When we come up against a team that wants it more than us we have no answer and no bottle for the fight. Our ‘clever passing football’ appears incapable of penetrating a 10-man defence and no-one seems to have the ability/desire/confidence to shoot from outside the box.

We looked like a team of school boys out there yesterday, no sophistication, no slick passing game and no ideas. Your put these players in Arsenal shirts, you have shown faith in their abilities but when are you going to admit that they aren’t capable of repaying your, or our patience? Sometime soon please Arsène.


Unbeaten This Century

April 14, 2010

When do you think was the last time Spurs beat us in the league? Here’s a clue – they haven’t beaten us this century. When was the last time they beat us at White Hart Lane? Again, not this century. The Spuds have beaten us twice in 15 years! Should we win or draw tonight, we will record a record breaking 21 games without defeat against another team. Does this entitle them to be considered rivals or laughing stocks.

The Spuds sit in 5th place, 4 points behind Man City with a game in hand – this is a vital game for them in their (hopeless) quest for a CL spot. Harry is already “bigging up” his team, talking his usual nonsense about how our North London neighbours ( I hesitate to use the word rivals) are on a par with the Arsenal, and how they have closed the gap on us (13 points and counting). What is in Spurs favour is their home record, they have been very strong at the Lane, unbeaten in 8, and conceding only 10 goals all season – the best in the PL. Add to this our lack of punch upfront, the absence of our top scorer, and a low scoring game is predicted – what price a last minute Bendtner header?

Spurs real hope in this game lies in our desperate injury list. With Fabregas, Gallas, and Arshavin out, we have lost our 3 world class players. There remains the possibility that Song will not be fit which will be another major blow to us. Can we win with half a team? Will the sight of RvP on the bench (I cannot believe he will start) spark us to victory? Can Sol overcome what will undoubtedly be a torrid reception to deny Crouch and Pavlyuchenko? Absolutely – we are the better team, end of!

I expect Spurs to start with Defoe and Crouch and bring on Pav in the second half. They are missing Palacios which is a big plus for us. Also missing will be Krankjar and Lennon. Back for the NLD is our old friend David Bentley, who is sure to be desperate for a big game. I am still smarting from his fluke last season at the Emirates and his celebration which relegated (or elevated) him high into the Gooners hate list. I wish him a frustrating night, and a long dejected walk back down the tunnel when he is subbed after an hour.

This game is a season breaker for Spurs. The loss to a dire Portsmouth will have sapped not only their enthusiasm but also their physical strength – 120 minutes on the dire Wembley pitch will exhaust any team, and they will wilt in the last 20 minutes, which is when we are at our most dangerous. I expect us to line up as follows, though I am rarely correct…..

GK

Sagna  Sol  TV   Clichy

Song/Eboue  Denilson  Diaby  Rosicky

Theo  NB

Eboue could well start ahead of Theo, it depends upon how brave AW is feeling and if Song is fit.

I have many WHL memories dating back to Black and White days, most involve escaping their neanderthal fans, but despite the annual avoidance of flying bottles and coins in Paxton Road, it is a ground with positive memories. One of my faves was a 0-0 draw (1997) when Spurs absolutely battered us and Seaman showed why for a few years he was the World’s best GK (if only we could find another like him). And who can forget the Liam Brady left footer in a 5-0 in ’78?

Those were the days when Spurs were proper rivals. At Highbury when the chant “Stand up if you hate Tottenham” started, virtually the whole ground rose as one, now it is just the hardy few. Is this due to song-fatigue, or because Gooners no longer harbour an intense dislike of our neighbours? I applaud Harry’s attempts to bring Spurs to the top table. I want them to challenge us, it is good for North London, good for both clubs and good for the fans. It seems wrong that we “hate” MU and the Chavs, they are not the traditional enemy – it is the blue bellies from the Lane. Think of the songs …… The W***y Tottenham Hotspur went to Rome to see the Pope”, “My Old man said be a Tottenham fan, I said FO etc” “We hate Totteham”, “You won the League, In Black and White”. These are proper Arsenal songs, fashioned in the heat of the ’70’s and earlier. We don’t have songs for Chelsea, and those we have for MU are borrowed from other grounds. Football needs the comedy villain and Spurs over the past decade have just been the comedy  –  who can forget the commemorative mugs when they beat our youth team at WHL in the Carling!!

I fear that when we beat  Spurs tonight they will roll over in their games at MU and home to the Chavs. It is important to us that they do well in both but which would the Spurs fans prefer – Chelsea or Arsenal to win the title? No brainer is it!

The North London Derby is always a feisty affair and a draw in this game effectively ends the prospects of both teams (can anyone really expect the Chavs to drop 6 points?). We need the victory and that is what I expect.


Sol …. Man of Steel….

April 5, 2010

I admit it, when Wenger announced in January that he had signed Sulzeer Jeremiah Cambell, I was less than elated. I would go as far as to say that I thought Mr. Wenger had lost his senses. At that time we had a fine first choice centre back partnership of Gallas and Vermaelen, with Silvestre and Senderos as back up. Wenger clearly mistrusted Swiss Phil to take an active role in the run-in, and Silvestre had shown that despite being a fine player, the years were taking their toll. But a 35 year old has-been?

Wenger had stated that the reason he didn’t sign the much needed Anelka in Jan 2009 was because he did not like to re-sign players, so to sign a 35 year old Sol was a major surprise. When we first heard reports that Sol was training with the team in order to regain fitness, I assumed he would be trying to get a berth at, say Charlton, with a view to becoming player-coach, and then go into management. But I was shocked when Wenger gave him a contract. A contract to a man who had walked of the pitch at half-time claiming emotional problems – an act never repeated before or since, a contract to a man who left to go to….. Portsmouth!

In my eyes Sol was finished, a washed-up a relic of a past and glorious time. Sol had the turning circle of a supertanker, he had an arse the size of France, he was too heavy to jump, was slower over 10 yards than Pat Rice and slower over 30 yards than Peter Hill-Wood. Sol was too old, heavy and unfit to play 45 minutes, let alone 90+.

And yet, and yet ……. the Campbell signing has proved to be one of Wenger’s masterstrokes.

Sol returned in the FA Cup defeat at Stoke and was probably old enough to father most of his Arsenal teammates. Yet, he held the backline and looked good. Next up an excellent performance at Aston Villa –  an away clean sheet. With this appearance Sol became only the third player to play in all 18 PL seasons (alongside Giggs and David James). Sol was settling into the team.

The goal against Porto will be long remembered as the phoenix rising from the ashes. When was the last time he scored like that in Europe (another 2-1 defeat)…… that’s right, the last time he played for us before leaving in 2006.

Then Stoke away. His reaction after the Ramsey injury showed us just why Wenger signed him. He was not just solid but inspirational. Lifting heads, getting fired up, geeing up his team. When the third goal went in, who was pumped up, fists clenched, celebrating with the away fans?  It REALLY matters to him.

Almunia has grown in confidence since the arrival of Sol because he can rely on him to organise the defence at set pieces. The Spaniard actually looks a decent GK again! Whether this is solely down to Campbell’s arrival is a moot point, but is the timing of his improvement only co-incidence?

We now know that Sol will be there in the trenches, giving everything to the Arsenal cause.  Should we win the title, Sol will become an even greater figure in Arsenal folklore than he already is. The man who caused the most virulent outpouring of hate and aggression ever seen at White Hart Lane, will be a true Arsenal Great 🙂

It must be said that some on here completely disagreed with my despair at the Campbell signing, and in deference to them I eat a huge slice of humble pie. Opinions are divided as to whether Sol should play against Barcelona. One thing is for sure, whether he’s on the pitch or sitting on the bench, his mere presence will be felt,  instilling a strength of purpose and steely determination through those deep dark eyes that will be urging the team on with every inch of his being.

As to those, like our very own peachesgooner, whose heart goes aflutter and weak at the knees at the sight of the hunk in the  XXXL shorts….   “Sol’s a Gooner … De de de duh”

By BigRaddy


Gunners Must Send Wolves Packing……

April 3, 2010

Now the full extent of our latest glut of injuries is clear (Cesc out for at least six weeks, Gallas at least three and Arshavin possibly back for the Man Shitty game, on April 24) our beleaguered team entertain Wolves at the Grove today.

Were I a hopeless romantic, I would interpret the fact that the last time the Wanderers made their only previous foray into the Premier League we were Champions, as a portent of our crowning as Champions this season. However, not only have recent setbacks on the injury front and crucially, two dropped points at Ginger McLeish’s ploughed field, soured my view of our chances, but as an engineer by education, I’m fairly unromantic (as many ex-girlfriends will confirm).

Wolves, as original founders of the football league, were formed nine years before us and therefore their glory days are well behind them; a League Cup win in 1980 being their last silverware. Having been promoted this season as Championship winners, it would seem they are safe from joining Pompey, and hopefully Hull, in the Championship next year, lying as they do in fourteenth place, five points above the drop zone. Their form has been indifferent, three losses, two draws and two wins in the last seven games points to a home win for us however one of those two wins was away at West Ham.

The Wolves manager, Mick McCarthy, will no doubt be quietly confident of  catching us on an off day, with an “after the Lord Mayor’s show” kind of lethargy he will hope to exploit.

The press will portray McCarthy as an honest, blunt-speaking type – a typical product of a Barnsley upbringing; his flat, Yorkshire tones would not go amiss on an episode of Emmerdale (farm). I enjoyed him taking down the Mank mad dog Roy Keane a peg or two after he had a pre-pubescent style hissy-fit during Irelands 2002 world Cup campaign.

The danger man will obviously be Kevin Doyle, their top scorer with seven for the season, their next highest scorer being defender Jody “Fanny” Craddock who has chipped in with five strikes– clearly a player to watch out for when the referee awards a free kick against us near the penalty area for the first foul we commit tomorrow.

As for us, we know in all likelihood we won’t see Cesc till the World Cup at the earliest, however I harbour a secret hope he’ll be back for the last league game and the Champions League final – so maybe I am a tiny bit romantic! Wenger has bluntly denied rumours circulated by the mischief-making press that Cesc was played with a leg already broken by one of McLeish’s muggers last Saturday.

Nasri would be the shoe in to take Cesc’s place but the centre back partner for the Verminator is a conundrum I am glad I don’t have to solve. The question is Campbell or Song? Assuming Sol is only good for one game a week, and then if he plays today he is out for Tuesday’s return leg at the Camp Nou.

The problem is, do we risk a less mobile Sol on Tuesday or save him for League games only? If we play Song at centre back on Tuesday, we’ll lose his midfield drive against the Catalans and that could be crucial as only a win (or an unlikely a score draw of 3-3, or above) will suffice. Being radical, one could argue for Song to be at centre back today as Wolves do not have the midfield brilliance of Iniesta, Xavi and Keita, add to that the fact that we don’t play next Saturday then conceivably Sol could play on Tuesday and be able to return for the NLD (where the assembled masses of cro-magnon Spuds will give him a sporting welcome back to the Lane, of that I’m sure), on the fourteenth of April. The caveat there would be that we would then have the away game at Wigan on the Sunday after the NLD and that would surely test Sol’s fitness.

Assuming the minor strains attributed to Clichy and Denilson clear up, I would guess Wenger will select the following 4-3-3:

Almunia
Sagna Sol Verminator Clichy
Nasri Song Denilson
Eboue Bendtner Diaby

My own selection would be with an eye to Tuesday:

Almunia
Eboue Song Verminator Clichy
Denilson Nasri Diaby
Walcott Bendtner Rosicky

One thing’s for sure, if we see a draw at Old Toilet before we kick off, then it’s game on for our title chances and a much jollier pre match Peroni (or four) at the Arsenal Tavern.

So to all of you going today, crank up the volume to 11 for our Wednesday night heroes – “Come on you rip roaring Gunners!”

By our guest writer charybdis1966