Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Implications of Arsenal's Deadline Day Acquisitions

Wenger: Maybe we’ll have a good surprise for you.
It seemed to take forever but we've finally spent and spent big this summer! In typical Arsenal fashion, we've left it late again and brought in two players on Transfer Deadline Day.

No, not Manuel Almunia but Emiliano Viviano
The first of which, is Emiliano Viviano on a season long loan from Palermo with a view to a permanent deal in the future. I remember Wenger trying to do a deal to get him from Palermo last year but he ended up at Fiorentina on loan instead. There, he made 32 appearances with 11 clean sheets to show for his efforts. While this isn't the marquee goalkeeper signing I was saying would be good for the club and for Szczesny, it does have its positives.

He is still a relatively young goalkeeper who is arguably on par with Szczesny and Fabianski. While he will provide some good competition for both Poles, they will also provide competition for him. Looking in hindsight, had a keeper of Casillas' ilk been signed, perhaps he'd easily walk into the first team and have had no challenge from Messrs Szczesny and Fabianski. It could have probably led to complacency on his part somewhere down the line. With three goalkeepers on pretty much the same level, they'll all keep each other honest.

Going into deadline day, it was a general consensus amongst Arsenal fans everywhere that the most crucial signing that the club needs is a back up center half. Incidentally, none was signed and while it seems risky business, I can perhaps see Arsene Wenger's reasoning behind it. Think back to 2010 when we signed Sebastien Squillaci. It was a signing that seemed to check the boxes for all the qualities we looked for in a center back: tall, physical, tasted cup success with his previous club, capped at the international level. So where did it go wrong? Well, in his time at Arsenal, Squillaci became what I like to term a "cold defender".

He'd spent so much time sitting on the bench that he'd lost his momentum, match sharpness and perhaps even his motivation, watching others playing all the time while he found it difficult to get into the first eleven. As a result of this, whenever he was chosen for the odd game due to someone being ineligible due to an injury or suspension, his performance was usually riddled with errors.

I think Wenger chose to avoid this happening again by not signing a back up center back. Instead, he felt that Sagna and Flamini would suffice as cover for the backline. Sagna has done exceptionally well when asked to fill in centrally and Flamini was always well respected as the best utility player at the club during his first stint with us. He was quite adept at playing in the full back roles. With his choice to use both players, he does not have a cold defender coming in. He'll have an option that will have been playing regularly enough to not have their match sharpness wane. This is just what I think Wenger's line of reasoning is anyway.

The other signing we made, and perhaps the biggest of the day (since Bale's signing was of course made official a day before) was the capture of Mesut Özil for a club record fee of £42.5 million on a five year contract from Real Madrid. He becomes the first player we've signed since Bergkamp in 95 who comes with a "World Class" reputation attached to his name. It is seen as a massive signal of intent by the club. About Özil, Wenger said:
Mesut Özil
“We are extremely pleased to have signed Mesut Ozil. He is a great player, with proven quality at both club and international level. We have watched and admired him for some time as he has all the attributes I look for in an Arsenal player.
“I have said throughout the summer that we have been working hard to bring in top quality players to this football club. This has involved many many people across the Club and I have always had the full support of the Club in making decisions on the football side.
“Mesut is a top quality footballer who will be a fantastic addition to our talented squad. We are all looking forward to him joining up with us after his international matches with Germany and working with us as an Arsenal player.” 
 From his quotes, it seems the deciding factor for Özil was the opportunity to work with Arsene Wenger. Of the move, the German says:
“I am thrilled to be joining a club of the stature of Arsenal and am looking forward to playing in the Premier League. It will be great for my own personal development as a player and I am particularly looking forward to working with Arsène Wenger.
“From our negotiations it is clear the Club has huge ambition and I look forward to being part of an exciting future.”
This transfer will have massive implications for the club. It's the first established world class player to join us while in his prime and you get the feeling it will only influence other players of a similar ilk to join us in future transfer windows. Something about it reminds me of when Manchester City signed Robinho in 2008. The fact that a high profile player went to a club who had previously struggled to attract players of that calibre, made other players in his class realise that the club had ambitions of achieving major success and they wanted to be apart of that. 

What we didn't get though, was a striker. I am pretty disappointed but this was more to do with gamesmanship by Chelsea than anything else. We had made an offer to loan Demba Ba for a fee of £1.5 million, however, The Blues wanted £3 million. They later mentioned that while they're not forcing him out of the club, they have no problems with granting him a permanent move away from Stamford Bridge. They said a fictional club that they wouldn't name had come in with an offer to buy but he'd rather play Champions League football and this club could not offer it, because of course, they don't exist. With just over 2 hours left before the deadline, they then made it clear they do not want to loan him to us because they don't want him going to a rival. Why I think this is gamesmanship on their part is if they'd felt that way, why didn't they say this right from the get go? Why string us along and have us spending our time negotiating with them when perhaps we could've gone and sought another striker elsewhere? Why leave it til when it was too late for us to broker a deal with another club for a striker, to tell us they're not keen on the move? Why other than the fact that it was their strategy to keep us from signing a striker, because they know we mean business this season and this was a tactic employed out of fear?

With these two signings, our team could now look like this:

Sagna     Mertesacker     Koscielny    Gibbs
                 Arteta     Ramsey/Wilshere
Walcott         Giroud        Podolski/Cazorla

Bench: Viviano/Fabianski, Jenkinson, Vermaelen, Wilshere/Ramsey, Flamini, Cazorla/Podolski, Sanogo

Out of squad: Monreal, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky, Bendtner, Park

This is a side that can now challenge for the title. What do you think?

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Wenger Continues Search Around Clock For Signings While Transfer Deadline Day Looms

Well, it's that time of the year again. I'm writing this 1 day and 21 hours before the transfer window slams shut. Arsenal fans the world over are no doubt worrying about said window slamming shut on Arsene Wenger's fingers. He, on the other hand, must be the calmest man on the planet as he doesn't seem the least bit worried about whether he gets the players his squad needs. Whether that's because he has a fool proof plan in place to get his targets or it's just down to his naivete is up in the air. It's hard to tell with him as he is easily the most enigmatic character in all of world football when asked about transfers in the summer. He's gone on record earlier this summer stating that he believes his current crop of players are good enough to challenge for the Premiership title. In another breath, he says Arsenal are in the market for players and are searching around the clock for the right additions to the team - that any player he signs has to be better than those currently at the club. Given this last statement, you have to wonder if the clock he's searching around might be Big Ben!

I'm very pleased with the talent we have at our disposal. I believe though that unless we make a number of signings in the 1 day, 20 hours and 41 minutes (yes I'm counting, how is it that you aren't?) remaining in the window we'll come up shorter than Andrey Arshavin trying to ride a roller coaster at Six Flags, in terms of winning anything this season. Our squad is simply just too small to survive the rigors of playing the over 60 games teams that win silverware at the end of seasons usually play. So I've tried to work out what positions we actually need to sign players in and who we should turn to in order to fill these gaps:

In Goal
We currently only have two relatively experienced goalkeepers on our books at the moment. Conventionally, teams should look to have three. When you consider that Lukasz Fabianski is pretty injury prone for a goalkeeper, the need to have three becomes more pressing. Wojciech Szczesny is obviously our Number 1 but I believe if we sign an experienced goalkeeper it would only do him a world of good. At 23 years old, Szczesny is still, in goalkeeping terms, a child in the game. I think Szczesny will be a world class goalkeeper someday but he has a few errors in his game he needs to sort out. Sign someone who's already been there, done that and worn the T shirt and Szczesny could learn a lot from him. It would also help to keep him on his guard as he'll know that if he wants to keep his spot in the starting eleven he can't slack off as someone is always lurking and waiting to take his spot away. Remember it happened last season with him being benched for Fabianski, until Lukasz hurt his shoulder.

I'd like to see us make a move for either Iker Casillas or Julio Cesar. We could easily get Casillas on loan since he's still being asked to warm the bench despite Mourinho's exit. Cesar, on the other hand, is still stuck at Loftus Road with Queens Park Rangers and needs to be in the limelight with a top club if he wants to keep his starting spot in the Brazil team. This is a World Cup year after all!
Iker Casillas
Julio Cesar

We started the season with only two fit defenders: Mertesacker and Koscielny. For a club like Arsenal, this is utterly unacceptable. Sagna has deputised well at center half but I hate seeing players being asked to play positions other than their natural ones if not necessary. You may say with Vermaelen out injured it was necessary but how can it be when we've had all this money at our disposal all summer long? We have Gibbs and Monreal at left back and should both pick up an injury, we have Vermaelen who could do a job there when he returns from injury, if required. At right back we have Sagna, who is always consistent and full of energy. We also have Jenkinson, who has developed leaps and bounds in that role. If both are injured, we don't really have another player who we could ask to play there, unless you're gonna look to Flamini or Ramsey. Since we desperately need a center back and we could do with someone who could play at right back in an emergency, why not go after Micah Richards at Man City? 

Micah Richards

On The Wing
Podolski has a three month lay off with a hamstring injury and The Ox is out for a few more weeks. Our only option at left wing at the moment is Santi Cazorla. I feel the same about him playing on the wing as I do about Sagna at center half. He does a good job there but why not utilise him in his best position and actually use our money to sign someone else? Why not Angel Di Maria? Surely with Bale's imminent arrival he'll have far less playing time at Madrid, right? He's said he wants to stay but Madrid will be looking to offset the cost of Bale's world record transfer fee and I'm sure they'll listen to any offers they can get for anyone they might deem surplus to requirement. If Florentino Perez wants you gone there's a high chance you'll have to give in to his wishes and leave, regardless of whether you want to stay and try to fight for your place in the team. Like I've mentioned with the goalkeepers earlier, this is a World Cup year and no one wants to sit twiddling their thumbs all season and end up missing out on a place in their respective nations' teams at next summer's tournament. I'm sure Di Maria will be reconsidering once Bale's protracted transfer becomes reality.
Angel Di Maria

On the other hand, what's going on with Juan Mata at Chelsea? Since Mourinho's arrival he's hardly played at all for them. Couldn't we also tempt them, with all the money we have, to sell him? The whole not wanting to miss out on the World Cup definitely applies to him as well, especially since he plays for the hardest team to break into. I'd definitely take a punt on him!
Juan Mata

Up Top
If we want to mount a serious challenge for the title against the likes of Chelsea, and the Manchester sisters this season, one striker who'll bag you roughly 20 goals is just not good enough. We have Podolski who could come in at center forward should Giroud get injured but he's hardly played there at all since leaving Cologne. I could also mention Walcott there but while he's improved as a striker, I think he should stay in the wide right position. This is because if we use him in that role too often he'll easily be found out by other defenders. Sanogo is one of our two signings so far but from the little he's played he still looks raw. Every new player to the Premiership needs time to adjust to its pace. While this is what's happening to him at the moment, I think it's fair to say that a more experienced striker will find the adjustment period a bit shorter than Sanogo is. After all, he is only 20 and still learning the game.

My prediction is we might make a bid for Benzema but that would just be ridiculous. On deadline day, there's only a snowball's chance in hell that Madrid will sell their only experienced center forward with virtually no time to replace him. We'll then look a lot closer to home and perhaps take Fernando Torres on loan. With Samuel Eto'o arriving at Stamford Bridge, Torres has been pushed down the pecking order and might decide to go somewhere else for regular playing time. I could definitely see him on Arsenal.com holding up our kit on Tuesday morning. Keep in mind, we do seem to like knocking on Chelsea's door on deadline day. In the past we've signed Gallas, Diarra and Benayoun from them on this day and I don't see any reason for us not to go to them this year given how many signings they've made and how many players there are becoming concerned about their role in the team.

Fernando Torres

With all these players I've listed, I'm pretty sure we'd have a strong enough squad to not only challenge for the Premiership this season but also go very deep into the cup competitions. I'm just a guy who watches way too much football from his television and I've identified six players who could easily give our squad the quality it has needed for such a long time. Why can't Wenger find them too? Why does he insist he won't sign anyone unless he finds exceptional quality? Again, is it because he's literally looking around the clock for them? There's only 1 day, 19 hours and 29 minutes to go til the window slams shut. Tick tock, Arsene, tick tock.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Arsenal 6-1 Southampton: Saints Desecrated

Well, what a win that was, huh?! We left Southampton reeling after a 6-1 hammering at the Emirates and now sit in 3rd in the table on 8 points, behind United on 9 points and Chelsea on 10. It's a good look. It's a really good look. Any talk of Arsenal being unable to find the net this season after the sale of yer man, van Stapleton to United has been well and truly put to bed after our last two performances where we definitely didn't look shy in front of goal.

The scoring got underway as early as the 11th minute as Hooiveld put the ball beyond his own keeper as a shot from Kieran Gibbs deflected in off him. Podolski got on the scoresheet in the 31st with a cleanly struck free kick which Kelvin Davis could do very little about. It took only 4 more minutes for Arsenal triple the lead when Mik Arteta saw Gervinho making an unmarked run into the box and played a great pass which saw the Senegalese through on goal to finish with aplomb at Kelvin Davis' near post. Two minutes later? Another own goal. Southampton's Nathaniel Clyne unfortunately bundled the ball into his own net after great work from Kieran Gibbs to get the ball into a dangerous area of the box. At this point we were 4-0 up and we seemed to lose concentration. We let Southampton's fox in the box (no really, his name's Danny Fox) pull one back when poor handling from Wojciech Szczesny saw him drop a ball played in by them, to Fox's feet and he fired home into the gaping net without any trouble at all. That's how the half ended and the disappointment of conceding our first goal of the season in such a manner was all too clear to see on Wenger and Bould's faces.

Southampton came out and looked a lot livelier in the second half and threatened our goal a bit more but they couldn't really make their spell in the final third count. The game was put to bed in the 71st when second half substitute Aaron Ramsey powered his way into the box and took a shot from a tight angle. The ball came back off the far post and was easily tapped in by an onrushing Gervinho. At 5-1 Southampton were pretty much done and dusted and Arsenal took charge of the game once more. You could sense there was more on the way. Gervinho, who was given a standing ovation, made way for Theo Walcott while Lukas Podoski came off for Olivier Giroud. Walcott came on and gave the Southampton left back hell on the right wing, with Alex Oxlade Chamberlain switching to the left, giving the Southampton right back hell on that side. The final goal of the game came in the 89th when new signing Santi Cazorla played a cheeky pass to skipper Thomas Vermaelen who made his way into the box and took a shot but the keeper parried it back to Cazorla. He took a slight touch and played it to his right to Walcott who blasted the ball into the unguarded net. It was a nice show of respect by him, not celebrating the goal, but applauding the Southampton fans because that's where his football career started out. It was another example of why people always say Walcott is a well behaved young man.

We had a good combination of pace, speed in our passing, quick combinations, and the movement was excellent. We were a bit lucky as well because they conceded two own goals, but overall I think it was a level of continuity with what we have shown at Liverpool and today. The game was very interesting to watch. In the second half we lost a bit of urgency, that is human, but we controlled the game and remained serious.

I think one of the main reasons for our continued momentum in our team play from game to game is that the team now has belief in themselves and belief that they can achieve something big by playing together. This could be the main reason for Wenger not succumbing to pressure to sign more players as the transfer window came to a close last month. He wants to do away with the days of the team being heavily reliant on one man and as such, coasting through games because they know he'll come up big at some point. To see the goals spread around the pitch in such a performance yesterday suggests that if we can keep this going, Wenger's plan will succeed and we'll have a much more consistent crop of players this season. We can only benefit from more consistency.

It's interesting to note that Wenger started with the much maligned Gervinho as the centerfold of the attack, rather than playing him in his usual left wing spot. He said he did it to exploit his speed against the central defenders and it was a very smart move. It paid dividends as he looked a lot sharper in front of goal with his finishing and you'll hope to see him continue to finish with such confidence since he's only had 2 goals this calendar year. Another reason to note why he chose to start with him as a center forward is that he felt Giroud needed a bit of pressure off him:
I felt that he is under much pressure at the moment and sometimes to get a little breather is good. What I will do on Tuesday I honestly don't know. I just felt that the time has come for him to not be under too much pressure.
You'd have to think that he chose to give him a break here because he feels with Montpellier our next opponents, Giroud has a higher chance of scoring since it's his old club and no one in the team knows their weaknesses better than he does.

Another player whose performance stood out, but for the wrong reasons, was Wojciech Szczesny. He let in our first goal of the season due to butterfingers and Wenger said:
I think he was disappointed. That's the negative of the day, that we conceded a goal, but we can swallow that. You have to concede at some stage but it happened like it happened.

Szczesny's biggest problem is he can't stay focused when he doesn't need to be. Yeah, when he doesn't need to be. What I mean is, it's all well and good making save after save after save when the opposition is camped out in your half. Most lower table goalkeepers can do that and do that alone. What sets apart a top level goalkeeper from those is how alert he is when he can basically take a nap on the pitch because the opponents aren't posing much of a threat. Szczesny, tends to switch off when a lack of pressure allows him to then sometimes he struggles to regain focus quickly. He is a young goalkeeper though and this is not something hard for him to correct about his game so I'm confident he can improve in this area. He should be looking over his shoulder though because there are two very hungry goalkeepers who were planning to leave the club for regular playing time, who now realise there might be a three way fight on for the #1 jersey.

So our attention now turns to Montpellier on Tuesday then Man City on Sunday. There's no doubt there'll be heavy squad rotation midweek as we look ahead to City. Check back in for more thoughts on that game later this week. Until then, dust!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Challenging Start To The 2011/2012 Season For Arsenal

You know, when last season ended I looked back at it and thought:
"You know what, screw this! I don't want to be led on like this again. Damn you, Arsenal!"
 Another season of Arsenal flattering to deceive had me thinking that I want to just hibernate throughout majority of next season and wake up at the tail end of it where I'll know where we stand. Season after season I watch and think "This might be our year". This is because of how well we perform throughout the first half of the season (although we usually seem to stumble for a short period in November). I've always noticed that whenever the Champions League knock out stages roll around, that's when every thing starts getting pear shaped and going tits up. It always leaves a bitter taste in my mouth when the critics start coming out in droves talking about how right they were all along that Arsenal can't hack it or that Arsenal haven't improved enough to really challenge for anything. I hate always holding that naive belief that that particular season will be the one we've turned a corner and then seeing everything fall apart when it matters most.

The FA have released the official fixtures list for next season and thankfully I might not have to go off to a dark cave for a six month slumber. We start the season with what many would deem three tough games.

The first has us travelling up to St. James' Park to face Newcastle. Arguably this fixture last season was what saw the beginning of the end for us from as early as February last season. That 4-4 draw pisses me off and still leaves me baffled as to how we allowed that to happen to us.

The following week sees us take on L*verpool at home. Personally this is a huuuuuuge match for me because, Barcelona aside, there's no team in the world I hate more than them. Arsenal have done me a great disservice by dropping points to them a few months ago, not only because we chucked away vital points in the title race that day but also because anything but a win against these grunting, drooling, knuckle draggers just won't do for me.

The third game will be against Manchester United at Old Trafford. This game is obviously one of our most massive games because it will show us whether our victory against them last season was merely a fluke or whether we've actually developed in ways to exploit their weaknesses. Also, three points for us that day could effectively hurt their title defence very early on.

I much prefer having our harder games towards the start of the season to see if Arsene Wenger has done his homework over the summer and to see whether the team has improved and will mount a serious challenge for the title. We'll clearly have to be very focused and not be complacent from early on. It will force us to start the season in the right attitude or be doomed to have a repeat of recent history where we come up short in the hunt for a title once more.

Then again, with all this change to come in the summer, we could just as well start the season without a proper team and crash and burn early on. Sorry, the pessimist in me had to notice that. I guess it all really depends on how wisely we do our business in the transfer market this summer and also on the tactical changes Wenger will be making.

Here's what our fixtures for the whole season looks like:

13 Newcastle (A)
20 Liverpool (H)
27 Man Utd (A)

10 Swansea (H)
17 Blackburn (A)
24 Bolton (H)

1 Tottenham (A)
15 Sunderland (H)
22 Stoke (H)
29 Chelsea (A)

5 West Brom (H)
19 Norwich (A)
26 Fulham (H)

3 Wigan (A)
10 Everton (H)
17 Man City (A)
21 Aston Villa (A)
26 Wolverhampton (H)
31 QPR (H)

2 Fulham (A)
14 Swansea (A)
21 Man Utd (H)
31 Bolton (A)

4 Blackburn (H)
11 Sunderland (A)
25 Tottenham (H)

3 Liverpool (A)
10 Newcastle (H)
17 Everton (A)
24 Aston Villa (H)
31 QPR (A)

7 Man City (H)
9 Wolverhampton (A)
14 Wigan (H)
21 Chelsea (H)
28 Stoke (A)

5 Norwich (H)
13 West Brom (A)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I'm Baaaack...Not Like You Care Anyway

Much like a player who's been injured and out of action for many months, it's been hard to get back into the thick of things right away after a prolonged period away from doing what you'd usually do on a daily basis with ease. Granted I wasn't in a car accident that saw me in a body bandage, with each limb hanging from slings on my bed, but I have been so busy over the past few months it became really hard to find the time to blog. Not that it really mattered anyway...since it seems I'm the Babu Bhatt of the Arsenal Blogosphere. This might just be a short entry today since I've got to break myself back into the habit of blogging.

Okay so where do I even begin?

The policy of this blog is to bring something different to the table from the rest of the other Arsenal blogs out there so for that reason I don't really feel like putting the season under a microscope and dissecting the hell outta it. We all know that the season's been a vast let down in terms of expectations and achievements. While there have been negatives in terms of how poorly we finished the table, given the position we found ourselves in before the massive implosion, there were definitely some positives.

1. Jack Wilshere's emergence was a joy to behold. he's played with maturity beyond his years and despite the many bad overall team performances we've seen from Arsenal this season, I don't know anyone who can honestly say they saw a bad performance from Jack. I mean he didn't win the PFA Young Player of the Year Award for nothing, did he?

2. Wojciech Szczesny: Six months ago practically all of us struggled to spell his name correctly but the young Pole has become such a mainstay in the first team now, we've all familiarised ourselves with all the Cs and Zs in his name. What's great too is that we had to pay nothing to sort out our goalkeeping troubles. Although he's had a few errors here and there he's shown so many signs of a promising future and that he'll be a world class keeper someday. The future looks bright for us between the sticks.

3. We're no longer a team that gets intimidated by big teams in big matches. That's definitely something we struggled with in the past but this season has seen us beat Chelsea and Manchester United and have one of the most memorable games in the Champions League this season which saw us beat Barcelona. The only problem now is that while we're beating the teams many see as the hardest to beat, we're stumbling over the ones that we'd normally consider the smaller ones. Something drastically needs to change about this over the summer as not only do we need more experienced and hungrier players but Arsene Wenger's approach to mentally preparing his team needs to be reworked for next season.

Another thing I want to get off my chest is that I see a lot of people online calling for Cesc Fabregas to be sold. The general consensus among people with this view is that he doesn't have the heart to play for us anymore and he's no longer committed to the cause. (This is where I roll my eyes)

If you're reading this and you're one of the many who share this view, how do you know whether or not his heart is in it? Have you ever even had a conversation with the man? How is it that you're able to tell, from your tv screen, how someone feels on the inside about something? If anything, all we can see from Cesc is his passion and love for Arsenal FC. This is the same guy that took and scored a penalty for us against Barcelona with a broken leg just to make sure we didn't exit the competition. This is the same guy who rushed himself back to fitness to face Barcelona again this season in the second leg at the Nou Camp. Sure his mistake led to their first goal, but I honestly don't think he would've made that error had he been at 100% fitness that day. Are you forgetting that this is the same guy whose cameos off the bench has saved our asses so many times with goals and assists, especially in cup competitions when we were down a goal or just seemed like we were never going to find the net at all?

Many of the people saying this seem to have very short memory about all he's done for the good of the club in the last 3 seasons. Cesc's love for Arsenal shouldn't even be in question. He may not be as vocal or as aggressive a captain as Tony Adams was but in terms of leading by example there is no doubt he's the right man to wear the armband. Furthermore, how can we complain every day that we need more experience in the team and that Wenger isn't signing experienced players then in the same breath call for Cesc to be sold? Remember, he's a European Championship and World Cup winner. No one in the team has more experience than he does. He's arguably our best player as well. Ignore the fact that this season hasn't been his best. That doesn't necessarily mean he's become a bad player overnight. All it means is that he's suffered for his talent.

He's hardly had time to get a proper rest and vacation in since 2007. In 2008 he had to go off and play in the Euros and played all the way to the finals. The following year he played in the Confederations Cup and a year later he played in the World Cup, and while you might say he didn't start all of Spain's games, he still had to go to training every day and didn't get time to go and relax on vacation and clear his mind and come back fresh for the next season. He had only two weeks to rest before he was back into preseason training for us. This is why he's also been so injury prone (are you reading this, Jack Wilshere?). For that reason, surely it requires a bit of understanding why he's experienced a dip in form lately.

Why would you say our team needs experience and then ask that we sell our best player? How much sense does that really make to you?

There's a whole lot more to be discussed but there's no need to try to get through it all right now. We have a whole summer of speculating and bitching and whinging to do so it can wait until I decide to post again. I promise, the wait won't be as long as the last time. For now lets just be thankful that this train wreck of a season is all over. Whether we're doomed to repeat it next season because Wenger's wallet is as tight as virginity remains to be seen.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Arsenal 1-1 AC Milan (Emirates Cup): Post Match Thoughts

Our first match in the Emirates Cup ended 1-1 against AC Milan today. The goals came from our new boy Marouane Chamakh and Milan's Alexandre Pato. While this competition is absolutely meaningless, I like watching it because it's very exciting. It's unique in that you not only earn points for winning or drawing, but also for each goal you score so it definitely promotes attacking football. I don't take the results to heart as this is just a meaningless preseason tournament, although it's interesting to note that in the two years we won the Emirates Cup we went on to challenge for the title in the subsequent Premiership seasons. When we won in 2007 we finished 3rd in the Premiership the season after, just 4 points behind winners Manchester United and when we won last year we went on to...well you know...push for the title.

My intention is not to dissect this match to it's minutest form but I'll talk about some of the things I noticed while watching today.
  • Why did Lukasz Fabianski start? You'd figure that since we play Milan today and Celtic tomorrow, we'd field our stronger team today and a lesser one tomorrow. Manuel Almunia was our first string keeper last season and he's clearly the better keeper of the two. Is it that he's being sold? I don't want to get ahead of myself here but it just struck me as odd that he didn't feature at all today and featured only once since we started our preseason training. It's not like he went to the World Cup and needed a rest either. I'll speak more on the keeper issue a bit later.
  • Marouane Chamakh has bags of skill. He shows lots of intelligence on and off the ball. He has great technique and nice touches. He roams the pitch a lot and has a high work rate. His goal came from a great finish which saw him tap the ball under Abbiati and into the net. He linked up well with Arshavin and Nasri today and I look forward to seeing more of the three of them working together as well as Chamakh linking up with Fabregas as the season progresses. He has the skills and technique I've been saying we've lacked up top since Thierry Henry left. He has that unpredictability about him that I'm sure will catch a lot of defenders out this season. To me he's a poor man's Cristiano Ronaldo. I just hope those mugs that play for teams such as Blackburn and Bolton don't resort to breaking his legs because they can't take him off the ball. I still think he needs to get rid of that haircut though. He looks like his stylist used a knife and a fork on him.
  • Laurent Koscielny, so far, looks to be a good ball winner. He's not exactly the biggest of players but he can use his size to his advantage as it will aid him when chasing attackers around the pitch. He looks pretty speedy from what I saw today and he was always busy breaking up a lot of plays.
  • Emmanuel Frimpong is very strong and hard to get off the ball. This is attributed to his low center of gravity. I noticed that he spreads the ball really well. I'd like to see more of him this season. I still think we need to bring in a back up defensive midfielder to Song but I'd like to see Frimpong given a chance as the third string defensive midfielder with Denilson used in a more attacking role, which he's more comfortable with.
  • Johan Djourou came on in place of Frimpong at defensive midfield. This is interesting to me because I've been saying Denilson isn't a defensive midfielder and shouldn't be playing there. It's why I think we need a new defensive midfielder. I remember when Djourou returned from his loan spell at Boringham he said he wants a future role as a defensive midfielder because it's where he likes to play. Now I'm wondering if Wenger is considering him for this role.
  • We conceded another set piece goal. This is something we still need to work on. Last season we conceded 41 goals and too many of them were from balls into the box over the top. Some measure of blame for the goal has to go to Lukasz Fabianski as well. He was caught wearing concrete boots and panicked when the ball came in across the face of his goal. Wenger was paying attention to his performance because he is weighing up the option of using him as our first string goalkeeper in the coming season instead of Almunia. He has also been looking to bring a new keeper in and two of the names being banded about are Mark Schwarzer and Federico Marchetti. Fabianski wouldn't have helped his cause to keep in contention for the starting spot with that goal he let in.
We play Celtic tomorrow and we're currently tied on 2 points with Milan while Celtic and Lyon are tied on 3 points. The second day of the Emirates Cup is always more exciting than the first, because it always come down to the wire and a set amount of goals are always needed for the teams playing last to try to win the cup. I'll be back with more thoughts after the Celtic match tomorrow. For now, tell me in the comments section what you think of what you saw today. Dust!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Eduardo Finds Greener Pastures In Donetsk

Brazilian born Croatian striker Eduardo Da Silva has signed a 4 year contract with Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine for a fee believed to be around £6M.

Many had expected this transfer to occur because it became a fast spreading rumour as of Saturday when he missed the first preseason match against Barnet. He struggled to get into the team last season, making 10 minute cameos here and there before Arsene Wenger eventually decided to stop playing him altogether.

Some would argue that his departure came because Arsene Wenger forced him out of the team when he switched from the 4 4 2 formation to the 4 3 3. Some say he didn't belong out in a wide position and he didn't belong in the target man role up top either and his best position was as a secondary striker. It means that his natural position wasn't one afforded a role by this formation. I see it differently though.

Eduardo's days at Arsenal became numbered on February 23, 2008. That was the day he picked up this horror tackle (don't click if squeamish). How Martin Taylor was given only a 3 match ban for that is beyond me. Eduardo spent 18 months on the sidelines as a result of the injury he sustained. A whole issue was created out of the incident when members of the British press and Birmingham City supporters made Taylor into the victim and Eduardo the villain by saying Eduardo made a meal of the tackle and some even went as far as claiming it wasn't a foul. They claimed that Arsenal players are just too soft and that Martin Taylor was the real victim because of the emotional anguish he was put through. Never in my life have I heard such rubbish!

As I mentioned before, it took him 18 months to make a full return from the injury and it came against Cardiff City in the FA Cup. He scored that night and looked quite sharp. We all thought and hoped we got back that clinical striker who had a 23.5% conversion rate in front of goal but as the months rolled on they proved that it wasn't to be. His time ever since the broken leg was spent in and out of the team due to niggling injuries which arose as a result of the initial severe one. From there Eduardo became a mentally broken man. His conversation rate fell to 6.3% after and this made it clear that it was now the beginning of the end of his Arsenal career.

His demeanor on the pitch had changed. He no longer harried the ball in 50/50 challenges and in one particular game against Celtic last season he was so afraid to challenge for the ball in a one on one with Artur Buruc that he backed off, lost his balance, fell and won a penalty. The media had a field day with this, labeling him a diver and a cheat. These claims against him were both harsh and untrue as it happened due to the trauma from the incident in 2008. He saw himself reduced to a substitute role and when he did get the rare appearance he had ineffectual performances. Such performances frustrated Arsene Wenger who chose not to play him in the final 6 or so games of the season.

Credit should be given to Eduardo for his whole attitude, given what he's gone through. Not once did he give up hope on a return to the game and not once did he complain or show dissent in his body language because he wasn't being given playing time. He was always a class act and it's reflected in his parting message to the fans:
Before I start a new chapter in my career with Shakhtar Donetsk, I just wanted to send a message to all my friends at Arsenal.

The past few days have been very emotional for me. Although I am excited about the challenge ahead with my new club Shakhtar Donetsk, I am so sad to be leaving my home for the past three years – Arsenal Football Club.
Arsenal is a very special football club and I will miss so many people - my team mates, all the staff and of course, the wonderful Arsenal supporters.
I would just like to thank everyone for your support during my time at Arsenal. When I first came to England, I could not speak the language and knew nobody, but as soon as I arrived I was made to feel at home and part of this big family. Also, I want to say thank you to the Arsenal supporters  - you have been fantastic to me and always sung my name and I will never forget this. 
I had some very difficult times with my injury, but Arsenal was always there for me – the medical staff, the management, the players and the supporters. Thank you everybody.

Although I have now left the Club, Arsenal will always be in my heart. I will always look for the Arsenal results and of course, I wish Arsène Wenger and the great players at the Club well for next season and the future.
I can safely say that everyone associated with Arsenal Football Club - the players, management, and supporters all respect and thank Eduardo for all he's done in his 3 years at the club. He will definitely be missed by us all. We wish him and his family all the best in Ukraine and we wish him only the best in his future endeavours.

Now here's a very poignant video tribute to the former Arsenal number 9.

That's all for now. Until next time, take care.