About Ben Leeder

Arsenal Fan

Mood Swings

So. Ermmm. The 7th of Feb wasn’t great was it. BUT THE 10TH WAS. SO LETS TALK ABOUT THAT INSTEAD *weeps uncontrollably*

It’s incredible how quickly football changes. How your outlook on things can be quickly reversed with the swing of someone’s boot. I’ve decided in the last few days that at least 40% of my mood is completely determined by Arsenal’s form. Sad I know, but it’s the little things that make it all worthwhile.

Meanwhile, having to deal with the frustration on a Monday morning is the worst, bumping into people *those people* (we all have one). Smug people, who don’t really seem to know what they’re talking about, but always have the last laugh. Sometimes I wish they would all just fall in a hole.

The most frustrating thing about the Spurs game is the fact that it’s a stain on our season. We’ll have to sit and dwell on the fact that we won’t get another opportunity to try and redeem ourselves against an average Sp*rs side. Forget all that other stuff; finishing above them, etc, it’s the bragging rights we all want and we currently don’t own.

I’ve rambled enough so let’s talk about ‘that’ game. Our ‘Plan B’ didn’t really work. As much as it pains me to say, Sp*rs dominated possession for very long periods. We put ourselves under a lot of pressure with very poor passing. I do live by the motto that the majority of stats are wanky, but our pass completion was terrible, with Francis Coquelin and Per Mertesacker the only starters to finish the game with over 75% pass accuracy. Coquelin was the best with 78% (which is still awful).

Hindsight is obviously 20/20 so it’s easy to sit here and say this player should have played or the approach, should have been completely different, but personally I thought it was the right way to go. It’s just that the execution was very poor. Watching it for a second time (I know, I know), Spurs did in fact, play well. Pochettino organised his troops very well and also managed the game in a particularly good way. I remember thinking when I saw their line-up, it seemed bizarre. Playing Dembele so high up the field, considering his lack of end product. As the game went on it became very clear why the decision was made. He totally wiped players out, stealing the ball off our midfield trio and recycling possession. I heard a very interesting story about him on The Guardian Podcast a few weeks ago. When he was a child in Belgium, he played football on a basketball court, with no goals. The aim of the game was to take players on and eliminate them. All makes sense when you watch him play.

The decision of Danny Welbeck to start over Theo Walcott seemed bizarre for many. However, considering the opposition and the occasion, it was entirely understandable in my opinion. Welbeck’s all round game was more appropriate, especially his defensive work rate, which I think was the key for chasing him. Arsène probably anticipated Pochettino’s pressing approach. It was something he had success with against us last season when he was in-charge at Southampton.

Theo’s lack of defensive contribution was proved when he did very little to prevent Bentaleb’s cross from sailing perfectly onto Harry Kane’s head. Slightly more gutting was his clumsiness, but can that be put down to rust? In the final minute, when Rosicky sent him clear of the Sp*rs defence, the ball just bounced off him and rolled to safety. Is that rust or a wider issue of his all around game? Have we all forgotten Theo of three years ago, who would frustrate and delight in equal measure?

Football is all about fine margins. The same reason Theo wasn’t on the pitch when Arsenal conceded. On the other side of the coin, Arsenal needed a goal, but he fluffed his lines.

I said a few weeks ago that Theo deceives. I wonder what the consensus on him will be in a few weeks time. Part of me feels he should have a free pass until the end of the season (before he’s judged amongst the masses) but his contract is looming above his head. It will be interesting to see how things stand in a couple of weeks.

Anyway, in our last handful of games we’ve appeared to be comfortable to allow the opposition possession of the football to see if they can hurt us. The difference between the win at The Eithad, the draw against Liverpool (For small periods), was that we were able to relieve the pressure. Against Spurs we didn’t have enough to trouble them on the counter which just allowed them to put us under even more pressure. You can’t win a game of football if you keep giving the ball to the opposition in vital areas.

What I found interesting from Sp*rs’ approach, they essentially isolated Harry Kane and Per Mertesacker for the majority of the game, which was definitely a bad matchup for Arsenal considering we didn’t have a right back or [Insert description of choice] midfielder to relieve pressure. It appeared that Sp*rs ‘allowed’ Ramsey to actually have the ball. That’s interesting (not in a good way) because a) He isn’t a ball carrier and wasn’t able to break out for their press, b) He was very poor on the day, and C) He isn’t Mesut Özil.

They overloaded our left hand side. Which left Bellerin isolated whilst cramping out Özil and Cazorla. I wonder if Welbeck had been a little sharper in possession, we may have done considerably better.

So what have we learned about Arsenal in the last year or so? Against teams that employ a high pressing strategy they will get something from us.

I think in time we’ll improve and we’ll be more comfortable when we’re under the kosh. We’ve all played football, well attempted anyway. When you’re three nill up and the opposition score. You can feel the tide turning and you can’t stop it. It just felt we were drowning and couldn’t even tread water, let alone float unaided.

On paper, a high press can leave space in behind and if you can just break that first wave of pressure, you’re away. We will improve playing the system, I have no doubt about it, it just may take a little more time than hoped.

Be Happy,

Ben.

Click, click, BOOM

At the weekend we managed to chalk up our fifth consecutive win, albeit against a very Pony and Trap Aston Villa side, so it would be very churlish to poo-poo your side when they score five (sexy) goals against a fellow premier league team. We’ve come up against equally poor sides and not given them that sort of a hiding. The way Villa kick a football around a football pitch is atrocious. It’s been said that a team plays in the image of their manager. Heavens, Paul Lambert must be a shit lay. “Fancy it love?”…”Nah, I’m reading the magnolia paint catalogue [sips tea]”.

The biggest difference of late, apart from the alignment of the stars, is that we’ve stopped drawing games. It’s now only one draw in the last 10 Premier League fixtures for The Arsenal. We drew half of our opening 10 fixtures. You know L-W-W > D-D-W and all that.

The start of the season Arsène set-up the side with a very different feel, shape. The 4-1-4-1 formation. It led to the side looking very disjointed and at a point where the general consensus was a warm fuzzy feeling that we might be onto something here, but we certainly weren’t playing like it. More Puke-y. I wonder if Arsène ever got caught roaming the corridors of Colney with a bottle of Neuf-de-Pape screaming “COHESION! you peasants [swigs]”. What seemed bizarre was the timing of the decision and trying to implement a brand new system without (really) trialling it during pre-season. The old system (4-2-3-1) had its benefits, but Arsène’s decision was based on making us more defensively sound in the bigger games, at which point I’d like it on record that I’m a huge fan of not conceding six at Stamford Bridge (please, never, ever again).

I think Arsène was/is trying to build a tactical flexibility into this group of players. Something we seem to misplace at the most important times. If we can go into games with the opposition trying to second guess us, it can only be a good thing for the team, make us more unpredictable and more likely to have victory through tactical outwitting. We saw against Manchester City that possession wasn’t as precious as it once was for us. It’s more about how, and where, we use the ball. Giroud, for example, seems to be less of a bumper in a pinball machine, but now more of a roaming target. He’s becoming a very all-rounded football player. I’ve always been very obsessed with skill and technique. As aesthetically pleasing as Giroud’s face is, sometimes when he’s travelling with the ball, he looks like a new born giraffe on a skateboard. Putting that glorious image to one-side, tactically, mentally, physically, he’s very astute and helps the side purr.

I’ve found it very interesting watching Mesut at the weekend. His demeanor, hunger to play football again appeared to be shining bright again. I wonder how effected he was after winning the World Cup. Per openly admitted he struggled with coming back to normality. I wonder if Özil needed a shock to his system to get him firing again. Before he went off on gardening leave, down to the potting shed, there was angst amongst fans that was born from his deployment “out wide”. I’d like to shatter some hearts and say that doesn’t make a fucking difference to Mesut Özil.

*Whispers* I think Mesut can only be on the flanks in a 4-1-4-1 (opposition dependant). I think he has to admit to himself that he has to make some ‘sacrifices’ to his game to benefit the team as a unit. He’ll have to learn, adapt his movements. When to swap flanks, when to drift. In the coming weeks, I’ll think you’ll see him become more of a ‘Nasri'; offer balance to the side out wide. He’s always calm in possession, he can carry the ball, but Özil cutting in from the wing will give him several options and opportunities to play the killer pass he’s so good at.

The other ‘1’ in the team to get a honourable mention is Francis Coquelin. He’s benefitted and impressed with his promotion. Not long ago he was sitting on the bench at The Valley for Charlton. He was not only playing for his Arsenal career, he’s was playing for his Football career (at the top level), but Coquelin’s introduction coincides with our stronger unit. A strong unit makes a holder’s job so much easier. In his first few games his decision making was very erratic and dubious, but he’s grown very quickly and if his presence means more focus on ‘unit strength’, I’m all for his inclusion.

The biggest strength of 4-1-4-1, also seems to be it’s greatest weakness. It’s great when everything clicks into place and the balance is right, but if a few things are out of place, it will go tits up.

Be happy,

Ben.

Thoughts on City from Benjy

Every time Thierry Henry pauses for dramatic effect. An angels heart skips a beat and one of those Lad accounts on twitter dies. I spent the early part of Sunday afternoon hanging off every word of what the delicious Frenchman had to say. It reminded me of having an new colleague at work. They have a fresh mind; they see things in a different light. Simple things that get over-looked get pointed out. Generally because you haven’t been tainted by the fog of expectation. Or Neil, who fucking continually does stupid things. Do one Neil.

The discussion pre-game was the typical narrative. Arsenal don’t defend, Arsène is tactically naive etc, etc. Insert your preference of choice reader. It does feel like media outlets prepare flash cards that they can quickly whip out depending on the outcome of the game. Opinions and perceptions in football are so instant and definitive. Which generally leads to misinterpretation of the situation or said individual. On several occasions on Sunday we heard the commentary team slip into that -“Vincent Kompany with a rare mistake”. “Arsène Wenger doesn’t usually set his team up like this” They are culprits of going along with the general consensus of football interpretation.

Even our gorgeous hero dropped a clanger before kickoff, or did he? Saying Alex Song is the sort of midfielder Arsenal need.

Disclaimer – Alex Song was ok at kicking a football. We can argue till the cows come home about having him in the current squad. But we were no better defensively with him in the side.

Back to Henry. He’s hedging his bets, he’s playing the game of life. We lose, and he can say *dramatic pause* “see” or “I’m pleased they’ve finally done what we’ve all been clamouring for”. It’s like betting against your team, they lose you win some cash, if they win, you can do a victory dance to Taylor Swift, shake it off. And we all know who the real winner is.

That said, I wonder if Thierry enjoyed his TV debut. I did. I wonder if he thinks he’s made the best choice for his career and brand Thierry. It can be easy, punditry, you don’t have to make any big calls, you can just end up looking very intelligent. Spouting some guff. Anyway, Good Luck, Thierry x

I have to say I’m not entirely convinced the way we set-up to play City was entirely new to Arsène. It was all about the execution. We tried to play the same way against Chelsea earlier on in the season. Unfortunately for us Chelsea have this marvellous player, Eden Hazard. You may of heard of him. The ball-boy kicking magician has attempted and completed the most dribbles this season. Key to breaking down a low block. Aguero has just come back from injury and not fully firing didn’t help their cause. I imagine they will try and fill that void in the summer.

I’m really tempted to write we were lucky with the result, but we weren’t. We deserved the victory. To put It in a very simplistic way – I thought we were able to take our chances. If you decide to play the way we did and concede first (i.e. Chelsea) you need to quickly change how you are going to go about things and for many reasons, that isn’t easy.

I’ve always felt Arsène (Emirates years) has been very good at containing issues rather than conquering them. That isn’t a dig at the big man, just the way he goes about things, hence the usual up and down nature to our seasons. Which kind makes this victory even more sweeter. To play a ‘perfect game’ is one thing, but the players have to execute the plan in order to get a result, which is another thing. It was incredible how cohesive we looked. It was exactly how it should be, a strong collective unit with fearsome counter-attacks. Maybe, fearsome isn’t the right word, but we’ll definitely get there.

The most pleasing thing was the framework we gave the entire team to work in. We made it easier for Coquelin to squeeze space between the lines. Coquelin had time, which allows him to anticipate interceptions and give him a perfect view of the whole pitch. Bellerin had enough protection from the resurgent Chamberlain. The young Englishman ploughed up and down the flank allowing the midfield three time to control the midfield areas. Monreal’s stint at centre-half has really appeared to change his outlook. Mertesacker and Koscienly combined perfectly, a pleasant reminder of how good they are together.

Alexis Sanchez was just as good as he usually is. Just traded his spectacular flair for industry but with the equally dazzling effect. He was like a Jack Russell, chased every ball. Perhaps he didn’t create as much as he’d like, but what did he offer was priceless. His and Chamberlain’s hard work allowed Cazorla, Ramsey and Coquelin complete control over the centre of the park, stifling Man City’s creative spark – David Silva. Whilst the trio we had maintained our attacking threat. The big advantage of playing a deeper 4-3-3 is that Santi becomes a viable out-ball from defence. He has ability to hold, turn and begin the transition. This will probably go down as his greatest performance in his Arsenal career.

The natter before the game was who is the better player, Alexis Sanchez or Sergio Aguero. The funny thing is, it’s Santiago Cazorla.

If you believe it was a tactical masterclass, or a perfect execution of tactics we’ve attempted previously, I don’t think it entirely matters. The performance was a massive achievement. Bask in it, and the potential of this squad.

Ben

The teenage dreamer still burns bright.

Chris asked me to write 50 words on ‘What’s wrong with Arsenal’, it’s surprisingly hard. I was torn between a few avenues to go down. So I closed my eyes and pointed. Have a go and send them to me, I’d like to hear your take – Here’s my attempt. As you can see, I cheated. and I’m not sorry.

I’m not.

The key problem with all of Arsène’s squads, post-Highbury, is a lack of standout character(s), to compensate for Arsène’s ‘Wengerball’ philosophy. Recently reading Amy Lawrence’s Invincible (A must buy); that side simply lived and breathed on the will to win and push one another to that required level. I appreciate it isn’t the best example because it’s probably the greatest Arsenal team you or I will ever see – but you get the idea – losing simply wasn’t an option.

Re-reading that ‘The greatest team’ debate, it is obviously down to preference. Many would throw the 1990-91 side into the hat, but it all depends on what generation you’re from and I suppose the key component is nostalgia and your resounding memories. Tim Stillman recently wrote a marvellous piece on nostalgia, take a look if you haven’t seen it. You’ll enjoy it.

I feel this is a very important subject that won’t go away, and to be honest, I’m not willing to face, because it’s close to my heart. Like pulling a plaster, do it quickly, or it’ll happen in the shower when you least expect it. I suppose it’s become a more acceptable subject to discuss. Previously if you mentioned it you’d be lynched for such blasphemy. It’s, as you’ve probably guessed it, the manager and his future.

I was at the Hull game and as I was funnelling out amongst the disappointed home fans, two gentlemen starting singing “Arsssseeeeennnnneeee out, we want Arsène out”. Then they went onto slagging off Puma (which seemed bizarre, but who am I to judge?). Everybody near me looked very uncomfortable with the situation and hung their heads. Another man nearby replied “You’re on your oooowwwwnnn, you’re on your ooowwwwnn!” Which made a few people smirk. So I suspect I’m not the only one who feels uncomfortable about discussing it or making their opinions known. But I quietly got to a point last year where I was in the ‘Win the FA Cup, take a bow, be lauded for everything you’ve done…have a glass of red on the beach. You’ve deserved it’ camp. That sentiment has changed this season and we have experienced somewhat of a watershed moment. Tim Clarke (Arse2Mouse) described it as – When you realise your father, your hero, the great untouchable man you thought he was, see cry for the first time and it hits you, he’s just a normal bloke trying to find his way. I’d like to add that I think at that moment you love him more because you realise what he has actually achieved along the way.

I felt that way because the general consensus amongst the majority of the fan base (being at the ground, chatting with friends, social media, etc) seemed to want him to go. Initially, at that point for me it was unthinkable, because the young impressionable dreamer in me wouldn’t allow that Arsène poster to be taken down.

Our fan base had been spilt for a while now and I don’t think a new manager, success or not, will change that instantly. But back to Arsène – unless he wins something major and we break that glass ceiling, instead of rubbing our faces on it, opinions won’t change.

So, this season, where do we begin? We are a mess. Like leaving your toddler with a crayon & he creates a masterpiece in your hall. (I haven’t done this…or maybe I have done this…). There are lots of conversations about conceding the title in November, but the reality is that we were never in the title this season. I don’t want to be that guy that brings up the lack of transfers, etc, etc, but that (the lack of activity in key areas) killed any hope we had. I think it’s bizarre that that people thought we’d have any chance? If the activity wasn’t enough evidence then surely Martinez pulling down our pants at Goodison (again) was a clearer message, no?

As I mentioned above, unless Arsène has a certain quality of player, his management will struggle, when it really matters. His dream and vision is an ideology, not a coaching style, and that will only take you so far. Patrick Vieira has said it’s his biggest strength and his biggest weakness. I admire him for it but his dream is (has) slowly strangling him.

I’m not really enjoying writing this as Arsène has taken Arsenal to some unbelievable heights, but it has been fading for a number of years now. He’s making simply perplexing decisions, some that I’m starting to hate him for. Going into a season with one real centre forward option, not signing a centre half, passing up on Cesc Fabregas (I’ve taken that very badly, as you can probably tell). I understand all the variables for the decision(s) on Cesc but I was in the ‘buy what we need, and begrudgingly leave Cesc’ camp. I understand ALL the dynamics, but he did neither.

We currently live on this completely different level of frustration, like spraining your wrist and trying to cut a steak (I haven’t done this… or have I have done this…). If you take everything into account, success is a real possibility for us but we seem to squander it in ludicrous fashion every year. To be honest, this could all be down to the unbeaten season curse. I’d be ok with that, Ha!

The skill of a great manager is to build a team which plays in a way that it becomes more than the sum of its parts. Unfortunately we have more this season yet we are well below his par. I feel for him because injuries have haunted us for years. If I had one wish for Arsène it would be a season free of major injuries. Then it would be a great gauge on how he handles his squad.

The injuries have killed us for years but not compensating is probably the biggest deficiency. Something very obvious, if a team play often with one another in training and matches then they get to know each other better, sequences become more automatic. They become everything Arsène’s play is based on. If our players played together for longer periods, we would be better as a side, which I know is a really ‘no sh*t Sherlock way of thinking, but sometimes you need to say things things out loud to realise.

Our form this year has been poor. For a few reasons: Injuries, which prevent rotation; change in direction, to try to build cohesion. We’ve seen that in our low intensity (bizarre) pressing, it’s all a sign of a lack of harmony. If we could keep players fit it would give Arsène the ability to switch things up, rotate when needed instead of playing out of form players.

I guess I’m just trying to come to the terms with is accepting the inevitability of it – him leaving, whether that’s the end of this year or the end of his contract. Without going into it, it’s going to really hurt. Crying into a pillow kind of hurt. Staring out the window watching the rain pissing down screaming “WHY?!” As you eat ice cream, kinda hurt.

One thing for sure is, it’s not working now, and it doesn’t look like it will in the near future. This whole ‘success’ thingy we all want? I have to be honest, I don’t think the league is a real possibility for us with, or without Arsène. I think what’s wanted, and possibly what is actually needed, is fresh eyes.

Hearing Arsène being interviewed on beIN sport recently. Everything he says is spell bounding. I get caught up in his genius. I could listen to him forever and a day. He still makes me dream for that happy ending. My young impressionable dreamer side always barges in and says ‘give him time to build that side, win the Champions League before you go, complete your journey’. I hope he’s working towards a smooth transition. That’s the direction I believe the Arsenal wheels are turning. But deep down, I hope Arsène is still doing what he does best, which is to dream.

Cheers for reading,

Be happy,

Ben.

Benfica easily dismissed.

Now that was a breathe of fresh air. A very refreshed Arsenal performance, and an equally refreshing result. As Arsène said “You can’t draw too many conclusions from a game like that but it was a positive day for us”. No better way to describe the morale boosting experience.

This is how we lined up for day one:

Arsenal: Martinez, Bellerin, Chambers, Monreal, Gibbs, Flamini, Campbell, Ramsey, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanogo

Subs: Szczesny, Debuchy, Koscielny, Arteta, Wilshere, Giroud, Sanchez, Cazorla, Coquelin, Akpom, Miquel

Yaya Sanogo scored four times (YES..FOUR TIMES) as we obliterated the Portuguese champions Benfica, 5-1. The 21-year-old centre forward who was (and is) yet to score a competitive goal. To be honest in previous encounters he looked more likely to do his ACL than actually score a goal. Until Saturday, he claimed a first-half hat-trick and then stole the biscuit by adding the forth goal in the second half.

Sanogo tried his best to upstage
to upstage the arrival Alexis Sanchez, who came on as a late substitute. Our new Chilean got the biggest cheer of the day when he can onto the pitch. Arsène said after the game Alexis is likely to get 45 minutes this afternoon.

Joel Campbell was back at Arsenal after three seasons out on loan, and he appeared very desperate to make an impact. He certainly put on a good show and the Costa Rican scored the second goal. A lovely half volley from a Hector Bellerin assist. Arsène said after the game: “Sanogo and Campbell need to play… but they need to play here. Sanogo has slowly got better”. Looks like we will really get to make a proper judgement on our long lost wonder kid.

Benfica’s Nicolas Gaitan got their only goal. You guessed it, from a set piece. Defensively there were some bright signs. Hard to really comment on the collective, but individually, some very promising stuff.

The game before was a 2-2 draw between Valencia and Monaco. Which leaves the standings like this:

Arsenal – 8 points
Monaco – 3 points
Valencia – 3 points
Benfica – 1 points

Arsène used the day to cast an eye over the new signings and some of the fringe players. Calum Chambers, recently signed from Southampton started alongside Nacho Monreal at Centre Half.

After Joel Campbell had seen an early penalty claim waved away, a fair decision. Nicolas Gaitan rattled the bar, after a glancing half volley took the paintwork off. Campbell then had scuffed a chance wide from Aaron Ramsey’s dinked pass. Campbell was getting into the areas, it was just a matter of time. Then it was Sanogo’s turn to come close, the young Frenchman put his chance the wrong side of the post, after a wonderful Hector Bellerin cross. We really seemed to ignite from that moment on.

Yaya broke the deadlock mid way through the first half with a clever back-heeled (Cruyff turn) finish from Ramsey’s right-wing cross. (Aaron Ramsey is very good at football, that is all). The second can through another Bellerin forward charge. He teed up Campbell to thump his left-footed volley home. Just before halftime there was enough time for Sanogo to complete his hat-trick. A very impressive dinked finish.

The lanky striker bagged his fourth at the beginning of the second half. He rolled the ball into an empty net after Artur Moraes, the Benfica keeper parried from Aaron Ramsey well placed strike.

With half an hour to go Jack Wilshere, Francis Coquelin and Mikel Arteta all came on for Tomas Rosicky, Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini. Nicolas Gaitan headed in from a Rory Delap-esque long throw-in. But that was quickly forgotten as we got to see our new £30 million forward for Barcelona, Alexis Sanchez. He replaced Yaya Sanogo who’s afternoon ended on a sour note as he appeared to tweak a hamstring and limped straight down the tunnel. Meanwhile Sanchez, he looked very good. Our new number 17 almost created a goal for Francis Coquelin in injury time. Santi’s jinking run out foxed two defenders before he slid in Alexis who found Coquelin free in the box. But the young midfielders shot came back off the post. I have no clue how that stayed out.

Ignasi Miquel and Chuba Akpom joined Sanchez on the pitch as Joel Campbell and Nacho Monreal also came off. Gaitan nearly scored from an audacious backheeled effort from close range. Bebe then forced Martinez into a decent save from a dipping free-kick. While Maxi Perreira hit the post, cutting inside as the visitors attempted to lower the score-line.

We play Monaco today (Sunday) before we face Manchester City in the Community Shield next weekend. Very exciting quotes from Jorge Jesus: “The quality of Arsenal’s players exceeded our expectations”.

Enjoy today’s football.

Cheers for reading,

Be happy,

Ben.

Irrelevant as always

As I’ve been falling into a football-less vortex that is the remained of the summer. I’ve wondered about our squad and what it would actually need to challenge for the title. You know, a proper challenge, one that goes to the last day and ends with us flooding the Islington streets [or insert drinking hole of choice] with joy.

The gist of the summer so far: Arsène said going into it, he would sign “two or three” depending on the departures we had. The first to officially go was Lukasz Fabianski, the re-born again keeper signed for Swansea after his contract was up. I have to say I wasn’t sad to see him go and as he came hurtling out of his goal against Hull, it was a stark reminder of what he was all about. If you close your eyes for a second and just listen, you can hear the Wembley tuff scream “WHAT ARE YOU DOING… ITS BEEN 9 YEARS!”.

Typically I start writing a blog and it quickly becomes irrelevant, so I have to scrabble to change it. I start babbling about rumours and what does Ivan Gazidis do? Makes me look foolish and continues working on his A-game.

‘We’ve signed David Ospina’ *Deletes chunk from blog*

I have to be honest I hadn’t seen Ospina play prior to The World Cup. Something instantly stood out though – his pace. Maybe pace is the wrong word; speed or anticipation might be more relevant. He was very quick off his line. There’s always the risk he could find himself stranded in no-mans-land. He’ll have to learn very quickly about timing his charges.

He pulled off a few ‘impossible’ saves, unsighted, which just seemed out of his reach. He also appeared to have very good control over his box and handled crosses very well. Reading a few articles and seeing some stats, Ospina played behind a defence that was very unpredictable last season. As we saw from Fabianski last year, our improved defence helped him build his confidence.

Next to leave – Manchester City bound Bacary Sagna. Our long-standing fullback has been replaced with his French international counter-part Mathieu Debuchy from Newcastle. I think he’s a solid piece of business, with the fee believed to be around £10m. A few other players where mentioned but the Frenchman fits the bill for our current need. I do have to add this caveat though: I think we will quickly realise how important the modern full-back is and how rare quality full-backs are available…

As things stand, Thomas Vermaelen seems to be the only big name that could actually be sold by the club. A few rumours of Cazorla and Monreal to Atletico Madrid, and Podolski to the Bermuda Triangle. But with Madrid looking set to sign Antonne Griezmann I think that would right off their interest in Santi. Anyway, I want my cake and I want to eat every last bit this season (I want everyone to stay). Anyway, Vermaelen seems to have an air of inevitability about his departure from the club and Man United seems like it will be his eventual destination. My Arsenal concern of the week all stems from him and our defence. With the stink possibility of only having two (proper) centre halves at the club. To concern me a little more, Arsène said this at his press conference in New York: “I don’t think our German players will be ready for the first game of the season…” Reporter: “All 3″. Arsène: “All 3″. Erm… *looks blankly around the room* anyone got their boots?

The knock-on effects from Sagna’s departure will bring more issues for the squad than first anticipated. His versatility has come in more than handy to say the least. We managed to get away with not needing a fourth choice centre-back last season because Sagna was able to step in when required. What I’m trying to say is: No way, I so no way, it would be crazy, to sell Thomas Vermaelen before the season is underway (unless someone is brought in of course). We have the Community Shield and a Champions League qualifier to contend with. A scary thought for everyone *squeezes whiskey bottle* I think Miquel might just get another lifeline, until January anyway, just because of the circumstances.

So with all the outgoings covered, now the fun bit. The equivalent of football crack, the incomings. If anyone is a French cryptic mind-reader that would be great. Did Arsène mean two or three if Sagna and Fabianski stayed, or was it two or three if they went? I had thoughts and expectations before this all kicked off – I hoped for three. A keeper, a right-back and some sort of forward. Arsène threw a cat amongst the pigeons, by completely blowing our minds and signing Alexis Sanchez very early on. I could wax lyrical about the impact on the club he will have. I went on the stadium tour a few weeks ago and I took my brother-in-law (he’s nine) I bought him a shirt and he wanted Alexis, 17 on the back of it. Standing in the (very tedious) queue and pretty much everyone wanted Alexis. The guy printing said they sold roughly 150 Alexis shirts on the first day The Armoury opened. Never mind all that, he’s very, very good at football and his ability to run really fast and kick the ball in the net is outstanding.

Making two very good additions, very early on. Arsène has opened the gates to the chocolate factory and made me dream. But he has also left the window tittering on the balance of being good, with the strong hint of marvellous-ness.

In the last few days we’ve seen the rumours of Calum Chambers from Southampton escalate very quickly. (By the time you’ve read this we’ve probably signed him) The rumoured fee is being touted at £16m – I imagine that’s bonuses, Games played etc etc. So the initial outlay won’t be that much and don’t take your guff hat off just yet. It’s believed Carl Jenkinson and Serge Gnabry will move in the other direction as a loan for the rest of the season. It’s very promising to see Arsène still using the money wisely. A window wouldn’t be a window unless a promising young-gun was signed up.

So…once a goalie is signed, will that be our lot? More importantly, is that enough?

To be honest, I’ve since had hopes for more. MORE.. Like I said, football crack.

I suppose on the back of last season the obvious places our squad need(ed) improvement was defensive midfield and up front. I suppose I should drop the token gesture of Mikel Arteta and Olivier Giroud ability as they have both really impressive. We were a proper mess before Arteta arrived, he’s been a God send considering our situation. The flip side of that gesture is their limitations. So a shinning new Arteta type midfielder [Insert description of choice, you may have your fingers burnt] would be superb. I feel like Arsène sees that as a luxury signing because we have ‘options’ – Mikel and Flamini. I do believe Arsène will search for players. He always does. I just think he will search high and low for a bargain, therefore making us missing out. Before you say anything. I’ve got the t-shirt, I own the drum, a tattoo and all the cards for a new midfielder. I do feel like that’s the piece we need to be a success at the tip top level. Whether it will happen is a completely different story.

So that’s four positions covered by Arsène: Goalkeeper: Opsina. A right-back: Debuchy. Right-back cover, Centre-back cover, Utility: Chambers. A Forward: Sanchez. So for me the only glaring hole is still centre half. If Arsène can conjure up some kind of midfielder, come centre back option. I.e. Javi Martinez. I’d be laughing haversacks. Versatile players keep the squad to a minimum, which Arsène is always keen to do. He likes a calm, hassle free environment. Versatile players have a much wider skill-set. An ideal example is Daley Blind. Played several roles for the Netherlands at the World Cup and always looked comfortable. More the all round attributes, better the ability to play several positions to a high standard.

I’ve heard, and seen very promising things about Chambers, (I hope he’s bloody marvellous). But i think he will be Jenkinson’s replacement and centre half will be a long-term thing,

Our squad may look something like this.

Szczesny – Opsina

Debuchy – Chambers
Mertesacker – (Chambers?)
Koscielny – Vermaelen
Gibbs – Monreal

Ramsey – Wilshere
Arteta – Flamini

Walcott – Sanchez, Chamberlain
Ozil – Rosicky
Cazorla – Podolski

Giroud – Sanchez, Sanogo, Walcott

**Gnabry and Jenkinson on Loan**

** I left Sanchez out of the starting XI because I don’t what formation Arsène will start with and who will drop out. A simple exercise on numbers and options we have**

Ideally I’d like two more added to the squad, or if he’s clever, just one. If he can do that, I’d feel really comfortable to say we can challenge on all fronts. Something feels really special about this squad. I don’t know if it’s because in revitalised because if the cup win or the signing of Sanchez, but we are on to something here.

Let’s hope Arsène springs another surprise in the coming weeks.

Cheers for reading,

Be happy,

Ben.

Dirty Sanchez

*Sits up after passing out*

*Rubs face*

Alright everybody? How’s it going?

Well…how the friar tuck did that happen?

If you like it or not, one big transfer can be dismissed as a slice of luck.
“Oi Gazidis!! You’re slowly putting the fun back into it!”

The other ‘reported’ deals previously for players never materialised, clubs would have said we went £30million, or say even £35m million for said player. Arsène would have previously turned down the opportunity, thus leading to our club (or Arsène), being labelled as ‘divery’ [or insert synonym of choice] in the transfer market.

It was no happy coincidence that Sanchez arrived on the same day we unveiled our new kit deal and one of the largest in Europe. I see it as a kick to the chops of World Football, well and truly enhancing the Arsenal name. We want to show everyone we mean business on and off the pitch by adding those players with that ‘extra quality’.

I think the club has grown enormously since the Özil experience (sounds like a rubbish ride at Orlando Studios, doesn’t it?), which really appeared to take the club out of its comfort zone. Not just from the spending money angle, but how the club is viewed world-wide. This quality of player is really starting to signal a new era for The Arsenal and subconsciously tells the players we already have ‘look where we want to go.’

*Continue the process until you feel really good about yourself and The Arsenal*

Santi Cazorla is a prime example and his comments about his position at the club – before Alexis was signed – drastically changed for the better. There is a rumour flying around that he and Mikel Arteta actually cheered when they heard the player was coming into the club.

Arsène Wenger on our new arrival: “Alexis will add power, creativity and much quality to our squad and we are all looking forward to him joining up with us in a few weeks. He has consistently produced top-quality performances at the highest level for a number of seasons now and we are all excited to see him integrate into the Arsenal squad. I’m sure all Arsenal supporters will join me in welcoming Alexis to our club”

I think the most pleasing part about the deal is how efficiently we actually got it done. When I was trawling through the internet like some sort of football pervert, looking at Arsène in his tight, short shorts, I thought (hoped) there would be no way he would have gone to Brazil without any major plans in place and I didn’t expect for one second it would be someone of Sanchez’s quality.

I know this might be a little premature, but I get the feeling the Financial Fair Play rules are actually having an effect. I can’t fathom a reason why Manchester City and Chelsea didn’t bid for Alexis?

Anyone? …Seriously? …Speak now or forever hold your peace…no? Well then, I’ll continue…

I’ve always believed the power has been (and will always be) in the wealthy owners hands. Let’s be honest for a second. They will always find a way of slipping one under the radar and what is for certain is that the money bag teams won’t be able to ‘SIGN ALL THE PLAYERS!’ if they don’t ‘need’ them.

We all knew we have plenty of coppers in the bank and that had been recently topped up by our new buddy’s from PUMA (Love the kits by the way, the away strip reminds me of the ’89 shirt and wouldn’t it be good to replicate that this season) it’s still very pleasant to see Arsenal slap their money on the table – without even blinking. I really hope that Ivan strutted into Barca’s office, dropped the money on the desk (that he just withdrew from a cash machine on the way from the airport because he doesn’t give a SHIT about the exchange rate) and started throwing gang signs at Zubizetta.

It’s long been said 2014/15 would be the time for us ‘to go’. With Arsenal in recent times there has always been an air of uncertainty and as fans we’ve been through times when Mark Schwarzer was actually a thing, an actual thing that could have happened and we would of been happy with it.

Compare that to right now – we’ve spent £80m(?) on TWO players and we’re a club now looking at the top end of the transfer market. Bravo Arsenal, bravo.

We spent all of last season talking about the lack of runners, pace, power and what does Arsène do? Solve it in one transfer. Sanchez fits the bill perfectly his combination of technique, incredible work rate and electric pace make him ideal for the rigours of the Premier League. He was also one of top (entertainment factor) performers at the World Cup. He also comes off the back of a his best (end product wise) season at Barcelona. I saw Graham Hunter recently compared him to Gervinho, in terms of his sporadicness, which I’d say his a fair shout for his earlier Barca career but last season, I’d completely disagree.

At times last season when our passing game became very predictable and add that to one of the slowest Arsenal sides I’ve ever seen, ponderous comes to mind. It was all down to the absences of our runners – Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Özil. The idea of Alexis and Walcott darting passed Giroud will completely revitalise the frontman. It will give Özil more options which will definitely bring more balance to our attack.

Put all that gibberish together, it appears we are moving towards that new era. What happens on the pitch will be down to the performances of the manager, staff and inevitably the players but things are looking very bright. In a very perverse way, even the naysayers will be happy,
their main excuse evaporated quicker than a puddle in the Sahara. One thing for sure though is that only time will tell us if all these plans will be a success, but hey, I’m going to love the ride.

*rides off into the sunset*

Cheers for reading,

Be happy,

Ben.