The striker issue isn’t black and white

Howdy there you, hope you’re doing hunky doory, if that’s even how you spell that??

Yesterday I had a bit of a ‘life is different to back then’ moment, so I thought I’d bring myself back in to the here and now and reflect on Arsene’s presser yesterday and the Champions League draw, which will once again see us pit our wits against Borussia Dortmund, whilst also taking on Galatasaray and Anderlecht. It’s no surprise that Chelski got a buy into the group stages, but in all fairness we can be pretty happy with our lot given that, the Germans aside, it’s a group that we should be looking to qualify from. It would be nice if we could go through as group winners for a change, so one would expect that the head-to-head against BVB will be a decider on who tops the group. The first game will be at Dortmund in a couple of weeks time, so it’s up to the team to try to replicate the 1-0 victory in Dortmund last season to get us off to a flying start.

In the meantime, there is a game this weekend against Leicester and then the small matter of a home game against the reigning champions, so there’s plenty of time for us to get into our rhythm before the Champions League starts. Not. It’s fair to say that we haven’t exactly hit the ground running as yet, but with the injuries having a part to play in the stuttering beginning to the season (unusual for us as we have tended to always start strongly and fade away towards the end of campaigns), we need to start clicking into gear and doing so quickly. That comes with matches, with new players being able to bed in and with established players finding their form, so this weekend’s game against newly promoted opposition represents a chance to lay down a marker. More on suspected team line ups tomorrow, but Arsene did confirm that both Arteta and Gibbs will continue to be missing until after the International break, which will mean Monreal and the Flamster continue to deputise.

We all know about Giroud and his long-term absence, so it was not really a surprise when Arsene was once again quizzed about finding a replacement up top. He, as would be expected, extolled the virtues of the talent he already has available in Sanchez, Walcott, Podolski, Campbell and Sanogo. Later on, I think in an interview which wasn’t part of the afternoon presser, he stated that there were too many strikers and he would only look to bring another one in if one went out. Whilst there will be those that will wonder whether that means a potential loan move for the raw Sanogo, or a permanent move for the clearly unflavoured Podolski, I suspect that the comment was designed to explain to the masses that Arsene really isn’t looking for another forward at all. Further evidence to this school of thinking can be found in the words of the BBC’s David Ornstein, who has always been seen as somewhat of an unofficial mouthpiece for the club, as he confirmed that Arsenal are after a centre-half or defensive midfielder.

Whilst my initial reaction to Arsene’s assertion that he has enough strikers and that only ‘top,top top quality’ would do (although I must question this definition given that Gervinho managed two seasons at the club) was to be slightly aggrieved, upon some reflection about the possible options out there, I could kind of understand where Arsene is coming from. Giroud’s injury is certainly a big blow and we will no doubt feel his absence, but his absence is something that we all feel needs to be replaced with somebody for the here and now, and therein lies our problem. There are plenty of names being kicked around amongst arsenal fans, but the reality is that any player coming from any league other than an English one, will need time to bed in, which is time we simply don’t have. Just look at Sanchez; he is still finding his feet, still needing to hone his radar so that he latches on to Ozil passes, etc. Any new player brought in from another league is going to go through the exact same process. So we are effectively back to square one because we don’t address the here and now in terms of finding a goalscorer instantly.

“But what about finding one from the Premier League?” I can almost hear you say, but again, I’m not sure what other options are out there that will be suitable for our style of play and the way Arsene is setting up his team. Remy and Bony are names that come to mind, but both are different to Giroud as strikers, so if at the moment we are looking at finding somebody to fit our existing style, then they won’t work. The truth of the matter is that there aren’t really many Giroud-style replacements out there – certainly not in the Premier League – that you and I would see as worthy upgrades. So it does leave the manager in a bit of a quandary as to what to do. Unless his plan is to change the attacking philosophy, to which I think Tim Stillman put the most eloquently in his blog on Thursday this week over at Arseblog Towers. If the plan to adapt the style is therefore needing to be accelerated, I would have to wonder if, actually, Arsene is right, and we do have enough players up top when Walcott arrives. The only caveat I’d place on this however, is that Walcott is an injury prone forward and if he breaks down again, we’re back to square one, with a lack of pace up top and a reliance on Sanchez to bed in a lot quicker in his debut season.

I don’t really ever pertain to have any answers, I’m just an observer, but what I do know is that we need to start hitting top form soon if we want to win that all-elusive Premier League trophy. I know that in some sense Arsene is right – it’s not always clear cut – not always black and white when it comes to football systems and finding players from other clubs that can fit neatly into the right gaps that Arsenal have in their team. There is a balance to be found and players to fit systems, but just because a player like Remy, for example, looks good in a Newcastle or QPR shirt, doesn’t always mean he’ll automatically fit in at Arsenal and bag 15 goals in the first half of the season.

That’s all from me on that today I’m afraid. Things to do and all of this pondering is giving me a headache. Cheerio folks. until tomorrow.

When did we all become so angry?

Hello there my old friend, how are you? I’ve been doing this daily blog thingy for over two years now, so I feel like I can call you ‘old’. Hope you don’t mind.

A little later today we’ll get an Arsène press conference in which the media will bombard the boss with questions about potential signings in an effort to get a sniff of what he is thinking. Of course, he keeps his cards closer to his chest than Michael Phelps keeps his speedos closer to his nether regions. But the questions will no doubt continue, with the boss most likely to bat away the names like an irritating fly near a freshly prepared chorizo and red pepper sandwich on multigrain bread.

This has led me to a school of thinking today, which I hope you don’t mind, because it’s a little bit on the negative side. Hence why I’ve attempted to soften you into today’s blog by firing the platitudes and niceties your way. Again, I hope you don’t mind.

Anyway, back to my thinking, which has led me to today’s blog title and comes as a response to reading my Twitter timeline last night before I went to bed, as well as waking up this morning thinking about the presser today and the inevitable reaction from a lot of fans through social media sites.

Last night the news broke – unconfirmed obviously because it’s journos that are speculating of course – that Radamal Falcao had agreed to join Real Madrid after his club Monaco and the Champions League winners agreed a deal. In the cold light of day, perhaps not the most shocking of news, as many had speculated that would be his destination this season or next season anyway. But what was a surprise to me was the reaction from a lot of people. Suddenly I saw people stating that Wenger had failed to act on a target yet again, that he was once again dithering, that he’d not bothered to address or clear striking deficiencies. But do you know what, I had a small feeling of a chance missed too, which immediately led the rational part of my brain to throw it’s hands up in the air and declare it was going to bed. Thankfully I soon joined it.

Falcao – whether this story about him joining Madrid is true or not – was never really a realistic option for us anyway. Yet the anger from people is surprising to say the least. And I am guilty of getting swept up in it too. This seems to happen every summer and every January transfer window, to which I am finding myself asking the question more and more:

When did everyone become so angry?

When was there such division amongst fans over something that isn’t even the main reason we are football fans in the first place? I genuinely don’t have an answer I’m afraid, but I can definitely reference myself as having become more susceptible to the frustration, hence why I am deliberately not trying to take to the moral high ground to call out other fans.

I’ve been with The Management for over eleven years and when I’ve asked her recently whether she can remember what I was like in relation to Arsenal, she tells me that I’ve definitely become more vocal in my displeasure at anything Arsenal related. Heck, that’s why I started writing this blog in the first place, so I could have a vehicle to channel my thoughts rather than lying in bed at night stewing over a Mickael Silvestre balls up that has cost us points.

Why have I become more irate? Is it just my age? Am I of the age that most football fans get to (I’m in the early stages of my thirties) where they have had so many years of watching their beloved team that I am so absorbed in it that it affects my mood? Perhaps. When you are younger you worry less about why things happen and more importantly, how they happen. I was a happy teenager when Tony Adams broke through the Everton defence at Highbury to hammer home our third goal and secure the 98 league title. I hadn’t watched as many games that season, I knew the first thirteen or fourteen players in the squad but not the ones on the periphery, so I wasn’t worried about multiple injuries in the same position.

Is it the access and exposure to more football than ever before? In 98 there was nowhere near as many games to watch unless you went to all of them. Not coming from a football mad family, that was always difficult for me, so I relied on TV coverage. The Arsenal website will have been little more than a place to house the teams fixtures and results, so the daily feed of content back in 98 would have been a rarity.

And social media didn’t even exist. To many, this would have been a grand time, and I’m in no doubt that it has had a contributing factor to the increase in tension amongst the Arsenal fanbase. How can it not? I mean, if you throw that many opinions (everyone’s got one, and each one differs from the next) into one centralised place, you’re bound to get some friction. I’ve found in my life that anger fuels anger, which means if a number of people are getting angry, the chances are that it will just build and build like a pressure cooker. People fuel off of each other, mob mentality takes over and you get an explosion of arguments and disagreements.

But I must not besmirch the invention of social media’s after all, it has also done so many good things for me, like introduce me to so many people at The Arsenal that I see on match days. Without Twitter, I’d still be turning up to games five minutes before they start, watch the match, then go home. It’s bloody hard walking into a pub full of people and randomly start interjecting into a circle of friends talking about the game ahead. So having the ability to meet people you sort of already know through conversations online has been a blessing for me personally.

But still, I do wish we could somehow go back to a time where there was less animosity amongst people with so much in common, although I accept that this is an unlikely situation now.

Or am I wrong? Has football always been like this? Have Arsenal fans throughout the ages always moaned about the lack of signings? Or targets missed? Has there always been people with an unwavering support of the manager, locking horns with those that want to see him out of the door quicker than you can whistle the theme to The A Team?

Don’t know. But I’d like to. Why don’t you tell me?

See y’all tomorrow.

Arsenal to come with a health warning

Seat of your pants. Skin of your teeth. Edge of your seat.

Being an Arsenal fan should come with a health warning approved by the Chief Medical Officer of the British Government, or something.

Yesterday’s game was far, far too early in the season to be that nerve-wracking, but ultimately let me pepper today’s blog with the fact that we are in the hat for the Champions League and, with our consecutive Champions League entry confirmed for the 17th time, it ensures we remain in Pot 1. Much to the dismay of the Liverpool friendly national media.

But by golly, we don’t half make it hard for ourselves, don’t we? With no away goal to speak of from the first leg (unlike in most previous seasons), it made the mathematics of yesterday evening really quite simple: win and score goals. Le Boss named the same side that started the game against Everton and in the first fifteen minutes you could tell that the home comforts of The Emirates made the team happier than when on Merseyside last weekend. We popped the ball around quite well, controlled position in the early stages and I thought that it was a patient and probing display. For about thirty minutes. Thereafter, it was almost as if a nervous button was pressed by both fans and players alike, and Besiktas grew into the game a little more.

On Twitter I described Besiktas as essentially a ‘Turkish Crystal Palace’, as their game plan appeared to be to frustrate Arsenal, ensure as many black shirts sat in and around the edge of their own penalty box rarely venturing forward with any numbers to attack. As was the way with teams from overseas they liked an occasional nudge, but fell to the floor when touched, epitomised no better than in the second half with a really quite farcical semi rollie-pollie action from one of the Turkish players. Unfortunately we had an abysmal referee, who I’ll come to shortly, so the theatrics were tolerated more frequently than they should have been.

But anyway, the Turkish Crystal Palace, which is probably doing a little bit of a disservice to our opponents. After that first 30 in which they frustrated, there were signs of a good passing team that were clearly set up with a game plan to counter, which if I’m honest could have worked had Debuchy been pulled up on his clear foul inside the box in that first half. Lucky boy. Well, temporarily lucky boy, as we were to find out in the second half as perhaps some karma came back to haunt him for being sent off for a perfectly good tackle in the middle of the pitch with 20 minutes to go.

That sending off made for a very nervy finish to the game, but not as nervy as it would have been had Alexis not got his scoring tally off the mark with a smart finish in the dying embers of the first half. The excellent Wilshere’s exchange with Cazorla (I think) on the edge of the Beisktas box almost found Jack, but he let the ball run for the newbie, who slid the ball underneath the ‘keeper. It was just rewards for a first half in which we’d dominated pretty much all stats.

In fact, given how nervous you and I were throughout yesterday’s match, you do wonder why on earth our opponents failed to muster a shot on target in the entire game. I guess it shows that whilst situations often appear fraught with worry at the time, from a neutrals perspective Arsenal were rarely troubled in defence, to which we have to give credit to the back five. There were some balls over the top that perhaps a better midfield maestro would have found Demba Ba more accurately with, but the limitations of the Turkish Cup winners were clear to see.

Defensively, I thought the two stand out players were our full backs. Debuchy looks like he had been playing at the club for five years, whilst on the other side, Monreal has been a solid performer since called upon in the first weekend of the season. To have a player like that waiting I the wings when Gibbs is out of action is fantastic and Nacho’s performances have left few of us lamenting Gibbs’ broken body so far this season.

In midfield, I thought Jack was brilliant, at the heart of everything we did well with his all-action style. I’ve seen a few people comment that the shackles were released with Ramsey being absent which I think I’ve commented on before, but rather than get into any ‘they can’t play together’ debate today, I think I’ll just focus on the returning to his old self – even if only one game so far – for our Jack.

Unfortunately, that’s where the stand out performances finish, because in the final third I thought we were pretty poor, as in that defensive midfield role that the Flamster occupied. I don’t know whether or not he’s quite match-fit enough yet, but Flamini gave the ball away carelessly a number of times and he didn’t seem to win as many tackles as he normally does. He did win some tackles – he always does – but it appears to me that if he’s not getting carded he’s obviously not feeling himself, which was the case yesterday. Hopefully he’ll have a good game at the weekend to arrest any concerns that he’s already peaked in his career and is now in the descent.

I thought Özil had a quiet game and, perhaps it’s still because he is finding his rhythm again or perhaps because he has been deployed on the left a couple of times already this season, but he flitted in and out of the game. As did Santi. He was anonymous at Everton and I’m starting to get worried about his form. He’s often deployed in that position out wide on the left, which isn’t his best, but he does go very quiet for large swathes of the game and I feel like I’m noticing it more and more.

The Ox was also a little more quiet than he has been, but he’s still a young lad, so there’s no point chastising a performance. He’s still a dangerous and creative outlet and, had he capped the night off with a goal towards the end when he found space from an Özil cross, we’d probably all be saying something different. Such is how the narrative can shift with goals.

That’s why Alexis’ performance can be viewed as a successful one. Score. Check. Close down and show a willingness to give everything for the team. Check. Demonstrate some good ball control and retention. Check. But there were still sit some instances where you could tell that he wasn’t 100% ready and occasions when his feet were not in tune with the rest of his body. There’s no need to panic though, as it was nowhere near as Gervinhoy as it could have been, so I’ve no doubt as he becomes more aware of his own teammates styles and also now that he is off the mark with a goal, the rest will come.

We did lack a cutting edge in the final third though. For all the gnashing of teeth and exasperation of some sections of the fanbase (I’m guilty of this too I’ll admit) when the Frenchman misses a guilt-edge chance, the next four months will I’m sure provide us all with a clear indication of what he brings to the take, as a focal point of our attacks. Alexis likes to drop deep to collect the ball and as a result it leaves us with no options if we want to move from front to back quickly like we can with Olivier in the team. The result is that unless one of the wide players slots in centrally when Alexis comes deep, we may find it difficult to get ourselves out of bother with longer passes to put us on the front foot. Again, probably another discussion for another day, so I’ll not dwell on it too much.

What the Giroud injury does however, is emphasise that Arsène simply must strengthen within the next five days. We must get a defensive minded midfielder who can play at centre half as an absolute minimum, but now we must be seriously looking at bringing in a player who can play as a focal point in attack. To go into half a season with Sanogo as your main target man is not something you’d expect a team with title aspirations to have. So I would expect Arsène to act. But hey, he rarely does what most of us think is the obvious, so we wait and see what happens.

Before I knock today’s blog on the head, a special mention must go out to the Portuguese, card-happy referee who wrongly dismissed a Besiktas penalty, fell for every soft foul by a Besiktas player, incorrectly sent off Mathieu Debuchy and gave Szczesny a booking for taking an extra five seconds on a goal kick. He did this on the first attempt by Szczesny. Somewhere in London at his home, Julian Speroni will have been laughing his socks off. The only shocker of the day was that a ref so content to book everyone, missed the man who is always booked: Flamini.

And on that bombshell, I shall bid you adieu.

Hoping Besiktas aren’t the first roundabout

I don’t know about you, but in the space of the last 24 hours I’ve suddenly become acutely aware that we could be staring down the barrel of a Europa League game, should the worst befall the team tonight. It’s a feeling that, whilst I have felt before with these Champions League qualifiers like the one against Besiktas, I’ve not felt as ill-at-ease in the preamble to the game.

I don’t know whether or not it’s the news that we could be reliant on Sanogo as our target man for the first half of the season as a result of the Giroud injury, or that Alexis will now have even more pressure on him to play that central striker role, but I approach today’s match preview blog with a feeling of slight trepidation.

Perhaps it’s because of the slow start we’ve had. Counting aside the excellent Community Shield victory against the Oil Whores, we’ve stuttered our way to victory over the car crash that is Palace and two draws against Besiktas and Everton. It feels like we haven’t yet got into our stride and, as a result, I kind of wish this game was coming in a couple of weeks time given its importance. Our season right now feels a little like the old red Ford Sierra Sapphire I used to own. On a cold winters morning, once she had got herself on to the dual carriageway between Hertford and Harlow, she was fine. But switch her on first thing and try and drive off without letting her warm up, and she’d cut out on you once you reached the first roundabout, which is what I’m hoping won’t happen to us tonight. Man, I really hope Besiktas aren’t our first roundabout.

Logic should dictate that I’m less worried about this game. After all, when you compare the teams pound for pound, even with our mounting injury problems we should have enough to overcome a Turkish side that didn’t even win their own domestic league. Factor in the age old adage that both Greek and Turkish sides tend to not travel so well, and you and I should not be concerned with worry about ensuring the team does its job tonight.

But this is Arsenal we’re talking about here folks. This is our Arsenal and we all know that we’re perfectly capable of tripping ourselves up against Slaven Bilic’s charges. Heck, we nearly managed it a week ago in Istanbul, to which only Besiktas’ own profligacy afforded us a draw against an inspired Turkish side. Take anything for granted this evening, and my additional cup credits won’t seem as appealing this season (although I will go to every game possible regardless, I hasten to add).

The threat from the Turks will undoubtedly come from their star striker Demba Ba, who I’m sure will want Arsene to rue the day that he didn’t snap up the Senegalese, but aside from that I’m not going to go all YouTube scout on you and pretend that I know the intimate workings of our opposition. Why would I? Turkish football is hardly something I wax lyrical to you on a weekly basis, so rather than try to pull the wool over your eyes, I figure I’ll base my assessment of the opposition on pure guesswork.

And it is guesswork, because I’ll be very surprised if Besiktas are as open and attacking as they were a week ago. Bilic will know that his team has to do a bit of a Palace on us and frustrate, looking to hit on the counter. We were a minute or so away from an opening day draw against a team that had little interest in venturing outside their own half, so a repeat of that performance and the goals scored (minus the absent Ramsey last minuter) would see us out on goal difference.

Goals will be the key to tonight. It’s kind of the most obvious statements one could make, but I use the plural of the word with much emphasis, because if we can grab a couple of goals within the first half without reply then we should have this game sewn up. It should lead to their heads dropping and may mean that we could pick them off as they elect to counter. But as it stands right now, we are in a precarious position. 1-0 to The Arsenal is a horrible score line to have for any prolonged period of time tonight. Especially if we’re entering the final five to 10 minutes of the game. Remember when we played PSV all those years ago? A single goal from them changed the complexion of the tie from a 2-0 comfortable result, to a 2-1 victory but a knock out on the away goals rule. That’s what we want to avoid tonight.

Our team news is slightly concerning, but when you look at the players we have available, we have to be looking at the side and pleased that our injury problems haven’t stretched too far. The back four look solid with Monreal looking good and the possibility of Koscienly coming in for Chambers, whilst Flamini in front of them will add a bit of yellow-cardiness to proceedings, but also that little bit of bite. Jack will play the box-to-box Ramsey role and, with the Welshman out of the side through suspension, I just wonder if that will give him more freedom to express himself. Jack and Rambo are very similar players in my opinion and I have heard some murmurs from friends about how it’s not outside the realms of possibility that it is because of that, that we have not been as fluid when both of them are in the team.

The front four I’d like to see would include Özil, Sanchez, The Ox and Podolski. With Giroud out injured and none of the above able to effectively act as a target man, I’d like us to try and be a bit more fluid with the front three, interchanging who plays at the top and on the flanks throughout the game. If we move around our players and add that mobility to a side sitting deep, it might just pull open some spaces for Özil to work his magic on. But I don’t think Arsène will do that if I’m honest. I suspect we’ll see Cazorla on the left, The Ox on the right and Sanchez up top. There was a bit of talking up Sanogo as that main front man, but going over his limitations and rawness is like treading on already well-worn ground, so I’ll leave that for now.

Jack described tonight’s game as a ‘cup final’. It’s a clichéd expression that often sees football fans roll their eyes because you just can’t play cup finals every week. So whilst I shall resist the temptation to agree with him, stressing that this could be make or break for the season for us when you consider what could be at stake in terms of transfers and confidence, is something that I cannot emphasise enough.

Come on Arsenal. Do the job, do it well, then let’s get that old Sierra back on the dual carriageway. Or something.

Catch you tomorrow.

Giroud’s injury works for nobody

There’s no place else to start today than the horrifically predictable news that one of our key players – Olivier Giroud – is rumoured to be out for up to three months with a suspected fractured ankle.

Both The Telegraph and L’Equipe both broke the news last night and, whilst yet to be confirmed by the club, when a few outlets start reporting this kind of information you know that someone has some more credible sources (possibly close to the player) that have fed this information in the first place.

If true, this news represents a hammer blow to our season, barely two weeks before we’ve even properly started. It would be symptomatic of the luck that has completely escaped us since the 2003/4 season, when all of our first team players appeared to be fit throughout the whole entire campaign, which enabled them to go the season unbeaten. Consistency is the key to building a successful team and, having done it before with a couple of incarnations of Arsenal sides, we all know Arsene likes to maintain a certain harmony amongst his first eleven. I, like many others, believe the key to success in the modern game is effective and selective squad rotation, but Arsene likes his first eleven and I suspect that this morning he is chewing down his cornflakes with a particular frown , if the news is true.

It was only a couple of days ago that he himself was talking up Giroud’s potential to hit 25 goals this season, so it’s clear that the knock he picked up against Everton from a Distin block late on, has had more of an effect on his body than the club expected. Quite where this leaves the club is a bit of a quandary for me to ponder this grey and grizzly London morning. First and foremost, they must be scratching their heads on yet another injury to a key player, having had Walcott unavailable until the next couple of weeks since the beginning of the year, as well as Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Özil, Monreal and Gibbs all injured for prolonged periods of time – i.e. six weeks of more – since January 2014. Are we still being punished for having barely any injuries in 03/04? Huh? Someone up their in the great blue yonder answer me!?!!

Of course there will be those that point the finger expectantly in the clubs medical teams’ direction, but impact injuries that happen on the field can hardly be legislated for, so to take aim at a part of the club that has no bearing on how tackles/blocks/passes are made and received, seems churlish to me.

But when you have as many injuries as Arsenal have and it becomes a regular occurrence, as we are now becoming accustomed to, you have to react by ensuring you have personnel of sufficient quality to pick up the baton and run with it. Run like they’ve never run before. Like Forrest Gump on heat being chased for his pocket money by Usain Bolt.

Which leads to the inevitable question – should Giroud be injured for a third of the season – who will replace him in his absence? We’ll probably find out the answer to the extent of his injuries and who his replacement will be from Arsène himself when he does his pre-match presser for tomorrow night’s Champions League showdown with Besiktas. One suspects that we will be hearing the talking up of Sanogo as a player who, with game time, can be a superstar. But what we have all seen of the player so far suggests he is quite a few hours worth of game time from actually looking the finished, polished and sparkly item that we all want. The question as to whether another club should be polishing him up through a loan spell, then giving him back in pristine condition, is a valid one and there will be many that think a new signing at the top of the pitch will afford Arsène the justification to do so.

However this is our Wenger that we all know – and have done for many years – and by now we all know that he is not one to side with popular opinion. Signing a striker may seem like the obvious option to you or I, but all it might do for Le Boss is to re-evaluate the status of some of his fringe players. Arsène is a man who likes to maintain the harmony within the squad, which means he has his numbers and he is less likely to add to them, in my opinion. Lukas Podolski could be the unexpected beneficiary of the injury news, but it still wouldn’t surprise me to see him depart for Italy regardless, with Wenger insisting the squad has players coming through who could fill Giroud’s good instead.

To those that have cheered Giroud’s injury: for shame. No Arsenal players absence should ever be applauded, least of all under the foolish assumption that it will make a man more stubborn than a mule from Stubbornsville with a stubbed toe. And even if those people now believe that we will go for another striker, who do you think we are more likely to get? Arsène didn’t look like he had any intention of a marquee signing like Falcao before this window closed, so why now when he’s thinking about the harmony of his team, would he go out and spunk £40-£50million on a player that he would view as an emergency acquisition to plug a gap left by injury? This is a man who saw a midfield injury in January this year and bought Kim Kallström as a back up.

In my opinion, Arsène will look for a stop-gap, a loan deal, to add a little more experience to the team up top. I think he’ll go for an Eto’o free transfer-style signing, rather than a big money deal. My personal opinion would be that we should be breaking the bank after Wednesday for a striker, ball winning midfielder and a centre half, but I just can’t see that level of activity (or cash) happening.

So where does it leave us right now? Beats me. I just hope Arsène has some aces up his sleeve, because the feel-good summer factor will soon (rightly or wrongly) evaporate if we start to drop points (or get knocked out of competitions) because we’re missing key pieces of the puzzle through injury.

Keep those fingers crossed and rest your faith in the manager. Let’s hope he delivers.

Lamenting the (possible) exit of the Prince

Sunderland may have helped to amuse me a little yesterday afternoon by picking up a point against a United side that we all hope can continue to be a bit short of ideas for the season, but by the time I laid my head on my pillow in the evening as Sunday drew to a close, I only had thoughts of potential disappointment.

Yep, it appears that there clearly is no smoke without fire and Lukas ‘Prince’ Podolski could be on his way out of Arsenal, with Juventus the apparent destination for our popular German. I’m sure you, like I, will be disappointed if this move actually comes off.

I think most of us suspected that Poldi might be offski this summer, but as the days ticked away and no rumours surfaced, I’d hoped that he’d have at least another year at the club. But it seems the absence from the entire squad on Saturday was another indicator that Arsene feels he’s not quite the right fit for the team any more.

It will be a big shame, because I like what Podolski brings to the club. Goals. In abundance. I’ve always said that we know exactly what we get with him and not a lot more. He is a natural-born finisher and if he gets 20 games in a season you can pretty much guarantee that he’ll get at least 10 goals. Goals win football matches. They are the hardest part of the game to master and when you have a player that is all about that in your team I think you simply must find a place for him. Think about Arshavin who, let’s face it, was all about mazy dribbling and finishing, but nowhere near on the level of Podolski in terms of end product. He seemed to stick around Arsenal rotting in the reserves for about a year longer than he should have done, so I suppose Arsene is looking at that situation and thinking that he doesn’t want to have a high-profile, high-earner, player who doesn’t contribute.

But that’s my issue: he CAN contribute and we all know it. Coming from the bench he could be quite a potent weapon I feel, so why isn’t Arsene considering him?

Perhaps it’s because of his technique and style. We all know that Arsene likes all of his players to be very highly gifted technically; it suits our style and quick interchanging of short passing. Podolski has never really been that great in that respect, so perhaps his Arsenal career was always going to be short-lived. He has also been known to be described as lazy because he doesn’t always track back. But my issue with that is that you have that from players like Mesut Ozil, so surely that can’t be another contributing factoring to his eventual Arsenal exit, can it?

I saw a Tweet yesterday from Arse2Mouse stating that the potential move to Italy was an interesting one because it meant that Arsene essentially needs at least 15 goals from Alexis this season to break par. I understand the sentiment and agree to an extent, but know that it doesn’t always work like that, as goals can be shared around a team to fill a void (a la The Dutch Bloke and the goals shared between Walcott, Giroud, Podli and Cazorla in the immediate aftermath season of the League after he left). It does seem strange that Arsene would put that pressure on the newer players in the team – Campbell and Alexis specifically – and expect them to immediately make an impact. Perhaps with the additional game time they will get as a result of one less player in their way it means that Campbell will step up, but he hasn’t exactly been a scorer of vast quantities of goals to this point, so I’d be surprised if he suddenly started banging them in. We know Alexis can score plenty of goals, but he needs time to bed in, so are we to rely on Ramsey and Giroud for the first part of the season whilst the squad knits itself together?

I’m just a bit worried is all. We haven’t exactly set the world alight yet – which is fine because it’s still quite early in the season – and we’re offloading players up top that have the experience and ability to bang in goals for the team. There might be some that say this could be a positive move because it means that another striker could be bought in, but as someone else said on my Timeline yesterday, this move is more fat-trimming than clearing the decks for another arrival. We’ve spent all summer being pleased that we’ve upgraded the squad with the additions, but we all also recognised that these have all been like-for-like replacement upgrades. That’s fine, but when we hit March this year, we were running out of bodies through injury, which given our injury record ever since The Invincibles, I have absolutely no hope (new fitness coach aside or not) that we won’t once again have a large number of absent players come the new year. That’s when a player like Podolski could be gold dust.

Here’s something to leave you with: last season we couldn’t find another forward player, so we kept Niklas Bendtner hanging around the training ground for a whole season taking up space. AND he even got some minutes on the pitch despite the fact the club, the player, the manager and the fans didn’t want that to happen. Why is it that was left to happen, but we can’t find a place for our natural-born finisher? Bit baffling.

Anyway, enough moroseness for one day, you have a good Montag.

Cheerio.

Everton away: Media narratives; points battled for

Yesterday was a day of recovery from a heavy Friday night which completely punished my body. I’m not as efficient with the amber nectar as I used to be it seems. As a result, doing anything that didn’t involve sleeping and water wasn’t on my agenda, even blogging suffered. I also had to prepare myself physically for entertaining The Management’s family with a full Sunday roast style dinner. The net effect was that I didn’t even manage to watch the game yesterday in real-time, having to settle for watching the game in full after the family had departed late last night.

Why am I telling you this? Well, mainly to explain that I find it very interesting how the end result affects the general narrative of a match, as well as the response from the media and fans. I am not somebody who can wait for something. When I was eight I knew my parents had a Lego pirate ship in their bedroom wardrobe fully six weeks before it was my birthday. It was annoying having to wait for it, but the very fact I was getting exactly what I wanted meant that I was contented.

I started off yesterday evening in full belief that I could avoid all contact with the outside world and watch the game as if it was in real-time. But the Lego pirate ship peaking boy inside me came to the fore and I switched on the radio at intermittent periods yesterday as I was cooking the dinner. What I heard from the commentators was an Arsenal team that were completely out of sorts, that didn’t deserve to pick up a point and yet by the end had smash and grabbed their way to a draw against a good Everton team. So it was with some reluctance that I watched the game yesterday late afterwards, knowing the result, which certainly took some of the worry out of watching Arsenal, but also gave me a different perspective.

For example: Everton. Described as composed on the ball, deadly going forward and thoroughly deserving of their 2-0 lead by half time. I’m not quite sure I saw it that way come the first half. Ozil switched off at the back post for the first goal, whilst for the second, there was most certainly a foul on Mertesacker and then an incorrect decision given by the lino (I am still not comfortable with calling them referees assistant) not to call Naismith offside before he slid the ball under Szczesny. The decisions were so obvious that even Jamie Redknapp had to admit them at halftime and full-time. By the time full-time analysis appeared on my TV screen, it showed that in the entire match, Everton had mustered just two shots on target which was both of their goals. Yet the media love a David vs Goliath killing and they love a sequel, so perpetuating the idea that we were watching a repeat of last season’s drubbing was easy for them.

I don’t think we played well at all yesterday. The passing was off, there were too many players that played at a six out of 10 pace, we were trying to be too intricate in the final third. The triangle passing football we play which gifts us such viewing pleasures as the Norwich/Wilshere goal last season looks amazing when it comes off, but it felt like there as a lot of that which just wasn’t finding it’s man yesterday. But then again, that might have had something to do with the fact that Everton scored their goal and sat 11 men in front of Arsenal and defended in numbers. Sit deep, tight and in numbers and you can frustrate this Arsenal team. So it proved.

The second half provided us with a bit more by way of opportunities, with Olivier Giroud the chief protagonist in a number of good opportunities going begging. He got us the winning goal and for that we should all be grateful, but his limitations will once again provide us with frustration this season I fear. That’s why I’m interested to see how we line up with both Theo and Alexis fully fit. An Alexis that does not, strangely, only last until half time. In the first half he ran his guts out and pressed high from the pitch. He did look slightly off-key (only slightly though), but again it’s interesting how the limitations of some commentators become more obvious when you re-watch the action. Alvin Martin, for example, was giving Mesut Ozil a savaging and saying that Alexis was by a million miles the better of all of the Arsenal players in the first half. Firstly, I think Ozil was quiet, but he did not stand out as the worst performer in my opinion. Secondly, I suspect that the reason he saw him as a stand out performer was not because of his play in thee final third with the ball, but because he was perpetually in motion throughout the half. That is his game and part of it, but for Alvin Martin, from an era when a player running around a lot was the sign of a good player, that’s what his barometer of success is.

But what about Ramsey, eh? What a player he’s going to be this season. Providing he isn’t Shawcrossed by anyone, this kid is going to bang 20 goals for us this season. He’s got that instinct to find the right places inside the box and you can see why he’s being compared to Fat Frank, who would always be that player arriving on to balls into the box, as well as be known for his engine in the Chelski team once he’d dropped the timber from his midriff that he carried in his early years. It’s why his departure from the team through suspension on Wednesday will be a massive miss. When that type of ball is slid in by a Cazorla or a Ozil on Wednesday, will there be anyone on the end of the ball to get there? I hope so. I really do. But I’m not so sure.

So let’s look at hindsight. Let’s ignore all of what went on yesterday and look solely at the point we gained at Goodison. Was it a good one? I think so. It was a point that was hard fought and the late nature of the comeback might even give the players more belief that they can turn anything around. Remember how United were always the ‘sign of champions’ with their late goals? There won’t be many teams that don’t rock up there and beat Everton off the park. That fixture is out-of-the-way and it also means that we have already arrested (if only a little) the worrying trend from last season of losing away from home to every team in the top seven (except the Spuds). We may still go on to lose the rest of the games away from home, but the important thing to keep hold of now is that we have already amassed more away points from that top five than we did last season. At this early stage of the season the importance is picking up points. The fluidity can come in September. We have an important game against Beisktas on Wednesday now, followed by a another away trip to Leicester on Sunday, where another break occurs before a chance to properly get our form going by beating Moneychester City at home.

Catch you tomorrow.