Lacklustre draw isn’t the end of the world

I’m not quite sure how I feel about yesterday’s 0-0 away draw to Besiktas in Istanbul last night. I mean, it’s good that we don’t have any kind of deficit to overcome in the second leg at home last night, but at the same time there are a couple of things that are nagging at me at the moment about the performance.

Obviously we didn’t play well. You and I both watched the game and we both know that. At the start of the season and with a few new players in the team it’s always going to take time to slip into a rhythm. But there were just a few additional warning bells that sounded with me, so I thought I’d pick them out for you, then perhaps round off with a bit of perspective, because ultimately it’s not doom and gloom and with a decent performance at The Emirates we should be able to progress to the group stages of The Champions League.

So, some of the elements of yesterday’s game that worry me: Olivier Giroud. Now, you won’t get me shouting from the rooftops that he’s a terrible player and we should slap £80millon down for Falcao, because it’s not a realistic option and quite frankly would be a waste of hot air if I did. Giroud is a decent £15million striker who will get us around 20 goals a season if he plays most of the games. But what he does need to bring to the team is that ability to bring others into play. That strength to receive the ball, hold off a defender and bring others into play. We’ve seen him do it last season and I’m sure he’ll be doing it this season. Having said that, yesterday was clearly not one of those nights that he was effective, because he offered very little throughout the duration of the game. His hold up play was poor, his pass completion in finding teammates was woeful, and his finishing was wayward. We know that he fluffs his lines occasionally on the finishing, which I’ve come to accept as one of his limitations, but the hold up play and ability to find a teammate like Ramsey, or either of his wide men, is something that just wasn’t there.

There will be people calling for Alexis through the centre, or for a new signing like Cavani, but to my mind that simply shifts the longer term issue. Arsene has clearly decided – and I’m happy to be proved wrong here and am open to opinions – that he wants a strong striker who can bring the pacey wide men and midfielders into play. It’s one of the reasons why Ramsey can be given more licence to get in the box to bang in the goals. So whilst I’d love another striker to come in, I just don’t think it will happen, because Arsene likes keeping harmony in the team and he won’t replace Giroud with an upgraded version of a target man. Not when he also has clear faith in developing Sanogo. So we have to deal with it. But what we do expect from him – if goals are not his strong point – is more link up play and that is what let him down yesterday.

Besiktas were alright, but nothing more than that. In fact, I’d probably put them more in the category of a side with the same level of ability as Crystal Palace, which gives you an idea why I think we should be disappointed. Like Palace, Besiktas pressed higher up the pitch (although as the game at the weekend wore on Palace were penned back further. I make the comparison based on a Palace side we could have played if the game was at Selhurst Park), were a little profligate in front of goal and had they had a little bit more quality about them in the final third, we’d be licking our wounds this morning and wondering how we’re going to qualify into the Champions League proper this morning. So I’m glad we don’t have that concern this morning, only the concern of a poor performance from some of the players, and the senior ones at that.

Santi Cazorla was another player whose absence in the second half was worrying. I thought he was poor against Palace and gave the ball away too easily. Yesterday he gave the ball away a couple of times. Not as many as the weekend, but it was his lack of time on the ball which was indicative of our overall performance yesterday. At one stage in the second half, I wondered if he was still on the pitch. I said as much on Twitter, to which somebody responded to say they’d just started watching the match and didn’t realise he was playing for ten minutes.

I know his natural position is not out wide left, but he has played there on a number of occasions last season, so I wouldn’t expect him to be be so lacklustre in a position he knows so well. One of the frustration I’ve laid at Wenger’s door before, is his unwavering belief in hierarchies within teams, but also his favourites. He does like to continue playing out of form players some times and, you have to say that another performance like last nights for the diminutive Spaniard at Everton, and you’d expect him to be dropped. However, I suspect he’ll be given more leeway than someone like Poldi would be given. I hope Santi can turn in a grand performance against the Toffees on Saturday, because he’s a fantastic player who has given us so much joy over the last two years, that I’d love to see him continue to weave his way through defences again. So let’s chalk this last week down to a bit of early season rustiness and move on, shall we?

There might be one or two that have a bit of a finger-wagging session in the direction of Jack today, but actually I thought he did ok. He wind some tackles, got stuck in to the opposition and showed that he wasn’t afraid to through his short but stocky frame about, as well as try to bring something to the attack. I’d certainly like to see more from him. What I’d like to see less of is the silliness of Rambo’s sending off. Yes, it was a very soft second yellow to receive, but with a crowd on his back – not to mention the Ice Road Trucker wannabe Slaven Bilic yelling at him every thirty seconds – it was a foul Rambo didn’t need to make. I guess it pretty much summer up an evening in which we were laboured and unconvincing.

He’ll serve a ban now for the return leg, which will be a massive blow, but we have cover in that part of the pitch thankfully. Well, we do right now, but if we keep picking up injuries like Arteta’s yesterday then we’re going to find ourselves patching up Ray Parlour to get back into the side. I sincerely hope that Arteta is not out for a prolonged period of time, because whilst Flamini can slot in to the role of marshalling the space in front of our defence, after that we’re getting into Coquelin territory who, whilst I rated highly before he went on loan last season, is clearly not in the managers plans and will most like be sold on within the next couple of weeks.

The injury list is already mounting. Gibbs, Arteta and Ospina are out, Koscienly is being patched up to play, Mertesacker, Özil and Poldi won’t be match fit and Giroud still doesn’t look match fit. It’s hardly the amazing start to the season that we all wanted, but hey, remember how I said I would try to shove in some perspective? We’re only two games in and we haven’t suffered any confidence sapping defeats yet. In fact, quite to the contrary, we have two wins (if you count the Community Shield) and a draw and whilst everyone is salivating over Chelski at the moment, let’s not forget that they played a newly promoted team who I think we’re a bit over-awed by the occasion and will also most likely be one of the teams that is down the bottom of the league at the end of the season.

Also, let’s be positive about the contributions of our newbies. Calum Chambers, ladies and gentlemen, Calum Chambers. To quote a Championship Manager phrase, I am simply ‘running out of superlatives to describe his performances’. He’s such a talent and once again showed what a purchase Arsene has made by bringing in this kid. I can totally see why Southampton fans were more disappointed to lose Chambers than Shaw. Per still comes straight into the side for me, but Chambers will push him all the way for a starting spot, which is great to see.

Debuchy was, well, Debuchy. He was good going forward, look decent defensively and gave another seven out of 10 performance. As did Monreal. He does get caught out once or twice and there will be times against better opposition that he’ll need more support from whoever plays in front of him, but he performed well and with Gibbs out should get more game time over the coming weeks.

Alexis was also more impressive too. He troubled the Besiktas left back with his pace, played a couple of decent balls in for the off-key Giroud, plus he was combining a little better with the midfield than I thought he did on Saturday. With each passing game you can see him improving his understanding with his teammates, which can only be a good thing.

Right, that’ll do for one day I think, because you’ve probably had enough of my rambling. I know I have. See you when I see you.

So many positives, even if it’s a friendly

There have been many days over the years that it has felt slightly painful to be waking up as a Gooner. Some of the stinging defeats to the bigger teams last season smarted a bit.

Today is not one of them.

Today is a day in which you and I get to smile at the fact we swept aside the Champions, whilst at the same time, feel nothing but incredible excitement at the prospect of this upcoming season.

Yes, the Community Shield is nothing but a glorified friendly with a piece of silver at the end for the winner, but as a radio presenter remarked last night as I was basting my roast beef (no, that is not a euphemism!) they made a remark that nobody can contest: it’s better to start your season with the confidence of having won it than not.

You can’t say the team will lack any confidence after that performance.

They may well have been mitigating circumstances – as a BT Sport were at pains to point out throughout the game – with the number of absences that Momeychester City had, but don’t let anybody tell you that Pellegrini wasn’t fussed about winning the thing or not. When you reach the top of any sporting profession, you do so because you have the desire and drive to be successful at everything to put your hand to, so Pellegrini would have prepared his charges in the same way they will prepare to face Newcastle next weekend.

As for the absences, of course City will be stronger, but very little seemed to be mentioned in the commentary that I watched about the fact that Arsenal had Mertesacker, Özil, Podolski and Walcott out, whilst Giroud was clearly still not fit. But perhaps that’s because everyone is used to seeing Arsenal depleted by injuries. Moneychester City fans had better hope they don’t fall foul of a similar fate this season (although I acknowledge that there is an argument that we won’t fall foul as badly if Arsene rotates a bit more than usual, so we can keep players fresher throughout the season, less susceptible to injury), because based on the performance yesterday they are as reliant on their ‘big’ players as any team in the division.

As for the game itself, well, that was as perfect a blueprint that you’d want to see for any start to the season. From kick off it was obvious we were better prepared than the Citizens and more composed on the ball. We dominated the opening 15 minutes, then 30, then right up until halftime. When we conceded possession I was really pleased to see us win the ball higher up the field, which alleviated any pressure on the defence and meant we could turn defence into attack quite rapidly.

And we were rapid, weren’t we? Sanchez has that element of trickery about him that reminds me a little of Rosicky, but he’s got bags of pace about him and looked to be a real handful for the City defence. There will still be questions as to his best position as he finds his way into the team, but you can tell he’s going to be a great asset. What I really loved in the first half was seeing him race through one-on-one against Caballero, because Theo aside, we haven’t had another player able to do that on a frequent basis since Thierry. So when Mesut Özil is fit and fully integrated into the first team, I’m quite excited about the prospect of a few searching balls in between defence and goalkeeper, from the German to the Chilean.

There were so many positives from yesterday’s game. Just look at the opening scorer. With all the furore around the new signings over the last two summers, little Santi Cazorla – our player of the season two years ago – has almost taken a bit of a back seat in the limelight of the team. He also looked terribly unfit at last weeks Emirates Cup. Yet yesterday I thought he looked a bit more like his old self, keeping hold to the ball, being involved in the build up to chances and with his goal came a classic Santi feint before tucking the ball away with his left foot. There are so many good players at our club these days and Santi is a prime example of a player that might find his game time a wee bit more limited over the course of the season, but nobody should be under any illusion on how important his role in the team will be.

I loved how Jack was getting into spaces in between the City defence and midfield time and time again. He looked up for it yesterday and as Arsene has already said, this is the first time in a few summers that he’s had a full pre season under his belt. Again, he’s another one that we can rightly expect big things for this season and regardless of what Mr Adams says, he will kick on and show his value I’m sure.

Goal number two’s recipient had an element of inevitability about it, didn’t it? Aaron Ramsey stepped up and slotted a great ball home after the impressive Sanogo had held up the ball and fed him in. A quick aside for Sanogo – I get the feeling he’ll be in the similar mould to Giroud, in that he won’t be the scorer of as many goals, but he will bring others into play and be very useful indeed. Aaron’s finish was what we’ve come to expect from him and there is certainly confidence amongst Gooners everywhere that last season was not a one off but the norm now with the Welshman. What was so clever about that finish was actually the touch just before the goal. It was a kind of little mini chip into his own path so that he could hit the ball on the half volley. That’s the sign of a player that is not only full of confidence, but full of ability too, and I hope we can see more of that next weekend and throughout the season.

Defensively there were plus points too. Debuchy looked like he’d been in that right back slot for years and Calum Chamber has the assured composure of a 29-year-old, not one ten years younger. Arsene remarked after the game that he’ll try to bring in someone for Vermaelen as cover in central defence, but if Chambers has more displays like that, then he’ll rightly find it hard. There was one moment in the game where Jovetic was gifted the ball from Chambers and looked to be through on goal, but the lads recovery pace looks to be pretty decent and he was quite rapid in retrieving it from his opponent.

Again, all this positivity and I haven’t even mentioned the good performances of Gibbs or Arteta, or the few commanding catches Szczseny made in his own box. And I haven’t even mentioned the stunning finish of Giroud, who sheepishly took the man of the match performance much to the surprise of most people I think, because he was quite in the most part. Olivier hasn’t exactly become know for his long range radar and there was a couple of occasions last season where we could have done with a pearler like that (Everton in the last minute where he hit the bar springs to mind), but if we see a few of those this season there should be few that argue he hasn’t upped his game in the face of more competition for his place.

It augurs well for what will be a very different game next weekend against Palace. Pulis will attempt to borify the world with stifling tactics and reduction in space in the final third for Arsenal, so we shouldn’t use this game as the benchmark for a season of clean sheets and large scores. Next weekend I’d take any form of win no matter how ugly.

So enjoy the day today, enjoy the fact that pre season appears to be going as we’d hoped, but temper it with an understanding that the real stuff starts at 5.30pm next Saturday.

Peace out

The Ox: marvelling at an existing trinket

A slightly later compilation of random musings from me today, for which I hold my new house fully accountable for, what with it’s seemingly endless list of things breaking and needing repair. Part of life’s rich tapestry and all that I guess.

Anyhoo, I find myself contemplating the role of The Ox today, not least because there is little news coming out of the club with regards to bolstering of reducing the ranks. Benik Afobe may have made his way to MK Dons on loan for the season, but his role in the squad has always been that of a borderline reservist anyway, so it’s not quite the ‘BREAKING NEWS’ that would have some of the more irritating media outlets claiming a scoop.

So as I was saying: The Ox.

Having watched his cameo on Sunday in a lacklustre performance at The Emirates, I couldn’t help but wonder – as I jogged away from the ground in the unrealistic hope that I’d avoid at least some of the crowds heading towards Highbury & Islington station – how important this young man is going to be for our season. His performance on Sunday was bright, full of confidence and a little bit of swagger attached to it too.

I really think that, should he manage to avoid the dreaded curse of the Arsenal injury table, that he could be one of the surprises of this year. It’s easy to look at something shiny and new and get excited, but sometimes it is the trinkets you have within your own treasure chest that shine up the brightest.

Let’s take Aaron Ramsey last season. We were all rightly rather excited by the arrival of Mesut Özil and the improved defensively solidity with Big Per and Kos at the back, but it was the Welshman whose star shone brightest, and whose absence was most keenly felt. Now think back to The Ox last season. For the opening stages of that game against Villa, Alex looked like one of the better players on the pitch, but for a cruel cruciate ligament to put a dent in half a seasons football for the lad. His return in February saw some great performances in the latter part of the season, most notably Palace at home and Bayern away, in which his versatility was demonstrated as well as his own abilities on the ball.

Fast forward to today and we have an Ox that has missed a chunk of a season, a World Cup (although with some of the players around him that was always going to end sooner rather than later), and will be as hungry as any player lining up for Arsenal this season as you can imagine. Probably more so. He has a season to make up.

I think we’ll see him try things that others won’t. He has the beating of a defender and has proven that he can chip in with the odd goal as well. He’s got pace to go with his stocky frame and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if he became the stand out player from this season.

He’s got a directness about his play that I love. It’s like Gervinho but with the ability to control the ball, more consistency in his finishing and probably a bit more skilful too. When I saw him pick the ball up wide on the right on Sunday, there was only ever one thing he looked to do, which was to run at defenders in between himself and the goal. There’s nothing more terrifying than a pacey forward with a trick or two on them. As a former centre half not blessed with pace (I always found positioning made up for that though), it was always the worst thing I could come up against and Ox has that. He just needs to make sure that he gets enough minutes on the pitch.

And I haven’t even mentioned the best bit: he’s still only 20 (although only for another ten days)! Which means he’s only going to get better. Everyone is talking about Wilshere following in the form of Aaron Ramsey, but nobody I have spoken to has said much about The Ox, who could quite conceivably have just as bigger impact as Rambo did last season.

The only real question that remains, is where Arsene will play him more frequently, because I’ll be darned if I know. He’s proven himself through the middle and out wide in the attacking positions, but whilst Le Boss maintains that he will become a central midfielder, the congestion and competition for places there suggests to me that he’ll probably have more game time out on the wings. And hey, that’s ok, because he’s proven himself to be a dangerous asset in those wide positions.

I can see The Ox getting double figures in assists and goals if he is playing regularly enough. He just needs to find his place in the team and for Arsene to stick with it.

Anyway, just some thoughts is all, don’t know if you agree of not? Why not tell me what you think?

Twenty questions. One answer.

Let’s play twenty questions. You think of something – anything – and I’ll try to guess what it is. Ok, let’s go:

1. Is it animal, vegetable or mineral (although my predictive text keeps trying to say Monreal ;-)?
2. Is it a person?
3. Is it a man?
4. Is he from the UK or from abroad?
5. Will he be in the UK permanently in the near future?
Is he an Arsenal player?
6. Has he just been one of the best players at the World Cup?
7. Does he have pace to burn and a lethal finish?
8. Is he an attacking player that someone like Mesut Özil will thrive with?
9. Is his former club absolutely mad to part with him?
10. Have Arsenal got a bargain for a player that is only 25?
11. Will his arrival excite all Arsenal fans?
12. Is he from a country that sounds like a meal I have once a week with kidney beans?
13. Does this demonstrate that Arsenal’s years of self imposed financial restraint appear to be lifted because of this person and the previous signing of Özil?
14. Will Andy Dunn have to bin off any recollection of the trolling article about Arsene not spending any more money whilst all of our rivals are cashing out because of this guy?
15. Has this guys transfer made Phil Thompson out to be a bit of a mug for suggesting that a deal to bring said person to Liverpool was ‘done’?
16. Is this person the first of a few signings we’ll probably make this season?
17. Does he make you excited?
18. Does he look good in the new shirt?
19. Is it reasonable to expect big things from him?
20. Did he make it to the Puma kit launch?

Oh, that last one didn’t quite have the answer I was looking for, but no matter, you beat me fair and square, because I have absolutely know idea who he is you know!

In all seriousness, yesterday was one hell of a great day to be a Gooner, wasn’t it? The waiting ended at around 7.30pm for me as I found out that Alexis Sanchez had signed for The Arsenal to become our first transfer for this window. And what a transfer. Cast your mind back to that tough spell we had in March last season. You remember, when we looked tired, leggy, devoid of pace and a little bit stale with Theo, Mesut and Aaron injured. Now add another world class body in there who has pace to burn. No more high-line available for Everton to compress the space because they know Giroud can’t run at any great speed. Nope, this time Everton have to sit deeper, leaving gaps between their front men and their midfield. This allows Arsenal to dictate the play a little more and isolate the front players. Kos and Per are able to deal with the power of Lukaku and Naismith, who had been told to operate in between striker and midfield, finds himself deeper and having to travel further with the ball when he gets it to get towards the Arsenal goal. Everton struggle to break Arsenal down and the score finishes 0-1 to Arsenal.

I know I’m hypothesising to an extreme extent, but the signing of a brilliant extra body with pace, gives us another option that will negate the probability of us being devoid of pace if one or two players are missing. You have to credit Wenger here too. People often criticise his inability to spot certain things that are obvious to us, but the man knows this team infinitely better than we do, so his first move in this transfer window is to bring in lightning quick pace up top. Ace in the hand Arsene, well played.

And it’s a ‘well played’ because he hasn’t just answered the compelling need for a pacey striker with the first option available. If that was the case, he’d have paid QPR the £8million for Remy before the start of the World Cup. As it stands we may still get Remy, but it will be a compliment to the stellar signing that is Sanchez, not instead of. It’s funny how transfers can set the tone of fan sentiment actually, because this arrival means that any other incoming player will probably be greeted with warm applause from Arsenal fans. Consider that Mesut Özil was signed at this stage last year: the subsequent arrival of Flamini and Sanogo would have probably been seen as a decent attempt to bolster the squad.

But let’s not get too bogged down in pedantry here, because we have ourselves a shiny new superstar to worship; one that could prove to be the difference between running out of steam with ten games to go and challenging right until the end of the season. We still need some more quality bodies to join the club, but this arrival has injected an adrenalin shot into the heart of each Gooner. We’re all walking a little taller today and my journey into London with the rain beating down is a little bit more bearable.

Last night I got on my phone and blanket texted every Arsenal fan in my phone book. I can’t even remember the last time I blanket texted anyone. It signified a momentous occasion. Arsenal’s austerity is now well and truly over and it turns out that Arsene and Ivan were telling the truth after all.

Let’s not get carried away, there’s still some work to be done if this team truly is to challenge the best teams in England and Europe, but maybe, just maybe, Arsene does know after all.

Have a grand one you sexy bitches.

Wowsers Germany. Wowsers Arsenal.

Wowsers. Ok, hands up in the air who thought they saw yesterday’s result coming? put yours down Mr Löw.

The mighty footballing nation of Brazil humbled by seven goals to one at the hands of the unsurprisingly, yet ruthlessly, efficient German side who must now by clear favourites to pick up their fourth World Cup. It was an absolute master stroke of out tacticing, out fighting, out scoring and generally out doing – by my adopted nation for the remainder of this tournament – and whatever the outcome of tonight’s other semi final, there will be some concerned players lining up against Joachim Löw’s side.

From the ‘keeper Neuer through to the front players of Klose and Mueller, the entire match was an exhibition on what you do when you press all over the park. The Barcelona team of three years ago came to The Emirates and did it and yesterday, in Belo Horizonte, the German’s showed how it can force an opponent into errors and bare serious fruit. You only have to look at the second Kroos goal almost from kick off to see that. Robbing the lacklustre Fernandinho, then exchanging passes with the excellent Khedira, Kroos and co made the Selecáo look like they had just come back from an all night lock in at The Red Lion.

A quick congratulatory virtual ‘tip of the cap’ to Miroslav Klöse, who knocked chunky Ronaldo off the top goalscorer charts to take centre stage as the World Cup’s all time leading goalscorer. This game had everything. Records broken, Arsenal players happy, a total shock result. It was brilliant. Except for the fact that Poldi didn’t even get on. Probably just as well actually, as his deadly finishing probably would have seen yet more embarrassment for the men in yellow and blue. Perhaps we should applaud Jogi for his compassion by not unleashing The Poldi on them.

As you can tell, I’m certainly a happy man with the result yesterday, not least because the smattering of Chelski players and a Spud got suitably humbled, but also that our Arsenal boys Mesut, Per and Poldi, all get to march on to a final. I really hope they win.

There was always too much Chelski in that Brazilian team to feel any kind of affiliation for them, anyway.

As for how our boys performed, I thought it was strange that Hummels and Boateng got the nod in the centre of defence ahead of Big Per, but I suppose this was not a mark on the BFGs name, as it was tactical from Low’s perspective. After all, Boateng has undoubtedly got a couple of extra yards on Per when it comes to recovery pace, so perhaps his inclusion only from half time – when the recovering Hummels was wrapped in cotton wool with the game won – was an understandable one. I do hope the BFG is preferred to Boateng at the weekend though. He deserves it.

Mesut had a quieter evening than some of the other players in red and black, but I still thought it was an effective one, with another assist chalked up. His ball retention looked good, movement was ok and, one-on-one miss aside in the second half, he had a steady performance. I suppose the problem he will get this morning is that there were some players like Kroos and Khedira, who were so good, it makes a decent performance not stand out as much as a fantastic one.

As for Brazil. Well, when you’re relying on a couple of players as nonchalant and lacklustre in effort as Fred and Hulk, what can you expect other than a pasting? If truth be told, they were the wrong end of the pitch to be blamed for the parting of the Red Sea that was the Brazilian defence yesterday (can we now start calling David Luiz – Sideshow Bob – an actual clown now?), but when you have absolutely no outlets at the top of the pitch, it does put pressure on your defence. It was a pressure that was too much for Luiz et al to handle and you and I witnessed one of the greatest bottle-jobs of all World Cup history.

I’d said it before the game, but I just didn’t rate (or like) this Brazilian team, as I thought they had already used up their ‘Get out of jail free’ cards a couple of times this competition I felt. They were lucky to have got to the semi final I felt; carried along the crest of a home nation Neymar Jr inspired team, the expectancy of the fans always a little bit too much I thought. The Germans showed what real ‘Champions in waiting’ should look like and also show the difference in class between the best sides in the world. Of which, Brazil are most certainly not.

It’s made me quite excited for tonight’s game actually. I hope the Argentinians give the Dutch a pasting. Seeing Robben and van Persie crying at the end of the game would be the very picture of hilarity, so if Messi and Higuain can retain their scoring boots, it would set us up for a cracking final.

The good news kept coming yesterday, as the imminent arrivals of Sanchez and Debuchy have been all but confirmed officially by the club it seems. There were murmurings through Twitter that Stan Collymore had heard it directly from Arsene Wenger that Sanchez was ‘done’, which in itself seems a very un-Arsene thing to do, but when multiple news outlets are all reporting on very similar fees agreed you know that something is on the horizon. Very soon.

Any type of announcement this week will be an absolute dream for you and I. We’re just coming into the midway point in June, there will be a whole month of pre-season for the players to meet their teammates and get acquainted with ‘The Arsenal Way’, and we can all look forward to that Community Shield curtain raised in about a months time.

It also eases the pressure on the club for a fan anxiety point of view. They can enquire and discuss other targets with the goodwill of the supporters knowing that two key positions are catered for and we’re now just buffing the edges of the squad to give it that shiny new look. Added to that the FA Cup winning glow that we’re all still basking in, and it makes for a nice countdown to the start of the season.

We’ll obviously have to wait for official confirmations, but right now, well, I’m sure there’s a Pharrell Williams song that can help to describe my mood today.

Bored of your own thoughts? Banking on Özil’s impact

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re even bored of your own thoughts? I do, have done, with the transfer sagas that are happening surrounding Arsenal at the moment. I’ve talked about Debuchy and Sanchez enough that I’m a little bit tired of it. Mind you, we’re now at phase eight of any transfer saga surrounding Arsenal, which involves seeing photographic evidence and putting together the pieces in your mind to mean a player is ‘definitely’ coming.

The Frenchman was spotted in London, supposedly for a medical with The Arsenal, which would suggest that we’re on the verge of an announcement. I would suspect that the Debuchy deal will be a lot easier to see through than the Sanchez one, because the permutations only seem to involve two clubs. Plus it appears – from this Gooners eyes anyway – as if it’s a transfer which is well within our comfort zone. Arsene and his transfer crew lap up £8 -£12million French-speaking signings like a politician laps up an expense policy cross-charge. We do these types of transfers and it’s a decent and swift move for the club.

The other picture that appears to be sparking the saliva glands of Arsenal fans is the one that seems to show a Catalan shop showing a Suarez shirt. A Barcelona Suarez shirt. Of course, that is most likely a clever PR stunt by a retailer to get a bit of PR; the chances that Barcelona are keeping those in that shop ‘in the know’ on their transfer dealings, are as likely as me gaining the superhero powers of Giant Man and stamping on Jose Mouinho’s car just to see him cry a little.

The picture obviously allows us to put two and two together and conclude that Barca are waiting for the green light on Suarez, before releasing Sanchez, but I doubt that the two transfers are entirely linked. Sure, the cash is needed from the club that is happy to extract and fling it’s own ‘DNA’ to one side quite quickly, but I don’t think the signing of the Uruguayan will impact the Chilean arriving at The Arsenal. Why should it? Barcelona won’t be paying the £70million-odd up front, so there’s not exactly a need for them to ask Arsenal to wire the Sanchez cash straight into John W. Henry’s bank account.

I just hope this can all get sorted within the next week so we can all get on with our lives and start getting excited about the new season.

But before then, there’s the small matter of a World Cup Semi Final, in which Brazil take on Germany. I really would love to see the Germans give the. Brazilian’s a good pasting tonight. It’s a distinctly average Brazilian team with a smattering of Chelski and Spud blood in the team, which is all the more reason to route for the Europeans, especially when you think of our own Arsenal lads who will be rocking up in white tonight.

I’ve got to say I’m not really too surprised that the German people and press have been giving Özil some stick during this competition. Whilst his performances have not been exemplary for his national side, it is always a favoured narrative of any type of media to perpetuate the story of a fallen hero and after a big money move last summer, Özil fits the bill. Irregardless of the fact he has been shunted out wide on the left, or was shattered after a long season with Arsenal and an injury earlier this year, Özil’s price tag will make him an easy target. So it is incumbent on him to prove the detractors wrong and show what he is capable of. He’s already scored an all important goal in the competition so far and, whilst I don’t have the same feeling he’ll score tonight as I did then, I do think he will have an impact in tonight’s game somehow. Why? Because he’s a big player. And big players turn up on the big stages. He may need a help from some of his national teammates – Özil is a master when he has pace in front of him after all – but I’m hoping it he’ll produce some magic in the land of the Samba this evening.

As for the other two, Per will be Per, but whether or not Poldi plays a part will be interesting. The Germans will be all too aware of what he brings to the table, so much like at Arsenal, it would be hard not to see an impact when you have a natural born finisher who delivers end product (if nothing else sometimes) time and time again. If I were a betting man I’d have some money on Poldi playing something in the second half and having himself a goal before the night is out.

Anyway, that’s me for today, so I’ll catch you tomorrow.

The cogs are turning

I must confess I watched absolutely no World Cup action yesterday, so have no idea how the respective players from each teams from Argentina, Switzerland, Belgium and USA!USA!USA! performed. I guess I’ll get an opportunity to watch Belgium and Argentina again, but not the Swiss or the Americans. Shame really, because Tim Howard does have an awesome beard.

It all feels like the cogs are starting to turn, with regards to transfers, doesn’t it? I mean, yesterday we had the announcement from Chelski and Atletico Madrid that they had met Costa’s buyout of £32million, we’ve got the Debuchy rumours hotting up at the moment, this was then followed by noises from Barcelona supposedly ‘praising’ Luis Suarez. Sounds like the Liverpool fans – many of whom have taken delight in seeing us succumb to the public courting of our players down the years – are in for a summer of similar experiences before the next season kicks off.

I fully expect Suarez to make noises about being ‘flattered’, then by how he is slightly upset that Liverpool didn’t immediately leap to his defence where as Barcelona did, then the inevitable keepy-uppy’s in the Camp Nou just before the season starts.

Let’s just hope Rodgers does a Spurs with the wealth that he’ll get from the transfer. Oh, and he doesn’t land himself a Sanchez, by some sort of fluke. Because let’s face it, the noises that appear to be coming out of the Catalan club and journos are that he’s on his way, his preferred destination being the Premier League and Arsenal.

We’d all love to see it, but as Tim Clarke pointed out yesterday, we’ve run this race a few times. We know how it goes. We are leading the chasing pack, thinking we’re at the finishing line, then our trainers fall off and spontaneously combust, leaving Chelski, City or another Champions League club to pick up the pieces. See Mata and Higuain for references of the failures of summers past.

Barcelona are not backward in coming forward with their transfer policies and processes, so we’ll know quite quickly what’s going on, with the club already stating that one bid has already been received. I’d be amazed if it’s not Arsenal. Mainly because a) we do our bids in private and I’m pretty sure the club submit bids with specific requests to the selling club that confidentiality clauses remain in place, and b) if Liverpool are looking at making an exchange with Sanchez and Suarez trading places, Liverpool would not have made a bid first, would they? They’d wait for the Barcelona bid for Suarez to come in.

That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it anyway and, despite referencing a warning from one Gooner already in today’s post, I find myself tumbling down the rabbit hole (or was it a worm hole in Alice in Wonderland? I forget) to plonk my size 11s squarely on to transfer land territory. It’s a dark and merciless place where nothing is ever quite what it seems and 99% of what your eyes show you is a complete falsehood.

Getting back into the real world is tough, but at least we can do so with the announcement that the new Puma kit is now on sale for overweight Arsenal fans everywhere to purchase and look rather unsightly by buying what looks like a shirt that is three sizes too small. I haven’t bought a new kit for about five years, but even though I’m not a large lad, I’m not sure I’d be too keen on having every inch of my person hugged by the new tops. I like the design of the home kit and the away kit isn’t too bad, but that’s still not going to see me rock the latest shirt. But then again, I am a complete hypocrite and if it’s purchased for me, I’m sure I’ll find a decent enough excuse as to why I’m wearing it.

The less said about the abomination that is that white third kit, the better, because I still get flashbacks to the Adebayor era from the last time the team jogged out wearing the same colours as the enemy. It just doesn’t sit right for that one obvious reason I’m afraid. It’s like being in Lancaster and telling people you prefer white roses. It’s just wrong. And I’m afraid nobody will convince me otherwise. Hopefully we’ll not see much of it though and it will remain in the cupboards of the kit manager forever, serving the only purpose it was intended for: a marketing ploy to get people to buy more shirts.

Anyway, that should probably be it from me today, as there really is little else to speak of. Cheerio!

My support jinxes the Germans; new but not original transfer stuff

Last night I watched my newly adopted team – Germany (family ties and all that) – fight back from a potential shock defeat to Ghana to take a draw and I have to say, it was yet another great advertisement for what is fast becoming the best World Cup I have experienced in my lifetime, aside from England being pants ‘n all.

It did feel like I had jinxed ze Germans by getting behind them though. Almost as if I haven’t had enough punishment from being born in a nation whose national team regularly under performs in international competitions, even my adopted nations seem to stutter. I’m hoping it’s just a blip though, because unlike Eng-Ger-Land, Germany have the firepower in their ranks to go far in the competition.

I suppose it also helps my alliance that there are plenty of Arsenal Germans in the ranks and if Arsene can pick up a Bender and a Draxler (even though I appreciate that appears to have gone quiet right now), I’m sure it will make aligning myself even easier.

What a great game it was though. The Ghanaians looked really good value for the point they picked up, despite a controlled first half from Germany and, when they scored to go 2-1 up the crowd really got behind the Black Stars, which made for a great atmosphere inside the stadium. The fightback and goal from the Germans was also good to see, with some history being made by Klose by getting his 15th World Cup goal, a classic Klose poacher goal as well. Whether or not he’ll get to 16 I’m not sure, as there are a maximum of five games and if he’s being used so sparingly with ten minutes here or there, it’s no guarantee that he’ll have enough time to become the stand out all time biggest goal scorer ahead of chunky Ronaldo. You wouldn’t put it past him having a tap in over the next few games though.

Mesut had another quiet game, which was a bit of a shame, because I think most of us agree it would be really good if there is a confidence boosting World Cup for him it can only be a good thing for Arsenal next season. He is being given a bit more licence to roam across the attacking positions and cropped up on both left and right hand sides yesterday, with a couple of good balls into the box and one run in the second half that was scooped over his own bar by a Ghana defender, but I just hope that the German people and the rest of the world don’t get on his back too much. He’s an elegant player that has had a decent first season at Arsenal. I don’t know whether or not in a year’s time he’ll be a completely changed player on the international scene, but I believe that next season in red and white will be a good one for him and I just hope that this World Cup doesn’t dent any of his confidence.

Transfer wise there’s nothing new really. Some of the red tops are hashing out a new (but not original) spin on the Balotelli stuff by saying Arsene Wenger will be meeting Balotelli’s agent in the next day or so, but as much as i’d personally like to see him at The Arsenal, I do think that Arsene will go for a different type of striker, perhaps even a more low-key striker. We’ve all seen too many summers that have resulted in us landing a £12million signing rather than a big name with a big reputation. I know there are a few that are talking about our links to Sanchez, Reus & co as well, but I do suspect that the form of Campbell this World Cup might scupper those rumours, especially as he now has an extra game to impress against what will probably be a top international team.

Again, much like the Balotelli stuff, the Serge Aurier speculation has got slightly warmer with reports he’s agreed an £8million £60,000-a-week deal. It’s nothing new and although I’d welcome him as a player that can battle it out with Jenkinson, there is question marks on his defensive stability much like The Corporal, so I do have to question whether or not that deal will come off and whether or not Arsene will opt for a slightly older head with a view to blooding the Corporal over a number of years. I’ve never quite understood comments about sending the Corporal out on loan if I’m honest. If you send a player out on loan that is your first reserve, you have to go out and buy another reserve and with Arsenal’s injury record over the last six or seven years, surely it should mean that Jenkinson will get enough games at the club. It’s not like we don’t play in enough competitions!

Anyway, that’s enough of my nonsense for one day, I’m off to spend the day in the sun celebrating my anniversary with The Management. Laters.

Oh what could have been! A reminder of the Arsenal love and international hate

Well, if you’re English, you didn’t expect anything else other than defeat with little to crow about, did you? Last night’s game against the Uruguayan’s was a classic example of what you can achieve with one world class player in your team.

Luis Suarez should have effectively secured his natures passage into the knockout stages of the World Cup and, unlike his shamefully immoral efforts four years ago with the handball on the line, this time he did it the right way with two goals.

I’ve never liked the guy, but what a good player he is and, having watched Uruguay against Costa Rica last weekend, he really did prove the difference between the two sides. I’d said as much to work colleagues and also my partner in crime for the evening Dave, as I thought that the strength of the Uruguayan attack was more effective than the strength of the English attack, as well as the respective fragilities of both defences. So it proved in Brazil.

There’s some sort of bitter irony that it was Steven Gerrard that assisted Suarez on that second goal. But it was still a sublime finish.

But again I cast my mind back to thinking not of the English performance, but that of Suarez who had we have managed to secure the services of at The Arsenal, we must have been favourites to win the league. Heck, I’m convinced he is a player that gives you a minimum of 12 points a season on his own, which added to our tally would have had us champions with a week or two to spare before the season ended.

Of course it didn’t happen and there is no use dwelling on the past, but last nights performance of the ‘bitey one’ only serves to give me more trepidation about our ventures into the transfer market this summer, where we simply must strengthen offensively with pace, power and a world class finisher.

Skipping back to last nights game, which I watched in a pub garden, realising why I hate international football so much. Surrounded by footballing ‘supporters’, who have no idea about football and have merely turned up to watch ‘Eng-Ger-Land’ and jump around like they were at a Slipknot conference, is certainly not my idea of a good time I’m afraid. There’s something about international football that brings out the most moronic traits in people and I heard stupid comment (“kick it harder Gerrard”) after moronic comment. I don’t recall the last time I had to watch The Arsenal in a pub with stupid people like that. Call me a football snob, but I like to watch the game and engage in intelligent comment with colleagues about formations, individual performances and how to nullify the opposition. What I don’t do is stand with my back to the screen for long periods during the game chanting the name of my team repeatedly just to see if the crowd reacts. It’s sad and pitiful actually.

Keep football for those that love football. Not morons. That’s what I’m going to decree when I become President of the Universe.

Anyway, rant over, on the positive side at least we can all go back to watching this World Cup as neutrals/onlookers at what has been a great one so far. I’m lucky; I have German and Dutch roots so I’ll be voting for one of those two teams for the remainder of the tournament, probably with a leaning towards the Germans because of the Arsenal connection.

Catch the in the morrow.

Transfer insanity and instant reaction

It’s Wednesday, we’ve made it halfway through the week, with just a couple more days until freedom from the shackles of office desk jockeydom.

But the shackles of transfer tedium remain as strongly bound as always, laced with a deadly coating of instant reaction fuelled by the gutter press with a bit of time on their hands in Brazil to fabricate rumours to their hearts content.

Yesterday’s ‘man of the moment’ was Mexico’s shot stopper Guillermo Ochoa who, fresh from a ‘Man-of-the-match’ performance against Brazil, was instantly sky-rocketed into the British tabloid press as a potential target for Arsenal and Liverpool. The ‘keeper is also available on a free transfer from recently relegated AC Ajaccio.

“That ‘keeper played well for Mexico”

yeah, wonder who he plays for?”

“Says on Wikipedia a French team in Ligue 1! And they’ve just been relegated! And it says here is available on a free transfer!”

“Stop the presses and get this online now Neil! The Arsenal fans will love this one so get it online sharpish and make sure you tag the content with any word you can think of that can be keyword searched for by Arsenal fans!”

“Yes boss”

It was a great performance by Ochoa and maybe he could turn out to be a great signing for somebody, but having watched West Ham spunk a fortune on Florin Raducioiu after World Cup 94, I would have thought most people of a certain age would realise the dangers in taking interest in a player who has shot himself in to the limelight at a World Cup like Guillermo has.

Hey, I might be wrong and he might be an absolute gem that rocks up in the red and white of Arsenal this season, but I have my doubts at this moment in time. It’s the same with Joel Campbell too. If he stars against Italy again and adds to it against England, it may all bode well for us Arsenal fans, but until I’ve seen half a dozen impressive performances in an Arsenal shirt I won’t be heralding the second coming of the son of God just yet.

It’s the same with Lukaku. He was supposedly poor yesterday for the hour he was on the pitch (was travelling home from work so I’m not entirely sure), which certainly happens from time to time with the best players in the world, but the knee jerk reaction from fans was, in my opinion, a little harsh to label him a flop after one game at the World Cup. The Belgians as a whole hardly tore apart the Iranians and despite the hype surrounding this competitions ‘Golden Generation’ team, I do wonder if that tag is cursed and we’ll see them flop much like England of the previous decade and Spain of the decade before that.

I have to say I thought Brazil were a lot of huff and puff and possession and not a lot else for the bits of the game that I watched yesterday, but for all the disappointment of the lack of goals in the game, at least we got to see Thierry giving his input yesterday. The mans words are like concentrated awesomeness syrup injected straight into my brain. Sensible, good opinion and an Arsenal legend. What more could any Gooner ask for?

Some signings relatively soon, apparently, which doesn’t then help when Balotelli’s agent says that a transfer to Arsenal could be possible. As I debated with The Dorset Talent yesterday, cue the immediate denial that we were ever interested in him by Arsene Wenger, the speculation trail to go cold on the player, followed by a section of Arsenal fans going ‘ohhhhh’ like we’ve just been told by our mums at the Tesco counter that we can’t have any Fruit Pastels.

I think he’d be a great signing for Arsenal and would give us two years worth of insanity (not the work out I keep hearing about, although a Balotelli workout video, would I’m sure be an interesting purchase for the Christmas list) before buggering off somewhere else. But as I’ve said before, what a ride it would be, and I’d love to see it happen. It won’t though. Not now anyway.

Elsewhere in the footballing world it appears Julian Draxler has tired of not starting for Germany and has decided to try and create his own artificial inflation of his price tag by saying that Arsenal were interested in him and he rejected in the January window, adding that if Arsenal come calling this summer, he would reject their overtures again. Clever PR to keep the Schalke fans on side, but we all know that if any club activates his release clause, or even probably bids in the £30million region and Schalke accepts, he’d be on his way. To my mind the comments from Draxler are designed not to piss off Arsenal or it’s fans, but more to keep the relationship with his existing fan base that adore him, so that when he does move he can say “it was a good move for Schalke and that is why I accepted it. Schalke wanted me to go and that’s why I’m leaving”. I can understand that. Heck, Thierry played his move to Barcelona in a similar way and we still all love him, don’t we?

That’s yer lot for today. Speak to thee tomorrow.