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.

A gem already with us and an insight into what could be from Italian

Happy Fathers Day to you if you are celebrating your role as a key influencer over making little Gooners. I salute you. It’s people like you that ensure that the future of Arsenal fandom is successful.

In the hear and now, we had a reason to be cheerful yesterday, because Joel Campbell arrived on the international world stage with an impressive performance to stun everybody and make the group that England are in very interesting indeed. He was superb in scoring one, assisting one, as well as his general play with the ball.

I know it’s only one game, and at 22 (I think he’s that age and I can’t be arsed to look it up at this very second) he’s still going to have off days, but what Arsenal fan couldn’t look at his display yesterday and wonder if we’ve got ourselves a player that, like Wilshere, needed a loan spell to grow and develop into a top notch player.

You could tell that his technical ability on the ball was good, because of the way in which he stroked it around so well, but I was also impressed by his stature. He looks to have grown a few inches and with a bit of pace about him as well, if he could continue the rest of this World Cup in that same rich vein of form, then Arsenal would surely be asking him back for a shot in the first team next season as one of the left or right wingers either side of Giroud.

However, let’s not get too carried away here, because this is only one game and the words ‘swallow’ and ‘summer’ and ‘does not make’ come into my mind right now.

But at least we had that bit of positivity yesterday, because if you’re English and you watched the subsequent game, it wasn’t exactly great I don’t think. Actually, maybe I’m being slightly harsh on the team, because they did fashion some chances. It’s just that you can clearly tell that this is a limited England side. Surprisingly though, it didn’t look like a limited team in the final third. Yes, they missed that cutting edge and yes, it’s almost laughable that Wayne Rooney has footballing diplomatic immunity, but on the whole there were some impressive performances from Welbeck, Sturridge and Sterling going forward. Even when Barkley came on he looked impressive. But you get to that back four and it does make you wince a little. Glen Johnson was ok in the right back position – nothing spectacular, just ok – but on the other side of the pitch Leighton Baines had a shocker. Overrun on his side with little cover from Rooney in the first half, Baines looked like a lost soul at times, so when the second half started and he half heartedly jumped to be completely outdone by a simple dummy, it was always going to be carnage. But hey, there’s nobody else who plays left back who would be a better option, has played in big games and is English currently playing for one of the top four teams in the country, is there?

Much like Campbell’s performance doesn’t herald the second coming of Maradona, Baines isn’t Luzhny MkII, but I do think that one of England’s big problems – and it’s always been like this, not just under Roy – is that there is always a hierarchy. Rooney won’t be dropped for Barkley and no amount of poor performances would see Baines losing his place to Gibbs or Shaw.

So England lost their first group game to a Mario Balotelli who, as we all will be aware, looks to be linked to us at the moment. I personally don’t think it will happen and Arsene will look somewhere else, but Mad Mario did show how potent he is in the big games and his dink over Hart at the end of the first half that was headed over the line by Jagielka, provides a reminder of the talent that was on display when he was a Moneychester City player. We’ve had those Oil Whores take plenty of the ones that we love over the last few years and – whilst he’s not a City player – he’s still a cult hero there, so it would feel nice to have done to another club what Chelski have done to us with Fabregas this summer.

Let’s just see what happens. Anyhoo, I’m offski, so I’ll see you tomorrow you sexy bitches.

In defence of the attack; attacking the defence

I thought I’d hand over the reins of today’s post to a family friend who gave me my first taste of Arsenal in the flesh when he took me to Highbury in the 90s. Roy has seen a fair few Arsenal incarnations and is never short of an opinion, so I thought I’d give him the opportunity to have my soapbox for a day.

You can follow him on Twitter at RoyThomas16

Now you kids play nice.

Over the last few years I have read and listened too many of the ramblings of the SG team and generally enjoy them although I do not always agree.

Well not only is SG Chris a blogger, he is my Godson and as he mentions often, I got him into supporting the Gunners many years ago.

This week, as part of his season review, he asked the question “did the forwards cost us the title?” or words to that effect! My opinion and answer is definitely not!

I will I think we are very weak in those attacking positions – especially when poor Theo got crocked – and when the trio of Ramsey, Ozil and Theo were flying we certainly had more about us. Yes, I know they are not all forwards, but they more than made up for our lack of attackers as we had very few to call on this season. Let’s not digress too far into the misgivings of last summer now though…

Giroud may not be the best centre forward in the world, but I believe he tried his best, accumulated a good tally, but in some games looked totally knackered. One of his strike partners – Lukas Podolski – was very in and out but his strike record for games he featured in must have been right up there. The trouble with Podolski however, as you’ve probably all noticed, is that he goes missing for long periods. Yes, I agree it only takes one or two pieces of magic to win a game, but so much happens in a modern day football match and these professionals are expected to do more than just have end product. After that the options for support were limited: who would you choose from Bendtner or Sanogo (not really having a go at the young Frenchman, but really our back up no, one for the future maybe but time will tell).

So, with those quick opinions on strikers out of the way, how did we lose the league from my perspective?

Defensively. I believe this defence are poor and I am sure some of you are going to throw STATS around to discourage my opinion. I’m getting long enough in the tooth to know that they mean nothing other than the one that reads ‘Win’ or ‘Champions’.

In a game seeing we have had 65% position and 15 shots on goal and lost 1-0, or having one of the best defensive records by goals against in a season, give me no comfort whatsoever if we lose. Making comments like that are similar to the one that got away for a fisherman, or the golfer arguing that the ball took a bobble going to the hole on a short putt.

This year was no different from the shabby defending than last year. This is a defence that can go to sleep during a match at any time; not many of the top clubs do this. Why? They have a few shock results but not like our capitulation at times. Remember; just eight points stopped us from the title. Broken down those points that cost us through silly mistakes:

17 Aug, Villa: Two stupid penalties and one weak goal

October, WBA: 1-1 with a West Brom player totally unmarked on their goal

November, Man Utd: Although RVP done us over, he ran totally unmarked past three players to score a header, no players even tried to stop him. They were all ball watching.

December, Everton: 1-1, an83rd minute equaliser with Delofeu totally unmarked – another opposition player free to roam again

December, Man City: Enough has been said already. Maybe we were a little unlucky in the end but 6 goals is not a fluke.

January, Southampton: Poor marking on both goals, but second more than schoolboy error SG Chris would have done better (Ed: I’ll have you know I was a half decent ball-playing centre half!)

February, Liverpool: Again, enough said, all defenders asleep and game over after fifteen minutes

March, Stoke: Joke defending for the Penalty (I think he was waiving at his family)

March, Chelsea: again more than enough said about that in the aftermath

March, Swansea: 2-2 and two weak goals bad, with defending after we had got ourselves 2 -1 up in 89th minute, yet we were opened up like knife through butter yet again.

April, Everton: almost Hackney Marsh defending.

This is without some of the cup shockers in all three cups, although we are the FA cup champs so I guess I should give some kudos to the team there. Made us all happy without question (although defensively we were still shocking – 2 -0 down, but dug in, again, defending caused the fright)

Remember, just seven points stopped us, eight to win and of course other teams may say the same but I only care about us.

So think about WBA, Stoke, Southampton, Everton x 2 , Swansea and forget the drubbings this was 14 points dropped from poor defending and it cannot happen at this level, then there are the nine points from three massive losses.

Perhaps this is too simplistic.

Just some observations and horror viewing. If you watch them again perhaps a couple may have been unavoidable but only a couple. Most of the trouble has come from the right hand side looking at our goal when the opposition are attacking.

Let’s hope we get some strength to our defence for next season and one hard stopping midfielder like we used to have in abundance.

Thanks for reading. I am a passionate Arsenal fan and I only want to see the team succeed, but questions need to be asked defensively and with Arsene about to announce his new deal, I hope he has the answers.

Thanks for your thoughts Roy. Not sure I agree with all of them, as every team has off days and sometimes these can be countered by having strength all over the park. Just look at how Liverpool managed to outscore their opponents when defensively they looked shambolic at times. There does need to be some work done to remove the errors in the big games though I’ll grant you that.

Catch you all tomorrow.

Season review: did the attack cost us the league?

Today’s blog is my final one of the season for an overall review of specific areas of the team and, whilst the first three were relatively lengthy, I don’t feel like making this a ‘War and Peace’ analysis of the front line.

This is mainly in part down to the fact that the ‘feel good factor’ still exists amongst Arsenal fans. We’ve won the FA Cup just over a week ago, we’ve celebrated the 25th anniversary of Anfield 89 yesterday, and the spirits every seem to be high. So I’m loathed to take on board too much negativity and dish it out to you in any kind of volume at such a good time to be a Gooner.

Let’s also not forget the fact that this season has already seen a concentrated and rather drawn out series of collective sighs when talking about our front line, as we have seen a league title slip from our grasp, due to a manager unwilling to strengthen in that much needed position for two transfer windows. Where he once collected strikers, he now covets creative midfielders, so it seems.

Everyone has talked enough about the issues, including myself, so I’m going to try to focus on the positives of our front line. Because there are positives. Injury aside, Theo Walcott looked like he could continue his fantastic form of 2012/13, had injury not struck him after being played so intensively when back from injury. His season may have been ‘cameotastic’ in the most part, but he still contributed to some good displays during that period of time, which should bode well for next season. It would be a delight to see what he and Özil could achieve together if given an extended run of a dozen or so games. He has the pace, he has the finishing ability and whilst Santi did excel in the Özil role before Mesut’s arrival, we’ve already seen (right at the beginning of the season) what could happen when Theo and Mesut are put together. Think Sunderland away, where Theo was put through three times in the first half and had he had his scoring boots on that day, it would have been a rout.

Perhaps that feeling of ‘what might have been’ is a common theme across all of our front line. After all, the Ox was a preferred starter on the right wing for the first game of the season against Villa, which was a heck of a statement by the manager that he thought the season might be a good one for him. Who knows what kind of Ramseyesque form Oxlade-Chamberlain might have exhibited had he not picked up that knee ligament injury. As it was, he returned to the team and put in some stellar displays at an important time, dominating both Cyrstal Palace and Bayern Munich away games. Arsene says he will become a central midfielder eventually, and we certainly have seen evidence of that, but I suspect his punctuated season last time out May have extended his apprenticeship in the attacking three positions and we’ll see more of him there next season too.

On the left we have flitted between Cazorla and Podolski throughout the season, both square pegs in round holes to a degree, but both able to play that position to some effect. Cazorla’s flexibility affords him the ability to be effective in any of three positions across the attacking four (if you include the Özil ‘in the hole’ role) but we’ve also seen that his flexibility has allowed Mesut to move around the pitch more freely at times. I think to that Everton FA Cup match when Santi found himself in the centre supplying Özil on the left for the first goal, or the cup game against the Spuds when he leathered in Gnabry’s pass whilst timing his run to appear on the left.

Podolski is an entirely different enigma and one that I don’t think any Arsenal fan will ever understand. He is 100% end product and that is both delightful and infuriating in equal measure. Arshavin was a bit like that; an ‘all or nothing’ style player but, unlike the German, he was nowhere near efficient enough and after a couple of seasons was soon feeling the burden of crowd disappointment on his shoulders. Nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to Poldi. We all love his personality, his goals, his style when scoring. In fact, if you’re like me you’re praying that he could just give an extra 30% more to his game, he’d be one of the worlds best. It doesn’t have to be through technical ability – we know he doesn’t have that in spades – but even if it was in application and a bit more drive, he’d quickly find himself undroppable by the manager. Still, he’s shown us some fantastic goals and he is certainly a scorer in big games too, as he’s proved in his two seasons at the club. I hope he stays for next season, as he most certainly does have a place, especially with the return he gives the team in goals.

So, finally, let’s have a look at the position at the top of the tree. Currently held by Olivier Giroud but with small cameos from Bendtner and Sanogo. And when I say small, I really do mean small. Bendtner has played in a tiny proportion of games and still managed to score, but Sanogo is yet to break his duck, despite looking a bit of a gangly handful at times. Oddly enough, his overall performances haven’t been that bad, he just looks like he is nowhere near ready for the first team and one hopes that this little foray into the starting eleven fold hasn’t damaged his confidence. It doesn’t seem to have. He seems to be a confident sort of chap. Not Niklas Bendtner confident, thankfully, but enough to ensure his mind remains strong in the face of adversity. As for Bendtner, he helped set us on the way to victory against Hull, but ultimately this season has been more about finding out which stupid stunt he has pulled off this week and quite frankly, most of us are glad to see the back of him.

So to Giroud my thoughts now turn as I wrap up this blog. Yet another enigma in our side. A player capable of that deft touch and finish against West Ham only four odd weeks ago, yet still able to drag the ball wide from just outside the six yard box, as I seem to recall him doing against United at home. He is a strong centre forward who looks like his hair holds him up in the wind when the ball is put in front of him to chase, but he has still managed to convert twenty-two of his chances this season. There will be many that will question whether any half decent striker in that Arsenal team wouldn’t be able to bag between 15-20 goals a season, but I think that does a bit of a disservice to him, as he is not just a goalscorer within the team. His deft back heel to give Ramsey his cup winning goal is testament to the additional role as supplier that Giroud plays. He is certainly not without his faults, and I certainly hope priority number one is for another player to compliment his attributes rather than match them with some improvement, but to look at his season as a whole and not agree that he has improved would be wrong in my opinion.

Of all of the areas of the pitch where the team did not quite match what is expected of them, the front three would be one that I would point out as being the stand out this season just past. It has by no stretch of the imagination been an outright failure, to say such things would be incredibly harsh, but it has not quite delivered enough to give us the league title that we all craved so much but ultimately fell short.

More pace needed. That’s for sure. Injuries may have robbed us of that at times during the season, but the failure to address that at a time when we could have done so in January should go down as one of Arsene’s major mistakes of the season. Sure, the addition of a pacey striker would not have led to us conceding less goals in some of those big games, but you don’t need to win all your big games, as victories against Swansea, Stoke and Southampton earlier this year would have given us the extra seven points to be level with the Champions.

Some positives, but certainly some addressing of the faults is needed in the summer, if we are to win the league. See you tomorrow.