Debuchy as Arteta II? Ticks all the boxes.

Let’s all be honest here, the real winners of yesterday’s Debuchy announcement were the parents of kids that want to grow up to be defenders, because finally their offspring have proper kit numbers with which they can hang their emotional ties on when they don a club jersey for their Sunday league youth team. Also, the extra few quid that will be saved by only having a single digit on the back of the shirt will come in handy, especially if you’ve got to buy three a season.

Of course I jest and am in jovial mood this morning, for our team finally announced it’s second high-profile signing of the summer in Matthieu Debuchy from Newcastle for the now standard ‘undisclosed fee’. Which can be quite disclosed if you head up to the North East, because I’m sure Mike Ashley won’t have signed any confidentiality statements when it comes to cash. He does stockpile quite a bit of it you know.

I’m also happy because as you read this right now (possibly, depending on when you read it) I am hurtling towards Portugal for two weeks in the sun. So you’ll have the literary delights of The Oaf and Benjy. That’s what we’re calling him now – not because he looks like a dog or is loyal like one – mainly because whenever Steve and I take him on car journeys he sticks his head out the side window and let’s his tongue flap in the wind. But enough of his transgressions, back to our newbie…

I’m certainly pleased about his arrival, you? Let’s look at our criteria for what we wanted in a Sagna replacement:
1. Experience in the Premier League
2. Right age so as to motivate Jenkinson enough to believe he has a future and to try and improve as a result
3. Not too expensive – we have plenty of other places that we need to use our cash on this summer
4. Good enough quality. You can also see ‘international class defender’ as a reference point.

Our new boy ticks all of the boxes. And as an optional extra added bonus, he’s just kept Sagna out of the French national team fat the World Cup, so we get a small morale victory over the mercenary now too (I know he’s not really a mercenary and he’s given good service to The Arsenal, but the second he ceased to be a gooner, he was fair game for name calling and petty one-upmanship in my book), which is always good.

By all accounts he’ll also be a better crosser of the ball too. I mean, he can’t be any worse than Sagna, can he? I genuinely slumped my shoulders every time Bacary got down that right hand side over the years, so to see a ball actually get delivered on to Giroud’s loaf every once in a while will certainly be a novel experience.

He’s not the defender that Sagna was, I’m sure there will be plenty that will argue, but when you’re having to operate in a Newcastle team that is managed by literally the most annoying white-headed moron to walk the earth, what can you expect? The Newcastle side of last season was in large-scale free-fall from December, so it’s hardly surprising that some people are looking at the Frenchman and wondering if he can cut it at The Arsenal.

I think he can. I think he’ll be alongside better quality teammates, a manager that he trusts and who trusts him back, and I suspect this signing will be the right back equivalent of Arteta. When we needed a steady and safe pair of hands to deliver three to four years of consistent performance and knowledge of the league, Mikel was there to fill the void. This time, it’s Matthieu that does it for us.

And need I point out that we’re still in mid July. The club still has a couple of weeks before it even starts the Emirates Cup, which will be a festival of goodwill with these early arrivals. If there’s a Khedira thrown in as well, the place will be positively electric with excitement for the new season, which will be great to see.

Above all, what’s most pleasing is the fact we’re getting our house in order with plenty of time so the new players can bed in, get to know their surroundings and hit the ground running when the real action starts in a months time. I actually think the squad as it stands is in ok shape. We’re a centre half and reserve ‘keeper away from looking decent, then add a top quality holding/cultured midfielder that can sit a little deeper, and you’ve got yourself title challengers I believe. Michael Owen can bleat his irrelevance all he wants (let’s not forget he is employed by the organisation employing ‘shock and awe’ tactics on Arsenal fans with their current advertising campaign, so it fits the bill that he’s suggesting Arsenal aren’t looking too impressive this coming season), but with United still in transition, Liverpool minus a 35-a-season striker and Chelski’s Costa conundrum yet to reveal whether he’ll be a Drogba or Schevchenko, we’re in good shape with our mixture of youth and experience and plenty of internationals on display come that first game against Palace.

Yep, I’m in a jolly good mood indeed, if I do say so myself. Enjoy your Friday.

What’s wrong with English football? English players, mostly!

Hey party people oaf12 here and welcome to Suburban Gooners!

Its been a while since I last blogged (shock horror) and also a while since our last podcast. We decided to take a little pod break in the off season but the SG podcast will be back soon so don’t panic (not that anyone was, I’m sure).

Anyway, with emotional Chris (that’s what I like to call him, but don’t tell him – he’ll get emotional) sunning himself on holiday it has been left to myself and Ben to fill your need for football reading. Therefore, I apologise for the lack of the usual daily posts Chris ‘the blog machine’ usually provides you with.

A lot has happened since our last podcast, like an entire world cup, oh and we signed a certain Mr Sanchez – yeah baby! With more to follow, hopefully!

Now that the WC is over (big congrats to the German Gooners btw) I thought I’d take a look at all this complaining around how the EPL is ruining our national game – poppycock in my opinion! Lol is used the word poppycock :)

A lot of focus has been on introducing quotas around British or English players, I’m really not sure about this.

If these quotas were introduced around the number of players in your squad (such as the home-grown scenario) certain clubs *cough* citeh *cough* would just buy half decent English players, at a premium, to make up the numbers (Jack Rodwell), thus actually ruining said players development and further weakening the teams outside the top 4 – they’d be left with the bottom of the barrel like that hoofy centre back at Stoke.

You could then argue that there should be a quota on how many players are in the starting line-up….not for me I’m afraid sonny!

Imagine a scenario where you had to field 5 British players. So, for example, Wilshere, Ramsey, Walcott, Ox, Gibbs – one would presume that most managers will fill the other six places with non-British players who may be better, but certainly wouldn’t cost as much. What happens when the next promising youngster looks like making it? One wouldn’t be crazy in thinking that the manager wouldn’t ‘risk’ them – keep that exciting prospect on standby just in case one of our quota gets injured. Not sure that would be great for them. Plus those idiots at Old Trafford would probably double Shreks wages again!

The other issue I can foresee would be the top teams pillaging the lesser teams youth system. This could cripple the smaller clubs in terms of sales and would lead to stockpiles of young British talent at the bigger clubs – farcical!

My main reasoning for not wanting a quota system is that, in my opinion, if you’re good enough – you will play! Regardless of nationality! I’m excited that the premier league has a plethora of talent on display and that it is multinational. Top players won’t want to come here if we make them out to be a problem. If anything they probably help – if you ask Carl Jenkinson if he’d rather have been learning from that French guys with the dreads that has joined the mercenaries at citeh or Justin Hoyte, I’m sure you could make an educated guess at the answer.

If England really want to make an impact they need to do a Germany and start again! However, they also need to get the obvious stuff right i.e. don’t build a team around a team that chocked under pressure, had a biter that carried them through the season and didn’t win anything – surely that’s obvious!

How Henderson played more World Cup games than Wilshere is beggar’s belief. I can understand the Gibbs injury prone worry but how many players were never getting a game anyway? Take a left back that plays champions league football!

The real reason we are scared to start again and field are youngsters must be that we don’t have enough talent, so we go halfway. Imagine an international team running at Shaw, Evans, Smalling, Jenkinson – scary thought!

In conclusion, I don’t think clubs should be forced into quotas. It’s Wenger’s job to make Arsenal better, not England.

That’s the job of the FA – get the coaching sorted, learn from others, observe best practice and invest in grass roots….in the meantime, if Gibbs, Wilshere, Ox and Walcott are fit, make sure they bloody well play!

Sorry for the rambling :)

Cheers all

oaf out!

The player boost of a big name

With the dust still settling from the euphoria of the Sanchez signing on Thursday evening, there’s nothing like a bit of player commentary on the signing to keep the likes of you and I enthralled with what Arsenal have achieved this week, so it was that the Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey comments begin to seed their way through mainstream media for us to gorge ourselves on.

It’s always pleasing to see the players talk so glowingly about signings like Sanchez. It shows how highly they rate players of his ilk and also gives you a very real indication of the boost his arrival will have on the club even before he has even struck a ball in anger. I hope he does strike a ball in anger. Straight at Nasri’s face in the Community Shield in a few weeks time.

This kind of boost is exactly what we all needed as the World Cup draws to a close and the rhetoric coming from Ivan Gazidis about the work ‘not being finished yet’ is all the more pleasing to hear. It shows the club are taking this summer very seriously in terms of delivering a squad that is capable of challenging on multiple fronts and the strong links to Remy, Khedira, Bender and Debuchy (who by all accounts I know is done, but I suspect the club are riding the crest of the Alexis wave, before hitting us with another adrenaline shot of transfer goodness early next week) are most welcome at this early stage of the summer.

Supposedly the oil-whores are sniffing around Khedira with a view to adding yet another midfielder to their burgeoning ranks. Much like the Liverpool/Sanchez rumours that surfaced a couple of weeks ago, I’d trust that if Arsene is after Khedira then the conversations have already taken place and he’ll have a good chance of landing his man. I’m not so sure about Khedira though, if I’m honest, because he is much more in the Ramsey mould than the natural defensive midfielder who can slot in to the full back slots. He’s intelligent enough to do it, but that is in the same way that Arteta is not a naturally defensive midfielder, but has been able to adapt his game over the years. I suppose I shouldn’t be too worried; Arsene took a wide playing Thierry Henry and turned him into the greatest centre forward the club has ever had, so if there is willing from Khedira to become that midfield enforcer that we need, I think it would be a good signing. I’d probably prefer a Lars or Sven Bender though. But that’s mainly because I’ve watched a couple of ITV3 highlight shows of the Bundesliga and seen Lars slot in at right back and look so natural.

Speaking of right backs, I really have no idea why we have this Javier Manquillo link coming our way from Atletico Madrid, unless Arsene has lost faith in Jenkinson and is looking to cash in. IT would be a shame because I still think he has the potential to break through, but as somebody on Twitter mentioned to me yesterday, perhaps he is being considered as a convert into the centre of defence. He certainly has the build for it, but whether or not Le Boss could just wave a magic wand and voila, we have a back up to Per and Kos, I’m not so sure. He’ll need games in that position and that would mean a loan spell is agreed with the player. There’s talk of him going in at Newcastle, but i’d expect him to operate as a replacement to the departing Debuchy, which wouldn’t give him any real experience as a centre half if that is where Arsene sees his future. Again, second guessing what Arsene’s plans are is like turning water into wine, and we haven’t had one of those guys doing it for us for a couple of thousand years.

Tonight we’ll see one of the single most pointless football matches in all history – third/fourth place play off. I could understand it’s existence if, like the Olympics, there was some kind of Gold, Silver and Bronze system in place, but there isn’t. You’re playing for ‘pride’. I’d wager both teams would rather be playing on the beach with their family members whilst on holiday. But, like any football fan, I’ll still tune in tonight and watch and hope that there’s a decent game on display and no diving Robben’s. Again, might need a bit of that water to wine fella in that instance.

That’s all from me today. I’m moving house on Monday so I have a flat to deconstruct. 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.

The ‘punch you in the face’ days

Eurgh, today can just go back to the shadows, as far as I’m concerned. A late night (family birthday party) and an early start as usual for me today have conspired to deliver me the kind of ‘punch in the face’ feeling that you get when you haven’t had your minimum quota of hours sleep as a Suburban Gooner. This results in a grump Chris.

What doesn’t help is that it’s drizzly, half-hearted rain that greets me on this Wednesday morning, which feels like Mother Nature has decided to have a bit of a lie in and can’t really be arsed to deliver her full wrath on the land.

Oh, did I mention there’s also bugger all going on too, in relation to The Arsenal today? Obviously there are other things happening in the world, like me being forced to earn my magic beans by working in The City today, but don’t cry for me internet. Don’t cry for me.

The club did indeed announce Big Per as the runner up in the player of the season competition and, as surely is the case today, Aaron Ramsey will pick up another winning gong today when the inevitable is announced. Almost as inevitable as a presidential race in Syria, but not quite, methinks.

As I’ve already said previously, it’s a deserved reward for a player who has shown that against all adversity, the heights of success can be scaled. I kind of have a hope that Carl Jenkinson has the same progression now actually. I see similarities in the two players, actually, albeit that Aaron was in the first team at a much younger age. There was promise, a decent enough start to the career, then a major setback in terms of injury, followed by an extended period of recovery which had many questioning whether he would ever really ‘make it’ and now finally he’s blossomed into an absolute star. Barring the injury, Jenkinson’s Arsenal career feels like he’s trodden a similar path: The initial promise, some (shorter term) injuries, not getting too many games and stuttering a bit, to which we now find him with an opportunity to stake a genuine claim for the first team with the departure of Sagna.

That’s why I’ve already said how important I think this pre season will be for him. Get a good one under the belt, and he could find himself first choice for the start of the season, regardless of who comes in.

Eurgh, I know it’s wrong, but I’m sooo going to get me some Sugar Free Red Bull when I get off this tube. And another thing, why the friggerdy frigate are there a bazillion peoples on my train today. CAN’T THEY SEE I’M IN A GRUMPY MOOD? WHY COULDN’T THEY HAVE WAITED FIVE MINUTES AND GOT ANOTHER TRAIN!!!

Ahem, apologies for that, must learn to cage the rage when penning thoughts. I could always delete that last para, but I’m in a ‘canny be bothered’ mood, which means re-reading any of the mindless rubbish I jot down is not on top of my agenda right now.

So, what else can we have a talk about? How about a whacky shout for a signing? Brede Hangeland. 32 years old, decent enough centre half, free transfer after Fulham terminated his wages, and would certainly know his place as a rotational squad player. His position in the squad would be useful and it doesn’t add any Billy ‘Big Balls’ mentality that might come with having to shell out £10million on getting a decent number three centre back. Everyone wins in my opinion. Especially Arsene, as he can keep his cash in his pocket in one troubled position and use it to invest more in other areas. Heck, if he goes out and buys Remy for £8million, he’s got a big old bit of crust for a Bender, Aurier and maybe a ‘heart-over-head’ move for Fabregas too. Simples.

Look what this summer has done to me. I’m talking all things transfers and sounding enthusiastic about it. What I need is for the club to announce a new sponsorship deal. That’ll really give me something to sink my teeth in to.

Anyway, that’ll do for today’s rambliness I think, unless you fancy me carrying on about the morons that are flicking their copies of Metro in front of me without reading them properly? No? Thought not.

Ciao for now.

Transfer marshland; Corporal needs a good pre season

Right, well, I guess the season is well and truly over now and we’re knee deep in Transferland; a grim marshy sort of place which retains the stories of speculative journo ‘punts’ on signings within its boggy floor. As we wade through we see the ghosts of Sebastian Frey’s past and Julian Draxler’s present and, in our darkest hour, it will feel like all the happiness in the world has dissolved into nothing.

As expected, the first movements of players are starting, but they are outgoing the club rather than incoming. The confirmation that Swansea have captured Lukas Fabianski has now been made public by the Welsh side and you have to think that with less pressure and more games he’ll be a decent addition for them. Certainly he’ll have more to do by the way of pulling off a few good saves. At Arsenal you can go a whole game with relatively little to do but collect the ball from the odd in-swinger.

Fabianski has always been a line keeper that can pull off stunning saves, so one expects he’ll get more opportunity to show that at the Swans, in which case we wish him well in all but a minimum of two Premier League games next season.

Likewise, Bacary Sagna made it abundantly clear he will be exiting stage right when his contract expires in June, talking to L’Equipe (have I spelt that right?) and confirming he’ll be offski. Again, he’s served his time at Arsenal well, provided us with some good moments and probably deserves that big payday he’ll get at City. Of course, unlike Fabianski, I hope he has a written season in which Moneychester City fail miserably in the league. One things for sure, if he plays against us we should be less concerned about his delivery of balls into the box.

For me, there seems to be a bit too much ‘woe is me’ from some sections of the Arsenal fan base about Sagna’s departure. Yes he is a good right back, a decent asset to have, but has everyone forgotten how distinctly average he has been going forward since he joined us? I even nicknamed him ‘can’t cross, won’t cross, shouldn’t have crossed’ when I was at the ground over the last few years. When you compare his delivery to that of The Corporal, they are miles apart.

The only problem with the Corporal taking up the mantle is that he looks a little bit like a headless chicken in defence sometimes. His positioning hasn’t always been the best and there’s been a couple of relatively high-profile mistakes last season which caused concern for Gooners when thinking about him as a long term option. I’ve always maintained that he’s probably a player that needs a run of games to find his feet – something he has admitted over the last week too – but we aren’t in a position where we can be blooding players on the off-chance they’ll turn out to be world-class.

That’s why I think this pre-season will be essential for him. If he plays a lot of games and looks the part, we could see a bit of a Ramsey situation, whereby he carries that in to the start of the season and Arsene picks him regularly. I remember reading match reports from the pre-season friendlies and all the talks were about how impressive Ramsey had looked. If Jenkinson can get into that position then I’d give him a real chance to keeping that right back spot. The only trouble he’s got, however, is that playing in that position doesn’t exactly put you in front row, centre, of the watching eyes like playing in the middle of the park did. So Ramsey had an easier job to get noticed than Carl.

Can he emulate the Welshman? Time will tell.

Is anybody else a little bit worried about the Rickie Lambert transfer to Liverpool? Not because I think the player will end up being a star and bag loads of goals, but more of what it will do to inflate the prices in the transfer window. £9million for a 32 year old seems an extortionate amount of money and if that is where the bar is being set, I fear that Arsene, Dick and Ivan will be running a mile every time they go to the negotiation table for a player. If £9million for Lambert and £50million for Luiz represent the initial business done, our pressing need for five players to fit the £100million purse we have, suddenly becomes a little less significant.

Perhaps I’m being a little bit too pessimistic. But can you blame me after last summer?

There’s not really a lot else going on at the moment. I’m still playing Gold Member chicken with the club, but the waiting list will still be so long that they’ll be another waiting in my place if I don’t renew, it’s like a medieval war where the soldiers are just replaced as soon as they fall. Of course I’ll renew and I’ll be glad that I did, I just wish they could give us the season ticket for free on account of all the cash the club stockpile.

Anyway, catch you tomorrow, enjoy your Friday.

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.

Defensive solidity the key to our successful season

Howdy there fellow Gooners. Hope you are enjoying your Saturday. It’s a bank holiday here in Blighty, which is fan-diddly-tastic because it stretches the weekend more than Steve Bruce in under sized lycra.

Yesterday’s blog was supposed to be focused on reviewing how I think the defence performed but, with all of the noises coming out about Sagna’s mega deal at City, I kind of got side tracked. I guess the news that defenders are getting bumper deals is becoming quite the norm these days, what with Paris Saint Germain literally losing the plot and bidding £40million for the Brazilian Sideshow Bob, which will inevitably mean a massive payday for what is arguably the most overpriced player since Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll did the transfer deadline day merry-go-round a few years back. Financial Fair Play you say? Nah, that memo clearly didn’t get delivered in the capital of France. Either that or their billionaire owners simply retired to a cave in the Alps, stuck their fingers in their eyes and sang Sam Smith until the news sort of went away.

Anyway, today is a new day and it’s a day in which I want to have a look at our defence which, let’s be honest and say that it was probably the most impressive part of this Arsenal team this season. If we’re talking about a collective unit that is. For years since the Invincibles we’ve had defence after defence that has been dragged over hot coals by the press. In some cases it’s been warranted; Senderos, Gallas, et al have hardly proved to be the defensive stalwarts at the heart of the team, whilst a few of average full backs like Santos and Eboue have hardly managed to give us the types of players needed that we think could take us to the lofty heights that we’ve scaled this season.

Part of it is down to finding stability. We’ve managed to field the same four or five defenders for most of the season and that intimate knowledge of what your other defenders are going to do is integral to building momentum. Perhaps injuries have been the key sticking point to why we haven’t found a defensive unit capable of snuffing out a game like this team has until now, but the results of this seasons exploits are there for all to see: twenty four clean sheets in all competitions and a string of 2-0′s that seemed to become the new ‘one nil to the Arsenal’ pattern of play at one stage.

And yet we’ve still managed to show signs of implosion that have dwarfed previous seasons in terms of the volume of heavy defeats. We all thought the defeat away to City would be a one off and, after stabilising the ship and managing to hold on to the top spot up until February it felt like that was the case, but heavy losses to Liverpool and Chelski still showed that for all the hard defensive work that had been done by the team, we still have problems defensively at times. What was most strange about those heavy defeats were that they came completely out of the blue. We hadn’t really been on big losing streaks before any of them, so it’s difficult to say that confidence was rock bottom, but the way in which we played in those big games was borderline suicidal some times. High lines, defensive wobbles, it all looked as though the players had been fed some Tottenham flavoured lasagna. It’s almost as if the karma gods (yes, here I go again) have approach Arsene at the start of the season and said “you can have a load of clean sheets this year, but we have to reallocate all the goals you would have conceded to individual games. Deal?”, to which Arsene literally would have bitten their hands off.

Certainly, if we’re to win the league next year, we need to have a look at how the team reacts in those big games. Perhaps there needs to be a bit more pragmatism in those games rather than a Rocky Balboa inspired slug-fest when we go away from home?

Anyway, let’s not dwell too much on the disappointing results because, by and large, this season has been a good one. The central defensive pairing of Per and Kos have looked immaculate at times. Per is the leader of the four; the talker, the marshal, built in the Tony Adams mould and every bit the captain of the side in my opinion. He doesn’t have the pace but has excellent positioning, something that Adams was always a master of. But even the great Tony Adams was only as good as long as he had the right man beside him, which is why having Koscienly in the team has been so integral to his success. Kos has the pace, the ability to track the nippy runner and despite having a penchant for the occasional tackle in the box leading to a penalty, he has saved us on a number of occasions. Their central defensive performances this season will probably have led to the exit door being opened wide for Vermaelen, but providing both remain fit next season, you can’t help but think we’re in safe hands for another go at the league. As Liverpool have already shown, you can’t win the league with a leaky back four, so if we can augment the team with the right reinforcements and bed in whoever replaces Sagna, then I think we’ve got a great chance to going that extra few steps and winning the league.

So to Sagna. We all know he’s off and, much like many bloggers and Arsenal fans that I have read/spoken to, it’s hard to shoehorn him into the mould of That Dutch Bloke, Nasri, or any of the other players that have bolted for places like Moneychester City. Sagna has given seven years, he’s played well this season and he’s shown that even with most of the world in acknowledgement that he won’t be playing for the club next season, he’s done everything he can to give Arsenal glory. He’s even shown his versatility this season filling in at centre half. He will be a tough player to replace, but at 31 he’s probably only got another two years of top flight football to play before he’ll need to be replaced himself and so all that’s needed to happen this season is that we fast-track a replacement a couple of years earlier than expected. For what its worth I’m not sure that Jenkinson is that player long term, but I certainly think he has a role to play and, if given games, who knows. I still think we need to fill the void left by Sagna’s inevitable departure, but that discussion can be for another day.

On the left hand side of the defence we’ve not looked as strong as we have done since Cashley Cole and Silvinho were duking it out for the left back slot. Gibbs has improved a lot this season and is clearly the better of the two left backs, but he’s been pushed all the way by Nacho Monreal, who I think has done well when he’s been asked. There are some that have chastised the Spaniard’s performances in games like City away, but I think we should be mindful of the fact that he has not been able to get too big a run of games in the first team. Momentum – as I said earlier in the blog – is very important in football and his season has been very stop-start in that respect, so I don’t think you can hold it against him.

Overall we’ve seen a massive improvement from the team defensively and that has been made all the more evident by our league position and the increase in clean sheets. There are still some kinks to iron out but it’s hard not to think that the effort of the defence this year have been outstanding in the most part.

Back tomorrow with a look at the midfield.

Trying to understand Sagna’s motives

I had wanted to take today’s blog and have a look across our whole defensive line today, so perhaps it was fitting that the contract news about Bacary Sagna securing himself a bumper payday by agreeing a £120,000-a-week deal with Moneychester City seems to have broken across multiple media areas.

I had a brief chat on Twitter with Tim Stillman (well, when you’ve only got 140 characters every chat – no matter how many exchanges – will always be brief) about the extremes of how much more money impacts a situation like this one that we find ourselves in. I find it hard to imagine how, when you’re earning a certain amount i.e. Millions and millions, that money really has too much of an impact on your life. There’s only so many fast cars, houses and holidays one can have before one starts becoming wasteful (you can only drive one car at a time, after all!) and so to somebody earning £14million over a four year period, does it make a massive impact on their life if they’re earning £28million. I’m still not sure. Tim’s valid point was that it’s about perspectives i.e. A £10k pay rise to a person earning £30k a year will seem an unnecessary increase to somebody earning considerably less. I get that. The person earning that much more can look at doing more things with their lives, perhaps going on a more expensive holiday than they would, but to the person not going on holiday it seems an extravagance even going on one.

I still, however, am not sure why money remains an issue to multi millionaires. Particularly in this case. More than anything else, my surprise comes when I look at where Sagna is going to, rather than the fact that he’ll get a bumper pay rise. We can all talk about greed, about the haves and have nots, but Sagna has never struck me as anybody who wants to do anything except make the most of his time on the pitch. So why City? Surely he could walk into PSGs team and play week-in, week-out? Why join a team who already have a world-class right back with whom, whilst he’ll play, he won’t play regularly.

Sagna will probably only get between 15 to 20 games next season, which to a player who is now reaching the autumn of his playing career, that seems a bit surprising. He’s good enough to walk into most teams in Europe and play regularly, so why choose the blue half of Manchester? I’ve heard some say that his family might want to remain in the UK (although why Manchester is beyond me. It has more rainfall than the tropics every time I go there) which I can understand. But He would most certainly get himself into the red half of Manchester and, as much as we’ve all found it hilarious to see United’s fall from grace this past season, I cannot in my wildest dreams imagine they will be as poor as they’ve been with Van Gaal taking charge with a supposed bulging wallet to improve the team.

You might think this is the bitter war-cry of the disappointed Gooner, perhaps that is a little bit true, but more than anything else I’m just trying to understand the motives. After all, if you take a ‘generic everyman’ example of the £30k guy being told they can get an extra £10k per annum, if they could earn that across a number of different companies and therefore could take their pick, would they opt for the company that has the biggest brand where they might not feel as valued through their time, over a smaller company where they will feel valuable at work every day in which they go in to it?

Or, perhaps we should throw in a conspiracy theory, as Gareth Stringer suggested in the same conversation string I had yesterday. What if, after two broken legs and a long season this year in which he played around 50 games, Sagna realised that his body probably couldn’t cope with another full season of top flight football, hence why he’s going to a place in which he can earn more, yet his body is not worked as hard. A sort of ‘winding down’ period before he retires. It’s one heck of a conspiracy theory, I’ll say that much, but if there was some semblance of truth behind it then you’d have to say that Moneychester City is the perfect fit for him and he’s a clever lad for timing it perfectly. I’d raise a glass to his planning if that were the case.

Anyway, I’ll probably have to finish off a review of the rest of the defence tomorrow, because you don’t want another thousand words bolted on to this online monologue on a Friday.

See thee in the morrow.

UEFA line their pockets, Koscienly signs and small cup final advantages

Good morrow unto thee.

Got a spare £50million quid lying around? Actually, scrap that, because spread over three years it works out to just over £16.5million, so you don’t even have to have all the cash up front.

That’s the new price UEFA have put on being a billionaire football club owner it seems, as Moneychester City will be required to stump up that hefty sum (well, by most clubs’ standards) for breaching Financial Fair Play rules. It’s an interesting fine; it shows not only UEFA’s taste for stealth taxation to fatten their own pockets, but also they lack of understanding on the purpose of a ‘sanction’ i.e. designed to punish for wrongdoings.

Still, they haven’t completely bottled it, it seems. They’ve set a restriction on the number of registered players City can use in next seasons Champions League. We’ll ignore the fact that City used approximately 21 players anyway in this seasons competition and focus on the fact that at least some kind of punishment is being used to somewhat hit the perpetrators where it hurts.

Of course, City could oppose the sanctions – would probably get it reduced – then just end up paying for UEFA’s Christmas Party, but let’s all chastise the governing body as and when that becomes a reality.

For now, let’s turn our gaze back to The Arsenal, most specifically the rumours that the club has tied Laurent Koscienly down to a new five year deal. That, if true, will be a great move by the club to tie down another integral player on a long contract and thus avoid another troublesome transfer saga in summers to come. If announced, it will mean Per, Santi, Ramsey, Theo, The Ox, Gnabry, Gibbs et al have all committed longer term futures to the club and we can look towards supplementing the squad with more talent in the summer to give us a chance of having a ‘real good go’ next season.

What I love about Koscienly is his mentality. He’s a grafter, yet he’s happy to just get on with his job and do it well, compared to some of the other chest-thumping centre halfs in the league. You look at the Terry’s and the Cahill’s of the division and you see players who will track back, win a tackle and make as much noise as possible to show how they’ve salvaged a situation. None of that from our Kos, thank you kindly. Because he doesn’t need to. He knows how good he is. He knows what it means for the team and with Mertesacker beside him, they’ve shown how important a solid central defensive partnership can be if you have two players that compliment each other so well.

Let’s not take anything away from our full backs, but those two at the heart of the defence have been brilliant this year, the foundation from which our early season form was built on. With Sagna offski in a matter of weeks, consistency is key and whoever we bring in to replace the Frenchman at right back, you sense that they will stand a better chance of getting off to a good start if they’re supported by our two first choice centre backs.

Who that could be could and should be left to imaginations right now, because we’ve still got a couple of actual football matches to worry about, but I guess we shouldn’t let a little bit of truth get in the way for the click whores of the gutter press. I’ll nee be linking to any particular stories, I can tell you that much though.

One final point before I sign off for the day – looks like David Meyler might be in a spot of bother for a stamp on Adnan Januzaj in last nights dead rubber at. Old Trafford. It looked like a pretty nasty one if I’m honest. Does it make me a bad person that I’m sort of glad about a possible suspension for the cup final? I mean, I know we should be able to beat any Hull team that Steve Bruce puts out come May 17, but any potential advantage we can gain from any player absence is a-okay by me. If he is found guilty it will be a further weakening of our cup final opponents which I’m all for.

That’s it from me today, so there’s nothing left for me to do other than let you know that after a little bit of a sabbatical on the Podcasting over the last couple of weeks, Steve, Ben and I recorded one last night for your listening pleasure. Have a listen by clicking on the podcast link above. We talk about West Brom (briefly), transfers (extensively) and some of the other clubs in our division (regrettably).

Catch you tomorrow.