When did we all become so angry?

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

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

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

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

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

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

When did everyone become so angry?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See y’all tomorrow.

Giroud’s injury works for nobody

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Injuries not as feared, but transfer business might be

Happy Friday to thee my dearest of Arsenal supporting friends. I hope you are in ‘end of the week’ mode and savouring the prospect of an extra day away from the monotony thanks to this Bank Holiday we have been gifted in the UK. If you’re outside the UK and don’t get said holiday, please feel free to email, tweet or direct message me your ‘nur-nicky-nur-nur’s when such a time is afforded to you, yet isn’t in Blighty.

I also get the added benefit of getting to stop by a bar a stones throw away from the ground tonight. A friend of mine is moving to the States for a few months and he’s having a send off on Holloway Road, which is fabulous, because I’ll probably swing by the Emirates on my way just to say high to the place. Is that sad? Probably. I mean, it certainly doesn’t look the same with a man and his dog wandering past it as the patrons of the place, but I don’t care. It’s my/our Cathedral and I’ll visit it when I want thank you very much.

So, what’s happening in the world of Arsenal then, eh?

Well, as expected, Arsene had his presser yesterday (taking the more sensible approach to my suggestion yesterday) and was quizzed on a manner of topics ahead of the visit to Everton. Most importantly, the injuries, to which it appears only Mikel Arteta will be absent from the team line up at the moment. That’s great news because by the sounds of it there were a few players carrying knocks – like Koscienly – and if Arsene is stating that we have a decent compliment of players then that’s a-ok by me.

The next few games will certainly be interesting from a midfield perspective. With the captain out for probably what will be a couple of weeks minimum, it gives Le Boss the opportunity to let other players stake a claim, most notably Flamini, who will hope that a good showing against The Toffees grants Arteta extended leave from the first eleven. But also, with an impending ban in Europe about to befall Ramsey after his two cards in midweek, it means that there is a bit of a selection decision for one of the other three midfield roles. One would imagine that Mesut Özil will slip in to that midfield against Besiktas, so I think Arsene will probably also ease him in against Everton, so I’d be surprised if he started.

I think the same goes for Per based purely on the initial form (I know, difficult to fall ‘form’ on just three games, but I am so there) of the newbie Chambers. His excellent displays certainly warrant a starting berth in Merseyside tomorrow and, after Arsene spoke so glowingly about Chambers in the press conference, you’d expect him to feature tomorrow. What I did like about what Arsene was saying though, was when he spoke about Chambers getting a call up to the England team, as is now the case with the media chomping at he bit to see him in a white shirt. Like Arsene, I think it’s great that Arsenal players are recognised for their country, but there is also the worry of that inevitable burden placed on one so young. Remember when Jack first got into the England team? “Saviour of England!” they said. “The new Gazza” they said. Yet a few long injuries and a couple of years down the line and the media are picking up on every misplaced pass Wilshere does. It’s pathetic really, but we don’t really want that to happen to Chambers, so the calls for him to get into the England side should be tempered with realistic expectation that he won’t be the England captain and the greatest centre half this country has ever seen by this time next season.

There’ll inevitably more of an assessment on Everton tomorrow by yours truly, but Arsene was asked about the opponents tomorrow and gave an interesting assessment, effectively calling the 3-0 defeat a ‘one-off’ that happens once or twice a season. I understand what he’s saying, but the problem we had last year was that actually it turned out to be more of a ‘four-off’ with heavy defeats to rivals around us. I remember the unfortunate Arteta own goal during the match, but I have to try and think of the other goals and I don’t recall there being to much unusual about them, other than the fact that given our miserly defence at the start of the season, you wouldn’t have expected us to cave so easily as we did in the second half of the season. But hey, that’s history now, so let’s bury those painful memories. What will be interesting tomorrow will be to see whether Martinez changes much against Arsenal. Last season he was credited with being a tactical genius by putting Lukaku on the right hand side. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him do it again, so let’s see if Arsene has learnt his lesson and Monreal he’s more cover in this seasons game.

Inevitably, talk turned to transfers, as well as the question over the regrets that Fabregas now plays for the London based oil-whoring-football-lottery West London team. Of course you’re never going to get Arsène to show a position of weakness in his judgement and decision-making, so he denied that he regrets not re-signing Fabregas. But actually, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t, mainly because of a debate I saw on Twitter (I forget who, sorry) which talked about the style of Fabregas no longer being applicable to our team. I actually think this is true. Fabregas is a quarter back in my eyes. He’s a scorer of goals, but he’s also a picked of passes through the middle. Pacey centre forwards are integral to that and whilst we have that in Alexis and Theo (eventually), through balls finding Giroud with grass running into would be a waste of a good through ball. With Giroud up top, you may as well smash the triangle button on your PlayStation.

Our build up is more patient now, more methodical, and with Özil pulling the strings, we have a player who is more suited to our style of play. The time for an Arsenal team to be built around Cesc has long gone. Özil is the star that we must build around.

As for other transfers, Le Boss gave us no real indication that he is on the verge of something special, despite what Twitter says every working day of every working minute. I think we’ll bring in another centre half, but my gut feeling is that it will be a case of “that concludes our business for this summer. Congratulations!”

I hope it isn’t. I hope Arsène makes a statement. I think most Arsenal fans do actually. It’s why the Cavani rumours have been seized upon by Arsenal fans so readily. We would love another Mesut Özil mega-signing to accompany the brilliant signing of Alexis that would have us all getting even more excited than we already are for the new season. But if we are all honest with ourselves, if we’re all asked to realistically give a percentage chance of us signing Edison Cavani from PSG, I don’t think there would be many that would rate it even as high as 25%.

So let’s start to accept what we’ve got, hope we do a bit of strengthening, then pray that injuries don’t mount like they have done every single season since 03/04.

Have a good one peeps.

The ‘walk with me’ presser and accepting our lot

Morning, morning, morning.

Hope all is well and you’re excited about how your Thursday is/has panned out. My week is dragging I have to say. Longer than usual hours due to volume of work at, err, work, means that I’ve become a bit of an early bird. The net effect of which is that I have aching limbs in every part of my body and I feel like I’ve been punched in the face. By Lennox.

I wonder if Arsene has days like this. I wonder if there are certain parts of his job that he’d just rather roll over to Annie Wenger and say “not for me today, dear, do me a favour and call in sick for me”. I’d imagine it probably is a day like today actually, as he’ll have no doubt bought forward his press-conference duties by a day so his team can be on the road and ready to go tomorrow. Personally, I’d use it as a really good excuse to leave a press conference early, if I had a bus to catch for an away game. In fact, to really put those pesky hacks off, I’d tell them they have two minutes, then I’d get them to follow me to the bus and in the five minutes it takes to get to the bus they can ask questions until I board and they can physically no longer even hear my responses. But hey, professionalism in sport and all that.

The big question marks that you and I want answered is how long Arteta and Gibbs are out for. They have been the latest casualties for the last week and will be the most pressing concern for the manager. There are people that I’ve seen suggest that because Arteta is only potentially going to be out for a couple of weeks, that it will scupper any chances of buying another defensive midfielder, which I don’t really buy if I’m honest. Every noise from every corner of the Arsenal online and offline community is that he’s on the lookout for a ball winning midfielder as well as a centre-half. He’s not going to have his thinking swayed based on a minor injury to a first team player, so I don’t think there’s too much to be gained from hoping that Arteta is out for long enough for Le Boss to pick up a replacement over the next two weeks.

The reality is that we have cover in both players’ position if we need it, and I don’t think any of us should be too overly concerned in the short term about the ability for Flamini to slot into that holding role, as well as Monreal to fill the good left by Gibbs’ untimely injury. For the last two games I actually think Monreal has performed very well. Once or twice he was overloaded against Besiktas, but he wasn’t helped by the complete absence of Santi during stages of the game.

Transfer season is also called ‘silly season’ for a reason (hey that rhymed!), so it doesn’t surprise me to see people suddenly clamouring for replacements in injured positions. I guess then, it shouldn’t surprise me that after a shoddy performance in Turkey, the “Giroud needs to be replaced with a world class centre forward” opinions have been more vocal over the last 24 hours. I should caveat this current direction of the blog by saying that I don’t think Giroud is world class. Given the pedigree of the last three or four of his predecessors (That Dutch Bloke, Adebayor and Henry), I do think we have become accustomed to brilliant strikers and so the expectation level is heightened in that position, and I wonder if Giroud will ever get close to becoming that 30 goal a season striker. But it does make me smile that people have become even more desperate on the back of one game. It’s almost as if many spent the summer trying to convince themselves that he is something he is not.

Look, let’s all be realistic with each other here. Olivier Giroud is a target man. He’s a Gallic version of Duncan Ferguson. He was good in the air, popped up with a few goals and was a very useful Everton player, but was never the all-singing, all-dancing, goalscoring centre forward. Not to my ageing memory anyway. Yaya Sanogo looks to be in the same mould, which I think is telling actually, because it does show that Arsene’s preferred style is to have a big target man who can hold up the ball with his back to goal and bring others into play. It’s always going to be difficult to bang in goals every week when you’re facing the wrong direction most of the time!

So that being the case, you have to look at the way we are set up, and wonder if Arsene has a specific job for those two Frenchman, and it ain’t to Luis Suarez up the division. Goals, obviously, not the bitey racism stuff. Their role in the team is to ensure that they bring midfield runners and pacey wide men into play by keeping hold of the ball, distributing well and weighing in with a few poacher goals. That’s how I’m seeing this team line up, anyway, although I admit I’m no tactical genius when it comes to analysis of modern day professional football.

Arsene has stocked up with pacey wide men and midfield runners for a reason, and I’d be surprised if it’s because he’s going to buy a Falcao to be the focal point of the team (would be nice though I admit).

I had a very quick discussion with http://www.twitter.com/yankeegunner last night about the Giroud situation, to which I mentioned that the word on the Marvin Gaye is that Arsene is planning on using Alexis through the middle, which again would suggest that we’re unlikely to see another centre forward. I know this would blow my theory about a big strong front man out of the water, but I perhaps it just shifts the thinking along slightly. Perhaps it shows that rather than having the same thinking as the days of the Invincibles, i.e. We have the best 11 players in that position in the world so we don’t need to worry about the opposition, Arsene is shifting his mindset so he can alternate the attacking style of the team to one of three quick runners that can get in behind high lines. Away from home to a Moneychester City, or against an Everton, this might prove to be a good tactic (although injuries will probably dictate that Giroud is up top and Alexis is out wide this weekend), plus it gives Arsenal a little less predictability in the line up.

Whatever players or style Arsene picks, I guess my underlying message here is that I don’t think that however many people are desperately hopeful we will sign a striker, we probably won’t. So we should probably accept our lot and hope that Giroud is effective enough to give us an improvement on goals this season and that the other members of the team also step up and support his efforts with decent tallies.

That’s me done for the day. Once more unto the work-related breach dear friends. Once more.

Until tomorrow when I have to do it all again.

Embracing every advantage

Happy Friday you sexy Gooners!

Well, where to start today, eh? How about last nights breaking news that the most irritating tracksuit-wearing, baseball-cap loving, rugby-football adopting manager has thrown a diva-strop and walked out of Crystal Palace?

If I’m completely honest here, the only reason I am even penning half a thought towards that irksome individual, is due to the close proximity of a certain opening game of the season in which The Eagles visit our home turf on Saturday. Otherwise, it’s fair to say his name wouldn’t even be a footnote in today’s blog, especially as I have no idea how to create footnotes in WordPress.

Quite what his departure – oddly not actually official yet but effectively true what with every media outlet reporting it as such – will do to the Crystal Palace team I’m not sure. It’s quite easy to make an assumption that Palace will throw down their weapons tomorrow evening, but football is never an easy linear equation, so I’m still not expecting anything but a difficult game in which the opponents are extremely tough to break down.

Perhaps their Chairman Steve Parish is secretly an Arsenal fan, because I seem to remember a similar scenario with Ian Holloway just before we visited Selhurst Park last season, so maybe Parish is looking to hand any psychological advantage to The Arsenal that he can?

If I sound a little but too gleeful at the prospect of Palace potentially being rudderless, then I apologise, but in many ways I’m a petty, petty man, and any advantage that the team I support can gain is a-ok with me. It’s why I secretly fist-pump when a player gets sent off when we are playing that team a week of two weeks behind. And although you never wish injury on any person playing the game (well, maybe), there are times where an injury to a rivals key player has been greeted with a comment of “that’s a bit of a touch” from yours truly.

I am somebody who will embrace an advantage for Arsenal like a comforting hug from a parent after you’ve opened up your knees because you we’re slide tackling on gravel that time.

We should have enough to beat Palace without the circus that is now engulfing their club, but this little bonus for us is always handy, so I’ll take it.

What we all really need now is for Arsène to give us an update this morning which includes the words ‘Koscienly’ and ‘fit’ or ‘available for selection’, because he’s the one doubt from last weekend that we really could do with having back. With Chambers performing admirably in place of the German party animal Mertesacker, we looked assured enough, but despite the apparent limitations of the opponents tomorrow, we could really do without the worry that our back four will be fullbacktastic in it’s composition.

An almost inevitable section of the press conference will be dedicated to the prospect of transfers, for which we will get the inevitable “we are not close to signing anybody” commentary from Le Boss which will infuriate some, worry others and cause a bit of shoulder-shrugginess from the most of us. The important thing is that we have enough about us this season to be very excited for the nine months ahead and anything else is just added bonus to the good business already secured. I concede we do need another centre half though, so pull you’re finger out Arsène!

There’s some mutterings of Edison Cavani that appear to be doing the rounds, but I see that as nothing but paper talk, because he’s not looking for another striker and I fully expect the door to be closed on that line of questioning should the hacks decide to go down that route.

There really doesn’t seem to be that much more happening at the moment, other than the Ox’s 21st birthday, so I’ll wish him well wherever he is at the time of me writing this, and do the same to you.

Adios amigos.

Curtain raiser for Chambers, Champions League awaits

A big, hairy, stinking, ‘bleurgh’ this morning. That’s what I’m starting with. And the blame of that ‘bleurgh’ is aimed squarely at the feet of the rail replacement bus service that swings by my house at 5.42 in the morning. It was said offended that woke me up, which in turn woke my bowels up, which has led to me beginning my journey into the smog this morning at 6.15. Tis’ no decent time for a man to be roused from his slumber I can tell thee.

And the biggest irony? That same service is the one I have to get this morning, as I have all week. Someone upstairs is chuckling away at my expense I reckon.

Anyway, enough of personal traumas, let’s move on to collective happiness. Which means all things Arsenal and the fast approaching ‘curtain raiser’ Community Shield match against Momeychester City. We’ll even be reunited with an old friend, in the form of Bacary Sagna, who’ll be able to exchange his views of the world with Arsene from the touchline on Saturday. I know, I know, that probably won’t happen due to Zabaleta’s part in the World Cup final and probably a similar programme to our Germans, who Arsene confirmed in his presser yesterday, won’t take any part.

It leaves an interesting dilemma for Le Boss as to who will partner Koscienly at the back for the game actually, as the absence of Mertesacker and almost inevitable departure of Vermaelen (who Arsene confirmed yesterday we had received bids for and if he wanted to leave he was allowed), means we are somewhat ‘light’ in that department, shall we say?

The obvious candidate appears to be the new arrival Chambers and, although there is a shield up for grabs, let’s all not forget that this is ultimately a friendly. The very fact that Arsene spent a wee but of time championing his young charge (albeit somewhat surprisingly insistent that he will be a defensive midfielder eventually) and his ability to integrate into the team now, would suggest that he will get the nod, certainly you would have thought above Monreal and Miquel. It will be a good opportunity for Chambers to once again prove his credentials as a lad who will be looking to hit the 20 appearance mark come the end of the season, but more importantly it will be interesting to see how he lines up against a quality attack like Citeh’s. I don’t think it’s too unfair to suggest that playing at the heart of the defence is a little bit less forgiving than as a full back, so Calum will be exposed and it will be a good barometer of how much depth we have at centre-half if he comes through relatively unblemished.

Hey, as long as he gives no-neck Nasri a bit of a kicking, he’ll be roared on by us lot and given a heroes cheer.

Arsene also spoke about the unlikeliness of a Khedira transfer to Arsenal. Whilst I’d have been happy with his arrival (who wouldn’t?), I can kind of understand why he wouldn’t be the right choice and if this Carvalho is as much of a brute as some of the YouTube scouts out there make out, he could be a bit more of what we’re looking for. We’ve got enough creative attacking talent in the squad to get us the goals, it’s the more defensive minded players that get a nosebleed when they venture over the halfway line, that I want to see

I still maintain that I don’t think we’ll see any more incomings – obviously if Vermaelen leaves I think we’ll replace though – but I suspect Arsene is still happy enough with his squad and will only move if he hears of somebody falling in his lap.

It’s the Champions League draw today and I don’t know if this is dangerous thinking, but after the FA Cup success and a decent summer of transfer activity so far, I’m really not concerned who we’ll get. We know it will be one of Bilbao, Copenhagen, Besiktas, Lille or Standard Liege. Lille would probably be the most tricky of opponents, but with the players we have in our squad you’d expect us to overcome any of those teams over two legs. We still have to go out there and do the business – of that there is no doubt – but we should have a full compliment of players by the time the first leg comes around, so I’d be hopeful of victory. And hey, we always seem to get the toughest unseeded teams in the competition, so I’m expecting a trip to France for our lads in August.

Lastly but not leastly, it seems as though Members Day yesterday was well received by all involved, which is great to hear. It’s a great opportunity for some of the younger kids to go along and see the players, particularly when many of them won’t be able to go to matches themselves, so you have to applaud the club for putting on an event like this. It does take time, planning and effort to do these sort of things, so we should all be thankful that the club does go that extra mile when it comes to giving fans the opportunity to watch and meet the stars of the upcoming season.

That’s all I gots for today. You have a marvellous one.

Positive team news and the underdogs milking it

Is it me, or has somebody put the brakes on this week? Feels like it. Probably because my working week has consisted of getting up (early), going to work, going for a run, coming home, eating dinner, packing up boxes (house move) and then going to bed. Rinse, lather and repeat…

I really hope this Saturday is worth it and I see players in red and white holding aloft the big silver thing with big ears. That would be nice.

As for the Arsenal world, what with it being a special game n’ all, Arsene had a special news conference a day earlier than most of his usual pressers he tends to do. It wasn’t just the hacks that we’re present at London Colney, but Arsenal bloggers too, of which I might have been there had work meetings not prohibited me from picking up my phone. Never have I felt at the beckon call of my desk jockey role than yesterday, I can assure you. However, such is life and we must move on, hopefully moving on quickly so Saturday arrives.

By all accounts the team news is positive. Despite appearing to limp at the Norwich game, Sagna is available for selection and despite the obvious questions as to whether he deserved a start given his impending departure, Arsene was fairly unequivocal in his response and confirmed that he has no problems with starting a player who will be wearing another teams colours next year. It’s that kind of belief in players, as well as his staunch defence of them in relation to what happens on the pitch, that is why you rarely (Lassana Diarra aside, but he was a bit of a tit anyway with his bulging beluga forehead) see players have a bad word to say about him – even after they leave a club. You can question their loyalty to The Arsenal, but I don’t think you can question that they don’t all hold an affection for Arsene.

I suspect Bac will play, but Fabianski is a whole other ball-related sport, as Arsene expectedly neither confirmed nor denied whether he would be starting. More on a team line up in the match preview on Saturday, but suffice to say I think we’ll see our strongest team out against Hull, which may mean now space for Lukasj.

There were the usual stupid questions about both players contracts and Arsene’s contract himself, to which he obviously didn’t answer, but there was also an understandable interest in the fitness of Jack and The Ox. The latter is a late fitness test away from being available and as much as I’m sure he’d try to move heaven and earth to be part of this cup final on Saturday, there’s no point risking a player who has already spent half the season out with a serious knee injury. Apparently Arsenal we’re extra cautious with Jack’s injury problem, so one would hope that a precedent has been set there, with The Ox only coming back if he is 100% able-bodied.

Le Boss was asked about the fact that nine years without a trophy (has it really been that long? Why haven’t the media informed us of this up until this point?) and whether or not this would play on the minds of the players at all in the run up. Whilst I raised an eyebrow when he admitted it might add some more pressure (put your Wenger Bingo cards away – he never mentioned ‘mental strength’ once) on the team, he did move to reassure the more apprehensive of us (I’ll raise my hand in full acknowledgement of that) that when the players get on to the pitch it will be different. A sentiment echoed by Ramsey the day before and hopefully something we get to see come 5pm early Saturday evening.

He is right though. Appearing in a big stadium at a big game is not something that should, in theory, phase these Arsenal players. They do it on a regular basis both domestically and across Europe; I guess the difference a quite heavy silver trophy perched on the edge of the pitch can make is quite substantial though.

Will Arsenal take Hull lightly and think they have this competition won though? I don’t think so. The team and manager are making all the right noises about respecting the opponents, but I guess the only real way to tell that will be the performance in roughly 56 hours from when I write this piece, so we’ll probably know an hour or two after that. It’s no secret that Arsene won’t set up his team to counter Hull’s strengths, but that’s not a lack of respect, it’s the hallmark of a manager who has never really ‘done’ tactics.

Hull are certainly milking the ‘underdogs’ card to carry favour with the neutrals and the rest of the UK, but we knew that would happen, so let’s just hope there isn’t upsets two years running. This rubbish I’ve seen from David Meyler about us already thinking we’ve won it because signs have appeared in London mentioning a potential victory parade is another attempt to eke a bit more public support. The ‘Big Bad Red and White Wolf’ thinks the job is already done, or so he’d have the world believe, but the reality is that unbeknownst to Mr Meyler (who should not even be allowed to play at Wembley after his stamp on a United player over a week ago) London is quite big and to get the right permissions for a special event where roads are closed, you kind of need a bit more than 24 hours to ensure you have the right crowd safety and policing requirements in place.

But let’s let them milk their underdog status. As long as we’re FA Cup winners come Sunday morning, I’ll not be too precious, maybe…

Anyway, that will do from me today, I have another day of work getting in the way of an FA Cup countdown so I’ll say my farewells and catch you on the flip side. Or something like that.