Taking the squad to Spudland and a Giroud overreaction

Wellington, wellington, wellington, how about that for a third round Capital One Cup draw for us, eh? The Spuds at their hovel of a ground. Who da thunk it?

At least we’ll get to see the youngsters on TV…but wait…how many will we actually see? Because you know that these days we have a squad of players fighting for a place, so I reckon we’ll probably get to see quite a lot of familiar faces when we rock up at their gaff in September. 

Ospina, Debuchy (at this rate with Bellerin keeping his place), Chambers, possibly Gabriel if Koscienly’s back doesn’t turn in to another longer term issue, Gibbs, Flamini and Arteta, Walcott, Welbeck returning from fitness. All of these players will probably be looking at some game time. So unless Pochettino plays his strongest side, we’ve got to fancy ourselves a bit in this tie, eh? Regardless of our recent history of very average of poor results in the wrong side of North London. With some of those players you’d expect them to be given a chance and want to take that chance quite desperately.

But that’s a little way off yet, because we still need to get this season up and running, what with our spluttering and stuttering start to it. Particularly at the sharp end of the team, in which a lot is being made of the number of shots we have had at home in the last five or six matches, only scoring in the last game of the season against West Brom. I think a little too much is being made of it actually. There’s quite a bit of finger pointing, of photoshopping of quotes and stats on an image of Giroud, as well as much gnawing of bone and gnashing of teeth because we haven’t signed a striker.

By the way as an aside, I dreamed that Benzema was in Engkand round my house and had a blond wig on yesterday, so I asked him about the transfer. In a reply that sounds very much like it’s taken from a transcript of a call by add Woodward to Louis Van Gaal, Benezema told me that he didn’t even know Arsenal were interested and that nobody had even found him from Arsenal yet. Make of that what you wish.

But anyway, back to these stats about our profligacy, seemingly aimed at Giroud who has obviously been the person who has taken all of the 61-odd shots that have been taken during our ‘five out of six’ games without a goal at The Emirates. I mean come on people, there is no ‘I’ in ‘team’ and all that. Sure, Giroud has been a little wasteful at times and sure, I’d love an upgrade who could take chances like Ian Wright used to do, but we don’t have that at this moment in time and the reason we haven’t been scoring isn’t solely because Olivier has forgotten where they place the nets at home. 

There are a few factors as to why we have gone so many games without scoring and each game has a slightly different narrative. Swansea last season was one of those ‘Champman’ results where the football karma gods decided that we were going to huff and puff and get nowhere. So too was the Sunderland result last season, as a team fighting for their lives made tackles everywhere, but also we had very little to play for.

The West Ham game was an appalling performance and the players know that. Unfortunately that’s just what this Arsenal team delivers some times and I’m coming around to it. Then we come to Monday’s result, partially determined by our own clear nervousness defensively, but in the second half it just looked like we were a little out from picking up all three points in the second half. 

So there are mitigating factors in our performances and the manager knows we have to be better. He knows the start hasn’t been great, calling it ‘average’ and he has to force a reaction on Saturday lunchtime. But it’s not just from Giroud. It also has to come from Alexis getting his scoring boots on, or Ramsey bagging goals from wherever he’s placed in the team. Giroud should be contributing more of course, but equally so should Özil and Santi too. It’s a team game and it’s the team that is squandering chances. Not just Giroud.

Perhaps I’m sympathising with him too much, but what else can we do? There’s no point unleashing verbal torrents of abuse of him on my blog that he no doubt has never seen in his life. And even if he did, me shouting the house down doesn’t exactly help him in any way. Arsène has admitted in the past that he’s a confidence player. So he needs to be given that confidence by the manager.

On Saturday we’ve got a Newcastle side who have just come off of the back of a Capital One Cup victory at home and will be buzzing, but Giroud has the odd goal against the Geordie’s so I hope he can find his way again. We can ill-afford another lacklustre display and with tough games against Stoke and Chelski coming up after the international break, things could start to look ropey unless we pull our fingers out.

We’ll find out more from Arsène tomorrow about who’s available, so until then, chins up people.

Days of dictatorial managers are dead

I’m not usually one to talk about what other clubs are doing, but the sheer trolling nature of the Pedro saga means I feel compelled to write something, because it is funny. Well, it would be if it was someone other than Chelski getting the player. If Pedro headed over to Dortmund at the last minute, leaving United with egg on their faces, that would be really funny.

The transfer has all the hallmarks of the Willian to Spurs transfer that was hijacked. Only this time it’s United who are the sad clowns. Mourinho doesn’t even need Pedro, but I suppose if he’s not even willing to give Cuardrado a go at settling in, then perhaps he feels he does need a player. 

One things for sure, we certainly don’t need Pedro, we’ve got enough wide forwards as it is thank you very much. And yet I have seen some angry Gooners once again talk about our inactivity in the transfer market thus far, as if this transfer is another “one that got away”.

Eh? How is us not signing an unwanted wide forward from Barcelona linked to us not getting a striker or another destroyed in the middle of the park? Pedro can’t play as a loan front man, can he? I’ve never seen that from the fella, but am happy to be proved wrong.

And besides, getting stressed about another team making another signing in a position in which we’re already pretty stocked, is akin to moaning to you’re mum when you want a tricycle when she’s already bought you an 18-speed Raleigh Max (do they even still make those?) only a few months earlier. Let Chelski have their replacement winger. Without wanting to be too clichéd about it all, they can’t play all of the players they stockpile, so I’m less bothered. But United will be pretty cheesed off. They’ve got 11 days to find another centre forward, possibly a goalkeeper and another centre half. It’s doable, but at the right level of quality, or just as a filler for squad places? 

The difficulty that United have had in the last two summers over their transfers does show you one thing though: in today’s game, history of a club will only get you so far. Fergie was a part of the appeal of United and when he left with David Gill, there was a massive chunk of the carrot taken away from prospective signings to dangle in front of. 

Players these days want Champions League football and a manager they can play for. Louis van Gaal is perhaps showing that he’s the last of a dying breed. The dictatorial manager who every player fears is dying out. The players just don’t respond to it. They have so much power these days that they don’t need to. And they all talk to each other. There’s probably an element of truth about Pedro having a word with Valdes and deciding to steer clear, heading to see his mate Cesc at Chelski instead.

Perhaps we should consider ourselves lucky that we have the consistency of Arsène and his record. Players know they’ll play in the Champions League with him. Players get the arm around the shoulder with him. Arsène doesn’t do the gun resting on the spine with instructions to “get in the van”. You get more from the horse by ushering it to water than by whipping it.

We’re at a stage now where players linked know what they’ll be getting with Arsenal, so all that’s left to do is to talk terms, which we can now somewhat compete. I say ‘somewhat’ because now that UEFA are seemingly giving the complete green light to the oligarch-run clubs that they’ll not really enforce FFP, City are going out and slinking cash left, right and centre and they’re probably paying players a bajillion-a-week at the same time.

So Benzema still seems to be in the news, despite the actual football having got well under way, with various horrifically obvious attention seekers talking up a move within 48 hours apparently. Take it from me: come Monday morning we’ll be talking about Arsenal vs Liverpool and nothing else. Madrid will not unload Benzema without having another player of sufficient quality to bring in. I know their transfer policies are battling sometimes and seem to be led by a crazy desire to get a specific player whether they need him or not, but they would be mental – Britney shaving her head mental – to offload Benzema and bring in a weaker option. They are fighting against a Barcelona team with the most fearsome front three in the world and Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo are the best option you could possibly hope for. I know Madrid have changed their formation – supposedly – but I still don’t think that will be enough for us to prize him. I really don’t. Sorry.

Anyway, this may sound ridiculously patriotic, but I’d rather an English Danny Welbeck, Ox and Walcott step up and show us what we’ve got right now in the squad. I think our team balance is good and whilst Benzema would undoubtedly improve us, I want to see us kick on with the current squad. 

Perhaps I’m an idealist. Perhaps I’m barking mad. But I’m just sick of all the speculation and click-baiters. We don’t need it. 

We need three points on Monday night.

Go easy on a returning Welbeck; football is like cards, not chess

Today is the very definition of ‘muggy’, with my clothes sticking to me and general uncomfortableness being the feeling for today it seems.

I also seemed to have stepped on to an artists impression of Victorian London, because there’s fog everywhere, so all I need now is Sherlock Holmes to solve a crime for me and I know I’m dreaming.

I’m glad it’s not Victorian London though. I’m pretty sure I’d be cheesed off at the lack of Arsenal stuff to think about. Or write about.

The team news that was delivered on the official site was as expected yesterday, with Rosicky out for possibly longer than two months and Jack Wilshere sidelined for four weeks. I supposed at least Alexis is fully fit and Bellerin is also available, so we have something to be cheery about on the injury front. It will be really interesting to see whether Debuchy retains his place in the side, because the calls for Bellerin to be first choice amongst the fan base have been growing increasingly louder.

Personally I think Debuchy is the more consistent performer in the team and whilst I like that Arsène has the option of choosing either, I think ultimately Debuchy will get the nod when the decision is 50/50. The Frenchman is a little bit more defensively astute and with the pacey wingers that Palace have on show on Sunday, you need somebody with that little bit of extra nous to keep them quiet, I think.

The Welbeck situation is a slightly more concerning one. How is he not back yet? He’s effectively missed nearly six months of football with this injury he’s picked up. Sure, it’s been mitigated somewhat by the team performances and squad depth at the end of the season as well as the fact that two of those months have been the summer, but he’s still been injured during that time and apparently hasn’t recovered. That sounds worrying to me and with competition at an all-time-high in the squad, I’m wondering when he’s going to get his chance. Even when he does, let’s be prepared for sections of the fan base calling him ‘useless’, despite the fact he effectively needs to start his pre season in competitive games.

I really like Welbeck. I like his application, his pace and his drive. If he was the finished that Walcott could be we’d have a gem on our hands and I’m hoping that he has had his composure supplements during this extended summer break, because he could be a fantastic asset for us.

Elsewhere across the official site, Arsène has regaled us with his story about how he narrowly avoided losing Vieira to Ajax. It’s fascinating to think that in this industry where teams spend so much time analysing the information and data they have to hand, where contracts are complex and no two transfers are alike, the human element still has such a role to play. Wenger picked up the phone and told Vieira “I’m coming to Arsenal. Get over to London” and the kid went from Amsterdam to London in an instant. The power of influence of that is amazing. In a world of Sporting and Football Directors supposedly running transfer deals from start to finish, it shows you just how powerful the personal touch is too.

As Arsène also admits in that interview, the Vieira transfer shows you how fine the lines are between success and failure at the top. Arsène hints in that interview that his own career may have been different had he not signed Vieira. Imagine that? Some sort of footballing ‘butterfly effect’ in which the Invincibles never actually happened. Doesn’t bear thinking about. We’d probably have Owen Coyle as our manager. 

You might want to pour a bit of cold water on yourself at this point. It will wash away any negative parallel universe’s that you’re thinking of.

So yeah, it all could have been different and we could have seen a different Arsenal team to the one today, but these kind of small margins happen all the time. It has happened and we should appreciate whatever circumstances, whether they feel fortuitous or not, as they happen. You only need to look at the Francis Coquelin to see another example of fortune and good timing as an example of these small margins. It does make me laugh when people say, however, “yeah, but Wenger got lucky with Coquelin, so don’t let anybody tell you it wasn’t part of some master plan”. When, in football, is there ever any football master plan? There are so many variables in the game that it’s impossible for anyone to have a master plan. Football is less like chess and more like cards. Make the best with the hand you’re dealt. Who cares if Arsène got lucky with Coquelin? At least he did get lucky and we found a destroyer in the middle of the park to break up the play. That works for me and hopefully for you too.

And on that note I’ll end today’s tales from inside the Arsenal part in my head. You have a good one and look forward to the weekend.

Deflated and disappointed Gooner

Ohh Arsenal…why do you do it to us?

All that excitement. All the talk. All the waiting and hope for an amazing season, deflated in the space of 90 minutes. Yes, it’s only 90 minutes and there’s a lot more football to be played, but that match yesterday was a bit of a travesty if we’re all honest.

I took to Twitter and fired off a few disappointed tweets, then opened up my Whatsapp to see the feeling amongst other Gooners and in the immediate aftermath of the game yesterday I was thinking about how ranty my blog would be today. But I don’t really feel ranty. I just feel a bit…well…I can’t think of a word that describes a ‘sigh’. But that’s it. I’m not even angry, because I’ve seen that kind of performance before, this year even. Remember when the players rocked up at The Emirates expecting to roll over Monaco and we saw a lacklustre team display that ultimately knocked us out of the Champions League? Or the performance against Swansea at home (and away for that matter)? Yeah, that.

The positives that could be drawn from yesterday’s game seem to sit solely on The Ox’s shoulders this morning, because he was a bright spot on an otherwise gloomy day, which was ironic given the glorious sunshine that engulfed the Emirates yesterday. He drove at West Ham defenders, he looked to have the beating of his man and fashioned a few good chances. But on a day in which it looked like we could have played for another six hours and failed to score, his display was always going to be overshadowed by an overall team lethargy.

From front to back there looked to be no fight in the team. It looked like an end of season game in which we’d already secured Champions League football and had nothing to play for. Yet it was the first of the season. I don’t buy Arsène’s comments about West Ham being more prepared than us because of European football; that West Ham team weren’t playing in the middle of nowhere during the week and Slaven Bilix has put out his reserves and youth players for most of the competition. So that excuse doesn’t really work I’m afraid.

And we can have no excuse for the goals we conceded. The first one may have Cech coming out the worst because of his inexplicable sojourn into no-mans land, but Kouyate still got there ahead of any of our defenders, so whilst the ‘keeper will rightly take the largest proportion of the blame the defence must also take a look at its organisation.

So too, I have to say, should the whole defence for the second goal. The fact that we had possession and gifted it to Zarate, then failed to close down before he rifled it in, was poor. Quite why Cech was so flat footed is beyond me. I thought he was supposed to be saving us points this season? Not costing them? One of the deficiencies in Almunia’s game – before he went crazy and haunted – was that he’d never do anything that would make you say “wow, got us out of jail there”. That is the sort of thing a top ‘keeper does and that is what Cech used to do for Chelski. Again, I know it’s only one game and he will no doubt redeem himself over the course of the season, but from one of the best ‘keepers in the league he’ll probably be disappointed that he didn’t get to that second goal.

But we can’t lay most of the blame at his feet. He wasn’t misplacing passes all day like most of his teammates. Santi, Rambo, Coquelin, Debuchy and The Ox all saw simple passes that just couldn’t find a many. It was a litany of unforced errors that saw balls being sprayed out of play all day. It was borderline laughable at the frequency with which it happened. Is it the new ball? Did they all have a heavy one last night? Or was it just a bad day at the office? Whatever it was, a few more performances like that and we’ll be playing déjà vu catch up exactly like we did last season.

As for our attack, well, blunt would be one way to describe it. We never really got going and once again questions will be raised of Giroud, but he was hardly given a plateful of chances to miss from five yards, was he?

Have you noticed that I haven’t mentioned Özil? There’s a reason for that and it matches up with his involvement in the game.

We should give credit to West Ham, who set up well and deserved the win, but without the lacklustre defending on both goals we’d still be talking about a 0-0 draw, not a 0-2 shambles.

Big Per talked afterwards of bouncing back, but unless the attitude changes, we’re going to see more results like this throughout the course of the season. Champions can have bad days at the office, but usually only those are limited to once or twice and more often than not, you don’t see it on your own turf. West Ham should have been a three pointer but the team looked like they turned up to collect the points without any resistance. It will be a reminder to them all that this league is a difficult one and you have to prepare properly for each game. Mentally as well as physically. The manager will need to earn his crust this week and get the team into a position where they are ready to go again but be ten times better next Sunday, because Palace away will not be easy, so answers will need to come sooner rather than later.

The ‘yeah but’ brigade circling Coquelin

This morning I read Mr Positive himself, Paul Merson, talking about this weekend’s Community Shield. He’s predicting an Arsenal win, which is nice, irregardless of the context of the game or whether either side can truly be as ‘up for it’ as a Premier League game. But that’s not what drew my attention to write something about it. No, what drew my attention was the fact that he questioned whether Arsenal could really win the league with Coquelin, as well as how far they could go in the Champions League with him as our main holding midfielder.

Everyone’s entitled to their opinion and if he doesn’t believe that Le Coq is good enough then that’s his prerogative, but i was more surprised that his argument was less about his actual technical ability as a defensive midfielder, more to do with the fact that he has never won a Premier League before.

Now I’m not suggesting that having had the experience of winning the league isn’t a serious bonus, but am I really being told by a pundit that you can’t win the league with players who don’t have experience? Is t there a now infamous quote from the inaudible Alan Hansen that springs to mind here? 

I don’t really understand the logic, if I’m honest, because if you don’t win the league with players that have ever won a league, how can anyone ever win the league? Why isn’t the league won every season by one team? 

Because experience is only one side of the coin. The other side is desire and drive and having seen what Coquelin can bring to this Arsenal team, who’s going to argue that he hasn’t got that in abundance? Who’s going to contest that a man who has wrestled his Arsenal career from the jaws of oblivion, doesn’t have the sheer willpower and determination to try and drive his team forward as much as the man who has won leagues in Spain, or Germany, or even in England?

It’s all ‘yeah but’s from the media. 

‘Yeah, but this team hasn’t shown it can win ugly’. 

‘Yeah, but this team doesn’t have a big enough squad’

‘Yeah, but this team hasn’t won a trophy’

There’s always a first time and why can’t Coquelin’s first time be this season? What sort of a logic is it to dismiss his ability to win a title because he hasn’t won a title? How many titles had Paddy Vieira won (and been a serious contributor towards) when he joined Arsenal? Yet he came in to the Arsenal team, never looked back and bagged a hatful of medals. He was a determined man and even though I don’t hear much Coquelin talk, his actions on the pitch show me he has the same tenacity.

Nemanja Matic walked in to the Chelski team and nobody said Chelski couldn’t win the league with him, yet he shows similar traits to Coquelin, so why the difference? 

I think this season is going to be a big one for Le Coq and having seen him keep up his ball-winning ways in Singapore and The Emirates Cup, I think we’re in for much of the same as we did earlier in the year. He’s the cover we never had at the start of last season and the result will be, I hope, a more comfortable defensive unit even when we’ve had to rotate due to injury.

For the record I think we could potentially do with another player in the same mould as Coquelin. But if we don’t, I’m not convinced Arteta can’t do a job in rotation with Le Coq during the season. And if both fall to injury, whilst Flamini is not ideal, how many other teams have somebody who is a third choice defensive midfielder with his experience. Flamini is a ‘in an emergency, break glass’ player and in that instance I’m happy that he hasn’t moved abroad. Yet.

We have all the tools this season to be successful. I’m convinced of that. What we will need is a good start, then a replication of what we did in the second half of the season, then we’ll see just how close we can get to Chelski and just how much the drive and determination of players like Coquelin can get us over the line.

Catch you tomorrow.

What if. What if. What if. Don’t lose your sh*t gooners.

Honestly. I love our fanbase for the variety and volume of Arsenal fan that there is, but sometimes we all need to take a deep breath and chill the eff out, because life truly is too short.

Yesterday one of the Arsenal lads in my office called out from his desk that Schneiderlin had finally signed for Man United. Let’s ignore the fact a United fan sits nearby and was immediately grinning and asking me how upset I was at that. Especially as they now had Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin and all we had was Ozil and Coquelin.

I had to turn back to my computer and give a wry smile because, quite frankly, we have the two better players I believe. I also believe that this time of the year is one in which hope is stronger than ones memory, which is why you get people making ridiculous comments like “this will be their year. Just look at those signings. What a team on paper”. I remember Stan Collymore saying that Paulinho could be the final piece in the Spud jigsaw for a title, or at least a top four challenge. It stuck in my mind as a statement purely because little was known about Paulinho other than he’d made a successful start to a national team career and he came for a lot of money. Now he’s in China having bombed at Spudsville. Some of you may remember Florin Raducioiu signing for West Ham for big money after a good international tournament. He was expected to be a star at the Hammers and flopped quicker than Hugh Grant’s hair. It’s because he just didn’t work at West Ham.

Schneiderlin may turn out to be a good signing. He may also turn out to be Paulinho in Manchester.

But what if we get injuries? What if we don’t sign any other players? What if we have to rely on Arteta?

What if? What if? What if?

What if Schneiderlin signs for Arsenal and gets injured in the first week of the season? Are we then all going to be saying “well that’s ok, because we have cover, and we’ve already picked up an injury in that position so God won’t allow us to get more than one player injured in the same position”? No, didn’t think so, because we all know that life doesn’t work like that. We could have signed Schneiderlin, lost him and Coquelin for a period of two months and we’d be in this position anyway.

And besides, what’s with all the Arteta bashing anyhow? I don’t really get it if I’m honest. He’s a player who has served us very well and has been the foundation of a decent unit not 18 months ago, so why on earth has his stock plummeted so much in such a short period of time.

Injury. That’s it. As opposed to some players, in which absence makes the heart grow fonder, it appears that for Tricky Mickey absence has made the heart a cold and unforgiving thing. Arteta is, and will continue to be this season, a good player with an intelligence that will only be visible when he plays. But he’s got to play in which you will be able to see it. Until then, there will be too many people who will look at his date of birth, declare “his legs have gone” and dismiss his contribution to the team. I know it’s a different sport, but over the last two weeks I’ve watched a 33 year old Roger Federer do battle like a 23 year old in tennis. He’s the same age as Arteta and so why is nobody saying his “legs have gone”? Because what we see with our eyes contradicts such a statement. So it is with Arteta.

In the 2014/15 season he picked up a number of injuries which limited his time on the pitch. In between those injuries he played the odd bit-part, but never really got the chance to get any kind of run in the team or form going. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve said that players need a run of games to show their true value. The fact of the matter is that Arteta hasn’t had his run of games with which to make an accurate assessment of whether or not he really has had his time at Arsenal. Just because he picked up some injuries, doesn’t mean he’s a busted flush people. Jack Wilshere has had time out because of injuries, but his time at Arsenal hasn’t really been called on by goners I know, so why Arteta? Because of his age. That’s it.

Well I say that if his age is the only thing from anybody feeling comfortable that he is a very good back up, then pretend he’s 28 and then imagine how you’d feel if he was second in line to the ‘DM’ throne behind Coquelin. There, does that make you feel different? Does to me. All of a sudden I’m looking at our squad and thinking that we’re pretty much there. We can compete for the title. Heck, had we not stuttered at the beginning of the season, we would have done. I saw a brilliant comment on Twitter yesterday from Billy Dunmore which was perfect to describe where we’re at:

If we look at squads like cake. United are still layering theirs, whereas we are on the hunt for icing and cherries

Spot on the money there, Bilbo. We don’t need to be spunking cash on players who may or may not be successful. Remember, we’re in the ‘megastar signing’ bracket now. Schneiderlin is a good player, but he’s no megastar. Schweinsteiger is a decent player, but we have better, younger, less injury-prone players in our midfield who have played in the Premier League for many years. How do we know Schweinsteiger won’t Falcao up the joint? We don’t.

So let’s not lose our sh*t over a few United signings. Think about how far we have come since United won the league. Think about the two respective squads. United seem to be about big names. We’re about harmony, balance and competing for the title. United have to build a team with (most likely) a new ‘keeper, will probably need to look at their defence and with That Dutch Bloke and Falcao gone, they need another striker. We don’t need half of the surgery they need on their team, so chill, peeps.

Should we be pleased with the fixture tampering by TV companies?

It’s bloody typical that the start of the season for me is choca-block with things I can’t get out of, like stag dos, weddings and other such family occasions. But, what is more bloody typical is that having already made my plans to unfortunately offload my tickets to a couple of games, I find myself now frantically trying to undo my own efficiency because Sky and BT Sport have had their wicked way with the fixture list.

Sunday lunchtime football against West Ham and Monday night against Liverpool means that in theory I could still make both games. I suspect I’ll possibly have to miss out and there’s consolation in the fact that Arsenal are on TV every week for the first month of the season, but given that I’ll be starved of live football by the time I get to rock up at The Emirates (for me there is nothing quite like the whole experience, pre match chin wagging, smells, sights, etc, of going to the games) I’ll have come back from my second sojourn to Pottugal in September.

Despite the fact that this fixture tampering will mean I can still watch all the games with consummate ease wherever I am, I still long for the halcyon days of 3pm kick offs every week. I know I should just get on with my life and know that they’re never coming back, but it still doesn’t stop me from pining for it, you know? Michael Jackson has long departed from this earth, but I still wish I could watch him sing live and in the flesh.

Perhaps we should all take it as a positive sign. Sky and BT clearly think there’s enough about this Arsenal team this seaso. To challenge for this title, which is why they are snaffling up every game until September in which to show Arsenal. With our existing squad and the additional of a top-notch ‘keeper, the bookies may be thinking us challengers. That’s nice, isn’t it? I do prefer when you’re completely ruled out and you challenge from a position nobody thought you could, but there’s a reason bookmakers are all in business and it’s not because they take punts on things. They’re usually right for a reason and whose Chelski will be odds on again in 2015/16, I’d be interested to see where they place us.

The only two rumours worth a look today appear to be the Rosicky stuff to Sparta Prague and the Pedro stuff to Arsenal. On both accounts we have players who have only recently just had extensions to their contracts agreed which is weird, because on both accounts you have players who have been shunted further down the pecking order last season, so whilst both had extensions sorted, you have to wonder if it was to protect their values as assets rather than because the club has plans to push them back in to the first XI. Whilst I can see the logic in doing that with a 27-year-old Pedro, I don’t think there would be much cash you could glean from a Rosicky transfer, so I’d guess that the only way that transfer is going to happen is if Tomas himself says he’d like to head home. Arsène is the type of guy that wouldn’t stand in the ‘Little Mozart’s way if he did decide he wanted more game time, so if a bid came in from the Czech club it would be a decision for the player that could see us lose somebody in a similar fashion to the way in which we acquired Cech. But hey, whilst we love Rosicky, we all know that he’ll be a peripheral player next season. So perhaps there’s more than a bit of general speculation to that one.

Anyway, that’s yer lot from me today. I’ll catch you tomorrow.

Arsenal don’t sign ‘ALL the players’ shocker

You can tell this is the calm after the transfer storm that was Monday, because there ain’t a lot going on right now, friend. I mean, when one of The Evening Standard’s main Arsenal stories that I had a look on News Now this morning is one in which Petr Cech’s day of signing is video montaged on to a webpage so we all have a click and watch, you can tell evening the professional backs are scraping the barrel for news. 

Heck, even in non Arsenal-related transfer news it all seems quiet on the Western Front, with Sky Sports this morning reporting that United are yet to go back to Southampton with a concrete second bid.

So…basically what you’re telling us, Sky, is that nothing has happened?

In which case, I too, can confirm exclusively that Arsenal have not made official bids for:

  • Leo Messi
  • A clone of Thierry Henry
  • Ralph Macchio from The Karate Kid
  • Jon Snow’s corpse
  • All seven of the dwarves – Snow White simply couldn’t release any of them I’m afraid
  • The man who hands me a copy of The London Evening Standard every day at Waterloo station.

With these revalations now out in the public domain, you have no idea how good I feel, like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I thought it might have been the early morning shock to my system, coupled with a slightly underdone bit of last nights dinner, but it turns out is that it was just those transfer speculation gems that I was holding back for you. Phew.

There’s some stuff on the official site which is a bit more info from the big man himself talking about how he could have signed for Arsenal, but had difficulties because the Czech Republic was not part of the EU at the time. Gosh-dammit, Janet, why couldn’t those bean-counters in Brussels have worked faster and harder, eh? If they’d have just pulled forward the entry into ‘the club’ earlier, we’d have avoided all of the Almunia’s and Fabianski’s and probably be in the same position we are today, albeit with that £10million+ back in our bank accounts!

But it doesn’t matter. We’re here now and everybody’s happy. Well, for now, that is. There’s always next week when a player who we weren’t in for, probably wouldn’t improve our team, nor be any kind of major impact signs for another one of the ‘big’ clubs and we end up seeing a small section of Arsenal Twitter meltdown like its just been sprayed with molten lava from Volcana (been reading Marvel Secret Wars lately). But until that happens we should just continue to bask in the awesomeness of what we have around us at the moment. It’s sunny, we’ve just signed a proven and excellent ‘keeper, plus we’re FA Cup holders. I just thought I’d throw that in there because it’s easy to forget that we win trophies now. Y’know, what with it happening every season these days.

Yep, things are all right at the moment, aren’t they? Arsenal have finally got the hang of this ‘transfers’ malarkey. Sign one just before a heatwave in England, let everybody feel good, then just as the dust begins to settle, we’ll be at the Community Shield forgetting all about signings (maybe) and just focusing on the football. Happy days.

And on that cheery note, I shall bid you adieu. 

Ticking the boxes in Cech saga; rolling back the transfer clock

A Quick mosey around the online football world and what do you know? More ‘angles’ on the Cech deal. Surely it’s all reaching its inevitable conclusion now, right? I mean we’ve had the discussions between the clubs over a fee already poured over to the nth degree, the wages have been laid out bare for everyone to see and the whole world seems to know that Cech is on his way, but we were still waiting on former player mistakenly tweets something.

Thankfully we’ve now ticked that box, with former Arsenal full back (Ralph) Lauren telling the world that Cech was signing and it was a good move. Well that’s it now, right? Right? After all, Ralph has spoken and we all know that he’s Arsene’s right hand man, who regularly speaks to Le Boss and plays the role of confidante on the most intimate of Arsene’s Arsenal thoughts.

Or, to put it another way, he’s an ex-Arsenal player who knows about as much as you and I and therefore was just tweeting a message of what he thought would be a good signing when it happens. That doesn’t stop the media from going nuts though, eh? Anything for a bit of click-baiting.

Still, it could be worse. They could be really trying to pull an Arsenal transfer rabbit out of a hat by declaring that Jack Wilshere’s future is still up in the air amid interest from Moneychester City. This despite the fact that Jack has repeatedly stated that he wanted to stay at Arsenal, was referred to by Ivan as “one of you” at a recent Q&A and has also been told be Arsene Wenger – who has also told us through the official site – that he is not for sale. Yet still these rumours persist. I wonder if Moneychester City are compiling a list of transfer enquiries of English players so they can go to the Premier League and FA and say “Look, we tried, but nobody was willing to sell, which is why we had to go out and spend £99million on Paul Pogba”. If so it’s an interesting ploy, although I don’t think it will wash with the football authorities.

What will wash will be to develop your own players and stop spunking large amounts of cash on the ‘here and now’. Micah Richards is a perfect example. People say his career has stagnated over the last couple of years, but I never saw a player whose career stagnated. I saw a player who the newly incoming manager – Pellegrini – just didn’t fancy, so he marginalised Richards and eventually went for a free transferred Bacary Sagna. How’s that working for you now, anyway, Bac? If Moneychester City want to up their home-grown quota, they should try and adopt a more pragmatic approach. Or do what we’ve done and get them so young that by the time they hit he first team they’ll be home-grown players anyway!

Then they need to get themselves a nice pre-season tournament with which to give the fans a quick glimpse of a potential player before never seeing them again until the following season. I do love the Emirates Cup. Not enough to actually buy a ticket mind, but it does allow us to see a selection of young players and wonder whether there will be any that can Bellerin their way into the first team by way of a bit of a surprise. The details are now on the official site for the tournament in which we’ll see Bendtner line up for Wolfsburg and get to have a look at Lyon. Last year I looked at the teams in it and thought it was one we’d probably win hands down, but Valencia and Monaco took it a bit more seriously than we did and we ended up finishing third I think. I wasn’t really paying that much attention if I’m honest. The important thing was to see players like Falcao look brilliant before United got their mits on him and ruined him. Now it’s Chelski’s turn so let’s hope they Schevchenko him good and proper.

We could have a bit of a talk about the rumours of Carvalho from Sporting Lisbon, but I don’t feel I have the energy or inclination. Are the media websites that devoid of anything concrete that they have to step back in time a summer or two? Will we see the re-emergence of M’Villa? Hope not. Still, it’s better to be linked with farcical players than to list all of the players who have ‘rejected’ us. Really Benedikt? Did we come calling and yet you decided that Schalke and less money (because let’s face it, like it or not, our footballers in this country are paid way more than in German by and large) is a better option than Arsenal and Champions League football? Or could it be that Arsenal made a tentative enquiry and now you’re getting all excited and telling the world you were wanted by them before choosing to stay where you are? Hmm? I thought so. Back in your box boyo.

And I shall come out of mine. For the sun is out and there is more of the Algarve to explore.

Until tomorrow.

Fixture lists are only relevant because of personal circumstances

Greetings to you and yours from a sunny Portugal. It’s a bit of R&R for me and the Management for the next week and a half, so apologies if the timing of blogs is a bit sporadic, because it will most likely depend on my blood/Sagres beer levels as to how quickly I can rouse myself from my slumber.

As it’s the start of me holibobs though and The Management is sound asleep, I decided to get up a little earlier and have a look at the Arsenal website, where of course we now have the news about the fixtures for the start of the 2015/16 season. Now, I could go through each month and give you some thoughts on how we’re going to get on, but what’s the point in that? If we’re going to try to win this league then it doesn’t really matter when we play teams, as long as we beat them.

Sure, there are often mitigating factors that can give you a hand – for example you don’t really want to be playing all of the top teams back-to-back or after a Champions League or cup game, but that’s the reason Arsene has built a squad he feels comfortable with, so he can shuffle his pack a little if needs be. And I think he will do more shuffling again like he did last season, compared to the season before, because there is more competition and better players than ever before. Players seem to be lining up one after another to talk up the belief in the squad and how they are all happy with the FA Cup and it’s great n’all, but it’s not enough for them. It’s a bit of mind-change from last season, where the rhetoric was very much “yay! we won the cup!”. So we can all be pleased that mentally at least the players are gearing up for this to be a season they want us to take advantage of.

Anyway, back to them there fixtures and, having had a scan across for any death runs, there doesn’t appear to be too much that would get one a little concerned because even some of the bigger games are at least one other game spaced apart. That’s a good thing. If we stumble in a big game, it will mean our propensity to go into another big game lacking a little bit of confidence could be negated by winning a subsequent ‘smaller’ game. N.B. the inevitable “No small/easy games in the Premier League” clichéd remark goes as standard with that statement, obviously.

For me, the fixture list is less so about looking for who we’re playing and predicting what sort of run we’re going to go on, more about which teams that I have some other family connection with are coming around and whether or not I will be missing games and therefore missing out when teams come to the Emirates or when I usually go away to watch The Arsenal. So my key games and requirements usually are:

1. Don’t want to play West Ham at home when I’m going to be with my brother. He’s a West Ham fan.

2. Don’t really want a “massive” game on or around my birthday. Winning it is great but when we lose it just adds to the woes that I’m a year older.

3. Don’t want Arsenal to play either Newcastle or Sunderland away from home if I’m on holiday or the suchlike. The Management has family up in the North East and we always go to visit them when those games are on.

4. Don’t want us to be at home on Boxing Day if I’m going up North for Christmas. It means I miss another game.

So, how do you think I faired?

1. I have a stag weekend for my cousin on Saturday 8th August. My brother and I will both be in attendance.

2. My birthday is on 6th November. We play the Spuds on 7th November.

3. I have a family holiday to Portugal booked in for Sunday 30th August. It will be an early flight, so the trip to the North East is out.

4. We are away to Southampton on Boxing Day. Huzzah!

So essentially the Premier league probably heard my prayers and decided that I can only have 25% of them answered. Well thanks a million Richard Scudamore. I’m holding you personally responsible for all of this. Don’t you know people have lives to plan around going to watch The Arsenal?

Still, perhaps I shouldn’t complain too much, because upon regaling The Management with my plight, I was able to secure a guarantee that we’ll be heading up north to Manchester for the two away games there, so every cloud and all that.

The transfer balderdash for today still seems to centre around different people giving their opinion on Petr Cech to Arsenal. Bor-ring! Can we have some new stuff please? Oh, we have? Higuain not going anywhere? right….Moneychester City turning their focus towards Jack Wilshere? doubtful……the only thing that makes sense about that transfer is that City could afford to let Jack make the most obvious statements of facts to get fined all the time. £40k for saying the ‘S’ word, eh? Good job the FA don’t run the country, otherwise the national debt would be ten times that of the Greeks.

That is pretty much it. It’s all relatively quiet which, if I’m honest with you, I’m quite content with. It helps that I’m not at work needing to occasionally refresh assorted football news websites to see if anything is happening though.

Anyway, time to put this pasty white skin out in to that big fiery ball in the sky to see if I melt. Catch you tomorrow.