Formations aren’t the problem, form is

Hello fellow Arsenal supporting friend. I am glad you made it. Shall we converse about the only real team in London worth talking about? Why not, eh? But before we do, I must say, I’m looking forward to the pasting that Chelski receive today from the media after they could muster only a 1-1 draw at home to a Schalke team that are currently languishing towards the bottom of the Bundesliga.

Or how about Moneychester City, whose opponents Bayern managed just three shots less than Dortmund, but who ultimately came away with the same amount of points as us from Germany? I’ve already seen the Metro today, who talk about how City put in a gutsy performance. It would be interesting to see what the response had been had City conceded in first half stoppage time. Media narratives and all that jazz…

That’s not to excuse The Arsenal. We were dreadful and there needs to be a reaction this weekend when we rock up against The Villans in Birmingham. The players have already come out with their apologies, but it’s not that which we seek, it’s victories.

But two wins from seven is hardly title contending form, so Arsenal fan amongst Arsenal fan is currently trying to dissect why we have started so poorly. Injuries? Perhaps. But we have a squad and players with quality enough to put on better displays than we’ve seen. Injuries are part and parcel of the modern game, regardless of the frequency with which they seem to happen to our beloved team. Mathieu Debuchy took to social media yesterday to tell his public that he will find out tomorrow if he needs ankle ligament surgery. One suspects the answer, given the side that he plays for, is almost certainly going to be ‘yes’. That will most likely keep him out until November and the exact problem we didn’t want when the window slammed shut has befallen us earlier than expected. But expected nonetheless.

But I’ve spoken enough over the weeks about the injury curse. Lord knows, you’ve probably read enough from everyone who has something to say about Arsenal, so you don’t need me rabbiting on about it. Instead, I wanted to talk briefly about this change of formation we’re supposed to have had this season.

Now I’m no expert, able to tactically dissect each Arsenal game and offer insight and intelligence that will make you say out loud ‘huh, interesting’, so I can only comment on what I see. There seems to be a general consensus that Arsène has changed the formation of the side this season from last year’s 4-2-3-1 to a 4-1-4-1 formation. This is, according to some, having a detrimental effect on the way in which we play our football. We are being overrun in defensive midfield and we are not looking as fluid as we did this time last year. So this widely held view is that we should ditch 4-1-4-1 and return to the 4-2-3-1 formation.

As I said, I’m no tactical genius, but I don’t really see that our formation has changed at all from last season. Last season we had one player at least dropping deep to cover defensive space (usually Arteta), with one player operating in that all action ‘box-to-box’ role (usually Ramsey) and the creative playmaker in front of them (usually Özil). Then in front of those there was your two wide men and a forward.

Given that Özil is afford licence to roam the pitch as he pleases, that Arteta is still sitting at the base of the midfield and that Ramsey’s role he’s been asked to perform, how has our set up in the middle of the park changed at all? Even the front three hasn’t really changed that much in style, just in personnel, with Alexis out wide and Welbeck up top. Özil’s free role has been shifted further forward to accommodate Wilshere, but that hasn’t really changed us that much, has it?

I’m no Arsène apologist – he frustrates the hell out of me with his actions sometimes – but this perception that he is failing tactically because of the change in formation is a misnomer to me. It’s a convenient school of thought for those that want to use the ‘Arsène doesn’t do tactics, that’s why he should go’ brigade, because I don’t think much has changed tactically from last season. Besides, the players who are asked to do the attacking part of the team are given licence to be fluid in their positioning anyway, so saying that we have defined players for each part of the pitch is a fallacy anyway. It’s the fluidity of the side that made us so successful in the first half of last season, to which I remember blogging about at the time, so I’m certainly not going to suggest Arsène goes all Mourinho on us (shuddering at the thought) and asks his players to be very precise in their role in the team. That is not conducive to the attacking and exciting football we can produce.

So if we have a strong squad (except defence), and the formation and style hasn’t changed, then what has goner wrong that has stopped us from clicking just yet? In my opinion, it’s something as simple as form. Mesut is out of it, Ramsey is failing to replicate it from last season and the back two aren’t showing it (we’re conceding at set pieces again and Dortmund’s two goals were preceded by some very laboured defending I must say). Too many players haven’t clicked in to gear and we have to hope they can. And quick.

You can’t train form. You have to play your way through the bad stuff. That’s what turned Rambo into last seasons world beater and is looking like it’s starting to have the desire effect with Wilshere. We just need a few more players to show form and I think we’ll be back on track.

Anyway, that’s just my uninformed opinion, but what’s yours?

The SUPER-AWESOME-MEGA-POSITIVE Arsenal blog!!

By now I’m sure you’re all still feeling from the lacklustre performance of yesterday evening. I know I am. I’m hurting today and I’m sure you and I feel the same.

You’ll know doubt be reading the carnage that will be many a post-match review from journos and bloggers alike. It won’t make for pretty reading I’m sure. After all, we were so many levels of pants, there’s nothing more we can expect than a media and blogger savaging. However, in an unprecedented and hopefully unusual step, the remainder of my blog today will focus purely on positives after the 2-0 defeat to Dortmund in Germany. You don’t need me analysing the game and player performances. There are plenty of other people out there who will do a better job.

So…the positives…here goes…

Not many injuries!!
Yes folks, having gone through every game this season picking up knocks after knock, we finally managed to get through 90 minutes of football with only one player on the pitch getting injured! Get in there!

Diaby’s back!!
He seems to be back and, although he didn’t feature yesterday, he’s sure to have an injury-free season now, right? RIGHT?!

Wenger knows how to make subs before 75 minutes!
He hooked Özil and Rambo off on the hour mark, so maybe he’s realised he’s allowed to do it with more than 15 minutes remaining in a game? Happy days!

We don’t have to play Dortmund away in the group stages any more!!
Last year we smashed and grabbed, this year we just got smashed, but we can be safe in the knowledge that for the remaining five games we definitely won’t have to go to the Westfalenstadion. Get in!

Arsenal are saving money by sharing shinpads!!
Poldi and Mesut shared a pair of pads, which means we’ve saved probably about £7.99, which means there’s more money in the coffers in January for a new centre half!! Come on!!

I got dispensation to drink lots of rum last night!
The performance was such that, due to the extenuating circumstances, I was afforded a free pass to undertake some lovely spiced rum drinking to numb the pain! It was yummy!

We’ve lulled Villa into a false sense of security
There’s no don’t Paul Lambert will have been watching his former team rip us to shreds, probably smiling and thinking “another three points on Saturday, ace”, so hopefully Villa will try and come and stick six past us and give us space to pick them off! Clever Arsène, very clever.

Szczesny’s kit doesn’t look as terrible as the outfield kit!
As a former goalkeeper, I’ve become used to being in between sticks wearing something that a Unicorn shat out of its backside, so I’m pleased for Woj that he doesn’t look like he’s been handed the poo-stick by wearing that monstrosity of a shirt. Although his does look like someone has whacked some hieroglyphics on to it.

Work seems like a welcome distraction
I have a busy few days coming up, which means I’m very pleased for a changed to be able to focus on that and not on Arsenal. Yay me.

Jokes about United can help
Hey, at least we’re in the bloody competition, am I right? Am I right?

The kick up the arse?
We have not played well all season and last night we were finally humbled for it. Maybe that will provide the same wake up call that the Spuds away defeat did two seasons ago. Nay, in the spirit of this mega positive blog, it DEFINITELY will. Definitely. Maybe.

This weekend is a quadruple £13million ‘must be won’ rollover
And if I win it. I’ll give you all £20 so that we can all drink rum together and be merry!

That’s pretty much all I’ve got for today folks. You have a super happy day, I know I will!

Underneath my happy facade, is a sad, sad clown.

Disappointed Mancs is a good thing for is, as Jack bites back

Howdy peeps, hope all is well with you, and that you’re occupying yourself on this football-free weekend? Hang in there, for when we get to Tuesday next week we can start to look ahead at next weekend’s match up against Momeychester City.

As for me, well I’m best man at my brothers wedding today, so I’ll have plenty to occupy my thoughts over the next 24 hours. Not least whether to throw in a little joke about the Spuds at some stage during the speech (I have a captive audience of quite a few of them you know!).

As a result of the impending busy morning and afternoon, I think I’ll keep today’s blog relatively short, which is just as well because there really is very little going on. All we’ve seen from an Arsenal perspective is people linked with United disappointed at the departure of Welbeck (Paul Scholes the latest to comment), or Jack Wilshere defending himself against comments by ‘expert pundits’ like Jamie ‘Camel Toe Suits’ Redknapp.

On the first point, the disappointment by United fans is filling me with more optimism on Welbeck, which is good considering how unsure I was of whether the signing was the right one for us. As I’ve said over the last week I hadn’t watch Welbeck closely enough to pass decent comment, but with United fans upset at his departure and ex-players coming out and saying they feel he should have stayed and Arsenal have a good player on their hands, you and I can only read the disappointment as a good thing. When Silvestre was signed for £750k United fans were sniggering at us that we’d bought an aged centre-half with a peanut looking forehead. We quickly found out why and Silvestre by-and-large turned out to be a massive failure. But the noises from the North West are different this time, so I’m inclined to be more optimistic about this signing from them than the last, and that’s not just because of the price.

As for Jack, he’s bit back at Redknapp talking about how he needs to kick on now and also his injury record, to which Jack has pointed Jamie in the direction of his own career. No doubt Redknapp Junior will have his own say on Jack next weekend at some stage, but we already know that Wilshere is an easy target for the press, as is. Mesut Özil because of his price tag and languid style, so I pay about as much attention to what Redknapp believes as I do to the goings on in the ‘Celebrity’ Big Brother house.

I mean really, what is the world coming to when anybody listens to the nonsensical populist drivel spouted by a failed Liverpool and Spuds player?

The reality is that Jack is in for a challenging season with all of the competition he’s got in his favoured positions, but he has finally had a proper pre-season (helped by the uselessness of the current England team returning home early from the World Cup), so I think he’s going to start finding his form from now. He was one of the best players on the pitch against Besiktas and, given that I saw my Twitter Timeline awash with perplexed tweets about why he wasn’t featured against Leicester, it shows how highly most Gooners saw his performance on that night too. Jack will be given plenty of games to prove himself, but he’ll also not be overworked like he was when he first broke into the Arsenal side, which I think can only be a good thing for him as a player and us as fans watching him in the immediate and long-term future.

Right, that’s that from me today, I’m off to prep for my speech. Ciao.

Not the result, it’s the performance that worries

Morning from a grumpy Gooner in a corner of London Suburbia. I’m grumpy because my team failed to deliver a performance against a newly promoted and stubborn – but ultimately limited – Leicester City team at the KP Stadium yesterday afternoon.

These are the teams that last season we simply dealt with, yet already the warning signs are here for a different season to last when it comes to the teams lower down the division. And that worries me. It worries me because unless we address our woeful form against the big boys, the only way we’ll get close to the top four this season (notice how I’m not even talking about winning the league), is by picking up a shed load of points against teams from sixth downwards.

We just aren’t clicking at all. That is more frustrating than the result. Result-wise, it’s not the end of the world and at this early stage of the season the league means about as much as a promise of humbleness from Jose Mourinho. But my concern lies with some of the initial signs from some of our big players. Specifically our midfield.

Yesterday’s 1-1 draw and the profligacy in front of goal may be labelled at the raw and clearly not ready Sanogo (I’ll come to that in a bit), but as a couple of people pointed out last night (I think Mean Lean over at Arsenal Vision said it first on my Timeline), it’s very difficult to pin it all on the front men when it was obvious that our midfield wasn’t right. I though Cazorla, Ramsey and Özil all had pretty poor games if I’m honest. Santi produced a lovely chip to set up Sanogo whose shot deflected into the path of Sanchez for his second goal in two games, but other than that he was way off. Passes were astray for all three players, ball retention left a lot to be desired of, the drive and determination of last season just didn’t seem to be there.

I don’t know why that is. This isn’t a Spuds/Liverpoolesque root and branch overhaul of the squad – the team that lined up we’re all ever-present last season barring Debuchy and Sanchez – so I don’t know why we haven’t found our rhythm in any of the games we’ve played in yet (Community Shield aside). That’s five games folks. Everyone has off days, we’re all only human, but every time we seem to take to the pitch it’s an off day at the moment it seems.

I did wonder if the new arrivals would take time to ‘bed in’ and we’d have a few quiet games, but it seems Chambers, Debuchy and Alexis are the ones that are actually performing quite well. Sanchez popped up on the left and right yesterday and looked to run at defenders wherever possible. He provided a creative attacking outlet and is getting better all of the time. But Özil was misplacing passes, looked out of sorts and never really threatened that killer pass beyond the eight man Leicester defence.

Perhaps there are mitigating circumstances. Crystal Palace, Besiktas, Everton and Leicester all got men behind the ball. That made it difficult for us to get behind them and yesterday, without a really quality target man, you could see we weren’t willing to whip balls in behind the defence for out wide. There just wasn’t the variation. We got the ball to the edge of the Leicester box and then tried to thread the most intricate balls in behind a well drilled defence that we could.

Are injuries playing their part? Perhaps. The head injury Koscienly picked up clearly affected him in the early stages of the game, as he was culpable for the equaliser that Ulloa got and came off shortly afterwards. It was a shocking bit of defending for the goal, but a fully-fit Kos probably would have nodded that one away.

Last season injuries decimating the team cost us around March time and we fell away from title chasers to fourth place trophy chasers. I can’t help but think that this season we are in for more of the same, only the injuries are happening now, so our title challenge may just evaporate earlier in the season than later.

I’m sorry if I seem despondent at the moment folks, but it’s just that so much early promise after a good summer of business and the Community Shield win had me really thinking we could have a good to at the oil whores this season. But when you look at the two Petro-dollar teams and see how strong their squads are, then you look at how we’re affected when we miss a few key players, it just feels like a mountain that is too steep for this Arsenal team to climb.

Who knows, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m just being a little melodramatic after a few flat performances. But historically, the seasons that have been good ones at Arsenal have been because we’ve started strong and raced to early leads by picking up a lot of points quickly. The ones where we’ve scrapped for fourth all season are where we’ve stuttered at the start and never even got close to the top two. I fear the latter scenario.

I don’t really even want to touch on the last day of the transfer window. For some, it’s the last bastion of hope that our frailties will be addressed, but for me I think there is too much work needed for the squad to be capable of picking up the challenge of a league title and running with it. A back up centre half may be easier to secure if you go to a smaller club, but picking up a defensive midfielder as well? I’m just not sure we have the ability to close two high-profile deals on the final day.

But that isn’t the most frustrating thing of all. The lack of a World Class striker will be painfully evident for us for the first half of the season I fear. Perhaps I’m being unkind to Arsène, because he made the excellent acquisition of Alexis and he may just turn out to be that superstar up top we’re looking for, but he is going to take time and as was shown yesterday, there is literally no other acceptable option when Giroud is out for a prolonged period of time. Sanogo is just not good enough I’m afraid. Not yet, anyway, and he showed that on numerous occasions yesterday. He’s a young player, he’s been thrust into the limelight and he’s having to accept his role as fall guy because Arsène is his chosen ‘project’. Well Arsène, if you don’t sign anybody by 11pm tonight, I pray your ‘project’ has some sort of miraculous change of fortune, because if he carries on like yesterday, I fear it could break him mentally. Think about how Diego Forlan got on at United when he took an age to score. It smashed him mentally and he only recovered when he went back to Spain and started banging in goals again. None of us want to see that for Sanogo, but that’s what I fear.

Right now, I have no expectations for today and if the performances continue like they have done over the coming weeks, I have no expectations for this season. Other than the standard fight for fourth place. Obviously.

See you tomorrow.

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.

Arsenal to come with a health warning

Seat of your pants. Skin of your teeth. Edge of your seat.

Being an Arsenal fan should come with a health warning approved by the Chief Medical Officer of the British Government, or something.

Yesterday’s game was far, far too early in the season to be that nerve-wracking, but ultimately let me pepper today’s blog with the fact that we are in the hat for the Champions League and, with our consecutive Champions League entry confirmed for the 17th time, it ensures we remain in Pot 1. Much to the dismay of the Liverpool friendly national media.

But by golly, we don’t half make it hard for ourselves, don’t we? With no away goal to speak of from the first leg (unlike in most previous seasons), it made the mathematics of yesterday evening really quite simple: win and score goals. Le Boss named the same side that started the game against Everton and in the first fifteen minutes you could tell that the home comforts of The Emirates made the team happier than when on Merseyside last weekend. We popped the ball around quite well, controlled position in the early stages and I thought that it was a patient and probing display. For about thirty minutes. Thereafter, it was almost as if a nervous button was pressed by both fans and players alike, and Besiktas grew into the game a little more.

On Twitter I described Besiktas as essentially a ‘Turkish Crystal Palace’, as their game plan appeared to be to frustrate Arsenal, ensure as many black shirts sat in and around the edge of their own penalty box rarely venturing forward with any numbers to attack. As was the way with teams from overseas they liked an occasional nudge, but fell to the floor when touched, epitomised no better than in the second half with a really quite farcical semi rollie-pollie action from one of the Turkish players. Unfortunately we had an abysmal referee, who I’ll come to shortly, so the theatrics were tolerated more frequently than they should have been.

But anyway, the Turkish Crystal Palace, which is probably doing a little bit of a disservice to our opponents. After that first 30 in which they frustrated, there were signs of a good passing team that were clearly set up with a game plan to counter, which if I’m honest could have worked had Debuchy been pulled up on his clear foul inside the box in that first half. Lucky boy. Well, temporarily lucky boy, as we were to find out in the second half as perhaps some karma came back to haunt him for being sent off for a perfectly good tackle in the middle of the pitch with 20 minutes to go.

That sending off made for a very nervy finish to the game, but not as nervy as it would have been had Alexis not got his scoring tally off the mark with a smart finish in the dying embers of the first half. The excellent Wilshere’s exchange with Cazorla (I think) on the edge of the Beisktas box almost found Jack, but he let the ball run for the newbie, who slid the ball underneath the ‘keeper. It was just rewards for a first half in which we’d dominated pretty much all stats.

In fact, given how nervous you and I were throughout yesterday’s match, you do wonder why on earth our opponents failed to muster a shot on target in the entire game. I guess it shows that whilst situations often appear fraught with worry at the time, from a neutrals perspective Arsenal were rarely troubled in defence, to which we have to give credit to the back five. There were some balls over the top that perhaps a better midfield maestro would have found Demba Ba more accurately with, but the limitations of the Turkish Cup winners were clear to see.

Defensively, I thought the two stand out players were our full backs. Debuchy looks like he had been playing at the club for five years, whilst on the other side, Monreal has been a solid performer since called upon in the first weekend of the season. To have a player like that waiting I the wings when Gibbs is out of action is fantastic and Nacho’s performances have left few of us lamenting Gibbs’ broken body so far this season.

In midfield, I thought Jack was brilliant, at the heart of everything we did well with his all-action style. I’ve seen a few people comment that the shackles were released with Ramsey being absent which I think I’ve commented on before, but rather than get into any ‘they can’t play together’ debate today, I think I’ll just focus on the returning to his old self – even if only one game so far – for our Jack.

Unfortunately, that’s where the stand out performances finish, because in the final third I thought we were pretty poor, as in that defensive midfield role that the Flamster occupied. I don’t know whether or not he’s quite match-fit enough yet, but Flamini gave the ball away carelessly a number of times and he didn’t seem to win as many tackles as he normally does. He did win some tackles – he always does – but it appears to me that if he’s not getting carded he’s obviously not feeling himself, which was the case yesterday. Hopefully he’ll have a good game at the weekend to arrest any concerns that he’s already peaked in his career and is now in the descent.

I thought Özil had a quiet game and, perhaps it’s still because he is finding his rhythm again or perhaps because he has been deployed on the left a couple of times already this season, but he flitted in and out of the game. As did Santi. He was anonymous at Everton and I’m starting to get worried about his form. He’s often deployed in that position out wide on the left, which isn’t his best, but he does go very quiet for large swathes of the game and I feel like I’m noticing it more and more.

The Ox was also a little more quiet than he has been, but he’s still a young lad, so there’s no point chastising a performance. He’s still a dangerous and creative outlet and, had he capped the night off with a goal towards the end when he found space from an Özil cross, we’d probably all be saying something different. Such is how the narrative can shift with goals.

That’s why Alexis’ performance can be viewed as a successful one. Score. Check. Close down and show a willingness to give everything for the team. Check. Demonstrate some good ball control and retention. Check. But there were still sit some instances where you could tell that he wasn’t 100% ready and occasions when his feet were not in tune with the rest of his body. There’s no need to panic though, as it was nowhere near as Gervinhoy as it could have been, so I’ve no doubt as he becomes more aware of his own teammates styles and also now that he is off the mark with a goal, the rest will come.

We did lack a cutting edge in the final third though. For all the gnashing of teeth and exasperation of some sections of the fanbase (I’m guilty of this too I’ll admit) when the Frenchman misses a guilt-edge chance, the next four months will I’m sure provide us all with a clear indication of what he brings to the take, as a focal point of our attacks. Alexis likes to drop deep to collect the ball and as a result it leaves us with no options if we want to move from front to back quickly like we can with Olivier in the team. The result is that unless one of the wide players slots in centrally when Alexis comes deep, we may find it difficult to get ourselves out of bother with longer passes to put us on the front foot. Again, probably another discussion for another day, so I’ll not dwell on it too much.

What the Giroud injury does however, is emphasise that Arsène simply must strengthen within the next five days. We must get a defensive minded midfielder who can play at centre half as an absolute minimum, but now we must be seriously looking at bringing in a player who can play as a focal point in attack. To go into half a season with Sanogo as your main target man is not something you’d expect a team with title aspirations to have. So I would expect Arsène to act. But hey, he rarely does what most of us think is the obvious, so we wait and see what happens.

Before I knock today’s blog on the head, a special mention must go out to the Portuguese, card-happy referee who wrongly dismissed a Besiktas penalty, fell for every soft foul by a Besiktas player, incorrectly sent off Mathieu Debuchy and gave Szczesny a booking for taking an extra five seconds on a goal kick. He did this on the first attempt by Szczesny. Somewhere in London at his home, Julian Speroni will have been laughing his socks off. The only shocker of the day was that a ref so content to book everyone, missed the man who is always booked: Flamini.

And on that bombshell, I shall bid you adieu.

Vermaelen’s potential sale and the comfort blanket of self sustainability

So as we count down to the curtain opener of the Premier League season this weekend, it appears as though the Thomas Vermaelen situation is slowly juddering towards the inevitable conclusion I suppose most of us thought it would.

With both United and Barcelona interested in his services what with them having completely ignored purchasing defenders who were either more useless than a chocolate teapot, or just as old as a Galapagos Turtle, it’s fair to say that wherever Thommy V goes he’s a lucky boy. And might I say, it’s nice for us to be holding the cards for a change, as well as sitting back with our hands behind our heads smirking at the prospect of United and Barcelona engaging in a bit of a bidding war.

Utopia has to be the Belgian eventually moving to Barcelona for somewhere approaching £15million. That would ensure we haven’t offloaded to an English side, but also that we’ve made a profit on a player whose game time has been very limited for 18 odd months.

Look at me, I’m talking about a human being like a commodity, all callous and ‘where’s the money’. After all, it’s not like I will actually personally see any of that cash, and lord knows I could do with a smidge of it to use on my new/old house which has more creaks than Abou Diaby’s knees. And ankles. And muscles. Repeat to fade…

But I guess that is what modern football has done to the average fan. Well, the average Arsenal fan, anyway. We’re all concerned with getting our ‘monies worth’ and the value of a footballer seems to matter. It’s because the more money we get, the more we want reinvented in the club – I know that – but I do wonder sometimes if it helps us grasp tightly on to the moral high ground of footballing sustainability. With the Petro-dollar clubs having had a few years of carte blanche to spend what they want, we Arsenal fans have found solace in the comfort blanket of self sustainability. Playgrounds, offices and pubs across the world have sounded the defence of our straying from the trophy trophy laden path (thankfully we look to have found a cut through back to it now) with the shield of sustainability, so to be able to turn pseudo accountant and extol the virtues of spending what you make whilst managing a debt, has been important in the justification process of the clubs actions.

So when an indoctrinated fan like myself hears of bidding wars and extra cash for The Arsenal, we et all warm, fuzzy and smug inside. Because it means we’ll get extra cash for a player that can be reinvested (I would assume, unless Arsene is playing centre half Russian roulette with our current defenders’ fitness all season) that we know won’t be eating into the coffers and will allow us to maintain that moral high ground status as a buffer in case we don’t see any trophies this season.

There’s still rumblings about a defensive midfielder and various journalists are still trying the old ‘rehash’ or ‘different take’ on the Khedira/Carvalho, but I suspect that their knowledge is as advanced as yours and mine, which means their looking for attention with comments about withers agent in London for talks. It’s clear we’re open for another midfielder, but I think it’s touch and go as to whether we actually get one. I see Arsene doing the whole Gallic shrug thing and picking up a player as long as the price quoted isn’t extortionate in his eyes, but he knows he has the benefit of early business already being done and the fans being placated already, so he can play the waiting game and hope something comes gift wrapped with a red bow on top.

Just to close off on today’s thoughts and to go back to our captain’s almost inevitable departure, I think I’ll go on record to say that I’d probably prefer us not to lose Vermaelen this summer, as he brings experience and quality to that third centre half role. I understand that he would want to get game time and I know Arsene is very good at understanding and empathising with the needs of his players, so that’s why this sale is likely to be inevitable, but I will be sad to see a player who has carried himself so well, been a decent player for us whilst he’s been at the club and from my perspective will be missed.

Especially if the alternative is the injury prone Daniel Agger. A decent player, but nothing more than a different name in my opinion. Let’s see how that one evolves though.

Let’s just hope we don’t have to see him every week for that lot in Manchester.

Cheerio for today.