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.

Switching off to the press talk

Happy Saturday to you and yours. Me and mine are spending it doing the square root of naff all, on account of an impending venture to the Algarve next week. There’s a haircut, new house key cut and potentially a bit of back garden lawn cut, but that’s about it.

In Arsenal land, the only cutting that might take place is the possibility of Arsenal’s approved agent list length taking a bit of a cull, after it was announced that Arsenal are going to be charged for the Calum Chambers deal last summer. I don’t know the technicalities, but it appears Arsenal are convinced they acted in the proper way and for a club who always prides itself on doing things properly, it is a little bit of a surprise. 

What this will mean I’m not quite sure, but I suspect a fine and a bit of a slap on the wrist is the most likely outcome. From the footballing side it’s unlikely that the player will face any kind of punishment; the players are rarely involved in any kind of element of any deal that goes through – they leave it to their agent – so it’s not as if he’s going to have his FA Cup medal stripped from him and told to go back to Southampton and forget that his Arsenal adventure ever happened.

It’s a murky world, is the world of transfer dealings, in which i suspect no party is ever really innocent. 

The rest of the Arsenal guff at the moment centres around the international games, as well as transfer stuff, most of which we’ve heard before. I do wonder how creative the hacks will get in order to re-word the same story again and again. Cech is off to Arsenal, you see. Arsenal are on the verge of signing Cech. The Cech deal edges closer. Arsenal are on the brink of an international ‘keeper arriving. Yawn. How about we try a new thing of not mentioning him until he either a) arrives at the club, or b) goes somewhere else. That works for me and probably most Arsenal fans around the world.

The same can be said for contract negotiations with existing players. Just wake me up when it’s signed, Theo, would you? I’m not interested in the protracted nature of any agreement. I just want to know if you’ll be an Arsenal player for another three to four years and if so, sign your deal and start to worry about how to get back in to the Arsenal side on a regular basis. You’re a good player and I’d love you to stay, but if I’m honest all of this posturing is getting on my wick a bit.

I suppose I have Arsène to thank for my increased apathy levels over the Walcott situation. After all, he went out and strengthened us to a point where if Walcott left we’d have plenty of other players to fill his boots from both a goalscoring and pace perspective, so this current contract ‘saga’ is bit more like a contract ‘minor distraction’ this summer.

Much too like the rumours of Wilshere’s potential exit. Any time I see any kind of newspaper article looking to explore that particular avenue, I usually ignore it completely, because I can’t see either party – Arsenal or Wilshere – offloading. Earlier in the season Arsène went to great lengths to try and accommodate a Wilshere/Ramsey midfield, such is the clear affection he has for both, so I don’t see him handing over Jack to one of hogue oil whores so they can fulfil a quota. Yes he needs to try and get better at avoiding injury and yes he needs an extended run in the team, but I think if he stays fit then Arsène will give him that, especially if he continues to look as sharp as his cameo appearances suggested at the end of the season.

Wilshere has no intention to leave either. He’s said “as long as Arsenal want me I’m happy” and having been at the club for more than ten years already and Arsenal having entered in to every fibre of his body, you can believe those words when he utters them, so I’m not really inclined to change my mind that he’ll be an Arsenal player for a long time to come, so long as he can continue to play regularly and play well.

There’s not really a lot else going on today. Rambo seemed to have a good game for Wales last night, even if it was the Madrid monkey who will have taken the plaudits, so that’s always nice to see. Wales top their group as of last night and must be favourites to be at France next summer, so it will be nice to be able to watch Rambo at a major tournament, so let’s hope it happens.

Catch you tomorrow.