Two stumbling blocks in Cech deal; hold the press: new kit is red and white

Two major talking points from yesterday included the unveiling of the new kit, as well as the noise about Cech hotting up even further, with his coach Christophe Lollichon (what a name that is, eh?) saying that Petr loves Arsenal’s philosophy and he is settled in London.

Let’s start with the new kit though, which I must admit I’m pleasantly surprised with, because it looks quite traditional and tidy when worn by a selection of the players showing it off yesterday. How it will look on a man who is quite clearly morbidly obese and middle-ageing remains to be seen, but regardless of that I’m pleased that there isn’t any whacky attempts at veering away from what should be a fairly straightforward design: red and white.

Hector was asked for his thoughts on the kit. He responded appropriately: it’s red and white.

Good on you Hec. You’ve given the perfect response, because it’s a kit, nothing more or less. Puma need the fanfare around it to generate worldwide sales on the purchase of next seasons shirt, so need to stoke up the hyperbole, but for the players and most of the fans it should be seen as a plain old football kit.

I do like the white shoulders though. It does remind me of the 90/91 league title winning shirt, sans the different patterned tones of red diamond-looking shapes on it. Hopefully we can get the same outcome wearing that shirt as we did back in 91.

Me personally, it’s unlikely I’ll be buying the new shirt, on account of the sheer cost as well as the fact I only ever wear an Arsenal shirt to some home games. I’ve got enough in my wardrobe in that respect, so another £60 spent on a shirt that would probably only make half a dozen appearances a season, isn’t really my cup of tea.

I love how some people get so worked up in the hum-drum of it all though. Particularly when they see certain players in it and think “well he’s been pictured in the new kit so he won’t leave”. Guys and gals, all I’ll say is this: That Dutch Bloke.

One player who might be edging his way to The Arsenal is Petr Cech, if his coach Lollichon is to be believed. Heh, Lollichon; sounds like a genetically modified gherkin-flavoured iced snack on a stick.

Anyway, our pal Christophe has told the world that Petr wants to be happy, loves London, likes Arsenal’s style of play and has all but turned up at London Colney with a bag of balls, cones and some headgear. This seems to be rolling into one of those ‘no smoke without fire transfers’, but whilst most parties think that a deal could probably be done, the chief protagonists in any kind of halt in proceedings are unlikely to make it easy. First and foremost, we haven’t really heard from Arsène in any detail about this and having seen this type of speculation before, I know that we could only be a day or two away from an Arsène “no, we are not in for him”. We know that he rates him and that he has tried to sign him before, but I just have this weird feeling that despite all the noise being made about him signing, it won’t happen. It all feels a bit too public to me. Sometimes I have wondered in the past if Arsène has pulled out of deals because he’s just finally got the hump and pulled out because of all of the publicity. It’s an irrational thought I know, but are you telling me you haven’t had a thought like that about Le Boss in the past?

So whilst everyone else seems to have had their say, Arsène is on the down low and I think this transfer will not be as straightforward as everyone thinks, especially when you take the other chief protagonist into question.

Jose Mourinho is an ‘orrible little oik. And I can say that with some confidence, given that two weeks ago I went to Madam Tussauds in London and he was there as a waxwork, almost a full foot shorter than me. He’s a little man with a petty streak in him and regardless of all of the Chelski platitudes coming out about the service Cech has given the club and what he deserves, the Portuguese will make this transfer as difficult as possible. First he’ll try to make the price as prohibitive as possible for Arsenal, knowing we don’t pay over the odds. Then he’ll try to drag it out as long as he can, probably by insisting he needs a replacement first. He’ll then possibly even try what he’s publicly suggested and go for a home-grown Arsenal player. But we all know that should fall flat on its face. Why? Because the only players who he will want will be too close to the first team for us to consider. And if he does like the look of Walcott and the Englishman doesn’t look like he’s going to sign a deal, do you really think Theo’s value is not as high as Petr’s?

It’s not. Theo’s value is greater. Forward players are always more expensive in value and at 26, Theo has more of a career ahead of him (in theory, although I know ‘keepers tend to be able to go on into their late 30s) than Cech. So if any deal like that were to be done, you’d expect it to be more like a player-plus-cash deal for us than anything else.

It ain’t gonna happen.

So with that in mind, I cannot see any way in which this deal can be done quickly, assuming there is the desire from Arsène’s and Arsenal’s side. We all think we need a new ‘keeper, but remember when we all needed a defender last summer? Hold on to your Puma headgear folks, we’re in for a bit of a ’round-the-houses’ ride yet.

Cech saga to drag on, which is fine by me; Santi scoops third

It seems that we’re in full flow on the transfer tittle-tattle-go-round, which means the happiest people to be are journalists, because they are the ones who have all of the attention. This time of year must be on their objectives or something, because the self-promoting and exposure-grabbing knows no bounds. If there’s a meeting of fans, a journo will be there. If there’s a radio show needing a sound bite, the journos will be there. If a TV sports channel needs 15 seconds of filler clippings, the journos will be there. And we will lap it up because we have nothing else football-related to hang our hats on.

The sports journalist media must be livid that the season is so short, because the hits and clicks that they must try and secure in the summer to boost annual web targets, is drastically reduced. Think retailers at Christmas and some sort of unseasonally good weather that stops people from staying indoors and shopping. Yeah, that.

The current excitement from an Arsenal perspective is the movements of Petr Cech, who has said that ideally he wants to find a solution whereby he plays more football, doesn’t have to move his family, or suffer the palaver of uprooting abroad. John Cross was asked about this yesterday at a supporters club meeting and said that he thought Cech wanted to come, but Chelski are asking for £10million+ and they will probably drag it out all summer.

If Cross is right, then it would make sense, because Jose is a petty and pathetic human being and none of us could expect anything less from him. But for a change (assuming we are in for Cech of course), I’m not as fussed, because I firmly still believe we can compete with our existing team. Why not? Chelski won the league and there’s no doubt that they were the best team for it, but memories must be short, because they’re excellent start to the season was as mcn down to the ability of their manager to field the same XI for a prolonged period of time, as ours was poor because of the litany of injuries we had.

Do I think Cech would improve us as a team? Of course. Do I think without him we have no chance of winning the league? Not on your nelly. Because as much as Ospina and Szczesny may not be world class ‘keepers, if we bolster our squad numbers in a couple of areas, I still think we can win the league. Imagine what we could do if the same players fit from February until April were fit from August to January? I’m picking January because I believe that if you start to build momentum in a squad, all players up their game, which makes it easier to rotate because you can trust more players to perform. That’s what I believe happened with Chelski this season. They raced to a lead and then when they wobbled a bit this season, the players who dipped in form could be rotated with others in the squad, who were coming into a winning team. It’s easier to play in a winning team than a struggling one.

In existing squad news, Santi Cazorla has been voted third in the fans Player of the Season awards, with 8.4% of the vote. It is deserved recognition for a player who you could be forgiven for thinking would be looking for a new club this summer, if the thoughts from last summer and the fan and pundit majority were to be believed. I have to say I wasn’t sure how Santi would fit in to the current first team dynamic with Ramsey and Wilshere in the squad, but he has reinvented himself in a way that now makes him undroppable.

Sitting alongside Coquelin – who I do wonder if he might have got close to the voting, were it not for Alexis and probably Mesut – he has been outstanding this season, no more so than the 2-0 away win at Moneychester City. It is testament to his performances that instead of wondering who will play central midfield out of Wilshere or Ramsey, the end of the season saw Rambo shunted out wide to be accommodated in the team, as opposed to Santi playing in one of the wide positions like he did at times last season. Those twinkle toes and the ability to retain position and set us going from deep has meant that we’d added another dimension to our game. With Cazorla sparkling in that position, it means players like Ramsey or Alexis know they can make runs from further up the field, when we have the ball on the edge of our own box. Again, as I said last week, I’m reminded of the Cazorla ball for Ramsey’s goal against Hull. That is the sort of ball you get from Cazorla and that is why he is so important to the team, because his vision allows him to do that, something probably only Mesut Ozil has in the team other than Cazorla.

I would have actually have had my 3-2-1 in a slightly different way to the fans, as Santi would have been in at number 2 behind the inevitable crowning of Alexis as player of the season. I can only assume that Mesut will come in at number 2, because creative players tend to feature highly in these types of awards. Personally, I’d have had Koscienly, Cazorla and Alexis, because whilst Kos missed a chunk of the season through injury (like most of our team if you think about it – Walcott, Giroud, Ozil, Ramsey, Wilshere, etc), he was good before he became injured and better when he came back. Ozil has been brilliant since returning from injury, but by his own admission, he struggled at the start of the season.

Anyway, that’s probably enough from me for one day. I’ll leave you to your own affairs and check in with you again tomorrow for some more musings.

If’s and but’s on rotation, the league and transfers

A little holiday away from work awaits yours truly here after today’s London grind, so apologies if the timing of the blogs get a little wayward, a bit like a loose Fabregas kick into the centre of a group of players inside a penalty box I suppose.

What a bit of madness that was, eh? But what I think it almost conclusively proves beyond any doubt, is that when you join Chelski you are inserted with an ‘evil serum’ that makes you at leat 25% more dislikable by at least a quarter and in some cases (Diego Costa, John Terry), 100% dislikable.

Oh well, thanks to tomorrow night’s game we can quickly forget about the evil in the world resonating from that part of West London, focusing on the purity of the dominant team in North London. It’s ours don’t you know.

Theo was quoted in the papers yesterday and this morning; saying that there can be no excuse not to challenge next season, that this season perhaps the believe was not quite there but next season with the squad and players we have we simply must challenge. I don’t think you’ll find many Arsenal fans arguing there. What we need is the start from 2013/14 welded together with the finish of 2014/15 and I reckon we’ll be up there. But a lot will depend on the ability to pick your best and most cohesive team and that, in some cases, requires a little bit of luck to avoid injuries for key players. We can all bemoan the hamstring and calf strains that might point to the medical team and/or poor rotation and fatigue of players over a long season, but if somebody decides to Shawcross Alexis, or Martin Taylor Özil, there’s not a lot we can do. Thankfully I believe the squad is capable enough to cover for losses of players from injury for a few games, but mass absences like we saw at the start of the season are not something any team can handle I don’t think, even the evil serum-taking Chelski team of this season. 

So whilst I agree that we need to be fighting better for the title, there’s a big ‘if’ in there depending on injuries.

There’ll be a press conference and some tam news at some stage today, but it will be interesting to hear what the manager might say about rotation. Szczesny perhaps? Gibbs, Gabriel, Wilshere, Walcott, Welbeck maybe? With third all but secured, perhaps you want those players that are desperate to prove themselves so they can get in the final squad and hopefully the first XI, so maybe we’ll get an insight into whether Arsène’s mind is edging towards a bit of rotation. 

Perhaps it is. After all, the team has been playing one game a week for a while and I’m convinced it’s helped with our form for the latter part of the season, so to rotate a little to keep players a bit fresher makes sense in my mind. After West Brom at the weekend we have a full week of recovery and so if Arsène wants to keep his players match sharp then he can do so at the weekend having given a few a rest from Old Trafford and a full week between games.

Anyway, we’ll know soon enough. In the mean time, how about we breathe a sigh of relief that we appear to have finally shaken off the ‘annual transfer saga’ tag that we spent five or so years worrying about, having finally handed it across to Liverpool, who will spend the summer worrying about Raheem’s movements in the off season. I’m not going to laugh, because I still remember what it felt like seeing our players depart, but the unsettling of Sterling could see something of a conversation starter between us and the scousers. Arsène is a known admirer and Theo is in a bit of a contractual dilemma, so if the noises from Camp Walcott are that this might be a difficult deal again, Arsène could decide to cash in. I know it’s not as simple as that and rarely do swap deals materialise, but stranger things have happened in football so you never know.

Besides, if Jose is opening the door to Petr Cech joining Arsenal – assuming Arsène’s keen – then Dick’ll probably have to spend most of the summer chasing Jose around London hotels, so his attention might be away from a nippy winger from Liverpool.

One things for sure; with all of these stories beginning to bubble away, you can tell the press are itching for transfer silly season to start.

Glass half empty or full?

Thank some sort of deity that it’s Friday. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’ve had a shocking week – Arsenal result aside – I’ve just had enough of the proverbial stuff thrown at me work-wise that I’ll be grateful for a few days off. 

Plus the league have deemed it acceptable for us to finally have a game on a weekend instead of a Monday night, so that gives me something right at the end to look forward to, Arsenal-wise. Or dread, depending on how full your glass is.

If it’s half-empty, then you won’t have been too encouraged with the news that The Ox, Debuchy and Arteta are all out for the weekend, whilst Rambo and Welbeck are uncertainties. It’s a shame if neither of the latter pull through and it undoubtedly weakens us somewhat, but if you’ve got a half-full glass, you’ll be happy that we have the depth in the team to make these absences appear minimal. Bellerin for Debuchy, Coquelin for Arteta are familiar swaps, so it’s just the Ox that I think we’re really missing out on.

Not least because I’m convinced it would give the manager a serious decision to make with Ramsey. The Ox is a more naturally suited player out wide right and I think he’d definitely be playing if he was fit, but this ongoing injury which seems to have no return date appears to continue to linger, so much so that I’m starting the think we won’t see him again this season.

Who knows? Arsène’s squad selection decisions may be so numerous that he’s decided a normal six week injury layoff gets an additional two ‘just to be safe’ but also to avoid a difficult decision and cheering a player off. That’s probably what I’d do if I was in Le Boss’ position. So maybe we will see if the same happens with Ramsey and his knock from the Swansea game, or Welbeck too.

The only difference with Welbeck is that he appears to be Arsène’s only real preferred choice to Giroud up top, which I’m sure is why we’ve seen a slight tailing off of Giroud’s form in the last couple of weeks, as his competition in the squad is reduced. It’s not the sole factor; as has already been pointed out the shunting out wide of Ramsey probably has had an impact as he has one less wide man to get in behind defenders and put the ball in for him, or the fact that he’s a confidence player and when ex-stars like Thierry Henry say you can’t with the league with him in the side who knows how he will react? He’s a confidence player and if that gets knocked you can see the impact.

I think it might have a small effect, but competition from Welbeck and the position of Ramsey have had more of an impact than anything else.

So I wonder if Welbeck is rushed back to the first team ahead of the other players, especially if he is given the extra incentive of another opportunity to prove Louis van Gaal wrong by playing well against his old club. 

All of this and there’s not even the slightest mention of Walcott who, I have to admit, I find it staggering that his stock has fallen so much in 18 months. He’s gone in the summer, almost certainly, but I hope that he keeps his Arsenal legacy by moving abroad. I’m sure it won’t happen and he’ll be bound for an English side, but it does feel like a sad way for a player who was once a lynchpin of the team, discarded like an old Cornetto wrapper.

That’s football I suppose. Eventually it will happen to every player. Just ask Rosicky how he’s feeling at the moment.

Laters.

Players out with positive responses

The phrase ‘let your football do the talking’ has never been more obvious than after a defeat like Monday’s one to Swansea, because the website is littered with post match fallout from Wenger, Wilshere and Mertesacker. It’s kind of funny actually, because in the last six weeks or so there’s been practically nothing from the players by comparison, so to see a few talking about the performance does make me think back to the dark old days when Johan Djourou practically had his own midweek press conferences.

So in a way, it’s kind of a positive thing, because I’ve been able to contextualise Monday’s result a bit more. I’m able to say ‘hey, we’ve been on a great run, we’ve got ourselves into a good position to qualify automatically for the Champions League (which a lot of ex-pros said we wouldn’t make at all), as well as an FA Cup final on the horizon’ and that is not something to be sniffed at.

Perhaps it’s because we’ve developed a taste of success last season with the cup final and this season with that amazing winning run, that I have developed an appetite that attitude for success that means even the slightest blip results in me being even more disappointed? After all, there were times over the last couple of seasons in which rather than the frustration I felt yesterday, I had only apathy setting in. So maybe I – and you if you feel similarly to me – need to just take back, take a breath and appreciate that it ‘feels’ like we’re on the right track. I’m glad it’s under Arsène’s watch too. It does feel like we’re steadily improving and that he is starting to look more like Arsène Wenger: The Dominant Years, rather than Arsène Wenger: The Financially Pragmatic Years. It will have been painful to see him walk out the door without at least looking like we’re going to go ‘Once more unto the breach’ under his stewardship.

Anyway, thankfully and positively, the comments from the players on the official site are more ‘we need to bounceback on Sunday’ style fighting talk comments, rather than bland, generic ‘we know we must try harder for the fans’ that we were getting five or so years ago from players who were clearly not up to it. I actually believe it when players like Big Per talk about a response, which is testimony to the way in which this season has turned around.

I do hope Arsène takes some time to consider what the best option might be for Sunday though, tactically speaking I mean, because the defeat gives him a chance to analyse what went wrong and perhaps make some tweaks to his side based on form and how United might play. The game will be a totally different one to Swansea and so we need to be mindful of that, as Per says when he talks about winning the midfield battle. There can be no time for fallen heads and sloping shoulders. A response must be given. Not just because we want to put daylight between us and the Mancs, but because we need to make sure our confidence and form isn’t spiralling in the wrong direction before we get to the FA Cup Final. That is the big game that above anything else I am worried about if we’re beaten by United to make it two defeats in a row. The league form is fine, but we want the players to go in to the cup final on a high, which you’d question if we fall back down into fourth again this season. 

Anyway, enough of my dealing in hypotheses and other such events that have yet to transpire, I should just worry about the here and now. The ‘then’ and ‘what if’ can wait.

We must maintain competition in the Arsenal squad

It’s Election Day here in the UK and with most of the country can’t honestly tell the difference between the parties duking it out, the winner of this popularity contest will probably be the person with the greatest personality. 

Arsène Wenger for President people.

It’s quiet on the Arsenal front. Quieter than a fox in a back garden wearing socks and mittens. Quieter than you’re average van Persie when watching the FA Cup final. Quieter than a Spud in a library.

Quiet.

With the team not playing until Monday night, there’s absolutely no need whatsoever to stir up any issues either, so we’re having to contend ourselves with the prospects of watching other teams in Champions League action. I started to watch the Barca v Bayern game and whilst it wasn’t too cagey in the first half, chances being at a premium as they were, I decided to catch up on a bit of Game of Thrones in the second. More fool me, it appears, as Messi once again stole the show. 

He’s often the difference – much like Ronaldo, I must admit through gritted teeth – for Barcelona and given that it’s widely accepted that those two are very much ‘one offs’ I do find it humorous how dependent both teams are on those two. Sure, there are plenty of quality players in the team, but those two stand out. Which is why I crease a smile when I see people in the media talk about Giroud and a team not being capable of winning things unless they have a ‘world class’ player in their team. From what I’ve seen over the last 48 hours, there are players in all four Champions League semi-finalists – three of four who will be Champions of their respective leagues within the next few weeks – who I would class as not quite ‘world class’. So does the logic that you need to have world class players only applicable to English teams.

Yes, some would have you think, particularly when no English team is in the semi finals of European’s premier competition. For that is how the media judges everything. Not based on practicalities of performance, but on whether you’ve navigated a knockout comp. Chelski under Roberto Di Matteo were clearly the best team in Europe when they won it. Ha!

Still, at least we all do our best to drown out the hum-drum of the English press as best we can, with the help of Arsène and the team. Starting at some stage today with some sort of team news. Hopefully Ramsey has overcome his ankle knock and is available, but if not it will be a fine opportunity for Theo to ask the manager if he can have a go.

It’s funny, as we near the end of the season I am hoping we start to see some more rotation, because we want all of the players feeling like they can win their place back in to the team next season. There have been numerous accounts of players talking about how everyone is trying extra hard to win a place in the first XI in the wake of stiff competition, but Arsène does need to get the balance right, so freezing out some players isn’t really something I think should be considered and I do think he should rotate a few players where he can. I may be derided for what I’m about to say, but Chamakh and Jenkinson – when afforded time in the first team – were able to show that they were decent players. It was only when they were left out of the team for a prolonged period of time that they looked like weak links in the team.

Form and regular game time breeds confidence, as Jenkinson for West Ham and Coquelin for us have shown this season, which is why Arsène needs to strike a blend of giving players continuous game time to build momentum and rotating so that other players can hit the ground running if called upon through injury or suspension to others.

We’ve had problems in the past where the starting XI was the starting XI and as a result the squad players knew they didn’t stand a chance of staking a claim in the side even if they played and played well. We don’t want to go back to that. We need to keep players thinking that they can play in this Arsenal team and that if they string together a run of good performances, that they will get in the team, and stay there.

That’s why I hope to see a bit of rotation in the league. Let’s keep the momentum, but also keep a squad of players who are all fighting and motivated come August.

Catch you later alligator.

Confidence is high with plenty still to play for

Securing the return of St Totteringham’s Day milestone was just the start. Now we enter the crucial part of the season in which when we look back over the summer we either go ‘this was the beginning of New Arsenal’ or ‘meh’. 

Progress has been made – the players all know that and have spoken about it – but the one thing you don’t get in this league is the footballing equivalent of a boxing points decision for being the best for most of the fight. It’s the game we all love because you can’t lose form at all, especially at the end of the season, in which even now after a superb run of form we still need three wins out of our last four to get close to finishing second.

But like I said, the players know this and we’ve heard from both Jack and Per talking up the importance of improving on last season and going at least one better than having to go through the Champions League qualifying stages. I think it’s more of a psychological thing more than anything else; we have won all of our qualifying matches when asked and I think even if we’d have qualified for the Group stages outright in previous seasons, we’d have probably have still left our business late, so I don’t think that had a major impact. But it’s a tater nonetheless and with four games to go it’s nice to have something to still be aiming for.

Mesut too has been speaking to the official site, talking up that first half and the team performance, specifically that of Alexis. As the two become more and more in sync throughout each game, the prospect of Özil feeding Alexis’ fire in the same way he did for Ronaldo is mouthwatering. The difference would obviously be that Alexis isn’t an attention-demanding, tanned, greasy haired w*nker, which I think we can all be grateful for.

We don’t have one single superstar in the team and to be quite frank, I couldn’t be happier about that and I do wonder if Özil feels the same at Arsenal, because he’s one of an all-star cast rather than best supporting actor in what must feel like a one-man play at Madrid some times. I watched parts of the Juve-Real game yesterday and the way Ronaldo swanned around the pitch demanding the ball at every opportunity, only made me want an Italian team to win more, AN ITALIAN TEAM!! Crazy stuff. 

One person on that field who did impress me though, was Isco, who’s drive and willingness to run at players with the ball was a real plus point. Ben won’t thank me for the comparison, but he reminded me of what Jack Wilshere could be, if he could find the right place in his team. Jack has a similar running style to the Spaniard, but his ability to travel with the ball at his feet was also impressive and I do believe that if he can string together a season of consistent performances – like the game against City at home – we’d see him evolve into a player whose name is up there on the teamsheet first with Mesut, Alexis and Le Coq.

But he has to get there and right now, it’s hard to see how, because Arsène won’t change a winning team and whilst all of the current players are playing as well as they are, why should he? So Jack will just have to bide his time and like Theo and Gibbs, get to the summer and work their arses off in pre season to win back their places.  

Just a quick one on the Premier League winners. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve tried hard to subconsciously – and consciously – avoid the news, but I love the fact that not a lot has been made (where I have been reading, anyway) of the fact Chelski have won the league. It’s like even the Mourinho loving media aren’t particularly that fussed about the borefest that is that club. Long may it continue and hopefully by the time the FA Cup comes around, nobody will give a monkeys – or even remember – who won the league in 2014/15.

Anyway, I should probably call it a day, because I don’t really have much else to say and if you think I’m giving my thoughts on the royal potato lookalike, you can think again.

Ciao.