Not even new signing excitement could avoid the tedium

Happy Thursday is wished unto thee, as you like I, battle the tedium that is an international break.

We’re fully into the festering swamp that is internationals now, so there’s no point on looking back and discussing football of weekends past, we just have to keep our eyes on the prize and focus on the visit of Moneychester City to The Emirates on Saturday week.

Last night I made the epic mistake of tuning in to about 40 minutes worth of England Vs Norway and, perhaps surprisingly, found some comfort in the game. The comfort came from the fact that my expectations and experiences of international football have not proven to be false and that it really is a total waste of time. 40,000 people (less than half the stadium) decided that they had nothing better to do in Wembley last night, but by the end of the 1-0 win there will hardly have been any people inside the stadium that would have felt it was a worthwhile journey.

A turgid England was only made more satisfying, for me as an Arsenal fan, by the noises that came from corners of the media saying that Wilshere had a decent game and that Welbeck made a positive impact when he came on for the last 20 minutes. Let’s just hope that all the Arsenal players can come back fit as a fiddle after the qualifying game against Switzerland.

I suppose one positive I can draw from this international break is that by playing a team like City straight after the internationals have finished, we will be playing against players that have also been on international duty, which means there is no additional advantage gained over a team that has had a week to put their feet up. I know that it shouldn’t really matter at this stage of the season, and that having international quality players is what you need in your team if you want to win things, but I’m looking for any sma victories here, so humour me folks.

So we got our first glimpse of Arsenal’s Welbeck yesterday, who looked like he had a spring in his step, if you don’t mind me saying. Perhaps he was buoyed by his transfer and the prospect of finally getting a chance to play as a central striker? Whatever it was, he looked pretty decent and having had his first interview posted on the official site in the afternoon, he’s already endearing himself to fans like me with his comments.

Whilst recognising he spent a lot of time at United, he was very focused on all things Arsenal and the future, perhaps even being slightly dismissive of his past if I do say so myself. And I do. Because that’s what I want to hear and it’s always better to believe what you want to believe, rather than what could be the reality, which includes the fact that having been in the United first team for many years he’ll have been media trained to BBC news anchorman standards.

Regardless of the likelihood that he was telling us what we wanted to hear, it was still good to hear him speak so glowingly about The Arsenal, watching them on TV all the time, admiring the style of football and imagining himself playing for us. What I also liked about his interview was the sense that he already felt part of the club, using the all encompassing ‘we’ to describe Arsenal as a team, the recent history, etc. It’s the little things, you know?

But actually, it’s what he started to touch on (admittedly with the help of the interviewer) when talking about the creative players that we have, that had me getting excited of the prospect of him being a success at the club this season and I the future. He talked about linking up with the midfielders, about getting in behind defences and about using his pace to bag himself a few goals. It was only a year ago to the day that you could look at our team and, Theo aside, wonder how many times the players we had could get in behind defences like the Arsenal teams of old. Now, with the additions of Welbeck, Sanchez and Campbell, there are multiple options with pace as well as Walcott. The hope is that we can use it to our advantage.

I hope he hits the ground running on Saturday week and I hope we see him bang in a debut goal. That would be special and give us all a massive lift.

There’s not really a lot else to report on. It was nice to see Chambers get some minutes on the pitch towards the end of the match yesterday, plus the Ox got another good run out after injury last season and despite the fact he didn’t have the best game in the world, he will need time to rediscover his potency in the attacking third of the pitch so I’m not particularly worried about that. Jack will have also have felt good about getting another decent performance under his belt and, with all of the scrutiny he has over everything he does, it’s pleasing to see he’s essentially ignoring the morons in the media and getting his head down and working towards being the great player he can be. I still wonder how much game time he’ll get when Arteta, Ramsey and Özil are firing on all cylinders in the middle of the park, but it’s a concern for another day so I’ll park any further thoughts on that for now.

That’s yer lot from me today. Stay safe in this bleakest of international breaks.

Contrast of styles: high pressing against Leicester needed

Welcome to Sunday and Welcome to Matchday. The greatest day of the week.

Today it is the visit to Leicester, where even The Arsenal fans all follow The Arsenal to get to, whether it be land or sea. As a newly promoted side in the early throngs of their Premier League season, they’ll be eager to impress and having already fought back to pick up a draw in the dying embers of the game against Everton on the opening day, the Foxes will be quite eager to prove that the KP stadium is something of a challenge to walk away from with any points.

It will be an interesting game today, as it appears there will be a clash of styles that we’ll see on display from 4pm, what with Leicester already looking like long-ball merchants of Premier Leagues of old. I think it was a tweet from 7AmKickOff that showed the long and short pass completion stats for the whole league and, as expected after only two games Arsenal are at the bottom of the table for long passes, but the top of the tree for short ones. In contrast, Leicester have reversed those figures and stand head and shoulders above every other team.

What that means for us today I can only make an assumption on, which is that our back four will be subjected to it’s first aerial bombardment of the season, so it will be interesting to see how our defenders cope if that is the case. I’m reminded of the last fifteen minutes or so at Swansea last season, when Swansea were chasing an equaliser from us and resorted to an unfamiliar tactic given their style of play since promotion to the league, in which a number of balls were floated into the box to try to put our back four under pressure by weight of numbers and bodies. Thankfully we withstood the onslaught quite well and pick up the points so I’m hoping for the same today.

What I think will be important is Koscienly’s role in sweeping up behind the BFG. If Leicester are playing long balls into the channels in behind Big Per, we know that he won’t have the pace to keep up with any of the Leicester attacking players, so Kos must be alert to make up any ground that Per will lose out on. Conversely, Big Per will be the man to go for aerial duels, so he needs to use all of that slender but massive frame to make sure he’s batting away any potential knock-downs.

In midfield I suspect we’ll see a similar line up to the game against Everton, with Flamini, Wilshere and Ramsey playing through the middle, whilst Özil and the Ox will play on the flanks. Personally, it’s not quite my preferred line up, as I’d like to see Mesut in the middle (heh, sounds like it could be a Sky One comedy series) with Ramsey the box-to-boxer and Flamini sitting deeper. That would mean that Jack unfortunately misses out, which would be a shame after a good performance in midweek, but as Özil said during the week his best position is through the middle and he is our best Number 10.

Up top we’ll see Alexis run his little heart out and I do wonder if his goal in midweek will have put an extra spring in his already well sprung step. We’ll need another good performance from him if we’re going to have a good result against Leicester, but his performance is also reliant on receiving a bit more support from his teammates in not isolating him in attack. At times against Everton it looked like he was so lonely up top he was dropping in to midfield to receive the ball, which left us without any real options up top and was frustrating for us all to watch. When we didn’t have the ball it was also obvious that there was a gap between him and the rest of the team. Alexis has spent a few years in a Barcelona team that presses extremely high up the pitch and you could see him gesturing to his teammates to get forward when Everton had the ball across their own back four. I’d love to see us press higher up the pitch today, because if Leicester do look to play longer passes from back to front, then putting them under pressure earlier will affect their ability to distribute more effectively and force the Leicester defence into making mistakes.

That’s the ideal scenario, anyway, but whether we will do it remains to be seen. As for our opponents, I must confess I know little about them other than a couple of the snippets I’ve read about them being a bit ‘long bally’. They have Dave Nugent who plays up top, but the fact that my iPhone predictive text doesn’t even register his name (preferring to
Call him ‘Dave Juventus’ instead) I hope is a good sign of his success against us today. They also have Peter Schmeichel’s son in goal, so if ever there’s a reason to dislike them any more, this would be it.

I am hoping that we can click into gear today and get our flowing football started. The last four games have been an execution of grind and determination with last minute goals that are no good for any Gooners health. We need a two or three goal cushion with half an hour to play before we can start feeling happy about any performance and whilst I don’t think we’ll get that today, I do hope we can get the first goal and have something to build on, so let’s keep our fingers crossed over that and work from there.

As for the transfer guff about Loic Remy, we’ve got all of tomorrow to panic about the lack of arrivals, so I think I’ll just focus on the football today and give you some thoughts tomorrow.

Up The Arsenal!

Giroud’s injury works for nobody

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lacklustre draw isn’t the end of the world

I’m not quite sure how I feel about yesterday’s 0-0 away draw to Besiktas in Istanbul last night. I mean, it’s good that we don’t have any kind of deficit to overcome in the second leg at home last night, but at the same time there are a couple of things that are nagging at me at the moment about the performance.

Obviously we didn’t play well. You and I both watched the game and we both know that. At the start of the season and with a few new players in the team it’s always going to take time to slip into a rhythm. But there were just a few additional warning bells that sounded with me, so I thought I’d pick them out for you, then perhaps round off with a bit of perspective, because ultimately it’s not doom and gloom and with a decent performance at The Emirates we should be able to progress to the group stages of The Champions League.

So, some of the elements of yesterday’s game that worry me: Olivier Giroud. Now, you won’t get me shouting from the rooftops that he’s a terrible player and we should slap £80millon down for Falcao, because it’s not a realistic option and quite frankly would be a waste of hot air if I did. Giroud is a decent £15million striker who will get us around 20 goals a season if he plays most of the games. But what he does need to bring to the team is that ability to bring others into play. That strength to receive the ball, hold off a defender and bring others into play. We’ve seen him do it last season and I’m sure he’ll be doing it this season. Having said that, yesterday was clearly not one of those nights that he was effective, because he offered very little throughout the duration of the game. His hold up play was poor, his pass completion in finding teammates was woeful, and his finishing was wayward. We know that he fluffs his lines occasionally on the finishing, which I’ve come to accept as one of his limitations, but the hold up play and ability to find a teammate like Ramsey, or either of his wide men, is something that just wasn’t there.

There will be people calling for Alexis through the centre, or for a new signing like Cavani, but to my mind that simply shifts the longer term issue. Arsene has clearly decided – and I’m happy to be proved wrong here and am open to opinions – that he wants a strong striker who can bring the pacey wide men and midfielders into play. It’s one of the reasons why Ramsey can be given more licence to get in the box to bang in the goals. So whilst I’d love another striker to come in, I just don’t think it will happen, because Arsene likes keeping harmony in the team and he won’t replace Giroud with an upgraded version of a target man. Not when he also has clear faith in developing Sanogo. So we have to deal with it. But what we do expect from him – if goals are not his strong point – is more link up play and that is what let him down yesterday.

Besiktas were alright, but nothing more than that. In fact, I’d probably put them more in the category of a side with the same level of ability as Crystal Palace, which gives you an idea why I think we should be disappointed. Like Palace, Besiktas pressed higher up the pitch (although as the game at the weekend wore on Palace were penned back further. I make the comparison based on a Palace side we could have played if the game was at Selhurst Park), were a little profligate in front of goal and had they had a little bit more quality about them in the final third, we’d be licking our wounds this morning and wondering how we’re going to qualify into the Champions League proper this morning. So I’m glad we don’t have that concern this morning, only the concern of a poor performance from some of the players, and the senior ones at that.

Santi Cazorla was another player whose absence in the second half was worrying. I thought he was poor against Palace and gave the ball away too easily. Yesterday he gave the ball away a couple of times. Not as many as the weekend, but it was his lack of time on the ball which was indicative of our overall performance yesterday. At one stage in the second half, I wondered if he was still on the pitch. I said as much on Twitter, to which somebody responded to say they’d just started watching the match and didn’t realise he was playing for ten minutes.

I know his natural position is not out wide left, but he has played there on a number of occasions last season, so I wouldn’t expect him to be be so lacklustre in a position he knows so well. One of the frustration I’ve laid at Wenger’s door before, is his unwavering belief in hierarchies within teams, but also his favourites. He does like to continue playing out of form players some times and, you have to say that another performance like last nights for the diminutive Spaniard at Everton, and you’d expect him to be dropped. However, I suspect he’ll be given more leeway than someone like Poldi would be given. I hope Santi can turn in a grand performance against the Toffees on Saturday, because he’s a fantastic player who has given us so much joy over the last two years, that I’d love to see him continue to weave his way through defences again. So let’s chalk this last week down to a bit of early season rustiness and move on, shall we?

There might be one or two that have a bit of a finger-wagging session in the direction of Jack today, but actually I thought he did ok. He wind some tackles, got stuck in to the opposition and showed that he wasn’t afraid to through his short but stocky frame about, as well as try to bring something to the attack. I’d certainly like to see more from him. What I’d like to see less of is the silliness of Rambo’s sending off. Yes, it was a very soft second yellow to receive, but with a crowd on his back – not to mention the Ice Road Trucker wannabe Slaven Bilic yelling at him every thirty seconds – it was a foul Rambo didn’t need to make. I guess it pretty much summer up an evening in which we were laboured and unconvincing.

He’ll serve a ban now for the return leg, which will be a massive blow, but we have cover in that part of the pitch thankfully. Well, we do right now, but if we keep picking up injuries like Arteta’s yesterday then we’re going to find ourselves patching up Ray Parlour to get back into the side. I sincerely hope that Arteta is not out for a prolonged period of time, because whilst Flamini can slot in to the role of marshalling the space in front of our defence, after that we’re getting into Coquelin territory who, whilst I rated highly before he went on loan last season, is clearly not in the managers plans and will most like be sold on within the next couple of weeks.

The injury list is already mounting. Gibbs, Arteta and Ospina are out, Koscienly is being patched up to play, Mertesacker, Özil and Poldi won’t be match fit and Giroud still doesn’t look match fit. It’s hardly the amazing start to the season that we all wanted, but hey, remember how I said I would try to shove in some perspective? We’re only two games in and we haven’t suffered any confidence sapping defeats yet. In fact, quite to the contrary, we have two wins (if you count the Community Shield) and a draw and whilst everyone is salivating over Chelski at the moment, let’s not forget that they played a newly promoted team who I think we’re a bit over-awed by the occasion and will also most likely be one of the teams that is down the bottom of the league at the end of the season.

Also, let’s be positive about the contributions of our newbies. Calum Chambers, ladies and gentlemen, Calum Chambers. To quote a Championship Manager phrase, I am simply ‘running out of superlatives to describe his performances’. He’s such a talent and once again showed what a purchase Arsene has made by bringing in this kid. I can totally see why Southampton fans were more disappointed to lose Chambers than Shaw. Per still comes straight into the side for me, but Chambers will push him all the way for a starting spot, which is great to see.

Debuchy was, well, Debuchy. He was good going forward, look decent defensively and gave another seven out of 10 performance. As did Monreal. He does get caught out once or twice and there will be times against better opposition that he’ll need more support from whoever plays in front of him, but he performed well and with Gibbs out should get more game time over the coming weeks.

Alexis was also more impressive too. He troubled the Besiktas left back with his pace, played a couple of decent balls in for the off-key Giroud, plus he was combining a little better with the midfield than I thought he did on Saturday. With each passing game you can see him improving his understanding with his teammates, which can only be a good thing.

Right, that’ll do for one day I think, because you’ve probably had enough of my rambling. I know I have. See you when I see you.

Embracing every advantage

Happy Friday you sexy Gooners!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adios amigos.

The DeJa Vu blog

Hello there again. How do?

It feels like I’ve written this blog before. You know, the one where I talk about the irrelevance of ‘pundits’ opinions like Phil Thompson or Gary Neville (although the latter certainly offers something by the way of actual insight, instead of baseless opinions without any real solid evidence to back it up), the players that are feeling and sounding positive (Szczesny and Arteta this time on the official site), as well as the odd bit of transfer tittle-tattle too (rumours of Greek defender Manolas were rife lat night). It’s all very DeJa Vuey.

Of course, the scrips has been rehashed a bit and it’s different people saying a variation on something similar, but I guess that’s what you get at this time of year. As the anticipation ahead of the new season starts, there are plenty of clicks and hits to be gained from media outlets, so they do all in their power to sup at the speculation and opinion well before it runs dry and is replaced by the actual football that takes place.

It’s funny actually, because I find myself the complete inverse to these media outlets: I start off the summer quite happy to read the odd speculative story, but by the time we get to mid August I just want them to disappear like a Big Brother contestant after the competition has ended. I’m ready for the football now and counting down the days until, at the very least, I get to write a match preview.

As for the speculation itself, with Kostas Manolas left out of Olympiakos’ game yesterday against Wigan (I think it was Wigan but am happy to be corrected), the airwaves began to a’tremble and assumptions began to be made that Arsenal are after the young Greek international. I am certainly no scouting expert and as El Hadji Diouf proved, the World Cup is hardly a blueprint for finding the world’s best players regardless of what form they’ve shown in the competition, but with nothing else to go on with the player it’s my only reference.

At 23 years old and with a pretty solid World Cup behind him, if Arsenal really after him, then it wouldn’t be the worst move in the world. I don’t know many Greeks that travel well in footballing terms, but with Per and Kos ahead of him in the pecking order, it would keep the pressure slightly off him to hit the ground running if he did sign this season. If you think about how Per was thrown in at the deep end and discarded as a flop because of his lack of pace in his first season, it gives me a bit of comfort to know that a player coming in will have that bit of reduced pressure on his shoulders.

If the sums are to be believed as well – that Olympiakos are looking for around £9million for him, then it would effectively almost be cost neutral, as Vermaelen joined Barca for £8million plus add ons. Of course, a price tag is no guarantee of quality, but from the World Cup showings I saw, he looked like a good player and I actually thought he was older than he is at the World Cup. I guess that could potentially show a maturity to his game that would be welcome at The Arsenal.

Did you watch the Super Cup last night? I caught the first half and I must say the attacking options of Real Madrid looked scary. I don’t know whether Ancelotti plans on running with an eight man attack, but he has quality busting out of every corner of that team and it must be a tough time being a Barca or Atletico Madrid fan right now, because they will surely be favourites. Of course with Khedira not even making the squad there were rumours abound that this was to facilitate a transfer, but I believe there’s truth in Arsene’s words and that we’re not after him. I don’t know if we were, but the most pressing need has to be a centre half right now and so if the club are putting all their attentions into that, then I’m fine with it.

The squad is looking good in my opinion and after a brief Twitter exchange with some friends last night about how the defence cost us the league last season (I vehemently disagreed with that), I think another central defender would see us in good shape for the next nine months of football. I think what cost us the league last season was our lack of pace in the final third when key players went missing. Games against Swansea, Stoke and Everton in the latter stages of the season saw us slow and lethargic and it allowed opponents to play high lines and press very closely from the front. If you add pace into those game where we were woefully exposed, those teams naturally wouldn’t play such high lines, which would in effect, give space for midfield players to assert more dominance to a game and also reduce the burden on our back line. Simples.

That’s all I gots for you today. Probably won’t be a blog tomorrow as I might not have time, but will certainly see if Steve can pull his finger out of an orifice and write something.

See thee on Friday.

So many positives, even if it’s a friendly

There have been many days over the years that it has felt slightly painful to be waking up as a Gooner. Some of the stinging defeats to the bigger teams last season smarted a bit.

Today is not one of them.

Today is a day in which you and I get to smile at the fact we swept aside the Champions, whilst at the same time, feel nothing but incredible excitement at the prospect of this upcoming season.

Yes, the Community Shield is nothing but a glorified friendly with a piece of silver at the end for the winner, but as a radio presenter remarked last night as I was basting my roast beef (no, that is not a euphemism!) they made a remark that nobody can contest: it’s better to start your season with the confidence of having won it than not.

You can’t say the team will lack any confidence after that performance.

They may well have been mitigating circumstances – as a BT Sport were at pains to point out throughout the game – with the number of absences that Momeychester City had, but don’t let anybody tell you that Pellegrini wasn’t fussed about winning the thing or not. When you reach the top of any sporting profession, you do so because you have the desire and drive to be successful at everything to put your hand to, so Pellegrini would have prepared his charges in the same way they will prepare to face Newcastle next weekend.

As for the absences, of course City will be stronger, but very little seemed to be mentioned in the commentary that I watched about the fact that Arsenal had Mertesacker, Özil, Podolski and Walcott out, whilst Giroud was clearly still not fit. But perhaps that’s because everyone is used to seeing Arsenal depleted by injuries. Moneychester City fans had better hope they don’t fall foul of a similar fate this season (although I acknowledge that there is an argument that we won’t fall foul as badly if Arsene rotates a bit more than usual, so we can keep players fresher throughout the season, less susceptible to injury), because based on the performance yesterday they are as reliant on their ‘big’ players as any team in the division.

As for the game itself, well, that was as perfect a blueprint that you’d want to see for any start to the season. From kick off it was obvious we were better prepared than the Citizens and more composed on the ball. We dominated the opening 15 minutes, then 30, then right up until halftime. When we conceded possession I was really pleased to see us win the ball higher up the field, which alleviated any pressure on the defence and meant we could turn defence into attack quite rapidly.

And we were rapid, weren’t we? Sanchez has that element of trickery about him that reminds me a little of Rosicky, but he’s got bags of pace about him and looked to be a real handful for the City defence. There will still be questions as to his best position as he finds his way into the team, but you can tell he’s going to be a great asset. What I really loved in the first half was seeing him race through one-on-one against Caballero, because Theo aside, we haven’t had another player able to do that on a frequent basis since Thierry. So when Mesut Özil is fit and fully integrated into the first team, I’m quite excited about the prospect of a few searching balls in between defence and goalkeeper, from the German to the Chilean.

There were so many positives from yesterday’s game. Just look at the opening scorer. With all the furore around the new signings over the last two summers, little Santi Cazorla – our player of the season two years ago – has almost taken a bit of a back seat in the limelight of the team. He also looked terribly unfit at last weeks Emirates Cup. Yet yesterday I thought he looked a bit more like his old self, keeping hold to the ball, being involved in the build up to chances and with his goal came a classic Santi feint before tucking the ball away with his left foot. There are so many good players at our club these days and Santi is a prime example of a player that might find his game time a wee bit more limited over the course of the season, but nobody should be under any illusion on how important his role in the team will be.

I loved how Jack was getting into spaces in between the City defence and midfield time and time again. He looked up for it yesterday and as Arsene has already said, this is the first time in a few summers that he’s had a full pre season under his belt. Again, he’s another one that we can rightly expect big things for this season and regardless of what Mr Adams says, he will kick on and show his value I’m sure.

Goal number two’s recipient had an element of inevitability about it, didn’t it? Aaron Ramsey stepped up and slotted a great ball home after the impressive Sanogo had held up the ball and fed him in. A quick aside for Sanogo – I get the feeling he’ll be in the similar mould to Giroud, in that he won’t be the scorer of as many goals, but he will bring others into play and be very useful indeed. Aaron’s finish was what we’ve come to expect from him and there is certainly confidence amongst Gooners everywhere that last season was not a one off but the norm now with the Welshman. What was so clever about that finish was actually the touch just before the goal. It was a kind of little mini chip into his own path so that he could hit the ball on the half volley. That’s the sign of a player that is not only full of confidence, but full of ability too, and I hope we can see more of that next weekend and throughout the season.

Defensively there were plus points too. Debuchy looked like he’d been in that right back slot for years and Calum Chamber has the assured composure of a 29-year-old, not one ten years younger. Arsene remarked after the game that he’ll try to bring in someone for Vermaelen as cover in central defence, but if Chambers has more displays like that, then he’ll rightly find it hard. There was one moment in the game where Jovetic was gifted the ball from Chambers and looked to be through on goal, but the lads recovery pace looks to be pretty decent and he was quite rapid in retrieving it from his opponent.

Again, all this positivity and I haven’t even mentioned the good performances of Gibbs or Arteta, or the few commanding catches Szczseny made in his own box. And I haven’t even mentioned the stunning finish of Giroud, who sheepishly took the man of the match performance much to the surprise of most people I think, because he was quite in the most part. Olivier hasn’t exactly become know for his long range radar and there was a couple of occasions last season where we could have done with a pearler like that (Everton in the last minute where he hit the bar springs to mind), but if we see a few of those this season there should be few that argue he hasn’t upped his game in the face of more competition for his place.

It augurs well for what will be a very different game next weekend against Palace. Pulis will attempt to borify the world with stifling tactics and reduction in space in the final third for Arsenal, so we shouldn’t use this game as the benchmark for a season of clean sheets and large scores. Next weekend I’d take any form of win no matter how ugly.

So enjoy the day today, enjoy the fact that pre season appears to be going as we’d hoped, but temper it with an understanding that the real stuff starts at 5.30pm next Saturday.

Peace out