Lamenting the (possible) exit of the Prince

Sunderland may have helped to amuse me a little yesterday afternoon by picking up a point against a United side that we all hope can continue to be a bit short of ideas for the season, but by the time I laid my head on my pillow in the evening as Sunday drew to a close, I only had thoughts of potential disappointment.

Yep, it appears that there clearly is no smoke without fire and Lukas ‘Prince’ Podolski could be on his way out of Arsenal, with Juventus the apparent destination for our popular German. I’m sure you, like I, will be disappointed if this move actually comes off.

I think most of us suspected that Poldi might be offski this summer, but as the days ticked away and no rumours surfaced, I’d hoped that he’d have at least another year at the club. But it seems the absence from the entire squad on Saturday was another indicator that Arsene feels he’s not quite the right fit for the team any more.

It will be a big shame, because I like what Podolski brings to the club. Goals. In abundance. I’ve always said that we know exactly what we get with him and not a lot more. He is a natural-born finisher and if he gets 20 games in a season you can pretty much guarantee that he’ll get at least 10 goals. Goals win football matches. They are the hardest part of the game to master and when you have a player that is all about that in your team I think you simply must find a place for him. Think about Arshavin who, let’s face it, was all about mazy dribbling and finishing, but nowhere near on the level of Podolski in terms of end product. He seemed to stick around Arsenal rotting in the reserves for about a year longer than he should have done, so I suppose Arsene is looking at that situation and thinking that he doesn’t want to have a high-profile, high-earner, player who doesn’t contribute.

But that’s my issue: he CAN contribute and we all know it. Coming from the bench he could be quite a potent weapon I feel, so why isn’t Arsene considering him?

Perhaps it’s because of his technique and style. We all know that Arsene likes all of his players to be very highly gifted technically; it suits our style and quick interchanging of short passing. Podolski has never really been that great in that respect, so perhaps his Arsenal career was always going to be short-lived. He has also been known to be described as lazy because he doesn’t always track back. But my issue with that is that you have that from players like Mesut Ozil, so surely that can’t be another contributing factoring to his eventual Arsenal exit, can it?

I saw a Tweet yesterday from Arse2Mouse stating that the potential move to Italy was an interesting one because it meant that Arsene essentially needs at least 15 goals from Alexis this season to break par. I understand the sentiment and agree to an extent, but know that it doesn’t always work like that, as goals can be shared around a team to fill a void (a la The Dutch Bloke and the goals shared between Walcott, Giroud, Podli and Cazorla in the immediate aftermath season of the League after he left). It does seem strange that Arsene would put that pressure on the newer players in the team – Campbell and Alexis specifically – and expect them to immediately make an impact. Perhaps with the additional game time they will get as a result of one less player in their way it means that Campbell will step up, but he hasn’t exactly been a scorer of vast quantities of goals to this point, so I’d be surprised if he suddenly started banging them in. We know Alexis can score plenty of goals, but he needs time to bed in, so are we to rely on Ramsey and Giroud for the first part of the season whilst the squad knits itself together?

I’m just a bit worried is all. We haven’t exactly set the world alight yet – which is fine because it’s still quite early in the season – and we’re offloading players up top that have the experience and ability to bang in goals for the team. There might be some that say this could be a positive move because it means that another striker could be bought in, but as someone else said on my Timeline yesterday, this move is more fat-trimming than clearing the decks for another arrival. We’ve spent all summer being pleased that we’ve upgraded the squad with the additions, but we all also recognised that these have all been like-for-like replacement upgrades. That’s fine, but when we hit March this year, we were running out of bodies through injury, which given our injury record ever since The Invincibles, I have absolutely no hope (new fitness coach aside or not) that we won’t once again have a large number of absent players come the new year. That’s when a player like Podolski could be gold dust.

Here’s something to leave you with: last season we couldn’t find another forward player, so we kept Niklas Bendtner hanging around the training ground for a whole season taking up space. AND he even got some minutes on the pitch despite the fact the club, the player, the manager and the fans didn’t want that to happen. Why is it that was left to happen, but we can’t find a place for our natural-born finisher? Bit baffling.

Anyway, enough moroseness for one day, you have a good Montag.

Cheerio.

Everton away: Media narratives; points battled for

Yesterday was a day of recovery from a heavy Friday night which completely punished my body. I’m not as efficient with the amber nectar as I used to be it seems. As a result, doing anything that didn’t involve sleeping and water wasn’t on my agenda, even blogging suffered. I also had to prepare myself physically for entertaining The Management’s family with a full Sunday roast style dinner. The net effect was that I didn’t even manage to watch the game yesterday in real-time, having to settle for watching the game in full after the family had departed late last night.

Why am I telling you this? Well, mainly to explain that I find it very interesting how the end result affects the general narrative of a match, as well as the response from the media and fans. I am not somebody who can wait for something. When I was eight I knew my parents had a Lego pirate ship in their bedroom wardrobe fully six weeks before it was my birthday. It was annoying having to wait for it, but the very fact I was getting exactly what I wanted meant that I was contented.

I started off yesterday evening in full belief that I could avoid all contact with the outside world and watch the game as if it was in real-time. But the Lego pirate ship peaking boy inside me came to the fore and I switched on the radio at intermittent periods yesterday as I was cooking the dinner. What I heard from the commentators was an Arsenal team that were completely out of sorts, that didn’t deserve to pick up a point and yet by the end had smash and grabbed their way to a draw against a good Everton team. So it was with some reluctance that I watched the game yesterday late afterwards, knowing the result, which certainly took some of the worry out of watching Arsenal, but also gave me a different perspective.

For example: Everton. Described as composed on the ball, deadly going forward and thoroughly deserving of their 2-0 lead by half time. I’m not quite sure I saw it that way come the first half. Ozil switched off at the back post for the first goal, whilst for the second, there was most certainly a foul on Mertesacker and then an incorrect decision given by the lino (I am still not comfortable with calling them referees assistant) not to call Naismith offside before he slid the ball under Szczesny. The decisions were so obvious that even Jamie Redknapp had to admit them at halftime and full-time. By the time full-time analysis appeared on my TV screen, it showed that in the entire match, Everton had mustered just two shots on target which was both of their goals. Yet the media love a David vs Goliath killing and they love a sequel, so perpetuating the idea that we were watching a repeat of last season’s drubbing was easy for them.

I don’t think we played well at all yesterday. The passing was off, there were too many players that played at a six out of 10 pace, we were trying to be too intricate in the final third. The triangle passing football we play which gifts us such viewing pleasures as the Norwich/Wilshere goal last season looks amazing when it comes off, but it felt like there as a lot of that which just wasn’t finding it’s man yesterday. But then again, that might have had something to do with the fact that Everton scored their goal and sat 11 men in front of Arsenal and defended in numbers. Sit deep, tight and in numbers and you can frustrate this Arsenal team. So it proved.

The second half provided us with a bit more by way of opportunities, with Olivier Giroud the chief protagonist in a number of good opportunities going begging. He got us the winning goal and for that we should all be grateful, but his limitations will once again provide us with frustration this season I fear. That’s why I’m interested to see how we line up with both Theo and Alexis fully fit. An Alexis that does not, strangely, only last until half time. In the first half he ran his guts out and pressed high from the pitch. He did look slightly off-key (only slightly though), but again it’s interesting how the limitations of some commentators become more obvious when you re-watch the action. Alvin Martin, for example, was giving Mesut Ozil a savaging and saying that Alexis was by a million miles the better of all of the Arsenal players in the first half. Firstly, I think Ozil was quiet, but he did not stand out as the worst performer in my opinion. Secondly, I suspect that the reason he saw him as a stand out performer was not because of his play in thee final third with the ball, but because he was perpetually in motion throughout the half. That is his game and part of it, but for Alvin Martin, from an era when a player running around a lot was the sign of a good player, that’s what his barometer of success is.

But what about Ramsey, eh? What a player he’s going to be this season. Providing he isn’t Shawcrossed by anyone, this kid is going to bang 20 goals for us this season. He’s got that instinct to find the right places inside the box and you can see why he’s being compared to Fat Frank, who would always be that player arriving on to balls into the box, as well as be known for his engine in the Chelski team once he’d dropped the timber from his midriff that he carried in his early years. It’s why his departure from the team through suspension on Wednesday will be a massive miss. When that type of ball is slid in by a Cazorla or a Ozil on Wednesday, will there be anyone on the end of the ball to get there? I hope so. I really do. But I’m not so sure.

So let’s look at hindsight. Let’s ignore all of what went on yesterday and look solely at the point we gained at Goodison. Was it a good one? I think so. It was a point that was hard fought and the late nature of the comeback might even give the players more belief that they can turn anything around. Remember how United were always the ‘sign of champions’ with their late goals? There won’t be many teams that don’t rock up there and beat Everton off the park. That fixture is out-of-the-way and it also means that we have already arrested (if only a little) the worrying trend from last season of losing away from home to every team in the top seven (except the Spuds). We may still go on to lose the rest of the games away from home, but the important thing to keep hold of now is that we have already amassed more away points from that top five than we did last season. At this early stage of the season the importance is picking up points. The fluidity can come in September. We have an important game against Beisktas on Wednesday now, followed by a another away trip to Leicester on Sunday, where another break occurs before a chance to properly get our form going by beating Moneychester City at home.

Catch you tomorrow.

Injuries not as feared, but transfer business might be

Happy Friday to thee my dearest of Arsenal supporting friends. I hope you are in ‘end of the week’ mode and savouring the prospect of an extra day away from the monotony thanks to this Bank Holiday we have been gifted in the UK. If you’re outside the UK and don’t get said holiday, please feel free to email, tweet or direct message me your ‘nur-nicky-nur-nur’s when such a time is afforded to you, yet isn’t in Blighty.

I also get the added benefit of getting to stop by a bar a stones throw away from the ground tonight. A friend of mine is moving to the States for a few months and he’s having a send off on Holloway Road, which is fabulous, because I’ll probably swing by the Emirates on my way just to say high to the place. Is that sad? Probably. I mean, it certainly doesn’t look the same with a man and his dog wandering past it as the patrons of the place, but I don’t care. It’s my/our Cathedral and I’ll visit it when I want thank you very much.

So, what’s happening in the world of Arsenal then, eh?

Well, as expected, Arsene had his presser yesterday (taking the more sensible approach to my suggestion yesterday) and was quizzed on a manner of topics ahead of the visit to Everton. Most importantly, the injuries, to which it appears only Mikel Arteta will be absent from the team line up at the moment. That’s great news because by the sounds of it there were a few players carrying knocks – like Koscienly – and if Arsene is stating that we have a decent compliment of players then that’s a-ok by me.

The next few games will certainly be interesting from a midfield perspective. With the captain out for probably what will be a couple of weeks minimum, it gives Le Boss the opportunity to let other players stake a claim, most notably Flamini, who will hope that a good showing against The Toffees grants Arteta extended leave from the first eleven. But also, with an impending ban in Europe about to befall Ramsey after his two cards in midweek, it means that there is a bit of a selection decision for one of the other three midfield roles. One would imagine that Mesut Özil will slip in to that midfield against Besiktas, so I think Arsene will probably also ease him in against Everton, so I’d be surprised if he started.

I think the same goes for Per based purely on the initial form (I know, difficult to fall ‘form’ on just three games, but I am so there) of the newbie Chambers. His excellent displays certainly warrant a starting berth in Merseyside tomorrow and, after Arsene spoke so glowingly about Chambers in the press conference, you’d expect him to feature tomorrow. What I did like about what Arsene was saying though, was when he spoke about Chambers getting a call up to the England team, as is now the case with the media chomping at he bit to see him in a white shirt. Like Arsene, I think it’s great that Arsenal players are recognised for their country, but there is also the worry of that inevitable burden placed on one so young. Remember when Jack first got into the England team? “Saviour of England!” they said. “The new Gazza” they said. Yet a few long injuries and a couple of years down the line and the media are picking up on every misplaced pass Wilshere does. It’s pathetic really, but we don’t really want that to happen to Chambers, so the calls for him to get into the England side should be tempered with realistic expectation that he won’t be the England captain and the greatest centre half this country has ever seen by this time next season.

There’ll inevitably more of an assessment on Everton tomorrow by yours truly, but Arsene was asked about the opponents tomorrow and gave an interesting assessment, effectively calling the 3-0 defeat a ‘one-off’ that happens once or twice a season. I understand what he’s saying, but the problem we had last year was that actually it turned out to be more of a ‘four-off’ with heavy defeats to rivals around us. I remember the unfortunate Arteta own goal during the match, but I have to try and think of the other goals and I don’t recall there being to much unusual about them, other than the fact that given our miserly defence at the start of the season, you wouldn’t have expected us to cave so easily as we did in the second half of the season. But hey, that’s history now, so let’s bury those painful memories. What will be interesting tomorrow will be to see whether Martinez changes much against Arsenal. Last season he was credited with being a tactical genius by putting Lukaku on the right hand side. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him do it again, so let’s see if Arsene has learnt his lesson and Monreal he’s more cover in this seasons game.

Inevitably, talk turned to transfers, as well as the question over the regrets that Fabregas now plays for the London based oil-whoring-football-lottery West London team. Of course you’re never going to get Arsène to show a position of weakness in his judgement and decision-making, so he denied that he regrets not re-signing Fabregas. But actually, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t, mainly because of a debate I saw on Twitter (I forget who, sorry) which talked about the style of Fabregas no longer being applicable to our team. I actually think this is true. Fabregas is a quarter back in my eyes. He’s a scorer of goals, but he’s also a picked of passes through the middle. Pacey centre forwards are integral to that and whilst we have that in Alexis and Theo (eventually), through balls finding Giroud with grass running into would be a waste of a good through ball. With Giroud up top, you may as well smash the triangle button on your PlayStation.

Our build up is more patient now, more methodical, and with Özil pulling the strings, we have a player who is more suited to our style of play. The time for an Arsenal team to be built around Cesc has long gone. Özil is the star that we must build around.

As for other transfers, Le Boss gave us no real indication that he is on the verge of something special, despite what Twitter says every working day of every working minute. I think we’ll bring in another centre half, but my gut feeling is that it will be a case of “that concludes our business for this summer. Congratulations!”

I hope it isn’t. I hope Arsène makes a statement. I think most Arsenal fans do actually. It’s why the Cavani rumours have been seized upon by Arsenal fans so readily. We would love another Mesut Özil mega-signing to accompany the brilliant signing of Alexis that would have us all getting even more excited than we already are for the new season. But if we are all honest with ourselves, if we’re all asked to realistically give a percentage chance of us signing Edison Cavani from PSG, I don’t think there would be many that would rate it even as high as 25%.

So let’s start to accept what we’ve got, hope we do a bit of strengthening, then pray that injuries don’t mount like they have done every single season since 03/04.

Have a good one peeps.

The ‘walk with me’ presser and accepting our lot

Morning, morning, morning.

Hope all is well and you’re excited about how your Thursday is/has panned out. My week is dragging I have to say. Longer than usual hours due to volume of work at, err, work, means that I’ve become a bit of an early bird. The net effect of which is that I have aching limbs in every part of my body and I feel like I’ve been punched in the face. By Lennox.

I wonder if Arsene has days like this. I wonder if there are certain parts of his job that he’d just rather roll over to Annie Wenger and say “not for me today, dear, do me a favour and call in sick for me”. I’d imagine it probably is a day like today actually, as he’ll have no doubt bought forward his press-conference duties by a day so his team can be on the road and ready to go tomorrow. Personally, I’d use it as a really good excuse to leave a press conference early, if I had a bus to catch for an away game. In fact, to really put those pesky hacks off, I’d tell them they have two minutes, then I’d get them to follow me to the bus and in the five minutes it takes to get to the bus they can ask questions until I board and they can physically no longer even hear my responses. But hey, professionalism in sport and all that.

The big question marks that you and I want answered is how long Arteta and Gibbs are out for. They have been the latest casualties for the last week and will be the most pressing concern for the manager. There are people that I’ve seen suggest that because Arteta is only potentially going to be out for a couple of weeks, that it will scupper any chances of buying another defensive midfielder, which I don’t really buy if I’m honest. Every noise from every corner of the Arsenal online and offline community is that he’s on the lookout for a ball winning midfielder as well as a centre-half. He’s not going to have his thinking swayed based on a minor injury to a first team player, so I don’t think there’s too much to be gained from hoping that Arteta is out for long enough for Le Boss to pick up a replacement over the next two weeks.

The reality is that we have cover in both players’ position if we need it, and I don’t think any of us should be too overly concerned in the short term about the ability for Flamini to slot into that holding role, as well as Monreal to fill the good left by Gibbs’ untimely injury. For the last two games I actually think Monreal has performed very well. Once or twice he was overloaded against Besiktas, but he wasn’t helped by the complete absence of Santi during stages of the game.

Transfer season is also called ‘silly season’ for a reason (hey that rhymed!), so it doesn’t surprise me to see people suddenly clamouring for replacements in injured positions. I guess then, it shouldn’t surprise me that after a shoddy performance in Turkey, the “Giroud needs to be replaced with a world class centre forward” opinions have been more vocal over the last 24 hours. I should caveat this current direction of the blog by saying that I don’t think Giroud is world class. Given the pedigree of the last three or four of his predecessors (That Dutch Bloke, Adebayor and Henry), I do think we have become accustomed to brilliant strikers and so the expectation level is heightened in that position, and I wonder if Giroud will ever get close to becoming that 30 goal a season striker. But it does make me smile that people have become even more desperate on the back of one game. It’s almost as if many spent the summer trying to convince themselves that he is something he is not.

Look, let’s all be realistic with each other here. Olivier Giroud is a target man. He’s a Gallic version of Duncan Ferguson. He was good in the air, popped up with a few goals and was a very useful Everton player, but was never the all-singing, all-dancing, goalscoring centre forward. Not to my ageing memory anyway. Yaya Sanogo looks to be in the same mould, which I think is telling actually, because it does show that Arsene’s preferred style is to have a big target man who can hold up the ball with his back to goal and bring others into play. It’s always going to be difficult to bang in goals every week when you’re facing the wrong direction most of the time!

So that being the case, you have to look at the way we are set up, and wonder if Arsene has a specific job for those two Frenchman, and it ain’t to Luis Suarez up the division. Goals, obviously, not the bitey racism stuff. Their role in the team is to ensure that they bring midfield runners and pacey wide men into play by keeping hold of the ball, distributing well and weighing in with a few poacher goals. That’s how I’m seeing this team line up, anyway, although I admit I’m no tactical genius when it comes to analysis of modern day professional football.

Arsene has stocked up with pacey wide men and midfield runners for a reason, and I’d be surprised if it’s because he’s going to buy a Falcao to be the focal point of the team (would be nice though I admit).

I had a very quick discussion with http://www.twitter.com/yankeegunner last night about the Giroud situation, to which I mentioned that the word on the Marvin Gaye is that Arsene is planning on using Alexis through the middle, which again would suggest that we’re unlikely to see another centre forward. I know this would blow my theory about a big strong front man out of the water, but I perhaps it just shifts the thinking along slightly. Perhaps it shows that rather than having the same thinking as the days of the Invincibles, i.e. We have the best 11 players in that position in the world so we don’t need to worry about the opposition, Arsene is shifting his mindset so he can alternate the attacking style of the team to one of three quick runners that can get in behind high lines. Away from home to a Moneychester City, or against an Everton, this might prove to be a good tactic (although injuries will probably dictate that Giroud is up top and Alexis is out wide this weekend), plus it gives Arsenal a little less predictability in the line up.

Whatever players or style Arsene picks, I guess my underlying message here is that I don’t think that however many people are desperately hopeful we will sign a striker, we probably won’t. So we should probably accept our lot and hope that Giroud is effective enough to give us an improvement on goals this season and that the other members of the team also step up and support his efforts with decent tallies.

That’s me done for the day. Once more unto the work-related breach dear friends. Once more.

Until tomorrow when I have to do it all again.

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.

No blasé attitude towards Besiktas

Morning/afternoon,

I won’t labour this point too much, but Cesc Fabregas in a Chelski shirt is now 100% reality, after I spent the summer ignoring the fact, hearing that he helped to orchestrate Chelski’s victory at Burnley leaves a sour taste in my mouth. He’s going to be a great player for that lot and it’s going to hurt us to see it. No matter what any Arsenal fan says, it will grind our gears and pull on the emotive heart strings, especially if he keeps his assisting ways at the club.

I don’t want to dwell on that lot though – they are as worthy of attention as a Luis Suarez admission of guilt and promise not to repeat offend – so we look forward to the Champions League and to our tricky encounter this evening against Besiktas.

Arsène has been stressing the importance of this match to the media and, with our place at the top table at stake, it is essential that we get off to a good start tonight. Knockout football in the Champions League is always tough regardless of the opposition. There is a lot of pressure to perform over two legs, but if you fudge the first leg up, it leaves you with a mountain to climb in the second.

Remember when we played Bayern Munich about seven years ago? The first leg was in the Allianz Arena (not sure if it was called that back then) and we went down 3-1. The second leg was helped with a Thierry Henry goal, but we went out on goal difference, despite battering Bayern for the second game. That shows you how important the first leg is. Besiktas know that a win with a two goal margin will mean that they are in the driving seat and can pretty much do what Palace did on Saturday and barely venture outside of their half at The Emirates.

Conversely, a victory in Istanbul tonight, would put Arsenal in a very promising position for the second leg and certainly see us as overwhelming favourites to qualify.

I must admit to being a bit blasé about the qualifying round. Our consecutive successes – and seemingly always at the expense of European teams with good pedigree – has made a simple Arsenal fan like me believe that I’ll be seeing Champions League group stage football in about a months time. But that’s a very dangerous way to think, Christopher, because that kind of thinking ends with a nasty shock if what is expected doesn’t happen. It is not unconceivable that defeat tonight leads to further disappointment next week, but I have to remain positive, because in my superstitious manner that I have I believe that my own power of positive thinking has some bearing on the outcome of tonight’s game.

Thankfully, despite being a tad bit over-expectant, it doesn’t appear as if the players are taking this game lightly. Certainly not if you hear the rhetoric from Le Boss. Sure, we have some injury problems going in to the game, but the squad that is available to the manager should still be good enough to get a result. Rambo has continued his fine form with a goal at the weekend, Chambers and Debuchy have slotted in well enough, and I think we all know that we’ll get more from Sanchez as he becomes fitter.

I don’t know how the manager intends to line up the team, but with Koscienly struggling with a hammy, I suspect Big Per might just replace him in defence. Per and Chambers at the heart of the defence will be interesting. The reason Koscienly dovetails so well with either of them is that Kos is the man with the recovery pace, where as it appears from the initial look of Chambers, he does not have as much pace (even though he makes up for it in his positional play). So how those two might operate – if Kos can’t shake off his injury – will be good to see so early in the season.

They’ll be up against a familiar face in Demba Ba, who has apparently been scoring for fun since his arrival from Chelski, but perhaps more worrying is the pace that he possesses. If he is up against Per and Chambers then it will be essential that he isn’t given plenty of green grass to run in behind tonight. To do that it will mean stifling some of the midfield creativity of another familiar face in Ozyakup, who we sold to Besiktas a couple of years ago and appears to be making a decent fist of a career in Turkey. I am no expect on Turkish football, because that’s where my knowledge of the opposition ends I’m afraid, but I suspect that the least we’ll get from the game tonight is a super-charged team backed by a partisan home crowd. We need to establish ourselves early and ensure that Besiktas’ initial excitement and drive is negated by some good football from the lads.

I suspect we’ll see a midfield that is identical to the weekend, then a front three which will also include Alexis and Santi, but it’s the centre forward position that will be interesting. Sanogo was little more than a footnote on Saturday and it was obvious how much more dangerous we looked when Giroud and The Ox were on the field. So I am hoping that Arsene opts for the more experienced Frenchman. I’d like to see The Ox given the nod ahead of Cazorla – who I thought was poor on Saturday – as it provides that direct running and a bit more pace than the Spaniard. It would also be good to see what Joel Campbell can do in attack and, had there not have been knocks to Gibbs and Jack on Saturday, I wonder if Arsene would have thrown him in then, so maybe we’ll get a look in tonight.

Keep those fingers crossed and hope for a great performance tonight.

See you tomorrow.

No fear of scousers, but definite fear of injuries

With yesterday’s games concluding without any surprises between Liverpool/Southampton and Newcastle/Moneychester City, you’d be forgiven for feeling that there is little comfort to take in two rivals picking up all three points, as well as a third probably getting off the mark this evening. But I am choosing to look for some anyway, so I’m looking squarely in the direction of Suarezless Liverpool, who certainly didn’t deserve to pick up all points in their 2-1 victory.

There was a similarity between score lines between their result and ours on Saturday, but that is where the comparisons stop, because our performance was markedly better than that of the scousers. That’s not to say we performed well – we know we just about got the job done against a dogged Palace side – but Liverpool completely rode their luck at times yesterday. So much so that I must admit to thinking that Southampton would be involved in a relegation fight this season with all their departures, but if Koeman gets his players playing like that each week, then he has little to worry about.

I said it yesterday on Twitter and I’ll say it again: this Liverpool team without Suarez do not scare me as much, as they are two of three injuries away from some problems in their team I think.

As for us, well, we’re used to ‘two or three injuries’ anyway, so it was perhaps not a surprise to find out that Koscienly is a doubt for the trip to Turkey after picking up a knock on Saturday, as well as Kieran Gibbs who limped off during the Palace game. I don’t know about you, but Gibbs I am less worried about with Monreal able to cover and also performing really well on Saturday, but Koscienly is a concern. Arsene admitted that Per might have to be bought in a little sooner than he would have liked, which whilst not ideal is some comfort, but it does make you wonder why we didn’t have an instant Vermaelen replacement lined up. I know that sometimes transfers take time (well, with Arsenal they always seem to, anyway) but I would have thought we’d have bought one in as soon as we knew Vermaelen was offski. Perhaps with his injury there was a question on whether he would pass his medical at the Catalan club, which is why Arsene held fire, but I would have thought a player could have been sounded out instantly and although they may not have been 100% ready, we could have them already in by now.

There’s still talk about Manolas joining, medicals already being completed, blah-blah-blah, but this won’t now affect the squad taking the trip out to play in Istanbul so we just have to make do for this game at least. Hopefully Kos’ injury doesn’t turn out to be a long-term issue.

Injuries have long plagued our ability to go the distance in league competitions of years past, as well as fighting on multiple fronts, so my fear is that we’re already starting off on the wrong foot at this early stage of the season. It’s nobodies fault, I don’t believe anyway, but it is something that could derail us if we get another one of those Physioroom.com injury league table topping seasons.

It’s probably why transfer rumours will inevitably continue right up until the end of the month, which is what we can expect in this sensationalist world we live in these days, but it sounds as though Arsenal are closing in on the young lad Rabiot from PSG and Vargas from Napoli.

I know nothing of these two players, but it sounds as if they are young players being bought in to add a bit of depth to the team. We’ll see how much of the speculation becomes fact over the next ten days or so. There’s no doubt that we need more bodies in certain positions, but they need to be bodies of quality and not just young players that Arsene is taking punts on. No more Amaury Bischoffs, but more Patrick Vieira’s would be handy, so we’ll wait to see whether Arsene opts for a more polished diamond, or one that he can work on a bit.

We all know he likes a rough one to work on, but after the clear difference between Giroud and Sanogo on Saturday, don’t we want to be seeing and established player come in to fight Per/Laurent and Arteta/Flamini for those roles where we are a little short? I know we have to take into account squad harmony and the sheer volume of players we already have on the books, but we don’t want to have a situation like the one we’ve got at the moment with our centre-halfs, so I’m hoping that we bring in the quality needed. After all, nobody really wants to see Chelski win the league, do they? And Moneychester City won it last season, so for the sake of variety, we owe it to the wider footballing community to blow away all opposition this season.

That’s that from me today. See thee in the morrow.