There were few ‘big’ moves and the transfer ‘Archduke Franz Ferdinand’ never happened

Happy Thursday to you and yours. Hopefully you’re enjoying your time on this Earth and you haven’t spiraled in to a pit of despair after Arsenal didn’t sign fifty bazillion players on Transfer Deadline Day.

Arsene spoke yesterday after the window had ‘slammed shut’ – to coin a hyperbolic phrase – and he referenced the Martial signing for United for €80million as an example of why the money in football is there, but the quality of players signing was more difficult. I’m pretty sure there would have been a selection of gooners choking on their cereals upon reading this and whilst I’m no complete Wenger sympathiser, I fail to see why he doesn’t have a point on this one. How many ‘big’ moves happened this summer? And when I say ‘big’ moves, I mean for mega stars. Kevin De Bruyne is not a ‘mega star’. He could be yet, don’t get me wrong, but he isn’t now. Neither is Sterling. Neither is Morgan Schneiderlin. Neither is Benteke or Firmino, yet combined they went to Liverpool for £60million or thereabouts. That’s nearly a couple of Alexis Sanchez’s from just a year ago. Schweinsteiger, Kondogbia and Khedira are big players, but the two Germans are injury prone and Kondogbia has been plying his trade in French football for a couple of years, which is hardly the most challenging of leagues.

Perhaps we could argue that the Vidal transfer was ‘one that got away’, but we don’t know if we were truly in the hunt but got wind of Bayern Munich’s interest and backed away, because if that was the case then a) we wouldn’t get involved in a bidding war and b) Munich win their domestic league pretty much every season so it would always be difficult for us to compete.

So in a sense I can understand Arsene’s comments. The teams that spunked a lot of cash appear to have predominantly done so on potential talent, or whether there was a clear mandate for a player to move on because they wanted something new i.e. Pedro and Vidal.

It’s not just us that haven’t been able to do our business as we’d like to. Madrid, United, and the Spuds have all had their own issues and having watched the previous two summers be dominated because of a ‘domino effect’ i.e. one player signs and other clubs move off the back of it, I do wonder if it is because neither of the two big Spanish clubs made a mega signing that had an impact. Those two teams usually stockpile quality players and seem to make new signings just to excite their own fans, which means other players are available from their team that could improve other squads. We’ve profited from that in terms of Barcelona last season with Alexis and Real Madrid the season before with Ozil. That ‘mega transfer’ never happened and so there was no Archduke Franz Ferdinand catalyst that sparked everything else off.

That’s just my take anyway. Others have different opinions, like the Arsenal Supporters Trust, who have called for a review of our transfer dealings. I like what the Arsenal Supporters Trust do, I really do, because they give an opportunity for fans like you and I to operate as a collective and give the club a singular voice to speak to instead of asking fans to line up outside Ivan’s office one-by-one and ask him questions. The line would probably stretch back to John O’Groats and back! However, I really don’t see why or what purpose a review of the spending of the club will do, assuming that the club conducted it.

Do the AST want to see a committee of people deciding transfers for the manager? That wouldn’t be for me, because look at the mess it got Liverpool in to? Do they want to see a Director of Football and a Chief Executive make all of the decisions and the manager become a coach? Again, that would be a little bit worrying, especially when you only have to look along the Seven Sisters Road and see how disastrous that can be?

So what would a ‘review’ of spending conclude? Arsene should spend more money on players every season. What happens if he gets Benzema in January and a defensive midfielder and then we have next summer as Champions – does he still have to spend more regardless of how good the squad is? It just doesn’t seem to be too conducive to a successful environment to me. Committees of people rarely get things done.

Perhaps Arsene needs some help. I accept that. But the only thing about that, unlike five or six years ago, when we had trouble like getting Mata or Higuain deals over the line, the club have proven they can get their business done. So it’s clearly not a problem like United are having at the moment. The Cech deal was done with consummate ease. So what the options after that for this so-called ‘review’? We don’t want committees, I don’t think we want a Director of Football set up, we probably don’t want to change our negotiating team, so what are we getting at. A change of manager? I can’t really be having that I’m afraid. We all wanted trophies and for the last two season we’ve got them. We were happy two months ago. Now we’re not? What happens if it turns out the squad harmony gets us in to a position where we’re challenging for the league for most of the season like the 2013/14 season? Isn’t that what we all wanted?We don’t have an expectation to win the league, we have an expectation to be competitive. But we have no idea yet whether we’ll be competitive until we’re ten games in, so why the heck are we all getting a little too over-excited?

I don’t get it. But then again, I’ve divorced myself from the transfer window this summer, so perhaps that’s why I’m just shrugging my shoulders and saying ‘bring on Stoke’. Because I want us to ‘bring on Stoke’. Not another transfer window for us to sign players.

See thee tomorrow. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Wanted something, but Arsenal aren’t a patient bleeding out

So here we are. Freedom. The night after the madness stopped and the quiet will soon envelope us. For now there is still the echoes of yesterday’s Deadline Day still ringing in our ears and online, with many people taking to Twitter and other social media platforms, as well as texting fellow gooners, outraged at the negligence of the manager for not signing another player.

But is Arsene Wenger negligent? Has he left us woefully short? I think not. There are areas of the park that we could have done with fine-tuning, but the need was not essential, we were not a patient bleeding out. By not signing a defensive midfielder or a world-class attacker, we’re not going to slowly die a thousand deaths in the Premier League, slowly disappearing down the league until we’re fighting off relegation, are we?

We’ve got a slight worry if Le Coq breaks down for a prolonged period of time as that will leave us with just Arteta, but providing he can stay fit, then we can still compete. As for the attacking options, we have different players, with different styles, each of whom can bring something different. Theo not working up top against a team? Giroud can be a target man up top with the players feeding from his flicks and knocks on, or Welbeck can be a hybrid of both if we need it. Or if we want to try Alexis in that position, we can do that two. For the wide roles we can feature Alexis, Welbeck, Theo, the Ox, or even at a push Ramsey, Wilshere or Ozil if we really need to. So we have players of the requisite quality, we just need to find our rhythm and get on with this season.

Sure, with the money we all spend, with the wages the club have and with the players we have, many will tell you that we would never be in the position whereby we’ll be a mid-table team and we are just standing still, but I say that sort of phrase is exactly the point. ‘With the players we have’ – exactly! We have good players already! We have options up front. Welbeck has admitted that he’s taken a while to adjust and after the international break he will be back. Giroud has been a bit hit and miss, but only for two games out of four. At Crystal Palace he looked good and when he came on against Newcastle he made an impact. I know they are not ‘big clubs’ and those two games can’t be classed as ‘big games’, but to be honest I don’t care. I don’t care because we’ve already seen every team bar one drop points and I think that will continue to happen given the nature and the competition in this league. So if Giroud gets another 15 – 20 goals, that’s exactly what we need. If Welbeck gets 10, if Theo bags 10, if Alexis gets 25, that gives us 65 goals in our attack. If we have more goals from midfield – which is what Arsene has said he wants to see more of – then we’re laughing.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not 100% happy. I’m not 100% convinced that not signing an outfield player this summer was the best move for a team looking at succeeding in the league. But I’m also not contemplating some sort of suicide bid this morning. Life’s too short and I’m getting too old for that stress. Plus, I prefer to save the stress for when we play Stoke in two weeks time. Heaven forbid what will happen if we beat Stoke and Chelski the week after. People will probably admit themselves in to rehab because they can’t take the ‘up and down’ nature of being a football fan. I won’t. I’ll just be happy that we’re winning football games.

The time for analysing the ‘why’s and ‘wherefore’s will not be now. It will be after we’ve had a proper chance to evaluate the season. Not signing anybody was not ideal, but what if signing somebody yesterday would prohibit another stab at Benzema or another player in January or next summer? Would you rather we signed Charlie Austin now and nobody better ion January or the summer? I know what i’d prefer. Last season we snapped up Welbeck on deadline day and everybody seemed quite happy with that signing. Yet now we have people forgetting that he even exists. What’s the point in signing players if we discard them a year later? What are we, Totteringham or Liverpool? Because that’s what would have happened. We’d have signed Austin, been happy for a week, then when he didn’t quite turn out to be the player we are hoping for, we’d have been salivating for another centre forward in January or June.

Let’s all remember that the season we went unbeaten we signed just a ‘keeper and an unknown left back. You never know what is going to transpire over the next few months, so chill, if you’re not already chilled.

We have the bodies. We just need to get the momentum of winning games. And we will win games. We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again. And we’ll all be focused on the patient once more because it turns out he wasn’t bleeding at all. He just needs a bit of love and attention. We can help with that as fans. By getting behind the guys we have and hoping that we can have a proper go at the league.

If you’re down today, get your chin up, and remember who you are, what you are and who you represent. The Arsenal

Awesome weekend of results, but does it matter?

Completing the most awesomest of weekend fixtures not involving Arsenal yesterday, Manchester United’s defeat to Swansea means that aside from an all-conquering Moneychester City (I’ll come to them in a bit), we pretty much clawed back ground on any of the ‘big’ clubs that we dropped points to by losing to West Ham on the opening day.

In fact, with some of the results we’ve seen, it looks as though this league will be the toughest one to win this season, and we can all ignore the hyperbole around City too. Yes they’ve looked impressive, yes they look like the team to beat, but the way the media are fawning you’d think they’d have just completed victory number 30 out of 30 having scored 900 goals and conceded none at all. City will concede. They will drop points and they will have off days. It happens. What is important is that we don’t lose ground like we did last season. Back then we won just two out of our first eight, when Chelski were looking invincible, which effectively cost us a proper go at the title. 

We’re not playing well at the moment, but as long as we hang in there, try to keep pace with City in these early stages by winning games when they are, then we’ll give ourselves a chance. We’ve seen it every season for a number of seasons; this Arsenal team has played poor before in patches and then gone through a spate of victories and performances needed. That’s where we’re at now.

Aaron Ramsey understands this and talked about the table being significant only after 10 games. He’s right. If we win our next three games (one of which is away to Chelski) and City even draw and lose one during that period, we’ll be right on their coat tails, but what is important is that we’re not looking up too much once we hit October time. 

Will we have extra players by then? We’ll know one way or another by tomorrow at 6pm I guess, when the transfer window closes, thankfully. Whether that’s enough I don’t know, but at least we have the numbers in the squad. We’re not worrying as much that if a player goes down injured, we physically have no other players available, are we? I mean sure, we all want another class destroyed in the middle of the park and sure we all want a world class centre forward, but let’s be realistic and just accept the reality that this group of players is the set that has to do something special this season. 

Arsène says that he and his team are active the whole time, but if we do sign somebody, I think it’s not going to be the big name signings we expect, in fact I’d be shocked if it is. Yes we signed Mesut Özil, but that had started to rumble a day or so before the window closed as I recall. Plus there was another domino effect which was the Bale deal. There’s nothing this time. The Welbeck deal happened on the day of deadlines, but he isn’t exactly an ‘Elite’ player, so I suspect we’d be far more likely to pull off one of those on deadline day, than a ‘Galactico’. And do we really need that sort of signing? Not up front for me. We have Welbeck, so what point would a Charlie Austin or Javier Hernandez be? In the destroyed possession maybe, but someone like Victor Wanyama isn’t better than Coquelin and are we really going to pay £25million for a squad player? Doubtful.

A quick one before I go though, on Financial Fair Play, which should probably be Farcial Financial Parameters, because there is absolutely no point in its existence now that City have spunked another £58million on a player. They are clearly aware of something that will not be enforced and as a result are content to take liberties with it. When you’ve got as much money as City have, as many resources, then you have people in high places that get assurances. That’s clearly what’s happened and now it will most likely have a domino effect that will see Chelski and PSG follow suit.  For us we have more finances to compete at the level below, but the spinelessness of UEFA will affect other teams’ ability to get in to the higher echelons of football and will create a further gulf that will just keep getting bigger.

Anyway, I’m off for now, got to head back down south from the North East.

Newcastle result needs context after game changing red

It just simply wouldn’t be an Arsenal result if we didn’t make something harder than it should have been, would it?

The overwhelming feeling from this here Gooner is one of relief, but also thanks to other results, the 1-0 victory over Newcastle looked even more juicier come 7.30pm. Defeats to Chelski and Liverpool, as well as a draw for the Spuds, meant that our win up north felt like it stood out a little more as a shining light. Plus, Stoke decided to go all ‘full rage’ and have both Affelay and Adam sent off in a 1-0 home defeat to West Brom, which means the Arsenal players will all be breathing a sign of relief for their ankles and shins when Stoke visit us in a couple of weeks time. Charlie Adam won’t be there to go through anybody and get away with it as usual.

But enough of other results, what about our result, eh? Did it feel like you were watching a training match? A boring, boring training match? Because that’s what it felt like to me. A defence versus attack game in which Newcastle decided that they would not come out and attack Arsenal at all, with zero shots registered by the time the final whistle went. I don’t blame them though, because as soon as they went down to ten men, you knew exactly how the game would pan out. Even with 11 men Newcastle would probably have taken a 0-0, but when you’re playing against a team who will dominate possession like we do, you know that your own option is to sit deep, stay compact and try to get the opposition as frustrated as possible.

Which is exactly what happened. 

It’s funny how decisions can change games, but not always how you’d expect them to. For example the Mitrovic red card – which I’m still not sure if it was a red or not because I haven’t seen any replays as I was up high in the Gods at St James’ – would, you’d expect, allow Arsenal to take advantage of the extra man and go on to win by three or four goals. But despite being frustrated with our performance and lack of cutting edge yesterday, I wake up this morning in a stoical mood, because I realise that this game was always going to be difficult when a red card is shown so early in a game.

The truth is, the red card was probably the worst thing that could have happened to us in terms of the way we were set up. Arsène opted for more raw pace in the front three and Ramsey as the workaholic in the middle of the park, due to an injury picked up by Mesut, so his plan was clearly to draw Newcastle out and then hit the defenders on the counter attack. You could see that from before the card, as we played a couple of longer diagonal balls in an attempt to get the three attackers behind the black and white defenders. And it was working. We created chances and Bellerin should have had a penalty. 

However as soon as Newcastle lost their central striker, it was a completely different game and I bet if Arsène could, he’d have changed the team up there and then. Take Giroud, for example, who would have been a better player to sit in amongst Coloccini and Mbemba and been the link man to knock balls in and around the Newcastle defenders to try and set his teammates through. I said to The Management as soon as the card was shown, that this would be a game that would be crying out for Özil, but at the time I wasn’t aware of his injury. We needed a player who could thread that eye of a needle pass and quite simply, that’s not Aaron Ramsey’s game, which is based on pressing and goalscoring.

So we started to look a little lacklustre. The passing was slowed down, we didn’t use the width of the pitch to stretch Newcastle enough and the game itself kept breaking down because of the cynical nature of a lot of Newcastle’s fouling. I’m sure that there would have been plenty of Geordie’s bemoaning Andre Marriner and his performance yesterday, but I saw plenty of little cynical trips and shoves. The if the red was harsh, then so was the fact we didn’t get a penalty beforehand, so the two big decisions of the game appear to have gone against both teams.

But it was still incumbent on us to break Newcastle down and eventually we did through The Ox, courtesy of Coloccini, whose leg deflected the Ox’s effort in. It was one of the bright spots in an otherwise torrid game for Alex. Nothing worked for him. He gave the ball away countless times, he couldn’t seem to beat his man enough and his distribution was pretty woeful. There was even a point in the second half where he pirouetted around the ball and completely lost track of where it was, which had me thinking about shades of a young Theo Walcott. We need to remember that The Ox is still very young, having been in the Arsenal set up for a number of years, but yesterday was a game for him to forget.

It wasn’t Ramsey’s best game either. He just doesn’t work as a number 10. He was favoured centrally yesterday, but he has had far better games playing out wide and the more I see, the more I think that he would be better suited to that role alongside Coquelin if we’re at home and against a team that isn’t showing much ambition to get forward.

Walcott also hardly enamoured himself to the central strikers role, but as I hint at above, I think he was a victim of circumstance more than anything else. I’m less quick to dismiss him as a centre forward as others. It depends on the opponent and how they are setting up.

All-in-all it may have felt a little difficult, but at least we picked up the three points, because when we come back from the Interlull it will be a tough set of fixtures. Losing or even drawing yesterday would have meant a long two weeks and a real worry that we could be totally out of the race by October.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Newcastle result needs context after game changer

It just simply wouldn’t be an Arsenal result if we didn’t make something harder than it should have been, would it?

The overwhelming feeling from this here Gooner is one of relief, but also thanks to other results, the 1-0 victory over Newcastle looked even more juicier come 7.30pm. Defeats to Chelski and Liverpool, as well as a draw for the Spuds, meant that our win up north felt like it stood out a little more as a shining light. Plus, Stoke decided to go all ‘full rage’ and have both Affelay and Adam sent off in a 1-0 home defeat to West Brom, which means the Arsenal players will all be breathing a sign of relief for their ankles and shins when Stoke visit us in a couple of weeks time. Charlie Adam won’t be there to go through anybody and get away with it as usual.

But enough of other results, what about our result, eh? Did it feel like you were watching a training match? A boring, boring training match? Because that’s what it felt like to me. A defence versus attack game in which Newcastle decided that they would not come out and attack Arsenal at all, with zero shots registered by the time the final whistle went. I don’t blame them though, because as soon as they went down to ten men, you knew exactly how the game would pan out. Even with 11 men Newcastle would probably have taken a 0-0, but when you’re playing against a team who will dominate possession like we do, you know that your own option is to sit deep, stay compact and try to get the opposition as frustrated as possible.

Which is exactly what happened. 

It’s funny how decisions can change games, but not always how you’d expect them to. For example the Mitrovic red card – which I’m still not sure if it was a red or not because I haven’t seen any replays as I was up high in the Gods at St James’ – would, you’d expect, allow Arsenal to take advantage of the extra man and go on to win by three or four goals. But despite being frustrated with our performance and lack of cutting edge yesterday, I wake up this morning in a stoical mood, because I realise that this game was always going to be difficult when a red card is shown so early in a game.

The truth is, the red card was probably the worst thing that could have happened to us in terms of the way we were set up. Arsène opted for more raw pace in the front three and Ramsey as the workaholic in the middle of the park, due to an injury picked up by Mesut, so his plan was clearly to draw Newcastle out and then hit the defenders on the counter attack. You could see that from before the card, as we played a couple of longer diagonal balls in an attempt to get the three attackers behind the black and white defenders. And it was working. We created chances and Bellerin should have had a penalty. 

However as soon as Newcastle lost their central striker, it was a completely different game and I bet if Arsène could, he’d have changed the team up there and then. Take Giroud, for example, who would have been a better player to sit in amongst Coloccini and Mbemba and been the link man to knock balls in and around the Newcastle defenders to try and set his teammates through. I said to The Management as soon as the card was shown, that this would be a game that would be crying out for Özil, but at the time I wasn’t aware of his injury. We needed a player who could thread that eye of a needle pass and quite simply, that’s not Aaron Ramsey’s game, which is based on pressing and goalscoring.

So we started to look a little lacklustre. The passing was slowed down, we didn’t use the width of the pitch to stretch Newcastle enough and the game itself kept breaking down because of the cynical nature of a lot of Newcastle’s fouling. I’m sure that there would have been plenty of Geordie’s bemoaning Andre Marriner and his performance yesterday, but I saw plenty of little cynical trips and shoves. The if the red was harsh, then so was the fact we didn’t get a penalty beforehand, so the two big decisions of the game appear to have gone against both teams.

But it was still incumbent on us to break Newcastle down and eventually we did through The Ox, courtesy of Coloccini, whose leg deflected the Ox’s effort in. It was one of the bright spots in an otherwise torrid game for Alex. Nothing worked for him. He gave the ball away countless times, he couldn’t seem to beat his man enough and his distribution was pretty woeful. There was even a point in the second half where he pirouetted around the ball and completely lost track of where it was, which had me thinking about shades of a young Theo Walcott. We need to remember that The Ox is still very young, having been in the Arsenal set up for a number of years, but yesterday was a game for him to forget.

It wasn’t Ramsey’s best game either. He just doesn’t work as a number 10. He was favoured centrally yesterday, but he has had far better games playing out wide and the more I see, the more I think that he would be better suited to that role alongside Coquelin if we’re at home and against a team that isn’t showing much ambition to get forward.

Walcott also hardly enamoured himself to the central strikers role, but as I hint at above, I think he was a victim of circumstance more than anything else. I’m less quick to dismiss him as a centre forward as others. It depends on the opponent and how they are setting up.

All-in-all it may have felt a little difficult, but at least we picked up the three points, because when we come back from the Interlull it will be a tough set of fixtures. Losing or even drawing yesterday would have meant a long two weeks and a real worry that we could be totally out of the race by October.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Newcastle: a better attack for them, but a better attacking performance from us wins

Ahh match day. Is there a finer thing? I think not. For it brings a sense of hope, of redemption, of anticipation and of a love that you and I know all too well. It’s Newcastle versus our beloved Arsenal and it’s a match that we quite simply must win. 

After last Monday’s draw with Liverpool, we could be forgiven for accepting a point after the first half we endured, but Champions don’t drop points too frequently. Even in this, the most open of leagues in the world. If we truly are to continue the belief that this season isn’t over before it’s even spluttered in to life, today is an away day that comes with the pressure that really, three points or bust has to be the mentality of the players.

Newcastle will be better today than they’ve been against us over recent history. We have a good record at St Jame’s Park and it’s a record in which we’ve won in the last three seasons, but only by a goal margin, so we’ve never made it easy for ourselves. One of the guys that works for me is a Newcastle fan and he and I have spent a couple of days discussing how they’ll line up. He seems more confident in them going forward than defending and they look like they have some good players who will cause us trouble.

Up top will be Mitrovic who, by the sounds of it, is a bit of a unit and will put himself about, so it is incumbent on our two central defenders to marshal him well. The good news is that even if we haven’t got Big Per or Kosciencly, at least Chambers and Gabriel have had a bit of practice with having to cope with Benteke last Monday, so hopefully they’ll be less surprises from a physical presence. 

We also might remember him from such performances as Anderlecht at Home: The collapsening last season, in which he bagged the final goal in the 3-3 debacle.

But behind the Serbian there will also be threats. Newcastle will most likely mirror our 4-2-3-1 formation and choose a trio of Sissoko, Wijnaldum and Thauvin, each a creative player who brings a different threat but an ability to run at defenders. This season, Newcastle look to have a bit more in their locker, certainly in the sharp end of the team.

But it’s in defence in which the Newcastle fans I have spoken to are the most worried. Despite a battling draw away at United, this is where the guy in my team thinks we might get some joy. Their back four of Janmaat, Collocini, Mbemba and Dummett have looked a little shaky at times and away to Swansea they were torn apart. So for us, if we’re going to have any joy today we’ll need to be much better in attack.

Arsène says Alexis is getting there and hopefully that means his accuracy is better, because we could really do with him finding his range, especially if Giroud has another off day. I expect Giroud to start and in his corner he has the advantage of having a good record against Newcastle, but he’ll need players in and around him to be successful. I doubt Arsène is going to mix things up much, so I expect to see the same quartet of Giroud, Alexis, Özil and Ramsey providing the attacking threat. If the Newcastle defence is fallible, then those four need to unlock them with plenty of movement and runs beyond our handsome Frenchman.

Defensively we all wait with baited breath as to whether Koscienly has made it and we all hope he does. But without him we will have a similar line up to Liverpool and a back five of Cech, Monreal, Gabriel, Chambers and Bellerin, with Santi and Coquelin sitting in front.

Newcastle will probably want the first 15 minutes to be about settling down and containing Arsenal, then trying to slowly unlock us I think. As Mike in my team said (the Geordie), “if we try to have a go at you from the start, I worry that we’ll get carved open on the counter”. I’d love a bit of 03/04 style lightning counter attacking, but we have to be more accurate with our ball retention if we’re to take advantage. We can’t afford to be misplacing passes in our defensive third like the first two home games of the season. We have to be dominant and accurate in possession.

An early kick off and an early opportunity to have an enjoyable weekend. Come on Arsenal!

Happy with the Champions League draw, little less happy about squad depth

Winning the Champions League is hard. We’ve never done it and we’re a club who has won almost anything you can win in football, often multiple times, so whilst it’s always interesting to see who we’ll get in the Group Stages of the Champions League, it didn’t really bother me too much.

The truth is, we’ve got a decent pedigree in the initial phases and with Dynamo Zagreb and Olympiakos making up the other teams aside from Bayern Munich, you’d still fancy us to progress. It’s pretty irrelevant which Pot 1 team we’d have got. We’ve finished first and second in our groups before and still been knocked out in the round of 16 or quarter finals.

I’m not being defeatist. If we get a decent result at home against Bayern,  you’d hope we can get wins home and away against the other two teams and be in the running for topping the group, giving us the better chance of progressing in the next round. But the belief has to be there regardless, if we ever want to get to the final again.

That belief starts by putting a run together domestically and there’s no better time to start the aforementioned confidence building than by beating Newcastle at St James’ Park. It won’t be easy and I’ll have a bit of a match preview for you tomorrow, but Arsène was quizzed in his pre-game presser and he spoke of how tight and fought the games always are up there. It’s true; we may have had three wins on the bounce, but each of them have been by just a goal margin and there have always been scary moments in which I’ve looked at The Management with my hands over my mouth and a worried glance.

The manager also spoke about the importance about managing abroad and how that will Schtand Schteve in good stead. I agree. He’ll be able to conflab with Wijnaldum in his mother tongue and tone, so we’ll need to be careful of the Dutchman getting proper instructions and actually doing us some damage on Saturday.

As for us, we need to improve our end product, which is also something Arsène picked up on. He’s right in his assertion that teams sit deeper at home, but sometimes that can also be true away and I suspect we’ll see Newcastle trying to remain solid for the start of the game tomorrow and grow in confidence. It’s probably also why we haven’t seen that much of Theo, because when teams defend deeper his primary asset – raw and explosive pace – is often negated. I suspect we’ll get the same tomorrow too.

What we won’t get is a new face announced, which I’m fine with to be honest, because we have football to distract us from the salvia thing and foaming at the mouth of many people. I prefer to concentrate on the real thing rather than the speculation. Life’s too short don’t you know. But I am starting to get a little bit more apprehensive about whether or not we can compete. I’ve been so resolute all summer about how we don’t really need an engine overhaul, just a fine tune, but having seen our stuttering start I’ve started to waiver in my own belief. It’s sad, I know, but I can’t help it. It’s probably partially driven by Moneychester City’s brilliant start, as well as the lacklustre finishing on our part, but I am starting to get worried every time Coquelin goes down holding a part of his body. I still believe that Arteta is a good player and will be valuable to us, but when that thought process gets immediately countered in my head by “yeah. but sure only when we are a couple of goals up early on against Swansea or Stoke at home?”, I get flashes of doubt that grow bigger. I do think we need a destroyer. The return of Welbeck will at least mean we have another option alongside Theo if Giroud isn’t working, so numbers-wise we’re fine, but that centre midfield anchor is still missing. None of us want a prolonged period of games where Flamini is attempting to relive his previous Arsenal life, so let’s hope Arsene is looking at that position more than a striker.

Maybe it’s a bit of a reverse of what he’s done in the past. You know, like when we all cried out for another striker, so Arsene went out and bought Monreal. Or when we all wanted another defender and up pops Andre Arshavin. Maybe whilst everyone is screaming for a Benzema, Wanyama can sneak in through the back door at Colney and then jump out of a bike cake for us on September 2nd? We shall see.

Anyway, I’m off to prep for my sojourn up north, so I’ll catch thee in the morrow for a pre-match musing from Morpeth.

My Champions League tips, as Per flags down a bus

Forget hyperbole of Wayne Rooney being ‘back’ after he scored a hat trick against an underwhelming Club Brugge yesterday evening, today is all about the Group Stage proper and finding out who we’ll see rocking up at the Emirates from Seltember.

We’re in Pot 2, which means that we’ll certainly not face Real Madrid, Porto, Atletico, Valencia or Leverkusen, but it does mean we’ll get one of the ‘big boys’.

I say ‘big boys’, but whilst Pot 1 features league winners like Chelski, Barcelona, Bayern and PSG, it also has Benfica, Zenit and PSV, so there’s an outside chance we could still be favourites for the group even though we’re not seeded as one of the best any more.

The seeding is a bit farcical anyway, because it effectively guarantees teams like from leagues where most of the opposition are cannon fodder every weekend, a seat at the top table and a status that doesn’t really befit them. I’d wager it’s a lot harder to finish third in the Premier League than it is to top the Portuguese Super Lig, or whatever the devil they call it. But I guess “Them’s is the rules” and we have to abide by them.

I fancy us to get Bayern or PSV again. That seems to be the standard in the Champions League, that you play teams that you feel like you play every year. A decent draw of teams we’ve hardly ever played would be Benfica, Lyon and BATE Borisov, but I suspect we’ll end up with a group of death including Barcelona, Roma and Wolfsburg. Hey, at least we could all hail the return of The Lord so that would be something to all get our ceremonial pray mats out over.

The draw will happen at 4.45pm UK time, which probably means the UEFA doors will open at midday and much padding will ensue. Pointless ceremonies for all not there, but I’d imagine if you get to go, it beats a day at the office. Maybe I’m just bitter.

What I’m not bitter about, however, is the fact that I get to head up north tomorrow evening to spend the weekend with the in-laws. They just happen to live in Newcastle so hey, the coincidence is welcome by this here Gooner. 

We’ll probably get Arsène’s press conference today, because he and the team are hitch-hiking their way up to the St James’ Sporting Direct Arena of Wonga @ Newcastle stadium, which is why he has to do his pre-match press conference early. Per and Cech are already walking along the A1 looking to flag down a big enough, empty enough bus with which to pile in to. It’s because they’ve got the longest arms and thumbs, you see.

The big news will be on who is available and whether we’ll get another dose of Chambers and Gabriel. If we do get that confirmation, I’d expect them to be better for their second half performance, but I would of course rather see at least one of our Big German or Bart Simponsesque Frenchman available. Monday night showed us the importance of that experience and even if Big Per is available (which I would suspect would see Chambers drop to the bench instead of Gabriel), I think his calming influence would be well felt at the back, despite what some of the naysayers say about him.

I don’t get it you know. The whole ‘Per is sh*t’ rubbish I mean. He’s not blessed with pace, can be cumbersome at times, but he’s been a solid defender since he arrived at the club and his positional sense and organisation of his teammates is an important part of his game that gets overlooked. Just because he isn’t making ‘Hollywood tackles’ – if there is such a thing – doesn’t mean that he isn’t adding value to the team. People need to spend more time watching the play and less time watching and listening to the pundits methinks.

Anyway, hopefully he’s back and hopefully the problem with Koscienly is a short term issue, because we could do without him being sidelined for a prolonged period of time.

We could also do with more goals, something that dear old Mesut has said he’s going to do this season, by being more selfish. By all means my old mukka, if you could just rifle a few more in when you’re put through rather than square the ball, that’d be grand. But as long as Özil continues to dictate games like Crystal Palace away and the second half at Liverpool, then that’ll do too, because he’ll create plenty of chances for others to fluff up. I’m kidding! Jeez, don’t get all touchy and sensitive, ok?

That’s all there is for now. We wait with baited breath on both Le Boss’s words and our Champions League fate. Let’s hope it’s not one that will have us rueing our luck.

Taking the squad to Spudland and a Giroud overreaction

Wellington, wellington, wellington, how about that for a third round Capital One Cup draw for us, eh? The Spuds at their hovel of a ground. Who da thunk it?

At least we’ll get to see the youngsters on TV…but wait…how many will we actually see? Because you know that these days we have a squad of players fighting for a place, so I reckon we’ll probably get to see quite a lot of familiar faces when we rock up at their gaff in September. 

Ospina, Debuchy (at this rate with Bellerin keeping his place), Chambers, possibly Gabriel if Koscienly’s back doesn’t turn in to another longer term issue, Gibbs, Flamini and Arteta, Walcott, Welbeck returning from fitness. All of these players will probably be looking at some game time. So unless Pochettino plays his strongest side, we’ve got to fancy ourselves a bit in this tie, eh? Regardless of our recent history of very average of poor results in the wrong side of North London. With some of those players you’d expect them to be given a chance and want to take that chance quite desperately.

But that’s a little way off yet, because we still need to get this season up and running, what with our spluttering and stuttering start to it. Particularly at the sharp end of the team, in which a lot is being made of the number of shots we have had at home in the last five or six matches, only scoring in the last game of the season against West Brom. I think a little too much is being made of it actually. There’s quite a bit of finger pointing, of photoshopping of quotes and stats on an image of Giroud, as well as much gnawing of bone and gnashing of teeth because we haven’t signed a striker.

By the way as an aside, I dreamed that Benzema was in Engkand round my house and had a blond wig on yesterday, so I asked him about the transfer. In a reply that sounds very much like it’s taken from a transcript of a call by add Woodward to Louis Van Gaal, Benezema told me that he didn’t even know Arsenal were interested and that nobody had even found him from Arsenal yet. Make of that what you wish.

But anyway, back to these stats about our profligacy, seemingly aimed at Giroud who has obviously been the person who has taken all of the 61-odd shots that have been taken during our ‘five out of six’ games without a goal at The Emirates. I mean come on people, there is no ‘I’ in ‘team’ and all that. Sure, Giroud has been a little wasteful at times and sure, I’d love an upgrade who could take chances like Ian Wright used to do, but we don’t have that at this moment in time and the reason we haven’t been scoring isn’t solely because Olivier has forgotten where they place the nets at home. 

There are a few factors as to why we have gone so many games without scoring and each game has a slightly different narrative. Swansea last season was one of those ‘Champman’ results where the football karma gods decided that we were going to huff and puff and get nowhere. So too was the Sunderland result last season, as a team fighting for their lives made tackles everywhere, but also we had very little to play for.

The West Ham game was an appalling performance and the players know that. Unfortunately that’s just what this Arsenal team delivers some times and I’m coming around to it. Then we come to Monday’s result, partially determined by our own clear nervousness defensively, but in the second half it just looked like we were a little out from picking up all three points in the second half. 

So there are mitigating factors in our performances and the manager knows we have to be better. He knows the start hasn’t been great, calling it ‘average’ and he has to force a reaction on Saturday lunchtime. But it’s not just from Giroud. It also has to come from Alexis getting his scoring boots on, or Ramsey bagging goals from wherever he’s placed in the team. Giroud should be contributing more of course, but equally so should Özil and Santi too. It’s a team game and it’s the team that is squandering chances. Not just Giroud.

Perhaps I’m sympathising with him too much, but what else can we do? There’s no point unleashing verbal torrents of abuse of him on my blog that he no doubt has never seen in his life. And even if he did, me shouting the house down doesn’t exactly help him in any way. Arsène has admitted in the past that he’s a confidence player. So he needs to be given that confidence by the manager.

On Saturday we’ve got a Newcastle side who have just come off of the back of a Capital One Cup victory at home and will be buzzing, but Giroud has the odd goal against the Geordie’s so I hope he can find his way again. We can ill-afford another lacklustre display and with tough games against Stoke and Chelski coming up after the international break, things could start to look ropey unless we pull our fingers out.

We’ll find out more from Arsène tomorrow about who’s available, so until then, chins up people.

Cech out our goalie, as well as a dodgy lino

Not for the first time this season Liverpool were the beneficiaries of yet more dodgy officiating, yet for the first time this season, we were the beneficiaries of a superb Petr Cech display. Which would probably be the story of the game if you asked me to describe it in a paragraph or less.

The pre-game teams news undoubtedly handed Liverpool a boost and no matter what people say about Mertesacker being a liability (less so most of the Arsenal fans I know), his calming influence would have been useful against a clearly nervous Calum Chambers in the first half last night. Chambers is a good defender. We’ve seen that at the start of last season, but it’s hard to just switch on and off form when you’ve not been playing, especially when the same is true of his central defensive partner Gabriel last night. 

It was pretty painful to watch in that first half, wasn’t it? All of the back four seemed to be shaky at different moments and the passing had about as much accuracy as a one armed blind archer. Bellerin, Gabriel and Chambers all seemed to take turns in suicidal balls in our defensive third and when the need was there for a bit of ball retention and clever passing, even Santi decided to chip in with some off-key distribution. Heck, even Mesut Özil – who misplaced just one pass on Sunday last week – lost the ball two or three times and we looked like we couldn’t have been happier to go in to the first half after a performance like that. 

Yet for all of the Liverpool possession, great saves from Cech and rattled woodwork, we should have been one up with a perfectly good goal chalked off for offside. Figures.

I don’t know whether or not Arsène went to DEFCON 3 on the team at half time, but thankfully our second half performance was better and we had more of it after the interval. Liverpool looked to counter and Mignolet tried to slow down the play by time wasting as much as possible. But we still should have broken the deadlock. Alexis off the post, Giroud slipping when through against Mignolet, the Ox forcing him in to a good save and countless runs by Monreal in behind the defenders, meant that it was our second half.

So perhaps in hindsight a draw is the fairest result. Except it always feels a little more deflating when you’re at home. Had that been at Anfield I’d probably be quite happy with it. It’s still early in the season and there’s plenty of time to get a run together. But because it was on our own patch, it feels like we’ve dropped two points, plus I have this nagging and uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach. I have that feeling not because of the rum I drunk whilst watching the game, but because that’s another game without scoring at The Emirates (even if we actually did had the rules been properly enforced) and it’s another performance in which we’ve given the opposition far too much licence to do their own thing.

I want us to be champions. I want us to win more football matches than anyone else. But we’re looking nervous at times at home and that’s not good. I know I shouldn’t look at other teams at such an early stage in the season, but I couldn’t help but think back to what Arsène said about the beginning of last season, in which we effectively lost the league after about six or seven games. By the ten game mark I think we were eight points off Chelski. We’re five away from City already and although they will inevitably drop points, if they keep building a buffer, all it will do is give them the opportunity to drop points without there being repurcussions. 

The problem we’ve also got is that we go to Newcastle next Saturday and with last nights draw at home, if we get anything else other than three points come 3pm, we’ll be even further away from City by the time Match of the Day comes around. That’s the kind of pressure a draw at home brings to you.

It’s not terminal. We could win against Newcastle, then go on to beat Stoke before we play Chelski away, but if we lose in the North East we could be dead and buried in the league by the end of September. I know that sounds dramatic, but our away record at Stamford Bridge is atrocious, so back-to-back defeats away from home in our next two matches will probably make a league title assault look as far as it did this time last season.

Can everything be solved by transfers? I don’t think so. I think some players need to step up more. Santi has had two off games and one good one already this season. Giroud hasn’t looked great at home but did well away. Alexis just needs game time. Things just need to click a bit. But the problem is, things have already clicked at City and so we’re already playing catch up. 

Is it a psychological barrier we have to overcome? Maybe. I didn’t see a fantastic Liverpool team yesterday, that’s for sure, but I could t help but think that if City or Chelski played them, they would have found a way to beat them whilst playing as poorly as we did in that first half. That’s what worries me about us winning the league. Last night should have been a ground-out victory, not us talking about how great our ‘keeper is and how shaky our defence looked in the first half.

If I sound overly negative today then I apologise. It’s only because I’m so despair ate for Arsenal to show the world that we’re good enough with the squad we’ve got. But when a couple of injuries cause us to go all ‘jellylegs’ at the back, what’s it going to be like when we lose players in positions in which we aren’t as well stocked?

Arsène needs to have a think about how we sort ourselves out, because four points from three games isn’t good enough form to start crowing about possibly winning a title. Had we beaten West Ham then we’d all feel a little better about the situation, but we made life hard for ourselves from day one, so now we need to change that by picking up back-to-back victories. Quickly.

On a positive note, Coquelin had a very good game and Petr Cech showed a performance that most certainly shows why he was valued at £11million, so at least there’s something for us to focus on. 

Roll on next weekend, eh?