The player boost of a big name

With the dust still settling from the euphoria of the Sanchez signing on Thursday evening, there’s nothing like a bit of player commentary on the signing to keep the likes of you and I enthralled with what Arsenal have achieved this week, so it was that the Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey comments begin to seed their way through mainstream media for us to gorge ourselves on.

It’s always pleasing to see the players talk so glowingly about signings like Sanchez. It shows how highly they rate players of his ilk and also gives you a very real indication of the boost his arrival will have on the club even before he has even struck a ball in anger. I hope he does strike a ball in anger. Straight at Nasri’s face in the Community Shield in a few weeks time.

This kind of boost is exactly what we all needed as the World Cup draws to a close and the rhetoric coming from Ivan Gazidis about the work ‘not being finished yet’ is all the more pleasing to hear. It shows the club are taking this summer very seriously in terms of delivering a squad that is capable of challenging on multiple fronts and the strong links to Remy, Khedira, Bender and Debuchy (who by all accounts I know is done, but I suspect the club are riding the crest of the Alexis wave, before hitting us with another adrenaline shot of transfer goodness early next week) are most welcome at this early stage of the summer.

Supposedly the oil-whores are sniffing around Khedira with a view to adding yet another midfielder to their burgeoning ranks. Much like the Liverpool/Sanchez rumours that surfaced a couple of weeks ago, I’d trust that if Arsene is after Khedira then the conversations have already taken place and he’ll have a good chance of landing his man. I’m not so sure about Khedira though, if I’m honest, because he is much more in the Ramsey mould than the natural defensive midfielder who can slot in to the full back slots. He’s intelligent enough to do it, but that is in the same way that Arteta is not a naturally defensive midfielder, but has been able to adapt his game over the years. I suppose I shouldn’t be too worried; Arsene took a wide playing Thierry Henry and turned him into the greatest centre forward the club has ever had, so if there is willing from Khedira to become that midfield enforcer that we need, I think it would be a good signing. I’d probably prefer a Lars or Sven Bender though. But that’s mainly because I’ve watched a couple of ITV3 highlight shows of the Bundesliga and seen Lars slot in at right back and look so natural.

Speaking of right backs, I really have no idea why we have this Javier Manquillo link coming our way from Atletico Madrid, unless Arsene has lost faith in Jenkinson and is looking to cash in. IT would be a shame because I still think he has the potential to break through, but as somebody on Twitter mentioned to me yesterday, perhaps he is being considered as a convert into the centre of defence. He certainly has the build for it, but whether or not Le Boss could just wave a magic wand and voila, we have a back up to Per and Kos, I’m not so sure. He’ll need games in that position and that would mean a loan spell is agreed with the player. There’s talk of him going in at Newcastle, but i’d expect him to operate as a replacement to the departing Debuchy, which wouldn’t give him any real experience as a centre half if that is where Arsene sees his future. Again, second guessing what Arsene’s plans are is like turning water into wine, and we haven’t had one of those guys doing it for us for a couple of thousand years.

Tonight we’ll see one of the single most pointless football matches in all history – third/fourth place play off. I could understand it’s existence if, like the Olympics, there was some kind of Gold, Silver and Bronze system in place, but there isn’t. You’re playing for ‘pride’. I’d wager both teams would rather be playing on the beach with their family members whilst on holiday. But, like any football fan, I’ll still tune in tonight and watch and hope that there’s a decent game on display and no diving Robben’s. Again, might need a bit of that water to wine fella in that instance.

That’s all from me today. I’m moving house on Monday so I have a flat to deconstruct. Cheerio.

Brazilians don’t excite; targets seem very ‘Arsene’ like

In some sort of weird reversal of expectancy, it appears as though the two games that were played yesterday afternoon and evening were the opposite of what I expected. I thought with talent on display in the France verus Germany game,it would be by far the most entertaining match to watch, so I was a bit gutted that it was on earlier in the evening when I was travelling back from a day at the office. That’s not to say that the Brazil versus Colombia game didn’t have any superstars on display – evidently there are a few on either side – I just felt that a Franco-German slug-fest would provide more entertainment.

As it was I found yesterday’s evening game quite good, as the Colombians did their level best to upset the odds and turn over the Brazilians, whilst not really creating a string of chances. This Brazilian team doesn’t really capture my imagination at all and, when they scored quite early on through a shoddy bit of defending from a corner, I hoped the Colombians would react a bit better than they did. Particularly James Rodriguez. Mind you, the Brazilians must have done their homework on this referee, because the tactical and rotational fouling for persistent digs at Rodriguez was as blatant and obvious as an Adrian Chiles stupid remark. The Spanish referee did little to quash the Brazilian tactics of slowing the game down, even reserving his yellow card for James Rodriguez when he made his one and only foul of the game (I think), whilst also downgrading what looked like a clear red by Julio Caesar to a yellow for the Colombian penalty.

So it’s a Germany against Brazil semi final and despite the fact the German’s haven’t ripped anyone apart other than Portugal, I hope (and think) they serve a bit of a humbling to the Brazilian team, who will certainly be feeling nervous after Neymar was ruled out of the competition with a back injury. It was a pretty shocking challenge when you look at it for the second time and, given what has happened to the recipient of the foul, you do think it’s rather ludicrous that the Colombian player wasn’t penalised further for his actions.

It’s Belgium vs Argentina tonight, for which I’m hoping Belgium do a number on the Argies, plus Holland versus Costa Rica who I think will probably have gone as far as they probably can. This is beginning to feel like it could be the Argentinians year to me. Messi has finally turned up to a tournament, they have great firepower throughout the squad, plus they could have an easier route to the final by beating Costa Rica and then potentially Holland in the semi’s, of which I feel the Dutch are nowhere near as good as the Argentinians.

Arsenal news is unsurprisingly light on the ground, but there was some chatter online last night that Debuchy had announced to journalists from TF1 that he would be joining Arsenal. That’s all well and good with people suggesting this, but I can’t find any specific reference to any quotes on any website, neither in the British press, nor the actual TF1 website. Although, I must confess that my French isn’t so much rusty, as it is non-existent, so I may have been navigating their website totally wrong. It does seem as though this is a very Arsene Wenger signing and, if the deal is done quickly, it at least means we can all breathe a sigh of relief that the club are actually looking to tie up deals as quickly as possible. With so many media outlets now reporting this deal as ‘done’ (L’Equipe are saying so too), it does seem as if there is no some without fire on this one so I think we should all be pretty pleased that there’s Premier League experience coming straight in to slot in to the team.

There’s nothing really new from any of the other reports going on at the moment. A lot of re-hashing of stories and re-populating of information for the sake of it right now, which you can tell when places like the MIrror start referencing other media outlets as the rumour mill goes into full ‘he-said/she-said’ territory. I like the sound of a Debuchy, Sanchez, Schneiderlin and Remy summer,all of which seeming feasible for Arsene, but bringing in that many players in one summer would be a surprise to me. Particularly Remy if we get Sanchez. Arsene really fancies a bit of Sanogo as understudy to Giroud and I suspect that if a deal for Sanchez were to be done, we’d see him playing wide right or left of the Frenchman. Having the pacey Remy in the squad doesn’t really seem to me to be as worthwhile when you have players like the Ox, Gnabry and eventually Walcott to come back, as we’d be stifling someone’s longer term route in to the first team. Hey, I’m not trying to be all Arsene Wenger in my hypotheses, I’m just trying to work out what the reality of any situation would be. I think it would be that if we get Sanchez and Debuchy, unless there is any other kind of exit like Vermaelen, that could in theory be all there is kids. Whether that represents a good summer or not I’m not so sure. I would probably say ‘only just’, but that’s much like last summer was ‘only just’ salvaged by the Ozil transfer. We’d effectively have only bought in one extra player if just the Frecnhman and the Chilean came in; Sagna for Debuchy is a clear ‘one-in-one-out’ replacement and so doesn’t make us stronger in terms of depth.

I’d like to see our squad all remain (including Vermaelen) in tact this year, with a front man, a ‘keeper, a defensive minded midfielder and potentially a young and up-and-coming centre half ideally, but I suspect that Arsene would be happy with Sanchez, Debuchy and maybe a clear seconded-choice ‘keeper from the Outer Hebrides or some place that few have heard of. We’ll just have to wait and see until he makes his first move. I just hope he does it soon.

Anyway, catch you tomorrow, with some more thoughts.

I don’t wan to be a reverse Paul

I think that whichever team I get behind, they are destined to failure. I fancied seeing Ivory Coast through earlier in the week, yet they were undone by a dubious penalty in the last minute, so the very fact I publicly stated a preference for the Russians must surely have been the contributing factor to their downfall. Their draw with Algeria saw the North African’s go through and, having been stuck in the nineties belief that Algeria were a whipping boy (thanks to various incarnations of the Mega Drive’s FIFA International Soccer) to be dispatched with consummate ease, my whole international values system has been thrown into chaos. I don’t think we’ll see a Costa Rica vs Algeria cup final (assuming they wouldn’t meet before hand – permutations have never really been my strong point), but it has added to the spice of this competition, and we have seen a fabulous competition so far so I have to be grateful. Now, if my adopted nation of Germany could just win the darn thing, that would be grand. But after backing a few stumbling horses so far, I’m beginning to get worried for their chances. I feel like I’m like some sort of ghost of Paul the Octopus, except I was born before him, so perhaps I’ve just had part of his spirit transferred to me.

Dear World Cup, don’t make a me a reverse Paul. Say that I haven’t had part of Paul’s spirit transferred across from Germany.

Urgh, transfers, even I can’t get away from them when I try and fashion irrelevant stories about marine creatures. Unfortunately for Arsené, it seems as though the wheels are turning at most clubs, with United effectively spunking £60million on Herrera from Bilbao and Shaw from Southampton (although that’s not been confirmed as I write) to bolster their ranks, to add to the fact City and Chelski have both now been active in the market. I say ‘unfortunately’ for Arsené because, let’s face it, his assertion that no business is done until after the World Cup has been revealed to be the fallacy we all suspected.

Still, we aren’t even in July yet, so there is plenty of time for the club to ‘wow’ us with some kind of mega signing. The only problem we have is the form the club have shown from last summers shambles. I’ve said it before a few times and I’ll keep saying it: the real worry from Arsenal fans that I speak to in the real world is that we are repeating the mistakes of last summer and previous summers. We don’t really want a transfer Groundhog Day, but until the club make that first announcement, that feeling just won’t go away.

It probably didn’t help from a PR perspective, that Arsené was snapped on a beach playing beach football, on the day that United made signings and Seamus Coleman signed a new deal at Everton. I know signings can be made without the manager present – heck, as somebody pointed out last night Van Gaal is in Brazil actually managing a team – but it doesn’t help to cage the rage of those detractors that enjoy sticking the knife in and adding to their published works of ‘Wenger Out’ reasons as to why there needs to be a step-change at Arsenal. In many ways he’s on a hiding-to-nothing until the club start showing some movement; but even then in some peoples eyes it should be the ‘right’ type of signing.

Lord knows what that means to some people. For me personally, the ‘right’ type of signing is somebody that will instantly strengthen our team and give us more depth in places like the front three or at right back. Names are an irrelevance to me. Sure, a big name will make you feel better now in the summer when they are announced, but when the games start and these players take to the field the price tag won’t make them any better footballers. Their adaptation to our style of play, the new attributes they bring to the team, plus their motivation to succeed, that is what will make them better footballers.

It’s a day away from football today and, after over two weeks of consistent gameage, I have to say it feels a little flat if I’m honest, such has the success of this World Cup been. Hey, this competition has even weakened a ‘rival’ as a result of Suarez’s antics, with the Uruguayan due to miss at least until October before he’s eligible to play for them. Perhaps Liverpool will be looking at offloading their star talent, but i don’t believe the stories about his value being reduced, because even missing the first part of last season didn’t see him not finish as the leagues top scorer. Barcelona and Madrid know that and they will park the transgressions of Sir Chomps-a-Lot in favour of getting him In this summer I reckon. If they include Sanchez as part of the deal then that would soften the blow, but with Arsenal sniffing quite vociferously around the Chilean, I would imagine the Catalan’s would fancy a bidding war rather than a swap deal plus cash. So there’s still a chance that we could be in the driving seat there.

I think that’s pretty much me done for the day. Bye-si-bye!

My support jinxes the Germans; new but not original transfer stuff

Last night I watched my newly adopted team – Germany (family ties and all that) – fight back from a potential shock defeat to Ghana to take a draw and I have to say, it was yet another great advertisement for what is fast becoming the best World Cup I have experienced in my lifetime, aside from England being pants ‘n all.

It did feel like I had jinxed ze Germans by getting behind them though. Almost as if I haven’t had enough punishment from being born in a nation whose national team regularly under performs in international competitions, even my adopted nations seem to stutter. I’m hoping it’s just a blip though, because unlike Eng-Ger-Land, Germany have the firepower in their ranks to go far in the competition.

I suppose it also helps my alliance that there are plenty of Arsenal Germans in the ranks and if Arsene can pick up a Bender and a Draxler (even though I appreciate that appears to have gone quiet right now), I’m sure it will make aligning myself even easier.

What a great game it was though. The Ghanaians looked really good value for the point they picked up, despite a controlled first half from Germany and, when they scored to go 2-1 up the crowd really got behind the Black Stars, which made for a great atmosphere inside the stadium. The fightback and goal from the Germans was also good to see, with some history being made by Klose by getting his 15th World Cup goal, a classic Klose poacher goal as well. Whether or not he’ll get to 16 I’m not sure, as there are a maximum of five games and if he’s being used so sparingly with ten minutes here or there, it’s no guarantee that he’ll have enough time to become the stand out all time biggest goal scorer ahead of chunky Ronaldo. You wouldn’t put it past him having a tap in over the next few games though.

Mesut had another quiet game, which was a bit of a shame, because I think most of us agree it would be really good if there is a confidence boosting World Cup for him it can only be a good thing for Arsenal next season. He is being given a bit more licence to roam across the attacking positions and cropped up on both left and right hand sides yesterday, with a couple of good balls into the box and one run in the second half that was scooped over his own bar by a Ghana defender, but I just hope that the German people and the rest of the world don’t get on his back too much. He’s an elegant player that has had a decent first season at Arsenal. I don’t know whether or not in a year’s time he’ll be a completely changed player on the international scene, but I believe that next season in red and white will be a good one for him and I just hope that this World Cup doesn’t dent any of his confidence.

Transfer wise there’s nothing new really. Some of the red tops are hashing out a new (but not original) spin on the Balotelli stuff by saying Arsene Wenger will be meeting Balotelli’s agent in the next day or so, but as much as i’d personally like to see him at The Arsenal, I do think that Arsene will go for a different type of striker, perhaps even a more low-key striker. We’ve all seen too many summers that have resulted in us landing a £12million signing rather than a big name with a big reputation. I know there are a few that are talking about our links to Sanchez, Reus & co as well, but I do suspect that the form of Campbell this World Cup might scupper those rumours, especially as he now has an extra game to impress against what will probably be a top international team.

Again, much like the Balotelli stuff, the Serge Aurier speculation has got slightly warmer with reports he’s agreed an £8million £60,000-a-week deal. It’s nothing new and although I’d welcome him as a player that can battle it out with Jenkinson, there is question marks on his defensive stability much like The Corporal, so I do have to question whether or not that deal will come off and whether or not Arsene will opt for a slightly older head with a view to blooding the Corporal over a number of years. I’ve never quite understood comments about sending the Corporal out on loan if I’m honest. If you send a player out on loan that is your first reserve, you have to go out and buy another reserve and with Arsenal’s injury record over the last six or seven years, surely it should mean that Jenkinson will get enough games at the club. It’s not like we don’t play in enough competitions!

Anyway, that’s enough of my nonsense for one day, I’m off to spend the day in the sun celebrating my anniversary with The Management. Laters.

The cruel twists of fate

It is a cruel twist of fate that on a day in which I find myself on annual leave I am awoken by the need to address the movements in my bowels at 6am in the morning. Perhaps it is indicative of the last 24 hours that it is like that because, let’s face it, as Arsenal fans we seem to have been run through the emotional mill a bit. Still, after then watching another cruel twist of fate befall the Croatian’s with arguably the most farcical penalty decision you’ll see at the competition before it has even got going, at least I’m thankful I’m not a Croatian Arsenal fan. Sorry to any of you guys if you’re reading this. I feel for you. I really do.

So here I am at 6.30am on a Friday morning penning some thoughts on the day that was yesterday and there’s no way around it folks, we’ve got to talk about the Fabregas stuff. I know, I know, I don’t want to type it as much as you don’t really want to read it, but Fabregas is now officially a Chelski player and has stepped over the line from being a former player that I had affections for, to a player that now carries no real meaning to me. Actually, that can’t be true, because when I saw the news (originally via a picture text message by my brother) on Sky Sports yesterday afternoon my stomach sank and the realisation that he’d be lining up against us next year for the most reprehensible club in the known world set in.

But can we really lay the blame at Fabregas’ door? Is there any blame to be lain anywhere? Many of us have said that we need to look at other positions in our team, other deficiencies that need addressing first, before we can start to look at getting luxury players like Fabregas in. And even in his statement Cesc admitted that Arsenal had a clause and it was not taken. As Arsenal fans we all love to read a little too deeply into the most simplistic of comments, but I read his statement on Facebook yesterday and saw a hint of regret that he couldn’t return to Arsenal. Why? Mesut Ozil I suspect. He is the Arsenal Poster Boy now and the team is being built around him. He’s two year’s younger than Fabregas and I remain convinced he can emulate and potentially surpass the Spaniard’s tenure at the club in terms of what he offers Arsenal. Fabregas was a good player, not a legend, but did a decent job in the most part for us.

I don’t know if it’s the same for you, but the stomach churning feeling I got was almost entirely through an irrational and romantic notion that footballers still had elements of loyalty about them. Very few, we all know that, but I did still believe there might be one or two out there. I’m not suggesting Cesc should have refused to budge and stay at Barcelona, because that wouldn’t have been productive for anyone, but I am a human being and prone to severe bouts of irrationality and this saga has stirred said irrationality once again. I didn’t really think we needed Fabregas and, in truth, I didn’t really want him if it meant that our attentions weren’t directed at other areas of the pitch. I just didn’t want him to be playing for any other English team. I wanted the memories of the player to not be tainted by the fact that he’ll have to line up alongside the Terry’s, Ramirez’s and Mikel’s of this world next season. Like I said, that irrational human trait and slightly spoiled little boy inside me (sit down, Robin) didn’t want any of the kids of have the toy if I couldn’t have it. But those cruel twists of fates began whirring and a player who was once part of our affections turns up at one of only two clubs that I just could not stomach him playing for.

The day was not to end on the Fabregas note, as Sagna also made his farewell gesture through the medium of Instagram and, whilst we all knew it was happening, it still didn’t make it any easier. He’s been a wonderful servant, he goes with our blessing (until he announces he’s signed for Moneychester City next week), we look for a replacement right back and get on with our lives. But even so it still felt like being given another haymaker whilst you’re already emotionally stumbling towards the canvass.

Naturally, Twitter and other social media sites went into meltdown and some of the comments were both unwarranted and ludicrous in the extreme, but most of the sensible people I follow took the two announcements with the degree of pragmatism you’d expect from normal Arsenal fans. What seemed to be the general consensus though, which I was talking with Ben and Steve about on Whatsapp last night, was that Arsene might have just added more pressure to deliver the transfer goods this summer. Perhaps even more than last summer. I’m not sure the rage could be caged until 31st August and a last-minute mega signing salvage the mood for the summer if we replicated the mistakes of June and July 2013. And that’s what is also contributing to  some Arsenal fans being even more worked in to a frenzy I think. There is genuine concern that the club will repeat its mistakes, not strengthen with the required quality that is needed for a title assault and we will find ourselves once again ‘muddling through’ in a scrap for fourth place. Arsene’s assertion that no big deals are done before the World Cup is slowly being eradicated and with Chelski already strengthening in two of the positions they needed to this summer, there is a very real fear that we will bottle it again.

I hope we don’t. I hope that the club really does pull out the ‘mega signing’ that is being whispered amongst some people. The fates may have been cruel yesterday, but at least they were cruel at the beginning of the summer, so we have plenty of time for the club to pull some rabbits out of the hat and retain the feel good factor that came with winning the FA Cup in May. Remember that?

Catch you tomorrow.

Arsene’s signature means the signings can start, right?

So after much pontificating, yesterday the news finally came from the club that Arsene has signed his new three year deal, that will have kept him at the Arsenal for a whole Oxlade-Chamberlain by the time he reaches the end of it.

I’m convinced that, having gone through a horrendously long and painfully drawn out summer, the Arsenal PR team have learnt their lessons, as each day it seems we are being fed new stories about the club. It’s as if they are feeding us all on a metaphorical intravenous drip of information and I for one am glad. It punctuates the interminably long summer with something Arsenal related, at least until the World Cup comes around and we can see how our players perform on the global stage.

The deal is an interesting one. We may all have known for some time (nothing is secret in today’s touch type instant world you know) that the deal was done and it would be three years, but it feels a bit odd to me, if I’m honest. A two year deal clearly shows that as a man reaching the autumn of his managerial career, he won’t go on forever, where as a four or five year deal suggests an investment in a ‘project’. But a three year deal feels a little halfway housey to me.

Heck, I don’t begrudge Le Boss it; he’s earned some goodwill after the improvement in performance in the league (yes, I know we still finished fourth, but the gap between the top four was hardly a mountain) and a shiny thing to put in the trophy cabinet for us all to look at for the next ten months or so. And regardless of which side of the Arsene fence you sit on, it’s hard not to feel happy that he’s managed to recapture some glory after what must have felt like a lifetime without success. Sir Chips himself spoke about how much Arsene loves the club and there’s no doubting that fact whatsoever. We can question his methods, his transfers, his lack of apparent tactical awareness at times, but passion and love for The Arsenal? Nope.

With that uncertainty now eradicated from the club, there is nothing more to do than to get behind him and hope he does the business this summer, because the club need to inject a bit more into the side that only just fell short last season. Perhaps the signing of Arsene for three years can be used as a positive tool with which to convince quality players to join the Arsenal cause? Knowing that your manager will be around for the foreseeable future must have an impact on what players want to do. I mean ultimately they’ll go wherever the all-mighty buck takes them, but the consistency of the man in charge must be an added bonus, right?

Players will know the style of Arsenal under Arsene and you rarely hear a player not talk in glowing terms about him as a person and the style he asserts on to his players. That consistency in approach gives an element of security to a player. All they have to do is take care of their own performance.

That’s pretty much it from me today I think. What? You didn’t think I’d actually give a monkeys about England’s game last night, did you?

Cheerio folks.

Season review: Analysing Arsene

It is with no sense of footballing karma gods irony that the day I wanted to have a bit of a review of how I think Arsene Wenger performed, the Spuds have announced yet a new manager, in the shape of Mauricio Pochettino. And if I’ve spelt his name wrong I really couldn’t give a monkeys; I’m not wasting any of my precious time Googling the names of anyone from that lot.

Arsene has seen them all come and go and has outlasted and out blasted his fair few during his time. Everyone expects he’ll announce his new deal any day now, so I wouldn’t out it past our long-standing manager to outlast another one, in the shape of the Argentine.

The Totteringham announcement yesterday does bring into sharp contrast the stability that Le Boss has delivered to the club. With stability comes consistency and, whilst we all (me very much included) deride the fourth place trophy, it has enabled us to attract the talents the likes of which those Spuddies have never really been able to emulate.

So how has Arsene performed this year? He has always said ‘judge me in May’ and with but a few days remaining, how does this here blogger judge his actions, decisions and ability to motivate this season? I think he’s done pretty good, by all accounts. It’s easy to look at the end of season finish of fourth and think stagnation, but the ending in the story doesn’t always define whether a story has been an entertaining and enjoyable one, which I think this season has been in the most part. We may have capitulated at the final hurdle, but at least we were keeping pace with the front runners; competing against those with vastly superior resources and greatly inflated wage structures. Given the choice, tripping over the last hurdle in a race is much more preferable to stumbling at the first and never really being in it, isn’t it?

I look back on this season and see it as one where a bit more belief was reinstated amongst the fans and also the players. Keeping pace with the big boys for so long has shown this collective of Arsenal stars that they are good enough. And ultimately, the cup victory has vindicated that belief, hopefully leading to better stuff next season.

However – and herein lies the Achilles heel of Arsene – it’s also hard not to look at this season as one in which Arsene had the opportunity to twist and go for a full Pontoon style 21 whilst on 16, but decided that he’d stick with his hand which ultimately, perhaps inevitably, cost him and us a league title that would have been so glorious. There were plenty of transitional teams this season and even in July last year I read plenty of blogs that said ‘do you know what? This could be a great chance for our stability to shine through amongst all of the uncertainty’.

I do think Arsene bottled it to some extent in January. He had options – lord knows everyone saw that we had options to loan/purchase a striker that was a couple of grades better than an untested Sanogo or uninterested Bendtner – yet he plumped for yet another midfielder who ultimately had little impact due to injury.

Would a better striker have helped pick us points from. January to May? That’s an impossible and maddening question to answer, yet it is one that if you’re anything like me, you’ve been doing so ever since the January window slammed shut. Arsene knew we had a need for pace in attack, or at least a viable option instead of Giroud, yet he put his faith in his existing group of players and we fell short of a title tilt until the end.

In a way, it is Arsene’s unwavering belief in his players that is both his biggest strength and his biggest failings. Belief in players that simply aren’t good enough for the team has cost us dearly in the past. However, it’s the belief he instils in the team that drives the players to be so determined to be successful for him. I mean yes, there have been plenty over the years that have shown that the green is more important to them than fulfilling their ambitions at Arsenal with Arsene, but when you looked at the players response to the FA Cup final win a couple of weeks back it’s impossible not to see how happy they were for him too. He often carries too much of the burden of the teams fragilities with him – again another failing not to delegate that I won’t dwell on just now – so to see him lift another trophy prove that he is still capable of scaling lofty heights is a great thing to see. I would put it to you, dear friend, that if you didn’t find it heartwarming to see a man who has given us so much joy, relive that joy in the cup final, then I would be questioning whether or not you’re a real Arsenal fan.

The victory in the FA Cup added a gloss to a season in which, had we not experienced it, would probably have gone down as level par for the course. There’s almost no doubt about that. However, what the actual game itself did show us (possibly also equally as maddening as anything we’ve seen this season), is that actually when he wants to, Arsene can ‘do’ tactics. His move to 4-4-2 to bring on Sanogo proved to be the unsettling tactic that derailed them enough for us to capitalise. So why the bloody hell hasn’t he switched things around more often when it hasn’t been working in the league? Like I say, maddening in the extreme. He has shown that he can impact games and is, in fact, a man of little details. The rumours that it was he that had studied McGregor and told Cazorla that he is weaker on his left side shows a man capable of analysis to the nth degree; he just doesn’t like to do it is all!

Flippant remarks aside, the Cup final win has bought Arsene some time and enabled him to win favour of some of the swing voters, which has given him the option of three more years to drive forward his footballing policies. However, much like the newly elected European MEPs that are starting their new jobs in Brussels as we speak, they will have little time to get too comfortable if they don’t start delivering on their promise. Arsene might be riding the crest of a goodwill wave that could last until mid August at least, but if we find ourselves having sat through another summer like last years, then the knives will be out from some of the more vocal fans amongst us.

That’s yer lot from me today. I’m off to earn some cash so I can fork out a small fortune on next seasons Gold Membership.

Arsenal rebooted

With the dust now settling on the celebrations from the FA Cup Final from the media’s perspective, I have been wondering how long the euphoria of banishing the hoodoo will last, because even today fully three days after the win I am still riding the crest of the silverware wave.

It feels like Arsenal have been given a reboot. The fans I speak to in real life, online and even the more vociferous and outspoken ones, are all United in celebration and renewed optimism. It’s amazing what that victory has done for the mood in the Goonerverse. Arsenal are capable of silverware and the noises from all the players since the win has been about the hunger for more and achieving even greater success.

How long will it last before the jubilation dies down? It’s difficult to say, but I’d imagine we can certainly expect to see more positivity in our corner of the online world for at least the merry month of May. That will take us football fans into the World Cup in June and, although I’ve shown I’m quite clearly not a fan of International football, when you consider the alternative that is much gnawing of teeth at the days ebbing away without signings of last summer it’s probably going to be a welcome distraction.

It will certainly afford Le Boss a bit of ‘wiggle room’ in the clubs transfer dealings. He can trade off the goodwill of the FA Cup win for the next few weeks, rely on cup distraction and then in mid July if no new signings have been announced, he only has a month until the league starts anyway. And we’ll have the Community Shield that will come earlier too.

Without wanting to open up the wounds of previous summers, it feels like this upcoming closed season is an opportunity for Arsene and Arsenal to take the next step, such is the feeling about the place after the Wembley triumph. Many of us said last summer felt like a great opportunity, so I don’t want to tempt fate for another protracted barren period of not strengthening the side in positions we need it, but the constraints of ‘Arsenal: The Trophyless years’ are no longer upon Arsene’s shoulders. There certainly not on mine and speaking to opposition fans is a lot easier knowing you’ve got recent history on your side.

With Arsene expected to announce his new deal any day now, one hopes (and expects) that the successful pursuit of that illusive silverware will have given him renewed vigour; the very same that many journalists commented on at the start of the season. I read (and heard) from many different Fleet Street journos that Arsene looked younger and more animated – in a good way – in his early season press conferences, which was clearly a result of a positive pre season and his own expectations buoyed by the potential of the team. I suspect we’ll see a similarly spritely Arsene come August too thanks to what happened on Saturday.

But let’s not get too caught up in a Wenger love-in here; he is still the chief protagonist in the February and March collapse that saw us throw away what was a decent lead that had been built up before Christmas. We are all acutely aware of his failings in the January transfer window, not signing a striker when the whole wide world seemed to know that we needed one, was as poorer decision as he could have made this past season if you ask me. The malaise around transfers – the wonderful Mesut Özil capture aside – is something that still fills us all with nerves of another frustrating summer, but for those that dismiss the Özil signing as a ‘one off’ and Wenger incapable of spending the big bucks must still acknowledge that under the manager we have broken the British transfer record and continue to hold that particular record. Who knows, if a Cavani or a Falcao become available, nobody can argue that precedent has not been set for Arsenal to do what’s needed.

The Arsenal world feels like a very different place compared to last August BÖ (Before Özil) and since the FA Cup win. I know it’s ‘early days’, but there is now everything in place for us to set ourselves up with the squad depth to challenge for the league.

Can we do it under Arsene? Let’s hope so.

Back tomorrow with a bit of a season review.

The most fun blog I’ve written – FA Cup Winners 2014

I woke up this morning with a big smile on my face. I switched on the TV this morning with a smile on my face. I am writing today’s blog with a smile on my face. I’ve been writing blogs for about three years now and I have to say, this is the one blog that I was wondering whether I’d be writing any time soon, so I am thankful that it has come. It has been worth the wait.

Arsenal are 2014 FA Cup Winners. The nine year ‘drought’ has ended. The years of media sniping can restart at zero and we can revel in what has, we can all say with relative comfort, been a successful season for The Arsenal.

Drink it in. Football is about special moments that are captured over a short period of time like yesterday and today. We as fans go through all of the lows, all of the pain, frustration and sadness just for the adrenalin highs like yesterday. To see the relief on the players faces as the final went, to see them fall to their knees and to see the visible relief etched on Arsene’s face was something that will stay with me forever.

Players play for clubs like Arsenal because the want to win trophies. It is what drives them and yesterday’s game does not just provide us with a platform for celebration on a hot May afternoon, it also gives us hope that we are that extra little bit attractive to top players. All of those players that have spoken of winning trophies at the club, all of those people who question whether Arsenal can drag themselves over the line, well now we can say that they can. They can achieve their greatness with Arsenal and much like the players we have had the taste of silverware and will become all the more hungry for more of it in future.

We are the joint most successful FA Cup team that has ever existed along with Manchester United. We like that cup and we’ve done it again for the eleventh time in our history. Savor that folks, savor that.

Shall I talk about the game a bit? I guess this is a match review of sorts, but the match itself seems slightly inconsequential compared to the gravity of what has been achieved. Because this Arsenal team weren’t just fighting Hull City, they were fighting history or more specifically, the burden of past failures and expectation for a club like Arsenal. The pressure on the fourteen players that played yesterday was immense and, although it took a superb Aaron Ramsey extra time goal to secure the victory, they were in control and outplayed Hull for about 110 of the 120 minutes in my completely biased opinion.

Unfortunately, it was in those first ten minutes that it felt at the time that a lot of damage was done. By the time we had hit the ten minute point in the game we were two down through a real bit of smash-and-grab set piece football from Hull. First it was a miss-hit Huddlestone shot that I’m convinced just ricocheted off his foot rather than what the commentators suggested that he’d cleverly steered it in. That was after four minutes and it felt like the world should just swallow our half of the stadium up when Curtis Davies slotted the ball in from another ball into the box that was knocked on to the post by one of the Hull centre backs. I didn’t think it could get any worse, so when Kieran Gibbs headed a ball off the line from a corner it really did start to feel like it wasn’t going to be our day. We were shell-shocked and on the ropes through a quick start. It’s how we’ve been undone in all the big games this season and is certainly something I think should be looked at by the team for next year.

But for all of their faults, for the ability to be caught out so early, you cannot criticise the team too much on a day like today, because the response was exactly what was needed. Having got back home and re-watched the final last night, it struck me how dominant we were in possession. Sure, there weren’t very many chances created over the ninety minutes, but when I re-watched it was clear that we deserved to get the two goals back. The first, a sumptuous free kick from Santi, was well placed and superbly struck. The fact that Hull had scored two so early left us with time to respond and so when Santi scored on 18 minutes, we knew that it left us with enough time to re-group and go again in the second half. And we did. We were the team in the ascendancy, we were making all of the forward plays and we were the most likely to score in that second half, so when Koscienly tapped in from a knock down in the box we went absolutely nuts behind the goal. The comeback was well and truly on.

The second half ended by grinding a bit to a halt, as I think both teams didn’t want to do anything silly that could lose them the game in dying embers, but Kieran Gibbs had his chance of glory but blazed the ball over from just outside the six yard box. So it was extra time, and much like the majority of the match, it was Arsenal who looked more likely to score. Olivier Giroud had a header knocked on to the crossbar in the first half of extra time. But perhaps the most fitting scorer to win us the FA Cup was destined to write his name into Arsenal history. Aaron Ramsey will feature heavily in post-season reviews and analysis, because he has rightly been the stand out performer this season, but his finish was that of a player who has elevated himself to such a lofty position this season, that it seems almost unthinkable that he won’t be our main man to spearhead us towards another title challenge in 2014/15. After the heartbreak of losing the cup final with Cardiff in 2008, after the devastation from his leg break, after an injury that has kept him out of the season, this was his reward for the hard work and effort. The fabulous first time finish after another really good lay off from Giroud was one of those goals that only when you watch again you see how good it was. It was millimeters away from the post.

I’m not surprised that there’s already talk about Bayern Munich and Pep being interested, but with the stature of Ramsey and the fact that he signed a new deal very recently, I’d be surprised if that isn’t anything other than a bit of mischievous gutter press tittle-tattle.

There was still time for a classic Arsenal ‘heart-in-mouth’ moment though, as a long punt up field was chased down by Aluko but covered by Per, until he slipped, Fabianski inexplicably came rushing out of his box and didn’t get the ball and thankfully the angle was too tight for him to touch into an empty net.

The final whistle went, Arsenal had done it and the players lifted the trophy, with them coming on to the pitch afterwards to greet the fans. I got myself a Jack Wilshere high-five and a Lukas Fabianski gloved high-five and we left the stadium in a fit of delirium.

Today the team are embarking on the trip around North London to parade the trophy and the news emanating from the club is that Arsene will announce his new deal over the next couple of days. There will be the cynical ones that will question the timing given we’re riding high on emotions right now, but after leading the league for so long, after improving on our league points total and bringing silverware back to the club, it’s hard to not think that he doesn’t deserve perhaps one more stab at seeing if he can win that Premier League and/or the Champions League. He said ‘judge me in May’ and we can judge him now. It has been a successful season and I hope we get a couple more ends to the season like this one between now and when he does eventually hang up that massive coat of his for good.

Until tomorrow. Up the Arsenal

Nothing can take away the special feeling of the FA Cup

Well, here we are folks, the most significant game of the season and potentially the most significant game since the last major trophy that was won back in 2005. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited and nervous in equal measure.

There’s no getting around it: success or failure today will ultimately define whether this season has been another one that we want to confine to the history books as a ‘yeah, we did the bare minimum, but other than that it hasn’t exactly been an amazing season’ or described as a season where we ended our trophy drought and ensured that we can continue to eat at the top table for another season at least.

We all like those Champions League nights, we all enjoy the fact it enables us to buy the Mesut Ozil’s of the world, but when a day like today comes around, you realise that all of the qualification deciders in the world could not match feeling that I and you probably have in your stomach as you count down the minutes until kick off at 5pm. The devaluing of the FA Cup has been something that has been well spoken of and much column inches dedicated towards, but looking back on football history as a fan and you rarely remember the sniping, but you do remember the feeling when Arsenal won the competition. I remember the elation of coming away from Cardiff in 2003. It may have felt like we’d blown the league and so this was a consolation prize, but it was my first ever cup final and I was exhilarated of the feeling, which I’ve wanted to recapture ever since and so the potential to replicate that feeling today leaves me with butterflies in my stomach the size of my fist.

But what of the game itself? What of our opponents and the way in which they line up? Who will Arsene give the nod to, to bring home the shiny big-eared bacon? How many questions can I fit in to a paragraph??

Firstly, i’ll give you my predicted team news, because I think it will help to also explain how Hull will set up. That’s not to say that Arsene will change his style or selection process based on the opposition, but I just want to find an interesting segue between questions and I think this might work.

In goal I think he’ll opt for Sczcesny. It’s an interesting one because it’s really the first time this season that the goalkeeping position is the hardest position to work out. I think the playing of Fabianski last weekend was telling however, so I expect the younger Pole to start, which is the right thing in my opinion. He is the future, he deserves to be in the team for his performances this season and he is the best goalkeeper at the club.

I think the defence picks itself and so a back four of Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscienly and Gibbs may leave club captain Vermaelen out along with boyhood Gooner Corporal Jenkinson, but as was discussed on last night’s GoonerGirl Podcast which I was fortunate enough to be invited on to, this is an FA Cup final and we simply must play the strongest team available. Unfortunately that means no place for either of those two players. In fact, I think with the returning Vermaelen and potential Oxlade-Chamberlain back in the team, I can’t see Jenks making the bench. After all, Wenger will more likely choose Vermaelen and Monreal as his defensive subs, using the rest of the subs for a ‘keeper and more attack-minded players to call on to the starting line up.

Midfield is where I think there will need to be decisions made and I think the right decision would be to have Arteta and Ramsey sitting just behind the trio of Ozil, Cazorla and Podolski. Hull will no doubt be looking to the likes of Huddlestone and Livermore to screen in front of the back four or three and operate a little bit deeper and, if that is in fact the case, then playing someone like Matthieu Flamini is not appropriate in my opinion. The Flamster is better at screening the back four and taking up defensive duties, but going forward he lacks the craft and ability on the ball that Arteta has a little bit more of. I think it is because Arteta is technically more gifted that he gets the nod more often than Flamini for most games, but in this instance today I think it would be the right call. If Hull are sitting deeper and trying to frustrate at any time, then we need those technically better players to show their creativity to unlock the Tigers’ defence.

The rest of the choices above are based on recent games and performances and I don’t think there will be many Gooners that could argue with that. Perhaps some might say there is a space for Jack in the team, but at the moment I don’t see it and I think the balance of that predicted team – with Giroud up top instead of Sanogo, obviously – works for what we want to achieve – a real trophy instead of a fourth placed invisible one!

As for our opponents, the return of Alan McGregor in-goal will be an important boost for them, because he’s a good ‘keeper that I’ve seen keep them in games on a few occasions this season. He’ll be stood behind a back four that will probably contain Bruce, Davies and McShane with wing backs of Elmohamady and Figueroa. Those two like to get forward and punch balls into the box for Long and Jelavic but, with both cup tied today it will most likely be Aluko and Fryatt that they’ll have to contend with. I can’t pretend to be an expert on Hull’s squad, but I don’t recall there being much pace in that front two so I think Hull will look to exploit the wing backs to get forward as much as possible and get balls into the box to trouble us, rather than balls in behind our central defenders.

The midfield, as I mentioned above, will most likely contain Huddlestone and Livermore sitting with Meyler being asked to push forward and support the front two. Livermore may also provide more of an advanced threat but the key to neutralising Hull may just be to not give Huddlestone too much time on the ball to pick out players.

We should, in theory, have enough to thwart Hull City. We have beaten them twice already this season and apart from an initial fifteen minute opening spell at the KC Stadium, we have pretty much been on top in these games, but we know today will be different. Hull will be running on an adrenaline that we have not seen in previous games and they will know that with our history of implosions there is a possibility of an upset.

I don’t want to talk about any negativity today, so I’m not even going to mention the unthinkable happening come 8pm tonight, so I’m going to end today’s blog with a positive quote that I’ve just Google’d:

When people ask me what my religion is, I say it’s the Arsenal

Marcus du Sautoy