Poldi’s end is nigh, Campbell’s career may not be dead and I must finish my flux capacitor

London black cabs everywhere will be a little less cheery in their disposition this morning, after Lukas Podolski’s agent confirmed that he’ll be making the switch to Turkish football to play for Galatasaray this summer. I think we all knew it was coming, but the fact that Poldi’s agent said that they had a long and good chat with Arsène Wenger about his future – in which Le Boss apparently tried to convince Lukas to stay – shows a little bit about why players love Arsène. He does tend to treat them all with respect and in a week in which much back-slapping has been happening at Chelski for letting Cech go to Arsenal, it should perhaps not be forgotten that Arsène has a history of looking after players. “Make love, not war” is clearly a motto that the Frenchman seems to adopt. Certainly more than his odious Portguese counterpart.

It’s a good move for all, in truth, because it generates a bit of cash, gets a hefty earned off the wage bill, plus means that there’s one less quandary for Arsène to ponder over when it comes to the 25-man squad rule. By-and-large you’d have to say he’s hardly been a success, particularly as his value seems to have dropped from £11million three years ago to £3million now, but at least the German international has left us with plenty of positive memories of his thunderous left foot. Let’s just choose to remember the good things. It will make everyone’s outlook on life so much more sunny.

The other question mark at the top end of the pitch would be How do you solve a problem like Joel Campbell? Not quite a year to the day, but certainly come the beginning of August, there was a clamour to see the player start more regularly for Arsenal last season. But after half a season hardly ripping up trees at Villareal, having signed a new deal, one does wonder if we should have cashed in whilst young Joel’s stock was so high last summer.

After all, World Cup’s are not just festivals of football, but opportunities to put a player in a shop window and usually if a player plays well you see a selling club often command top dollar. It’s easy to say in hindsight (especially as I was one of those people who thought Mr Campbell should have been given more time. Perhaps it was due to the surname with which I still have multiple affections of given Arsenal’s past) that we should have cashed in because his value probably wouldn’t have increased, but after what we’ve seen with Coquelin and the transformation he’s had, I’m inclined to wonder who else could prove everyone wrong when all of their chips appear to be down.

The Coquelin situation has kind of thrown the whole deck of cards up in the air when it comes to young players, hasn’t it? I mean, what you thought you knew about a player of a certain age has suddenly seen you think twice, no? I know it has for me. Sure, defensive midfield is probably a position where you’re afforded a bit more leeway than up top, but even that Arsenal fan Harry Kane has proved that you can’t always predict how a player will evolve.

I am still of a mind to believe that Campbell will slowly disappear further and further away from the first team, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Arsène has a very good look at him in pre season before shipping him out on another loan or permanent deal.

Cue a hat-trick at The Emirates Cup and the hyperbole brigade out in force to implore the manager to give him a shout. That is, assuming we have injuries I suppose. After all, we’re now at the stage where we’re no longer blooding youngsters in the first team, unless they are exceptional talents like Bellerin. So whether or not there is a clamour to see a player like Campbell get game time compared to a year ago remains to be seen.

I know we might all be getting to the stage where we’ve had so much Cech news that we’ll soon be guilty of Cech over exposure, but he’s had a little bit more to say on the official site about how long he can see himself playing for. He’s said he doesn’t think about retiring and wants to play for another seven years. That would take him up to 40 and about the same age as van Der Saar and Seaman before they hung up their gloves. I can certainly see him going on that long and if we have him as our first choice for that period of time then the £11million outlay would be worth it, but in a way I hope it doesn’t get to that, because I’d like to see Szczesny step up over the next 18 months. If Cech is number one for seven years then there’s no doubt the Pole won’t be at the club but perhaps on a slightly more morose note, it would mean that his career which showed so much early promise, did indeed stagnate and move backwards. For a guy that has been with the club for so long and broken in to the first team from the academy, I’m sure no Arsenal fan would want to see that, regardless of what anybody might think about his attitude. So whilst I’m hopeful we’ll feel like we’ve got our money’s worth out of the Cech deal, I’m also equally hopeful that we’ll see a gradual changing of the guard over the next three years, with Wojciech emerging as the world class ‘keeper we all want him to be. Again, the benefit of hindsight now would be useful, as we can all know what happens and if required not stake so much emotional investment in Woj. 

I must get back to finishing that flux capacitor. 

Nothing against Poldi, but we’ve been upgrading since he arrived

With all the talk of new signings and the like so far this summer, I seem to have completely forgotten about some of the existing players whose future is in the air for the opposite reasons, i.e. they’ll most likely be shipped out of the club.

So with Lukas Podolski admitting that his Italian adventure hadn’t really gone as planned and that he intends to return to The Arsenal again this summer, it feels like I’ve regained a bit of focus about the pressing need Arsene has to balance his squad. As is fairly obvious enough to everyone the world over, life is not linear and unlike a computer game in which you can offload players at a whim when you’re looking to reshape your squad, the reality is often very different.

I feel a bit for Podolski. I don’t actually think he’s had such a bad career at Arsenal to date. He arrived for a relatively decent price with a good reputation, quickly established himself as an ‘end product only’ player and has scored some important and great goals. But he fell victim to our circumstances. Arsenal have been a steadily improving – squad wise I mean – club since his arrival and our financial fire power have seen us look to replace players in the same position each year. Podolski was a decent option for us. Alright, his overall game was limited and many people started to see what he was about after about a year and a half, but when you compare him to previous players like Arshavin or Bendtner, who have both operated in that wide left position, he wasn’t a player that we were all scratching our heads about when he was in the starting line up.

We simply upgraded, that’s all, and unfortunately for Poldi we upgraded from the equivalent of an iPhone 3GS to an iPhone 6 in the shape of Alexis. Suddenly everything worked better, was faster and the result was a heck of a lot of goals and a player who has shown us that you can be skilful, score lots of goals and still contribute to a high press and tracking back if you have the application.

It’s the same in the goalkeeping stakes. I don’t think Ospina has really done that bad this season and, if I’m honest, if Cech wasn’t about to essentially land on Wenger’s lap (because he wants to leave Chelski and stay in London and even the Spuds – for now – have a ‘keeper so they aren’t looking) I don’t think he’d be looking too much in that position. Arsene has said on multiple occasions that he would only buy when he finds that type of exceptional world class player, and whilst there was a time where you and I would look up to the heavens and roll our eyes as Arsene bought in the Chamakh’s of this world, where we are at the moment is that you can see why and when he’s upgrading players. When we bring in an Alexis to replace Poldi, that’s a world class upgrade. If Cech comes in for Ospina, that’s a world class upgrade. It’s football Darwinism, man.

Perhaps that is what is about to happen to Sanogo too. He’s apparently wanted on loan by Lille and if Arsene does go out and buy another striker – I’m not sure he will because we’ve got Alexis, Giroud, Welbeck and Walcott who could all profess to be very good players in that position – then you really can’t see any future for Sanogo. He joined the club at a time in which it seemed a relatively low-risk (in terms of cost of signing and reputation of the player) and we were counting our pennies more than we have. He was a bit of a gamble and another loan spell next season surely means his days as a potential first-teamer are numbered. Wenger like’s a project and for a while it seemed like he might be given more time, again we’ve simply upgraded our team and he has become one of the natural victims of our increased quality.

That’s what you have to do if you want a squad capable of winning the league. You have to be ruthless and there might be players that us fans see as decent enough to play for the club, but when a better one comes along, you need to trade in your own phone for an improved design with better modifications. That’s what Moneychester City and Chelski do. They have good players and they get better players in to move those good players further down the pecking order. Schurrle, for example, was a very good player, but he wasn’t the elite player that Mourinho was after. Dzeko is widely recognised as a great forward, but when you’ve got Sergio Aguero in your team then you have one of the world’s best.

So when the time comes for Ospina, Podolski and Sanogo to move on, other than back in the ‘deadwood’ days where we’d be glad to be shot of players like Denilson, I will hope they do well at other clubs and thank them for their relatively short times at the club.

Arsenal season review: An attack I’m happy with

Right then, shall we have a little look at the forward line and give them a bit of an assessment, eh?

This time last year we were all still enjoying the post-FA Cup glow, which had put a bit of a sheen on what was otherwise a season that appeared to disintegrate after such a fantastic start. If you will recall, it was widely accepted that defensively we’d performed well (big game mauling’s aside), but our forward line just, well, ran out of a bit of puff. Giroud needed some support, Podolski was becoming more and more inefficient and less and less trusted by the manager and we ended up seeing more of Yaya Sanogo than we’d have wanted, given his inexperience.

When the dust settled there was a World Cup to look forward to, but it was painfully obviously that we needed something addressed in our attacking part of the pitch. The over-reliance on Theo for pace was evident and with him out for the first part of the season Arsene had to act.

Boy, did he act, signing both Alexis and Welbeck for our forward line for a combined fee of around £51million (although Arsenal never disclose this so it is open to interpretation). It’s true that the Welbeck signing was born out of desperation given that Giroud broke his leg, but nevertheless it was still done by the manager. And now that we reflect on the 109 goals scored by Arsenal – ten more than in 2013/14 – we have to say that Arsene acted and acted well.

Ten additional goals seems a decent improvement if you ask me, but it is not just the statistics that I think shows the improvement in the team. We have options now. We are no longer reliant on one player for anything. Walcott, Welbeck and Alexis have pace. Giroud and Welbeck can lead the line. The Ox – who I’m including in the forwards assessment because he played more games wide right than in centre midfield this season – and Alexis can beat a man through their close ball control and dribbling. We have interchangeable players. Of course, some are better than others and one in particular has made a marked difference to the team, but overall you can say that we are stronger and can cope with the rigours of an inevitable injury crisis which seems to engulf the team each season.

But individually we’ve seen some great stuff too. Let’s start with the main man, Alexis Sanchez, who has been the Energizer Bunny for this team this season. What was fantastic about him is that he’s not only extremely talented, but he works so hard too, which immediately endeared him to the Arsenal fans. We love him. He has an explosive power that no other player in the team can match and whilst his ball retention isn’t always great, he is that player that can do something out of the blue. I’m thinking in particular the Moneychester City goal, the goal against Liverpool and the cup final goals. All examples of how he has wonderful end product. But unlike Poldi, who was all end product, Alexis does everything the German didn’t do, exemplified by the fact he must have picked up half a dozen man-of-the-match performances in the league this season alone. I’m thinking of the Burnley game at home in particular, or the Southampton game at home where we huffed and puffed but it was he that dragged us over the line to collect three points.

I don’t want to compare Podolski to Alexis, but given that Poldi was our wide left man before Alexis, it’s an easy one to make, so although we were all sad to see Lukas the personality go, Alexis the footballer is a magnificent upgrade. And that’s what we want from this Arsenal squad now. If you’re like me, then you like most of the players in the squad and would be happy to go in to next season with them all still playing for Arsenal. But if an upgrade comes along – like Alexis – who will enable us to take Arsenal to the next level, then we should be doing it straight away. Look at me, I sound like a proper Wenger convert, don’t I?

so Alexis get’s the praises for his debut season, his goals, his impact on the team and his ability to take us to the next level, but it is not just he who has contributed to this seasons success. Olivier Giroud has spent half of it injured, yet has still amassed 19 goals and before his barren spell was ended by the FA Cup final goal, he was on a rich vein of form at just the right time to see us secure third spot. That’s the difference in this team. Alexis hit a purple patch either side of Christmas and carried us through games. When the goals dried up for him, Giroud chipped in with goals in consecutive games from March onwards. Last season, when the goals dried up for him and if Rambo didn’t score, it felt like we didn’t have that extra player with Theo injured, to take us over the line and challenge for the league. My favourite Giroud goals are his trademark; the run to the near post and flick. Against Middlesbrough and in the cup final can be the perfect examples. There is plenty of talk about his replacement this summer, but I am not seeing a glut of strikers who will contribute as much as he does (and are available, I hasten to add!), so although there is a desire for a Giroud upgrade, I’d be surprised given all he has provided to us this season. He is a focal point. He is a player who will bring others in to play and unless Arsene finds Giroud mkII in terms of hold up play and overall team contribution, I can’t see him making an addition in that area of the field.

I think we’ll also get to see more of the best of Welbeck next season too. The one area of his game where everybody is focusing on is his lack of goals, but he has shown that he has it in him – just think about the hat-trick against Galatasaray as a prime example. He has also played parts of this team as a wide attacker and, whilst that wouldn’t be his preference as he’ll readily admit, his work rate to the team when flanked by Alexis on the other side gives us a dimension that we haven’t had before. He’s more powerful than Theo and contributes more to the overall team play, which is why I think we’ll see him – with a year of playing in the team and getting to know how his teammates tick – up his game next season. A special mention has to of course go to the Old Trafford goal, in which a footballer finally made a statement to the world that guess what? You can score against your old team and be happy about it.

The two remaining forward men are ones who haven’t had the greatest of seasons, but only because of disruption caused by injury. Theo has missed two thirds of the season as a result of his cruciate injury picked up last season, then a variety of niggly injuries that kept him out of the team. Arsene seemed reluctant to bring him in more readily but as any of us can testify to, when you’ve got a team winning back-to-back games for what was almost a club record, you don’t change it. But as we drew closer towards the final we saw that Theo has a place in the squad. A natural finisher and a man who set us on the way to the cup final, his hat-trick against West Brom was perfectly timed and the conversations on his new deal will be interesting ones this summer. I’d like him to stay. I think he gives us something different. But the club are holding the better hand than Theo this time around and if he tries to play silly buggers with them, they’ll offload I suspect. Arsene has said he won’t go this summer, but if we get in to mid-August without a resolution, I suspect there might be one or two teams that try their luck with a cheeky bid or two.

The second of the injury-hit players was the Ox. It’s a shame because the same happened to him at the beginning of last season on the first game against Villa, but he’s found himself in and out of the team because of his injuries. He made 23 appearances this season, which isn’t a bad return, but given his potential to nail that wide-right position because of his trickery and guile, he’d possibly have been hoping for more. He’s now had two seasons in a row in which he’s found himself injured for prolonged periods of time and I just hope that next season isn’t one in which he starts to be recognised as an injury-prone player like Jack. With a full season free of injury under his belt, I’d love to see just how good he could be.

The forward line is full of options. I haven’t even mentioned the talented Serge Gnabry, who will surely ant to get some game time next season – if not at Arsenal then on loan – and if I’m honest it is the one area of the field that I don’t think can be strengthened much, not unless we’re spunking close to £50million on one player and I’m not sure Arsene will do that this summer. But I’m ok with that. I think there are other areas of the pitch that need addressing in terms of building the squad depth, so if we go into this new season in August with Theo nailed down for another three to four years, I’d se that as a decent enough bit of business for the summer.

What do you think?

Loanees show how fortunes change quickly in football

There’s still another three days before Matchday is upon us and, perhaps unsurprisingly, all is quiet. So quiet, that talk about Cazorla wanting to return to Spain has seen a ripple of interest across the tinternet. Santi grew up near Real Oviedo and has said he’d like to go back there one day before he retires. 

OUTRAGEOUS! ‘CAZORLA WANTS ARSENAL EXIT’ is the story headline I could fire across the blog to see if I can scoop myself a few thousand extra clicks. But we both know that what Cazorla said – he’d like to play for his boyhood club, but it will be difficult to do so in the short term – is something that shouldn’t really surprise anyone. If anything, it’s nice to see a player have an affection for a local team and express a desire to go back and appreciate his roots. I couldn’t imagine something like that being said by a mercenary like…oh, I don’t know…Samir Nasri or somebody like that. 

So let’s have Santi for another three years and then when his star is fading somewhat, but he can still light up his local club, let’s grant him his wish and let him go in peace. That’s my hope anyway. He’s got a few more trophies to try to help us win yet. Hopefully starting with this season.

So yeah, pretty quiet at the moment, so much so that I scrolled into the news archives on the official site this morning, to check out what’s happening with our loanees. The younger players appear to all be getting minutes under their belt, which is always useful from a development perspective, but some of the more senior players out on loan appear to be stagnating somewhat it seems. You know how people say a year is a long time in football? Well nine months is just as long it appears, as you only have to look at both Podolski and Campbell to see how rapidly your stock can fall. Poldi arrived in Italy with a big reputation for goal scoring and a fanfare from the Inter faithful. They had bagged an international champion with a loan deal from another top European team and he would help to steer them towards greater victory. Fast forward from January this year and Poldi is an unused sub against Hellas Verona. 

Poor old Stevie Gooner Oaf, he who so resolutely stood by a player with a fantastic goal scoring record and clear eye for goal, but with little else to warrant his inclusion in the Arsenal or Inter team, is surely on the verge of a return back to Germany in the summer. I’d be surprised if Arsène even sent him a plane ticket as far as London if I’m honest. It’s clear – as the Arsenal team goes from strength to strength – he will not see action in a red and white London shirt ever again. Unless he fancies rocking up at Brentford or Charlton.  It may have seemed a strange move at the time, but it’s hard to argue Arsène’s very sound logic right now. 

We all loved him for his personality and ability to connect with the Arsenal fans, but with each passing match week it appears Lukas is looking more and more like a busted flush.

So too, it appears, does Joel Campbell. Remember how he was the saviour of our offensive problems in the first couple of months of the season? Much gnashing of teeth and exasperated hand gestures were thrown Arsène’s way when he refused to give more game time to the Costa Rican – a player who had excelled during the World Cup – yet he too finds himself an unused sub for Villareal and is at a stage now in which each passing week looks like he’ll probably be moved on permanently. And will there be any return of the gnashing teeth? Doubtful. That new deal he signed was clearly one designed to ensure maximum return on investment from a revenue generation point of view from Arsenal, but once again I doubt you’ll find too many Arsenal fans tutting in the direction of Le Boss methinks, because as Arsenal (actually top flight football fans in general, but we’re only concerned with ourselves so, y’know, what-evs) fans we’re all amateur accountants and a bit of cash for a player out on loan whilst the team is doing fine without him is fine by us.

That’s what victories and success affords you I suppose. Rather than the very convenient “well there’s an option on loan that we’re not even taking advantage of” being used as a sharp stick to beat the manager with, talk turns to how much cash we might get from players out on loan and how that might be invested in the team.

Football is very much a creature of the ‘here and now’ and the old cliches of ‘you’re only as good as your last game’ just serve to emphasise how quickly things change. It’s why the rewards are so high, as are the risks, I suppose. You only have to look at the seemingly inevitable departure of Pelligrini at Moneychester City to see that. So predicting the next generation of talent, of when a player has fulfilled his potential and is ready to become a first team success, is so hard. It’s easy for me, with my ability to forget what I have said six months ago and to seem like the managers decisions are baffling, but for Arsène everything is on record and his mistakes are recorded and replayed by a million eyes. The rise of Francis Coquelin seems obvious now to me (perhaps you too), but if you’d have asked me at the beginning of the season who would make a bigger impact on the first team – Coquelin, Campbell or Podolski – even I with my affection for Le Coq, couldn’t have placed him top of the list. He might not even have made the top two.

Still, at least I’m not the Arsenal manager, eh? Otherwise we’d all probably be in trouble!

That’s enough from me for one day. I have a beautiful sunny day ahead of me that I won’t bother taking advantage of thanks to my role as an office desk jockey. 

Cheerio for now.

Mother Nature hates FIFA

Meanwhile, over in Blighty…even Mother Nature is sad at the fact it’s an international break. She’s been up since about 5am crying and has soaked me through on my two minute walk to the tube station.

You know how sugar is really bad for you and how you shouldn’t eat anything other than natural sugars? Or too much salt is really bad for your body? Or how harmful CFC gases – or something like that – are killing the ozone layer? Well all of that pales into insignificance in comparison to the international break, which is killing Mother Nature’s soul.

Well done FIFA, if summer is sh*t because of you, I’m going to write a letter of complaint and mail it straight to Geneva. You see if I don’t. I don’t even care about paying the extra cash for international postage. Just as long as I get through to Sepp that he’s ruining everything. Even the weather.

All of this hum-drum because there isn’t any Arsenal related stuff to talk about in great detail. We could try and talk about the international Arsenal players that have played, but given that it’s just Mesut Özil and (technically still an Arsenal player) Lukas Podolski, there isn’t really much to go on. Poldi came on and scored and Özil spent thirty minutes as captain, but overseas I believe the captains armband is about as useful as a chocolate teapot, the players that get it probably just see it as an annoying bit of elastic that restricts the blood flow to their arm. Who knows though, perhaps it will give him more confidence as he heads back to Arsenal after the weekend?

Kieren Gibbs has given a somewhat interesting interview to the official site, in which he talks about the ‘hidden battles’ that the players have in training, when they do matches against each other. I found it interesting because I actually only found the time to sit down and watch the Invincible’s programme a couple of days ago (the scheduling of the original showing didn’t work out as well as Sky had hoped – after the Monaco game, so I thought I’d just Sky+ it so I could watch without exploding into a ball of anger, despair and sadness meshed together), and I think it was Ray Parlour who said something similar about that group of players.

Parlour said that everybody (except Vieira) worked exceptionally hard in training and although they all got on, you could tell that there was the drive to win, even when it was just versus matches in training. Now we have a similar scenario on the training ground with so many players coming back to full fitness. Players are coming up against those who would take their own place in the Matchday XI, so they are fighting that little harder to impress the manager. This, in turn, creates more desire, more hunger and psychologically more will to be better in every match. It’s what we as fans have longed for. It’s all dry well having a squad, but unless the manager gives the players – all of them – belief that they will play and can win their place back, they will try their darnest to do so. 

Rotation, rotation, rotation people. It’s what is a necessity in the modern game. I just hope that when Arsène has a full compliment to choose from next season, he rotates right from the start, to keep people happy, fresh and competing hard to retain or win back a place in the starting XI on matchdays.

Anyway, not really a lot more to talk about, so let us depart for the day, reconvening tomorrow for Le Boss’ press conf….err…..more silence with which to miss Arsenal all the more for.


‘Classics’, kids and contracts

As we lurch ever closer to this weekend’s game against Moneychester City, the build up is already beginning by the media online, talking up ‘classics’ and how this weekend’s game will compare to encounters between the two games.

I have to say I don’t really remember too many ‘classics’, if I’m honest, because we were either dominant in beating a mid-table team at best, or we’ve been pretty much dominated since they were the second English winners of the football lottery, sponsored by Oil Whores Plc. Still, I suppose it fits a narrative for Sky to try and whip up expectation and viewing figures, I suppose.

We’ll no doubt hear about the squad availability from Arsène today, but I’m not sure when the full presser will be, given that it’s a Sunday game. It might still be tomorrow, but we’ll just have to wait with baited breath. A little bit like we’re waiting for some sort of transfer to be sorted for the problems of depth we currently face. Here’s a question: when does ‘baited breath’ becoming ‘holding your breath’? Because I’m sure there’s a few that would suggest avoiding doing that in terms of transfers.

There is one that is supposedly almost concluded and, when I asked The Management who she thought Arsenal might be about to announce as a signing, whilst not being able to name the person she did a pretty good job of getting the attributes right.
– A position where they don’t need to sign anybody
– A 17 year old who won’t make the first team
– foreigner

Two out of three ain’t bad, is it? It’s a worrying sign when even your loved ones can predict what sort of player the club are going to sign, and that player rarely ends up being what we need for the here and now.

Still, the club are active, the lad Bielik seems to be a hot prospect and one would imagine that there will be a need for him over the next couple of years as Arteta’s career begins to wind down and Flamini has another form of card created just because of referees overuse of the yellow one they bring out for him every game.

The club are active, that’s a positive, right? Yeah, definitely a positive. Definitely. We’ll definitely address our deficiencies within the next two weeks. Definitely.


Even if it’s just a loan.

Anyway, don’t crack Chris, because you’ve managed to avoid being sucked too deep into the transfer quagmire that is the January window thus far. Just two weeks to go.

For Poldi, it’s about four and a half months to go at Inter and, supposedly after telling the press about him wanting a little more respect from Arsène after his departure, he’s said that he’s not sure what his future will hold. He’ll return to Arsenal in the summer and find out, he says, but I think we all know (and he does too) that he will be finding a new club in the summer. Even if there was a chink of light at the end of the tunnel that is his Arsenal career, those words he spoke to the press will have hardly given Arsène any more desire to bring him back in the summer, will they?

That’s probably why I was so sceptical at first. I mean, why burn bridges at the club that still holds your contract, when you could end up going back there anyway? It’s a strange one. You don’t have to look far back into the Arsenal archives to see an example of a player who burned bridges, then ended up spending a season at the club because we were short of players in that position. It’s what happened last season when the ‘marriage of convenience’ was forged with Bendtner and Wenger. Bendtner had spent all summer telling everyone he was offski, had offers, didn’t want to be at The Arsenal, only to have his route blocked and end up having to spend a season as a man of last resort for Le Boss to call on. It wouldn’t surprise me at all for Podolski to have a similar situation in the summer if his time at Inter Milan is a hit. He’s on big wages and there are a lot of clubs that just can’t afford it.

There’s nothing else that’s really kicking around that I can see at the moment. Not related to the first team, anyway, as Benik Afobe never really got close to establishing himself at the club and I can understand why Arsenal and Wolves found it quite easy to come to an agreement over his signature. The player that they clearly want to try and tie down is Akpom, who has looked like he is being looked at by a number of clubs across Europe, and with his contract running out at the end of the season you can understand why he’s holding out to find out how close he thinks he can get to the first team. Unlike last season, where he would probably have been given more chances had he developed a year earlier, this season we’re quite well stocked in the attacking department. So if Akpom is finding his route to first team football a bit congested, you can understand his reluctance to sign on the dotted line. I suspect that will play out a bit more – possibly until the end of the season – where he might decide to move on. If the club really do expect big things from him though, we’ll know soon enough as they’d probably spend a few bob to try to keep him.

See thee tomorrow, my wonderful friends.

Three items of Arsenal silliness

Wow, we’re full of exciting and wonderful Arsenal news today, aren’t we? Item one on the agenda is that any player caught smoking is apparently being given the punishment of having to train with the youth team by Arsene Wenger.

Woah….hold on there AW, are you sure you want to do that? After all, when I had to play with kids younger than me, I used to love it. My brother is four years younger than me and so when I was in the Under-13s and he was in the Under-9s (the team my uncle managed), I used to have a great time running around the smaller kids with the ball and leathering it into the top corner of the goal (which, incidentally, none of them could reach because they were too small enough).

Seriously though, does anybody really care about this other than the “we’re-holier-than-thou-and-we’ll-be-outraged-about-the-fact-that-somebody-with-influence-can-have-such-bad-behaviour. Oh, by the way, what’s your answerphone pin? I wouldn’t mind having a listen in later” media? People smoke in all walks of life and although I hate the stuff (it’s the smell you see. Makes me gag), it doesn’t really bother me that other people do it. I think the reason that this is a ‘thing’ is because of the personality involved, the position Arsenal are currently in and the fact that the media loves a pantomime villain. In this instance, Wojciech has to step forward because his form has been patchy at times this season (I’m not saying ‘bad’ because I think this storm-in-a-teacup has been created off the back of one game. He was very good against West Ham) and so it’s an opportunity for said media to get itself in on the ‘rile up already riled Arsenal fans’ bandwagon. They love that wagon. It’s their favourite mode of transportation don’t you know?

I would suggest that if we were four points clear at the top of the league and looking like we might finally recapture that Premier League crown after all these years, the noise would be less so from the media, or some selections of the Arsenal fanbase too actually.

Linked to item of silliness number 1 is item number 2, which is poor old Wojciech’s Papi, who, probably against his sons wishes, has decided to offload a couple of rounds in the direction of Big Per. The bit about him being like a rhinoceros is particularly humorous, but doesn’t really help anyone except Papi and his media career. Szczesny will probably be going into the training ground today mouthing “sorry” to the vice captain and when you’re trying to get yourself together as a defensive unit, it’s hardly great to know that one of your teammates’ dad is giving you a bit of a pasting. What if that’s how Per is talked about by Szczesny junior all of the time? I’m sure he probably doesn’t, especially given the propensity for his father to run to the nearest Polish media source, but it still might play on the big German’s mind. It’s hardly what we need before an important game at the club, but I guess it fits the old ‘broken cannons’ icon that the red tops love to trot out every once in a while.

Anyway, moving swiftly on to item 3 on our agenda, which is Lukas Podolski “SLAMMING” Arsene Wenger. Again, I’m not going to presume for a second that a red-top tabloid is indulging in a smidge of hyperbole, but it strikes me as odd that a player who has clearly shown that he’s pretty good with his PR and will probably set himself up with a nice little agency when he does retire, would try and burn bridges with the manager so easily. The red top in question will no doubt point to the fact that they have quoted directly from the German saying about respect from Arsene, etc, etc, but I do wonder if it has been a little bit massaged to fit a narrative. For all we know Lukas spent 20 minutes telling the journo in question that he loved the club, the fans (which to be fair they referenced) and that he had experienced a mostly good relationship with Arsene Wenger. But if they have received a minute or two of what they perceive as a ‘gem’ of a quote, they’ll be latching on to it, you just know.

Or perhaps I, for some reason to which I can’t really put my finger on – am I being a bit defensive of the German because he has ridden the tube and London buses, so is therefore more ‘in touch’ with the fans (a ridiculous notion I know)? Or am I just so disillusioned with the media and their click whoring that I am automatically very cynical about anything they say? Probably a little of both I suppose. But I just find it a little odd when you see the old ‘parting shot’. Football is so incestuous and quick to change that it wouldn’t surprise me to see Poldi back in training at Arsenal after his Inter Milan loan deal fell through and we get a bit of a Bendtner situation because we can’t offload him. Why burn your bridges when there’s still a chance you might need to cross back over the river?

Heck, this is all way too much thinking for me for one day. I think I’ll leave that to Arsene to do, so will wait patiently for his pre-match presser at some stage today.

Catch you tomorrow peeps.

Podolski Inter Milan, Arsenal in ‘ter’ a tricky Brighton tie

So the club finally announced the Podolski to Inter deal yesterday, after he was picture in an Inter shirt, scarf, outside the ground and thanking everyone for making it happen. I have to say I did find it somewhat amusing that it isn’t just the incoming announcements that we always seem to announce on the site until the whole world knows anyway. I take comfort in that fact.

Perhaps there is literally one guy at Arsenal who does ALL the paperwork? That would explain why it takes so long. After all, faxing through so many papers must be a real toil.

Of course I’m being a little bit tongue-in-cheek this morning, but with a very effective bench option now displaced, it’s a little bit sad that somebody with such an effervescent nature and ruthless finish just didn’t quite have that final extra parts to his game to be a superstar. I’m not even talking about technique. Imagine if Podolski had the same engine as Alexis? If he was able to zip backwards and forwards along he left hand side of the pitch, helping out defensively, but also able to get into positions like he did for us on a more regular basis? He’d probably still be an integral part of the team. We know that Arsène likes his team’s to be technically sound, but you can’t tell me that if there was somebody who was a cold-bloodied killer in front of goal, that just lacked an ability to pick a pass but was able to contribute both defensively and offensively, that Arsène wouldn’t have given him more game time? Even this season when we have the options we have, I still think that more application would have seen Poldi have at least an additional half a dozen games.

He would probably have been able to find himself in better positions too, if he’d have pushed himself more physically. His positioning in the final third was never that bad, but quite often we’d find him exchange passes with other players in the middle of the park, then when it came to the sharp end of the pitch, he would be lagging behind a little bit. Imagine if his work rate allowed him to be more involved in the play all over the pitch? What a player he could have been.

It’s a strange one too because usually, when a player gets his marching orders from Arsène, it’s been because he has no future and the fans have had enough of said player anyway. We haven’t sold a ‘star’ in a few years, just squad players like Vermaelen and Gervinho, so to see a player who still has a rapport with the fans as well as a clear value at the club (albeit with finished responsibility over the last year or so), means that many are still split over whether we should have gone against the players wishes and kept him until the summer. You can bet you’re bottom dollar Jose would have done that. But then again, he is a tosser and cares not for player desires, rightly or wrongly.

Anyway, he’s out on loan now and, at 29, that loan isn’t so he can win a place back in the Arsenal team in the summer. He’s going to be putting himself in the shop window and good luck to him on that front. I guess the positive is that because we still hold his papers, we can be sure that we don’t sell him to an English club who he will then almost inevitably score against us, at every opportunity he gets.

The opportunity for Campbell and Akpom now is clear. With Sanogo likely to disappear on loan for game time, those two along with Theo, have one less player to navigate around to get into the starting XI. There’s no doubt Theo will see more than the other two, but I just wonder if Akpom doesn’t fancy his chances, especially as he’s tended to get on a little bit more than Campbell has this season. We shall see.

What we’ll also be seeing towards the end of January, is a replay of the 2013 FA Cup game between Brighton and Arsenal, as both teams were drawn out of the velvet bag of balls yesterday. Of course it was a little bit too much to ask for Cambridge United at home, as Louis van Gaal snaffled up the world supply of rabbits feet and four leaf clovers before the draw was announced, but whilst an away trip to the south coast might be a tricky encounter, you’d have to fancy our chances. Bring on ex-spud Hughton I say!

That’s pretty much it from me today. Nowt else worth talking about, especially as we have to wait a whole five days before we see The Arsenal again. We won’t see any transfers for another three weeks, so there’s no point even bothering to speculate on that part of football.

Adios amigos!

rotation, transers and pining for a Saint at Christmas

All this Christmas stuff has thrown time and dates completely out of whack for me at the moment. I wake up at 11am and find that Arsene Wenger has already had his presser and I think “hold on a second, we only played West Ham yesterday. Or was that the day before?”, then realise the actual date and that it’s an away game, so Arsene is facing the press a day earlier than normal. It’s probably also because it’s New Year’s Eve and he wants to make sure he’s got enough time to go to Sainsbury’s to pick up some more champagne/prosecco/cava (insert your own jokes about his spending if you like).

Of course, it is a day early to run the presser because he’ll probably be taking the team to the South Coast tomorrow morning, so there’s no big surprise, but there is yet again more of a sense of apprehension about yet another crucial game and how we are going to manage to pull another three points from deep within the red zone. I say that of course because, whilst Arsene has spoken this morning about rotating ‘intelligently’, he doesn’t exactly have the manpower around to effectively do it. With news from Le Boss today that Welbeck is struggling with a thigh injury, it looks for all the world to me like we are literally running out of all options. One would assume that, if Welbeck is not fit and Giroud is obviously suspended still, it would mean a place up top for Alexis. He is looking more and more knackered and if ever there was a player who should probably be afforded some rest it would be him, but we simply don’t have the bodies. So our little Chilean superstar will no doubt be run into the ground and knackered by the end of January. Unless we can start getting some bodies back.

Thankfully, Arsene has said that Walcott is now completely fit and can play. If Welbeck is a doubt you’d expect to see Theo in the team – probably on the right with The Ox on the left – because Wenger loves his pecking orders and there is no chance that Poldi or even Campbell will. With talk of both Campbell and Sanogo potentially going on loan and Wenger describing Inter’s approaches for Lukas as a ‘joke’, you do wonder what the next couple of weeks might hold for our forward line. We may be over stocked with players for those front three positions at the moment, but as our midfield crisis has shown, it is not completely unfeasible to see a catalogue of different injuries suddenly occur for players who all play in the same or similar positions. We’ve got Koscienly back, which is a real positive and I’m taking the lack of mention of him by rsene means that ‘no news is good news’. It’s obvious that we need more cover in the team and defence is certainly one of them that Arsene has mentioned, but interestingly today, he talked about the fact we’re ‘short’ in midfield. That was perhaps the most interesting comment for me because when he’s been asked previously he’s always hinted about it being a central defender we need, but it seems as though his gaze is also being angled towards a midfielder too. We have plenty of creative midfielders, so one would hope that on the defensive and ball-winning side, he is finally going to look into buying a decent defensive midfielder. Don’t get your hopes us there though folks…

The fact that Arsene is talking up Francis Coquelin and saying that he has the potential to have a future at the club and make a good career at Arsenal has to be a complete confidence-building smokescreen, right? Here is a guy that was clearly taking the well trodden path of being sent out on loan to demonstrate his worth to potential buyers, so we could get a half decent fee. Yet now we find him being thrust into the first team. Thankfully he performed admirably but, unless he gets another five or six games in a row in which he performs like he did against West Ham, Arsene will soon have him shunted down the pecking order I think. It would be great to see Coquelin emerge as the defensive midfielder, the ball winner, that we all crave. But let’s be realistic here; Ramsey and Arteta will both be back within two weeks I believe and when that happens, Coquelin isn’t keeping them out of the side, is he? Unless Flamini is injured for a prolonged period and Arteta suffers a ‘little bit setback’, I suspect we’ll get to see Le Coq for another game or two (if you factor in the Hull FA Cup match), then I think we’ll see things return to normal again and he’ll be offski in the summer.

In his place I’d like to publicly pine for Morgan Schneiderlin, because he’s been brilliant and a chief talisman for Southampton this season. He’s suspended for Southampton on Thursday when we play them, so Le Boss won’t get the same look he did for Calum Chambers last season, but one hopes that he’s had plenty of other people looking at him for us!!

Arsene also spoke about 2014 as a whole and described 2014 as a positive year. Of course he has to put a spin on it, but to me it has been both extremely exhilarating and extremely disappointing, as we fell away in the league last season and have never got into any kind of momentum this season. I think I’ll do more of a ‘2014 in my view’ blog piece tomorrow on that though, so will park those thoughts for now.

Catch you tomorrow.

Problems placing Poldi

Today I want to say some words on Lukas Podolski, because after the game on Wednesday night, it appears as though a fire has been lit under many for his inclusion from the start on a more regular basis.

First and foremost, we must all admit that he gave a much improved performance against Galatasaray, notching up another two goals and putting a little bit more effort than perhaps he has been seen to be doing previously. It’s that kind of hunger to impress that you want to see from the players that don’t get regular matches and I for one was pleased to see some of the rotational players step up.

However, to the doubters in Podolski, I too must admit I have a side of me that is with you. Whilst his performance on Wednesday was markedly improved, there were still times when his movement looked static to me and as much as he comes alive in the final third, when he has the ball in the middle of the park it is usually to quickly redistribute it to somebody else.

He’s certainly a conundrum of a player. Not quite technically brilliant enough for Arsène to keep him in the team, but so lethal in front of goal, that it makes Arsène look silly that he doesn’t play more often. I maintain the opinion that if he was another four inches taller and could hold the ball up, I don’t think we’d have seen as much of Olivier Giroud, as we have done over the last couple of years. I know Giroud brings more than just a tall target man and that his touch and interlinking play with others around him is far better, but having a Podolski with those stronger centre forward attributes would definitely give us a more direct and ‘end product’ type of striker.

But of course he isn’t. Which is why he has been operating out on the left for the most part of his career for Germany and for Arsenal. But the problem he has now, is that his position is being occupied by the Rolls Royce that is Alexis, which means his chances at the club will inevitably be few and far between. Alexis may not necessarily operate in the same zones as Poldi, but that wide left position which has been moulded into a number 10 hybrid at times with Alexis, means that Poldi’s old spot is evolving. Without him.

I think more than anything though, the technical ability of the player is what has cost him his place in the team, especially when you look at someone like Santi. At the start of the season, a few people thought he would be the player that is used less and less, as Özil occupies the number ten role and Alexis operates out wide on the left. But we’re now coming to the midway point in the season and I think I’m right in saying that Cazorla has played more than almost everyone else in the squad. It’s true he may have benefitted from injuries to players like Özil, but his regular inclusion in the side supports the arguments that for Arsène, technique trumps any other kind of attribute that his players must have.

I’ve said it a million times: with Podolski you know exactly what you are getting: end product. Nothing more, nothing less. He is the specialist ‘field goal kicker’ that American Football teams have just to get those field goal points. If you could make rotational subs like in 5-a-side, he’d be an awesome player to bring on every time we get a throw in or corner in the opposition box, then drag off the second a move breaks down, because his end product starts and finishes with his goalscoring.

Which is why I can understand the argument for him being an impact sub. If we need a goal with 20 minutes to go, then we need Podolski, because as long as he gets the space in our around the box, he’ll hit the target. Perhaps this is where I don’t understand Wenger’s thinking, because five, six or seven minutes at the end of a game is hardly enough time for someone like Podolski to make an impact as a sub. If we are all in acknowledgement that we’d be best served with him on the bench coming on in the second half, why isn’t Arsène more ruthless by hooking off any ineffective attacking players sooner? If, after an hour of football, we’re seeing Giroud having ‘one of those days’, then shift Welbeck up top, Alexis out wide right and Poldi on the left, no? Likewise if Welbeck is ineffective, or even the wonder boy Alexis. These guys are all human beings and everyone has an off day, so there’s no shame in admitting it hasn’t worked and trying someone different. That’s where I don’t understand Wenger sometimes.

It has been mentioned to me that perhaps Poldi is a ‘square peg with no round holes’ i.e. He doesn’t have a position that suits him in this Arsenal side. I’m not sure I subscribe to that thinking. Mainly because, as I’ve mentioned, he’s such a specialist player (end product) that he doesn’t specifically need a position I don’t think. Instead, he needs to occupy areas of the final third where he is within range and has space to fashion himself a shot. There’s nobody that can’t argue that had the same chance (the first goal against Galatasaray) fallen to him on the right hand side of the goal, that he wouldn’t have hammered it home, albeit would have been slightly more difficult as he probably would have taken it on his left and so not allowed the ball to roll across his body before striking.

Perhaps it’s because he doesn’t have a specific position, just a skill, that he isn’t getting more games. Actually, re-reading the thinking above, I suppose that is a square peg, but it’s not that there is no round holes, it’s just that there all filled up. And anyway, his peg is so small it would just fall through and not fit anyway. Or something similar like that.

I suppose this is just one long monologue which ultimately comes to the conclusion that if I had the reigns at Arsenal, I probably wouldn’t know what to do with Poldi either, because I’d want him in my team but I’d have nowhere to put him on a permanent basis. The only conclusion I can draw is that we should be using him more. Who knows, perhaps the busy Christmas schedule will see him get more games for the club, I’m looking specifically at that QPR game and thinking that it could be tailor-made for him to start from the beginning.

What’s your view on Poldi?