Football Cluedo and Poldi’s sleeping habits

I moved house on Monday and, aside from all of the commotion and frantic cleaning/unpacking that would limit my ability to pull together some Arsenal ramblings, I thought I’d see if a couple of days out of the loop would see us over the line on a transfer or two.

Alas I was wrong, as even the Debuchy deal, which feels like an eternity ago that it was expected to happen, hasn’t been confirmed. With Newcastle about to announce the arrival of Daryl Jaanmat shortly, it seems quite a novel idea that a team would announce a player arrival just before sanctioning a departure of one of their other stars, but I’ll not start making jibes at the way that we used to do business ‘back in the day’ (i.e two summers ago), because we’re in a new era of fiscal power for the club, which everyone is feeling good about at the moment.

Ultimately, as long as it happens before the season starts, that’s all that really matters. I guess my only fear with these types of delays are that it hampers our ability to move on to the next area of the field where we need reinforcements. Of course that’s a completely irrational worry; the club are more than capable of pulling off deals and of talking to prospects about joining the ranks and anyway, the Debuchy deal is done in all but public announcement so there’s not really anything Arsenal need to do other than hit the ‘make webpage live’ button on their CMS for the press release on the official site.

So I’m sure the club are moving on, but not quite with Khedira, by all accounts. There’s probably been so much you’ve already read about the deal that there is little I could add to proceedings other than to say ‘yay, great, another good player joining the club. Oh, wait, now he wants mega bucks and is off to Chelski’. We all know how the story plays out when money and oil whores are the chief protagonists. It’s like the most annoying game of football Cluedo where you’ve already been shown the killer and the murder weapon, yet you have to miss a few turns because you told everyone this and they’re punishing you as a result.

The important thing is the club are working hard on new deals. We see it, we hear about it, and it cuts them a little slack from the more vociferous members of the Arsenal fan fraternity (I refuse to talk about trains of any sort when mentioning the Arsenal collective of fans, by the way). It’s different from previous seasons because actions speak louder than words and the club have already taken actions in signing Sanchez. Plus, for all too long last summer and summers past, the links to players have been too spurious and quick to be shot down. Now, it appears the club are just keeping schtum on signings, which can only be a good thing because the main media sources that have any kind of credible link to the club are making the noises for them.

You can also tell how buoyed the players are with the potential and existing signings that are in the offing. Theo has been the latest to wade in, talking about the pace both he and Sanchez offer, which will (we hope) strike fear into our opponents. It certainly is a mouthwatering prospect, but more than anything else, it leaves our opponents thinking twice about pressing a high line against us knowing our only counter won’t be Ollie G running through treacle. Juicy.

Finally before I knock off for the day, a belated congrats to the Arsenal contingent of Per, Poldi and Özil for victory at the World Cup. I have to say I’ve found Poldi’s pictures particularly amusing, as every time I see that World Cup trophy his arm is usually attached to it. I do wonder if he wrestles it from the players just before bedtime so he can sleep with it.

It’s a great result for us too, because our German contingent can head off on holidays and return to Arsenal full of beans, as well as probably beers. I’m looking forward to this upcoming season. I really am.

See thee tomorrow.

A tight encounter tonight, unlike last night

it’s Sunday, it’s World Cup final day, and it’s Argentina vs Germany.

I’m quite intrigued to see who comes out on top on this one, because despite the assertion from most football fans across the globe, I don’t think that this will be a stroll in the parken. The Argentinians are an infinitely better side than the ramshackle bunch of Brazilians that capitulated yesterday (more on that in a sec) and I think we’ll see a close encounter. What Argentina have over their South American hosts is a variety of options to galvanize and inspire the team to success; they’re not reliant on Messi and at times during this World Cup have even had the diminutive forward as a passenger in games. Higuain, Di Maria, Aguero, are all match winners, but they have a bit of steel in the shape of Mascherano and i’d expect them to attempt to stifle and frustrate the Germans this evening.

However, I still think (and hope) that Mesut, Per and Poldi get their hands on that World Cup trophy by the time this day is done. I’ve mentioned before my German family roots, which i’m clinging on to like a life raft on a sinking ship (my original ship having already sunk in the group stages and lays at the bottom of a metaphorical ocean somewhere as we speak), but more than that we have Arsenal interest invested in the German team and a side that has probably played the best football during the tournament. They have done everything needed to win this competition in my opinion. They have smashed a couple of teams, they have ground out results, they have ridden their luck. Now all that is left to do is to lift the trophy.

I hope Mesut has a blinder today. He’s not been anywhere near the poor performer that many have suggested, but he hasn’t lit up the World Cup in the same way that saw Gareth Barry mugged off repeatedly so many times in South Africa four years ago. He is being shunted out wide on the left at the moment, which doesn’t allow him the full freedom of movement that he is afforded at Arsenal, but I still hope he can influence the game in the way that we know he can. His challenge is to do it without the natural pace up top that allows him to thrive as a provider. Mueller and Klose don’t have the pace of Walcott and Sanchez, so he’ll have to find another route to glory. That’s what I’ll have my fingers crossed for tonight.

As for yesterday’s effective dead rubber, it turns out that I was wrong from my blog yesterday and the team that finishes third does indeed get a bronze medal in the Third/Fourth place play off, but i’m afraid it still doesn’t have the same level of kudos as an Olympic medal, so I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest it was still an irrelevance of a game. I’m sure the Brazilian people will want to continue to tell themselves that this morning too, because the performance of Scolari’s charges was less than impressive. Putting aside the continual dreadful refereeing decisions throughout the game (the first goal was a foul outside the box and a sending off, not a penalty and a yellow card), Holland outclassed the Brazilians in every aspect of the game and with a toothless yellow and white attack giving nothing going forward, it was only going to be a matter of time before defensively they were shown up. Once again, the billionaire owners of Paris Saint German will have been left scratching their heads and quizzically looking at one another, as they try to contemplate why they have shelled out the GDP of a small country on a defender that really struggles with the art of…well…defending. His nod back into the centre of his own box for Daley Blind to double the Dutch advantage was a thing of such shambolic shoddiness that even I would have been disappointed with myself had I tried the same on a Sunday morning down the local park. Good luck to the French team in capturing the Champions League with Luiz and Thiago Silva as their defensive partnership next season, and a note to any team looking to make some cash over the summer: dress your footballer up with bells and whistles and park them outside the Parc Des Princes with an invoice for five times their actual value. Makes you think that PSG are like some sort of reverse pay-day-loan company, giving you a massive return on your investment regardless of the abilities of the individual.

Anyway, what of Arsenal at the moment? Well, aside from the World Cup interest and the warm and fuzzy feeling still emanating from within us all after the confirmation of Sanchez last week (bizarrely not recognised by the English punditry team before last night’s game, saying ‘if that deal comes off’ – you might want to cache your browsers on your smart phones guys), the focus appears to surround the potential acquisition of Khedira, with yet more outlets still trying to re-hash what is essentially the same story but with a different spin on it. At £200k per week as is being report, Khedira would by far and away be the highest paid player at The Arsenal, but to suggest he would be the best player in a team that I think is on the verge of blossoming would be incorrect in my opinion. There’s no doubt he’ll add quality to the side, but we have other concerns to worry about than a box-to-box midfielder and, if those terms are true as is being suggested, there must be a question around the harmony with the team if there is some sort of ‘Galactico’ that rocks up in the famous North London red and white next season. I’m still hopeful that Arsene is looking at one of Schneiderlin or Bender, but the chatter appears to be focused around Khedira at the moment.

Hey, perhaps I shouldn’t be looking at a gift horse in the mouth as Khedira is a quality player, but success on the football pitch is all about having the best of the right types of players in each position, coupled with harmony in the team, so I just hope we’re getting all of the required deficiencies sorted out as soon as possible.

Anyway, I think I’ll call it a day for now. You have a good one and enjoy the game tonight.

Peace out.

Wowsers Germany. Wowsers Arsenal.

Wowsers. Ok, hands up in the air who thought they saw yesterday’s result coming? put yours down Mr Löw.

The mighty footballing nation of Brazil humbled by seven goals to one at the hands of the unsurprisingly, yet ruthlessly, efficient German side who must now by clear favourites to pick up their fourth World Cup. It was an absolute master stroke of out tacticing, out fighting, out scoring and generally out doing – by my adopted nation for the remainder of this tournament – and whatever the outcome of tonight’s other semi final, there will be some concerned players lining up against Joachim Löw’s side.

From the ‘keeper Neuer through to the front players of Klose and Mueller, the entire match was an exhibition on what you do when you press all over the park. The Barcelona team of three years ago came to The Emirates and did it and yesterday, in Belo Horizonte, the German’s showed how it can force an opponent into errors and bare serious fruit. You only have to look at the second Kroos goal almost from kick off to see that. Robbing the lacklustre Fernandinho, then exchanging passes with the excellent Khedira, Kroos and co made the Selecáo look like they had just come back from an all night lock in at The Red Lion.

A quick congratulatory virtual ‘tip of the cap’ to Miroslav Klöse, who knocked chunky Ronaldo off the top goalscorer charts to take centre stage as the World Cup’s all time leading goalscorer. This game had everything. Records broken, Arsenal players happy, a total shock result. It was brilliant. Except for the fact that Poldi didn’t even get on. Probably just as well actually, as his deadly finishing probably would have seen yet more embarrassment for the men in yellow and blue. Perhaps we should applaud Jogi for his compassion by not unleashing The Poldi on them.

As you can tell, I’m certainly a happy man with the result yesterday, not least because the smattering of Chelski players and a Spud got suitably humbled, but also that our Arsenal boys Mesut, Per and Poldi, all get to march on to a final. I really hope they win.

There was always too much Chelski in that Brazilian team to feel any kind of affiliation for them, anyway.

As for how our boys performed, I thought it was strange that Hummels and Boateng got the nod in the centre of defence ahead of Big Per, but I suppose this was not a mark on the BFGs name, as it was tactical from Low’s perspective. After all, Boateng has undoubtedly got a couple of extra yards on Per when it comes to recovery pace, so perhaps his inclusion only from half time – when the recovering Hummels was wrapped in cotton wool with the game won – was an understandable one. I do hope the BFG is preferred to Boateng at the weekend though. He deserves it.

Mesut had a quieter evening than some of the other players in red and black, but I still thought it was an effective one, with another assist chalked up. His ball retention looked good, movement was ok and, one-on-one miss aside in the second half, he had a steady performance. I suppose the problem he will get this morning is that there were some players like Kroos and Khedira, who were so good, it makes a decent performance not stand out as much as a fantastic one.

As for Brazil. Well, when you’re relying on a couple of players as nonchalant and lacklustre in effort as Fred and Hulk, what can you expect other than a pasting? If truth be told, they were the wrong end of the pitch to be blamed for the parting of the Red Sea that was the Brazilian defence yesterday (can we now start calling David Luiz – Sideshow Bob – an actual clown now?), but when you have absolutely no outlets at the top of the pitch, it does put pressure on your defence. It was a pressure that was too much for Luiz et al to handle and you and I witnessed one of the greatest bottle-jobs of all World Cup history.

I’d said it before the game, but I just didn’t rate (or like) this Brazilian team, as I thought they had already used up their ‘Get out of jail free’ cards a couple of times this competition I felt. They were lucky to have got to the semi final I felt; carried along the crest of a home nation Neymar Jr inspired team, the expectancy of the fans always a little bit too much I thought. The Germans showed what real ‘Champions in waiting’ should look like and also show the difference in class between the best sides in the world. Of which, Brazil are most certainly not.

It’s made me quite excited for tonight’s game actually. I hope the Argentinians give the Dutch a pasting. Seeing Robben and van Persie crying at the end of the game would be the very picture of hilarity, so if Messi and Higuain can retain their scoring boots, it would set us up for a cracking final.

The good news kept coming yesterday, as the imminent arrivals of Sanchez and Debuchy have been all but confirmed officially by the club it seems. There were murmurings through Twitter that Stan Collymore had heard it directly from Arsene Wenger that Sanchez was ‘done’, which in itself seems a very un-Arsene thing to do, but when multiple news outlets are all reporting on very similar fees agreed you know that something is on the horizon. Very soon.

Any type of announcement this week will be an absolute dream for you and I. We’re just coming into the midway point in June, there will be a whole month of pre-season for the players to meet their teammates and get acquainted with ‘The Arsenal Way’, and we can all look forward to that Community Shield curtain raised in about a months time.

It also eases the pressure on the club for a fan anxiety point of view. They can enquire and discuss other targets with the goodwill of the supporters knowing that two key positions are catered for and we’re now just buffing the edges of the squad to give it that shiny new look. Added to that the FA Cup winning glow that we’re all still basking in, and it makes for a nice countdown to the start of the season.

We’ll obviously have to wait for official confirmations, but right now, well, I’m sure there’s a Pharrell Williams song that can help to describe my mood today.

Bored of your own thoughts? Banking on Özil’s impact

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re even bored of your own thoughts? I do, have done, with the transfer sagas that are happening surrounding Arsenal at the moment. I’ve talked about Debuchy and Sanchez enough that I’m a little bit tired of it. Mind you, we’re now at phase eight of any transfer saga surrounding Arsenal, which involves seeing photographic evidence and putting together the pieces in your mind to mean a player is ‘definitely’ coming.

The Frenchman was spotted in London, supposedly for a medical with The Arsenal, which would suggest that we’re on the verge of an announcement. I would suspect that the Debuchy deal will be a lot easier to see through than the Sanchez one, because the permutations only seem to involve two clubs. Plus it appears – from this Gooners eyes anyway – as if it’s a transfer which is well within our comfort zone. Arsene and his transfer crew lap up £8 -£12million French-speaking signings like a politician laps up an expense policy cross-charge. We do these types of transfers and it’s a decent and swift move for the club.

The other picture that appears to be sparking the saliva glands of Arsenal fans is the one that seems to show a Catalan shop showing a Suarez shirt. A Barcelona Suarez shirt. Of course, that is most likely a clever PR stunt by a retailer to get a bit of PR; the chances that Barcelona are keeping those in that shop ‘in the know’ on their transfer dealings, are as likely as me gaining the superhero powers of Giant Man and stamping on Jose Mouinho’s car just to see him cry a little.

The picture obviously allows us to put two and two together and conclude that Barca are waiting for the green light on Suarez, before releasing Sanchez, but I doubt that the two transfers are entirely linked. Sure, the cash is needed from the club that is happy to extract and fling it’s own ‘DNA’ to one side quite quickly, but I don’t think the signing of the Uruguayan will impact the Chilean arriving at The Arsenal. Why should it? Barcelona won’t be paying the £70million-odd up front, so there’s not exactly a need for them to ask Arsenal to wire the Sanchez cash straight into John W. Henry’s bank account.

I just hope this can all get sorted within the next week so we can all get on with our lives and start getting excited about the new season.

But before then, there’s the small matter of a World Cup Semi Final, in which Brazil take on Germany. I really would love to see the Germans give the. Brazilian’s a good pasting tonight. It’s a distinctly average Brazilian team with a smattering of Chelski and Spud blood in the team, which is all the more reason to route for the Europeans, especially when you think of our own Arsenal lads who will be rocking up in white tonight.

I’ve got to say I’m not really too surprised that the German people and press have been giving Özil some stick during this competition. Whilst his performances have not been exemplary for his national side, it is always a favoured narrative of any type of media to perpetuate the story of a fallen hero and after a big money move last summer, Özil fits the bill. Irregardless of the fact he has been shunted out wide on the left, or was shattered after a long season with Arsenal and an injury earlier this year, Özil’s price tag will make him an easy target. So it is incumbent on him to prove the detractors wrong and show what he is capable of. He’s already scored an all important goal in the competition so far and, whilst I don’t have the same feeling he’ll score tonight as I did then, I do think he will have an impact in tonight’s game somehow. Why? Because he’s a big player. And big players turn up on the big stages. He may need a help from some of his national teammates – Özil is a master when he has pace in front of him after all – but I’m hoping it he’ll produce some magic in the land of the Samba this evening.

As for the other two, Per will be Per, but whether or not Poldi plays a part will be interesting. The Germans will be all too aware of what he brings to the table, so much like at Arsenal, it would be hard not to see an impact when you have a natural born finisher who delivers end product (if nothing else sometimes) time and time again. If I were a betting man I’d have some money on Poldi playing something in the second half and having himself a goal before the night is out.

Anyway, that’s me for today, so I’ll catch you tomorrow.

Santi’s turn, Poldi’s sling shot and Mesut performs

And today’s spurious rumour of an Arsenal player leaving the club is…

Santi Cazorla!

Come on down!

It’s almost as if the tedium that was yesterday’s bore draw between Nigeria and Algeria has re-awoken the dormant transfer demons as they are offered a ray of light to make up rubbish that will get attention during the World Cup. I mean, now that I think about it, I haven’t seen an ITK on my timeline producing any gutter trash stories for at least a week now. That may be because I’ve blocked a lot of them through Twitter, but still, it does feel like it’s been confined to just NewsNow articles by the usual suspects of Goal and Caught Offside. For this I am grateful.

But apparently Santi isn’t grateful and he wants to return to Spain, with newly crowned La Liga Champions Atletico Madrid sniffing around him, so naturally he’s already booked his Easyjet flight, packed his bags, clichéd up London Colney by ‘clearing his locker’ and is now just waiting for a confirmation. I wonder if the players actually have lockers? And what would be inside them? Pictures of Lorraine Kelly and Carol Vorderman? Some maths homework? A sling shot? I bet Poldi has a sling shot. And a few stink bombs for the fitness coaches. Yeah, that’ll teach them not to make old Poldi run lots…

Anyway, I’m treating this rumour with the contempt it deserves, because let’s face it we’d be mad to let Cazorla go without a replacement. I can’t see us dropping Sagna, Vermaelen, Monreal (another mischievous link), Cazorla and Podolski, whilst still trying to strengthen the team in other positions, can you? Nope. So whilst it is always annoying to. Hear stories of our players linked elsewhere, let’s not forget that 90% of them are unfounded and will never come to pass.

Here’s another way of looking at it: of all the players we’re linked with, only 1% of those players actually get to put on an Arsenal shirt, so why would the reverse not be true of players leaving the club?

I mean seriously, who do they think they’re trying to kid? And by poking the the Arsenal fans’ hornets best by declaring that we’re after Tom Cleverly? Pull the other one, it’s got bells on…

Anyway, back to actual football and with Germany ripping a new one for Portugal, it was pleasing to see so many of our players being happy. I did think it was a bit strange that there were still some people who we’re making statements about a poor performance from Özil, because from the few highlights I saw of the game, he looked to have made quite an impact in the team. I’m not sure if it happened in the whole game, but it looked like Mesut was positioned on the right hand side of the front three, which if it was the case is an interesting consideration for him for The Arsenal in future. He should always be one to float across the front line with a free role, but having him cut inside from the right more often is definitely something I’d like to see him do more of next season (not that he didn’t do that much this season just gone, but I’d love to see him do it even more).

You’ve got to hand it to Portugal though. Along with Spain, they’ve managed to make England fans feel mighty better about the performance against Italy with their implosions. The Portuguese look like Southampton of the nineties. Everything must go through Ronaldo like everything went through Le Tissier. Players know that they just give the ball to Ronaldo and he will do the rest. But the glorious thing is, at the very highest level, no team can be that reliant on one person. I’d almost feel sorry for Ronaldo and the pressure of a nation he has if, y’know, he wasn’t Ronaldo n’that.

And finally from me for today: how much would you pay for a Thomas Müller? I mean actually pay. What a fantastic and versatile player that I only wish was born in France, because Arsene eats those kind of transfers up for breakfast and he’d probably have been an Arsenal player for five or six years by now.

Anyway, enough of this pointless daydreaming, I’m off to learn something about management.

In defence of the attack; attacking the defence

I thought I’d hand over the reins of today’s post to a family friend who gave me my first taste of Arsenal in the flesh when he took me to Highbury in the 90s. Roy has seen a fair few Arsenal incarnations and is never short of an opinion, so I thought I’d give him the opportunity to have my soapbox for a day.

You can follow him on Twitter at RoyThomas16

Now you kids play nice.

Over the last few years I have read and listened too many of the ramblings of the SG team and generally enjoy them although I do not always agree.

Well not only is SG Chris a blogger, he is my Godson and as he mentions often, I got him into supporting the Gunners many years ago.

This week, as part of his season review, he asked the question “did the forwards cost us the title?” or words to that effect! My opinion and answer is definitely not!

I will I think we are very weak in those attacking positions – especially when poor Theo got crocked – and when the trio of Ramsey, Ozil and Theo were flying we certainly had more about us. Yes, I know they are not all forwards, but they more than made up for our lack of attackers as we had very few to call on this season. Let’s not digress too far into the misgivings of last summer now though…

Giroud may not be the best centre forward in the world, but I believe he tried his best, accumulated a good tally, but in some games looked totally knackered. One of his strike partners – Lukas Podolski – was very in and out but his strike record for games he featured in must have been right up there. The trouble with Podolski however, as you’ve probably all noticed, is that he goes missing for long periods. Yes, I agree it only takes one or two pieces of magic to win a game, but so much happens in a modern day football match and these professionals are expected to do more than just have end product. After that the options for support were limited: who would you choose from Bendtner or Sanogo (not really having a go at the young Frenchman, but really our back up no, one for the future maybe but time will tell).

So, with those quick opinions on strikers out of the way, how did we lose the league from my perspective?

Defensively. I believe this defence are poor and I am sure some of you are going to throw STATS around to discourage my opinion. I’m getting long enough in the tooth to know that they mean nothing other than the one that reads ‘Win’ or ‘Champions’.

In a game seeing we have had 65% position and 15 shots on goal and lost 1-0, or having one of the best defensive records by goals against in a season, give me no comfort whatsoever if we lose. Making comments like that are similar to the one that got away for a fisherman, or the golfer arguing that the ball took a bobble going to the hole on a short putt.

This year was no different from the shabby defending than last year. This is a defence that can go to sleep during a match at any time; not many of the top clubs do this. Why? They have a few shock results but not like our capitulation at times. Remember; just eight points stopped us from the title. Broken down those points that cost us through silly mistakes:

17 Aug, Villa: Two stupid penalties and one weak goal

October, WBA: 1-1 with a West Brom player totally unmarked on their goal

November, Man Utd: Although RVP done us over, he ran totally unmarked past three players to score a header, no players even tried to stop him. They were all ball watching.

December, Everton: 1-1, an83rd minute equaliser with Delofeu totally unmarked – another opposition player free to roam again

December, Man City: Enough has been said already. Maybe we were a little unlucky in the end but 6 goals is not a fluke.

January, Southampton: Poor marking on both goals, but second more than schoolboy error SG Chris would have done better (Ed: I’ll have you know I was a half decent ball-playing centre half!)

February, Liverpool: Again, enough said, all defenders asleep and game over after fifteen minutes

March, Stoke: Joke defending for the Penalty (I think he was waiving at his family)

March, Chelsea: again more than enough said about that in the aftermath

March, Swansea: 2-2 and two weak goals bad, with defending after we had got ourselves 2 -1 up in 89th minute, yet we were opened up like knife through butter yet again.

April, Everton: almost Hackney Marsh defending.

This is without some of the cup shockers in all three cups, although we are the FA cup champs so I guess I should give some kudos to the team there. Made us all happy without question (although defensively we were still shocking – 2 -0 down, but dug in, again, defending caused the fright)

Remember, just seven points stopped us, eight to win and of course other teams may say the same but I only care about us.

So think about WBA, Stoke, Southampton, Everton x 2 , Swansea and forget the drubbings this was 14 points dropped from poor defending and it cannot happen at this level, then there are the nine points from three massive losses.

Perhaps this is too simplistic.

Just some observations and horror viewing. If you watch them again perhaps a couple may have been unavoidable but only a couple. Most of the trouble has come from the right hand side looking at our goal when the opposition are attacking.

Let’s hope we get some strength to our defence for next season and one hard stopping midfielder like we used to have in abundance.

Thanks for reading. I am a passionate Arsenal fan and I only want to see the team succeed, but questions need to be asked defensively and with Arsene about to announce his new deal, I hope he has the answers.

Thanks for your thoughts Roy. Not sure I agree with all of them, as every team has off days and sometimes these can be countered by having strength all over the park. Just look at how Liverpool managed to outscore their opponents when defensively they looked shambolic at times. There does need to be some work done to remove the errors in the big games though I’ll grant you that.

Catch you all tomorrow.

Season review: did the attack cost us the league?

Today’s blog is my final one of the season for an overall review of specific areas of the team and, whilst the first three were relatively lengthy, I don’t feel like making this a ‘War and Peace’ analysis of the front line.

This is mainly in part down to the fact that the ‘feel good factor’ still exists amongst Arsenal fans. We’ve won the FA Cup just over a week ago, we’ve celebrated the 25th anniversary of Anfield 89 yesterday, and the spirits every seem to be high. So I’m loathed to take on board too much negativity and dish it out to you in any kind of volume at such a good time to be a Gooner.

Let’s also not forget the fact that this season has already seen a concentrated and rather drawn out series of collective sighs when talking about our front line, as we have seen a league title slip from our grasp, due to a manager unwilling to strengthen in that much needed position for two transfer windows. Where he once collected strikers, he now covets creative midfielders, so it seems.

Everyone has talked enough about the issues, including myself, so I’m going to try to focus on the positives of our front line. Because there are positives. Injury aside, Theo Walcott looked like he could continue his fantastic form of 2012/13, had injury not struck him after being played so intensively when back from injury. His season may have been ‘cameotastic’ in the most part, but he still contributed to some good displays during that period of time, which should bode well for next season. It would be a delight to see what he and Özil could achieve together if given an extended run of a dozen or so games. He has the pace, he has the finishing ability and whilst Santi did excel in the Özil role before Mesut’s arrival, we’ve already seen (right at the beginning of the season) what could happen when Theo and Mesut are put together. Think Sunderland away, where Theo was put through three times in the first half and had he had his scoring boots on that day, it would have been a rout.

Perhaps that feeling of ‘what might have been’ is a common theme across all of our front line. After all, the Ox was a preferred starter on the right wing for the first game of the season against Villa, which was a heck of a statement by the manager that he thought the season might be a good one for him. Who knows what kind of Ramseyesque form Oxlade-Chamberlain might have exhibited had he not picked up that knee ligament injury. As it was, he returned to the team and put in some stellar displays at an important time, dominating both Cyrstal Palace and Bayern Munich away games. Arsene says he will become a central midfielder eventually, and we certainly have seen evidence of that, but I suspect his punctuated season last time out May have extended his apprenticeship in the attacking three positions and we’ll see more of him there next season too.

On the left we have flitted between Cazorla and Podolski throughout the season, both square pegs in round holes to a degree, but both able to play that position to some effect. Cazorla’s flexibility affords him the ability to be effective in any of three positions across the attacking four (if you include the Özil ‘in the hole’ role) but we’ve also seen that his flexibility has allowed Mesut to move around the pitch more freely at times. I think to that Everton FA Cup match when Santi found himself in the centre supplying Özil on the left for the first goal, or the cup game against the Spuds when he leathered in Gnabry’s pass whilst timing his run to appear on the left.

Podolski is an entirely different enigma and one that I don’t think any Arsenal fan will ever understand. He is 100% end product and that is both delightful and infuriating in equal measure. Arshavin was a bit like that; an ‘all or nothing’ style player but, unlike the German, he was nowhere near efficient enough and after a couple of seasons was soon feeling the burden of crowd disappointment on his shoulders. Nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to Poldi. We all love his personality, his goals, his style when scoring. In fact, if you’re like me you’re praying that he could just give an extra 30% more to his game, he’d be one of the worlds best. It doesn’t have to be through technical ability – we know he doesn’t have that in spades – but even if it was in application and a bit more drive, he’d quickly find himself undroppable by the manager. Still, he’s shown us some fantastic goals and he is certainly a scorer in big games too, as he’s proved in his two seasons at the club. I hope he stays for next season, as he most certainly does have a place, especially with the return he gives the team in goals.

So, finally, let’s have a look at the position at the top of the tree. Currently held by Olivier Giroud but with small cameos from Bendtner and Sanogo. And when I say small, I really do mean small. Bendtner has played in a tiny proportion of games and still managed to score, but Sanogo is yet to break his duck, despite looking a bit of a gangly handful at times. Oddly enough, his overall performances haven’t been that bad, he just looks like he is nowhere near ready for the first team and one hopes that this little foray into the starting eleven fold hasn’t damaged his confidence. It doesn’t seem to have. He seems to be a confident sort of chap. Not Niklas Bendtner confident, thankfully, but enough to ensure his mind remains strong in the face of adversity. As for Bendtner, he helped set us on the way to victory against Hull, but ultimately this season has been more about finding out which stupid stunt he has pulled off this week and quite frankly, most of us are glad to see the back of him.

So to Giroud my thoughts now turn as I wrap up this blog. Yet another enigma in our side. A player capable of that deft touch and finish against West Ham only four odd weeks ago, yet still able to drag the ball wide from just outside the six yard box, as I seem to recall him doing against United at home. He is a strong centre forward who looks like his hair holds him up in the wind when the ball is put in front of him to chase, but he has still managed to convert twenty-two of his chances this season. There will be many that will question whether any half decent striker in that Arsenal team wouldn’t be able to bag between 15-20 goals a season, but I think that does a bit of a disservice to him, as he is not just a goalscorer within the team. His deft back heel to give Ramsey his cup winning goal is testament to the additional role as supplier that Giroud plays. He is certainly not without his faults, and I certainly hope priority number one is for another player to compliment his attributes rather than match them with some improvement, but to look at his season as a whole and not agree that he has improved would be wrong in my opinion.

Of all of the areas of the pitch where the team did not quite match what is expected of them, the front three would be one that I would point out as being the stand out this season just past. It has by no stretch of the imagination been an outright failure, to say such things would be incredibly harsh, but it has not quite delivered enough to give us the league title that we all craved so much but ultimately fell short.

More pace needed. That’s for sure. Injuries may have robbed us of that at times during the season, but the failure to address that at a time when we could have done so in January should go down as one of Arsene’s major mistakes of the season. Sure, the addition of a pacey striker would not have led to us conceding less goals in some of those big games, but you don’t need to win all your big games, as victories against Swansea, Stoke and Southampton earlier this year would have given us the extra seven points to be level with the Champions.

Some positives, but certainly some addressing of the faults is needed in the summer, if we are to win the league. See you tomorrow.

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

Don’t be satisfied with where we’re at, but be contented with consistency

I watched yesterday’s game between Everton and Moneychester City with quite some interest, as I’m sure you did too, because the outcome would most definitely have a bearing on our season and also on today’s game as well. The eventual result was one that has afforded us an afternoon in the sunshine watching The Arsenal taking on West Bromwich Albion knowing that the result, short of providing a welcome sign off to the home fans this season, is relatively meaningless.

It will add a little bit of carnival atmosphere to The Emirtaes today methinks, knowing that the bare minimum standard that Arsene Wenger sets has been achieved for what is now the seventeenth season in a row under Arsene Wenger. And whilst I like many other Arsenal fans, facetiously cheer our ‘fourth place trophy’, there is no denying that the consistency of what is now deemed as a ‘bare minimum’ is still being achieved. That we have even got ourselves into this position that we’ve left it until the last couple of games before the end of the season, given that six weeks ago we were all looking at a possible title tilt, should probably just be saved for another blog discussion when the season has ended and the dust has settled.

For now, let’s just be contented with the fact that we have Champions League Football back at the Emirates in 2014/15, hopefully going beyond a two-legged affair in August.

So what should Le Boss be doing with his team selection today then, given that he doesn’t have to field a strong side to secure Champions League football? Should he go all rookie and field a team of squad players, or should he tell the first team to go out there and secure two wins in the final league games of the season to pick up 79 points and look back on this season as a mild improvement on last by way of points tally, if not actual league position?

I’m in favour of a full strength squad today actually, and I think Arsene will provide that to the last home crowd of the season, as a send off and hopefully a continuation of our recent form. The return of Ramsey and Ozil has shown a notable shift in our fortunes and we’ve looked like a team driven by purpose in the last stages of this Premier League campaign. Momentum is everything in football and Wenger is long enough in the tooth to know the importance that two more wins will give to the spring in the step of the team come Cup Final Day. Heck, even the Invincibles great run started the season before we actually went unbeaten, so if ever you want to take your cue from a successful formula, that team would be it.

Our form has been superb of late. Three goals on the last three occasions and, although I’m not usually one to make specific scoreline predictions, I do fancy a win by three clear goals today. Perhaps a 3-0 or a 4-1. Against Newcastle the team got the goals to effectively seal off the first half and then topped up the goal difference in the second, never really getting out of second gear, so I sense that we might see a similar game today. The back four will most likely remain the same barring perhaps a role for Jenkinson to replace the injured Sagna (perhaps an early indicator of what we’ll see next season) and I would have thought Ramsey and Arteta will form the basis of the deeper lying midfield positions. In front of them will be a trio of Cazorla, Ozil and Podolski with Giroud most likely to start-up front.

It’s a team that would make sense to me. There’s no need for resting players with over ten days to go until the final. Even if the match was in a week’s time it still shouldn’t make too much of a difference. When you’re playing in a high stakes match and you’ve had a week off to prepare, you can’t really have any excuses for fatigue or motivation. So I think we’ll almost certainly see the strongest side possible, with Arsene making use of his three subs on the usual 75 minutes, which will mean exits for Poldi, Mesut and Olivier (you heard it here first!).

As for West Brom, they will probably feel that they’ve done enough to stay up this year and I’d probably agree to that, especially with there now only being one relegation spot that will swallow a team next week. Norwich won’t get any change from Chelski today, which will mean they must beat us on Sunday week and hope Sunderland slip up next week. But with that extra point that West Brom have, they have a degree of security that should ensure that today isn’t life or death, so it wouldn’t surprise me if today’s game has a real ‘end of season’ feeling to it.

Our form is good, the ‘feel good’ spirit seems to have returned to the squad and the players are showing that they’re up for this final push and hopefully the cup final in two weeks time. Things are looking much rosier for The Arsenal right now. Let’s hope they give us a nice send off at lunchtime.

Catch y’all tomorrow.

Newcastle: no first half lethargy please

It’s game day today folks, a game which could just prove pivotal to securing Champions League football for next season, so should not be understated in its importance. But just before I lay all of my ramblings bare on this here blog for, how about we take a moment to look at why Mourinho and Chelski are probably the ‘anti-neutrals’ choice. His self appreciation and attention seeking nature was on full display yesterday as Chelski spawned themselves a couple of counter attacking goals to beat a Liverpool side that are hardly my favourite choice for the league title, but certainly come a million miles than the Portuguese side. Hopefully though, with the antics of the last week when talking to the press, we’ll see the Mourinho ‘love-in’ with the press slowly dissolve.

Anyway, enough of talking about that odious character, as it’s leaving a bad taste in my mouth and making my post Cheerios feeling tastebuds a little like ash.

Tonight it is The Arsenal that will get the chance to put yet more distance between us and Everton when our lads line up against Newcastle. A win tonight would mean that the game at Goodison Park next week will be all or nothing for Manchester City and Everton and, should we be able to pick up maximum points against the Geordies, could even see us get that fourth place trophy even before a ball is kicked on Sunday.

But that’s a long way away right now. There’s work to be done at home and whilst Transport for London staff may not be turning up for theirs come 9pm tonight, the Arsenal players need to make sure they turn up for theirs, because despite the poor form of our rivals they are still a Premier League team and still have players capable of doing damage to us.

From the Newcastle perspective there are questions surrounding Sissoko; but Cisse, Gouffran and Ben Arfa will all not start, the latter being left at home from the match day squad amid rumours of a bust up with Pardew. That’s understandable really, because in a similar mould to Mourinho, Pardew is a man that simply has to make everything about himself.

Their main threat will undoubtedly be Loic Remy, so it will be up to both Koscienly and Mertesacker to stifle the Frenchman at every opportunity. If Sissoko doesn’t play just behind him, I’m hoping that Remy will remain isolated, as Pardew tries to frustrate us in going for a draw. I spoke with some peeps on Twitter yesterday about the possibility of Newcastle playing a 4-4-2 with Ameobi and Remy up top, but I’d be surprised if they leave those two isolated and remove another body from midfield.

Whichever team Pardew picks, we will need to ensure that the Arsenal ‘A-Game’ is on tonight. We should not fear Newcastle, but we should respect them, so I’d rather not see the kind of laboured and expectant performance of the first halves against West Ham and Swansea recently. Perhaps the pattern – given those last two home games – has already been set for a frustrating first half, but it would be nice if we could alleviate some of the worry early on in the game, because the longer the match remains with Arsenal on level teams or even behind, the more nervous I suspect we and the players will get.

With no new injury concerns or returning player boosts I think Arsene will name an unchanged team from the one that swept aside Hull (eventually). That will mean the usual back four with Monreal, a holding midfielder in Arteta and the Energiser Bunny in human form, Aaron Ramsey beside him. The three in front I think will be Poldi, Özil and Cazorla, with Giroud up top. Of course, with his hand a little stronger than it has been over the recent months, we could see him twist with the insertion of Flamini, Rosicky, or The Ox, but regardless of who he picks we need to ensure that the lethargy of March’s performances are well and truly banished.

The good news is that the last couple of games have seen the team look a little bit more free-flowing and devoid of those shackles that made us look so ponderous in that second Deathrun that effectively cost us our title assault. The return from injury of Ramsey and Özil has aided the spriteliness of the team and so there is plenty of cause for optimism that we’ll see a confident and purposeful Arsenal performance come 8pm tonight. Podolski has had a good couple of games and although I’m not a betting man, I’d probably fancy a flutter at him for first goal if you gave me a quid to put on the game. His deadliness in front of goal could be mighty handy over the next month and, whilst many malign his lack of anything else he contributes to the team, the very fact that he is all about the end product is no major issue in my book. Heck, he can sit in a deck chair for 88 minutes of a game if he scores two goals every time he starts.

The odds seem to be stacked quite heavily in our favour given Newcastle’s recent free-falling in the League and talk of players not falling for the manager, but as I said yesterday that always worries me, because when all seems to be too good to be true, it usually is. The players need to turn in a professional performance and make sure the three points are ours. It doesn’t have to be pretty; at this stage of the season, it just has to be effective.

Up The Arsenal.