Defending the club becomes little more challenging after Welbeck news

I feel like I’ve been a mellow Gooner this summer. Whilst others around me have wavered, have shown a much more vocal level of irritation with the club’s policy, I’ve maintained my stance that I think the squad is balanced with enough quality players and that although I’d like to see a couple of players coming in, this would just be a slight improvement to an already good team. The caveat has always been providing that we can avoid the dreaded injury crisis that seems to have been the staple of any Arsenal squad for the last few seasons.

Someone’s always out for most of the season, it appears, so perhaps there was an air of inevitability about the news yesterday that Danny Welbeck is to undergo surgery on his knee and will be out for ‘a period of months’, as confirmed on the official site. The most ominous part about that statement was the ‘period of months’ and the vagaries of the timescale set upon his return sound very Vermaeleny. Rosickillian, even. There appear to be talks about him being out until Christmas, which if true really is a massive blow and means our options are limited by one. The one that I had even thought might be the player to ‘kick on’ this season was Welbeck too. He’d undergone his season of change by moving north to south and now was the time for him to show Arsene that as a hybrid between Walcott and Giroud, he could be the man who could take over Giroud longer term.

But that hope seems fleeting, for this season at least, for this moment in time. Mainly because even if he does return by Christmas, he’s going to need a month to get back up to speed and unless he bangs in a hatful of goals upon his return, he’ll find himself kicking his heels like Walcott has been at times on the bench this season. It’s a horrible state of affairs and I’ll admit, my staunch defence of the squad this season to other Gooners I know, is already being tested. Losing players this early in the season is not a good thing. I know that’s an obvious statement to make, but sometimes the long-term injuries really are the killer. We’re going to get times in the season when we’ve got the odd player out for a week or a couple of weeks – that always happens – but when your squad players are crocked for longer periods of time it becomes a real pain in the arse because you have to deep even deeper into the barrel to pull out the players you need.

That the club gave it a few days until after the transfer window ‘slammed shut’ makes sense, because there might have been some storming of the gates by some fans foaming at the mouth at the lack of transfer activity, but it still sticks in the throat nonetheless. If the club knew about this move, should they have made harder attempts to bring in a short-term solution? Probably. Or at least keep Akpom in the team rather than sending him off to Hull for half the season. Perhaps he wouldn’t get near the first team anyway, but it does make you worried for our options. Walcott has had a number of months out and has had his fair share of long-term injuries and Giroud broke his leg last season. We just need to hope that we don’t end up going so far in to the bottom of the barrel that Arshavin is bought back from the dead to play as a loan front man!

Ahh Arsenal, only you can put us through this level of frustration, eh?

What probably doesn’t help is that we also have an international break at the moment, which gives people time to stew on any news that we get, further exacerbating even the tiniest of bad news. This isn’t really ‘tiny’ and we’re slap bang in the middle of the break. It’s the perfect storm of anguish after a Transfer Deadline Day. The football gods have clearly been angered. Let’s just hope that they’ve ignored the actual football on the pitch and we can still pick up results.

Anyway, I’ve got a Portuguese golf course to go and play on, so I’m not going to get too hung up on this issue. Catch you tomorrow.

Newcastle result needs context after game changing red

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

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

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

Which is exactly what happened. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy your Sunday.

Newcastle result needs context after game changer

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

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

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

Which is exactly what happened. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy your Sunday.

Play Walcott and don’t go back to square one

With Chelski and City both picking up the wins that I expected they would yesterday, it adds a wee bit more pressure on us to perform this evening against a Liverpool team who will be buoyed by their own results, if not the way in which they played in those games.

Liverpool represent a serious challenge to our title credentials, because we need to prove that we can beat all of our rivals, as well as being flat-track bullies by beating the so-called ‘smaller’ teams.

I was at a wedding yesterday and I was asked by a Liverpool fan what I thought the score would be. One of the difficult things about the start of the season is that you have no real form or frame of reference to make an educated guess with a question like that. We’ve seen abject failure in the form of West Ham at home, then redemption of sorts with a strong first half performance against Palace and then holding on to the three points, so it’s hard to really talk about any kind of ‘form’.

I mentioned it yesterday, that this time of the season is more about building momentum and dealing psychological blows, rather than the importance of the three points. I think the fact that I couldn’t properly predict a result to the Scouse fan, shows that too.

I suspect we’ll line up exactly the same way in which we played against Palace. I don’t like seeing Ramsey operating as a wide forward, but I think Arsène is desperate to get him in to the team by hook or by crook, so I see it as inevitable that he’ll play. Cazorla and Coquelin have both been good enough in the middle not to be dropped and with Özil running the show against Palace in the number 10 role last Sunday, he’ll be expected to do the same again. The defence picks itself at the moment and with Alexis now back to a bit of fitness and ready to rock and roll, the only real decision for Le Boss is whether or not he opts for the target man in Giroud, or the pace of Walcott.

To an extent, I hope Arsène makes his decision based on who he thinks will cause the greatest threat to Liverpool, rather than just start Giroid out of some kind of hierarchical based thought process. Liverpool have played with three at the back and wing backs in the last two years at The Emirates and we’ve been pretty comfortable in 2-0 and 4-1 wins, but I doubt Rodgers will play the same way tonight. I suspect he’ll play four at the back and look to win the midfield battle with Henderson and Milner being the chief protagonists, then looking to play Coutinho as a number ten behind Benteke. Defensively they’ll most likely have Lovren and Skyrtel at the back and neither are blessed with astronomical pace. So I do wonder if playing Theo might be a consideration. He will force Liverpool to sit deeper defensively and hopefully that would leave the midfield to drop deeper to receive the ball, which would isolate Coutinho and Benteke. We’ve seen from successive victories against Villa last season that if you isolate Benteke he will cut a lonely figure up top, so it will be important for us to try and replicate that because if we don’t, he’ll inevitably be a handful.

Two wins on the trot would allow us to start thinking about putting a run together. A draw means we haven’t really got anywhere, but haven’t lost, which really would feel like we’re back to square one. I hate square one. Square one sucks.

Stay away from square one Arsenal.

No complacency: title challengers don’t do that

Today is a very important game. Today The Arsenal need three points, because only then will we all breathe a sigh of relief and start talking about the possibility that last weekend’s defeat to West Ham was a ‘blip’ and this Arsenal team can challenge for the league.

Quite simply: Premier League winners don’t lose two on the spot to West Ham and Crystal Palace. You couldn’t see City or Chelski doing it, so if we truly harbour loftier ambitions than qualification for the Champions League, there needs to be a reaction at Selhurst Park.

We have players capable of it. The squad is strong enough and technically proficient enough to go to Selhurst Park and boss the game. But the Premier League is the best league in the world because of its unpredictability, so a defeat or a draw equally would t be unheard of.

Last weekend I was only thinking about ‘when we win’. The thought of us losing to West Ham on our own turf never entered my mind. Perhaps this was the same complacency that washed over the players themselves. If that is true, then I hope they are mirroring my pre-match thoughts this week too, because I am certainly not so blasè about beating Crystal Palace. 

They have a decent team. Pardew has assembled a good selection of players with plenty of pace in attack and they will certainly trouble us at times today. Puncheon, Zaha and Bolasie all have speed and a trick or two, but I suspect we’ll only see two from that three start today, with Glenn Murray up top. What we have to do is to ensure that those attacking threats are nullified by isolating those players when they do have possession. That’s why I am hoping we go for a pacey forward line, because if we have plenty of pace of our own, it will force the Palace defence to drop deeper. If they do, then it will create either a greater gap between their defence and attack, or it will force their attacking players to drop deeper to collect the ball. That will hopefully reduce the risk of us being so painfully exposed by their attack play. 

So my forward three for today would be Walcott, Alexis and The Ox. Giroud is a handful, he has scored a few goals against Palace, but he is exactly the type of player that Dann and Delaney wouldn’t mind playing against. The negative of starting Theo is that he won’t press the ball like Giroud does. If Arsenal are to peg Palace back, the whole of the front three need to be pressing high, not just Alexis. 

Theo also has the tendency to go missing in games, but if that happens then you can rectify it by bringing on Giroud, so I’d still opt for the Englishman.

The big question seems to be whether Alexis is ready to start. He looked a little rusty coming on last weekend, as you’d expect, but he still offers something nobody else in the team does, so I personally want to see him come in. If that happens, a big question needs to be answered, because one of The Ox, Santi or Ramsey doesn’t play I don’t think. One plays alongside Coquelin and one plays wide right and one has to contend with a spot on the bench. Santi needs to resume his role as Distributor-In-Chief alongside Coquelin. That partnership works and the closer those two are together in the middle of the park, the better it is for us, so I wouldn’t hesitate to pick the tiny little Spaniard. Nor would I hesitate to pick The Ox ahead of Ramsey. Aaron is a better player than the Ox at this moment in time, but not as a wide man, so The Ox needs to start. I’m not sure he will though. Arsène likes Ramsey too much and I suspect we’ll see a return of square pegs in round holes with him starting on the right. It’s frustrating for me, but perhaps I need to trust Arsène’s judgement a little more, because as long as we get the three points that’s all that matters.

Today can be the reboot of the season, and climb back into the bookies eyes as a team who can win the Premier League title. Last weekend we looked sluggish and not clinical enough, which is why a little shuffle of the forward line wouldn’t do us any harm, I don’t think anyway. Conversely, despite the fact that we conceded two pretty shockingly defended goals, I’d expect a similar back four to last weekend. Bellerin may come in for Debuchy, but the rest of the side should probably be given the chance to redeem themselves, before any panic buttons are pressed about our back four needing a shuffle or two.

Whoever starts today, they need to show a lot more urgency and a lot more accuracy in finding other Arsenal players in space. No more Hollywood balls please guys, we need to retain possession with our short and quick passing. That’s how we’re designed to be effective and that’s how we’ll win the game – if we win the game -making a verbal offering to all the ‘complacency’ karma gods just in case here.

I’ll be at the Red Bull Air race today and so will be relying on Sky Go and quiet corners. I hope to be getting people to stare at me because I’m cheering at inappropriate moments from 1.30pm.

Come on Arsenal!

Are the days of Premier League loan deals becoming numbered? Big things from Welbeck?

I’ve noticed quite a trend developing in young players who go out on loan – sign a new deal first, then get shipped out.

It’s obviously to protect the club their contract is owned by, retaining the players value, but it does surprise me that it happens so often. We had Joel Campbell last January (anyone know where he is??), Chuba towards the end of the season just gone, that lad from Everton – the left back – all sign new deals before moving on. I find it interesting because I wonder whether the players actually believe they will become a regular at their parent club, or whether the deals are that lucrative for them that going to a West Ham, Swansea or Hull on a Permanent basis wouldn’t bring in the same kind of salary?

I suspect as with all things, it’s probably a little of all of the above. The success of both Coquelin and Kane at them lot probably has all clubs taking note about players they might have binned off once they reach 21, so getting them on longer contracts protects the investment somewhat. But at 19-years-old Chuba still has the possibility of breaking in to the first team over time and also has a good season or two ahead of him where he’ll need games to see how good he is before he breaks in to the first team. 

His loan move to Hull – along with Hayden – seems like a decent fit, but one would hope that Hull don’t ‘do a Wigan/Fulham’ and go from being relegated in the Premier League one season, to being Championship fodder in their second season. It’s always easier to play better in a successful team than a struggling one, so I hope Steve Bruce can steer the Tigers towards the top, for the sake of our loanees development at least.

I’m surprised a Premier League side didn’t take a punt on him – like Bolton did with Jack all those years ago – but I guess there is so much money swilling around in the Premier League that clubs are looking less and less at loan deals and more and more at bigger permanent signings. When you see newly promoted clubs like Bournemouth signing international quality players (who would command international level wages and transfer fees), it shows you just how big and how competitive the league is, so perhaps the days of the younger players like Akpom and Hayden starring for teams towards the bottom of the division are over. The clubs clearly feel the risk is a gamble worth taking over signing a loan player for a season who could potentially have an impact but only over the duration of one season.

Anyway, good luck to both, let’s hope they come back better players and more battle-hardened from the Championship so they can compete for the Arsenal squad. 

What Chuba’s exit does is leave us with Giroud, Walcott and Welbeck duking it out for that top spot. Welbeck will be better this year, I’m sure of it, because he’ll be more acclimatised to The Arsenal Way and he’ll feel more at home going in to his second season. There appears to be one or two fans who are already suggesting his days might be numbered, but I’m less melodramatic, mainly because of what Arsène started saying about him last season. I think Arsène was a little surprised by his work ethic and his ability to cover ground after he signed him. He was aware of his pace but I think Arsène has really grown to like him over the short period of time that he’s been at the club, because he recognises his role as a team player and so I think we’ll still see plenty of Welbeck next season. 

Whether that is through the middle remains to be seen, but I think his battle for supremacy with Giroud and Walcott will be intriguing, because he represents somewhat of a hybrid between the Frenchman and his other English counterpart. He’s quicker than Giroud and is stronger in retaining the ball than Theo, but lacks a little bit of cutting edge compared to both, so whilst he needs to work on his finishing he still offers something for Arsène to think of. And if Le Boss is looking at rotating his squad depending on exploiting the weaknesses of the opponents he faces, Welbeck will be an option. If Arsène for example, fancies putting a team under intense pressure through a high press at the top of the field, Alexis and Welbeck will put pressure on a back four by chasing every ball. That’s why I suspect we’ll see a lot of Welbeck. It’s just up to him to make the most of his chances.

Not long now folks. Just a couple of days and it will begin with Arsène’s pre match presser (unless he’s missed it so much he brings it forward to Thursday!) and then we get to the juicy stuff on Sunday. Lovely.

See you tomorrow. 

We’ll get victory through harmony – the players believe it

Stability is a place called Arsenal these days. With the announcement that Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla have both renewed their contracts with a four and three-year deal respectively, we have seen two of the recently unanswered questions be unequivocably dealt with by the club. In terms of keeping the continuity of the squad together, only the inking of a new deal of Nacho Monreal is left to ensure that this is – in theory (because we all know that contracts can be exited via buy outs from other clubs in the form of transfers) – a collective of players that we should be able to grow together for many years to come.

I’ve been saying this for quite a bit of this summer, but this is a squad that I personally feel very happy with. They have not been taken apart through transfer saga’s or contracts being run down, instead Arsene and the Arsenal staff have augmented the team with better players. World class players. Whilst many clubs like Liverpool have been overhauling their squad for a couple of seasons, we have seen relatively little player inwards movement, because we simply haven’t needed it. You build a beautiful and delicious cake with time and a careful hand, not by chucking all of the ingredients into a blender and hitting warp speed four.

This is a squad who are going to grow together. I feel it. Silly videos like the one in the swimming pool when they were all together heading it may all look like nothing, but I’m sure they give us a window into squad harmony and morale. Everyone seems to be pulling in the right direction. Everyone wants success.

Theo knew that. That’s why this contractual saga of his hasn’t lasted very long at all. He’s at an age where ambition is essential. He needs to feel like he can win things and the apparent ease in which this has happened (although I’d bet the negotiators on both sides will probably say that it wasn’t that easy when you were on the inside!) shows that he feels he can. He’s 26 years old and having spent 10 years at Arsenal, he probably feels like this is the best possible time to be picking up medals. I hope he’s right. We all do.

We’ve all got the bug you see. We’ve had two year’s of the FA Cup and now we want more. Our thirst has not been quenched, it has only been abated. We want bigger. We need better. The players are the same and you can sense it in what they are all saying. The way they are talking about the club has the sound of those that really believe it and in sport belief is as important as experience, confidence and technical ability. The players all have technical ability. We’ve got a squad bristling with it. But perhaps over the last ten years the belief has not been to the level it is now. That belief has come with trophy wins in the last two seasons and with those trophy wins we also have players who know how to win things. They know how to get over the line.

Cazorla too has been rewarded with a new deal. He’s thirty years old and the club have signed him up for another three years I believe. That shows you just what an impact our tiny little Spaniard has had. I think he still had a year or so to run on his deal and so Arsenal could have got to next summer and given him a one year extension, but they have decided that he’s a guy that we should keep around for a few year’s to come. Let’s not forget that Santi was a player who has been linked with moves back to Spain even as soon as a few weeks ago. He’s always said he would like to go back and finish his career in Spain, but his style and the way he plays probably means he could be playing well in to his late thirties, so him sticking around for another three years can only be a good thing. Like Theo, he has probably seen the potential of this team and is hungry to realise his dreams by picking up more medals with Arsenal.

It’s a commitment from Santi in his belief, but it’s also a commitment from the club too, which I think has to be applauded. The club recognise what an impact he has. His close control, his ability to retain possession, his new-found position of a deep lying playmaker, all of this last season was a vitally important cog in the machine that was churning out victory after victory post-Christmas 2014. His resurgence in the team (let’s not forget that people thought it might be the end of his time this time last year) has coincided with the team’s performance and if we’re going to win the league this season, we’re going to need Santi in the team.

What his and Arteta’s signatures does, is do something that perhaps Arsenal have been accused of not doing in the past, which is successfully pairing the need for youth, players in their prime and those with experience that can take the younger players under their wings. Balance. Harmony. Victory through it all. That’s what The Arsenal’s successful history has been built on and that is how we can win that Premier League trophy again.

I’m excited. Bring on the Premier League. Let’s see how far this team can take us.

Less swagger, more resolute, better Arsenal

Two trophies in as many weekends and a chance next weekend to make it three in a row, against the so-called unbeatable Mourinho, means we’re all riding pretty high at the moment. For preseason that is.

Yesterday’s Emirates Cup victory and subsequent lifting of the trophy may not have had the swagger of Saturday’s performance, but it still showed a resolution and steel to this Arsenal squad that we should all be pleased with, even if it was only a friendly. 

In Wolfsburg we had opponents who finished second in the Bundesliga and had won the German Cup, so anybody suggesting they should be football fodder for the team, would have had a bit of a surprise on them. De Bruyne and Schürrle as creative outlets and The Lord up top are a decent enough threat to pose, so perhaps we should have been less surprised by their opening half of dominant pressure, than we actually were. 

But much like the criticism of Arsenal that has been levelled historically, Wolfsburg only once or twice tested Cech and in the main, we looked relatively comfortable at the back I thought. The Germans had lots of possession, but less cutting edge, it seemed.

We should probably also look at the selected XI that Arsène chose as another explanation as to why we couldn’t really get any fluency in to our game. Sure, we had Mesut and Santi to pull the strings and there were definitely enough first teamers out there for us to look a little more polished, but it didn’t quite click without players like Ramsey to keep us going with his energy and movement at the top and bottom of the pitch. That’s what it felt like to me, anyway.

Özil only played the first half, but he looked the most threatening to score and I think you can certainly say with some comfort, that he’s ready to make a big impact this season. He’s dictated some of these friendly games and even bagged some goals, so if he can carry that in to the real stuff this season, we’ll all be the beneficiaries. 

The other star of the show went to Jeff Reine-Adelaide, the 17-year-old wonderkid whose lit up the Emirates Cup this season. His close ball control and ability to dart in between an opponent or two, had me at times thinking of some sort of Paddy and Wilshere hybrid, but I need to temper the praise a bit for a player who I didn’t really even know existed before this weekend. He was influential in Walcott’s second half goal and although many speculated over a loan move after the match, Arsène’s comments about him needing to train with the first team before that were interesting, because it’s clear he sees big things for him.

I don’t think Arsène will be thinking that he’ll be a regular starter and I would be surprised if we were to see him even make the bench against West Ham in a couple of weeks, but Wenger’s comments did make me wonder about how he likes to mould his players, ensuring that ‘The Arsenal away’ is ingrained in them before they are let out on loan. Perhaps he feels that a season at a Bolton or a Hull City, for example, would only serve to give him experience and not the technical requirements he’d need to operate in our team. Arsène’s Arsenal play neat, quick-paced interchanging of passes and perhaps he feels that young Reine-Adelaide would be better served learning that way before gaining first two experience elsewhere on a regular basis.

Let’s see what he does about Reine-Adelaide’s future. 

One player whose future looks to be coming to a positive conclusion, is that of Theo Walcott, who Arsène admitted is ‘close’ to agreeing a deal. The rumours started over the weekend that it had been done and with Le Boss making such an admission as he did, you’d like to think it’s all but dusted too, which I have to say will feel relatively painless compared to last time. It’s certainly fair to say the circumstances and situation the club is in makes a difference, but I was still expecting this to go on for some months now, so the fact that both parties seem to have reached an accord means it’s one more piece of the Arsenal puzzle moving in to place. 

For all the media bluster and fan chomping for a new signing of two, at least we have the balance and the harmony of the team at a point where we can all be happy that we will compete, which is all any of us want anyway. 

So we’re in a good place. Preseason has been positive, the team are playing positive, we’re looking like we could give Chelski and City a run for their money. This time next week we may have even broken the hoodoo of José over Arsène too. You never know.

Transparency on contracts helps everyone, Theo

It’s a start to a new working week for me and, with the players touching down on UK soil within the next day or two (I’m sorry, I don’t keep a GPS signal on their movements, I’m afraid), the countdown to the start of the Premier League will begin.

I’m also led to believe that Theo will sign his new deal but, having heard him speak about it over the last day or so, it appears we may see a bit of a dragging out of the contract situation. 

He’s giving plenty of positive vagueries about his situation which sound like they’re in place to keep everyone guessing for the immediate future. The first time around that this happened we all knew the score; Walcott had seen plenty of his fellow top level stars depart over a number of seasons, he’d become one of the big names and wanted a bumper deal to stay. He dressed up the whole ‘I want to play as a central striker’ thing as a bit of a smokescreen, but given that has happened few and far between, yet he still signed the deal in the end, I’d go as far to suggest the power of an extra ‘0’ helped shape his decision making.

And it’s because of what transpired last time that at least we’re all well aware of what could happen. So if Walcott’s camp do drag out this particular saga, then we’ll know what will happen up until about January next year.

But here’s the thing: we don’t feel as vulnerable this time. This doesn’t feel like a situation which, if it all turns a little sour, will be to the extreme detriment of the club. Not like last time. Last time we’d been dragged through the contract extension brambles on our backsides and it was all a bit stingy and raw. We’d had Nasri and That Dutch Bloke who played the game that we ultimately lost. But this time we have a new batch of stars who have even managed to keep Theo out since he returned from injury. Don’t want to sign a new deal lad? That’s no problem, but we’ll just see how we get on without you for a while, just in case. If that’s alright?

The back end of last season saw Theo’s camp talking through the press about him wanting to sign, but needing more reassurances that he will play, because at the time he wasn’t even getting a look in. That’s the kind of comments I’d expect from any player who isn’t playing and it made sense. But suddenly the comments about playing centrally don’t appear to be there. Suddenly it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t play centrally, as long as he plays?

It’s all a game. That’s all that this situation shows to us all. It’s a game to maximise the financial returns of the players and agents. But hey, I understand that, you understand that, we’ve all come to accept it. So why does everyone continue with the masquerade that it’s anything else? Let’s all just bring it out in the open and be honest with each other. Theo wants more money, Arsenal see his value as £x, which means until the two parties meet in the middle there will continue to be this stand off.

For my part I’d love Theo to stay. He’s a goal scorer, he has attributes in the team that others do not, plus he always comes across as a decent bloke both on and off the field. I’d rather he stayed with Arsenal, but if he decided the moolah is greener on another patch of grass, then so be it.

dominant Arsenal display and selection based on opposition – love it

First bit of silverware of the season sorted. Lifting the Barclays Asia Trophy is apparently a good omen for a team as both City and Chelski have clinched the pre-season friendly competition in the past, so whilst we have to take such superstitions with a pinch of salt, as this is a time in the year in which hopes are high and expectations are higher we can certainly read more in to this victory. Heck, I’m chalking it down as a cast iron guarantee of a marker that we’re winning the Premier League next season.

The side Arsène put out was a strong one too, with Cech making his debut alongside a back four of Gibbs, Chambers, Koscielny and Bellerin. In front of them Arsène opted for a Santi-Rambo midfield and Özil floating in his usual number 10 role. Having talked up Jack as a wide man he played with Theo and Giroud up top and I have to say it was a pleasing and utterly dominant performance. Whether or not that is because we have players that are further ahead in their preparations than Everton, or whether or not the fact it was essentially a home game given the amount of support we had compared to Everton, I don’t know. 

What we do know, however, is that Arsenal looked in control and very confident against a Premier League opposition who have always caused us a few headaches. Santi was in sparkling form as the deep lying playmaker and his goal was one of jinky delightfulness, weaving his way one way, then the next. He was the man with which a lot of the good stuff flowed and it augurs well for the season ahead that we have him looking like he’s in such good form.

I found it interesting that Arsène decided against having Coquelin sitting in front of the back four yesterday and whilst we can’t read too much in to a pre-season friendly, I hope this is the start of us seeing Arsène pick his first eleven based on the strengths of our team in countering the strengths of other opponents. If we’re playing Moneychester City away, for example, you just know that we’re going to have to do a lot more defending than an Everton or Stoke away. So it makes sense to set your team up to negate the oppositions strong points by playing somebody like Coquelin in games where you might have somebody like David Silva set up to run the show.

Yesterday Everton were on the back foot from the start and so sitting a defensive midfielder alongside a back four who are having little to do is a bit of a pointless exercise. So with all of Santi, Rambo, Jack and Mesut in the starting XI, we were able to control possession more and dominate the ball in the middle of the park as well as the zone in front of the attacking players.

The other goals we scored were an indication of Theo’s sharpness but also him at his best; running in behind defenders and finishing quickly. That’s what we missed for a lot of last season and that’s what I think we’ll see more of next season. Should Walcott stay fit of course.

Mesut’s goal was perhaps an indication that he is going to find himself in more forward lying positions this season and is going to try and take his chances more, with a good finish inside the box.

Overall we have to be happy with the game and although it had the air of a pre season friendly, we still dominated and did what was needed, so we’ve got to be glad of that. What should also be filling you with excitement is the depth of the squad too. Yesterday’s starting XI was missing Monreal, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Debuchy, Coquelin, Arteta, Rosicky, Welbeck, Alexis, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gnabry. We have such depth that it really is quite staggering and it’s why I’m really not stressing too much over the summer about transfers. And neither should you. Let’s enjoy this time. Next week we go for trophy number 2, The Emirates Cup!