Vermaelen legacy in tact, as we prepare for excitement of new season

Before I delve into the thoughts of what may transpire come 3pm later at Wembley, there’s the small matter of the confirmation that our Captain Thomas Vermaelen, has departed our rainy shores for the sun of Catalonia. Last night Arsenal confirmed his move to Barcelona and Vermaelen was pictured outside the Nou Camp with the obligatory ‘thumbs up’ standing next to the ‘Mes que un club’ sign.

I said as much on Twitter last night, but let’s be honest about this folks, losing this captain doesn’t feel half as bad as losing the last two. Plus, we get the added bonus of all still getting to like him and wish him well on other shores, for this was the best possible scenario for all stakeholders involved in this transfer.

For Vermaelen, he gets an opportunity to get more game time at a big club, where hopefully he’ll be challenging for trophies. It was clear he is at an age where he needed to play (as Arsene said) and he is good enough to be a first team regular. I’m still not sure whether that will still be Barcelona – they’ve just spent a wedge on another centre half from Valcencia, plus they have Pique, so whether he plays all the time I’m not sure – but I think given their likelihood to rotate a bit more than ours, it’s a decent move for him.

It’s a decent move for us fans as well. It’s blatantly obvious that United were sniffing around him and, whilst Vermaelen may still come back in a Champions League encounter to haunt us, at least we know he won’t be on our screens on Match of The Day, or rocking up at The Emirates twice a season (minimum) in the league. We get to give him our blessing and say “thanks for the memories and good luck”.

For the club it is good because they have given themselves enough time to find a replacement, but the fact that they’ve got £15million for a player that hasn’t played much in the last 18 months and has just a year left to run on his contract is an absolutely brilliant piece of business. Arsene can have a root around for a good centre half now to challenge Per and Kos (like he has in Ospina for Szczesny) and with Chambers as another option we can hopefully have a bit more depth in an area that has worried us for most of last season.

Yep, this was good all round, which hopefully is what we feel come 5pm this afternoon when the Community Shield draws to a close.

We all know it’s a friendly and it doesn’t really mean that much in the grand scheme of things, but it would still be nice to get one over on the Petro dollars, wouldn’t it? The papers have tried to spice things up by making comments designed to instigate outrage from Arsenal fans from a certain non-World Cup going football mercenary (who admitted money played a factor in his decision to leave Arsenal in that interview), but having read through the comments myself, it’s hardly a direct kick in our faces, so I’m a little bit ‘meh’ about it all if I’m honest. Nasri gave Arsenal a decent six months and then moved on for more cash and that’s pretty much all I can be bothered to say about that. It doesn’t really matter what anybody states about how Arsenal won’t be the main threat this year, because people said the same thing last year and we proved most people wrong by and large.

The line ups today will be intriguing. Pellegrini has already said that a host of City players (Company, Zabaleta, Sagna, Lampard, Aguero) will be missing today, so it will be interesting to see what a City side that is ravaged by injuries similar to what we’ve had in recent seasons, would look like. With Boyata and Nastastic at the heart of the defence they have some power and a bit of pace, but City aren’t I callable and I hope that we can through a few curveballs their way today.

As for us, Arsene has already given us a warning that the team aren’t 100% ready yet, which is why Olivier Giroud may not get a starting berth up top and in centre half Chambers might be thrown in at the deep end, but given the depth of squad we have this season, I’d still expect a strong line up to give Moneychester Citeh a run for their money. Szczseny in goal behind a back four of Debuchy, Chambers, Koscienly and Gibbs looks solid enough and with Flamini, Arteta and Ramsey all players that haven’t partaken in the World Cup you’d expect two of that three to be fresh enough and fit enough to start. I’d expect to see Santi Cazorla – slight chunkiness from the Emirates Cup aside – to play in the Mesut Özil free role, sitting behind a front three that should include Alexis Sanchez up top I think. Unless of course Arsene opts for a target man in Sanogo and Alexis/Campbell to play just off four-goal Yaya. If Sanogo is as impressive as he was last weekend, we can certainly expect the pace either side of him to profit from his hold up play.

What am I saying?! There isn’t even a place for The Ox?? He could start in the central midfield role or out wide with Alexis moving to centre forward too. He’s looked impressive in pre-season and I think he’s due a good one in 2024/15, so it’s certainly feasible that he’ll get the nod this afternoon. I also haven’t mentioned Rosicky, who Arsene loves and whose energy is always important in dictating the tempo of games.

The very fact that we have so many options, not to mention with the Germans still missing from it as well as Theo we have more options, fills me with so much excitement I want to run screaming with joy down my street in the rain. And I hate the rain.

This afternoon can be shrugged off or used as a confidence booster ahead of Palace next weekend, but whatever the result, I’m starting to get really excited for this season.

Come on you reds!

Hoping Arsene spends decently again, with a trip to Turkey on the horizon

So it seems the lumbering juggernaught of a story for our captain to be departing the Arsenal team, is finally chugging to it’s inevitable conclusion, as multiple outlets are reporting that Barcelona are set to announce his arrival over the weekend at some stage. I’ll hold fire from writing his Arsenal football career obituary just yet, but a £15million fee coupled with a move abroad will certainly ensure any return to the Emirates in future is a well received one.

It does mean Arsene has to go hunting for another centre half and, let’s all be honest here, we’re hoping his new found penchant for splurging would be a much welcome scenario in comparison to the penny-pinching years that saw the woeful likes of Squillaci and Silvestre darken our doors.

With cash to spend as a result of our own self-imposed financial restraints, coupled with the new TV and sponsorship money the club has received, one would hope that we are looking to bring in a decent centre half that can realistically challenge Big Per and Kos. We have the money. Hell, WEST HAM have the money right now, having spunked £15million on a centre forward, so we should have no problems finding the cash for a decent £10-£15million central defender.

The challenge will be to get them up to speed. If we’re making the assumption that the player is probably going to come from abroad (I think Arsene has had enough of the English premium with Chambers for one season, personally) , then usually it takes overseas players a season to adapt. However, if the replacement comes in as a bridesmaid instead of a bride, then it will probably take them even longer. Would Big Per be the player he is if he didn’t play as many games in his first season? And even he made mistakes. As did Koscienly. Ironically enough, it was Vermaelen who was a natural fit from day one, so perhaps Arsene needs to find the closest thing to a clone that he can get his hands on.

Anyway, enough of the speculative, how about the factual? Besiktas in the Champions League, eh? That’s an interesting one. Not ideal if you think of the travelling time and the environment, but I think I said – either on Twitter or on here – that I didn’t really have any fear of any bogey team like I have done in the past. Perhaps that’s because The Arsenal are now seasoned pros at this stage of the competition, or perhaps it’s because we’ve already been drawn against some of the toughest teams in the qualifying stages over the years, but I had no real concern who we were drawn against yesterday.

Besiktas finished quite some way off a Fenerbahce team we dispatched – this time last year – in their domestic league, so whilst there will be threats with a player like Demba Ba in their team, I would expect we should have enough to progress. We still have to do the business mind, but at this moment in time I’m a happy gooner with that draw.

Laters potatoes.

Vermaelen’s potential sale and the comfort blanket of self sustainability

So as we count down to the curtain opener of the Premier League season this weekend, it appears as though the Thomas Vermaelen situation is slowly juddering towards the inevitable conclusion I suppose most of us thought it would.

With both United and Barcelona interested in his services what with them having completely ignored purchasing defenders who were either more useless than a chocolate teapot, or just as old as a Galapagos Turtle, it’s fair to say that wherever Thommy V goes he’s a lucky boy. And might I say, it’s nice for us to be holding the cards for a change, as well as sitting back with our hands behind our heads smirking at the prospect of United and Barcelona engaging in a bit of a bidding war.

Utopia has to be the Belgian eventually moving to Barcelona for somewhere approaching £15million. That would ensure we haven’t offloaded to an English side, but also that we’ve made a profit on a player whose game time has been very limited for 18 odd months.

Look at me, I’m talking about a human being like a commodity, all callous and ‘where’s the money’. After all, it’s not like I will actually personally see any of that cash, and lord knows I could do with a smidge of it to use on my new/old house which has more creaks than Abou Diaby’s knees. And ankles. And muscles. Repeat to fade…

But I guess that is what modern football has done to the average fan. Well, the average Arsenal fan, anyway. We’re all concerned with getting our ‘monies worth’ and the value of a footballer seems to matter. It’s because the more money we get, the more we want reinvented in the club – I know that – but I do wonder sometimes if it helps us grasp tightly on to the moral high ground of footballing sustainability. With the Petro-dollar clubs having had a few years of carte blanche to spend what they want, we Arsenal fans have found solace in the comfort blanket of self sustainability. Playgrounds, offices and pubs across the world have sounded the defence of our straying from the trophy trophy laden path (thankfully we look to have found a cut through back to it now) with the shield of sustainability, so to be able to turn pseudo accountant and extol the virtues of spending what you make whilst managing a debt, has been important in the justification process of the clubs actions.

So when an indoctrinated fan like myself hears of bidding wars and extra cash for The Arsenal, we et all warm, fuzzy and smug inside. Because it means we’ll get extra cash for a player that can be reinvested (I would assume, unless Arsene is playing centre half Russian roulette with our current defenders’ fitness all season) that we know won’t be eating into the coffers and will allow us to maintain that moral high ground status as a buffer in case we don’t see any trophies this season.

There’s still rumblings about a defensive midfielder and various journalists are still trying the old ‘rehash’ or ‘different take’ on the Khedira/Carvalho, but I suspect that their knowledge is as advanced as yours and mine, which means their looking for attention with comments about withers agent in London for talks. It’s clear we’re open for another midfielder, but I think it’s touch and go as to whether we actually get one. I see Arsene doing the whole Gallic shrug thing and picking up a player as long as the price quoted isn’t extortionate in his eyes, but he knows he has the benefit of early business already being done and the fans being placated already, so he can play the waiting game and hope something comes gift wrapped with a red bow on top.

Just to close off on today’s thoughts and to go back to our captain’s almost inevitable departure, I think I’ll go on record to say that I’d probably prefer us not to lose Vermaelen this summer, as he brings experience and quality to that third centre half role. I understand that he would want to get game time and I know Arsene is very good at understanding and empathising with the needs of his players, so that’s why this sale is likely to be inevitable, but I will be sad to see a player who has carried himself so well, been a decent player for us whilst he’s been at the club and from my perspective will be missed.

Especially if the alternative is the injury prone Daniel Agger. A decent player, but nothing more than a different name in my opinion. Let’s see how that one evolves though.

Let’s just hope we don’t have to see him every week for that lot in Manchester.

Cheerio for today.

Bit of Bendtner situation with Thommy V?

Greetings and salutations fellow Gooners, from a stinking his somewhere in North West London, where this blog (and my journey) begins. Buses really are the ulcer of public transportation. Humid (I get the Metropolitan Tube line which is air conditioned), rarely on time, slow and uncomfortable. When I left Uni all those years ago I completely swore off buses. It seems, for this first week back from holiday at least, the fates are conspiring against me.

But no matter, at least we have each other, and I can regale you with my Arsenal musings. I’d invite you to contribute, but you know how this blog thing works by now, so do it in the comments or follow me on Twitter and let’s have a chat about all things Arsenal.

It would be better actually, because what’s really going on at Arsenal is pretty quiet. We’re getting snippets here and there; Adrian Clarke has a video analysis worth having a look at, but there’s nothing stirring it seems. Unless Arsenal pull off another Chambers coup that flies under the radar until the last minute. But I suspect that isn’t going to happen.

The only real chatter on the airwaves appears to be the potential departure of Thomas Vermaelen to Barcelona, who Sky Sports are stating have ‘moved ahead’ of Manchester United in line to pick up the Belgian. I’ve got to say, if I was in Thommy V’s shoes I’d be pretty happy with my prospects, because both are big clubs and after spending a season on the bench at The Arsenal, heading to either would be a bit of a ‘touch’. Personally, distaste aside for United (and I have a feeling van Gaal will quickly become as irritable to me as peanut butter’s very existence), I wouldn’t see Manchester as a more attractive option to ply my trade ahead of Barcelona. The Sagrada Familia, beaches, warm weather and Estrella, yep, that’d be the one for me. Unless of course Alex Song really is as annoying as people make out. Which I’d imagine he probably is.

The big question he’ll have is ‘how much am I going to play?’, because if his answer from either Luis Enrique and van Gaal is ‘you’ll fight for your place with other new signings’, then he’s not really making that much of a step up, is he? I take the point that there’s an element of a dented ego at Arsenal – being displaced whilst still the captain and writing the programme notes every odd weekend must have left a bitter taste in the mouth – and perhaps he feels he’ll be given a fairer crack at the whip at the other clubs in for his signature, but with Per not starting the season fully fit, if he truly believed that he could displace one of the two players at the heart of that defence he’d have already have told the world that he wants to see if he can win back his spot and his pride.

He may, of course, still get the chance to do that. Whilst still injured at the club he’s not passing any medicals any time soon, so we may find our Belgian centre half with a touch of thee Bendtner’s about his final contracted season at the club. Of course he is infinitely more professional – and better in his respective position – than Bendtner, but I hope the club take the view that his exit can’t be sanctioned unless a new body is at the club. And not a ‘Squillaci/Silvestre’ styled signing. If a class back up in Ospina can be found to challenge Szczesny, then we can surely do the same at the heart of the defence? We’ve had too many years where we’ve waited on other clubs to sanction moves (even Özil last year only went through after Bale arrived at The Bernabeau), so it would be nice to play the game with us in a position of strength rather than waiting on others to make their move.

That’s yer lot from me today. Perhaps I should be giving you chapter and verse about the potential signing of William Carvalho, but I know as much about him as I know about the bald guy sitting two seats away from, me in a white shirt and pink tie.

Actually, that probably shows I know more about a commuter than I do about Carvalho, because I have no idea what Willy’s wearing today. Sorry folks.

Catch you tomorrow.

World Cup goodness continues, but Arsenal injury rumours dampen spirits

Happy Monday to thee. How about this World Cup, eh? Every day it seems to be throwing up a really good game or two where you think you’re going to question the purpose of some of the teams in the competition. I’ve often thought that FIFA should do away with qualifying stages and just invite the top 32 teams to the World Cup (they’d have to sort their rankings system out first, mind) to ensure that the competition only has the best teams in the world competing, but having watched a six goal thriller between South Korea and Algeria, I’m glad they don’t because this is easily the best World Cup I’ve seen. It’s a shame that, y’know, England are pants and that, but heck at least Park is still at the World Cup!

Unfortunately though, it looks like Team USA won’t be for much longer, as the Portuguese managed a 1-0 victory over our cousins from over the pond. It’s a shame really, because any team with Ronaldo in it being happy, probably just shouldn’t be. Full stop.

The Ghana vs Portugal game later this week should be entertaining though, I suspect, because it effectively becomes a ‘winner takes all’ knockout game, so let’s hope that the Black Stars can deliver a wink-tastic victory over Cristiano and his back up singers.

UPDATE: I realise now, having been told by a few people on social media sites, that I may have got my scoring off, so you’re free to disregard the rant about the result, although the rant about Ronaldo remains as relevant as ever!!

No real Arsenal news at present, again, unless you count rumours of an Oxlade-Chamberlain ‘setback’. Provided it’s just a few weeks then hopefully that doesn’t dent his chances of fully recovering for the start of the season opener against Moneychester City for the worlds biggest metal decorative wall plate. His season was far too interrupted by injury last time out when big things were expected from him, not just by the fans, but also by the club I believe. And on last seasons opener against Villa he did look like one of the better players on the pitch before he picked up that injury, so getting a good pre season under his belt is crucial to ensure that he can hit the ground running, which means anything more than two or three weeks out would be a real dent for him.

We can all talk about transfers until the cows come home, but ultimately the vast bulk of any team that can win us the league will come from those players that have been around the club a while, so every team needs to have all of it’s players fully fit and ready for the new season. That Thomas Vermaelen never lasted until halftime yesterday is also a worry. It may be true that he is seeking pastures new for the upcoming Premier League season, but until we hear anything otherwise we have to assume that he’s going to be an important squad player for us, so watching him go down in the warm up, then taken off after half an hour in the game against the Ruski’s, it looked like it could be a serious twist that he sustained which could mean a lengthy spell on the sidelines if he’s exacerbated it further by playing on it. If that is the case, it’s another example of why we should take what every player says about their fitness with a massive pinch of salt because Vermaelen was obviously desperate to make an impact. You have to feel for the poor guy and I hope his World Cup isn’t over.

We now move into the week in which games come even thicker and even faster with an element of choice added in too, as four games take place today, with the Spanish playing their farewell to Brazil game at 5pm against Australia and Chile battling with the Netherlands for the top spot. I listened to a pundit on the radio yesterday talk about the problems with England’s team being psychological with all of the other traditional ‘bigger’ nations. If there is any element of that which is true, then it makes this World Cup even more harder to stomach, because there have been some big scalps that have already been taken and had England progressed to the next stages, the psychological barriers might not have been as large against a so-called smaller nation. Who knows, perhaps I’m just trying to find excuses of misfortune for what was ultimately a pretty average England side, but it does feel as though anything can happen in Brazil at the moment. The tournament feels wide open and available for shocks and that was the only thing English fans were banking on when it started and dreams of lifting the trophy began.

What am I saying?! I’ve already moved on and am backing my new adopted nation of Germany, so what do I have to worry??

Still…would have been fun n’ that….

Defensive solidity the key to our successful season

Howdy there fellow Gooners. Hope you are enjoying your Saturday. It’s a bank holiday here in Blighty, which is fan-diddly-tastic because it stretches the weekend more than Steve Bruce in under sized lycra.

Yesterday’s blog was supposed to be focused on reviewing how I think the defence performed but, with all of the noises coming out about Sagna’s mega deal at City, I kind of got side tracked. I guess the news that defenders are getting bumper deals is becoming quite the norm these days, what with Paris Saint Germain literally losing the plot and bidding £40million for the Brazilian Sideshow Bob, which will inevitably mean a massive payday for what is arguably the most overpriced player since Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll did the transfer deadline day merry-go-round a few years back. Financial Fair Play you say? Nah, that memo clearly didn’t get delivered in the capital of France. Either that or their billionaire owners simply retired to a cave in the Alps, stuck their fingers in their eyes and sang Sam Smith until the news sort of went away.

Anyway, today is a new day and it’s a day in which I want to have a look at our defence which, let’s be honest and say that it was probably the most impressive part of this Arsenal team this season. If we’re talking about a collective unit that is. For years since the Invincibles we’ve had defence after defence that has been dragged over hot coals by the press. In some cases it’s been warranted; Senderos, Gallas, et al have hardly proved to be the defensive stalwarts at the heart of the team, whilst a few of average full backs like Santos and Eboue have hardly managed to give us the types of players needed that we think could take us to the lofty heights that we’ve scaled this season.

Part of it is down to finding stability. We’ve managed to field the same four or five defenders for most of the season and that intimate knowledge of what your other defenders are going to do is integral to building momentum. Perhaps injuries have been the key sticking point to why we haven’t found a defensive unit capable of snuffing out a game like this team has until now, but the results of this seasons exploits are there for all to see: twenty four clean sheets in all competitions and a string of 2-0’s that seemed to become the new ‘one nil to the Arsenal’ pattern of play at one stage.

And yet we’ve still managed to show signs of implosion that have dwarfed previous seasons in terms of the volume of heavy defeats. We all thought the defeat away to City would be a one off and, after stabilising the ship and managing to hold on to the top spot up until February it felt like that was the case, but heavy losses to Liverpool and Chelski still showed that for all the hard defensive work that had been done by the team, we still have problems defensively at times. What was most strange about those heavy defeats were that they came completely out of the blue. We hadn’t really been on big losing streaks before any of them, so it’s difficult to say that confidence was rock bottom, but the way in which we played in those big games was borderline suicidal some times. High lines, defensive wobbles, it all looked as though the players had been fed some Tottenham flavoured lasagna. It’s almost as if the karma gods (yes, here I go again) have approach Arsene at the start of the season and said “you can have a load of clean sheets this year, but we have to reallocate all the goals you would have conceded to individual games. Deal?”, to which Arsene literally would have bitten their hands off.

Certainly, if we’re to win the league next year, we need to have a look at how the team reacts in those big games. Perhaps there needs to be a bit more pragmatism in those games rather than a Rocky Balboa inspired slug-fest when we go away from home?

Anyway, let’s not dwell too much on the disappointing results because, by and large, this season has been a good one. The central defensive pairing of Per and Kos have looked immaculate at times. Per is the leader of the four; the talker, the marshal, built in the Tony Adams mould and every bit the captain of the side in my opinion. He doesn’t have the pace but has excellent positioning, something that Adams was always a master of. But even the great Tony Adams was only as good as long as he had the right man beside him, which is why having Koscienly in the team has been so integral to his success. Kos has the pace, the ability to track the nippy runner and despite having a penchant for the occasional tackle in the box leading to a penalty, he has saved us on a number of occasions. Their central defensive performances this season will probably have led to the exit door being opened wide for Vermaelen, but providing both remain fit next season, you can’t help but think we’re in safe hands for another go at the league. As Liverpool have already shown, you can’t win the league with a leaky back four, so if we can augment the team with the right reinforcements and bed in whoever replaces Sagna, then I think we’ve got a great chance to going that extra few steps and winning the league.

So to Sagna. We all know he’s off and, much like many bloggers and Arsenal fans that I have read/spoken to, it’s hard to shoehorn him into the mould of That Dutch Bloke, Nasri, or any of the other players that have bolted for places like Moneychester City. Sagna has given seven years, he’s played well this season and he’s shown that even with most of the world in acknowledgement that he won’t be playing for the club next season, he’s done everything he can to give Arsenal glory. He’s even shown his versatility this season filling in at centre half. He will be a tough player to replace, but at 31 he’s probably only got another two years of top flight football to play before he’ll need to be replaced himself and so all that’s needed to happen this season is that we fast-track a replacement a couple of years earlier than expected. For what its worth I’m not sure that Jenkinson is that player long term, but I certainly think he has a role to play and, if given games, who knows. I still think we need to fill the void left by Sagna’s inevitable departure, but that discussion can be for another day.

On the left hand side of the defence we’ve not looked as strong as we have done since Cashley Cole and Silvinho were duking it out for the left back slot. Gibbs has improved a lot this season and is clearly the better of the two left backs, but he’s been pushed all the way by Nacho Monreal, who I think has done well when he’s been asked. There are some that have chastised the Spaniard’s performances in games like City away, but I think we should be mindful of the fact that he has not been able to get too big a run of games in the first team. Momentum – as I said earlier in the blog – is very important in football and his season has been very stop-start in that respect, so I don’t think you can hold it against him.

Overall we’ve seen a massive improvement from the team defensively and that has been made all the more evident by our league position and the increase in clean sheets. There are still some kinks to iron out but it’s hard not to think that the effort of the defence this year have been outstanding in the most part.

Back tomorrow with a look at the midfield.

Nobody fancies us

Well here we are. At the end of a long week that was made positively Jack Bauerian after defeat to Chelski and then a sucker-punch at home against a very average Swansea team. Yep, it’s just me and you chilling, waiting for tomorrow to arrive, trying to deflect the cruel retorts of rival fans who have decided to further stick the knife in on our title chances.

Nobody seems to fancy us tomorrow either. I’ve seen plenty of glum tweets on my timeline to suggest we’re facing an impenetrable wall and, whilst I’m not one to be blowing carbon monoxide into your back passage, I’m not sure whether the ‘we’ll lose 3-0′ is coming from if I’m completely honest. In fact, the one thing I’ve learnt from this topsy-turvy ol’ season, is that you can’t rule anything out. For example, we were sitting pretty at the top of the league and in-form when we went to Liverpool, yet they served us a metric tonnes worth of humble pie, so who’s to say we can’t do the same tomorrow? It’s a funny old game and all that…

Arsene was certainly taking that approach when he spoke to the official site yesterday and I think he made another good point: everyone is looking at Everton catching us at the moment, so why shouldn’t we look at doing the same to those above us?

Of course, the stark reality is that all of the teams around us appear to be bang in form at the moment, where as the only thing we’re ‘bang in’ on right now is an injury crisis coupled with a crisis of confidence. I’m not naive enough to believe that we’ll catch the teams above us, but on the eve of another big match at home I am full of that thing that all fans have in varying stages during the season: hope.

I hope that the players that haven’t had as much chance to prove themselves can step up to the plate and show that this team is capable of big results. I hope that we see the best of Thomas Vermaelen, The Ox, Santi and Giroud. But most of all I hope we can ditch the ‘big game bottlers’ tag that seems to be tightly affixed to our collective necks at the moment.

It’s hard to work out whether Arsene believes his own rhetoric when he speaks about taking positives from what was by and large a pretty poor performance against Swansea, so when he talks about Vermaelen ‘taking his chance’ you do have to wonder if it is more for the Belgian’s own confidence than actual belief that Thomas can usurp Koscienly for a starting spot. Against Swansea he did ok, but was still outmuscled for the Bony goal and when you’re up against an in-form Dzeko, who’s to say he won’t suffer the same fate? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. There’s also the fact that Swansea didn’t really venture forward too much during most of the game, which meant that defensively we had little to do anyway, so you could question how well any of the back four did.

Arsene will take to the scrummage of mic’s this morning in his first proper duel with the press since the debacle at Stamford Bridge and, whilst I’m sure many will think he’ll go a bit prickly on the assembled hacks, I think he’ll make it one of the most all-time boring pressers there is to be had. After all, what more is there to say, that hasn’t already been said? How much more can they dig the knife in more than he probably has dug in himself at this point? I’d wager not too much, so Arsene will be as vanilla as possible and hope that his team responds on the pitch which if we’re all honest, is all we want to see as well.

The team news will reflect the boredom of today’s presser in that there isn’t really any of note to report. Kos begins the second week of his ‘three-weeks-then-setback-leading-to-another-three-weeks’ time on the sidelines and Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Özil will be mentioned in dispatches as playing for Arsenal at some stage between now and the end of 2020, so it will be on the players who’s form is as indifferent as Wenger’s opinion of ‘out-tacticing’ whoever his teams are up against on any given week, to put in the effort to nab us three points against a Moneychester City team that are back to being ‘a little bit scary’ again.

I know I’m being a bit flippant with my remarks today, but I really do hope that Arsene can turn it around, because I hate to see a well-regarded man have his legacy tarnished by the latter part of his tenure. I want us to go on a seven game unbeaten run, win the FA Cup and have the manager declare that he’s ‘going big’ in the summer to make us a title challenging side (right to the end). I’m not sure that will happen, but I want it nonetheless.

You?

An amazing defensive piece of the ‘victory’ puzzle

Today I would most like to be talking about our defence. Because it has occurred to me that I simply haven’t given them the level of praise they deserve of late. In particular, those gentlemen that sit at the very heart of the defence; the foundation, the bedrock of our miserly back five and the fulcrum of which our successful campaign has been built to date.

Step forward Per Metesacker and Laurent Koscienly ladies and gentlemen.

Per and Kos

The defensive stalwarts

I think for me, when it hit home the most was on my way back home after a long day in The Smoke, reading a copy of Tuesday’s evening standard. In an article talking about how we had ground out another win, whilst somewhat critical of Arsenal’s ability to give hope to opponents by not killing teams off, the writer did praise the nature of our defence. He also highlighted an amazing stat. So much so that I didn’t really believe it at first. It reads: 28 games, 20 wins, 8 draws, 0 defeats. That is the number of games Per and Kos have played together for a full ninety minutes. Zero defeats at all. It’s remarkable stuff when you think about it. Not least because it spans a number of seasons. When these two lads have played together for the duration of the game, we haven’t lost, to which the writer of said article rightly said that when you have a defence as strong as that, it does afford an element of profligacy.

Just think the confidence it gives to the whole team to know that. To see what knowledge and understanding of one another’s game does for teammates. It isn’t a fluke. These two play together so regularly that they intrinsically know what one another is doing. Because I’m telling you now, there’s no way that you can play that many games and get results like that, by way of fortune alone.

One really good example I can think of in recent memory is the home game against Cardiff on New Years Day. Kos had been caught higher up the pitch as Cardiff broke and, with Campbell turning Big Per quicker than two week old milk, the German hauled down his marker on the halfway line. It was cynical and deserving of the yellow card it got, but from my side I watched it unfold and knew that Mertesacker, without any knowledge of Koscienly’s exact positioning, knew he had to ‘take one for the team’ because he knew he had no back up.

These two are Ying and Yang. Per loves his role as Gandalf (‘YOU SHALL NOT PASS’) in putting in those big blocks, plus his positional sense makes him a perfect captain; a role he’s deputised in during the ongoing Vermaelen absence and when Arteta is rotated. Conversely, Koscienly relishes his status as Aragon, the all action runner that mops up and uses his recovery pace when Big Per falters.

How long can these two stay unbeaten

together? I do wonder what the football betting at William Hill online make of it and whether or not we will see a season of these two together undefeated. One things for sure, keeping those two together will have a massive bearing on where we finish this season.

I will be really interested to see if we can keep them both fit for our two spells of really tough games at the beginning of February and the end of March. If we do, well, that’s a massive piece of the ‘victory’ puzzle already clicked into place, my friends. It’s why Arsene also now has to think very carefully about rotation, because a fatigued player is a player that is more likely to succumb to injury, so I hope he uses Vermaelen where he can. Providing of course the Belgian also remains fit!

So share a little love with me for our two defensive stalwarts. And pray that they can stay together at the back until mid May.

No more Mr Orange, but Arsenal still need to be wary

Trying to predict what Arsenal side takes to the field this evening is a little like trying to convince a hormonally charged teenager that Justin Bieber is in fact “a bit of a tit”. Or, if you prefer a more Arsenal related analogy, it’s like trying to explain to Nik Bendtner that actually, no, the world does not see him as the saviour reincarnate. He too, is just a bit of a tit.

But it’s a Matchday, I’ve got an hour tube journey to assimilate some thoughts, and by joining me on my journey you obviously feel like reading some of my prose. I can’t think why, The Management and family roll their eyes anytime I open my gob. But thank you anyway. So, shall we talk about this evening then?

When the fixture lists are set in stone (only to be recast once Sky and now BT Sport have their grubby mits on them) at the beginning of the season, there’s probably not many people that earmark this game as a ‘big one’ and if truth be told Hull are hardly a side with which we have any real animosity. There was that time when they tried to burn the retinas of all opposing teams by hiring a manager so orange he started his own gravitational pull and a mini solar system exploded from within him, but thankfully the Phil Brown era disappeared a long time ago, along with his Premier League managerial credentials.

It’s a totally different side that will take to the field tonight from a Hull perspective, with the only potential exception being Paul McShane, who seems to be one of those ageless midfield journeymen. Whether or not he’ll start tonight I’m not sure, but I know that they’ll be missing one of their main defensive stalwarts tonight through suspension: Curtis Davies.

I don’t really know too much about our opposition tonight, except that they made Kolo try to dismantle the Hull turf on Sunday with his mammoth fist. They have a tidy ‘keeper in McGregor and a load of ex (or on loan) Spuds players, so we’ll need to keep an eye out for that ‘let’s get a bit of revenge for our former club’ mentality, but there’s no doubt that we’re overwhelming favourites tonight.

We will need to be wary though. The dispatching of Liverpool on Sunday showed that this team are capable of an upset. Yes, the game was on their own turf and yes Liverpool were a bit pants, but we need to be wary of the scabby corner of set-piece delivery followed by a game of defence versus attack as Hull show no ambition to get forward after scoring their only effort on goal after seven minutes.

We should have enough though, even if as Arsene has suggested, he rotates a little bit. The one enforced change will be Jenkinson for Sagna, who picked up a knock against Cardiff, and the young right back will be eager to make amends for his horror-show against Chelski in the Capital One Cup over a month ago. I, like you I’m sure, hope that Carl can recapture some of the form that earned him an England call up last season, but concentration needs to be something he needs to get better at. It’s games like tonight where that is most important. In defence, at home, against an opponent that will attempt to frustrate, he might only be called into defensive action a couple of times during the 90, so it’s important that concentration levels remain high. On the positive side, he’s one of the best distributors of the ball from out wide in the whole squad, so if he’s spending most of the evening getting forward it could be good for his confidence and the managers that he can step in when needed.

As for the rest of the team, Arsene has said he will have to rotate, but caveated his comments by asserting that he prefers to do it by smaller numbers per game, which means that I’m not sure that we’ll see too much switching around in the same areas of the pitch. That means I think we’ll see either Monreal or Vermaelen miss out a start in the side because of the forced change at right back. Le Boss mentioned something about the full backs getting more tired in games in his presser, so I wonder if the captain misses out and Monreal gets another shot at left back.

In midfield your guess is as good as mine. Personally, I’d like to see a three of Arteta, Rosicky and Wilshere, with Theo, Cazorla and Giroud up top. That’s not a slight on Özil, but I just want to make sure he’s fully fit and firing on all cylinders for Everton on Sunday. Likewise for Ramsey who, let’s face it, has covered the equivalent ground as Forrest Gump did in that film, I forget the name…

This is a classic ‘nosebleed’ game in my opinion. Everyone expects us to win and complacency could easily set in. But the one thing you have to say about The Arsenal this season is that we have been able to dispatch the so-called lesser teams with a lot more ruthless efficiency this season. With that in mind, we should be hopeful of a win and demanding of a good and positive start, but we shouldn’t take anything for granted.

So have at it lads, bring home the three points, and we’ll all sing up for The Arsenal.

Will confidence allow us to rotate?

I’m up early before the sun, I’m back home after the sun, jeez it can be a bit depressing, you know? Still, I have a football team that is casting shadows over the rest of the Premier League at the moment, so it’s not all bad right?

Yes, I know it sounds a bit too much of a chirpy statement, but if you can’t make hay whilst the sun shines ‘n all that (although admittedly right now there isn’t and sun whatsoever)…

It’s good stuff at the moment. We’re looking strong, we’re putting teams to the sword and we’ve not slipped up against some of the more, shall we say, workmanlike, teams in the league. We may only be 13 games into the season, but the signs are positive. Every interview that comes out of the club from the players is one that oozes belief. Mikel Arteta is the current man to sound the confidence klaxon. He spoke to the official site about the statement we made by picking up three points against a resolute and decent Cardiff side on their own patch. The score line looked comprehensive, although we know it was far from it in reality, which Tricky Micky says that it has made another statement of our Premier League credentials. And he’s right. Opposition players are talking about us more. Nasri (aka ‘The Punk’ – ask Oaf12) has spoken about the gap that City need to overcome sooner rather than later and he’s certainly right. Our consistency thus far has meant that the teams at the top of the league know they can’t afford to drop points because we have capitalised to date.

Of course we all know it means nothing at this point and you’ll certainly nee find this humble blogger trotting out tired cliches about no trophies before May. But tomorrow night we play Hull at home and a win followed up by another win on Sunday against Everton would put our rivals in a position where they know that anything other than 100% victory would result in us nosing ourselves further ahead. Both games will be tough and a challenge, but I’m in confident mood, as this round of midweek games means that all teams will be feeling fatigue come tomorrow and Sunday. It’s not as if we’re playing an opponent who has had the week off to recover. Does the fact that Hull and Everton not regularly play twice a week mean that they are not as battle-hardened to this much football at this time of the year? Maybe, maybe not, but one things for certain, our confidence and our experience of regular midweek matches will certainly put us on the front foot tomorrow evening and hopefully on Sunday.

Arsene will no doubt plant himself in front of the waiting media today and give us an update on who’s fit to play and who isn’t. Predicting the starting-line up has been as easy as predicting how many grains of rice there are in a jar at a summer fete these days, but until Le Boss gives us an update of who will be ready for tomorrow I’m not going to try. What I will hope for though is that we see a little bit of rotation. I want us to use some of those players that have been knocking on the door of Arsene, those that are ever-so-slightly on the outskirts of the first eleven, be given a chance. If some players are feeling a slight degree of tiredness, then they need to be saved for the Everton game. I’m thinking Vermaelen and Monreal specifically to be given the nod. With all due respect to Hull City, If you can’t rotate at home against a newly promoted side, how can you expect to challenge for the Premier League crown?

All of the squad should be buzzing. All of the players should be chomping at the bit to be part of the match day eleven and my hope is that those on the periphery are even more resolute and determined to play well when they are given the chance. Just look at Szczesny. As soon as he got himself some competition, as soon as he knew his place wasn’t guaranteed, he stepped up and has been superb ever since. Times that by the rest of the team and you have a hunger and mentality that can drive forward those squad players to go that extra mile. Perhaps that is what also had an impact on squad players of the last few seasons? Yes, I know many were not good enough, but if they’d have been able to give an extra 10-20% in games because they knew they were coming in to a winning team, how much would that have affected our overall ability to be successful? Players are human and if you can provide the right environment, then you will see them thrive, and that is what I think is happening now. That is why when a player comes in like Monreal did against Marseille, they look composed, because they’re coming into a team of confidence, they are desperate to show they deserve a place, they give that extra 10% as a result and we as fans benefit by feeling like we have a squad that can compete, not just a scrape top four each season.

Anyway, I’m rabbiting on, so I’ll leave it there for one day. You have a good one and I’ll catch you in the pub on Wednesday.