Saturday, 19 July 2014

Snachez, Debuchy and more

Firstly apologies for being away for a while it's been a busy few weeks for myself and also for Arsenal.

Of course now we all know that we have signed Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona for a fee of between £30-35m and what a signing he looks to be. Anyone suggesting he was surplus at Barcelona is very wide of the mark, he has been one of their most important players and the only reason I believe he was sold was because they were in desperate need of funds to buy Suarez. His record speaks for itself and he scored 39 goals and in 88 appearances for Barcelona and bearing in mind he was played as a winger that's certainly nothing to sniff at. It'll be very interesting to see how Wenger deploys him he could easily be played as a lone striker, as a partner for Giroud or on the flank. Seeing him in any of those roles is certainly an exciting prospect.

Our second signing of the summer comes in the shape of former Newcastle right back Mathieu Debuchy and as far as I'm concerned he's a perfect fit for us. He's an experienced and competent defender who has played alongside Koscielny for the French national team and already has 18 months of playing time in the Premier League meaning there will no "bedding in" period. Personally this deal was on the cards as soon as I first heard us linked with him, it's only been held up because that headbutting bell end Pardew hates Arsenal and Wenger so it must have hurt him to have to let him come to us.

There was a real hype this week due to the stories surrounding Sami Khedira but that seems to have been dead in the water from the start, to me all this angling seems to be due to the fact he wants a new contract at Real Madrid. Gamesmanship from his agent and a few deliberately leaked stories seem to be doing the trick. If the stories involving us and him are true and he wanted £105,000pw AFTER tax then quite frankly Madrid can keep him. He's a good player no doubt and if we signed him I certainly wouldn't complain but I'm not gonna lose sleep over it if we don't get him.

Naturally this has fueled talks of our attention turning to different players. Morgan Schneiderlain from Southampton seems to be one of the names and there's a lot of hype around him. I'm not so certain he's up to scratch personally and I'd prefer to see go for Bender, another name being banded around. We know Wenger is interested after having a bid rejected last year, that being said I also know that Leverkusen are very difficult to negotiate with. These two could run and run.

There are also strong links with goalkeeper David Ospina, the Colombian keeper who shined at the World Cup and reports that we could be interested in a £3m deal for him. It's no secret that with the departures of Mannone, Fabianski and Viviano returning after possibly the most pointless loan spell in history, we are now one injury away from reserve keeper and with the SZCZ prone to having an injury or a mid season wobble we need to reinforce that position. I am feeling pretty confident of this deal and I wouldn't be surprised to see it tied up within the next couple of weeks.

Finally we have also been linked with 20 year old Atletico Madrid right back Javi Manquillo. Interesting one here considering we have Jenkinson who is in essentially the same position as Manquillo getting a smattering of first team starts every season. This one doesn't really make sense to me so I can't see it happening but I suppose you never know.

Right that's it for now I'll be back with more stuff as and when, until then remember we're taking a strong side to Borehamwood today and it's available to watch free on Arsenal Player.

Monday, 7 July 2014

RIP Alfredo Di Stefano

Once again this year the footballing world is in mourning for a true legend of the game. Following the passing of the Portuguese great Eusebio earlier in the year, today the world lost the man who was called the greatest ever by Pele, Maradona, Sir Bobby Charlton and Eusebio himself. Alfredo Di Stefano the Real Madrid great died following a heart attack on Saturday.

Sadly I am too young to have seen him play but from what I was told by my grandfather and from what I've read and seen of him, Di Stefano was an icon of the game. Alfredo played, won and scored in 5 of Real Madrid's 10 European Cups which says everything about him as a player. He won 8 La Liga titles and is second only behind Raul in Real Madrid's highest ever goalscorers.

I could probably write paragraphs about the man but the tributes alone could form an entirely new post so I'll end by saying that my thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time.

RIP Alfredo Di Stefano
1926-2014

   

Saturday, 7 June 2014

The Silly Season Begins

As always, the moment a transfer window opens, Arsenal are immediately linked with a plethora of players and bearing in mind the Premier League season ended four weeks ago we've already been linked with: Aurier, Benzema, Morata, Fabregas, Mandzukic, Remy, Insigne and Eto'o but to name a few. This will of course continue throughout the summer and until the window shuts on deadline day, our job is cipher through the crap and pick out the stories that have some element of truth. Not an easy task.

At the moment I'm not going to attempt to pick out the ones that are truthful because quite frankly I don't think any of them will come to fruition. But what was made clear the other day by Ivan Gazidis is that the club are in his words "deep in talks" with players. Clearly the club are willing to make moves and after all the talk of a £100m "warchest" it appears that the club have instead settled on a a modest £60m transfer budget and I knowing Wenger we won't spend a penny more than that. People linking us with 50 and 60 million pound transfers I feel are well wide of the mark. Personally unless inflation takes hold I can't see us breaking our £42.5m transfer record for a long long time.

As it stands we have no notable transfers of note, we've unveiled our list of players who we released. No real surprises on there Bendtner and others who we just don't use or haven't played. I think the majority of the business will be done post world cup and I'm hoping although not believing that a lot of the transfer hype will die down over this period and we'll get a brief rest bite before the quick fire finale after the World Cup.

This was only a brief post to say that I am keeping on top of transfer news but at the moment nothing has been suggested from papers, the club or *cough* my sources. When this changes I'll be sure to post. Enjoy the World Cup! 

Sunday, 18 May 2014

FA Cup Winners 2014

Nine years is a long time. Regardless of how you look at it. In 2005 I was in my first year of secondary school, this year I've graduated from University. In that time period I've watched the club I love come agonisingly close to winning another trophy, pretty much every trophy under the sun. The Champions League final in 2006 which sadly I don't think I'll ever get over. Countless title challenges, League Cup finals. But yesterday all of that became utterly irrelevant.

I stood watching the game tick by having gone two down within ten minutes, seen Santi Cazorla pull one back through a sensational free kick and then Koscielny pivot and fire between the keepers legs. I had the horrible feeling we'd go to penalties and once again hope would be dashed in the cruelest possible way in football. We spurred chance after chance and everyone was fearing the worst. Then, as if written, the man who has changed his career and the clubs fortune so many times this season popped up in the right place at the right time. 

Some neat link up play saw Giroud side on to the goal being hassled by a defender before backheeling it to Ramsey who, right on cue, poked it home sending Wembley, the Emirates and thousands of pubs, bars and supporters clubs around the world into absolute pandemonium. It was a moment I doubt many people who were fortunate enough to experience with other fans will ever forget. The moment was almost coupled with one of pure agony when Fabianki came tearing out of his goal and was easily rounded by Aluko, whose shot seemed to travel forever and I thought was destined to bumble into the bottom corner but bobbled harmlessly wide.

From there we held the ball well and did our job and the outpouring of emotion on the final whistle was something to behold. At the Emirates where I was, there were scenes of joy from the young to had never seen Arsenal win a trophy to the old who had seen many. The girl behind me was in floods of tears, people piled onto the pitch and for myself personally a moment I'd waited for from the day I was 12 years old was one of pure ecstasy.

Watching the team lift the trophy one by one was brilliant but nothing compared to the deafening cheer Arsene Wenger got as he himself lifted old cup. The man who had brought every single player in that team to the club and who has been at the butt of criticism from fans within our ranks and of course those from other clubs, deserved every moment of happiness. As did the players who earned it. It was a day for everyone connected to the club to revel in and enjoy. 

There will be time for reflection this season in due course but for now this is the time for the players, the staff, the manager and most of all every single fan like myself to enjoy and celebrate. For the 250,000 (yes that is a quarter of a million) strong that took to the streets of London today for the parade, soak it up and remember every moment. I tried to find one photo to sum the day up nicely but couldn't so here are three. Till my next post, enjoy being FA Cup Winners 2014!

Thursday, 15 May 2014

FA Cup Final Preview

Here we are, the biggest game of our season and it just happens to be the last one. There will be plenty of time to dissect the league and CL season in due course but or now our focus should be totally and utterly on the FA Cup Final on Saturday.

This game is monumental on scale. I am not remotely exaggerating when I say this is far more than the make or break of this season. This is the make or break of this squad. If we lose on Saturday it will cripple the team mentally. If we lose I can't see us winning anything for the next 5 years at least. The team need to learn how to win, they need to know that feeling and have that desire to be there again without bottling it. That's part of the reason Liverpool fell at the last hurdle in the league. None of them were winners, they bottled it and so did the manager. Let's hope that come the end of the match on Saturday our team will know what it's like to win.

Team news is pretty limited at the moment being a Thursday but the early news suggests that Vermaelen and the Ox are doubts for the weekend and will face late fitness tests. Elsewhere the rest of the team are fit bar Walcott of course. Even Diaby is fit. This means that Wenger can pick his most experienced team and the team that he thinks is best. We have no excuses with injuries anymore, we have to go out and do what we've been doing most of the season.

It's so important in games like this to play the opposition not the occasion. If the occasion gets the better of a team then it only usually ends badly. I think the game will start fairly cagey with neither team wanting to end up trailing early on. Once the nerves settle, we need to get into our rhythm and get our game going. As I've said many times this season, if we play our game we'll have too much for them, but with Arsenal things are never that cut and dried. We like to make life difficult for ourselves.

Well my next post will either be one of joy or one of despair. Let's hope its the former. Till then COYG!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Norwich (A)

Well, the time is almost here when the Premier League draws to a close. It's been a very mixed season for us and I'll talk about that in a later blog, but for today it's a combination for me of feeling disappointed as the season ends but also rather happy that we won't be put through the nerve shredding rigor of scrapping for fourth with Spurs. We'll finish fourth win, draw or lose today and I think that'll reflect on the squad.

I understand that game time is important ahead of the final next weekend but it seems utterly stupid to risk the like of Ozil, Ramsey, Cazorla etc. in a meaningless game. Therefore I think we'll see players like Jenkinson, Diaby, Rosicky, Sanogo maybe Kallstrom play. I also think purely for fitness we'll see Gibbs and Wilshere play. It'll be an interesting team and I'm sure should it go wrong we won't look back with too many regrets. That said we can't allow the players to be on their holidays already, next week is the biggest game we'll have played for years and they need to be prepared for it.

On the other side of that make no mistake the players will have half an eye on Wembley next week too and I don't think they'll be playing to their full potential today if they can help it. In many ways I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't win today. But our fans have traveled up there and hopefully they'll all be rewarded for doing so. A win today would take us to 79 points which would be our highest tally for 6 years.

So this is essentially a meaningless game for us playing just to finish on a high ahead of next weekend. Finally I'd like to just say that whilst everybody gets wrapped up in the Hillsborough saga, we should never forget that 29 years ago today 56 people went to Valley Parade and never came home in the Bradford City fire.

Until next week enjoy the final day, for once!

Monday, 5 May 2014

West Brom Review

Well with everything wrapped up League wise for Arsenal yesterdays game turned into a rather null affair and the scoreline reflected that. With Man City victorious at Everton, Champions League football was secured by us for the 17th consecutive season which is really some achievement.

As for the match it was a bit hit and miss, despite being as high as we can be this season (baring a 20 odd goal swing next weekend), Wenger played a full strength side and I think this is partly due to the fact it was out last home game of the season. After an initial Podolski half chance, Giroud netted his 22nd of the season with a fine header and really that was about it. We had a couple more chances, they had a couple but that's how it finished.

It was sad to watch Bacary Sagna lead the lap of honour knowing full well we'll never see him in an Arsenal kit at home again. He's been a tremendous servant and I wish we'd done everything in our power to give him what he wanted but such is football. I'll refrain from saying I wish him all the best before seeing who he signs for. Whatever the case is it'll be some effort to replace him and I hope we've got some ideas already.

Similarly, Vermaelen got a 10 minute cameo and I'm pretty sure his time at the club is up which again is a shame but when it comes to team selection Koscielny and Mertesacker would be my first choice every day of the week. If he leaves I will completely understand it, he wants to play and at his age he needs to be playing week in, week out. Kallstrom got a cameo again with Wenger confirming he'll also be leaving, back off to Moscow at the end of the season.

We have our final league game next week against Norwich and if all goes wrong for them, they'll be relegated by that time and that suits us nicely where we can rest a few legs before the Cup final in two weekends time. That now has to be our focus and we need our best and liveliest players fully fit. A defeat in the final would be disastrous in every way, not only would it be yet another season, it would crush the players mentally and that would seriously concern me for the next campaign. Well until next weekend enjoy your week!