Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Everton (A)

Last night we played out a 0-0 draw with Besiktas in tough conditions. When you factor in the partisan crowd and the appalling state of the pitch it's no surprise than many people are happy with that result. Personally I'm always nervous of a 0-0 away from home, look at Chavski last season, but I'm more concerned about the loss of Aaron Ramsey for the next leg after he got himself sent off with 10 minutes to go. On reflection it looked harsh but with the referee being card happy, Aaron should have known better. Hopefully next week we, on our pitch, in front of our home support we can do the business.

Before that we have another tricky away trip to Everton. I'm worried about this match. Quite a lot. In our first two competitive matches following the silky display in the Community Shield we have really struggled to get going. Yes we have new players gelling with the team and yes we have players out but we can't wait around forever. We need to hit the ground running and if we don't against Everton we'll get punished. So far there have been glimmers of what we can do, but key players so far haven't performed.

Cazorla seems to be struggling for whatever reason at the moment, his delivery against Palace was shocking and he didn't really get into the game last night. I do think that with Sanchez on the other wing, whoever is on the left may be neglected but it's up to whoever is in that position to get stuck into the game. Giroud is another player who hasn't got going yet, he was an improvement on Sanogo against Palace but last night he managed to fluff his lines multiple times and his touch was what I'd expect from a 12 year old. The big Frenchman has a key role to play this season and I do think goals boost his confidence so the sooner he can find that opening goal the better.

In terms of team news we have a number of players out for the weekend. Gibbs is expected to out for the fabled 2-3 weeks so expect to see him by the end of December. Arteta was taken off last night and with only Flamini to fill in or potentially Chambers all of a sudden our depth looks a lot lighter than it was before the campaign. I don't think any of our three world cup winners will take part, the earliest I expect to see them is next week against Besiktas.

Our defence looks very threadbare and we're only two injuries away from being in big trouble. Fans are crying out for a defender to replace Vermaelen and various reports link us with Olympiakos centre back Kostas Manolas. I know nothing about him, but at 23 he has a lot to offer if we are interested in him and if Wenger is willing to buy a player they usually have something about them. However last night the Le Prof stated that we weren't close to signing anyone but he is aware we are light at the back and I suspect we'll bring in at least one more player before the close of the window.

Right, I'm off on holiday tomorrow and will miss our next three matches so until then let's hope we do the business. COYG!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Palace Review and Besiktas (A)

Our season got off to a good start on Saturday against a managerless Crystal Palace side. It was by no means a vintage Arsenal performance and you could tell that it was an early season game, but the result is all that matters and we got the right one.

We got off to a good start and created a few half chances. Our three new boys: Debuchy, Chambers and Alexis (as he prefers to be known) all started and both the boys at the back looked solid. Alexis looked dangerous and creative although he still looks a few games off being fully fit and bedded in with the team. That said Palace marked him off the pitch on Saturday and to be fair to them were very well drilled at the back. 

It came as a bit of a surprise to most when after 35 minutes Palace took the lead. We were undone relatively easily from a set piece and Brede Hangeland flicked his header across goal and in at the far post which had nobody on it. This demonstrates how important Mertesacker is when we defend set pieces, his height is such an important asset in a relatively short team and we looked vulnerable from set pieces all game. Luckily for us 10 minutes later Koscielny spun off his man and headed home to bring us level in the 46th minute.

In the second half we Palace were again solid and it looked as if we'd be denied a victory. Palace had a couple of half chances and we had a penalty appeal waved away. As we pushed and pushed, time ticked on and we looked as though we'd run out of ideas. Jason Puncheon lost his head in the 89th minute and seconds later Arsenal took the lead in the 91st minute. After a scramble of headers, Debuchy's falling volley was saved by Speroni but his parry fell to, who else, Aaron Ramsey who poked home from all of 2 yards. Harsh on Palace but we'll take all 3 points in the opener of the season. The team showed great spirit and grit to earn a result.

We now have a quick turnaround as we head to Turkey for tomorrow nights game with Besiktas. Going to Turkey is never easy for a team and after a few years out of the big time Besiktas will be well and truly up for this match make no mistake. I'm always of the idea that playing away second is a slight advantage but we'll have to make do. We have a bit of team news already and it looks as if Koscielny will be OK to play despite fears that his achilles problem had flared up again. Keiran Gibbs will not travel however after going off on Saturday having tweaked his hamstring. The Germans will not play a part in the match but the rest of the team look set to travel.

Tomorrow night is going to be a very tough one but over the two legs we have the quality to do the business and a positive result tomorrow night will put us in good stead for the return next week. I may post tomorrow but if not there will be an early post on Wednesday looking ahead to the Everton game before I head away for a couple of weeks. COYG!

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Arsenal ease past City + Vermaelen Leaves

We got out first look at what seemed to be a strong team this afternoon as Arsenal breezed past a City team that never really got going. Arsenals line up included 3 of our 4 new signings: Chambers, Debuchy and Sanchez.

Throughout the first half Arsenal were the only side in it. The slick passing game was causing the inexperienced City defence problems. In the middle of the park the gunners bossed the play, preventing Toure and co. from getting going. Then the deadlock was broken. Sanogo played the ball along the front of the box and as Boyata flattened Ramsey the ball fell to the Spaniard Cazorla who flashed the ball past Caballero to put us 1 up.

20 minutes later Ramsey got in on the Wembley action, Sanogo again held the ball up well and slid it across to Ramsey. After a deft touch to lift the ball over the leg of Nastacic, Aaron fired the ball across Caballero again to make it 2-0. City got slightly better in the second half and Arsenal brought on 3 players: Giroud, the OX and Monreal. Sanchez, Koscielny and Sanogo made way. As Arsenal played their way back into control of the midfield the ball broke to Giroud who after teeing up a shot, crashed it past the City keeper from all of 25 yards. A truly great goal which rounded off a very nice performance.

Of course theres little point reading into this game as both sides were without key players, it appears that the only issue is that Koscielny has a minor Achilles problem and may miss the season opener against Palace. Aside from that there were brilliant performances from Chambers who I actually thought should have been MOTM and Debuchy. Considering Alexis Sanchez is still not fully ready according to Wenger he certainly looks like a very exciting player and I can't wait to see him properly this season.

In other news Thomas Vermaelen has left the club for Barcelona. I can't say I'm surprised but it still saddens me a little to think we're letting him go. However the captain featured very few times last season and for a player like himself he needs game time. Whether he'll get that in Catalonia I'm not sure but fair do's to him. He conducted himself phenomenally well over the last couple of difficult seasons for him and his message to the Arsenal fans and family was pure class:

After 5 years at Arsenal - and the last 2 years a proud captain too - it's time for me to move on. The club, the team, the fans, the manager, the staff and other employees, you all made me feel at home at both the training ground and the Emirates Stadium. It was a wonderful time and I feel blessed I've had the opportunity to be a part of such a great club. There have been so many wonderful games and experiences, with lifting the FA Cup as an absolute highlight. I would like to thank you all for your support, it was a huge honour to be a Gunner!

I wish Thomas all the best at Barcelona because a player of his quality and class deserves to play at the highest level for as long as possible. Wenger said earlier in the window is Tommy V left that he'd bring in a replacement so let's hope he does just that. Until next weekend when the Premier League season kicks off, have a great week.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Emirates Cup & Community Shield Preview

Our pre-season preparations were kicked well and truly into touch at the weekend as we took part in our inaugural Emirates Cup tournament. This years competitors were Portuguese treble winners Benfica, Ligue 1's runners up Monaco and err 8th placed Spanish side Valencia. In line with previous season each team plays twice and Arsenal took on Benfica on the Saturday and then Monaco on the Sunday.

Saturdays match against Benfica provided something of a spectacle as Yaya Sanogo netted 4 times against the Portuguese side along with Joel Campbell as Arsenal thumped Benfica 5-1. The side was an interesting one with the manager experimenting with formations and positions. Wenger handed new boy Luke Chambers a start at CB along with Nacho Monreal strangely. The loudest cheer of the day was reserved for Alexis Sanchez who came on during the second half and looks like one hell of a player and a very exciting prospect.

On Sunday Arsenal took on Monaco with a totally different looking team to the one that played the day before. There were starts for Debuchy and Sanchez along with Giroud who returned from holidays. We went down 1-0 to the French side with Falcao scoring a header. That said we were denied a clear penalty and were unlucky not to score. However I'd much rather get bad luck out of the way before the season kicks of properly. It's important to remember that these matches are no more than match fitness tools, the results are of no importance, plus Monaco's season kicks off this weekend so it was their last chance to get in some game time. This was reflected in their team which was from what I could tell near enough first choice.

Technically from a competitive point of view our season also kicks off this weekend in the Community Shield against Man City but once again I don't think this will serve as much more than a chance to finish pre-season preparations and give players a chance to stretch their legs. Team news ahead of this is that none of our German contingent will be back for this and some may not be back for Palace the week after either. I don't think we'll see Giroud or other players who took part in the World Cup. I think it'll be a fairly strong team that take on the current PL champions but it would be stupid to believe that risks will be taken.

As it's of little importance there will be no preview for Sunday's game, should there be any transfer news of course I will post but if not look our for the preview of the seasons opening game against Crystal Palace. Till then. Up the Gunners!     

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Arsenal sign Ospina and Chambers + Emirates Cup

Our off-season business is well underway as we added our third and fourth signings of the summer: David Ospina and Calum Chambers respectively.
 The first came as no surprise with Arsenal being heavily linked with him following his display at the world cup. The departures of Mannone and Fabianski meant that the keeper position was weak with Damian Martinez being 2nd choice behind SZCZ. Ospina comes with a big reputation, casual fans probably won't know much about him but French football followers will know all about the shot stopper who was brought in Hugo Lloris' replacement. According to Wenger who uncharacteristically spoke about this transfer before it was officially announced stated that SZCZ will be no.1 but it will of course depend on performances. Either way I feel this is a good signing for us and keep an eye out for his potential debut at the Emirates Cup.

One that did come from left field however was the signing o Calum Chambers from Southampton. The 19 year old versatile player was bought for a fee that could rise to £16m with add-ons. The youngster is another product of Southampton's renowned youth academy. It was in odd signing in a way which many suspected cause signal the end of Jenkinson who has joined West Ham on loan. I'm not so convinced. Wenger spoke just yesterday about how Sanchez appealed due to his versatility and I believe that's why he bought Chambers who can play RB, CB and even CM so it'll be interesting to see where he's deployed.

In other news the Emirates Cup kicks off today and as per usual there will be a collection of players who will get game time. Unfortunately David Ospina won't be one of them and of course neither will the German contingent who will be out till potentially the first or second week of the season. However there could be a cameo performance for one Alexis Sanchez which no doubt will get the fans excited and there will also be chances for the likes of Joel Campbell to impress the boss or potentially the AC Milan scouts who many outlets report will be in attendance today.

I have doubt the team that plays today will differ probably totally from the one that plays tomorrow. But still it's a money spinner and we'll get to see (hopefully) part of the team that will take part this season. Anyway enjoy the football and the sun if you have any and I'll be back soon with more Arsenal guff. Till then

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