New Signings? Much Ado About Nothing!

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While the world drools over the possibility of Paul Pogba becoming the world’s first  £100m player, Arsene Wenger has continued to be the target of the jibes of rival team supporters  for his failure to land Jamie Vardy as well as signing next to no one this window.

To be fair, we are only three weeks in and have already signed Granit Xhaka from  Borussia Mönchengladbach. Takuma Asano might as well be George Weah’s cousin as most of us had never heard of him before he signed. Bolton youngster Rob Holding has been linked to us and if he is any good as people say he is, we’ve probably earned ourselves an upgrade from Calum Chambers.

Next season will be lit up with the arrivals of José Mourinho at Manchester United, Pep Gaurdiola at Manchester City as well as the return of Antonio Conte to club football with Chelsea.

At the end of last season, we lost three first team  players in Rosicky, Arteta, Flamini but they barely figured at all last season and unless further departures occur, I reckon we are stuck with the players that we have.

Jon Toral has been sent out on loan again and Chuba Akpom, Yaya Sanogo, and Serge Gnabry will be like new signings. Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott were not involved at the Euros and I expect them to start the season pending the late arrival of the likes of Giroud and Sanchez.

The futures of Jenkinson, Debuchy, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Campbell, and Gibbs are less certain and I’m convinced that we will strengthen further only they decide to seek greener pastures elsewhere.

Am I concerned? Of course I am!!! Am I worried? No!!!

I predict that we will yet again finish in the top four at the end of the season. What position we eventually finish in is left to the team performance over the next few months and I fully expect us to line us this way against Liverpool at the worst case.

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Your thoughts?

Till next time…Victoria Concordia Crescit.

Hate to Say I Told You

Somebody please give me  £10 for getting our starting line up right for the Chelsea game. Okay, it wasn’t that hard, Arsene Wenger is very predictable so I’m never surprised at his activity or lack of it. Anyway, it wasn’t the best of games and despite the fact that we lost 2-0, I’m surprised at how well we played given the circumstances.

While I stand with Gabriel, I believe that he too easily played into Diego Costa’s devilish trap. The Brazilian Spaniard, has perfected the art of pushing the boundaries of what  is legal and acceptable and once again got away with his crazy antics. Personally, I feel an experienced referee like Mike Dean could have been more awake decisive and Costa should have been sent off for any of his first few offences before the Gabriel incident. I’m not giving excuses but there’s no way Chelsea win 2-0 with 11 men on the pitch. If Costa is sent off for either of these two offences against Koscielny, we might actually have stood a chance in this game.  

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Putting all things in perspective, we lost 6-0 playing with 10 men while we lost by only two well worked goals playing with 9 men. Does this mean we are much more defensively solid or were we just playing against a weaker Chelsea side. I was satisfied with the team’s performance and I think we defended well as a unit even when down to 9 men and give full credit to the boss for keeping the shape of the team.

I am all for moving on quickly and whether he earns a retrospective ban or not is of no consequence to me. My main concern is about how the team picks itself up from two consecutive defeats. I don’t think the defeat to Chelsea is crushing in any way as it’s only 6 games in and with City losing the gap isn’t as big as it could be and there are 32 games to make up for it.

The Capital One Cup tie against Spurs is a must win and I’m curious to see what changes the boss will ring in for the derby. A defeat against Spurs will be a more crucial blow as it would see us knocked out of a potential cup run even before it begins. A major long-term worry is Francis Coquelin who was substituted at half time with what looked like a fairly serious knee problem. The game isn’t until Wednesday and I’m sure there will be more news closer to the day.

Till then…Victoria Concordia Crescit.

Chelsea Preview: Theo Walcott is First Choice

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So we bombed in Zagreb…big deal! We also bombed on the first day of the season at home as well as last season and every final group game against Olympiacos for the last couple of years. One defeat doesn’t always determine the final outcome of the group. It’s always about the number of points you amass over six games so I won’t be getting too worried about not making it out of the group at this stage.

However, one thing that worries me is the fact that our second string were unable to raise their game enough to beat a team from Croatia. Were there any positives from that shocking performance on Tuesday? Certainly! It’s clear to me, even now more than ever that Theo Walcott is and should rightly be our best and first choice striker. It wasn’t so much about the way he took his goal, but about the way he worked his way into the game after coming on in the second half.

I haven’t seen Wenger make three subs at once since Stoke away in the FA Cup in 2010Not that it ever works as we lost both games but my feeling is that Oxlade-Chamberlain is better suited to playing down the middle than on the right as he has to take some of the blame for the opening goal as he failed to tuck in after Debuchy was caught out of position. He’s been at fault for more than one goal already this season and clearly has no chemistry with any of our full backs. That is worrisome as he is a brilliant player but I think for Arsenal he needs to either be played in his natural position or be more disciplined defensively.

I think I get why Ramsey is often played out wide as he is able to assist Bellerin in his defensive duties from time to time while also being a solid option going forward. The downside is that he isn’t one of our fastest players but he makes up for that with his work ethic and his good understanding of the game.

I was thinking more and more about Walcott as the game went along and realised that from about the tail end of last season, he has started all our big games. You may choose to read as much as little into it but when the Manager consistently starts a winger in a striking position over an established striker, it tends to mean that he either trusts him more or considers him a more viable option.

I daresay also that our forward combinations are often to blame for how best we can utilise our chances. Ramsey has a good chemistry with Giroud while Sanchez and Walcott are often excellent together. Walcott is able to play alongside Giroud but any other combination seems to end up with our forward players getting in each others way. It’s too early in the season to suggest a formation change as most teams no longer play 4-4-2 but the thought of Walcott and Giroud up top is certainly appealing.

Our first team could end up looking like this;

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 Bellerin            Mertesacker           Koscielny                   Monreal

Sanchez\Ramsey        Coquelin        Cazorla                 Ozil\Sanchez

Walcott    Giroud

I’m no tactical genius and I don’t expect this formation to catch on as there are too many what if’s and but’s to make any sense of what the implications of such a radical shift would be.

Saturday’s game is an early kick off and I fully expect us to be hammered by Chelsea, not because they are a better side or because they won 4-0 on Wednesday but simply because it is an early kick off. For some reason, we never do well against the big sides in the early kick off games. I’d be very surprised if we came away with anything as good as a draw. I’m not superstitious, I’m just relying on the stats.

Sat 14th December 2013 – 12.45 Etihad Stadium (Man City 6 Arsenal 3)

Sat 8th February 2014 –  12.45 Anfield (Liverpool 5 Arsenal 1)

Sat 22nd March 2014 –  12.45 Stamford Bridge (Chelsea 6 Arsenal 0)

What was I saying about early kick off’s again? Yes, we’re gonna lose 145-17. But wait, that’s the record score by any team at a Rugby World Cup…and No, Stoke are not a rugby team. We just like to call them that.

Predicted Line up

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 Bellerin           Gabriel           Koscielny      Monreal

                Coquelin          Cazorla                

    Ozil    

Ramsey     Walcott     Sanchez

I don’t know what else to say. I’m just gonna hide my face and hope for the best.

Till then…Victoria Concordia Crescit.

Crockety-Crock: The Champions’ League Comes to Croatia

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Yesterday, the club confirmed that Jack Wilshere would be out of action for a minimum of 3 more months as scans showed that the healing process on his fractured fibula was not progressing as well as expected. Unfortunately, setbacks during recovery from serious injury have become the norm for most if not all Arsenal players over the last few years with players like Walcott, Arteta, Ramsey, Koscielny and Diaby all suffering at least one setback in their comeback process.

I am no specialist so it would be difficult for me to criticize the Arsenal medical staff for failing to properly nurse our players back to health. However, several questions keep being raised about how quickly our players are able to come back from injury. Is it the medical staff? Or do we just have a bunch of crockety-crock (yes I made that up) players who break their bones whenever Jose Mourinho moans about anything. My consolation is the fact that we have a beast in Alexis Sanchez who by all accounts is an unbreakable invincible and an ever-present battering ram in Francis Coquelin. 

That said, our attention today turns to Zagreb where we prepare to take on Croatian Champions Dinamo Zagreb at the Stadion Maksimir. This venue was the site of one of Theo Walcott’s finest moments as an England International as he scored a stunning hat trick for the Three Lions in 2008. I wonder if that would play in Arsene Wenger’s mind as he pores over team selection for tonight’s Champions’ League opener.

Héctor Bellerín and Aaron Ramsey have not travelled to Croatia, meaning Mathieu Debuchy and Arteta are likely to start. Wenger may choose to further rotate the team with an eye on the game against Chelsea who also play tonight at the weekend. I won’t be surprised to see starts for Kieran Gibbs and Olivier Giroud. I also expect Per Mertesacker to still be out as he’s been suffering with a virus and crashed his car on Monday…don’t worry he’s fine.

I expect that it will be an edgy game but I believe anything short of a victory tonight will be disappointing for us given that we still have the double-header with Bayern Munich and Olympiacos away to think about. I won’t hold my breath for a whitewash; a clean 2-0 win will do it just fine for me.

By the way did you see the Morata goal last night? Absolutely breathtaking.

Over to you Alexis, do some magic tonight. We deserve it!

Till next time…Victoria Concordia Crescit.

My Top Four Predictions

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Now that the transfer window is firmly shut, here are my top 4 predictions for the 2015/2016 season.

  1. Manchester City
  2. Arsenal
  3. Manchester United
  4. Chelsea

Manchester City have started strong and have taken maximum points from their first three games scoring 10 goals and conceding none. That early season pace usually serves to create a cushion against the inevitable slump all teams have at some point during the season.

Arsenal started very poorly with an opening day defeat at home to West Ham but wins against Crystal Palace and Newcastle as well as a well deserved draw at home to Liverpool have pushed the Gunners up the table into sixth place. The form of new signing Petr Cech will prove crucial in winning Arsenal an extra 10-15 points this season.

Manchester United had two very poor wins in their opening fixtures and were surprisingly held 0-0 at home to Newcastle before an inevitable loss away to Swansea. However, I think the new discipline instilled in them by Louis Van Gaal will see them through what is likely to be a turbulent season.

The only reason I’m tipping Chelsea to finish fourth is the fact that the cream always rises to the top. They may have their worst ever start to a title defence but they were Champions last season and it would be unthinkable that their quality would atrophy that fast. I think they will struggle to finish with over 74 points but they will get over the line eventually.

Please don’t beat me over the head if my predictions are way off in May.

Till next time…Victoria Concordia Crescit.

Jack and The Three Lions

The big news of the morning is the fact that 18 year old Jack Wilshere looks set to recieve his first call up to the senior England squad. The in-form midfielder who started all two games at the Emirates Cup looks set to be rewarded for not only his fine pre-season form but also his steady rise to relevance in the English game. His loan stint at Bolton was highly beneficial in giving him the much needed confidence which comes by playing first team games on a more regular basis. His performances in pre-season were roundly praised by Arsene Wenger. He said;

At 18 years of age you can have patience with a player, but I believe Wilshere is stronger than last year. The few months he played at Bolton has definitely given him something. He will be used by us [next season] for sure.

Apparently, Kieran Gibbs and Theo Walcott are also in line for call ups to the squad. Walcott I can understand but I think Gibbs is probably in with a sneak due to the absence of an established back up to Ashley Cole as well as the woeful performance of majority of the England team at the World Cup in South Africa.

Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart who is also expected to be called up is reportedly a new transfer target for Arsenal as the prospect of signing Mark Schwarzer looks ever bleaker. He was one player who was able to escape any form of criticism after the World Cup simply because he did not feature in any of England’s four games at the tournament. The 23 year old who has spoken of his concern about not being guaranteed a first team position at Manchester City due to the presence of Shay Given will be keen remain in Fabio Capello’s plans and not go the way of Ben Foster a year ago.

Arsene Wenger is reportedly on the verge of making a considerable offer for the young Englishman. How that will pan out is uncertain and as usual we’ll probably have to wait till the very end of the window for anything concrete.

Today is the 2010 Members day and my only wish is for Cesc Fabregas to repay the love and trust of the Manager, Players, and Fans by declaring his unflinching commitment to the Club. That to me is the only way we can stop all these Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona stories. Anything short of that will be a disaster for the player, the club and the fans. Even if he doesn’t, I am adamant we won’t budge in our stance – even if it is just to spite Barcelona!

Till tomorrow…Victoria Concordia Crescit.

Summer Holidays, Emirates Cup & Our New Signings

I’ve been away for a exactly one month. Make it two if you consider the fact that all forms of blogging on this website stopped at the beginning of June. Call it a summer break if you will! The amazing fact is that nothing seems to have changed. Arsenal are still adamant that  Cesc Fabregas is not for sale while Barcelona still do not get the point. We did sign Laurent Koscielny while Pape Diahkate seems to have fallen off the radar and it now looks unlikely that we will be signing Mark Schwarzer as new Fulham manager Mark Hughes is insistent that they will not be selling any of their important players. Joe Cole to Liverpool was a strange but not surprising decision while the fact that we were keen to retain the services of a 35year old named Sol Campbell highlighted the dearth of our options at the back. He ended up signing for Newcastle.

Two important events took place over the weekend. First was The 2010 Emirates Cup which Arsenal won for the third time drawing 1-1 with AC Milan and surviving a late comeback from Celtic to win 3-2.  I had seats in section 1 and apart from the Milan-Lyon game where I fell asleep half way through the first half, my eyes were glued to the action from start to finish. Falling asleep during the match had less to do with the quality of the action and more to do with the fact that only that morning I had taken a team of Nigerian Gooners to the semi-finals of The 2010 Emirates Cup Supporters Tournament. We were undone by a late strike from Arsenal Herts & Beds who then went on to lift the trophy.

It is of note that team was called Arsenal Nigeria by REDAction and The Green Gooners Blog by Arsenal Herts & Beds. I’d just like to point out that the team was registered as TheGreenGooner FC and is 100% unoffically Arsenal Nigeria. Just saying!

Up next on Saturday is a friendly against Legia Warsaw in Poland. In the larger context of things, I’m not quite sure how that helps our preseason preparations as I’m sure we could have opposition of the same quality much closer to home. However, I do remember that we always seem to play one extra friendly outside our regular routine of Barnet, Austria and the Emirates Cup. I hear that it might have been included as one of the conditions for signing Lukasz Fabianski. Please don’t quote me on that!

It was great to see Marouane Chamakh get off the mark at the Emirates Stadium. His technique and strength are definitely a plus to us this season. Eduardo’s departure to Shakhtar Donetsk isn’t as big a blow to us now as it was when he first got injured so I guess in the area of our attack we have improved our options. I wonder where that places Nicklas Bendtner in the pecking order. In my own opinion, Jack Wilshere and Emmanuel Frimpong were the star attractions as their talent, passion and commitment only reinforces the facts we already know that they will go on to be great players.

New boy Laurent Koscielny does need to bulk up a bit though as he looks a bit too thin to play in the Premier League. We are still short numberwise in that area and the boss has openly admitted that the we are on the market for at least one more player. Could that be Montpellier centre back Emir Spahic? He is quoted on Bosnian website SportSport as saying that he was an admirer of Arsene Wenger (who isn’t) and hopes his club cooperates with Arsenal. He sounds like a typical Arsene signing!

There really isn’t anything else to report on apart from the usual Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona stories that have been going on all summer and the fact that Sanchez Watt has joined Leeds United on loan again till the end of the season. I think they’ll probably sign him permanently if it goes well. An Arsenal XI also thumped Boreham Wood FC 3-0 in  a friendly with goals from Mark Randall and Benik Afobe.

Tomorrow is the 2010 Members Day and thousands of fans will flock the Emirates Stadium to witness an open training session. I hope Cesc uses this opportunity to reaffirm his commitment to the club. If you aren’t able to make it to the stadium the entire event will be streamed on Arsenal TV Online on Thursday morning.

Finally, the club has announced that Centrepoint, London’s biggest youth homeless charity is the nominated charity for the forthcoming football season. The following quotes are from the clubs official website

Through the ‘Be A Gooner. Be A Giver.’ campaign, the Gunners aim to raise £500,000 to create a state-of-the-art service in a refurbished building in Soho, to be known as the ‘Arsenal Training Centre.’ The Centre will help homeless young people across London to develop essential life skills to get back on their feet and stay off the streets permanently.

The charity will also work closely with Arsenal in the Community on a range of education and mentoring programmes.  A dedicated website has been created so that supporters can follow the partnership at www.beagoonerbeagiver.org.

Till tomorrow…Victoria Concordia Crescit

Bendtner: Double Power or Reverse Adebayor

For some reason, Nicklas Bendtner has decided that the number 52 will bring him better luck in the new season. He is also offering a offering a full refund to anyone who bought merchandise with his old number from any of the Arsenal Stores. Speaking to Arsenal.com he said

“I appreciate that a good number of fans have bought their kits for 2009/10 already with names and numbers printed up so I’d like to personally cover the cost of replacing anyone’s shirt that has my previous number. It means a lot to see supporters wearing your name and number, and I want to ensure people aren’t inconvenienced by the change.”

But why 52? Could it be because 26 x 2 = 52 hence he’d be more productive with the number or does it have anything to do with Adebayor’s departure? We all know he never got on well with the Togonian and they had that famous altercation in the Carling cup game against Spurs. Maybe it’s to spite him and to tell the fans that he’s going be the exact opposite as 52 is the inverse of 25! We’ll wait and see.

Elsewhere Theo Walcott was an unused sub as England fought from 2-0 down at half time to earn creditable 2-2 draw with the Netherlands in Amsterdam. Robin Van Persie was withdrawn at halftime. Eduardo was on target as Croatia won 3-1 away in Belarus to help strengthen their World Cup qualifying claims. William Gallas and Bacary Sagna both played for 90 minutes as France laboured to a 1-0 win over the Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying.

Andrey Arshavin was on the wrong end of a 2-3 home loss to Argentina in another friendly. Senderos also had a  full run-out as Switzerland played out a  0-0 draw with World Champions Italy. Johann Djourou had earlier been withdrawn from the squad.

I can’t seem to find a match report for the Tunisia vs Ivory Coast game which ended 0-0 but an Achille Webo brace secured a 2-0 away win for Cameroon in Austria. Aaron Ramsey played 75 minutes as Wales lost 2-1 to Montenegro in another friendly.

Seems like Alex Hleb is regretting his move to Barcelona. Speaking to ESPN he said:

“For me, leaving Arsenal was not a good move. A footballer only exists when he takes to the field and makes a proper contribution to the team and even though I was part of a Barca squad that was almost unstoppable, it was hard not to feel detached from all the happiness and celebration at the end.

“Barca were my dream club as a kid, but I couldn’t continue with them if the chance to play was not coming. I’m 28 and who knows how much time I’ve left in the game. I needed to move on and the chance to go back to a place that I feel happy in was the best solution.”

Serves you right for leaving! His career has clearly taken a backward step as he is back at Stuttgart on a season-long loan deal from Barcelona who clearly did not want him.

Apparently, Barcelona have offered us 27m for Cesc Fabregas. If it’s true then its a ridiculously low amount to bid. Could they just be testing the waters? If he plays against Celtic on Tuesday then he’d be cup-tied for Europe and they’d have to abandon their bid.

Ray Parlour thinks Andrey Arshavin and William Gallas will be key players for Arsenal in the new season and I quite agree. Defensive stability and attacking creativity are two areas we have fallen short on in recent times. If they are at their best I’m sure they can act that solidity and experience to the entire team. He also thinks we need to strengthen in certain areas (what else is new Ray)if we are to come close in the title race.

Speaking to Sky Sports News, he says

“I’m hopeful, but I think it’s going to be tough for them,” Parlour told Sky Sports News. “I still think they need a couple more players. I think Arsene Wenger’s still looking at the market and saying ‘can we strengthen?’

“A central midfielder for me is vital. Maybe a centre-half.

Neven Subotic (the Dortmund defender we were linked to yesterday) says he has had no contact from Arsenal. Not strange given the fact we are practically linked to every up and coming young player in Europe these days.

Stuart “Psycho” Pearce insists that young Jack Wilshere should not be over hyped. After his herioics in preseason as well as making his U21 debut this week, you’d expect there to be much talk about him everywhere. Speaking to the daily telegraph he said;

“I find it a little bit sad that we over-hype players, because I know what is around the corner,”

However, this is a point Wenger has been making for a while that you need a player to develop at the right pace and should not overawe him as it could affect his progress. I’m glad the England bosses know this and hope they will allow him develop as he should.

Finally, According to the daily mirror, we seem to have called off our bid for Maroune Chamakh after Arsene decided not to raise his intial offer. So who will we sign We’ll see eh?

Till tomorrow…Victoria Concordia Crescit!

Three days to the start of the Premier League season

Three days to the start of the Premier League season, my blog is still not up and running and it’s becoming a worry as I can’t seem to get off Fifa 2009…(oops)

The boss too seems to be rather excited. Speaking to BBC sport, Arsene Wenger shared his thoughts on the season ahead

“I envisage only one order, that is Arsenal finishing on top and all the rest can do what they want. “To rate our potential, look at our pre-season games. We are a team who has a way to play and we are a team who are ready to fight. “Let’s have a go. Let’s not talk too much. We know that people are sceptical about us but I let people talk. Let’s win the games.”

This is heartening and tells of his unflinching support of the team.

That said, news from Switzerland say Djourou has been withdrawn from the Swiss team with some knee trouble. . .hoping it’s not too serious. Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld told the Swiss FA’s official website:

“We don’t want to take an unnecessary risk shortly before the start of his club’s season.”

Kudos to the Swiss National team for giving player/club consideration at the beginning of a new season. . .usually a row would erupt about should he or should he not play.

In other news, Jack Wilshere made his debut for the England U21’s  against Holland in a game that ended  0-0. Two other young guns Kieran Gibbs (England) and Nacer Barazite (Holland) were also on show with Armand Traore in line to start for France in their friendly clash with their Polish counterparts on Wednesday evening. An amazing 13 players are also away on internationals so it’s quite a busy midweek given that the number is nearly half our first team squad. Hopefully, they’ll come through it without too many knocks.

Congratulations to ‘Dare who got his first Arsenal Tickets (for the Portsmouth game) today…Upper tier and all.

Till tomorrow…Victoria Concordia Crescent