Sunday, 31 August 2008

Back in the Groove at the Grove, Champions League, Transfer deadline

So this week saw the visit of two ex-England managers to The New Home of Football, and we all know there was only going to be one winner, Wenger. McCalren's FC Twente lacked an ounce of ambition, whilst Keegan's Toon side were dismantled by an Arsenal team in full flow.

The 4-0 win against Twente on Wednesday was just the result we needed, a convincing victory and a chance for some of our players to gain their confidence back. Walcott put in an excellent performance, Bendtner showed that no matter how he plays he is always a threat, and of course it was great to see Cesc back in the side. Van Persie had a match to forget missing an open goal, and he looked very close to losing his temper on a number of occasions. He is always a worry for picking up reckless and pointless cards, his nasty side is worse than Bergkamps in my opinion, wouldn't be surprised to see him get sent off this season.

The tie was effectively over after our first goal, so I was already planning potential away trips in my head... of course bottom of that list was Fenerbache... no one wants to travel there, but sure enough we drew them, add that to another hostile away trip to the Ukraine, and a trip to Porto and it looks like we could have some hard away games in the Champions League. That being said some strong home form should be sufficient for us to qualify from the group stages, however Liverpool look like they have got the toughest draw, PSV, Marseille, and Athletico Madrid could result in another tense qualifying campaign for Rafa whose side only just scraped through the knockout stage courtesy of a goal from the Dutch Kevin Davies.

Saturdays match against Newcastle looked like it could be a tough one given the fact they had forced a draw at Old Trafford and had looked impressive in their following league and league cup matches. Keegans visits to the Emirates have not been too good so far and Saturdays game followed that pattern.

Van Persie was back to his majestic best grabbing a brace, whilst Denilson also got on the scoresheet for his first league goal. Cesc wasn't quite back to his best but it was promising to see him back in the side. We played a high defensive line which basically ruled out Michael Owen as any balls over the top would always fancy the pace of our defence over the nowadays slow pace of Owen. Ameobi may as well have not been there, but Nzogbia did look good, he's a player I wouldn't mind seeing in an Arsenal shirt.

The disgrace that is Joey Barton was subbed on with barely 2 minutes left but still managed to make the headlines. He put in an overly aggresive challenged, followed by a sarcastic grin on Samir Nasri, it was no surprise a minute later when Barton was tripped off the ball for the whole of the Emirates to cheer... have that you cunt! Was good to see that Clichy supported Nasri in his action as well, face it Barton, Keegan is the only person who wants you in the game, you are a criminal who should not be in a position to act as a role model, get back in prison.

Sunday brought 2 good results for us with Chelsea and Liverpool both drawing. Only 3 games in and no team has a 100% record and we are only 1 point off the lead so things aren't looking so bad after all... Points will be dropped by everyone this year but we really need to make the most of our favourable early fixtures and get as many points under the belt as possible, Blackburn and Bolton away could be tough but I have the faith in us to come away with 6 points if we have a fully fit squad.

And today is the transfer deadline... 6 hours and 10 minutes left and we still don't look likely to sign anyone.. that means I will wake up tomorrow to see that we have signed not 1 but 2 players. Who, I don't know... Appiah is a possibility on a free transfer and is highly experienced, other than that I have absolutely no idea!... To be honest though I will be happy for the window to shut and for us to know who our squad is!... Man City are making all the headlines so far today, they have been taken over by someone worth more than Abramovich! and have tabled a £32 million bid for Berbatov... this could be hilarious!... It is slightly concerning news in the sense that Man City could pose a threat to the 3rd/4th place spots, and we have not been in the top 2 for the last 4 years... hmmm, not another club with a ridiculous cheque book? It does look concerning for the future of football, we want self sustaining clubs please!

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Worrying signs...

Well I was fortunately at a festival this weekend so missed the so called 'abysmal' performance we displayed on Saturday at Craven Cottage. From what I have read we lacked creativity, lacked drive, and our normally consistent players put in a poor show.

I am not going to try and analyse the game because I did not watch it live, and I am not sure I can force myself to watch my recorded copy of MOTD, I have read enough about the game to know it is poor viewing, for that reason I just can't bring myself to do it...

The result has struck a lot of panic amongst Gooners, it was unexpected, even with a weakened team, and it is a worrying sign considering that Hull beat Fulham the week before. Also looking at it in the sense of us only scoring one goal in total against West Brom and Fulham it would appear not to just be defensive issues. This makes me wonder whether Alonso would in fact be a great signing for us, he is a passmaster, and we cannot always rely on the fitness of Cesc, and with Alonso in the team he would be a very useful creative spark in the centre of midfield. Looking at our squad at the moment it doesn't really look like we have a creative back up to Cesc, and at the same time we don't really have a defensive rock either, we have a lot of in betweens. Having said that I was a little surprised that Wenger didn't play Song against Fulham, he is fairly good defensively, even if he has had little experience in this position at Arsenal, I just don't understand playing players like Eboue out of position when Song could have fitted in. Wenger does puzzle us at times...

We only lost 3 matches last season and we have lost 1 only 2 games in, is this concerning?... Well I think that we drew too many games last season, you got more points from a win and a loss than you do from 2 draws. We can afford more losses if we can turn more draws into victories, that is a fact. Whether or not we can do that remains to be seen, especially when we tend to concede the first goal and are normally chasing the game, this leads to far too many of our draws, and this needs sorting out.

Silvestre has come in, and our defence is still looking poor. We knew Toure and Gallas were not a great partnership, Senderos has now joined AC Milan on loan for the season, and they have an option to turn this into a permanent deal at the end of the season. Senderos never really won me over but I am a little surprised Wenger has done this. We have stuck with Senderos for a long time now so it seems a little strange that we offload him at an age he will start to iron out the creases of his game, and Senderos seemed very much like one of the plans that Wenger would not drop, he really seemed determined to stick with him.

Now Djourou and Song might be better options than Senderos at CB, but we have not seen enough of either of those 2 at CB at Arsenal. Djourou had a spell before but this was not when we were competing for the title, and we have not seen Song there on a regular basis yet, but he has looked good there. I do like the determination shown by Djourou when he plays, this may lead to a lot of cards but he is there to win the ball. Song also looks like he will be strong enough to compete as a CB in the Premier League, we just need to see if he has the awareness and positioning.
Which leads me on to Silvestre... he is out until at least September 13 now! Just what we need huh, another inury prone player! I don't like to doubt Arsene but he is making the squad smaller and smaller and he is apparently no closer to signing a CM just yet, it is somewhat worrying.

As always you have to give Wenger until the very end of the transfer market until making a judgement over his summer transfer activity because he does like the late purchase, and looking at our squad at the moment I can really seeing him bringing in 2/3 players in January. The only thing is that Wenger has known since May that we needed to bring in a CM to partner Cesc and to step straight into the first team, and according to him, he is no closer to this!!! Please make us happy Arsene!

Thursday, 21 August 2008

I told you so...

Well I hate to say it... but I told you so. Silvestre has joined Arsenal, Wenger still wants one more signing, and it has opened the door for a loan spell...

So starting with the latter its some very good news, Armand Traore has joined Portsmouth on loan for the season. Harry and Tony will look after him, and he really needs some week in week out football. Hopefully he will get his chance. Traore is very competent on the ball, he has good footwork, a great cross, and some blistering pace, he really does glide down the flank. However his defensive capabilities have been exposed a few times by the likes of Aaron Lennon and Daniel Alves, so I think some regular exposure in the Premiership alongside some defensive greats in the Pompey team will do him the world of good, and hey, he might get some time on the left wing too so either way its a win win, we would get to see what he is like on the wing if he is deployed there.

On to our next summer transfer... Wenger has pretty much confirmed we will sign another player... as always he as not given any indication to whom it might be, but he has not even ruled out a bid for Barry stating that his exclusion from being able to compete in Europe for us would not prevent him from signing him. Barry is OK, but I am sure there are better at a cheaper price, and I'm sure Wenger has someone else lined up. Having been at the Swiss match last night it would not surprise me if it is Inler. I know nothing about Inler (except he was voted 2nd best foreign player in Serie A last season) but this potential signing excites me for some reason, and he isn't overly experienced either... not too sure why it excites me, but it does!

I must admit that with the smokescreen of the Silvestre signing I was almost expecting a second signing to be pulled out the bag today from no where, but so far nothing to report. Either way Wenger has clearly been taking his time over things so I'm sure he will have made every possible assessment for when we do finally make that signing.

In other news I honestly think that Arshavin has the most stupid agent ever, they have both spent the summer spouting their mouths off, and now comes a final hammer blow. According to his agent Arshavin could be an Arsenal player right now if he hadn't demanded such high wages and that Arsenal were willing to pay £15 million. Erm.... right... so was his asking price dropped or something because as far as I was aware Zenith wanted over £20 million for him and would not drop his asking price, and they turned down a £16 million bid from Barca, so I really don't know what his agent is on about?... Very strange!

More to come over the following days, hopefully our final signing!... Looking forward to Saturdays game against Fulham we have Song back in the squad, Silvestre may be included but has a slight strain or something, and Fabregas may well be back for Wednesdays match. Very good news. Apparently Diaby is going to be back sooner than expected, we should have some good news on Rosicky in the next few weeks, and Van Persie got through last nights international match and scored a peach of a goal...

Thats it for now.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Mikael Silvestre - a good signing should it happen

So reports in this mornings papers suggest that we could be on the verge on hijacking Silvestre's proposed move across Manchester to Eastlands, and reports from Myles Palmer (bit of a twat) even go as far as to confirm tat he was seen both at Highbury House this morning, and at the training ground this afternoon.

I have seen a lot of negative opinions from fellow fans about this proposed transfer, I have the following response...

If we sign Silvestre then I think its a good signing. Everyone complains about us having a thin squad, they complain about us brining in too many young players....

He would NOT be THE signing we were promised considering we have lost Hoyte from the squad, a player whom we need to replace in the squad... losing Hoyte for Silvestre is fine. We have more than ample cover for right back (Eboue and Toure), and Hoyte is not as good cover at left back or centre back as Silvestre would be. Hoyte had to fill in at CB last season so it shows no matter where Silvestre is in the pecking order he will almost definitely come into use at some point.

Imagine with our squad now if Clichy gets injured?... Silvestre will be better defensive cover than Traore, Gallas would be reluctant to play there and those are really our only left back options, Silvestre will therefore be a good addition for our squad depth...

Silvestre will not be in the squad long... one season maybe two... he is unlikely to hinder any of our youngsters development, I'm sure they could learn from him, and if anything it opens the door for a player like Djourou to go on loan and pick up regular football week in week out, so effectively improving his development at first team level.

We will still be signing a CM if this deal goes through so stop getting your knickers in a twist and use your brain for once!

I hope you agree.

EDIT: Silvestre has now signed for us on a 2 year contract for an undisclosed fee supposed to be around £750,000.00

Sunday, 17 August 2008

1 nil to the Arsenal...

Well like some other Gooners I'm sure I was feeling a little nervous coming into this game missing 9 players from our squad. There was to be no underestimating the importance of a good start to the season. If we want to forge a title challenging season then we really need to hit the ground running like last season. If we drop off early I can't see us catching up with Chelsea or United, they are both ruthless when in a winning position and know how to hold on to it, we really need to win our opening 6 games or so.

It turned out to be a bit of a tense game but the stats tell another story, in fact you could say they suggest it was a perfect start to the season. Arsenal walked off the pitch was 3 points in the bag, and new boy Nasri bagged his first goal within 3 minutes of his debut, and what a great goal it was too. A fast move down the left from combination work by Denilson, Bendtner and Clichy put Denilson in a great position to pull the ball back for Nasri for a close range, well composed finish.
A lot can be made out of a new signing struggling to hit the net for their first time, and within 3 minutes really puts that to bed. It plays on the mind of players when they don't get their first goal, it clearly played on Theo's mind and was great to see the joy experienced by Nasri in his goal celebration... Add to that the fact he was possibly our man of the match I can't even remember what the guy from Belarus looks like these days, this kid is going to be better than Hleb.

Whilst our strike force were frustratingly poor (especially Adebayor who ended up getting booed for trying to much himself) we looked OK in defence. Djourou was OK, I think Gallas was wrong to have a go at him for not stepping up in a West Brom attack early in the first half because Clichy was playing the same line as Djourou, the player would have still been onside. Djourou then made a vital goal line clearance to make it 2 clean sheets out of 2 so far for the season, albeit against weak opposition but a good sign nonetheless.

Wenger confirmed before the game that Justin Hoyte will be going to Middlesbrough so lets wish him the best in his future career, was a shame he never made the grade but I am sure he will fit in well at Boro. I think that this departure opens up the door for us to bring in a new defender too, Wenger only signs players 'we need' and with the departure of Hoyte we have lost a member of the squad who he had not initially factored on losing so hopefully we will bring in a utility defender to fill the void left by Hoyte in the squad, hopefully an experienced one.

Fulham away next Saturday, they lost to Hull yesterday so we will go into this game fancying our chances. Cesc might not be back for this one but hopefully Van Persie will be fit after getting through the last half hour or so yesterday, and Kolo should be back too. A couple of players with exceptional quality should hopefully help to make the difference next Saturday and we can continue on course during our relatively easy start to the season.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

So the new season begins....

and I hold more optimism at the start of this season, than I did at the start of last season. Then again I didn't foresee the team transformation in the wake of Henry's departure, it really did allow us to vary our style of play and ultimately to become less predictable not always looking to Henry as our output.
I also didn't imagine that Flamini and Adebayor would be such revelations. In previous seasons Flamini just didn't seem like a viable option alongside Cesc, he just looked like he lacked the tactical nous and was just a headless chicken. And casting my mind back to our away game against Pompey in 2006, a day I could not believe we had wasted money on Adebayor, I would never have thought he would become the striker he is today (albeit with a lot to improve still)!

Based on that a came us some shock when we led the Premiership for the majority of last season. I always knew we would be in the top 4, that thought never crossed my mind, but I never predicted that we would ever be in a position to throw away the title as we unfortunately did in the end.

The summer transfer sagas came as no shock however. Us gooners are all too familiar with clubs swooping in for our stars, not to mention the annual mass exodus predicted by the British press (and the naughty Spanish). Flamini and Hleb are the only integral players to have left us really. Gilberto and Lehmann were only bit-part players for the majority of last season, and I have confidence that any of our young midfielders are equal to anything Gilberto offered on the pitch last season, however we will miss his experience and professionalism within the squad. And of course I still feel we could bring in another keeper...

So far we have brought in Samir Nasri, an exceptional talent, and a player whom in my opinion can fill the void left by Hleb, and I have a god feeling he will even surpass the role Hleb played in an Arsenal shirt. Fellow summer signing Aaron Ramsey is more of a rough diamond, another hot prospect, but I can't see him making a significant impact in our title credentials for the coming season. I have no doubt he will show his quality in the Carling Cup but we won't see much of him week in week out. A good signing nonetheless....
Amaury Bischoff... well at the end of the day, like you lot, I know absolutely fuck all about this guy so I won't even bother trying to pretend I do... it will either turn out to be another stroke of genius by Wenger, or a low risk gamble which didn't work out, lets hope its the first one though eh...
I expect to be reading bout Coquelin in the reserves this season, he looked good in the preseason games he featured in and I will be no surprise to read about his great performances in the reserves.
Then of course there are some additions from within our squad. Carlos Vela is back from loan and fits in as fourth choice striker. An agile striker with an eye for goal it will be interesting to see what impact he can make in his first year, he is yet another bow to our striking talents and I don't really think we can get any stronger in this department now, Wenger has tipped Vela to make a big impact and I am too, especially with Van Persie's injury problems and Eduardo still recovering.
Jack Wilshere looks to be an amazingly talented player. At just 16 years of age he had a hugely impressive preseason, not once looking out of his depth against top European clubs. Definitely another one for the future, and I'm sure we will see him in the Carling Cup, plus some substitute appearances in the FA Cup and the Premiership...

The summer transfer window does not close until August 31st and we all know we will bring in at least one more player. For that reason I will delay a full squad analysis until we know who we have in the squad... that doesn't stop me from having a stab in the dark for the forthcoming season mind you...

Premier League - Its hard to imagine a season with Rosicky and RvP fully fit, we could assume that it would be amazing, which it could well be but we really don't know, neither seems capable of doing it. I think to stand a chance we need some luck, we need to have hardly any injuries, and maybe for Chelsea or United to pick some up, we might be able to make some ground on United before Ronaldo is back fully fit so that is already a good opportunity. Unfortunately I still feel United are very strong, and Chelsea have got better, a new coach and some very good new additions to their squad. Not going to write it off though, I mean we did effectviely throw it away last time so maybe we can get in that position again but hold on to it?... Still a top 3 finish.

Champions League - If Wenger never wins this in his career it will forever be a dark cloud over his managerial days, and he really wants this. I expect us to go at least one step further than a hugely unlucky quarterfinal last season, and possibly we could win it this year. Our slick passing game has been getting more and more successful in Europe and of course much depends on the draw but I really fancy us to be there or there abouts.

FA Cup - This competition is increasingly becoming less important, that said it probably wont remain with a club outside the top 4 this season. I always think it favours the slightly bigger suqads like United and Chelsea, and Wenger has seemed less and less interested in it in recent years. A good draw always puts you in a good position though so will have to wait and see, of course we have the quality to win it, but do we have the squad when the title and the Champions League are our main targets?

Carling Cup - Wenger will continue to blood more young guns, and I wonder if we will continue our good form in this competition? There is bound to be a night soon when our youngsters fall to a lesser team at an early round when will it happen? Who knows, no one wants to see a repeat of last year but with Ramos keen to impress I am sure he will be treating this as a key competition to perform in once again, that just about sums up Spurs ambitions.
It will be interesting to see the likes of Wilshere, Ramsey and other fringe players like Song possibly featuring to see what they are capable of, the Carling Cup is always exciting to watch some youngsters shine, I think Ramsey and Wilshere are the ones most of us look forward to seeing. Carlos Vela will probably be a key striker in this competition too so I guess he really needs to be added to that list.

I am looking forward to the new season, I know that we have the capability to win any of the competitions we are in, I also realise it could be yet another trophyless season. It as always depends on the luck of the season because I don't think we are ahead of United or Chelsea as such, Liverpool have strengthened and I think that Villa and SPurs are probably likely to take some points off the top 4 as well. One thing for sure is that I am so happy the season is back, and I am optimistic for the season ahead!!!

In Wenger we trust.

Monday, 11 August 2008

The new season approaches... but what happened this summer?

Just a few days until our season starts with the Champions League qualifier against McLaren’s men, FC Twente. Most of the team you would think picks itself, if injury free, with just the central midfield position next to Cesc still a major talking point amongst fans. But another position which many thought would be improved this summer with acquisitions, is the central defence. Towards the end of last season, we were conceding too many goals, not hanging on to leads, and faltering too easily under the long ball. The Toure/Gallas partnership was deemed too similar – 2 athletes, strong and quick, but not a dominator between the two of them. Senderos was (again) criticised for his performance in that crucial 2nd leg at Anfield, despite impressive performances leading up to that game. Arsene even said that we conceded too much last season from long balls down the middle,

“We have conceded 31 goals which is six or seven too many. It's as close as that to win the championship.
"We didn't give more goals away than any other team in the League on open play, nor on set pieces, but where we gave more goals away was on direct balls, in the air, through the middle, and most of the time on second balls.
"On set pieces and open play we were as good as Manchester United and Chelsea. The numbers are available. But we have to rectify how we deal with direct balls. When a team just goes for long, direct balls against us, we have to improve."

He followed this up by saying,

"I will try to buy, maybe in the defensive area and one on the creative side of the game as well because we had some players, important players, who were out this year"

Now, we all know Wenger is very cryptic with his transfer talk, and whatever he says should be taken with more than a pinch of salt. But when he said these things back in May, most would have assumed that defence would have been the 1st thing to strengthen, especially considering that at the time, Hleb and Gilberto were still with us. And most of us would have agreed that it was the right decision. So it perhaps came as a bit of a surprise that a month later, when commenting on alleged links with Vincent Kompany, Arsene dismissed the notion that we needed new defensive signings,

"I know him to be very, very good but I have decided that defenders are no longer necessarily needed for next season.”

So, what changed during this time, which was only a month apart? Did Arsene see something in our team that could be rectified without the need of spending the dough? Well, let’s look at the current situation.
Toure and Gallas are our main partnership; they are the best defenders we have. Do they work well together as a partnership though? They are both very similar players, they are both quick and strong, use athleticism to counter attacks, but neither are natural leaders. Gallas was excellent when next to Terry at Chelsea, Kolo was immense when partnered with Campbell. In the 2 years together, it seems that neither takes command of the situation, especially when dealing with long balls. We lack a Vidic, Adams, Nesta type defender, a natural no nonsense leader who can come and clean up any danger, but to also organise the back four. Communication does seem to be a problem at times, neither are natural talkers.
But maybe looking at the situation closer, maybe the disruption due to injuries and the African Nations Cup could be one of the reasons they haven’t worked, and a bit of continuity is what Wenger is banking on this season? In their 1st season together, Gallas joined on deadline day, never had a pre-season with us to help him get accustomed to our style of play and forge a partnership. He also missed many months with injury. By the time he came back, we were out of everything with nothing to play for, apart from consolidating 4th again. Last season should have been better. But Gallas again missed the 1st couple of months, and Senderos and Toure led us to the top of the league. With the team on top form, Gallas and Toure took us through the busy Christmas period into January on top, before Kolo went off to Africa. Senderos slotted in, and all was well, up until the much publicised Birmingham game. After that, our defence was chopped and changed, Sagna got injured, and our season fell apart. So could continuity be one of the reasons the Gallas/Toure partnership hasn’t flourished like many thought it would when Gallas was bought in? Perhaps it is, although for me the balance is still not right and is probably the major reason for us conceding too many goals, and I think that this partnership has a lot to prove this season. They need to become more dominating, more ruthless, and concentration must be improved, although the whole team needs to be better concentrated (conceding twice immediately after taking the lead against Liverpool in both legs was shocking). Our full backs are amongst the best in Europe, I wouldn’t trade them for any other pair, but the middle needs to be sorted out. Some point to our attacking football for the reason we probably conceded a few too many goals. That’s a load of flaming dog turd. Man United won the league by scoring more than us, and conceding less. Our Invincibles team showed the way too. The bar has been raised in recent years, and in order to be Champions, you have to be great offensively and defensively.

Now, if any of the 1st two get an injury, the back ups are Senderos, Song and Djourou. Hardly inspiring stuff you may say. Song played well towards the end of the season, but essentially he played in 4 dead games. Senderos we all know about, will he finally silence the doubters this season? Statistically, his partnerships with Gallas and Toure conceded less goals then our 1st choice. I don’t know have the stats on hand, but this is fact. But stats don’t show the whole picture of course, such as which games they played, in which competitions, the rest of the team on the day, just returning from injuries (such as Senderos coming back against Sevilla away, and Kolo at Old Trafford in the FA Cup) etc. Big Phil will continually be under scrutiny and as the next in line we rely on him a lot. I sincerely hope that he and the others will be good enough to step in this season, but we should have bought another centre back, I really hope we don’t live to regret it come the end of the season.

Who could we have signed? That’s not our job, and maybe there hasn’t been anyone good enough available for the right price. Not many great defenders stood out at the Euros. However, let’s be honest, I’m sure there are players out there that could have helped improve our squad. So maybe Arsene has seen something that we can work on as a team? Well, we improved our record from conceding from set pieces, which was a problem a few seasons back, maybe we are banking on this again? Let’s bloody hope so, because as we have seen from this pre-season, we are still conceding cheap goals. Yes, pre-season shouldn’t be looked at too seriously, but it’s not a good habit to fall into; we can’t keep coming from behind. Getting a new defensive midfielder is a must, no question about it. And a tall player might be something we need. Gilberto helped us win more headers from set pieces and long balls, something that Flamini couldn’t do, despite everything else he brought to the team.
There is still time for Arsene to change his mind and bring someone in, Diarra last season was a signing that no one could have foreseen with the amount of defensive midfielders we had at the club (ironic now, eh?). If not, then the current players have to show the boss that he was right not to strengthen. It’s not as if we have no experience there. Championship winners, FA Cup winners, played in World Cups, Euros, African Nations – they have played at the highest level so there are no excuses on that front, but is the quality there in depth? We are about to find out. I have a feeling that should we fail this season and the defence is one of the main reasons, then there will be changes. I believe that this is a major gamble from Le Boss going into the new season.

By Mario Leontiou

Saturday, 9 August 2008

A real concern going into the season...

Well last night saw us beat Ajax 3-2 in a game of two halves. At half time we were losing to a 2-0 defecit, only for us to 'do a Bolton' and turn it round to a 3-2 victory. Yes it was entertaining, yes it was exciting (even if it was a friendly) but there are still some very concerning signs amongst our line up.

I just do not understand how Arsene can target our defensive play as our key position to improve in at the start of the summer, only for him to then turn around and decide not to sign anyone, and we have lost two defensive midfielders, and we are only going to make one more signing? How does that work then? The first Ajax goal came from a couple of errors from both centre backs. A deep cross caw Toure head the ball into the air, gaining no distance, to drop in the box for Suarez to convert a superbly executed volley. As great as the volley was it would have helped if Gallas had closed him down but he just didn't. It was Toure's first game back from his spell with Malaria but it was a basic defensive error, not clearing the box, maybe Sagna should have called the header for himself, but I always think that if you can't clear your line properly get it off the pitch, maybe Kolo could have glanced it off for a corner?

The second Ajax goal came from a combination of frustrating inexperience, and more poor defending. Theo lost the ball in a moderately harmless position, and as he often does I was just waiting for him to give away yet another pointless free kick, it is truly a sign of his youth and inexperience. He gets annoyed with himself for losing the ball, and then gets too keen to win it back and about 99% he gives away a weak free kick. The free kick was then dispatched early with Gallas no where to be seen and Huntelaar scored a half volley, another goal displaying great technique leaving Almunia with no chance again, and leaving him furious with his defensive line. Two goals within 90 seconds... slightly concerning eh Wenger?...

Yes it was a friendly, but we had our current strongest line up (injuries in mind) and its not like the players go out there to lose, the season starts a week today and I don't think the fact its only a friendly is any saving grace. This was our best available team conceding needless goals, and is a sign of what we can expect to see during the coming season. I can only think of one clean sheet during preseason and how often do we have to come back from a losing deficit? We really do make it hard for ourselves, and this really needs addressing, conceding first is not the way to go about winning the title because it leads to draws such as last season.

Justin Hoyte looks like he could be on his way to Middlesbrough with reports stating that Arsenal have accepted a £3.5 million bid. Hoyte has never looked Arsenal quality so he really should move on if he wants first team football. Maybe, just maybe that could open up the door for signing a new defender? Maybe Wenger will bring in a back up RB/CB, or maybe it will see Eboue moving back to RB on a more regular basis? Who knows... either result would be good right?

Denilson and Fabregas looked too lightweight as a partnership but tell us something we didn't know already... I am surprised we are yet to bring someone in, and we do have until midnight on the 31st but will a signing be able to fit into the first team straight away?... Reports on the Swiss midfielder Inler continue with his agent stating to have apparently held good talks with Arsene... at six foot he has the kind of physique I would like to partner Cesc, someone big in there would be excellent, a tough tackler too because lets face it we just don;t have that at the moment. At that height it would add an extra threat in the box, as well as more defensive help from set pieces. At the moment we may as well call any corners we win goal kicks, we are so ineffective at them its embarrassing, about 70% of the time the keeper claims it and any added height would be certainly welcomed....

Rant over now, I do think Wenger is making a mistake by not bringing in more defensive cover for the season, and I am almost certain we will have to sign someone in the January transfer window to make up for this, hopefully we are still in a good position by then. Tonight's game will probably see us use more fringe players, Toure should probably get another run out, and possibly a sub appearance for Cesc as yesterday was the first preseason games for both players.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Adebayor and Van Persie... the most effective partnership for Arsenal?

Well, suppose I had better quickly mention the Emirates Cup... it looked very much like the preseason tournament it was, some slow lazy performances, but a few players looking to make that impression. Of course Ade wanted to win round the fans so insisted on taking the match winning penalty against Real Madrid, and Wilshere impressed yet again on both days, and judging by Wengers comments, we can probably expect to see him play at some point this season (plus he has got himself an official squad number now). So now on to a more important debate...

I have to say I would prefer to see an Eduardo or Vela type striker starting for Arsenal... Van Persie and Adebayor are both very good players, however neither has really intelligent off-the-ball movement. Van Persie is rarely on the last man, he is always dropping in to get the ball, and Adebayor thinks he is Henry trying to be offside to confuse the defenders however he never comes back onside, or failing that he is playing down the left flank, again trying to be Henry.
Personally I don't know why Ade comes out wide, he never gets an assist or cross from this position, and most of his goals come down the middle from early balls. What is the use of Ade laying off to Clichy or Sagna if he is supposed to be the one in their challenging for the ball.

Van Persie likes the ball at his feet, he likes to be in control, to be able to receive the ball, take a touch backwards so he can look up and get his bearings, Van Persie is capable of making a goal out of this, but for that to be fully effective he would need someone powerful and quick charging from the centre of midfield to make space for him, or for him to lay off to. I'm not sure we have that at Arsenal.

Between them they don't offer much for the quick early ball, and I think this is one of the main things which has slowed up Arsenal's counter-attacking football. That is why I look forward to Eduardo's return... just look at his goals last season, he profits well from an early ball, and with our creative play we don't need a striker to do everything themselves, we just need them to finish it off, and feel that too often Ade tries to do everything himself, looking to pick the ball up early, instead of making a run on the last man. We have only seen a small glimpse so far of Vela but he looks like he has good movement and Wenger has compared his style to Eduardo. This kind of striker will push the defense back further and will create a space between themselves and the midfield, rather than the compact play you see us ending up in on the edge of the box far too often.

Unfortunately I don't see us mixing it up too often in the coming season, obviously with Eduardo still returning (if he hadn't broken his leg he might have even been fighting for that starting spot right now), and Vela is I suppose 4th choice striker behind Bendtner at the moment.

I think we need RvP/Ade/Bendtner teaming up with Eduardo/Vela (possibly in time). I'm not saying that RvP and Ade won't score goals but I don't think they are the most effective partnership for our football.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Stuttgart, Bischoff, Adebayor, Bendtner

So Jens Lehmann conceeded 3 goals and Arsenal won... a strange looking statement huh... well the Wednesday night scoreline was typical of Arsenal. Conceed a goal through poor defensive work, but being too penetrative going forward to keep at bay.

It was Nasri's first performance for the Gunners and he looked bright and very mobile, whilst not trying anything too flashy o his debut. He played some good balls to Adebayor (who looked like he needs a good run out) and was unlucky not to play in RvP with a defense splitting pass. He also took on a half volley effort which swerved wide but was promising to see.

Bendtner, Vela, and Wilshere continued their rich vein of form by finishing off 3 well worked moves. Vela got the first after superbly being played in by Bendtner (for which I will go into more depth later) and knocked it past Lehmann to finish from a tight angle. Bendtner played a 1-2 with Vela, before powering through to finish neatly passed Lehmann, and Clichy pulled out a heroic run before dinking it across the box to Wilshere, whose finish was too powerful for Lehmann to get close to.

It was good to see the likes of Wilshere and Vela carrying on from Monday night, with both putting in impressive performances. Of course Wenger has been playing down Wilshere but you do wonder if he gets a chance as a sub, or even starts in the Carling Cup whether he might even make his league debut this season? Like they say, 'if you're good enough, you're old enough'.

We finally completed the signing of Bischoff, which he himself had reported around a month ago... bit of a random one on first impressions, he has only played something like 16 minutes competitive football for Werder Bremen, but has featured for Portugal under 21's, and played a lot for the Werder Bremen youth set up. The thing is though that he has already had 2 groin operations and had also been working as an office clerk!! Wenger believes he will need at least 2-3 months of training before he will be match fit... I guess its fairly similar to Baptista except Bischoff has more valid reasons than just being a fat bastard.

Adebayor is putting pen to paper on a new improved deal within the next few days which will put a 1/2 year extension on his existing deal taking his contract up to 4/5 years in length. In his interview with ATVO Adebayor insisted his love for the club, and really really insisted (about 20 times!) that he never said he would leave Arsenal... which in fairness he never did... I never commented too much on this saga because there really wasn't much substance to talk about in terms of Adebayor saying anything... he also still hopes that the fans will love him as before as he has signed a new deal and of course... he never said he would leave the club (Ade really drilled this point home).

And then of course our Great Dane, Niklas Bendtner. Now I like this kid a lot, he has a lot of attributes to his game, if he perfects them he could become the complete striker. We have seen him be powerful in the air, we know he has a good touch (when not rusty), he may not be Theo Walcott but he certainly isn't slow either. I mean considering his age Bendtner has potential for greatness. Now I do get pissed off with comparisons to ex-players or how we need an excat replacement for a player... e.g. Diaby the new Vieira, Walcott the new Henry, however I see a lot of Bergkamp in Bendtner. What I mean when I say that is that Bendtner can be a very profitable striker to play alongside, he can drag players with him and then play a killer ball. His assist for Vela's goal was so reminisecent of Bergkamp it was unreal! That little Dennis dink we became familiar with, it's a disguised pass because it's not expected, it's just a sudden dink, and it is extremely effective when pulled off. A player with Eduardo's movement will profit so much from playing alongside Bendtner. We really do have a royal flush when it comes to strikers. We can really mix it up and with our creative midfield I can't see us struggling to score in any way this season.
If Bendtner can look up more often and perfect when to release the ball I could really see him making a huge impact at Arsenal over the next few seasons, providing he is patient. He will be a better all round player than Adebayor and will get more goals than Bergkamp did, admittedly he isn't likely to score many screamers like Dennis because Bendtner is much more lethal inside the box. I think Bendtner will see a bit more playing time than last season, and he really has a chance before Eduardo recovers to make an impact during the first months of the season. He is most likely to be coming on from the bench but I am sure he will get one or two matches from the start... will be interesting to see how he takes his chances, and whether or not he can link up with Ade... watch this space!