Tag Archives: Arsenal

Leicester start their title defence with a loss

HullVLeicester
Photo courtesy vavel.com

Leicester lost their opening game against less favoured Hull to kick off the Premier League campaign and from the few minutes into the first half with the way Hull set up it is obvious Leicester are going to find it a lot harder this season. They come with a reputation now, I could say they are in the category of the “chased” and no longer in the “chasing” camp, teams are now going to set up defensively against them .
It looked like Leicester were playing against the Leicester of last season in Hull with the way Hull chased down everything and worked hard as a team. Well done to Hull and they deserved the win in my opinion they took their chances when it came and Vardy didn’t take Leicester’s when presented with two great opportunities. Hull eventually ran out 2 1 winners on the day.

Robert Huth’s hair pulling antics at Old Trafford last season came back to hunt leicester today with how unbalanced and shaky Morgan looked on the left side of the defence to accommodate Hernandez on the right side of defence, the intensity and coverage that Kante brings in the middle of that park was also missed.
It’s only the first game of the season though so I won’t be getting carried away with those observations I still expect Leicester to have a good season but I don’t see them defending the title successively, next up for Leicester is Arsenal at home.

Arsenal failing to plan and planning to fail?

Gabriel injured

Arsenal yesterday won their last preseason game against Pep’s Manchester City 3 2 but at some cost with the injury suffered by Gabriel late in the game. I actually suspected a leg break on watching the whole thing unfold and Gabriel’s immediate reaction but Arsene say’s it’s ligament damage, with a scan scheduled for later today we will find out the real extent of the damage done.

With this injury to Gabriel and Koscielny just back from his extended break the team has no experienced centre back going into the first few games of the season, a situation the team should not be in considering Mertesacker has been injured for a few weeks now and Arsene having admitted the team is short at the back has refused to do anything about it but talk. This situation is reminiscent of Chambers first season at Arsenal in the 2014/15 season when Koscielny resumed the season managing an achilles  problem. Arsene didn’t sign a centre back in the summer transfer window therefore forcing the young Chambers to play more games than he was supposed to at centre back as it had become a necessity when Koscielny’s achilles injury flared up again. Chambers featured regularly in the first half of the season and his effectiveness faded as the season wore on. I remember the torrid time he endured in the loss against stoke in the centre of defence where he was also sent off. As at December 2014 Chambers had played 24 matches for Arsenal in all competitions and for a 19 year old who hadn’t played at that level consistently that’s asking a lot. Wenger admitted overplaying him after Arsenal’s 2 2 draw away to Liverpool  in December 2014 electing to play  Debuchy at the centre of defence with Mertesacker instead of Chambers.
In January 2015 of the same season Arsene forked out for a central defender buying Gabriel Paulista from Villareal in the winter transfer window. What exactly was different from the summer transfer window that he didn’t make the transfer then? He gambled on Koscielny overcoming his achilles in time and Chambers being able to play at centre back for short stints. An extra body in the form of an experienced defender in the summer transfer window would have prevented Chambers being overplayed resulting in him being mismanaged. A similar scenario is being played out with Rob Holding, Calum Chambers and Krystian Bielik the only fit central defenders for the first team after injuries to Gabriel and Per.

Central defence is very different from playing as a full back it controls and manages the entire defensive line in front of the keeper requiring for great mental fortitude and manoeuvring than just physical ability, the reason why it’s easier to get burned there than anywhere else in the backline. I remember a young Senderos giving a recently arrived Drogba in the premier league a good game in the centre of the Arsenal defence (believe me I am not making it up hahah), fast forward a few games the same Senderos had become Drogba’s donkey that he could ride at will.

Now Arsene and Ivan are in a position where whichever defender they were hoping to get on a bargain has just gone up a few million pounds with the selling party knowing there is a desperation for an experienced defender, a need that should have been addressed earlier. I am a big Arsene fan but in the past few weeks it’s coming across that the club have failed to effectively plan for the most competitive season in view. I hope I am wrong and they are privy to things that we all don’t know which will in the end manifest into a great season.

 

Smart dealing or just Complacency at Arsenal

arsene-wenger spend

It’s nine days to the start of the Premier league season and 27 days before the transfer window closes and I still can’t say I am clued up on what Arsene’s plan is for the season. There is a pressing need for an experienced central defender and a forward but the fans are none the wiser on who the club intends to sign. As I have said in previous posts I have attained the state of zen when it comes to Arsenal transfers but it just doesn’t make sense to me that with the most competitive season in view Arsene and the club are gambling on playing catch up. Arsenal’s first three fixtures of the season are tricky with a home game against Liverpool and two away games against Leicester and Watford. It will be foolish to risk Arsenal fans getting on the backs of the team and the manager so soon because of poor results which will be linked to lack of team investment.
I am a fan of not paying over the odds for players;  I would never pay 30million pounds for John Stones let alone 50 million pounds neither would I endorse splashing out 100 million pounds on Paul Pogba and most fans aren’t expecting Arsene to do that. The reality is good players are expensive these days and you have to pay the going rate especially when the whole world knows you have the highest cash reserves in addition to playing in the richest league in the world.
It’s not a secret that the Premier League is awash with cash and clubs outside the Premier League doing business with Premier League clubs will want a piece of the action, so Arsee and Ivan should stop going to bid for players with change in a clutch bag under their arms.
It’s getting boring now  with Arsenal and transfers, please find a target and get the job done. I feel buying an experienced defender and a centre forward makes the team competitive but I don’t think it makes Arsenal title contenders as there is still  a fragility that permeates this team a discussion for another post.

Rob Holding

Rob Holding signs for Arsenal. Credit Arsenal.com
Rob Holding signs for Arsenal. Credit Arsenal.com

It’s way past my bedtime because I stayed up to watch the Arsenal pre-season friendly against the MLS all stars which ended in a 2 1 Arsenal victory. Joel Campbell with a goal from the penalty spot and Chuba Akpom with a tap in from a Monreal assist the winner with just 4 minutes to go.

It was an opportunity to check out the new boy Holding and I will say I was very pleased. I had a good feeling about his signing and he didn’t disappoint in  this friendly, he almost scored a header which would have been the icing on the cake of a very accomplished debut.  He played the whole 90 minutes where he was strong on the ball, composed in possession, a good reading of the game, a good header and showed good  ball playing skills with how he went about his business.  There is just something about him that fills me with confidence even though I know it was just a preseason friendly, but all I can say is the omens are good for this lad. At just 20 and straight from Bolton after his debut season there is perception that he is raw and might find this level a bit too much, but as long as he is not over played like Arsene did with Chambers in his first season I am a believer that Rob Holding will blossom into a very good central defender. If you are good enough you are old enough they say and I think Holding will fall into that category, I can feel myself getting too excited I should calm down.. I blame all the chocolate and sprite I had an hour ago.  I look forward to seeing more of him as the season progresses, In my mind I have this idea that Arsene is hoping that someday in the not too distant future Chambers and Holding will the first choice centre backs at Arsenal, time will tell.

Before I go to bed I will also mention Walcott’s uninspiring showing. I am not a Walcott basher and I know it’s only preseason but he needs to get the finger out and start engaging his football brain. His passing and decision making were all over the place and  I sense he knows within himself that he is on borrowed time and very replaceable. A section of Arsenal fans also seem to be fed up with him judging by the amount of interaction my post about Walcott during the game got on the Arsenal facebook page. For his sake and the club I really do hope things pick up for him, because a consistent and firing Walcott makes us more difficult to play against.

Granit Xhaka when he came on showed his good passing range with accuracy and let’s not forget that mean left foot, I hope his superpower of taking shots outside the penalty box is not curbed by playing for Arsenal.

It’s bedtime now, need to get some snooze before I am woken by the kids…

 

Arsenal title chances

Arsenal Squad

Going into last season I was confident Arsenal would win the title, I know I am a glutton for punishment for harboring such optimism with Arsenal at the centre and they definitely didn’t disappoint in the manner the punishment was meted out to fans like myself . I don’t even know what to make of Arsenal’s top 4 prospects this season considering how the other clubs are strengthening left, right, centre and upfront.

Regarding transfers, Granit Xhaka is an encouraging buy and brings the necessary aggression needed in the team with great passing abilities to add to his defensive qualities in the middle of the park. The Japanese striker is one for the future, probably would be loaned out and Rob Holding in my opinion will pleasantly surprise people, I like the buy.  Arsene though is yet to address the reason why Arsenal finished second to Leicester last season, the lack of a finisher upfront. I am not a Giroud Basher as the media and fans try to make him into what he is not. I could add all the exhaust pipes  and alloy wheels to a Peugeot I still couldn’t call it a Ferrari right… Giroud does alright for the class of striker that he is but needs help or a serious upgrade and I wouldn’t call Alvaro Morata an upgrade, he has scored less than Giroud in the Italian League in the last 2 seasons combined and Higuain is not worth that crazy release clause at 29, I also remember him missing clutch chances for Argentina at the world cup final in 2014 and the Copa America final in 2016, he wouldn’t be my go to guy for that price. There are not many available “world class ” strikers in the market but with the cash reserves Arsenal have they should for once go crazy and bid to buy players like Aubameyang or Greizman, if I was consulted they would be my targets.

If Arsene didn’t buy another midfielder I wouldn’t be too worried, but a player like Mahrez or Reus with goals in them and proper wide play will definitely improve the midfield in addition to creating more selection headaches for the manager.

The defence is sorted to a degree but I worry in the event that Bellerin is injured and Debuchy rumored to be heading out of the club who replaces Bellerin? Chambers and Holding  can play in that position but are primarily central defenders who are very different to Bellerin. Gabriel hasn’t filled me with confidence and with Per Mertesacker also rumoured to be out for 5 months after injuring his knee against Lens, Koscielny not back in the team till later in the season because of the Euro exertions  could cause problems in the opening weeks of the season.

The goalkeeping position happens to be most secure, a weird thing to say when Arsenal is concerned, Cech and Ospina are very capable hands.

Verdict

With this present squad and no further additions, the best predictable outcome is 5th but if Arsene went into the market and  bought a good striker to assist Giroud, a wide playing forward/midfielder in the Reus, Mahrez mould and a proper no-nonsense defender, Arsenal could actually go on and win the title. There I go again, I can’t seem to help myself it seems!!!

 

Granit Xhaka, Do Arsenal really need him?

 

Moenchengladbach's Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka celebrates after the German first division Bundesliga football match Moenchengladbach on December 5, 2015.   AFP PHOTO / PATRIK STOLLARZ
Moenchengladbach’s Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka celebrates after the German first division Bundesliga football match Moenchengladbach on December 5, 2015. AFP PHOTO / PATRIK STOLLARZ

I am not one to fret over Arsenal transfers these days knowing who is in charge. I have decided to adopt the zen posture as one of my mates call it and wait till September 1st and see who the clubs buys, was close to buying but didn’t buy or bid 50p above the release clause for. I have concluded to adopt this approach considering my experience with Arsene and transfers over the years. Borrowing LVG’s vocabulary I have to be masochistic to continue to bother myself about something I have no ounce of control over even if it has nothing to do with pulling of hair.

Talking about Granit Xhaka, if the whispers in the media are to be believed, it seems he is of great interest to Arsenal and for the fee that his services will command and the position that he plays I am surprised he is on Arsenal’s radar. I have looked him up a bit and nothing strikes me enough to think Arsenal are desperate for a defensive midfielder that costs 40million Euros! He is not a goal machine and neither is his passing accuracy of 85% in the Bundelisga higher than Coquelin or Elneny who boast higher passing accuracies in the Premier League of 89.1% and 92.8% respectively according to whoscored.com

That sort of money should be added to and used in acquiring the services of someone a lot better than Giroud, Walcott and Welbeck who make up the club’s current striking options. From my little views of clips of him here and there I don’t see what he does that Coquelin and Elneny can’t do well either.
Unless Arsene is planning to transform him into some hybrid of Pires and Viera I actually don’t see the necessity for this acquisition.

What cost Arsenal the title this season was scoring GOALS and that creative spark in the final third to get through defences! Arsene if you are reading don’t do it! Add to that cash and go after Lukaku, Morata, Higuain, Reus or Lacazete.  I am hoping it’s a clever diversion to a much prized acquisition though.

The Crazy Premier League Season 2015/16

Source:Getty Images
Source:Getty Images

Today the final match of the crazy 2015/16 premier league season will be played with Manchester United taking on Bournemouth. A match that was called off as a result of an error from a prior security training exercise. If you ask me the right decision was taken, when human lives are concerned and the times that we live in it’s best to err on the side of caution. I just hope the fans get compensated in some capacity.

Looking back on the season I wonder what it would be remembered for the most. Leicester’s City unbelievable triumph? The hilarity of Spurs contriving to come third in a two horse race on the last day of the season with so called claim of a power shift in North London? Or Chelsea’s worst defence of the Premier League title in history?
It has to be Ranieri and his men and the fact that it was Ranieri that was the architect of this almost impossible accomplishment in an era where money has been known to buy trophies makes it even more special, he was a candidate for relegation according to the general media. Ranieri proved a team where every member is alert to their roles , working relentlessly for each other, and pulling in the same direction can achieve the unimaginable, it helps me dream and so I still look forward to the time I get to be on the cover of a GQ issue. Going back to Leicester’s accomplishment history will definitely judge them as one of football’s beautiful stories and I am sure a film will be made about their season in the nearest future.

Coming in close second is Spurs calamitous meltdown needing a point to secure second position. How Spursy could they get in the manner in which they contrived to do what they do best. Was talking to a close friend of mine earlier and we both found it even more hilarious how annoyed pundits were with the fact that Arsenal pipped Spurs to second position in the league. Jamie carragher and Harry Redknapp got me cracking up when they said Spurs had a better season. Ermm excuse me the table doesn’t lie, if historians check the table 5 years from now it will have Arsenal in second place and no one will care how close Spurs ran leicester before they did what they do best “Spursulate”! Also if pundits can’t get the idea of Arsenal fans enjoying Spurs misfortune on Sunday I don’t think they know what it is to be a fan, joy at the expense of a local rival is normal. Just to state or remind them there has been no power shift in North London.

With regards to Arsenal it was a season in which was there for the for the taking, and finishing second while an improvement from last year wasn’t what the team was looking at on December 26 2015. While I was happy for Giroud and his hat trick on Sunday I was not impressed. There was little or no pressure so it wasn’t hard to deliver. In my opinion he should be a support striker and not the main striker at a club like Arsenal if they intend to win big trophies. History has shown as that when the chips are down Giroud struggles and resorts to tantrums, falling all over the pitch and cupping his ear at the fans amongst other things. While there are a dearth of world class strikers available out there, an upgrade on Giroud is definitely out there. Diverting a bit I am still looking for who authorised the 40million and one pound bid for Suarez and the person that offered it P45 for both!

Next season is going to be interesting considering all the managerial changes and the new money coming into the league will make for an interesting title challenge, because the new money to a degree makes it a level playing field.

Tottenham 1 Newcastle 5= ST Totteringham Day

St Totteringham Day

While we are yet to get the full picture at Old Trafford, it has been reported there was a controlled explosion. We are thankful nothing more sinister happened at Old trafford and wish all the fans a safe journey home.

The season that kept on giving saved the best for Arsenal fans it seemed with Arsenal piping Spurs to second place and in the manner that it happened. Why I held out hope of Townsend ruining the Spurs party at Newcastle I definitely didn’t expect that. Spurs so called steely resolve was exposed for all to see and for all the hype in the media about there being a shift in North London it’s rubbish! The red of North London are still the club to beat on this side of London. Tottenham’s so called best season still leaves them finishing behind an Arsenal side that has been soundly criticised in many quarters for underachieving this season, shows where the bar is set for each team right.

I will be doing a season round up later,I just have to milk this result! All the best to Arteta and Rosicky, the captain was teary in his final game. Great blokes and they will be missed, oh I almost forgot Flamini. Wishing all three guys the best going forward

There is a difference between criticism and abuse

 

  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Arsene and his boys managed to navigate a tricky win at the Emirates and with that showing I think if Giroud is going to be effective in that front three Welbeck playing alongside on the left is a necessity.

I am not going to say much about the game though a win was needed and the team got one. Before I go on to the protest I was very disappointed with Alexis deciding to walk down the tunnel after he was substituted, it was disrespectful to his manager and his team mates. He had a nightmare playing unintelligent passes, giving away the ball so often and dribbling into blind alleys when a pass would have been better. Big players are the go to players in their teams aka Ronalado, Messi, Suarez , Aguero et al and Sanchez hasn’t done it enough this season and he is part of the reason why the team is where it is. I understand he wants to play all the time but he should remember to be respectful.

Thanks to the amazing fans at the Emirates proving that social media warriors are not indicative of general sentiments at the club, while we want more, a lot of fans believe there is a better way to go about things. There is video circulating showing some “fans” chanting they would happy when Arsene dies! That’s crossing the line and those lot should be found and given a lifetime ban not just from the Emirates but from every stadia in the country, football is not ugly  like these lot are trying to make it. Please let’s get them identified.

I look forward to tomorrow when hopefully Leicester will realise the dream at the theatre of dreams. Can’t believe the season will be ending in a few weeks, what will I do with myself?

 

Wenger and underperforming players

Photo credits Michael Regan
Photo credits Michael Regan

Arsenal being true to type their consistent inconsistency was on show today again with a 0 0 draw at the stadium of light. Playing Sunderland at the stadium of light who are battling relegation was always going to be a tough a game but the manner in which a number of the players went about their job left a lot to be desired.

Wenger really needs to ask himself what is important, loyalty to some players or getting results for his team? His misplaced loyalty is one of the reasons why the season has panned out the way it has. After Giroud’s performance midweek I was surprised to see him start today ahead of Welbeck and he didn’t disappoint me with is poor display, that he was allowed to stay that long on the pitch had me bemused to say the least. I was also surprised to see Walcott on the pitch ahead of Campbell who has performed much better than the Englishman anytime he has featured for the team.  This idea of playing players when there are better performers on the bench is rewarding mediocrity in every way and in some subliminal way says it’s ok even if you don’t play well you will get picked.
Wenger himself said in his post-match conference that maybe  Giroud was lacking confidence, then why play him in this game where a win was necessary and Welbeck had done so well. He was also the same person that said why change something that is working, he confuses me the man.

I won’t be ranting much but Wenger needs to have a long look at himself and see how he has condoned mediocrity and poor performances this season. If he continues with this approach I won’t be holding out much hope for things to change next season. This is the time for him to set the marker that only good performances will get you in the squad.