3 Points, from a losing position

Tonight’s game was one of huge significance, and one many Arsenal fans, including myself, had real doubts we could win. To be fair it was only West Ham, who have little to play for in the closing stages of the season, but things certainly weren’t looking in our favour. 120 minutes on Saturday plus a seriously depleted squad against a team who hadn’t played in nine days, it was an impressive win, especially given the fact that we went behind.

A lot, especially earlier in the season, was made about the character and experience of this side but, in truth, our results from losing positions this season have been dire. With only one win from losing positions before today it was important that we struck back quickly, and so we did through Lukas Podolski. Pressing high up the pitch led to the ball being gifted to Santi, who found the German and his lethal left peg. After that the performance thoroughly improved and a goal for Olivier Giroud (with his right foot!!) was enough to put us in the lead. Poldi rounded off the win with a well worked goal to give us a huge three points and put the pressure back on Everton. Hopefully we will have a few players back and raring to go for Hull on Sunday.

COYG,

ARG

The Summer Clear Out

This summer several players are rumoured to be leaving the club. Players such as Sebastien Squillaci and Maroune Chamakh’s time are up and the club are looking to shift them and reduce the wage bill. These potential departures include: Squillaci, Chamakh, Arshavin, Bendtner, Denilson, Park, Djourou and Andre Santos. I am going to assess the contribution these players have made to the club, how likely it is they will leave and what we might get for them.

Squillaci: His contract is up this summer and it won’t be renewed. He has had a dismal time since joining in 2010 and making only 40 appearances in that time. Likelihood of leaving: (10/10)

Bendtner: Won the league title at Juventus last season but failed to score for the club in only ten appearances. I doubt Juve will want him back but he had a decent loan at Sunderland the year before. The biggest stumbling block could be that he is too proud to go to a small club. We may only fetch around £5m for him but that’s better than nothing. Likelihood of leaving: (9/10)

Chamakh: Chamakh has had an interesting time at Arsenal. He started quite well, scoring 11 goals and getting 8 assists in his debut season. After a dire loan spell at West Ham we may struggle to find a buyer, though Bordeaux are reportedly interested. Likelihood of leaving: (8/10)

Denilson: Denilson looked for a spell to be the heir to Cesc Fabregas, playing often and well at a young age. Now 25 he seems to have gone backwards since the 2008-09 season, when he played all but one league game. Been on loan at Sau Paulo for a couple of years, i’m genuinely not sure what will happen to him. If we do sell him he could fetch around £6m. Likelihood of leaving: (7/10)

Park: I would love for Wenger to tell us what happened with Park one day. We signed him on deadline day, gave him the number 9 shirt and then never played him. He’s been on loan at Celta Vigo but hasn’t really impressed. With no one likely to play for him we may end up releasing him. Likelihood of leaving: (9/10)

Johan Djourou: I have never been Djourou’s biggest fan, there have been far too many errors in his time at Arsenal, but he could still become a decent Centre Back. He has been on loan at Hannover and performed decently. I don’t think we should give him away but if we get an offer of around £4m we should probably take is. Likelihood of leaving: (6/10)

Andre Santos: 

Santos fooled may people, including me, into thinking he was a goos defender at the start of his Arsenal career. Things started to go downhill however, and the incident with RvP’s shirt at Old Trafford didn’t help matters. He’s been on loan at Gremio and been pretty poor there as well, a missed penalty in a shoot out being the comedy highlight, if you haven’t seen it look it up on YouTube. Honestly should just give him away. Likelihood of leaving: (9/10)

Arshavin: Arshavin ha had a mixed Arsenal career. It is difficult to pinpoint where it went wrong but he has given us some amazing moments. Liverpool 4-4 Arshavin stands out but so does his winner against Barca. His contract is up so he will leave but he gave us some good memories, just began to lose his touch towards the end. Likelihood of leaving: (10/10)

Whatever happens this will certainly be an interesting summer,

 

COYG,

 

ARG

Getting Business Done Early

We are not even into the transfer window yet and we have all but confirmed our first summer signing. Yaya Sanogo is not the player that will suddenly make us league challengers, but he could be an important addition come the busy periods next season. I have done some research about Sanogo since this potential deal was announced and he certainly looks an intriguing prospect. He scored 9 goals in 11 appearances for Auxerre last season but seems a bit of a risk on the injury front, he has only made 22 league appearances in the last four years. Based on talent though this seems like a good addition, he is a big guy at 6 foot 3, but is quite quick for that height and is also very good on the ball. 

What seems to be happening is that Arsene has decided to get our transfer business done quite early. When making big changes to a squad, it is important to have a pre-season together as a squad to help the players get to know one another. I think a reason that we drew our first two games last season was that Cazorla signed a bit late and didn’t have a pre-season with the team. The problem of not signing players early was also evident the season before last, when we had already been obliterated my Man United before we decided to make any signings. Hopefully we can learn from these mistakes and try to move quickly this season.

There is already a lot of talk about a potential move for Stevan Jovetic, much like there was about Lukas Podolski this time last season. If we do move for Jovetic I think that shows a sign of real intent to get back to challenging for the league. Jovetic is a player who I have rated extremely highly for some time and I really hope we can beat Juventus to his signature.

There is also talk of signing a goalkeeper, and I think Arsene may go for a more experienced one, such as Julio Cesar. I think that Wojiech Szczesny has the potential to be a very good keeper but is still a few years off the age where goalkeepers start to reach their peak. Cesar would be a good short term fix to the keeping problem, but still give Szczesny an opportunity to regain his number one spot in a few years, when he hopefully has reduced the mistakes in his game.

Anyway, lots of interesting transfer talk and hopefully we’ll see some top players come in over the summer,

 

Come On You Gunners,

 

ARG

Arsenal – Month by Month

After what can certainly be described as a roller coaster of a season, we have once again guaranteed Champions League football and finished above Tottenham Hotspur. That finish might not have satisfied all our fans, and it certainly won’t be good enough next season, here’s a look at where it went wrong, and where it went right.

August: August was a frustrating month for the club. We failed to score in our opening two games against Stoke and Sunderland. We had hope in a defensive sense and Steve Bould’s importance was highlighted, but two points from two games was not a good start.

September: September started well, winning 2-0 at Anfield and demolishing Southampton 6-1. A victory at Montpellier followed before a hard fought point at City, where we perhaps deserved more. We then went on to beat Coventry 6-1 in the League Cup before losing our first game of the season to Chelsea. A frustrating defeat but not earth shattering, Chelsea were in good form at the time and that win kept them top.

October: Another Champions League win, this time against Olympiacos, was followed by a brilliant performance at West Ham, topped off by a brilliant goal from Santi Cazorla. What followed however was our first horror performance of the season. We went to Norwich in decent form but were actually outplayed and lost 1-0. Grant Holt put them ahead early and we never recovered. We then lost at home to Schalke in the Champions League with another disappointing display. A hard fought victory over QPR followed, but we had only scored one goal in three games. What followed however certainly bucked the trend. We went to Reading in the League Cup and scored 7 in a ludicrous, but memorable game.

November: Next came a visit to Old Trafford, the writing was on the wall within 3 minutes when that horrible traitor put them ahead. A 2-1 defeat probably flattered us that day. We followed that with a 2-2 draw at Schalke and a 3-3 draw at home to Fulham. The highlight of a pretty poor month was a 5-2 win over Sp*rs, which was followed by an easy win at home to Montpellier. We then drew two games on the bounce, at Aston Villa and Everton, leaving us having gained only six points from five league games in November.

December: December was a weird month really. It started horribly with a 2-0 home loss to Swansea in what probably eclipsed the Norwich game as our worst performance of the season so far. We then lost in the Champions League to Olympiacos before beating West Brom with two Mikel Arteta penalties, the first of which we shouldn’t have been given. What followed was the darkest day of the season at Bradford, a game we lost on penalties, throwing away a good chance of silverware. After that however we hit a little bit of form, winnig three on the bounce against Reading, Wigan and most memorably Newcastle, a game we won 7-3.

January: The year started with a poor performance at Southampton, followed by a draw at Swansea in the FA Cup to force a replay and a 2-0 home loss to Mancester City. A classy performance by Jack Wilshere helped us beat Swansea in the 3rd Round Replay, but we went to Stamford Bridge and lost again, falling further behind our top four rivals. A five one thriller against West Ham was followed by a hard fought 3-2 win at Brighton in the cup. The month ended with a good comeback against Liverpool in a game that could have gone either way, at this point we were struggling in sixth, four points of Tottenham and eight behind Chelsea.

February: Two one nil victories, at home to Stoke and away to Sunderland were a very good start to the month, but what followed was catastrophic. What seemed an easy home draw in the cup turned into another humiliating exit against Blackburn. In the following match we looked set to be humiliated once again after a 7th minute goal by Toni Kroos. We dug in however and gave ourselves a remote chance of qualification, losing only 3-1. February finished with a win against Aston Villa, three wins out of three in the league made February bearable, but it was in the other competitions that our chances of silverware slipped away once again.

March: March started in the worst possible fashion with a 2-1 defeat to Sp*rs. We were seven points behind them in the league and many people gave up hope. What followed however was completely unprecedented. A 2-0 victory in Munich was a brilliant result, coming so close to knocking out the eventual finalists. Victories at Swansea and Reading followed in March.

April: April saw five league games in which Arsenal went unbeaten. A win at West Brom, which was hard fought after Per Mertesacker’s red card set the tone for the month. Another hard fought win, this time at home to Norwich kept belief alive, the comeback after being 1-0 down after 84 minutes sending us third, at least temporarily. A difficult game in which Everton frustrated us followed, a goalless draw not ideal but not a disaster. A win at Fulham thanks to a Per Mertesacker header was poor in terms of performance but an ideal result. A 1-1 draw with the newly crowned Champions could have been so much more, our fate was out of our hands and panic starting to set in amongst Gooners once again.

May: A 1-0 win at QPR after a very early goal from Theo meant that the pressure was on Sp*rs. They failed to win at Chelsea which meant two wins from two would give us Champions League football. And that is what we did, beating Wigan 4-1 and Newcastle 1-0 in what was a perfect month in terms of results. 

So that was this season, many ups and downs but we have, as I have said before, given ourselves a platform for next season.

Come On You Gunners,

 

ARG

Mission Accomplished – Let’s Use it as a Springboard

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So in what was one of the longest 90 minutes of football I have ever had the so called ‘pleasure’ to watch, we have achieved Champions League football once again under Arsene Wenger. Whilst watching Match of the Day I was incredibly frustrated by the comments of Alan Shearer, a man who I do respect. He implied that the players were celebrating too much, given that we had finished fourth, not won a trophy. This is an example of the hypocrisy amongst football pundits that absolutely infuriates me. Before the game we were told that the Newcastle players shouldn’t need the incentive of Mike Ashley’s promised £1m, but should have the passion to play for their club regardless. When our players show joy at completing what seemed like a nye on impossible task when we lost to Sp*rs to fall seven points behind, they are, it seems, showing too much passion. 

One thing which Arsene highlighted about this group of players was their attitude, and I think that is pivotal. It was a tough game yesterday, Newcastle played well, and it was a case of breaking them down. Koscielny, who has to be up there for our player of the season, scored a clever goal to fire us ahead and we held on. I don’t think we played particularly well in an attacking sense, but there has been a huge improvement in the team defensively since the game at White Hart Lane, and that could be pivotal next year.

Champions League football will hopefully help us compete for the top players and with our reportedly large transfer budget, I am hoping to see an extremely productive summer. I think it is important to remember that we have a decent squad right now, but a few additions need to be made. I think we will probably lose Sagna in the summer, but I am not his biggest fan anyway. If that does happen I would like to see him replaced, a holding midfielder and a striker brought in. 

What I think is needed is not an overhaul of the entire squad, but to spend £50m pound or so on around three players and make sure that those players are world class ones. I honestly believe that we can challenge next season, yesterday was a good day and the players had every right to celebrate like they did, I believe this is the start of our journey back to the top.

 

Come On You Gunners,

 

ARG

Pre-Newcastle Nerves

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So we play Newcastle today in a game that could be pivotal for us, both in the transfer market and for next season. Champions League football is a big factor for many players in deciding when to move, and if we are going to spend more money this summer, then having Champions League football will help us attract some top players.

To do that we simply need to get three points against Newcastle today. Newcastle are already safe and so have little to play for. We have not just Champions League football but our pride on the line, with Sp*rs in close pursuit. The team Arsene picks will be hugely interesting as there are so many tough decisions to make. With Arteta injured should Arsene bring the leadership of Vermaelen back? Who is our best left-back? Should Giroud come back into the side? If so who should be dropped?

I don’t think Vermaelen will come back into the side, but other than that I am struggling to answer any of those questions. I will be intrigued to see what team Arsene decides to pick, but I trust him to make the right decision.

Another interesting that might possibly be answered is how close is Jack Wilshere to becoming Arsenal captain. If Arteta and Vermaelen are both out, I would say we have two options in terms of captaincy. The first is Per Mertesacker. Mertesacker is a supremely experienced international and a player who has proved himself to be a hugely talented central defender this season. The other is obviously Jack. I think most Gooners see Jack as a future captain and a player that we all have a huge amount of faith in. If Mikel doesn’t make the game, I would prefer to see Jack captain the side because I think it will inspire him more than it will Per. 

If Jack does in fact captain the side today then I think that highlights quite how close he may be to becoming captain. The Daily Mail (not the best source I am well aware!) said in February that Jack could become captain as early as next season.I don’t think it will be next season, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was captain by the start of the 2014-15 season. He had a cameo as captain against West Ham earlier in the season, but he was given the armband by Vermaelen, not Wenger.

What really matters today though is three points and then we can celebrate St Totteringham’s Day once again,

 

Up The Arse,

 

ARG

The Team to Save Our Season

Tomorrow sees Arsenal play Newcastle in what feels like a repeat of last season’s antics at the Hawthorns. That day we didn’t play very well but some shocking goalkeeping from West Brom was the difference and what gave us Champions League football last season. This season the situation is very similar in terms of what we need to do, and that is win. Sp*rs are playing Sunderland and, although they do seem to choke quite often, I expect them to win. Given that we need to match their result, that would mean that anything less than a win would mean Sp*rs would finish above us. 

Newcastle are safe and have nothing to play for, so it should be a game that we win easily, but the pressure that is on us may make this harder than it otherwise should be. Mikel Arteta is deemed a ‘major doubt’ and so I will plan my team without our vice-captain, but obviously if he is fit, he starts. Other than that, the team I would pick is:

Szczesny

  Sagna Kosc BFG Gibbs

       Ramsey Wilshere

Walcott    Rosicky  Cazorla

               Podolski

Although that team seems like an easy one to pick because there is only one changed, which is enforced, but it is far from the case. I think Left-Back is a difficult decision for Arsene, both Monreal and Gibbs are exceptional full backs but I would just have to go for Gibbs. I also think the decision whether or not to bring Giroud back after suspension is an incredibly difficult one. I do think Giroud has had a good season and deserves to come back into the side, but the question is who to drop.

The only players that Arsene could drop to bring in Giroud that would actually work are Theo, Cazorla, Poldi and Rosicky. Bringing in Giroud for anyone else simply wouldn’t work, even with a reshuffle of the team. The question then is, if you bring in Giroud, do you drop Theo, Cazorla, Poldi or Rosicky. If you brought in Giroud for Theo, you would move Poldi to the left, Santi to the right and put Ollie through the middle. Theo has scored three in his last three and is one of our best players, so I don’t think that will happen. Similarly I can’t see Cazorla being dropped under ay circumstance. That leaves the possibility of dropping either Poldi or Tom. Given that Poldi scored a brace on Tuesday I would be slightly surprised if he was dropped. Dropping Rosicky would also cause an issue as I think Arsene prefers to play Cazorla out wide. So despite the fact that I’d like to see Giroud come back into the side, I don’t think any of the players who played against Wigan deserve to be dropped. Huge decisions for Arsene to make, huge game tomorrow,

Up the Arse

 

ARG