Transfer Window thoughts, Wilshere’s injury, Arsene banned for two games, Vermaelen to be sidelined for two months?

September 5, 2011

So, it’s been almost five days since the end of the transfer window and the excitement of the dead line day. My one week leave are also over with today being the first day back at work (heck! I could have used another week).

The last four days, I spent the time with family and friends away from football, the reason for no updates on the blog. And considering that the International break is underway, I don’t have missed much.

Today, it is going to be a bit of everything that has happened in the last few days.

First off, the final two days of the transfer window were the best that I remember in terms of signings for us in recent times. Five players having experience and quality were signed, a rare thing at Arsenal, which did somewhat make up for the summer of inactivity. The thrashing at United, however, still hurts and this does lead to the question why weren’t players signed earlier? Also one wonders had United not defeated us the way they did, would these signings be made then? I know these and many other questions have been discussed a lot already. However, one cannot help why were we led into such a situation by the board and management considering we had three months to sort out all our problems?

Anyways what’s done is done and cannot be reversed. Sanity was restored to the Arsenal board and management team after the humbling at old Trafford. I do wish now that this had happened earlier (on second thoughts, no I wish it had never happened, to painful and humiliating!)

The players that we have signed do bring something extra to the squad and certainly add enough quality and numbers to make us challenge for the top four. Benayoun and Arteta are both Premier League experienced and will greatly improve our midfield. Santos is also experienced and Mertesacker will add height and stability to our defense. Park, considering where he comes from will give nothing short of 100 percent. And all of these signings are winners having won trophies in different capacities (if I am not wrong!) All have a number of caps for their national teams and they certainly will bring stability to our team and the young player will learn a lot.

As for what can be achieved with the squad we have, we can challenge for the top four now and maybe end our trophy drought with the cups. If we can pull something extra, we might also be involved in the title race. However, for that, I feel, we will need to maintain a good run till January where we would at least need a couple of special signings. I am hearing that Hazard, Cahill and Yann M’Vila are still our priority. If we can manage that in January, I am certain we are in for an exciting finish to the season.

We, however, should not get ahead of ourselves.  A lot of work needs to be done still. We need to get back to winning ways and close the gap with the leaders. We certainly have made a start in the right direction with these signings and with time we can add more quality to bring the glory days back to Arsenal (we still need to replace Nasri and Fabregas by the way)

Moving on, I am glad we did get to sell or loan out the dead weights at the club. I still, though, hope we get Henri Lansbury back, because considering such loan moves, mostly the players don’t return. As for Bendtner, I am happy for him to have finally moved on, even on a loan. He was being wasted here by being used in the wrong position. What he said recently of not returning to Arsenal is justified in the sense that he wasn’t properly utilized. However, in terms of quality, we are better off without him. I feel he will be a success at Sunderland which will in return prove beneficial to both him and in return to us, as we can get a better value for him in time. If we could have only rid ourselves of Almunia, Squillaci, Diaby and to an extent Chamakh, this summer would have been close to perfect.

Life, however, isn’t that kind, always playing its joke when you least expect it. And in our case they are always the cruelest. After having a great first season, we are now going to miss our most talented player, Jack Wilshere for at least another two to three months due to injury. What started out as a rumor has been confirmed by Wilshere himself. Jack Wilshere tweeted this yesterday on twitter.

I can confirm I will be out for around 2-3 months! I am working hard in the gym to stay fit and I am gutted but I will be back stronger!

I don’t know whether to blame lady luck, the Manager or our medical staff. This is certainly the result of playing a player over his limits which is completely avoidable. And then we ask why it is that our best players suffer long term injuries? And this has happened so many times now I am starting to believe it is more than bad luck.

It was Vermaelen the season before last. Excellent first season, injury in the next, out for a year. I just hope Wilshere doesn’t suffer the same because voices raised now will surely have to be answered then.  

In other news, UEFA again showed that they are a bunch of oafs. They do this every now and then just to make sure people don’t forget. Anyways, Arsene Wenger’s appeal against the two match ban has been dismissed by UEFA. The two matches ban was given to Wenger for supposedly breaking a rule that every other manger has broken in the world of football. I guess, I don’t need to go over the rule and when it was broken. Wenger is now going to miss the Champions League group games against Borussia Dortmund, away, and Olympiacos at home. Our officials are also fined 10000 Euros for improper conduct. Below is the UEFA stamen that is available on Arsenal.com

“The UEFA Appeals Body has rejected the appeal lodged by Arsenal FC and Arsène Wenger against the two-match suspension handed to the manager in the wake of the English club’s UEFA Champions League play-off first leg against Udinese Calcio on 16 August.
 
“Wenger will now be suspended from carrying out his duties at Arsenal’s next two UEFA competition matches – the UEFA Champions League group stage games against Borussia Dortmund and Olympiacos FC on 13 and 28 September – in accordance with the decision taken by the UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body on 22 August.

“The manager was awarded this suspension for not abiding by an earlier decision of the Control and Disciplinary Body during the Udinese home game – in which Wenger was serving a one-match ban imposed following Arsenal’s final UEFA Champions League game of last season.
 
“The Control and Disciplinary Body also fined Arsenal €10,000 for improper conduct by their officials during the match against the Italian team in north London.”

As for the International break, it continues in all its boredom. There have, however, been plenty of goals for our players. Van Persie bagged four, Park has had a hat-trick, Ramsey and Lansbury also ended up with goals. Chamberlain also impressed greatly. Possibly a sign of good things to come!

That is all for now. Swansea game is not far now and it will great to see how we line up against them. Good times ahead for sure!

p.s. While writing this, news about Vermaelen’s ankle surgery are circulating that can rule him out for possibly two months. It is not yet officially confirmed but twitter is abuzz at the moment with this news. More on this to follow!

 

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Confirmed: Arsenal sign Arteta and Benayoun!

August 31, 2011

Arsenal has done a great job on the transfer deadline day.

It is now officially confirmed that Andre Santos, Per Mertesacker and Benayoun have joined Arsenal.

According to BBC, we also have signed Arteta for a fee of around 10 million. He will join the club on a four year deal.

This is what @bbcsport_david tweeted on twitter minutes after the window officially closed:

“I can confirm Arteta and Bendtner are DONE deals #bbcfootball #afc #safc #efc”

“Arteta signs for Arsenal for fee in region of £10m. No news on contract length, squad number. Bendy to #safc on year-long loan #bbcfootball”

Arsenal has officially confirmed Arteta’s signing and Bendtner’s loan move to Sunderland.

Great news all around!

More to follow!


Gazidis assures signing players, Arsenal to have talks over Gervinho, Arsene interested in Emmanuel Riviere

June 14, 2011

Just a quick update today as I am busy somewhere else. Yesterday, Ivan Gazidis had a question and answer session with the Arsenal Shareholders Trust. I haven’t yet seen the session due to not finding time so can’t really comment on what happened. Ivan did, however, assure the fans that Arsenal will be making new signings this summer and a few of the current squad will also be asked to leave.

He was off the opinion that despite a massive disappointment the season cannot be seen as a disaster.

“Coming off the end of the season, I share with you a sense of profound disappointment. We had a season that promised a great deal and looked like it could turn into a very special one but in the end a familiar story began to tell itself. I understand the feelings that we all felt.

It is very clear we had some shortcomings and in this close season we are going to see some turnover of players. Some new signings will be coming in and some of our existing squad will be going out. As Arsène has said, it will be a busy close season for the Club.

But also it is important to recognize that it has not been a disaster. We have a young squad and we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The trick will be identify which parts to keep and which parts to turnover. And we will do that within our financial capabilities.”

I don’t want to sound negative but if finishing fourth in a two-horse title race isn’t disaster than I am afraid Ivan has lost me. It might have been disappointing if it was happening for the first time but to happen for four years consecutively is quite worrying. I will be discussing more of this after I have seen the whole session. For now, I am grateful that Ivan considers buying and indeed selling a few players, hopefully not to include Nasri and Fabregas.

In other news, Lille’s general manager Frederic Paquet has confirmed that they will be holding talks with Arsenal for a possible transfer of Gervinho. The general manger said

“He [Gervinho] wants to go and has developed contacts with Arsenal. We will soon have talks with them and see what they offer. He has expressed a desire to go to England and we will see what happens.”

With news coming out on daily basis related to Gervinho, it seems that we really are interested in him. let’s hope the talks are fruitful.

There is also talk of Arsene’s interest in Saint-Etienne striker Emmanuel Riviere. He has been compared to Thierry Henry and is valued at around £4.5 million. In the player’s own words

“I am flattered to be linked with the clubs mentioned. I am a young player, so to be linked with Arsenal is fantastic for me. If Arsene Wenger is interested in you it means you have potential to be a very good player. People compare me to Thierry Henry and that is a big compliment. If I can achieve half of his career I will be happy.”

With Bendtner on the verge of leaving, we do need to sign a striker this summer. Who will we get can only be answered by Wenger.

Today there were also reports that revealed Tottenham as the possible challengers to us in acquiring Christopher Samba. Blackburn themselves will do their best to keep Samba but my gut feeling is that if Wenger truly moves for him, we will get him this summer.

The biggest surprise of the day for me, however, was the news of a possible swap deal between Chelsea and Tottenham involving Drogba and Modric. My initial reaction to this was WTF! As for the rest, we will find out in the coming weeks.

By the way the media has already started speculating who will be the team to replace us in the top four next season. At the moment many are favoring Liverpool. Don’t the media love writing us off? Although I can’t say anything about titles at the moment, I am sure we will finish in the top four.

Have a good time!!


Arsenal vs Sunderland: Preview and Starting Eleven

March 5, 2011

We are back in action today in the Premier League with Sunderland coming to our home. I know no one needs to be reminded but all the remaining fixtures from now on are of great importance and points dropped in any will be crucial in the end. And after Chelsea’s win, this game is where we just don’t have to drop points. The ball is in our court, it is up to us to take the initiative and capitalize on this opportunity to put pressure back on United, who travel to Liverpool on Sunday. We shouldn’t be looking too much ahead but if we win today’s game, we will only be a point behind United and hopefully top of the table by 20th of this month.

As far as today’s game is concerned, I expect a difficult match for us. Although, Sunderland haven’t been playing well recently but I believe them to up their game as they always do against top of the table teams. Now, most teams go for ‘park the bus’ approach against us at our home but today I don’t see Sunderland doing the same. They will go for the attack as they did earlier in the season against us (although it was after we went down to 10 men) and they certainly can cause damage with Asamoah Gyan upfront. They are also good in keeping things compact at the back and then cause damage on the counter as they did to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

However, it doesn’t matter how Sunderland approach the game because it all depends on how we play. If our start is good, Sunderland will certainly go on the defensive. On the contrary if it isn’t, Sunderland will grow in confidence and try and take their chances. So for us to get the maximum points, all our players will have to perform. Be it the defenders, the midfielders or the attackers, all of them will have to work hard for the 90 minutes. The other thing we have to ensure is that we don’t concede silly goals at the back. If Djourou and Koscielny start I don’t see many problems but our midfield will have to contribute a lot.

As far as the starting eleven is concerned, I expect all of our regulars to start after Arsene admitted that Premier League is the priority and all focus is on this game.

Szczesny along with Djourou, Clichy and Sagna will surely return. If Koscielny isn’t hundred percent only then Squillaci should be started and not because of Barcelona but because Koscielny will be required for the FA Cup Quarter final and any recurrence of his injury will leave us very depleted at the back. And I hope Szczesny and Koscielny have one hell of a good game.

In the middle with no Cesc and Song our possibilities are limited. I will go with Wilshere, Nasri and Diaby. In this setup, Wilshere will have to stay a lot deeper.   

Up front Arshavin will return. Bendtner deserves a start after his hat trick against Leyton and on the right I will keep Rosicky. Rosicky and Nasri can interchange if things are not going to plan.

Probable starting XI: Szczesny, Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Wilshere, Nasri, Diaby, Rosicky, Bendtner, Arshavin

As I said before that this game won’t be easy but I expect the three points. We can win this but as easily we can drop points if we are not focussed – I am as always gunning for a big win.

Aaron Ramsey may also feature today and I am looking forward to it. I hope he comes on for a few minutes after all this time being on the sidelines but it will only be possible if we have the game in control.

Have a great day Gooners and enjoy the match. Barcelona can wait for now as today we reduce the gap to one point from Manu. Go Arsenal go!!


Player Ratings: Arsenal 1 – 0 Stoke City

February 24, 2011

Massive massive win for us as again we were left to play against not only Stoke but the referee, who made his intentions very clear when the second half started. I know no one is going to talk about the biased refereeing in this game because we won the game.  Still it was so evident that I was wondering whether the FA is blind or just incompetent. The ref did all he could to help stoke, except yes he didn’t get the chance to gift-wrap Stoke a goal but credit to Arsenal who kept it tight at the back through some brave defending. I also know most will not agree but as soon as the second half started, the attitude of the Stoke players and referee changed all together. Here again credit to Arsenal for not conceding a goal because had we conceded, the ref will have continued with his biased refereeing and our complaints would have meant nothing. For example, Carew’s foul on Djourou in the second half was late and I felt it was deliberate and IMO that was a red card and anyone not agreeing needs to see it again with open eyes. There were many others including fouls on Walcott, Nasri and Sagna where the ref did nothing. The commentary itself was unbelievable as they made the Stoke player look like angels. It was like no one wanted us to win match.

Anyways, I will come to the performance as this will end up somewhere else if I continue.

It was again a game where we dominated the possession but upfront we didn’t create much. In the middle we moved the ball around well but just couldn’t open Stoke up as they defended well at times. We also didn’t finish the few chances we created. Fabregas’ departure IMO opinion affected our game plan a lot.

The defenders did a great job out there as they held up against Stokes rugby. The midfield and the forwards played their part in it as well as we showed great character in the second half to thwart the tactics of Stoke and the help they were getting from the ref.

Coming to player ratings:

A solid 10 to all the players for being resolute till the very end and for getting another win against a side being helped blatantly by the referee.

Szczesny: Great keeping from the young man. He commanded his area well and made a couple of excellent saves. Was confident on the set pieces and throw ins. Made an error on one occasion but thankfully we weren’t punished for it.

Sagna: Excellent defensive display as he made several important tackles and blocks. Upfront provided the necessary width but didn’t influence much.

Djourou: Great game from him as he demonstrated again his aerial dominance and reading of the game. Was alert on the set pieces and showed good awareness.

Squillaci: He also had an excellent game. Defensively was superb with his positioning and showed good strength as he didn’t allow anyone to get past him easily. He also scored the important goal as again his positioning was very good on that occasion.

Clichy: Solid again. A couple of times was caught out of position but overall did well. He too provided the necessary width upfront but couldn’t influence the game much.

Wilshere: Another outstanding performance from the young Englishman. He is impressing with every game as he showed his defensive intelligence and how well he is in taking corners.  Moved the ball around well and didn’t give away possession and showed good work rate.

Song: Another typical Song performance, strong and full of energy. Did give away possession a few times but overall did his job. Upfront didn’t get things going.

Fabregas: I hope he makes it for the final on Sunday as he was substituted in the opening minutes. Still in that very less time, he delivered in some excellent balls. When he was on, we looked more threatening as a team as we went a bit flat after his departure

Nasri: Was impressive in bits and pieces as he failed to make much impact. However, kept the ball well especially in the final minutes when we were under a lot of pressure.

Bendtner: A great response by the Dane as he gave an improved performance from last time. Rather, yesterday he did show some end product for his talks off the pitch. His positioning was good and showed good strength against the Stoke defenders. His assist was both excellent and intelligent.

Walcott: As always was a continuous threat whenever he had the ball. Struck the post in the opening minutes but should have scored on Arshavin’s pass in the second half. However, his decision making was not good at times. As for his injury, he is going to miss the final but I hope he returns for the Barcelona match.

Subs:

Arshavin: The first of the forced substitutions made by Wenger. He did very well after coming on. Made a couple of very good runs and should have had an assist had Walcott scored on his pass. In the final minutes combined really well with Nasri in keeping the ball. He could have also gotten a goal had he been alert to Nasri’s pass in the final minute of the stoppage time.

Denilson: The second of the forced substitution and as usual he continued with his side ways passing. Not complaining much as it helped us keep the possession last night.

Chamakh: Provided defensive cover but had little time to make an impact upfront.

That’s it for now. Have a great day and keep the faith as this title race is going to have many twists and turns.


Arsenal vs Stoke City: Preview and Starting Eleven

February 23, 2011

Stoke City are visiting us today ahead of the Carling Cup final and a win will take us closer to a point of Manchester United at the top in the Premier League.

It seems like ages ago when this fixture was postponed back in December, with the prospect of facing Barcelona getting more attention at that time. We have now come a long way from that. Snow and bad weather saved Stoke at that time, today however they are in line for a lesson in football. 

It isn’t difficult to predict how Stoke will approach this game. From the very onset they will be looking to unsettle us. They will use the long balls, free kicks and long throws to their advantage and their forwards will use any mean necessary to gain advantage over us in our danger area.  Their midfielders and defenders, no doubt, will use the ‘committed’ approach of the English game to their full benefit. So, expect a lot of fouls and very less cards for them and if I am not wrong the opposite for us.

Our game plan, as Wenger very rightly pointed out, will be to keep possession and control the game. If we play the game to our speed, Stoke will have no chance of getting into it. The midfield will have to play a very big role in this and with most of our regulars set to start, it shouldn’t be difficult.

We will have to score goals and with no Van Persie, whosoever starts in his place will have to be really creative and clinical in front of goal. Fabregas, Nasri and Walcott will have to lead by example.  

As for the starting eleven, Szczesny will return in goal along with Clichy at left back and Djourou at centre back. With Koscielny injured, Squillaci will keep his place and Sagna will remain on the right flank.

In the middle, Fabregas and Wilshere will return and Song will keep his place.

Upfront, I would have started with Walcott in the middle if it wasn’t Stoke, as we will require someone with strength up there today. With Chamakh under-performing, Bendtner is the most suitable option and I hope that today he performs well as he will be playing at his favored position. Nasri and Walcott will be on either side of him. 

Probable starting XI: Szczesny, Sagna, Squillaci, Djourou, Clichy, Song, Fabregas, Wilshere, Walcott, Bendtner, Nasri.

This game can get difficult if Stoke score the first goal because they are much disciplined at the back. The first half, therefore, will be very important and the more quickly we get the game in control, the easier it will be.

As always, we need a win to keep the pressure on Man United. It will be a tight game but I expect nothing short of three points.

That’s it for now. Enjoy the match and have a great day.


Player Ratings: Arsenal 1 – 1 Leeds

January 8, 2011

The overall performance of the team was not up to what we have displayed in the last two games. Our passing and movement was slow and we weren’t decisive enough. We still had plenty of possession but it was of no use as Leeds easily defended whatever we created. We improved greatly when Fabregas and Walcott were brought on though.

The defence was not bad but there were few occasions where we were caught sleeping. Djourou clearly was a beast there and Szczesny was excellent.

In the middle, we did create a lot of chances but the passing tempo was slow.

While upfront, no one really made an impact despite presented with lots of chances. Walcott was the one who made the real difference.

Coming to player ratings:

Szczesny (7.5): Great keeping. Kept us in the game when it was level and also when we were a goal down. Nearly saved the penalty and overall good decision making from him.

Eboue (7): He was a constant threat while going forward. At times however was caught out of position at the back. Some of his crosses were really good.

Squillaci (5.5): Not impressed by his outing today. He should be the one with experience and confidence and today he himself looked short of both. Some of his decisions were poor.

Djourou (9): This man impresses every game. We would have lost today if not for him and Szczesny at the back. Reads the game really well and was always present at the right place at the right time. Made some vital interceptions and clearances.Was strong in the air and on the ground. Top performance!!

Gibbs (6.5): A good game by him while returning from an injury. Some of his runs and crosses were good.

Song (6): Looked unimpressed by the proceedings. Still did most of the things correctly.

Rosicky (6.5): He started very brightly and helped our game flow. His movement and touches were good however lost it in the later parts and was rightly substituted. He also gave away the ball at the wrong place on a few occasions.

Denilson (5): I don’t know what to say on him. Some of his shots were great as they tested the keeper. However, he just doesn’t have pace and strength. Gave away a silly penalty too.

Arshavin (5): I am at a loss as to what has happened to him. He is a genius, a master in his game if he plays, sadly most of the times he doesn’t. Nothing went right for the Russian today as he did try on a few occasions. On others he simply didn’t. Should have scored the opener on Rosicky’s lobbed pass. However, showed good technique on a few shots.

Chamakh (4): Another bad performance from him. IMO he is feeling the rigors of the Premier League.

Bendtner(6): Started the game well but went onto miss plenty of chances. Landed most of his headers over the bar.

Subs: Fabregas (8.5) changed the game when he came on. His presence increased the momentum of our passing and we looked more of a threat. Great composure while taking the penalty. Walcott (8) also made a big impact when he came on. Made some good runs and used his pace well. Still should have scored at the end when he shot the ball straight to the keeper. Vela (no rating) had very less time to make impact.

I will conclude by saying that we have to put this behind for now and look ahead to our next game. We still have a chance to qualify for the next round and hopefully when we face Leeds at their home we will get the job done.