Arsenal Transfer Rumors: Gunners Linked with Moves for Lugano and Yobo

Could they be teammates?

Last season, Arsenal went through the entire campaign with just three central defenders. Per Mertesacker played 52 games, Laurent Koscielny played 49 games and the captain, Thomas Vermaelen, managed just 21 appearances, largely due to his injury layoffs. Luckily for the Gunners, both Koscielny and Mertesacker didn’t have any major injuries but their fatigue going into the new campaign was a concern bearing in mind that both players featured in the World Cup. While Koscielny and compatriots left Brazil at the quarterfinal stage, Mertesacker and his teammates went all the way to the final, beating Argentina to seal a victory for Germany.

As the new season began, Arsenal made some signings in various positions but the writing was on the wall when Vermaelen wasn’t involved in some preseason action. Even Arsene Wenger himself shared his thoughts in regard to Vermaelen’s situation,

“Look, it could happen. I’ve said since the start of pre-season that Thomas could leave us because he needs to play now. He had an outstanding attitude and behaviour but he’s in a position where it’s difficult to stand in his way if he finds an interesting opportunity.”

A couple of days later, Vermaelen moved to FC Barcelona and everyone expected the Gunners to get a center back that was going to challenge Koscielny and Mertesacker for their places in the squad. Olympiakos’ youngster, Kostas Manolas, was heavily linked with a move to North London but he opted for AS Roma after they showed more interest than the Gunners. With the Gunners failing to sign any other defensive targets, they went into the new campaign with a light defense (personnel wise) and many people believed that it was going to come back to haunt them. Little did we know that it was sooner rather than later.

With Per Mertesacker given an extended break following his World Cup exertions, Calum Chambers was thrust into the thick of things right from the onset but Kieran Gibbs was the first defender to suffer an injury in the opening Premier League encounter against Crystal Palace. A few games later, Koscielny suffered a gashed head and struggled through out the game against Leicester before he was removed.

Last weekend, Matt Debuchy injured himself and the fans have been fearing for the worst. The defender has confirmed that there’s no fracture (thank goodness) but he also stated that he has ‘broken’ a ligament in his ankle and he’d have to wait on the medical staff to know whether he’s gonna require surgery or not.

Debuchy suffered the injury in the 81st minute of Arsenal's 2-2 Premier League draw against Manchester City

Shortly afterwards, it was Nacho Monreal’s turn to suffer a back injury, which compounds Arsenal’s woes at the back. As it stands, Arseanal has just three fit senior defenders in Gibbs, Koscielny and Mertesacker and they’re are two able young deputies in the forms of Chambers and Hector Bellerin waiting to get a chance to strut their stuff.

With the transfer window shut, Arsenal can’t delve into their cheque books to sign till January at least, but there is a stop-gap option, which is signing a player on a free transfer. Per the rule book, Premier League clubs can still sign free agents despite the transfer window closing on September 1, 2014.

The Daily Mail reports that Arsenal is considering making an offer for the veteran Uruguayan defender, Diego Lugano (33). The former Uruguay captain has been playing active football for the past 15 years, beginning his career in Nacional (Uruguay) and Sao Paulo before making the bold move across the Atlantic to Europe. After spending five seasons with Fenerbahce, Lugano moved to PSG and played for a couple of seasons before moving to SC Malaga on loan and finally, spending a campaign with West Brom.

Arsenal are considering signing former West Brom defender Diego Lugano

Since he was released by West Brom in the summer, Lugano has been without a club and of course, he’d jump at an opportunity to return to the Premier League in a club as ambitious as Arsenal. He would probably know that he’d occupy the Pascal Cygan / Mikael Silvestre / Sebastien Squillaci type of role and I’m sure he’d put in a good shift when he’s summoned. Lugano is a big commanding center back that’s very good in the air but the only challenge he might have is his declining pace but with a player like Mertesacker that’s in the same category, he’d feel right at home.

The Gunners have also been linked with a move for another Premier League stalwart, Joseph Yobo (34). The Nigerian defender began his European adventure with Standard Liege before switching to Olympique Marseille in 2001. Yobo’s stint at Marseille was brief and he made a move to Premier League outfit, Everton, where he made a name for himself. Yobo became one of the most consistent players in the Everton squad, and was one of only seven players in the entire league to play every minute of every game throughout the 2006/07 season.

In 2006, Yobo was heavily linked with a move to Arsenal, and with those rumors in mind, he actually delayed signing a new contract with the club. With Arsenal refuting the claims to sign him, Yobo extended his stay in Merseyside and continued to feature consistently before losing his place in the first team to the likes of Phil Jagielka, Joleon Lescott and Sylvian Distin. After a couple of loan spells at Fenerbahce, Yobo sealed a permanent move and shortly afterwards, he had a brief stint with Norwich City.

Yobo is a player with vast experience of playing in the Premier League having amassed 267 games in his 10 years at Everton. However, age is on his side, his form is on the wane and his performance in the World Cup with Nigeria was bittersweet. His final game for his country was in the Round of 16 fixture against France were he conceded an epic own goal following a mix-up with his goalie, Vincent Enyeama. He’s currently Nigeria’s most-capped player with 101 appearances.

Signing one of them (or both) would be good for the team’s defensive depth because the Gunners are shockingly light at the back. With Debuchy out injured, I see Chambers and Bellerin battling for his position which would mean that the central defensive combo of Koscielny and Mertesacker won’t have the cover they need.

Who knows if Lugano and / or Yobo would be the answer.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal and Injuries: Freakish Coincidence or Curse from Beyond?

Wilshere injury worry adds to Arsenal misery

Wilshere has added to Arsenal’s injury woes

Injuries they say, is part and parcel of the beautiful game.

There are a million and one reasons why teams are instructed to register a\25 players for every campaign with the Under-21 youngsters eligible to play. One reason is obviously depth, but the issue of the quality in depth is a tale for another day. At a club like Arsenal, squad depth has been debated on countless occasions and it’s always funny to know that the team always lacks in a certain department with each passing season.

Last season, the acquisition of a striker was key, as Olivier Giroud was burdened in the previous campaign but Arsene Wenger opted for a young raw talent in Yaya Sanogo, and the fans have seen how his fledgling career has panned out so far. Having just three central defenders, or better still, two and a half (Thomas Vermaelen was always injured most of the time) was suicidal but Wenger had the insurance of using Bacary Sagna as a make-shift center back when the club was down to their bare minimums at the back. The fans also clamored for a holding midfielder as Mikel Arteta played far too many games but that challenge wasn’t mitigated.

With Bacary Sagna and Lukasz Fabianski leaving on a Bosman, Arsenal replaced them with Matt Debuchy and David Ospina. With Carl Jenkinson going on loan and Calum Chambers joining the club, he looked more like Debuchy’s deputy but his versatility ensured that he was also going to serve as the back-up center back. Then there was the marquee signing in Alexis Sanchez, a different alternative to Giroud but not the man to serve as an adequate back up.

The campaign began with the curtain raiser against Manchester City and the Premier League opener against Crystal Palace.Yaya Sanogo and Kieran Gibbs picked up hamstring injuries, and Giroud went to the Besiktas home game without his deputy but in the Besiktas game, Mikel Arteta was the next person to suffer an injury, which offered his deputy, Mathieu Flamini, a chance back into the team.

After a horrific first half against Everton, the Gunners fought really hard to claw two goals but with seconds to spare, Giroud charged on Sylvain Distin in his bid to win the ball as Arsenal were pressing for that elusive killer third goal. Distin made a clearance that hit Giroud’s leg but when he landed and stayed on the ground for quite some time, it seemed really serious. Our fears were realized when he learned that the French forward would be out for four to five months, which caused widespread panic in the Arsenal blogosphere. Giroud wasn’t everyone’s preferred forward to lead the line but after watching Sanogo’s shit fest against Leicester, Giroud looked like Messi in the eyes of the fans.

The Gunners responded on Transfer Deadline Day with the acquisition of Danny Welbeck but the new lad needs time to settle into his new team. He would have had a dream debut if his chipped effort that went beyond Joe Hart went in but this was followed by a rather disappointing outing against Dortmund on Tuesday. He had a couple of clean chances you’d have expected him to bury but that level of composure wasn’t there and he was found wanting.

In the game against Leicester, Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain picked up knocks but both players were fit enough to feature two weeks later, as the Gunners hosted Manchester City at the Emirates. In that game, Arsenal lost Matt Debuchy to a bizarre injury that saw him stretched off from the pitch. With the game against Dortmund coming up, Nacho Monreal had back problems, Flamini picked up a thigh strain and Chambers suffered from tonsillitis, adding to the Gunners defensive woes. To add insult to injury, Jack Wilshere is the latest Gunner to suffer an injury after he ‘turned’ his ankle in the Dortmund defeat.

“Jack Wilshere has turned his ankle, it’s difficult to say how bad it is because I am a bit cautious.

“Normally it’s not very bad but because of his history I’m a bit cautious.”

These are the quotes from the manager and for a player like Wilshere with a wretched injury record (not even close to Abou Diaby’s record though), it’s okay for one to fear for the worst.

So with just seven games gone, Arsenal has had Sanogo (hamstring), Gibbs (hamstring – recovered), Arteta (ankle – recovered), Giroud (lower leg), Ozil (ankle – recovered), Ox (knock – recovered), Debuchy (ankle), Monreal (back), Diaby (diabytes – recovered, I think!), Flamini (thigh), Chambers (tonsillitis) and Wilshere (ankle) all injured at some point this season. If you add Serge Gnabry (thigh) and Theo Walcott (knee) to the aforementioned list, this indicates that Arsenal has had 14 players that had a reason or two to visit the treatment room this season.

When I read this excellent article about the new fitness recruit, Shad Forsyth, I was very optimistic about his addition to the squad and I’d hoped that he’d do his bit to help the players with their niggling fitness issues and the whole nine yards. However, with each passing game, the Gunners seem to somehow have a player that suffers an injury and at this rate, I’m wondering whether it’s a freakish coincidence or some curse from some power somewhere.

Arsene Wenger has a big squad at his disposal but while he can boast about a plethora of options in midfield, the quantity of personnel in the defense is nothing to write home about. Why he allowed his team to be in this situation is inexplicable. Arsenal can ill-afford to have any more injuries but at this rate, I’m just bewildered and perplexed, wondering why things are panning out this way for the players.

I’ve always likened Arsenal to the mythical creature, Hydra, because if you take out one head, another would pop up but at this rate, if anything happens to the fit defenders we have right now, it would be a nice recipe for disaster. I just hope we can sort out our fitness issues, because the more fit players Wenger has at his disposal, the better for the club.

Sayonara.

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Open Letter to Arsenal After the Club’s Defeat Against Dortmund

Football is such a fascinating sport.

When things are going your way with your favorite team recording victories, all flaws are swept under the carpet and everyone is all peachy’ and creamy’. When your team draws a match, there are always mixed opinions but then again, it depends on the circumstances surrounding the draw. While you would regard Arsenal’s draw against Leicester to be disappointing, Arsenal’s draw against Manchester City was a relief, because things could have been a lot worse.

However, when your favorite team loses, all Hell breaks loose and you’d see a 1,001 Arsene Wengers surfacing on several social media networking platforms sharing their views on how the manager could have set things up and the whole nine yards.

That’s where a guy like Anayo Alexander Nwosu comes in. Simply known as @K_Sturna on Twitter, Anayo is a very passionate Arsenal fan that has been supporting the club since the days Merlin was the Chief Wizard at Camelot. In the wake of Arsenal’s disappointing performance against Dortmund, this fan has shared his thoughts and I would love my readers to get a feel of his open letter to the club.

Dear Arsenal,

You have a big problem right now and Arsene Wenger is 60% of that problem, whether you agree with me or not. Maybe it’s when we get knocked out from the top four come May our eyes would be opened clearly to see how things are panning out at the club. 

Arsene Wenger as they say, is a genius. When he drops a quote, they’d say he’s the most intelligent coach in world football. Yes, he can manage resources and I can say that no other coach in the world might have been able to go through what he did in the club’s move to a new stadium but on the pitch, Wenger has been found wanting.

I can’t blame young Hector Bellerin for getting his Champions League debut under such circumstances. It was his second senior match ever! That he should have been called upon for such a game is down to the manager. He was the one that chose not to improve the defense despite its glaring frailties. Even the poor ol’ Mikel Arteta didn’t pick himself. Wenger did. The French manager’s fundamental problem is his sentiment!

We needed a ‘hatchet’ holding midfielder that would have been vital to the team’s cause this season because of the way we attack. Wenger did not buy because of Arteta and Mathieu Flamini. You people say that Arteta has a great influence but he doesn’t lead by example on the pitch. Flamini is also finished and doesn’t deserve to be in the team. Mikel Arteta at his current age will not make the bench of the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea or even the new-look Manchester United. But in Arsenal, he plays on a consistent basis even to the point when fatigue takes his toll and he get’s injured.

Can you imagine having only three central defenders in the team and their replacement is also the second choice right back? Sometimes I question Wenger’s ambition but at the same time, I don’t blame him. If a man knows that he’s allowed to behave anyhow he likes in his workplace, he can just come to work, sleep and won’t be productive but at the end of the month, he gets his salary and even a pay rise! What would you expect from that kind of a person? He won’t do anything because there’s no pressure on him.

It’s glaring that Mesut Ozil is going through a phase and he’s in a run of dismal form yet Wenger chose to play him in front of a 19-year-old inexperienced right back. Tomas Rosicky would have been the perfect alternative because with his energy and work rate, he would have offered protection to Bellerin, something Ozil couldn’t do all game long. When Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came late on, there was a moment where he tracked back (into Bellerin’s position) and made a sliding challenge on Henrikh Mkhitaryan to block a shot that would probably have gone in. Would Ozil have done this? Dortmund is renowned for closing their opponents down but at Arsenal, it’s just Alexis (he learned this from his time at FC Barcelona) and Ramsey that close down for us. See the first goal we conceded and observe Jack Wilshere’s body language.

How many passes did we misplace today? Since this season began, we have struggled with our intricate, crisp and accurate passing play. What happened to the way we do things? The Arsenal way we have come to love and cherish?

When you know what you need, as a manager with the financial backing Arsenal has, you should go for it. Jurgen Klopp lost Mario Gotze and replaced him with Henrikh Mkhitaryan. He lost a predator in the form of Robert Lewandowski and replaced him with Ciro Immobile and Adrian Ramos. This Dortmund team is the weakest we have ever played – there was no Marco Reus, Kuba, Matts Hummels, Shinji Kagawa, Lukasz Piszczek and Ilkay Gundogan but Arsenal failed to turn up.

I don’t know what the players do during their training sessions but I must confess that Arsenal’s ‘big-game’ mentality is horribly poor. Wenger just doesn’t know how to prepare his boys for the so-called big games. I’m praying to have an engagement that would make me the game against Chelsea in Stamford Bridge next month because I have a hunch of what the outcome might just be – Arsenal going there “4 – nothing”.

Arsene Wenger is too stubborn. He knows when some things aren’t working out for him but he keeps trying them for reasons best known to him. Heck, he doesn’t even watch our opponents before the match because he says it’s ‘not necessary’, that we should concentrate on our own game. He will only wait when its almost too late to remove a player that is below-par. Halftime subs aren’t in his lexicon except when the player is probably injured. This game needed an Ox or a Rosicky right from the start of the second half. One must wonder what Rosicky has to do to play for us this season.

Under normal circumstances, Ramsey and Ozil are meant to be on the bench in the game against Aston Villa with any two from Rosicky/Cazorla/Ox taking their places. But who am I? Just a fan right? Counter attacks have been our biggest problem since 1759, and shockingly, we still haven’t resolved it. We have pace in the form of Alexis, Welbeck and the Ox, yet we can’t even utilize it. See how Immobile and Aubameyang used their pace to devastating effect against us. We are waiting for Theo Walcott to return from a lengthy layoff before we begin to fly.

We sold Alex Song and converted a central midfielder to a holding midfielder. A classic case of a convincing an aging square peg that it can fill a round hole. 

The only constant thing in life is change and Arsenal needs it, whether it’s in personnel or methodology. Either ways I’m up for it.

Anayo Nwosu, a passionate fan.

You can follow Anayo Nwosu on Twitter with his handle @K_Sturna

Sayonara.

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Dortmund 2 Arsenal 0: Bad Result, Worse Performance

Dortmund 2 (Immobile 45′, Aubameyang 48′) – Arsenal 0

Signal Iduna Park (Champions League)

Player RatingsMatch HighlightsWenger Press Conference

The Gunners donned their new cup kits for the first time in a ground they had gotten some good results in the past. As recently as last season, all it took was an Aaron Ramsey header to settle the contest between both sides. As expected, Dortmund pressured the Gunners early on and almost had the lead when Henrikh Mkhitaryan dribbled Mikel Arteta in the box but took a dive, much to the disgust of the referee that brandished him a yellow card. The pressure continued as Ciro Immobile had a shot that was blocked by Laurent Koscielny.

Dortmund had a corner that put Arsenal’s zonal marking to the test but Sokratis Papastathopoulos was free in the box. However, his poor shot went wide off the mark. Arsenal managed to instigate an attack but Alexis Sanchez was offside. Despite hearing the ref’s whistle, Alexis still put the ball in the net and thoughts of Robin van Persie’s red card against FC Barcelona in 2011 came to my memory. Kevin Grosskreutz skipped past Hector Bellerin with ease before drilling a cross that was fired in first time by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang but Szczesny was on hand to make a superb save.

Dortmund continued to ask questions of Arsenal’s defense with another drilled effort that almost made Koscielny to suffer the ignominy of an own goal but Szczesny blocked the ball to Mkhitaryan’s path that launched his shot into orbit. Arsenal made a rare foray forward when Kieran Gibbs took on all comers before dinking a cross that Danny Welbeck couldn’t connect well with. On the other end of the pitch, Mkhitaryan fired another shot wide and Aubameyang stung Szczesny’s palms with a shot that was parried to the side netting.

Arsenal soaked a lot of pressure and in an instance Ramsey created a great chance for Welbeck but the forward fired his shot wide off the mark. In a game where the chances for Arsenal were few and far between, these were the kind of balls you’d expect your striker to bury. Shame.

With Welbeck failing to take the initiative, Immobile singlehandedly took on the entire defense and side-footed a shot that beat Szczesny in his far post to put the home side one up.

 

It was a very disappointing first half for the Gunners and one must have hoped that the players would be fired up for the second half but it was the exact opposite as the players switched off in typical fashion to allow Aubameyang skip past Szczesny before firing the ball to an unguarded net. Dortmund weren’t resting on their comfortable lead and they sought to inflict more damage on Arsenal as Immobile latched onto Mkhitaryan’s pass to fire a shot that was saved by Szczesny.

Sanchez teed up a chance for Welbeck that was blocked by the Dortmund rearguard. The home side launched a counter attack that tore the Arsenal defense to shreds but Aubameyang’s surface to goal missile slammed the cross bar before going over the bar. Wenger decided to remove the ineffectual Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey for Santi Cazorla and the Ox. Arsenal’s misery was almost compounded when Szczesny almost gifted Aubameyang the ball on a platter but the ball went out for a goal kick.

Things almost went from bad to worse when Arteta lost the ball in midfield but Mkhitaryan certainly didn’t come to the pitch with his shooting boots as he blasted a shot over when he had two players free on his far side. Wenger put Arteta out of his misery by bringing on Lukas Podolski in his stead. Jack Wilshere attempted one of his trademark lung-bursting runs but he was robbed off the ball. Mkhitaryan grabbed the loose ball and closed in on goal but the Ox showed good awareness to deflect the ball to a corner.

Arsenal would have scored what would have proved to be a consolation when Wilshere dinked a lovely ball for Podolski but his poor control as well as pressure from Roman Weidenfeller saw the ball go out for a goal kick, much to Podolski’s frustrations.

At the end, it was a very disappointing start to Arsenal’s Champions League campaign as they lost for the first time in Match Day 1 since the 3-0 reverse scoreline to Internazionale in 2003. I wonder how they’d pick themselves from this mess.

We would find out on Saturday.

Sayonara.

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Dortmund 2 Arsenal 0: Player Ratings

After waiting for the Champions League to get underway, the Gunners decided to put up a collective shambolic performance that was nothing to actually write home about. In the wake of Arsenal’s lackadaisical outing at the Signal Iduna Park, Gooner Daily reviews the performances of the players on the night.

DEFENSE

Wojciech Szczesny began the game well, making countless saves as his defense left him helpless but despite the fact that I was disappointed with his reaction to Ciro Immobile’s shot, I can’t fathom what was going through his mind when he charged at Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to allow the second goal. As if that wasn’t enough, he almost gifted the Gabonese speed demon another goal. 5/10

Hector Bellerin was overwhelmed by the occasion and struggled as the game progressed. Didn’t offer much offensively and was missing defensively as well. Tough ask for a 19-year-old chap. He’d learn from this. 4/10

Kieran Gibbs was a very good attacking outlet and he fired a couple of good balls into the box. Shame his attackers weren’t in the same wavelength. 7/10

Per Mertesacker was uncharacteristically shocking in defense. The way he allowed Kevin Grosskreutz ball to get to Aubameyang’s path was perplexing. 3/10

Laurent Koscielny also struggled with his defensive partner and he endured a torrid evening. 4/10

MIDFIELD

Mikel Arteta maybe forgiven for just returning from injury but my word, this was one of the worst performances I’ve seen from him in a long while. To think Mathieu Flamini was bad enough. 2/10

Aaron Ramsey was non-existent in the game bar his pass to Welbeck that was wasted by the English forward. Enough said. 2/10

Jack Wilshere tried to make things happen in midfield but he ran into Yellow and Black brick walls a lot of times. 6/10

Mesut Ozil huffed and puffed on the right flank but it never really worked out for him. He needs some time off to reflect on his bad form. 4/10

Alexis Sanchez endured a bad day in the office as nothing really worked out for him. Times without number, he was smothered by the opposition. 5/10

ATTACK

Danny Welbeck was at his profligate best, wasting the little chances that came his way. Oh well, I didn’t expect him to light fireworks though. 4/10

SUBSTITUTES

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain showed some energy, commitment and pace when he arrived. He needs to start ahead of Ozil. 6/10

Santi Cazorla was ineffectual. 4/10

Lukas Podolski spent a considerable chunk of his time looking for something on the bench, only to come into the pitch and squander the chance Wilshere created for him. N/A

Do you agree with these ratings? Feel free to share yours with your comments.

Sayonara.

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