Monthly Archives: August 2012

Cup Draws and some Transfer Deadline Day Madness

It all began on the 28th of August, 2011. Robin van Persie, the new skipper, led his under-strength Arsenal side against fierce rivals, Manchester United, in their Theater of Dreams. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to that fixture with optimism because Arsenal had its fair share of injuries and suspensions. The bench was nothing to write home about.

Wojciech Szczesny was the guardian between the sticks but he was protected by a relatively shaky defence. Two youngsters, Armand Traore and Carl Jenkinson manned the flanks, while Djourcielny played in the heart of the defense.

Francis Coquelin had the harshest of venues to make his debut but he had Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky in front of him. Robin van Persie, Andrey Arshavin and Theo Walcott completed the attacking trio.

After seeing the team sheet, I thought, “shaky defense and an experienced attack”, not bad huh?

After witnessing my worst 90 minutes as an Arsenal fan, I was filled up with pity for my sorry manager, his sorry-ass players and what lied ahead for Arsenal Football Club. We were languishing in 17th place, staying afloat relegation waters.

“It’s only three games”, I thought.

On the 31st of August, 2011, I and many Gooners out there were somewhat perplexed to see how that day panned out. Uncle Scrooge wiped off the dust from the Emirates cheque book to bring five “relief materials” that played a vital role in saving the club’s bacon.

Relief materials began arriving Emirates stadium barely 24hrs, as the aftermath of the devastation left by an 8.2 magnitude earthquake which brought Arsenal on it’s knees.

French envoy C. Y. Park unceremoniously arrived 1st due to French interests and proximity.
On the 31st, Turkish authorities sent in Brazilian-born mercenary Andre Santos.
Next was the arrival of a 6.6 ton German cargo named MV Per, which was closely followed by Ambassador Mikel Arteta from Everton.

Admiral Villas-Boas (AVB) of the Royal Blue Navy on compassionate grounds, deployed for a brief period Israeli trained mosad Yossi Benayoun to oversee operations until hostilities cease at Arsenal.”

With the obvious exception of Park Chu-Young, Arsenal fans are thankful to Wenger for his transfer shrewdness in bringing on some experienced internationals that rubbed on their influence on the rest of the squad.

Andre Santos has taken over from the reins of Farmer Emmanuel Eboue to be the joker of the squad, and unlike Gael Clichy that managed two goals in his eight-year stint with Arsenal, the cuddly mavericks slammed in three important goals for Arsenal last season – the match winner against Olympiakos and the equalizers against Chelsea and West Brom. Per Mertesacker brought on his height, composure, experience and coordination to Arsenal’s defense. His presence also brought out the best in Laurent Koscielny, that endeared himself to Arsenal hearts last season.

Mikel Arteta was by far the best signing from the lot and his vast levels of experience as well as his maturity and balanced played a role in maintaining stability in the middle. Yossi Benayoun was a fringe player for a large chunk of his Arsenal loan spell but he was immense in the team’s surge for a third place berth in the tail end of the campaign.

One year on, and a lot of things have changed in this part of the world. The club showed its proactiveness in securing deals for two forwards and added a perfect ingredient in the attacking midfield slot. Like last season, two key players also left to seek greener pastures elsewhere but the mood at the Emirates remains vibrant.

Theo Walcott was close to joining the Arsenal exodus after reaching a deadlock in signing a contract extension but Wenger is convinced that he’s going to stay.

“He’s focused on doing well, whatever happens at the end of the season will happen at the end of the season. He loves the club and I’m hopeful that we can find an agreement at some stage. It’s not about money

Many skeptics believe that Walcott can do a Flamini on Arsenal but we’ll see how things go in the near future. What matters right now is that Walcott is around for the short-term, and we hope that Arsenal can do its best to milk him dry before he leaves for some intergalactic team in Planet Jupiter.

Despite securing Walcott’s short-term future, Arsenal is still on the lookout for that “special, special player” and the club has purchased a 17-year-old wonderkid, Dejan Iliev, from FK Belasica in Macedonia.

Yes, Wenger has finally gotten that special lad that will bench Szczesny all season long. Yer right. Iliev has gone straight to Arsenal’s Mutant Academy to join the likes of James Shea and Damian Martinez as one for the friggin future.

There has also been some talk of Cheick Tiote moving to the Emirates but Wenger had openly denied making a move for the Ivorian. The media Vultures also say that Arsenal is making a shock loan bid for Chelsea’s Michael Essien. I’ll take Tiote or Essien over Diaby anyday anytime but I won’t be bothered if no holding midfielder arrives because Arteta can play the “Pirlo” role as well.

Arsenal’s deadwood attacking trio of Park Chu-Young, Marouane Chamakh and Nicklas Bendtner have been linked with moves away but NB52’s loan move to Juventus has gained heavy momentum as the Old Lady’s Sporting Director, Beppe Marotta, has confirmed that the Dane has arrived in Italy for a medical. The Juventus hierarchy stated that they wanted Dimitar Berbatov, but the Bulgarian opted to join Fulham instead.

That’s enough transfer madness for one post.

The chums at UEFA did the draws for the Champions League group stages and it was an event that graced with the creme de la creme of the beautiful game. After going through a process that saw George Weah, Ruud Gullit and Fabio Cannavaro do the honors of unveiling different teams, the 32 sides were drawn as follows:

Group A: FC Porto, Dynamo Kiev, Paris St. Germain, Dinamo Zagreb

Group B: Arsenal, Schalke 04, Olympiakos, SC Montpellier Herault

Group C: AC Milan, Zenit St. Petersburg, Anderlecht, Malaga

Group D: Real Madrid, Manchester City, Ajax, Borussia Dortmund (Group of Death)

Group E: Chelsea, Shakhtar Donetsk, Juventus, Nordsjaelland

Group F: Bayern Munich, Valencia, Lille, BATE Borisov

Group G: Barcelona, Benfica, Spartak Moscow, Celtic

Group H: Manchester United, Braga, Galatasaray, Cruj

Taking a candid look at the English contingent, it’s fair to say that Arsenal and Manchester United were handed relatively easy groups. Chelsea faces two tricky prospects in the form of Shakhtar and Juventus, and you can never tell what newcomers, Nordsjaelland have up their sleeves. Manchester City’s mettle will be tested yet again, and they can thank their lucky stars that they aren’t facing Napoli and Bayern-esque teams again.

Concentrating on Group B, Arsenal will start its Champions League adventure with a visit to Olivier Giroud’s former home ground, a prospect the striker will relish. However, Montpellier’s coach, Rene Girard, has stated that they’ll welcome their prodigal son with open arms,

“It could be worse, Arsenal is a great team, Olympiakos has a very passionate home support and Schalke play open German football.

It is a small sign of destiny, we are pleased, but it must be even more for us. He will probably be welcomed, but on the field, we will not be friends.

I expect Arsenal to ease through such a group but the Champions League is filled with thrills that can make the back of one’s hair stand up.

Arsenal has also been drawn with Coventry City in the Capitol One Cup

Time to pull the plug on this post.

Sayonara.

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Thoughts on Walcott, his Contract Situation and his Dramatic U-Turn

Sign the damn contract mate

 

Humans are an insatiable lot.

We always want the best things for ourselves, especially when we pay for the best things. The satisfaction comes when we get our money’s worth for a commodity but we are quick to launch full-scale attacks when we feel we aren’t getting value for money. It’s logical.

Transferring this ideology to the football world, the average football fan has certain expectations that guides him to go through a lot from the team he supports. He buys official merchandise, pays for season tickets and other football related stuff but in return, he wants to see his team excel beyond expectations and this has to be done by the players on the pitch.

In a club like Arsenal, the expectations of the fans used to be very high with us aiming for the Premier League, the FA Cup and a respectable position in the Champions League. We treated the Carling Cup…Capitol One Cup like trash and used it as a platform to see our young Guns in action.

We had a team so strong, that the training ground was a Ludus while Arsene Wenger was the great Lanista, training gladiators that were going to give their blood and sweat to get three points.

This attitude coincided with a great spell of success for Wenger, as he notched up three league titles, four FA Cups and a host of others. I can remember the Arsenal squad that locked horns with their eternal rivals, Manchester United in 2004. Patrick Vieira was sent off after the ref buckled to Ruud van Nistelrooy’s trickery and the Dutchman had a chance to convert a spot kick late on. Ruud boy sent Lehmann the wrong way but his penalty slammed the crossbar and I don’t need to elaborate what happened next…

The glory days

 

Arsene Wenger’s gladiators gave the cheat a piece of their minds in his home ground, and I saw van Nistelrooy running to the dressing room like a child that was bullied off his meal.

That was the Arsenal England and probably the world feared. Patrick Vieira’s influence, Gilberto’s calm, Robert Pires’ panache, Freddie Ljungberg’s canniness, Sol Campbell’s aggression, Jens Lehmann’s madness, Dennis Bergkamp’s godly technique and of course, Thierry Henry’s va va voom.

Eight years on, Arsenal has become a mere training centre, that broods talent ripe enough for the football world to pluck off with the enticing offer of a few quid here and there. A club once feared by many has become a laughing stock, as we the fans that could never settle for less in the yesteryear now take qualification to the Champions League as our holy grail.

Speaking of the Champions League, the draws take place today and we’ll brace ourselves up for another adventure as Arsene Wenger would start from scratch to play for the trophy that has evaded him as an Arsenal manager.

After seeing two midfield juggernauts in the form of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri leave the club, the fans were really shocked to see two integral players in the form of Robin van Persie and Alex Song follow suit. Unlike Fabregas and Nasri that did their fare share of flirting with the opposition before the club ultimately buckled, RvP and Song were footballers that were believed to have loved Arsenal through and through.

With the transfer window coming to a close, Arsenal shifted its focus to a player in that had a contract situation that needed some sorting out, the speedster himself, Theo Walcott. The winger is reaching the twilight of a £60,000 per week deal but a new £75,000 per week long-term contract was brought to the table. His agent had hoped to reach an agreement with the club over a contract worth £100,000 per week, but Arsenal was having none of that, so both parties reached a deadlock.

Giving Theo a contract worth £100,000 would make him the highest earner in Arsenal, which will put him above other key players like Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta, Bacary Sagna, Thomas Vermaelen, Wojciech Szczesny, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere, and Laurent Koscielny. Despite not being a better overall footballer than the players in the aforementioned list, Walcott still contributes immensely to the team and his stats are quite impressive, even if his footballing ability paints a different picture. In 222 games for Arsenal, he has scored 42 goals and supplied 40 assists.

In the wake of Walcott’s refusal to sign a new deal, the fans went haywire on Twitter and many were quick to point out his obvious flaws faster than Usain Bolt’s Olympic record. Many journos and bloggers voiced their opinions as well and a series of taunts were created as well,

‘Instead of running out of space on the pitch, you’re now running out of time Theo, what are you going to do? It’s your move. Will you remember to take the ball with you this time?’ – Lady Arse

‘In 6 year and 200+ games for the club, he’s hardly improved beyond what we saw when he was 16. He’s been a massive flop. His control is substandard, his vision is pretty worthless and he can’t run with his head up. He gets by on pace and pace alone.’ – Pedro of Le Grove  

I believe that it would be excellent business if Arsenal received £15 million for him. I do not think that he has lived up to the reputation that preceded him and certainly do not think he is deserving of a higher salary.’  – Aman Pattar of Football Transfer Tavern

I wonder how these great writers waxed lyrical and ran out of superlatives for Walcott when he made that long dash in San Siro (2008) to supply that through ball to Adebayor against AC Milan, when he slotted in that magnificent chip in the 3-0 win over Villarreal (2009), when he came off to the bench to run half the length of the field before squaring for Arshavin to put Arsenal 4–3 up against Liverpool in the 91st minute, although the match finished 4–4 (2009), when he saved Arsenal’s bacon against Barcelona in that 2-2 draw (2010), when he played a vital role in helping Arsenal in the play-offs last season and the list goes on.

Walcott is a vital player for Arsenal but the way we’ve treated him in the wake of his refusal to sign a new deal is uncalled for. Even if we manage to ship him out to Manchester City for the proposed £15m, what’s the assurance that Arsenal is going to purchase a new winger?

With Ryo Miyaichi out on loan in Wigan, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervinho remain the only contenders for Walcott’s place in the team. The Ox’s potential is very massive and under Wenger’s tutelage, he’s tipped for great things. Gervinho on the other hand is like an enigma, as his consistency levels are no different (or even worse) than Walcott.

After reaching a verbal agreement with his manager, Theo Walcott looks set to stay at the Emirates,

“It is all speculation. Negotiations are ongoing. Arsene Wenger and Theo Walcott had a heart-to-heart talk on Wednesday and both parties are committed to proceeding with a new contract.

The player will not be sold before the end of the transfer deadline.”

It was reported earlier that Arsenal had given the winger an ultimatum to sign a new deal or to be sold, a bit of info that club was quick to refute.

There’s a risk on Walcott doing a Flamini on the club, but the least he could do will be to contribute to the team’s cause this season, then we’ll see what the future has in store for us concerning this newly-erupted saga.

It’s not a greyhound, it’s not a cheetah, it’s Theo Walcott.

Sayonara

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Walcott Rejects New Deal and some Intense Transfer Speculation

After another summer that has seen Arsenal do business on both ends of the transfer market, two days are left for some deals to be finalised. Unlike last season where Arsene Wenger had to resort to “panic buys” to save his campaign, the Gunners are in a somewhat relaxed mood and eyebrows won’t be raised if there are no new acquisitions.

However, there are a host of players that need to be flushed out to reduce the club’s massive wage bill and Arsenal has only two days to get rid of those folks we regard as “deadwood”.

Nicklas Bendtner hasn’t been on anybody’s good books recently but I must say that he had a decent European Championship outing by his standards. After openly declaring that he doesn’t have plans to don the Red and White anymore, measures have been taken to kick him out with a large pink boot.

He has bragged times without number about how he was linked to every great club in the Milky Way but Arsenal is yet to receive any bid from those teams that want the Greatest Striker that ever Lived, Nicklas Bendtner.

With the transfer clock ticking towards its end, reports have emerged that Bendtner has been linked with a £5m move to Italian giants, Juventus. There was a period when Sevilla and Besiktas wanted Bendtner’s services but they failed to match Arsenal’s £10m evaluation for the rangy Dane.

With Arsenal making massive profits from the sales of Alex van Persie, cutting losses to sell a want-away forward like Bendtner won’t be a bad idea. I’ve also learned that UEFA is still taking a stance on handing the forward a one-match ban for his Paddy Power underwear stunt in the tourney.

Still sticking with potential departures, out-of-favor forward, Marouane Chamakh, has been linked with a loan move to Malaga. Despite their financial shortcomings, the Spanish outfit secured a Champions League berth with a play-off win over Panathinaikos.

Chamakh hasn’t featured for Arsenal so far this season and with Wenger handing the attacking baton to Olivier Giroud, with the likes of Lukas Podolski an able deputy as well, the chances of the Moroccan featuring are slim to none. A move to a club like Malaga will do wonders to Chamakh’s confidence and he’ll still be able to play at the top level.

The striker had reiterated his desire to stay at the club and fight for his place but every Gooner is hoping that the lure of regular football will be enough for Chamakh to wear that jersey no different from Argentina national team’s colors.

Arsenal has also lost out to AC Milan that captured young French starlet, M’Baye Niang. Despite having a shade of red on their home jerseys, AC Milan has been touted as the “new Arsenal” as they’ve become a selling and releasing club with the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Clarance Seedorf, Alessandro Nesta, Gennaro Gattuso, Mark van Bommel and Antonio Cassano all with new employers

I’ve not heard talk about the media Vultures questioning AC Milan’s “ambition”. Oh well, what can be heard from Serie A by the way?

Lemme guess, scandals, scandals, slow players, scandals, pasta, boring league, scandals and errrrr, scandals.

Moving on from speculation to more concrete stuff, Henri Lansbury has joined the Arsenal exodus and has sealed a £1m move to Nottingham Forest. The youngster has massive potential but he had limited chances at Arsenal so he has been loaned times without number in his bid to gain experience.

No tears will be shed over Lansbury’s departure and we wish him all the best in his future endeavors. I hope he does his best for his new side, and I also hope that he’ll visit the Emirates someday (in a cup fixture or the Premier League).

On potential arrivals, the media Vultures are at their best, linking Arsenal to footballers all over the galaxy.

Since the sale of Luka Modric, Tottenham has been on the market in search of an ideal replacement, and Malaga’s Isco has been linked with a move to White Hart Lane. However, reports are emerging that Arsenal is interested in the bloke as well, like we need another attacking midfielder. -__-

Arsenal has also been linked with a shock move for that goal scoring midget, Jermaine Defoe. Another great goalscorer, Ian Wright, has come out from his lair to state that Arsenal should gun for the forward because he’ll bang in the goals like RvP. Wright clearly has no faith in the current front line and he has showed it off by advising his club to go for the enemy’s own hobbit.

Newcastle has slapped a mammoth price tag of £20m for their star midfielder, Yohan Cabaye. The Frenchman has been labelled as Alex Song’s rightful replacement but getting him for £20m is certainly out of the cards. From a distance, I can hear Wenger say, “I have Diaby, Arteta can play the Pirlo role and Jack Wilshere is coming back soon”.

No Cabaye for us I guess.

Nuri Sahin has also been on the news recently, unveiling why he “snubbed” Arsenal for Loserpool…Liverpool. The Turk said that he was impressed with the team’s style of play against Manchester City and I’m sure that he forgot to add how atrocious they were at the back.

He was frank when he stated that the project with Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers was “best for his situation”.

In my honest opinion, he’s better suited for the Reds than us. He’s a lot better than Jonjo Shelvey and Gollum…Jay Spearing put together and Steven Gerrard has waned in recent times. He might just be the next big thing there like the way Raul Meireles took Anfield by storm in his first season with club. Now he’s a certified bench warmer in Chelsea.

Footballers and the decisions they take at times.

Sticking with decisions, Theo Walcott has ‘decided’ to reject the contract offer Arsenal put on the table and rumors of a quick-fire exit from the club has started gaining momentum.

Unlike van Persie that blabbed how he and the club failed to agree on how the team was to move forward, Walcott’s representatives have stated that their client has questioned the ambition of his manager, after the sales of RvP and Alex Song, which supplements the sales of Samantha and Francesca last season.

Walcott believes that the club has taken three steps forward and two steps back, placing his Arsenal future in doubt with his refusal to put pen to paper. He has been fiercely linked with moves to Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool, but Wenger still hopes that he’ll be persuaded to remain at the Emirates because of his importance to the club.

Twitter wasn’t a happy place in the wake of Walcott’s reluctance to sign a new deal. Many Gooners were quick to point their angry fingers at Walcott, and the winger should thank his lucky stars that he doesn’t have a Twitter account.

Despite Walcott’s shortcomings as a player which is largely attributed to his poor decision-making on the pitch, the forward has devastating pace that has been used to great effect throughout his career at Arsenal. He’s also a clinical finisher and his output to the team is a testament of Arsene Wenger’s alchemy on him.

People also tend to forget that he’s just 23, and his best years are well ahead of him.

Say what you want about Walcott, but I’d prefer the winger to stay at the club. Many Gooners love the Ox but he’s still unearthed and his naivety has been exposed countless times especially when the chips are down. The young speedster believes in his ability but I’d rather have Walcott in my starting lineup than the Ox.

Gervinho has his moments but he plays like a robot with a dysfunction chip at times.

The Champions League draw is tomorrow.

Let’s hope for easy opposition.

Sayonara

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Thoughts on Arsenal’s Draw with Stoke City

The Battle of Beanpoles won by ze Big Fuckin’ Giant

After a somewhat disappointing draw against Sunderland, the stage was set for another gruelling encounter for Arsene Wenger and his Red Army. The Gunners braced themselves to visit a ground that they had managed to record a meager four points from their last four visits, the dreaded Brittania Stadium.

Stoke almost drew first blood when Peter Crouch cushioned a header to Jon Walters that dispatched his effort goalwards but the offside flag spared Arsenal’s blushes. Chances in the first half were few and far between but there were some long range efforts from Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla and Stoke’s Michael Kightly with both efforts saved with consummate ease by both goalies.

The second half was a familiar story as both sides showed off their sloppiness but a scary moment arrived when Kieran Gibbs was adjudged to have fouled John Legend…Jermaine Pennant in the box but the ref was having none of it. I’m pretty sure that it might have been a different outcome if it was Eden Hazard.

Olivier Giroud had a great chance in the box to give Arsenal the lead when he was unmarked in the box but he chose to go for the spectacular when he had enough time to control the ball before blasting at goal. It was also reminiscent of the defense-splitting pass Cazorla handed him against Sunderland but he rushed his effort and a good chance went begging.

A rush of blood to the head I guess.

Giroud almost put his name on the back pages when he attempted an audacious speculative effort late on but his long-range shot skimmed the roof of the net to go over the bar. That act irked Arsene Wenger in the dugout, as he knew that Aaron Ramsey was in a better position to score after he had made a lot of ground in anticipation of a pass from Giroud.

Giroud stated afterwardsthat he had not noticed his teammate so he had to go for it,

“I hoped it would go in. I saw the keeper off his line and I did not see Aaron [in the middle] for a cross. So I tried to take my chance.”

In the wake of Arsenal’s goalless stalemate against Stoke that felt like two points lost rather than a point gained, here are my carefully considered thoughts on the team’s performance.

VITO MANNONE’S ASSURED PERFORMANCE

When Gooners learned that Wojciech Szczesny had suffered a minor rib injury and his deputy, Lukasz Fabianski, wasn’t fully fit as well, the panic button was pressed so hard, it sprang out of its remote control. Arsenal’s “want-away” third choice goalie, Vito Mannone, was to be the custodian between the sticks.

There were complaints about his lack of concentration like the horrendous act he committed when Arsenal played Olympiakos but these same fans that criticized Mannone heavily before the game sang his praises when he put up a five-star performance against Fulham in Craven Cottage a few seasons ago.

Despite being protected like a baby by Arsenal’s rearguard, Mannone came up with the goods as he commanded his area admirably by jumping the highest to claim crosses as well as keeping his concentration levels in check against a Stoke side were concentration was key in challenging the aerial threat they posed. He also did well to palm Kightly’s shot and looked assured all game long.

Mannone will probably go back to the bench when the Polish duo are fully fit but I’m sure that he got a pat in the back from his boss for keeping a clean sheet. Keepers are also paid for that as well.

Good third choice goalie?

 

AN EFFICIENT DEFENSIVE OUTING

With Kenwyne Jones warming the bench, Stoke’s gaffer, Tony Pulis, started with Peter Crouch and Jon Walters in his forward line, with a simple tactic worth its weight in gold – for Crouch to pluck out the ball from the air linking up well with his strike partner, Walters. In the seventh minute, a lofted ball into Arsenal’s box was cushioned to Walters’ path by Crouch, and the forward wasted no time in slamming Mannone’s goal but the offside flag came to Arsenal’s rescue.

That was the only setback Arsenal had defensively all game long as the rearguard worked extremely hard to quell every threat Stoke posed from the air.

The stand-out performer was the Big F*ckin’ Giant, Per Mertesacker. Many Gooners are in the opinion that Laurent Koscielny will be an automatic starter alongside club captain, Thomas Vermaelen but Mertesacker’s performance against an aerially-adept side like Stoke showed his importance to the squad. Time after time, the German threw himself in the line of fire to deal with his fellow beanpole, Crouch, and he won a large chunk of his aerial duels with Crouchinus.

Thomas Vermaelen put up another disciplined performance as he aims to be Arsenal’s new Tony Adams. Last season, Vermaelen made many forays forward leaving loopholes behind but both games against Sunderland and Stoke have shown that Vermaelen has adhered to Steve Bould’s instructions and he knows his role in the team.

There was a moment when he attacked the Stoke back line but he was clattered by Andy Wilkinson with a tackle worthy of a sending off but the ref chose to brandish a yellow card. Vermaelen also leaped as high as a pole vaulter, without the poles of course, in his bid to win aerial balls in the air.

Vermaelen on Shaolin mode

Kudos must also go to Arsenal’s young starlets on the full backs positions, Carl Jenkinson and Kieran Gibbs. They didn’t offer much in attack but they are compact defensively and offered no breathing space to Stoke’s wingers, Michael Kightly and Jermaine Pennant. In a brief cameo upfront, Jenkinson drilled in a brilliant cross to Abou Diaby, but as expected, the lanky Frenchman ran out of ideas and he spurned the chance. Gibbs on the other hand, was quite poor with his distribution in attack as he worked well with Lukas Podolski on the left but his output on the final third was found wanting.

ANOTHER INDUSTRIOUS MIDFIELD PERFORMANCE

An Alex Song-less midfield went through another game without creativity from the middle of the park and there were no trademark projectiles to feed the forward line. Songinho has also been on the news lately, revealing that he left Arsenal because the club failed to offer him a new deal.

His 204 games, 10 goals and 24 assists are now a part of history but focus must be on the players that want to be in the team, not others that left for the greens and reasons best known to Chuck Norris and the King Cobra that died after five days of agonizing pain.

Arsenal’s midfield triumvirate at the start of the game was Abou Diaby, Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla. The diminutive magician was an inspired form yet again as he continued to pull the strings in midfield, linking up brilliantly with his teammates and spraying passes all over the place. Cazorla also took responsibility for taking Arsenal’s boatload of corner kicks but Arteta picked up where his fellow Spaniard left off when he was substituted for Aaron Ramsey.

Diaby put up a better show that his stinker against Sunderland as he didn’t dwell on the ball too much and he was on the end of some neat one-twos. However, Diaby should have done better with the chance offered to him on a platter inside Stoke’s box but he blasted his effort wide after dallying on the ball.

Despite another performance that has seen Diaby end the game unscathed, I still feel that Arsenal will be better suited with a ready-made replacement for Alex Song, as Diaby cannot be trusted to stay fit all season long. Arteta was industrious in Arsenal’s midfield and he covered Diaby’s tracks well when he waltzed forward.

Santi was watched closely by his Stoke opponents

ANOTHER TOOTHLESS ATTACK YET AGAIN

Arsenal played six matches in the pre-season and had ten goals to show for it. The game against FC Cologne was so encouraging and it’s worth noting that two forwards, Lukas Podolski and Gervinho, got on the score sheet in that fixture. However, Podolski and Gervinho have started both fixtures against Sunderland and Stoke but they have no goals to show for it.

Gervinho was breathtaking against Sunderland but he put up an atrocious performance against Stoke. His decision-making was suspect yet again and he kept on taking on defenders when a simple pass to a teammate was a better option.

Podolski on the other hand had a quiet outing when he spearheaded the attack against Sunderland but he was very direct in his approach when he started from the left hand side on Sunday. He had a couple of shots against Stoke and the signs looked encouraging, but strikers are judged on goals, and Podolski has been found wanting.

Olivier Giroud has been touted as Robin van Persie’s replacement and I have a hunch that the burden of expectation is taking its toll on the forward. He had a great chance in the box to get his side forward but he chose to attempt an acrobatic effort that bounced on the ground before going wide. He also fired a speculative effort late on that went over the bar.

Lukas Podolski - Stoke City v Arsenal - Premier League

Andy Wilkinson’s last-ditch block against Podolski

Giroud has urged the fans for patience and Arsene Wenger stated that the club lacked oil in its engine but Wenger was quick to defend his misfiring strikeforce,

“If you want to convince me we lost an exceptional player [in Robin van Persie] you are wasting your time. I was the first to say that. “We have to find a way to get around that by sharing more of the goals than we did before with Van Persie. Giroud scored 20 [last season], Podolski scored 20. We will get some goals I’m convinced from [Abou] Diaby, [Aaron] Ramsay, [Theo] Walcott, Gervinho, so we have of course to share it around a bit.” 

Overall, it was labelled as a disappointment against a Stoke side that the Gunners were capable of beating, but plaudits should go to Steve Bould and his defensive unit for instilling some confidence in Arsenal’s rearguard. The zonal marking on display was very impressive and many Gunners were never afraid to put their bodies in the line of fire in their attempts to win the ball.

Despite having over ten corners or so, Arsenal didn’t threaten Stoke from set pieces but the odds of beating Stoke in their own game was slim to none. Even with the height advantage Mertesacker, Diaby and Giroud offered, Ryan Shawcross and Robert Huth got the upper hand in many aerial duels.

Finally, I must say that I’ve been hugely impressed with the new signings as they’ve already integrated themselves in the Arsenal way of life. Santi Cazorla has been dissed as a poor man’s Fabregas but the Spaniard has been a shining light in the heart of Arsenal’s midfield as he continues to pull all the strings in midfield.

Lukas Podolski played very well on the left wing and he made direct runs forward, winning free kicks for his team. Olivier Giroud has been showing off his great off the ball movement and he has really linked up well with his teammates.

In due time, the floodgates will open for Arsenal’s new forwards and the goals will start creeping in.

A true test awaits the Gunners at Anfield.

I just shared my thoughts on the Stoke game.

Feel free to share yours with your comments. Sayonara.

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Sayonara Sahin, Midfield Options and Contract Talks for Walcott

Photo via Goal.com

The sale of Alex Song to Barcelona was a real bone of contention from an Arsenal perspective. On one corner stood a faction of the Arsenal faithful that believed that Alex Song’s sale was highly welcome because of his poor positional play, bad “attitude”, sloppy passes, not doing his primary job well and of course, declaring his intentions to play for Barca. On the other corner stood the faction of the Arsenal faithful that condemned his sale because of his consistency, assists and most of all, his quality.

Irrespective of what every Arsenal fan thought, they were all in unison with a unanimous decision – for the club to purchase a replacement with the same, if not better quality. The media Vultures did their bit to link Arsenal with a host of holding midfielders in the business, but after many weeks of speculation, Arsenal declared its intentions to secure a loan deal for Real Madrid’s deep-lying playmaker, Nuri Sahin.

Sahin’s style of play is not too different from the Alex Song we witnessed last season, but it was a move that was widely accepted by many Gooners out there. Arsenal would have secured the deal ages ago, but the Gunners wanted to add a buyout clause in the contract, much to the dissatisfaction of Sahin’s parent club club, Real Madrid. Up stepped Liverpool with a mega lucrative loan offer and Sahin was theirs for the taking.

Like the yesteryear, it has always been about money, and Arsenal has missed out yet again. Wenger has arrogantly played the “If I wanted Sahin, I would have signed him” card but tales of missing out on another quality player will be gone with the wind if Arsenal goes out there to get a new midfielder.

However, it seems as if Arsene Wenger is very content with his current squad, and he stated that he’ll only sign players with something special,

“We are still in the market in some positions. We have experienced players in midfield like Arteta, Cazorla and Rosicky plus some young very promising players like Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Coquelin and one or two in between age-wise like Diaby, who is coming back.

“We will only take players who have something special. We believe we have a very strong team and if we find the special player, we will do it.

“There’s always a lot going on in the last week – in and out. We have some players who can go out, but overall there is always something happening in the last week. I have a clear idea of what I want to do, if it happens, it happens.”

Wenger also weighed his options for a midfielder that would man Song’s role for the rest of the season,

“If you look at the numbers you will see that Song was more of an offensive player than a defensive midfielder, Arteta can play deeper – the kind of Pirlo role – and we have Diaby who is a very strong defensive player. 

“We have Coquelin who is also doing very well. I’ve played many games with Diaby and Wilshere [in midfield] and they were very efficient.”

This certainly means that Wenger might stick with this current lot without any potential additions.

Mikel Arteta is an offensively-minded player that has a good passing range but he was made to work on his defensive side when Song made his forays forward last season. Despite balancing play admirably last season, there were moments when Arteta was shoved off by stronger midfielders in the middle of the park. He also doesn’t possess a lot of speed when tracking back and in my honest opinion, Arteta can’t play in Song’s role for the rest of the season. He’s better suited in his box-to-box role.

Abou Diaby on the other hand, has the frame of good holding midfielder but his abilities as a footballer show that he’s not suited for that role as well. He has a penchant for dwelling on the ball far too long and let’s not forget that Diaby cannot be trusted to remain fit all season long. When I watched him play in Song’s role against Sunderland, I must say that I wasn’t really impressed and a few Gooners out there might share the same sentiment.

Funnily enough, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has declared his intentions to play in Song’s holding midfield role. Be the judge of that.

To team news, the Ox has said some sweet words about Santi Cazorla, and Olivier Giroud has ran out of superlatives for the diminutive midfielder, labeling him as Arsenal’s Zinedine Zidane. Giroud has also urged Arsenal fans to be patient with him, indicating that he’s here to bring something different to the team, not to replace Judas Iscariot the player that left.

Finally, Arsenal has reopened negotiations with Usain Bolt Theo Walcott over a possible five-year deal. Like van Persie, Walcott had only one year left on his current contract but the Flying Dutchman dominated the proceedings this summer before his flames were doused after he secured his £24m move to Manure United.

Like van Persie and Song, Arsenal won’t break sweat if Walcott announces his intentions to leave the club but we’ll prefer the Englishman to stay because his speed, finesse and technical ability are great assets to Arsenal football club. He needs to work on his decision making and dribbling though.

Sayonara.

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