Does Sergi Samper Fit the Bill for the DM Arsenal Needs?

Sergi Samper impressed for Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday evening

A highly-rated youngster in Barcelona’s ranks

After settling down in Warri yesterday, I wanna drop a quick one before leaving my hotel with my colleagues to go for the meeting that brought me to this great city in the first place. And yeah, they’d opened Shoprite in Waffi Town but I don’t know if I’d have the time to see the facility.

So here we are again, speculating who’s going to be Francis Coquelin’s competitor in the forthcoming season. Geoffrey Kondogbia was mentioned but Roberto Mancini and his Inter hordes swooped for the Monaco powerhouse, Morgan Schneiderlin seemed very likely to join the Gunners but he’s going to be part of the ‘Philosophy’ team. William Carvalho was another plausible option but he has suffered an injury that would sideline him for the entirety of the transfer window.

A new name has been mentioned – Barcelona’s young defensive midfield starlet, Sergi Samper. According to Inside Spanish Football, Arsenal is willing to activate the midfielder’s €12 million release clause. It is widely believed that Arsenal tried to sign the midfielder as far back as 2011 when he was just 15, but those attempts were unsuccessful, so the Gunners poached Hector Bellerin and Jon Toral instead.

Samper is highly-rated in Catalonia and he has been touted as Sergio Busquets natural replacement in the team. He’s yet to make his La Liga debut for the Catalan juggernauts but he featured three times in the Copa del Rey and made a rare appearance for the club in the Champions League, which also turned out to be his first team debut, against APOEL Nicosia.

However, he has featured heavily for Barcelona B in the Segunda division, making 74 appearances and six goals from a deep-lying playmaker position, something like a quarterback like Xabi Alonso. Samper is a very good distributor of the ball and he likes to dictate the tempo of the game. He also has the instincts of an anchor man as he knows when to make an interception or a crunching tackle to win the ball back for his team. He anticipates the runs and passes of the opposition, proving you don’t have to be physically imposing to play the position as long as you are clever.

This YouTube video gives an overview of the talent that is Samper.

He signed a contract last season which runs into 2017 but having a release clause of €12 million simply means that the Gunners can poach him away from Barcelona’s hands and I’m sure many Arsenal fans would love the thought of that – taking another Barcelona player that is highly-rated. Both teams have a good working relationship and history can tell you that they know how to get on with business when the need arises.

The ultimate question is – does Samper fit the bill for the new defensive midfielder Arsenal needs? I’d say yes and these are my reasons why.

Francis Coquelin just broke into the first team and he will need to feature consistently for Arsenal if he wants to continue improving. With Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini providing back-up and reaching their twilight with the team, signing a youngster like Samper would be a good fit because he would be able to settle in well (there are a few players with Barcelona roots in the team and the Spanish speaking folks will make him feel at home).

When the likes of Arteta and Flamini finally leave in 2017, Samper would be ready to challenge Coquelin for his place at the start of the 2016/17 campaign. If he signs for the Gunners, I’d expect to see him in the Capital One Cup and the lesser games in the FA Cup as well.

We will just have to monitor the situation and see how things play out in the coming weeks.

Time to leave for my meeting.

Sayonara.

Bonus Reading: Sergi Samper – Barcelona’s Modern Day Pep Guardiola – ESPN

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Thoughts on Wojciech Szczesny Link with AS Roma

 

Benched: Wojciech Szczesny has been dropped for the last two games by Arsene Wenger

Hey Wojciech, I left Arsenal’s bench for Barca’s bench and I’ve won a treble

One of the perks of working in a company like mine is that you’d get to travel from time to time across various cities, doing company business as well as taking some time to have some pleasure. I’m currently at the departure lounge at the Murtala Muhammed Airport and I’m bracing myself to make a trip to Warri for a meeting, but I’m going to make some time to see my good friend, Gideon, and maybe, Edosa, if he’s available. I’d have to ensure I let my fingers do the talking when we start battling ourselves on FIFA 15, and there will be Orijin for us to make merry.

Social media has grown over the years and with more updates in technology, I expect more social networking platforms to hit center stage and it would simply be a case the individual deciding what he wants to join. Take a guy like me for instance, the first social networking platform I was heavily involved with was Yahoo! Messenger (ps. I’m not that old!), then Hi 5, then MySpace, then Linkedln, then Facebook and of course, Twitter, for myself and the blog.

I chose not to join Instagram because… err, I think that’s irrelevant right now. But who am I? Just a random Nigerian that writes a blog about Arsenal because it’s simply the greatest club in the world. A few folks know me here and there, but hey, I love my social media life…even if it’s still fledgling.

But we all know Wojciech Szczesny, don’t we?

He has his own Wikipedia page (not as lengthy as Lionel Messi’s or Cristiano Ronaldo’s, but he’s doing alright), his profile on Arsenal.com, Facebook Page, 757,000 followers on Twitter, 427,000 followers on Instagram and a father that has a penchant for spitting out all sorts of bullcrap.

Where I’m heading with all these? Szczesny has a strong presence in the social media world and anything he does is closely monitored by all sorts of folks that are probably paid to do such stuff. Three years ago, Szczesny got himself into trouble when he jokingly tweeted that his teammate, Aaron Ramsey, looked like a rapist. He apologized shortly afterwards but he was on the end of some abuse by the world’s best trolls, and it got to him even to the extent of him temporarily shutting down his Twitter account. Then there was the mockery of Tottenham that led to the manager, Harry Redknapp, giving the lad a piece of his mind but after some time, the issue died out with time.

Szczesny is a professional athlete that has given six years of service to Arsenal and two seasons ago, he won the Golden Glove award with his current teammate, Petr Cech. This is a really cool guy that works around with a tiger and recently proposed to his beautiful Marina Luczenko. He’s a great lad with a lot of potential and I see him understudying Cech to become an even better goalkeeper.

The arrival of Cech has brought some speculation regarding the future of Szczesny and David Ospina (still on holiday after his successful Copa America campaign). Many fans believe that it won’t be possible for the club to keep all three goalies and with Cech just arriving and heading straight into the first team, either Szczesny or Ospina might he told to further their careers elsewhere. This has sparked countless debates among fans and the whole nine yards with everyone agreeing that competition for places will be good for the team.

So Szczesny decides to follow Roma legend, Francesco Totti and Alessandro Florenzi on Instagram, and the media vultures haven’t wasted any time in publishing an article that he’s keen on a move to Roma. Like seriously? Don’t these guys have any chill whatsoever?

When did following another professional footballer become a driver to make a move to the club of that player? Olivier Giroud follows Bacary Sagna, Raphael Varane, Batefembi Gomis, Blaise Matuidi, Remy Cabella and Benjamin Stambouli on Twitter. Oh wait! They are French – perfect excuse innit?

So what would you say about Jack Wilshere following Carlo Ancelotti (he want’s to play under him right?), Laurent Koscielny following Karim Benzema (he hopes they’d be teammates huh?), Theo Walcott following Cesc Fabregas (he can never be a Rent Boy, but hey, he hasn’t signed da ting) or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain following Luis Figo (maybe he wants to become FIFA president someday yeah?). Social media has evolved to the level where the smallest of details are brought into the spotlight like Alexandre Lacazette ‘favoriting’ a tweet linking him with Arsenal – which deleted afterwards.

The season hasn’t began yet so we may be subjected to such drivel with each passing but linking Szczesny to Roma because he followed two chaps from the club is plain ol’ bollocks to me. The player has stated that he’s looking forward to learning from Cech and it would stay that way, till Arsene Wenger believes otherwise.

Time to continue waiting for this flight.

Sayonara.

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Why is Walcott Wasting Time to Sign Da Ting?

Goalscorer Walcott wheels away in celebration as as the fans in the background celebrate his winner as Arsenal see off Everton 

 

So I’m back at work, suffering for a little dose of post-public holiday hangover (the feeling of being in holiday mode when you’re meant to be mentally ready for work) but it would pass. When you have the large amount of pending emails I’m seeing this morning, you’d know that a lot can happen at work between Thursday last week and today, because I spent Friday last week, Saturday, Sunday and yesterday playing the Witcher III on my PS4.

With plans ongoing for the forthcoming Emirates Cup, Arsene Wenger would want to ensure that his squad is a tight-knit bunch and he wouldn’t want any ‘unhappy ‘ players in the squad. It’s a long season ahead of us and Wenger would want to secure the futures of some of the players with contracts that are reaching their end.

From the best of my knowledge, signing a contract is meant to be a pretty much straightforward thing. On one end is the club representatives, telling the player and his agent the terms of the new contract, the number of years and of course, the weekly salary figure. Some clubs even go as far as adding clauses (that usually proves beneficial or troubling in the near future). The player and his agent read the terms, iron a few things out before the player puts pen to paper and bob’s your uncle. Maybe it’s a bit more complicated than I feel it is but when a contract situation becomes protracted it becomes a niggling issue that’s no different from a thorn in a flesh.

Look at young lads like Francis Coquelin and Hector Bellerin that recently extended their contracts with the club. At the start of last season, it seemed unlikely that they were going to make their breakthroughs at the club. Even Arsene Wenger has acknowledged several times that he didn’t envisage that these lads would have exceeded all his expectations. Both players had stroke of luck on their side and latched onto the opportunities that were afforded to them by putting up great performances on the pitch and the club deemed it fit to tie their futures to long term deals – which of course, they signed without batting an eyelid. No issues, no problems, just signing a good ol’ contract and they did.

Enter Theo Walcott – Arsenal’s longest serving player with Abou Diaby leaving the club a few weeks ago. In 302 games for Arsenal, Walcott has scored 76 goals with half a century coming in the Premier League. The club has groomed a relatively raw young talent from Southampton and improved him drastically. I’d say that Walcott isn’t a finished product just yet, as there are some aspects of his game that needs improvement but he’s a player that gives you that unpredictably and edge in a game, especially when the chips are down.

He did well to nail a first team berth in the squad but he suffered that ACL injury that sidelined him for a very long time. His return to the club saw him score a couple of goals but Wenger ‘froze him out’ of the first team for the ending months of last season before giving him rare starts against West Brom in the final league game and Aston Villa in the FA Cup final and he gave his manager something to think when he scored four goals in two games.

This season, Walcott began with a bang as his scored with literally his first attempt on goal in Arsenal’s 3-1 victory over Everton in the Barclays Asia Trophy final. He started on the right flank but drifted into a center forward position to score after anticipating Santi Cazorla’s brilliant overhead through ball. With that effort, Walcott is doing his bit to become indispensable to the team but he’s running into the final months of his contract and he has to sign da ting if he wants to remain at Arsenal.

A player with one year on his contract puts a club in a rather precarious situation in regard to his future and in most cases, drastic decisions are made. Will the club cash in on him and make 20m+ for his services, or will the club play hardball with him and let him on Bosman? Decisions. Decisions.

When he was asked his contract situation, Walcott seemed to be ‘relaxed’ about it,

“I enjoy playing for this club, so I am just letting them crack on with things and I’ll continue playing football.

“We’ll just play the waiting game and see what happens but I’m sure it won’t be long. This squad, for me, is one of the best I’ve been involved in. I want to be part of that.”

This so-called waiting game can take longer than expected but it’s really tiring, bearing in mind that Walcott put the club in the same situation in the 2012/13 campaign. The Guardian is reporting that he’s hoping for a pay rise to match his peers but I don’t know if it would be up to the £140,000-a-week deal the club pays Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez.

It’s also worth noting that Walcott has suffered a lot of injuries in his Arsenal career and this statistical breakdown by the folks at Paddy Power gives an extensive overview of Abou Diaby Walcott’s injury problems.

I hope Walcott signs da ting though. He’s a good asset to the team.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal Transfer Rumors: Lacazette to Stay and Flamini for Galatasaray Medicals?

With yesterday night being a Sunday I was trying to make preparations for work today, only to realize that it’s still a public holiday here at Nigeria. My Internet Service Provider has been acting like Yaya Sanogo in front of goal since last night, and it’s saddening to know that the trend isn’t stopping this morning, so I’d have to publish this article with my phone, something I haven’t done since when Lukas Podolski played his first game for Inter.

I really ought to go continue playing my Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt because that game is 50 Shades of Awesomeness, so here’s a quick update on the latest transfer rumors surrounding the club.

It’s been well documented that the Gunners needed strengthening in two key positions, the center forward berth and the holding midfield role. Several names have been linked with the club but the only acquisition still date still remains Petr Cech. The Czech goalie enjoyed a great reception from the fans at Singapore and I’m sure he’d get an even better one when he returns to the home of football this weekend to play the Emirates Cup.

Alexandre Lacazette is a player that has been heavily linked with the club this summer and it was believed that Lyon were ready to offer the lad to Arsenal for £21m. According to the Daily Mail, Lacazette has stated his desire to continue his football at Lyon, after what proved to be a successful campaign last time out,

“I have already said that I want to continue with Lyon. I have shown that I’m fully committed. It’s football that interests me, not money. I hope to have a strong season”

We have heard this kinda stuff from footballers, haven’t we? A classic example would be the case of Manchester City’s recent acquisition, Fabian Delph that declared his loyalty for Aston Villa before making a u-turn to help the club alleviate their homegrown problems.

No official bid has been made for Lacazette as its believed that the Gunners are eyeing a £40m bid for Karim Benzema. TMhere’s a lot of time between now and the end of the transfer window, so we will keep our fingers crossed.

Moving on to departures, the Daily Star published a piece stating that Mathieu Flamini is expected to travel to Turkey this week to undergo a medical with Galatasaray. The Turkish club recently signed Lukas Podolski from the club and both managers have a good rapport so it would be easy to take Flamini from North London.

The Flanimal is 31-years-old and is clearly behind Francis Coquelin in the pecking order, and there’s also the issue of the captain still hanging around as well as the whispers of a new holding midfielder joining the club.

Many fans will be glad to see the back of Flamini. Let’s hope these rumors are true.

Sayonara

Arsenal (3 – 1) Everton: Gunners Bring the Asia Trophy Home

Barclays Asia Trophy

Mikel Arteta lifting the trophy

Arsenal (Walcott 22′, Cazorla 58′, Ozil 62′) (3 – 1) Everton (Barkley 75′)

Match Report Match HighlightsPost-Match Press Conference (via Arsenal.com)

Arsene Wenger promised the big boys in the final and boy, we got the big boys in the final. The fans were more than happy to see that bloke with the rugby helmet standing between the sticks for the Gunners and his every touch was met with a roar from the Arsenal faithful, giving him a debut he’d never forget – something he acknowledged after the game.

Former Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech made his Arsenal debut in the win against Everton but was no match for Ross Barkley's stunner

Cech finally made his unofficial debut for the club

When you have a world class legendary goalie like Cech guarding your goal, the team is inspired to do better and he proved his worth with a magnificent finger-tipped save that made my jaw drop. Then there was the routine stuff – diving well to save Luke Garbutt’s long range shot and showing his dominance in the box to deal with a corner – something David Ospina had issues with from time to time. He could do nothing for Ross Barkley’s left-footed volley though. That was a wonder strike…no thanks to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

The lads played for the first time last season and their collective performances went a very long way to show how much this team has improved – even though there’s still room for improvements in other aspects. Theo Walcott is well-known for being a goal-hungry machine and he latched unto Santi Cazorla’s dinking pass to score the opening goal of the match.

Goalscorer Walcott wheels away in celebration as as the fans in the background celebrate his winner as Arsenal see off Everton 

Walcott celebrating his goal

However, the Englishman was on a selfish streak at times, trying so hard to find the net when a simple pass to a teammate would have been better. He also missed a couple of sitters you’d expect a player of his immense quality to score. He can get the benefit of the doubt because he’s working his way to full fitness following his ACL injury but with the stiff competition for places in the squad he shouldn’t be squandering the opportunities he gets. Then there was the other Englishman, the Ox, that had a series of hot and cold moments in the game. Alex needs to work on his consistency if he’s to excel in this team but he’s a young lad and he has a lot to learn.

The second goal was a thing of beauty from the captain of the night, Cazorla. After coming up short for a corner, he flaunted his ambidexterity with both feet and made a complete fool out of James McCarthy before guiding the ball past Joel Robles with his left foot.

Captain for the day Cazorla is mobbed by his Arsenal team-mates as the Spanish midfielder celebrates scoring in the Asia Trophy final

Cazorla celebrating with his teammates after his beautiful solo effort

I can’t think of anybody in the team that would have scored that way besides Alexis Sanchez maybe. Twisting and turning a marker before guiding the ball past a hapless goalie on his near post. Think Alexis against Stoke.

The third was truly the icing on the cake. Mesut Ozil started the move with Cazorla and quickly received a pass from the Spanish magician that put him clear on goal. All he had to do was pick his spot and he placed the ball superbly past Robles.

Ozil fires Arsenal into a three-goal lead as the German international grabs his first of the game as team-mate Walcott watches on in Asia

Ozil with a really cool finish

There were two experiments Arsene Wenger made in the course of the game which included Calum Chambers continuing his football education as a center back. With Hector Bellerin and Matt Debuchy battling for the right back berth, Chambers’ chances of featuring in that position can only come from a combination of injuries or suspensions. At the middle, he has Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista in front of him so it’s simply a case of taking the chances when they come. The second experiment was deploying Aaron Ramsey in the holding midfield role while Francis Coquelin sat on the bench. I can’t really say I was entirely convinced but Ramsey was plain ol’ Ramsey doing his thing on the pitch, even though there were moments he drifted forward to support the attack and that’s not were I would want my DM to be, especially when a counter attack erupts from the opposition.

The fans filled the stadium and they went into raptures when the spokesman announced that 52,100 seats were taken on the night. That has become the new capacity record in the tournament. Kudos to Ivan Gazidis and his team for making Arsenal a very dominant force in Asia.

It’s time to return back to London to plan for the Emirates Cup before locking horns with Jose Mourinho in the Community Shield.

It’s time to prepare for my lectures.

Sayonara.

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