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Luiz Gustavo: A Statistical Review of Arsenal’s Latest Transfer Target

One of Bayern’s unsung hero last season

Jupp Heynckes will be forever remembered in football history as he joined the elite class of football managers that achieved the unprecedented treble last season. In recent times, managers like Pep Guardiola (2009), Jose Mourinho (2010) and Andre Villas-Boas (2011) earned their places in football folklore after they achieved the treble with Barcelona, Inter Milan and FC Porto respectively.

Heynckes’ class of ’13 had a perfect blend of German efficiency, European flair and some South American magic that made his team every manager’s wet dream. Last season’s Bayern Munich squad will always fondly remembered for the goalkeeping heroics of Manuel Neuer, the sheer defensive consistent performances of Dante and Philip Lahm, the balanced midfield outings of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez, the flamboyant wing play of the Rob-bery combo and the amazing goal haul of Mario Mandzukic.

These players took Europe by storm by ending Borussia Dortmund’s dominance in the Bundesliga in grand style and their major highlight was the triumphant Champions League run that saw them conquer Valencia, BATE Borisov and LOSC Lille Metropole in the Group Stages before easing past Arsenal, Juventus, Barcelona and Dortmund in the knockout stages.

While Heynckes could easily count on Schweinsteiger and Martinez to play in the fulcrum of the midfield, there were times when the manager summoned the services of Luiz Gustavo, the Brazilian powerhouse with style of play that reminds me of ex-Gunner, Gilberto SIlva. In simpler terms, Luiz Gustavo was the type of player that does his “dirty work” in a very clean way and his tenacious style of play in Bayern’s midfield caught the eye last season.

The Brazilian was signed from Hoffenhiem in the winter transfer window of 2011 and he featured regularly in his first full season for the Bavarian outfit in the 2011/12 campaign (46 apps) but the big-money acquisition of Javi Martinez from Athletic Bilbao ensured that his game time diminished, as Schweinsteiger was a vital cog in the midfield engine.

Bleacher Report’s Sam Tighe shares an insight on how their double pivot works.

Bayern Munich’s successful double pivot reduced Luiz Gustavo’s playing time

Despite not being a regular in Heynckes’ first-team sheet, Luiz Gustavo’s versatility made him a valuable asset for Bayern Munich last season, as he also provided cover as a center back and a left back when the need arose. After a successful 2012/13 campaign with Bayern Munich, Luiz Gustavo was called up by Felipao in this summer’s FIFA Confederations Cup and he was an integral part of the Samba Boys squad that won the tournament in grand style following some inspired performances from Julio Cesar, Neymar and Fred.

With some assistance from stats kings like Who Scored and Squakwa, the table below shows the key performance metrics for Luiz Gustavo in the Bundesliga, UEFA Champions League and 2013 Confederations Cup.

STAT

Bundesliga

Champions League

Confed. Cup

Appearances (Subs)

16 (6)

3 (7)

5 (0)

Goals Scored

4

-

-

Assists

1

-

-

Overall shots (Shots per Game)

13 (0.6)

9 (0.9)

2 (0.4)

Bookings (Yellow / Red)

6 / 0

2 / 0

2 / 0

Total Tackles (Tackles per Game)

54 (2.5)

15 (1.5)

10 (2)

Total Interceptions (Interceptions per Game)

33 (1.5)

13 (1.3)

15 (3)

Total Fouls Committed (Fouls per Game)

37 (1.7)

10 (1)

14 (2.8)

Aerial Duels (Attempted/Won)

36 / 16

12 / 6

6 / 5

Total Passes (Accurate Passes)

940 (874)

205 (183)

233 (214)

Pass Completion %

93

89.3

91.8

Total Long Balls (Accurate)

97 (82)

26 (25)

22 (20)

Total Through Balls (Accurate)

3 (2)

3 (2)

0

 

For a player that wasn’t a key part of Bayern Munich’s squad last season, Luiz Gustavo’s stats are jaw dropping to say the least. In the 2012/13 Bundesliga campaign, he amassed just 26 appearances but he managed to rake up an impressive pass completion percentage of 93 percent. He also notched up a decent amount of tackles and interceptions in each game he played and as expected from a tenacious holding midfielder like him, he had his fair share of fouls committed and bookings.

With a frame of 6′ 2″, Luiz Gustavo was also involved in some aerial battles in the middle of the park and he had close to a 50 percent success rate in the Bundesliga and Champions League but in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, Luiz Gustavo basically won every header he attempted which showed how he used his height to great effect for his nation.

With Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez clearly above the Brazilian in the pecking order, his cause wasn’t helped when Pep Guardiola successfully acquired the services of Thiago Alcantara from Barcelona, a player he managed in his Barcelona B days.

Unlike Heynckes that successfully utilized the 4-2-3-1 tactical setup with Schweinsteiger and Martinez in the double pivot, Guardiola is adopting his traditional 4-3-3 formation that worked wonders for him in his Barcelona trophy hauling days. Martinez will assume the deep-lying playmaker role that was successfully manned by Sergi Busquets, Schweinsteiger / Thiago would assume the Xavi Hernandez role while the mercurial Mario Gotze, on his return from injury, would be at the tip of the midfield triumvirate (Andres Iniesta’s role).

This clearly indicates that Luiz Gustavo would be surplus to requirements and Goal.com reported that German outfit, VFL Wolfsburg, are in talks to sign him from Bavaria. According to the Daily Mail, Arsenal is about to table a £14m bid for the Brazilian man-machine, after Arsene Wenger admitted that his squad is thin-bare and he wanted new reinforcements.

Unlike in Bayern Munich where Luiz Gustavo’s chances of featuring now hangs on a thin thread, it would be a different case at Arsenal but in all honesty, I don’t expect Luiz Gustavo to walk into the Arsenal first-team setup. If he arrives at the Emirates, he would be that strong enforcer in midfield the fans have been craving for since Alex Song, but Arsenal has two players that have blossomed in the holding midfield roles.

Arsenal’s fulcrum in the tail end of last season

Following the departure of Song to Barcelona, Mikel Arteta assumed the role of Arsenal’s holding midfielder, curbing his attacking instincts to take one for the team and Arsenal fans can attest that he was a revelation last season. After playing as a jack-of-all-trades yet being of none, Arsene Wenger finally gave Aaron Ramsey a chance to strut his stuff in central midfield and his energy and work rate aided his team’s surge to a fourth place finish in the last campaign.

I’m going to juxtapose between Luiz Gustavo’s key performance metrics and  Arsenal’s personnel in the successful double midfield pivot of last season, Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta. I’ll also cull some stats from Who Scored for both players.

According to Who Scored, listed below are Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta’s stats in the Premier League last season.

STATS (EPL Only)

Mikel Arteta

Aaron Ramsey

Appearances (Subs)

34 (0)

21 (15)

Goals Scored

6

1

Assists

3

2

Overall shots (Shots per Game)

19 (0.6)

46 (1.3)

Bookings (Yellow / Red)

6 / 0

5 / 0

Total Tackles (Tackles per Game)

108 (3.2)

71 (2)

Total Interceptions (Interceptions per Game)

97 (2.7)

44 (1.2)

Total Fouls Committed (Fouls per Game)

74 (2.2)

48 (1.3)

Aerial Duels (Attempted/Won)

67 / 35

37 / 14

Total Passes (Accurate Passes)

2750 (2517)

1934 (1705)

Pass Completion %

91.5

88.2

Total Long Balls (Accurate)

205 (179)

139 (103)

Total Through Balls (Accurate)

15 (6)

21 (11)

Unlike Luiz Gustavo that plays like a traditional water carrier in holding midfield, Arteta and Ramsey are very comfortable with the ball on their feet and it’s also worth noting that Arteta total passes (2,750) were almost three times Luiz Gustavo’s (940) despite playing in the same role with the Brazilian.

In Gustavo’s defense, Arteta played more games than the Brazilian with age slowly creeping in on the Lego-haired Spaniard, Gustavo can come into the club and he would definitely be touted as Arteta’s long-term successor. At the age of 26, Luiz Gustavo’s best years are well ahead of him unlike Arteta that probably has two or so years left in him before he decides to end his playing days in his native Spain or maybe the MLS to earn some big bucks.

Even if everybody is firmly focused on Luis Suarez and his transfer shenanigans, Arsenal’s pursuit of Luiz Gustavo is a stroke of genius by Arsene Wenger.

Sayonara.

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Rating Arsenal’s Midfielders in the 2012/13 Season

The Matadors of Arsenal’s midfield

In the yesteryear, Arsene Wenger lined up a formidable 4-4-2 formation that had the right balance in defense, midfield and attack.

Using the Invincibles of the 2003/04 season as a classic example, the defense had rock-solid personnel that instilled fear in opposition forwards, the midfield had a mix of doggedness, aggression, panache, flair and creativity and the attackers smashed in goals with ruthless and clinical efficiency.

As the years went by, Wenger changed his approach, fixing his focus on his team’s technical side, which involved passing the ball around intricately before unlocking defenses with that killer through ball for a teammate. With this approach, the manager sacrificed a striker to accommodate an extra midfielder, thus the 4-2-3-1 formation came into fruition.

Wenger used this formation to bring out the best in his prized asset, Cesc Fabregas, and his 19 goals as well as numerous assists in the 2009/10 season epitomized the fact that Arsenal had resolved its football around its Spanish creative hub in midfield. After his flirtations with Barcelona, El Capitan departed North London but the formation remained intact.

Soldiers come and go but the barracks still remain intact, I presume.

Deploying Aaron Ramsey as the creative outlet in the 2011/12 season with Mikel Arteta and Alex Song providing the fulcrum was regarded as a failed experiment as the Welshman became a lightning rod for vitriol from the Arsenal faithful. Tomas Rosicky’s renaissance was a bright spark in a relatively dark campaign and a third place finish was meant to pave the way for good things to come.

This season, the Gunners acquired the services of Santi Cazorla and to everyone’s surprise, Arsenal made their second major sale, when Alex Song joined Barcelona, rather their bench, for £15 million. Song’s shock departure caused a stir but with Arsenal not bringing in any replacements, Arteta took one for the team, curbing his attacking instincts to become the team’s primary holding midfielder.

As the season progressed, Cazorla became the team’s creative lynchpin while Abou Diaby and Arteta provided the pivot supporting defence and attack. Diaby had his trademark injury layoffs but players like Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky and Francis Coquelin put in decent shifts while Jack Wilshere made his comeback from a lengthy injury.

This is the third installment of a four-post series focused on Arsenal’s performances in the 2012/13 season. I’ve already published my ratings on the performances of the goalkeepers  and defenders but today’s post is focused on Arsenal’s fulcrum in the middle of the park.

Feel free to share your comments.

Abou Diaby – 15 Apps, No Goal, One Assist

Abou Diaby’s career went downhill after that horrific tackle in 2006 when Arsenal visited the Stadium of Light. After seeing different specialists all over the globe, Diaby finally managed to get some preseason games under his belt  and it was widely believed that he was going to realize his potential with a consistent run out this season.

He began the campaign in the curtain raiser against Sunderland (home) and his physicality was highly welcome when the Gunners visited that Rugby playing lot. After his Man of the Match performance against Liverpool (away), everyone ran out of superlatives for the midfielder and comparisons between him and Patrick Vieira came in faster than Usain Bolt’s 100m Olympic World Record.

He was largely disappointing in Arsenal’s away draw against Manchester City (away) but when we thought that Diaby was going to get an extended run of games, he suffered an injury and was sidelined for a considerable chunk of the season. The lanky Frenchman finally made his return in the home fixture against Manchester City and his rustiness was glaring as he struggled in the game. His poor form continued in the Chelsea loss (away) and he was dropped from therein.

His hot and cold season continued when he followed up an outstanding performance against Stoke (home) with a rather disappointing outing in the nervy win over Sunderland. (away). His season came to an abrupt end when the club announced that he had ruptured his cruciate ligament on his knee and he’s to be out for nine months.

As they say, a picture speaks more than a thousand words

What’s the point of having a Lionel Messi in your team if he cannot play. In my honest opinion, I feel very sorry for Diaby but its high time the club cuts its losses with the Frenchman, as he cannot be banked upon to stay fit when his services are needed.

Rating – 4/10

Francis Coquelin – 22 Apps, No Goal, One Assist

After his stellar performances as a utility player last season, many had hoped that this would be the year of the Coq and with Song out of the equation, everything seemed to be in place for the young Frenchman to finally make his breakthrough. The midfielder featured sparingly in the Premier League but got run-outs in the domestic Cup competitions as well as some game time in the Champions League.

As for his performances, the midfielder didn’t light up any fireworks and his sporadic amount of games didn’t help his cause either. Coquelin managed to play 90 minutes in only five games this season with his remaining appearances being bit-part roles as the season progressed.

Till this day, I’m still struggling to understand his introduction for Olivier Giroud when Arsenal needed a goal against Aston Villa (away).

With Schalke reportedly linked with the midfielder, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t jump ship this season.

Rating – 4/10

Aaron Ramsey – 47 Apps, Two Goals, Five Assists

If words could kill, Aaron Ramsey would have been in the other realm.

He battling hard to come back to playing football after he was Shawcrossed but replacing the departed Cesc Fabregas in the attacking midfield role was a big burden for his shoulders as he struggled with form and fitness. With Santi Cazorla given the mantle of creativity, Ramsey had to make do with a place on the dugout as he appeared as a substitute in his first five games this season.

Like last season, there were games when Wenger tried to make Ramsey a jack-of-all-trades but he still a master of none. However, he put up a very decent shift when he was deployed as a right winger in the 1-1 draw with Manchester City (away). Abou Diaby’s unfortunate and untimely injury in the game against Chelsea (home) afforded Ramsey a chance to get more games under his belt.

He marked his return with a delicious chip against Olympiakos but thankfully, no famous figurehead gave up the ghost.

Jack Wilshere’s long-awaited return to the team saw Ramsey spend some time on the bench but the lad always put up good shifts when he was summoned. He supplied an inch-perfect assist to Theo Walcott in the 1-1 draw against Everton (away) and a neat assist to Gervinho in the win over Swansea (away).

Unlike last season where Ramsey tried to over-complicate things by being too stylish on the ball, he kept things simple this season and this improved his game. According to WhoScored, Ramsey had a pass completion percentage of 88.3 percent in the Premier League and he also created 44 chances for his teammates. His carefully-weighted pass against Everton (home) certainly caught the eye but Olivier Giroud’s wayward finish couldn’t match the excellent buildup.

Since his return to the squad in the holding midfield position, Ramsey became a refined player and worked in tandem with Arteta, balancing defense and attack. His performances were so good to the extent that he was voted as Arsenal’s Player of the Month for the month of April, which is a welcome return from the same fans that rained curses on him in the past.

Ramsey ended the season in full bloom, I certainly hope he builds on this.

Rating – 7/10

Tomas Rosicky – 16 Apps, Three Goals, Two Assists

Tomas Rosicky was one of the best things that happened to Arsenal in the tail end of last season.

After suffering a niggling injury that halted his progress for his nation in Euro 2012, the Czech midfielder went under the knife and didn’t make any appearance for the Gunners till the winter, and to be honest, he wasn’t missed. The fans had been wowed by the excellent Santi Cazorla, and with his age becoming a factor, a few felt it was high time for Little Mozart to call it quits.

In Rosicky’s first full game this season, he put up a Man of the Match performance in that dead-rubber game against Olympiakos (away) that ended in defeat. He featured sparsely after that game but he came to life in spring when the Gunners visited Munich to rock the football world with that spirited victory over Bayern.

With Jack Wilshere out injured and Santi Cazorla drifted to the left, Rosicky had more games under his belt and was instrumental in Arsenal’s win over West Brom as he scored a well-taken brace. He also supplied an assist to Theo Walcott in the league match against Manchester United.

With Wilshere failing to regain his form after his return from injury, Rosicky continued his extended run of games till the end of the season. At the age of 32, Rosicky is living on borrowed time but Arsenal fans can be thankful for Little Mozart as he delivered when he was summoned in the business end of the season.

Rating – 7/10

Jack Wilshere – 33 Apps, Two Goals, Six Assists

14 months out of the beautiful game.

For a player like Jack Wilshere that’s known for his passion and zeal for the game, it must have felt like an eternity. With Robin van Persie leaving for Manchester United, the No. 10 shirt was vacated and it seemed as if Lukas Podolski was odds to take the jersey but it was specially reserved for Wilshere and he expressed his delight in being bestowed with the honor.

When he made his long-awaited return against Queens Park Rangers (home), every touch was appreciated by the Emirates crowd as they saw their No. 10 strut his stuff for the first time. Things turned sour for the Englishman when he received his marching orders against Manchester United (away) but he learned from those events and scored a goal against Montpellier after some good work from Olivier Giroud.

He continued to put up stellar performances and the assists were flowing in as well, with some defense-splitting passes against Newcastle (home), West Ham (home) and Liverpool (home). The English Press sang his songs in the wake of a high-profile friendly against Brazil in Wembley, and he didn’t disappoint with another magnificent outing for the Three Lions.

Amid all the justified hype around the midfield maestro, things turned very sour when he suffered a thigh strain against Sunderland. Arsenal had harbored hopes of the midfielder playing the home clash against Bayern, so the club doctors had to work their magic on Wilshere.

Wilshere was on the end of some rash challenges against Sunderland

Wilshere played the game against Bayern and even supplied an assist on the night but he and his teammates were powerless as teh Bavarians outclassed Arsenal at the Emirates. Wilshere missed the second leg through an injury and he never rediscovered his form afterwards, with uncharacteristically appalling outings against Norwich and Everton.

He was replaced by Rosicky and made a couple of substitute appearances towards the end of the season. It’s believed that he requires a surgery this summer to fix up an injury but it’s good to know that Wilshere’s performances weren’t unnoticed as he was nominated for the 2013 Young Player of the Year award alongside Christian Benteke, Romelu Lukaku, Danny Welbeck, Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale.

Rating – 7/10

Mikel Arteta – 43 Apps, Six Goals, Six Assists

With a pass completion percentage of 91.5 percent, Mikel Arteta ranks among the best passers in European football. With Thomas Vermaelen promoted to the rank of captain, Arteta assumed the mantle of the Verm’s second in command and he led the troops whenever the Verm wasn’t available.

With Alex Song leaving for the sunshine of Barcelona, Arsene Wenger tasked Arteta with an unfamiliar holding midfield role, and he excelled admirably in the role this season. In 34 Premier League games, Arteta made 108 tackles, 97 interceptions and 2,750 passes with 2,517 passes reaching its intended target.

Arteta also had the coolest of heads from the penalty spot, converting spot kicks against West Brom (home), Wigan (away), Norwich (home) and Reading (home). He will forever rue his late penalty miss against Fulham (home) that was the difference between three points and one.

His influence on the pitch was unrivaled and I must confess that my heart skipped a beat when he was forced out of action with an injury in Arsenal’s game of the season against Newcastle.

Rating – 9/10

Santi Cazorla – 49 Apps, 12 Goals, 16 Assists

Arsene Wenger was puzzled to know that Santi Cazorla didn’t make the PFA Team of the Season and he’s not alone on that argument. Arsenal fans have been blessed with the sheer brilliance of Santi Cazorla in his debut campaign with the club, and he’ll probably be a good pick for the signing of the 2012/13 season.

The Spanish magician has been a model for consistency this season and he’s the only player in the team that has managed to play every Premier League game thus far this season. The manager also spoke about how Cazorla has surprised him this season with his consistency and amazing fitness levels in a physically demanding league like the Barclay’s Premier League.

In my honest opinion, he has been a joy to watch and in as much as many Gooners have endeared Tomas Rosicky to their hearts, he has spent a considerable chunk of the campaign on the bench due to Cazorla’s imperious form. Cazorla’s versatility has also seen him displace Podolski with Jack Wilshere moved further up the pitch to hone his attacking prowess, which is still a work in progress.

His ambidexterity is a stuff of legends. Like the great Pavel Nedved in the yesteryear, Santi Cazorla can release a surface to goal missile from both feet with consummate ease.

12 goals and 12 assists in his debut Premier League campaign is no mean feat and it’s fair to say that Cazorla has exceeded every expectations. According to WhoScored, Cazorla fired 115 shots, created 96 chances, attempted 86 dribbles, was fouled 50 times, made 184 crosses, passed the ball 2,471 times with a pass completion percentage of 86.8 percent.

Even if he failed to be recognized by the FA for his amazing exploits this season, you don’t need any soothsayer to tell you who Arsenal’s best player is this season.

Rating – 10/10 #Shikenah

So there you have it, the penultimate posts focused on different playing positions in the team. The final post on the attack comes up next.

The voting sequence for the 2012/13 End of Season awards is still ongoing, so feel free to make your votes count in the polls.

Sayonara.

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Wilshere’s Road to Fitness and Pre-Norwich News

Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere's recovery continues with full 90 minutes in friendly against Chelsea

Jackie Boy: Edging closer to full fitness

With the international break now behind us (praise the Lord!!!), football fans can brace themselves for some Premier League action, as Arsenal will aim to continue keeping track with the leading pack, as they remain seven points off the mark.

The pick of the weekend’s matches will be Chelsea’s former gaffer, Andre Villa Boa Constrictor take on his former side with his new-improved Spuds. As a thoroughbred Gooner, I don’t give a fish’s tit about those scum on the White half of North London but I hope to see a good game of football. A draw will be a great result from an Arsenal and of course, Manchester perspective.

However, the Gunners are probably licking their lips with the prospect of playing Norwich City in Carrow Road. The Canaries have been very dismal this season and anything other than three points to the Arsenal will be somewhat disappointing. However, caution must be thrown to the wind, as the last fixture between Arsenal and Norwich showcased the club’s defensive frailties that were duly punished by the away side.

Yossi Benayoun curled in Arsenal’s opener early on before Wes Hoolahan levelled the tie for the visitors through a howler from Wojciech Szczesny. Against the run of play, Grant Holt put the away team ahead with an effort that deflected off Kieran Gibbs but the Arsenal faithful thought that a Robin van Judas brace was enough to grab all maximum points.

Then James Morison happened…

If my memory serves me right, that draw but Arsenal’s hopes of a third place finish hanging on a thin thread, so they had to rely on their fierce rivals, Tottenham, to fuck up and guess what, those Spuds duly obliged.

Arsene Wenger has been on the news lately, as he stated recently that Arsenal’s style is better suited for away matches. I can agree with that assessment because the Gunners have been brilliant away from home this season as they’ve amassed good results in Anfield, Britannia Stadium, Stade de la Mosson and the Etihad.

The manager also reiterated that Arsenal’s moment of truth has arrived and he’ll like to see his Guns hit a rich vein of form, as they did in Autumn last season. This time last year, Aaron Ramsey scored a late goal to bag all three points against Marseille, and this was followed with an extended run of victories over Stoke, Bolton, Ch3l5ea, West Brom, Norwich, Dortmund before the Thomas Vermaelen-inspired draw with Fulham.

He also gave updates on the current injured lot in his team. As expected, Theo Walcott is still out with that nasty injury he suffered during the international break, after a collision with San Marino’s goalie, Aldo Simoncini. I heard that Simoncini was auditioning to play for Stoke City and Tony Pulis must have been proud. Shame.

According to Monsieur Wenger, Walcott is about two weeks away from action.

The boss also gave updates on Gibbs, that was substituted in the victory over West Ham with a thigh injury. He has stated that the young fullback will be out for this weekend’s encounter as well as the Capitol One showdown against Reading.

Lukasz Fabianski has developed a new ankle ligament problem and he has gone to see a specialist. The Pole should get ready for some horse placenta because that’s what he’s gonna get chilling with for the time being. Szczesny on the other hand, is still out, leaving Mannone as Arsenal’s custodian between the sticks till further notice.

Finally, the manager stated that the midfield duo of Tomas Rosicky and Abou Diaby are still out.

Unlike these folks that are out injured nursing a limb or two, Jack Wilshere, Emmanuel Frimpong and Bacary Sagna continued their long road to full fitness with a closed-door friendly in London Colney against Chelsea. Unlike the previous Under-21 fixtures were Wilshere managed to get an hour under his belt, he played for the entire 90 minutes with Sagna – even the Gunners lost by two unreplied goals.

Wilshere will play for the Under-21s against Everton on Monday and he’s tipped to make his long awaited comeback against Reading next week Wednesday in the Capitol One Cup Fourth Round. Wilshere on the other hand, has told his manager that he’s ready to make his comeback but the Gunners are still very cautious with the young lad.

The prospect of seeing Jack Wilshere alongside Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta will soon be a reality but I’ll prefer to take each game as they come.

When Spain hosted France in the Vicente Calderon, Arteta watched the game from home as his teammate, Olivier Giroud, landed the sucker punch that shared the spoils with Spain. The vice-skipper has backed Giroud up, stating that he has found his footing in England and the goals will start creeping in.

The Lego-haired Spaniard wrapped things up by saying that he’ll like to be a football manager someday.

You don’t have to wait that long Senor Arteta. Football Manager 2013 is coming out next month, just grab one for yourself and play it on your laptop.

Besides, it’s the greatest job on Earth.

Sayonara.

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Arteta the Leader and Gunners on International Duty

Arsenal’s Leaders

After the long wait for some international football action, the interlull has finally come and many fingers will be crossed as Arsenal’s ambassadors strut their stuffs for their respective nations with the hope of winning a cap, scoring a goal or two and most importantly, avoiding an injury.

There’s some good news from the French camp as it’s believed that Laurent Koscielny has recovered from that injury scare and he had a full training session as well. We’ve also learned that Koscielny was injured by that goblin from Bayern Munich, Franck Ribery. France plays Japan in a friendly tonight but all eyes are firmly fixed on Tuesday’s crunch encounter against Spain.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo “Sign da Ting” Walcott will also be in action tonight against minnows San Marino and I can assure you of one thing – there will be goals, many goals. After the match against San Marino, Woy Hodgson and his English charges will travel to Poland to play the co-hosts of the last Euros. The Poles aren’t football superpowers but they’ll surely pose a threat with a certain Robert Lewandowski in their ranks.

There are so many other Gunners away on international duty but I want to focus on those sets of players that will be watching these games from their TV sets, instead of playing on the pitch.

Firstly, the injury returnees, Jack Wilshere, Emmanuel Frimpong and Bacary Sagna are no way near fit enough to play for their clubs, yet alone their countries but Arsenal is organizing some matches during this international break to get them up to speed with the game in their bids to be fully fit enough to play for Arsenal, as they’ve been missed.

Taking a vivid look at the first team, two players stand-out as surprise omissions from the international scene. There’s Carl Jenkinson, the English-Finn that has a bright fledgling future ahead of him. At such a young age, he has achieved so much and he has certainly made his grandfather proud.

However, I don’t think that Jenkinson is ready to play for England yet, and this good article by Gambino Snitch, shares the same sentiment. With so much media hype around Lil’ Jenko, it may get to his head and he may end up like the rest of the over-hyped lot that failed to make their marks on the international scene, and it’s also worth noting that these players were crucified by the same media Vultures that sang sweet tunes about them.

David Bentley, anyone? The next David Beckham my foot (-____-)

That’s why I was proud of Jenkinson when he stated that he wants to concentrate on his football with Arsenal, so international football can like to look bush. Another thing I know for sure, is that Carl Jenkinson is a thorough-bred Gooner,

He even has a Kanu -25 jersey!

The other surprise omission, is the Lego haired Spanish star and Arsenal’s present vice-skipper, Mikel Arteta. Senor Arteta’s career saw him plunge out from Barcelona’s Mutant Academy before he went ply his trade in Scotland with Glasgow Rangers. After a spell in the Northern part of Great Britain, Arteta went back home to Spain, where he played alongside his pal, Xabi Alonso, before Liverpool came calling for the football quarterback.

Arteta on the other hand, was snapped by Liverpool’s rivals, Everton, in a football coup and he endeared his heart into the Evertonian faithful notching up the Player of the Season award twice. At a pivotal stage in his career, he joined Arsenal on the transfer deadline day of 2011 summer window and he has grown to become a vital cog in Arsenal’s midfield engine.

Last season, his experience, calmness, balance and maturity played a key role for the Gunners and his absence was deeply felt when he was out injured as Alex Song had no one to cover his tracks when he made his countless forays forward.

For reasons best known to that King Cobra that died five days after biting Chuck Norris in the Expendables 2, Mikel Arteta hasn’t still won a friggin’ cap for Spain and his new teammate, Santi Cazorla, can’t understand why. I’d joked in yesterday’s post that it’s probably his perfect hair or his beautiful wife, Bernal Lorena, but the truth still remains that Spain is blessed with so much footballing talent, that there’s no space for the likes of Arteta.

Thanks to Arseblog, I read an article where Arteta and Cazorla interviewed each other and some interesting stuff was unveiled. Arteta asked his chum how he was acclimatizing to his new life in England and Cazorla said a thing or two, but my pick of the bunch remained this statement from Cazorla,

 “Here at Arsenal you’re a real leader. When I arrived, I was a little surprised at the level of respect that you have in the dressing-room. But when I saw you with the group and on the pitch it’s obvious that almost all consider you the Captain. You are a leader. I’m no good at that, nobody would listen to me! But when you talk they listen.”

Arteta has responded to that by saying that he tries his best to be a good example to others and his exploits on and off the pitch has proved that. In regard to his exploits off the pitch, you don’t need any soothsayer to tell you that Arteta has played a key role in settling Santi Cazorla in Arsenal. The end results of Arteta’s good work off the pitch to his compatriot has seen Cazorla play like he has been at Arsenal for ages.

Manchester City v Arsenal - Premier League

On the pitch, no one can doubt Arteta’s influence, and even if he doesn’t wear the captain’s armband week-in week-out, Arteta has been an exemplary leader on the pitch.

For starters, he sacrificed his attacking verve to play as Arsenal’s primary holding midfielder after the acrimonious exit of Song. When he was asked about the role change, he simply stated that he was instructed by his boss and he’s doing it for the team.

Theo Walcott, on the other hand, has been whining like a bitch about playing in the centre forward role, when his four goals this season have come from the wing positions.

Arteta’s newly-found defensive role has seen him stamp his authority on the middle of the park and for those that don’t know, he’s the second highest player with most completed passes at a stageering 93.8% behind the legendary maestro, Xavi Hernandez. Arteta has also won 31 tackles this season, more than any other Arsenal player and I intend to focus on the season so far in tomorrow’s post.

Despite the fact that I’m not happy that Arteta hasn’t played for Spain yet, I’m also happy because he’s going to get some deserved rest as he and Carl Jenkinson have played every match for Arsenal this season, with the exception of the Carling Cup encounter against Coventry City.

I’ll keep half an eye on many Gunners tonight and for those that can see some specific matches on TV, you can stream them from my partners, Arsenal Live, Live Football Streaming and Live Sports Streams.

Have a great Friday.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal in the Summer: To Spend or Not to Spend

Arteta feels that his team doesn't have to splurge

In the tail end of last season, Arsenal was faced with a task of amassing a series of wins to secure league honors for the first team in seven years or so. While fellow title rivals had the “distraction” of the Champions League and FA Cup, Arsene Wenger’s men had only Sunday Premier League fixtures to contend with.

We all know how those fixtures panned out. Arsenal became the first team in eons involved in a two-horse title race to end up in fourth place.

In an amazing twist of fate triggered by Bacary Sagna’s strong header against 5pur2, Arsenal overtuned a potential 13-point deficit to a three point lead over fourth placed Tottenham and the Gunners are in pole position to finish behind those bullies from Manchester.

However, the Arsenal faithful have braced themselves for yet another trophy-less campaign and the Black Widow Spider residing in Emirates Stadium trophy cabinet has extended her rent for an extra year at least.

Centuries ago, I published an article on why Arsenal remains trophy-less and I created a list of reasons why the club is still in that predicament.

One of the points I emphasized on was the club’s lack of transfer ruthlessness:

In the days of old, Arsene Wenger wasn’t afraid to put his money where his mouth was in terms of signings. There were times when we paid fees for players like Thierry Henry, Jose Antonio Reyes, Dennis Bergkamp and a host of others. But after our move to the Emirates, Wenger hasn’t been as callous as he needs to be when it comes to signing the top talent.

In recent times, he has changed his approach by honing younglings from our Mutant Academy or other academies in the Milky Way to give them a chance at the very highest level. If a player is massively overpriced there’s no point attempting to sign them unless you’re Real Madrid or Manchester City, but it appears, in the transfer market at least, Wenger does take no for answer instead of pressurising the Board of Directors into increasing the transfer budget slightly to clinch that marquee signature. This has made us lose a few players that would have contributed immensely to taking the club forward.

Arsenal was a few million pounds away from buying Xabi Alonso, Gareth Barry, Ryan Tower of Babel and a host of others. The first two players mentioned would certainly have done a much better job than Denilson and Abou Diaby. While it’s always good for his job to maintain a healthy relationship with the Board, Wenger could’ve won many more trophies in his Arsenal tenure had he had the ability to attract the top players to the Emirates.

We have a very strong first team but our second tier isn’t up to scratch. Last season, the shameful draws against Leyton Orient in Brisbane Road, Leeds at the Emirates with the defeat to Ipswich in the Carling Spoon semis first leg proved that fact.

Even if Wenger doesn’t want to halt the progress of the younglings like Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Johan Djourou, he has to remember that Arsenal is an injury prone squad. A center back, a recognized defensive midfielder and a striker are badly needed in Arsenal FC. I hope he gets it right this summer.

However, there’s a Gunner that doesn’t believe that Arsenal has to splurge this summer.

Mikel Arteta believes that the squad has what it takes to challenge for the title next season provided that they have better luck with injuries. He has paid attention to the many transfer rumors linking the club to targets such as Borussia Dortmund’s Mario Gotze, FC Cologne’s Lukas Podolski and Lille’s Eden Hazard.

The fans have urged Arsene Wenger to bring in star names that can help relieve the burden on club captain Robin van Persie amongst other reasons.

However, Arteta is uncertain that there is such a strong need for new players and has instead pointed out the debilitating effects of injuries on the squad’s rhythm and depth in the current term:

“Obviously if you spend a lot of money to bring in top players you have a better chance because you have a bigger squad and you can change the team around but, for me, a key thing with our squad is the injuries.”

“We’ve been hit with important, long-term injuries the whole season that really, really affect the team.”

Arteta went on to say that he would like to see the same XI playing for 10-15 games on the trot, then they can be judged on their abilities. He also talked about the togetherness and mental strength of this present lot and promised that the run could continue till the end of the season.
 
To an extent, I understand the angle Mikel Arteta is coming from and I’m not really in the opinion that we should break bank for the likes of Hazard or Gotze. There are many quality players out there that can do a good job for Arsenal but Arsene Wenger has to get them this summer as well as keeping his squad intact.

The performances of Wojciech Szczesny has ended any pleas for a new goalie while Lukasz Fabianski, Vito Mannone and Emiliano Martinez are good deputies. The return to full fitness of Bacary Sagna as well as the other full backs have changed Arsenal’s fortunes as they’ve returned with their width, guile, perfect balance in attack and defense and most importantly, crosses.
 
There’s a lot of personnel in the midfield but Alex Song needs another strong enforcer like Yann M’ Vila. I know that the likes of Emmanuel Frimpong and Francis Coquelin have hugh potential but they still need a series of loan deals to bolster their confidence.

We also know that Robin van Persie needs an able deputy to relieve the goal scoring burden off him and the tales of Lukas Podolski have become tiring to say the least.

Arsenal in the summer: to splurge or not to splurge.

Sayonara.

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