Monthly Archives: June 2013

With Arsenal Clearing Out its “Deadwood”, Who Will Replace Them?

Joining Arsenal’s deadwood collection?

For every Laurent Koscielny you purchase, there will always be a Sebastien Squillaci, the Man of Steel.

Down the years, Arsene Wenger has made some astute signings that became legends, endearing themselves into the hearts of the fans and printing their names into Arsenal folklore but there have been others that put up great shifts and were tipped for greater things, before they jumped ship to seek greener pastures.

Then of course, there’s the deadwood – those players judged to be superfluous to the team and are deemed surplus to requirements yet they somehow manage to stay at the club walloping their weekly wages without offering any noteworthy output of any sort on the pitch.

Take a player like Manuel Almunia, for instance, that joined the club as a back-up goalie for Jens Lehmann. When the Mad German’s time came to an end, the mantle was passed over to his Spanish counterpart but despite having his good moments, his glaring errors and confidence bereft performances cost Arsenal dearly, and as expected the club was heavily linked to a host of goalkeepers.

To make things a bit worse, Almunia’s deputy, Lukasz Fabianski, didn’t offer much confidence as well but in Wojciech Szczesny, Arsenal had some restored hope and with Fabianski usurping Almunia in the course of the 2010/11 season, the Spanish goalie went further down the pecking order and offered no resistance whatsoever to the younger Poles.

With Fabianski already suffering a season-ending injury, Almunia was offered another chance to stake a claim for a jersey he once owned when a Dani Alves free kick ruptured a tendon in Szczesny’s finger. He didn’t do half bad in the shameful defeat to Barcelona (were the Gunners failed to register at attempt on goal) but in the subsequent games, Almunia continued to put up shaky performances like the outing against Blackburn but his shambolic performance against West Brom was the last straw. Wenger had to coax Jens Lehmann out of retirement to play against Blackpool and shortly afterwards, Szczesny regained full fitness and couldn’t replicate his form before his injury.

Almunia had a year left on his deal and was linked with moves to Spain and Turkey but he deliberately chose to remain at the club, chopping his 60,000 pounds per week and didn’t even make a single appearance in the 2011/12 before his contract finally expired. With Szczesny, Fabianski and Vito Mannone way ahead of him, Almunia didn’t care and that’s how he plummeted into mediocrity.

Almunia situation was rather unfortunate, but the reality of the situation was that Arsenal had moved on without him and had found the personnel that could his job better than him. For a mid-table outfit only concerned about maintaining their status in the league, Almunia would have been a good fit but for a team challenging for the Premier League, he became a liability.

Moving further up the pitch, Arsenal made a punt for Fenerbahce’s Andre Santos with Kieran Gibbs’ fitness clearly being an issue, as Gael Clichy decided not to renew his contract with the club. Off the pitch, Andre Santos is a great personality with a good attitude and cuddly smile to match but on it, he was an aberration.

When he joined the club, he wasn’t as bad as he is now. Played primarily as a wing back in his days in Turkey, Andre Santos waltzed forward a lot, contributing more in the final third as the Gunners were happy to get a full back that offered a better attacking output than Clichy but defensively, he was always found wanting, but somehow his tracks were always covered.

With Thomas Vermaelen not enjoying the best of forms on the left hand side of the central defense pairing, Andre Santos’ frailties were badly exposed, especially in the game against Schalke at the Emirates and when Gibbs suffered another trademark injury in January, Arsenal acted swiftly to sign Nacho Monreal that blended into life at North London. The acquisition of Monreal saw Andre Santos go down the pecking order and he was packaged in a bag and sent back to Brazil.

With Gremio failing to cope with the financial demands to make Andre Santos’ loan deal permanent, a part of me believes that he will be more than willing to take the Almunia route, much to the detriment of Arsenal. With the summer still young, many would hope that the cuddly Brazilian will be shipped out sooner rather than later.

Another player sure of a move away from the Emirates is Johan Djourou, Arsenal’s best defender by a far mile in the 2010/11 season. The club’s longest serving player has been on the fringes for as long as he can remember but finally made his breakthrough when an Achilles tendon injury kept the Verminator on the sidelines for all eternity.

With the panic signing of Per Mertesacker after the 8-2 drubbing in the hands of Manchester United, Djourou was faced in a mini battle with Sebastien Squillaci and Ignasi Miquel to know who would become Arsenal’s fourth choice defender, you heard me right, fourth choice. He had a brief stint with Hannover 96 last season and will the German outfit failing to retain his services, Djourou is set to move on loan to Hamburg SV, with an option to make the deal permanent.

Arsenal took a ruthless approach on Denilson and have allowed the contracts of Andrey Arshavin and Squillaci to reach their climax. With Park Chu-Young’s temporary military service,  Vito Mannone linked with a move to Sunderland following the sale of Simon Mignolet to Liverpool, as well as the potential exits of Andre Santos, Lukasz Fabianski, the World’s Best Striker, Nicklas Bendtner and the shisha-loving Marouane Chamakh, Arsenal’s deadwood count is considerably low.

The million pound would be – with Arsenal clearing out its “deadwood”. who will replace them?

There’s a huge possibility that every team won’t have any deadwood in its ranks but that’s also as possible as searching for hair on Howard Webb’s head. Last season, Arsenal battled for four competitions (without yielding any fruit) with a list of 25 (or more) players that gave their all week in week out for the Red and White Army.

Looking at the current crop of players within Arsenal’s disposal, the potential candidates to join the exclusive “Club Deadwood” in my honest opinion are –

Emmanuel Frimpong, Francis Coquelin, Abou Diaby and probably Gervinho

With Arsenal heavily linked with a move for Everton’s Marouane Fellaini, the chances of players like Francis Coquelin and Emmanuel Frimpong and to some extent, Abou Diaby will be further diminished.

Frimpong has made a big name for himself off the pitch with his Dench Chronicles but on it, he hasn’t proved to Arsene Wenger and the fans that he’s ready to make that step up to play for a club of this stature. He has had a couple of loan spells but his countless injury problems have dented his progress as a footballer.

Francis Coquelin on the other hand, had his breakthrough with a couple of performances as an utility player but in his favored defensive midfield position, the chances have been few and far between. Le Coq must have fathomed that Alex Song’s exit would have paved the way for him but Mikel Arteta curbed his attacking instincts to become Arsenal’s primary holding midfielder, to Coquelin’s detriment.

As for Abou Diaby, his case is with the gods of Mount Olympus.

I still believe that there’s some potential in Coquelin, but signing a player like Fellaini will close the curtains on Le Coq’s Arsenal career, in my opinion.

For what it’s worth, it’s good to see Arsenal getting rid of it’s current deadwood. I hope they will be replaced with players that can contribute to the team.

I wonder what’s taking Higuain so long to come to the Emirates. Here’s the reason why…

Higuain’s preferred mode of transportation to the Emirates

Sayonara.

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Arshavin Rejoins Zenit: A Tale of his Sad Decline at Arsenal

Every Arsenal fan will forever have lasting memories on that night in Anfield in April 2009.

Rafa Benitez and his Red Army were going through their best Premier League campaign in a while as they fought tooth and nail with Manchester United for Premier League honors. When the Gunners visited Merseyside, football neutrals braced themselves up for what would be an unforgettable night of football.

Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun scored braces for their team, but the star of the night was undoubtedly Arsenal’s red-hot new signing, Andrey Arshavin.

The first goal on the night was from a Cesc Fabregas pass after some good work by Samir Nasri, he worked the second himself after some poor Liverpool defending, his hat-trick was gifted to him on a platter thanks to more atrocious defending from Liverpool and his fourth came from a brilliant counter attack that was started by Theo Walcott.

His four-goal haul was a reminder of what Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal hierarchy had battled hard to get – the undoubted star of Euro 2008 strutting his stuff in the Premier League. In one of the most protracted transfers I can ever remember, the Gunners secured the deal for the Euro 2008 star on the last day of the 2009 winter transfer window.

His debut campaign was regarded as a major success and the fans drooled with the prospect of what was to come in the subsequent seasons. The Gunners were also disappointed to know that he couldn’t be part of their impressive Champions League campaign because he was cup-tied from his involvement with his previous and only club, Zenit St. Petersburg.

Arsenal’s 2008/09 Champions League campaign was one to remember as the Gunners formed an impregnable home record before a painful semifinal home defeat to eternal rivals, Manchester United. In the home games against Porto, Galatasaray and Dynamo Kiev, Arsenal didn’t concede any goal and the trend continued in the knockout phase as Arsenal didn’t concede a home goal against AS Roma (First Knockout Phase) and Villarreal (quarterfinal).

The game against Manchester United was an aberration in every sense of the word as Kieran Gibbs’ infamous slip allowed Park Ji-Sung to score an early goal to extend Manchester United’s aggregate lead to two goals. Cristiano Ronaldo compounded Arsenal’s misery with a free kick from an unfathomable angle and a close finish from a swift counter attack.

After scoring six goals and supplying nine assists in just 15 games for Arsenal, Arshavin came second in Arsenal’s 2009 Player of the Season Poll despite coming in the second half of the campaign. Arsene Wenger, his teammates and most importantly, the fans waited anxiously to see what he could accomplish in a full season with the club.

In his first full season with the club (2009/10 season), Arshavin was tipped for great things and he made a huge statement with his 30-yard stunner against Manchester United in Old Trafford but the Russian’s struggles began when Robin van Persie suffered a terrible ankle injury in a meaningless friendly against Italy.

RvP’s only replacement, Nicklas Bendtner, was nursing an injury as well, so Arsene Wenger was left with no choice but to draft Arshavin into the center forward position. It was believed that the Russian had a foot injury as well, but he played through pain for the good of the team.

While in his newly-found center forward role, Arshavin was failed to adapt, was easily picked on by opposition defenders and he obviously offered no threat whatsoever in the air, but he managed to score vital goals against Stoke, Bolton and Liverpool (in Anfield again) before suffering an injury in Arsenal’s 2-2 first leg encounter with Barcelona at the Emirates.

In the end of his first full season with the club, it was a somewhat productive season for Arshavin, as he scored 12 goals and laid on seven assists in 39 appearances.

The 2010/11 campaign saw Samir Nasri go into full bloom but Arshavin’s place came under threat with Theo Walcott knocking on the door, and as the season progressed the Russian went on a downward spiral as he eventually lost his place to the English speedster. Despite falling out of favor with the manager, the 2010/11 campaign was Arshavin’s best in Arsenal colors statistically as he managed to score 10 goals and supply 17 assists despite some appalling displays as the season progressed.

At the end of the 2010/11 campaign, Arshavin held a meeting with his manager to review his future with the club. Wenger indicated that he would not be considered a first-team regular but was welcome to stay and fight for his place. He took up the invitation but found first-team appearances hard to come by.

As his chances at Arsenal further diminished, his place in the Russian National team was under threat, it became glaring that he needed to play regular football to improve his chances of playing for his country in Euro 2012. His previous employers, Zenit, came with an escape route and he grabbed it with open arms.

In his return to Zenit, Arshavin scored three goals and supplied four assists before earning a place in the Russian team that was paired with Czech Republic, Greece and co-hosts, Poland in Euro 2012. Russia was knocked out thanks to the cruel head-to-head rule but Arshavin sparked up some controversy when he harshly declared that he didn’t care how the fans felt in the wake of Russia’s elimination.

He apologized afterwards but it turned out to be the last straw and the diminutive Russian was stripped off his captaincy and hasn’t featured for Russia since then, leaving him with 17 goals for his nation in 75 appearances.

Last season, Arshavin has become a peripheral figure at Arsenal as he only featured in cup matches and his contributions in the league were few and far between.

His only noteworthy performances in the Premier League were his cross that led to Mikel Arteta’s scrambled finish against Queens Park Rangers and when he was fouled by Sascha Riether for a penalty against Fulham. A usually cool-headed Arteta contrived to miss that one.

When Arshavin was summoned with 15 minutes to go against Chelsea in Stamford Bridge, he put up an appalling performance and that turned out to be his last appearance of any sorts for the club. In 143 games for Arsenal, Andrey Arshavin scored 31 goals and created 42 assists for his teammates in four seasons…three-and-a-half seasons with the club.

While the highest point of his Arsenal career will undoubtedly be his four-goal haul against Liverpool in April 2009, I can’t think of any lower point in his career than that moment when Arsenal fans went berserk when Arsene Wenger brought him on for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in January 2012 against Manchester United.

If he had any ounce of confidence left in him, that must have dealt a heavy blow in its own special way.

There was a period when he was regarded as one of the brightest stars in world football but Arshavin’s career is so dark that it’s currently heading into oblivion.

In a strange twist of fate, Zenit St. Petersburg have rolled back the years to sign the attacking midfielder on a two-year contract.

When he leaves this summer, I’ll always remember that technically proficient, blushed cheeked and hobbit-like owl that began his career in the club like a house on fire but plummeted into mediocrity due to his lethargy and lack of work ethic.

It’s still shocking to know that he’s Arsenal’s record signing. It’s fair to say that the Gunners didn’t get their true value for money.

A sad decline indeed.

Sayonara.

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Latest Updates on Higuain and New 2013/14 Away Kit?

BNnox6nCAAESyT  Leaked Picture! Arsenals brand new 2013 14 away kit is revealed

The real deal or another photoshopped masterpiece?

*wipes dust and cobwebs from blog* 

*coughs profusely*

There hasn’t been some blogging activity here in recent days and like Arsenal’s transfer dealings this summer, the reasons for my leave of absence are undisclosed. -________-

To be brutally honest, nothing has happened much since I was out.

On the international scene, my Nigeria was dumped out of the Confederations Cup after a Jordi Alba-inspired victory for Spain and the world has been spared of the aberration which could also be known as Tahiti’s performance in the tournament.

OMG! There’s a carpenter between the sticks and a bricklayer on the right wing. Of course there’s the high school striking (still better than Marouane Chamakh) and that good ol’ gardener in attacking midfield. Super Story.

In the other group, Japan and Mexico crashed out of the tournament and one of the highlights of the Japs’ campaign was the enthralling 4-3 defeat to Italy – the kinda game that makes the hair at the back of one’s neck stand.

The first semifinal match took place last night with the hosts, Brazil, seeing out eternal rivals, Uruguay, in a game Diego Forlan would want to forget but on the bright side, no one was bitten by Luis Suarez. Those Aliens from Iberia take on the team they trounced in the Euro 2012 final and we all hope to see a better performance from the Ities, even if we all have a hunch who the eventual winner would…could be.

Moving over to more Arsenal-related issues, a couple of sites have released pictures of what would be the Gunners’ away kit for the forthcoming campaign, as the home kit looks set to be retained.

This may be one of the numerous photoshopped pictures we’ve seen in the past but I have a hunch that it could be the real deal. The official away kit will be released soon but this classic yellow jersey with a blue trim on the collar and at the end of the sleeves reminds me of Arsenal’s O2-sponsored away kit of the Invincibles season.

One of my fondest Arsenal memories

Many Gooners will have mixed opinions about the jersey, if this is what we are going to settle for. While some are happy to see a vintage Arsenal away color back after last season’s Purple and Black Rain Pain, some feel that Nike has lost their mojo and are waiting patiently for the Puma deal to come to fruition in the start of the 2014/15 campaign for the financial implications.

Should Arsenal conclude the kit sponsorship deal with Puma, it would make the end of a 20-year spell with Nike and in my honest opinion, I’ve seen and bought some lovely kits while I’ve been quite perplexed with some of Nike’s designs in the past as well.

This jersey still gives me nightmares…

Let’s keep our fingers cross as we wait patiently for the club to release the official away kit for the 2013/14 season. Dunno about you but I’m gonna get me one.

Moving on to more important news, Arsenal fans have been anticipating the potential arrival of Real Madrid’s goal poacher, Gonzalo Higuain, after the Telegraph had reported that the Gunners made a bid in excess of 22 million pounds. Shortly afterwards, the Guardian quoted that the player had agreed personal terms with the club and it was believed that he was set to be among the highest earners at the club.

Apparently, everyone has an opinion in regard to his potential move to Arsenal and I wasn’t surprised when his father, Jorge Higuain, stated that there’s a possibility of the forward joining Juventus, even though they’ve completed the signing of Argentine hot-head, Carlos Tevez, who would fight for places in attack with new signing, Fernando Llorente, as well as incumbent strikers like Alessandro Matri, Mirko Vuninic, Fabio Quagliarella and to a reasonable extent, Sebastian Giovinco.

Out of the blue, Gonzalo’s brother, Nicolas Higuain, has quelled “daddy’s quotes” and he stated that lil’ ol’ Gonzalo will be joining Arsenal after all,

‘If Tevez joins Juve, is Higuain closer to Arsenal? I think so.

‘Juventus is a great club, but Gonzalo is too expensive for them.

‘Napoli are a strong team. Having said that, I cannot deny that Gonzalo is now close to Arsenal.’

When we thought we’ve heard it all, the Times has cooked up a ludicrous story stating that Real Madrid’s new boss, Carlo Ancelotti, is set to offer Fabio Coentrao and yours truly, Gonzalo Higuain, as bait to land Welsh sensation, Gareth Bale. Firstly, I’d learned that Madrid publicly reserved the No. 11 jersey for Bale, now this?

With Barcelona tying up a deal for Neymar, it was believed that their fierce title-chasing rivals were on the look out for a mega signing. Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale were linked to the Spanish outfit but the Tottenham president, Daniel Levy, placed a mammoth price tag on his most prized asset. Swap exchange deals have become part and parcel of the beautiful game and Arsenal had a first-hand experience of this kind of business when that mercenary William Gallas came to North London in a deal that saw Ashley Cole go the other way.

Whether this recent development in the Higuain saga has an element of truth or is just plain bollocks, we will have to keep our fingers crossed as things progress.

With Manchester City losing out to Chelsea in sealing a deal for Edinson Cavani, I won’t be surprised if they poke their noses to potentially hijack Gonzalo Higuain from all his suitors. They certainly have the financial power to make a punt for the Argentine goal getter.

I will monitor the Higuain situation closely and I will give more updates as they happen.

Elsewhere, Arsenal are set to offload their longest-serving player, Johan Djourou, to some Bundesliga teams while Zenit St. Petersburg are odds on to revive Andrey Arshavin’s dead football career. Fairytale stuff for hobbit-sized Russian.

Bonus ReadingCasting Arsenal Players as Hollywood Movie Characters. Trust me, it’s worth a read.

It’s good to be back doing what I love.

Sayonara.

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