Monthly Archives: July 2013

Analysis of Arsenal’s Offloaded Deadwood this Summer

Andrey Arshavin in action for Zenit St Petersburg in 2000

The prodigal soon returns home

Many Arsenal fans won’t be happy with how the transfer market has panned out so far but one thing is certain – the Arsenal hierarchy has been very busy offloading their deadwood that offered little or no contribution to the team’s cause last season.

In the course of the 2012/13 campaign, Arsenal had some players that worked their skins off and producing the goods on a weekly basis, even if it wasn’t enough to end the club’s everlasting trophy drought.

In goal, Wojciech Szczesny had the lion’s share of game time but Lukasz Fabianski had a rare stint at goal that was highly productive. The defense was manned by Per Mertesacker on a regular basis but while Bacary Sagna and Thomas Vermaelen struggled for fitness and form, the performances of Laurent Koscielny, Carl Jenkinson and of course, the intense battle between Kieran GIbbs and Nacho Monreal were worth commending.

The midfield had an interesting outlook with injuries robbing the club off the services of Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby but while Mikel Arteta was a standout performer all season long, Rosicky’s rennaisance and Aaron Ramsey’s late season flourish were heartwarming to say the least. Santi Cazorla however, was in a realm of his own.

In attack, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud had to combine to fill van Persie’s scoring boots (there was still some space in the boots though). While the likes of Gervinho and the Ox failed to impress, Theo Walcott’s goalscoring form was a vast improvement in more ways than one.

At the end of the 2012/13 campaign, Arsenal would look back at the season with shame bearing in mind that they were outsed from two winnable cup domestic cup competitions by lower opposition that would’ve been defeated any other day. Even if they could take some solace with the Champions League exit in the hands of the eventual winners, the Premier League campaign turned out to be another topsy-turvy adventure that just saw the Gunners sniff at the final Champions League spot on the last day of the season.

After accessing the squad, Arsene Wenger and his negotiating chums got busy and many of these players have new employers. Here’s an overview of Arsenal’s offloaded deadwood this summer.

Vito Mannone to Sunderland

In 13 appearances for Arsenal last season, Vito Mannone managed two clean sheets against Stoke and Liverpool. He deputized when Szczesny suffered an ankle injury and on the Pole’s return to full fitness, Mannone was sent back to the bench and never managed to get his footing till the season ended.

He has had his fair share of heroics like the Fulham game a few seasons ago where he put up a 5-star performance but in my honest opinion, he has never convinced me and probaly many fans out there that he actually has what it takes to command a starting berth in an ambitious club like Arsenal.

With Simon Mignolet departing Sunderland for greener pastures in Anfield, Paolo di Canio’s punt for his compatriot, Mannone, is a highly welcome move and he would thrive in a club like Sunderland where he won’t be under any pressure to deliver but when I remember di Canio’s antics last season, I believe that Mannone would have to really step up.

Deadwood Offloading Conclusion: With Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski clearly ahead of Mannone in the pecking order, selling Mannone to Sunderland has a very good move

Andre Santos to Flamengo

When Andre Santos joined the club in 2011 along with a plethora of “panic signings” Arsenal made after that humiliating defeat in the hands of Manchester United, he looked a decent buy as he offered what Arsenal had lacked in the days of Gael Clichy – an attacking outlet on the left flank. His goals against Olympiakos, Chelsea and West Brom came in vital moments and he enjoyed a good first season by his standards.

Last season, things had gone awry for the Brazilian and his performances on the pitch have been nothing short of appalling. His poor positional awareness and dismal defending has cost his team times without number with his performances in the games against Schalke (home), Manchester United (away), Liverpool (home) and Brighton (away) bringing him to the bad books of Arsenal fans.

Then of course, there was the halftime shirt swap with Robin van Persie that prompted the fans for ask for his head on a shiny plate.

After another bad showing against Liverpool, the manager went to the transfer window when Gibbs suffered an injury, clearly indicating that he had no further plans in his team. He was shipped to Gremio but the club didn’t have the financial capabilities to seal a permanent deal and after grumbling on his return to London, he reached an agreement with Arsenal to terminate his contract.

Andre Santos is currently basking in the Brazilian Sun and I must say, he won’t be missed.

Deadwood Offloading Conclusion: With Kieran Gibbs injured on the tail end of the January transfer window, Arsenal didn’t think twice before swooping for Nacho Monreal. That speaks a lot in volumes.

Sebastien Squillaci to SC Bastia

For those that don’t know, Sebastien Squillaci is the real Man of Steel.

The French bloke arrived at the shores of London with an amazing trophy haul from his days in France and Spain and the “experienced” tag on his head that was supposed to be a very in teaching the younger ones like Djourou and Koscielny but he turned out to be the right-footed version of Mikael Silvestre.

He even lived up to the Legendary No. 18 own goal billing by heading the ball into his own net when Arsenal played Wigan in the last game of 2010. Pascal Cygan (No. 18) did it in his time and Silvestre (No. 18) was the quickest of them all with an own goal on his debut.

Seeing that guy wear the Red and White sends chills down my spine most times because you can never predict the next calamity he’s about to make. To the delight of Arsenal fans worldwide, the Man of Steel’s contract expired and Arsenal wasted no time is rolling the red carpet in front of the main gate of the Emirates.

At least, there’s a Daily Planet in the island of Corsica so Squillaci will be doing two jobs – playing for SC Bastia while wearing the Superman outfit inside his jersey. When there will be trouble in the town, Squillaci will leave the pitch and save the day, because when he’s on the pitch, he’s as good as someone that’s off it because he’s a short one as we call it in Nigeria.

Deadwood Offloading Conclusion: Despite his VAST EXPERIENCE!!!!, he’s behind Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Miquel and even Johan Djourou’s spirit that’s in the club while his body plays in Hamburg. If he signed a new deal, there would have been a riot in London Colney.

Denilson Pereira Neves to Sao Paulo

Denilson was the part of the Brazil Under-20 side that won the South American Championships and was labeled as the next best thing in Brazil so he snapped up for £3.4m from Sao Paulo in 2006.

With World Cup winner Gilberto Silva, Mathieu Flamini, Alex Song and Lassana Diarra all in the squad, Denilson had to settle for Carling Cup starts but as the years went by, Denilson found himself available for first team action and he took his chance in the 2008/09 season because he was the Gunner with the highest amount of appearances that season (over 50 games or so).

Jack Wilshere’s emergence in the 2010/11 season limited the Brazilian to Cup matches and substitute appearances in the League but Denilson was a shadow of the player that was quite impressive a few seasons ago. After Arsenal played Fulham at the end of that campaign, the Brazilian told the World that he’s a frustrated figure at the club and he’s going to leave.

Arsenal negotiated a loan move for the bloke to his native Brazil and after a spell with Sao Paulo, they failed to match the Gunner’s evaluation for the player and another loan move came into fruition. With the Brazilian outfit failing to meet Arsenal’s demands again, the player took things to his hands and like Andre Santos, his contract was terminated.

Now he’s back with Sao Paulo after joining as a free agent, wily old sly foxes, the lot of them.

Deadwood Offloading Conclusion: Instead of trying to fight for his place with Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, this Brazilian brought out a white flag and chickened out. Good riddance.

Andrey Arshavin to Zenit St. Petersburg

After an extremely disappointing campaign, Arshavin’s time with Arsenal is up as the club chose not to renew his contract. He was reduced to spending a lot of time in the dugout and when he came on, he looked rather uninterested.

He was pretty impressive in the Capital One Cup last season and his only significant Premier League moments include his late cross into the box that led to the goal against Queens Park Rangers and the penalty he won for his team against Fulham.

In what became his final appearance for the club, Arsene Wenger summoned him with 15 minutes left to play when the Gunners visited Stamford Bridge. With the Gunners trailing, they needed inspiration from anywhere but when the ball came to Arshavin’s path, he was found wanting.

Some say that he was played out of position, others said that his attitude was lackadaisical. I say that he’s a technically proficient player 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.

Deadwood Offloading Conclusion: Arshavin’s movement was excellent and after what we’d seen from him at Anfield and the boost he gave our season after his signing, there was no doubt in my mind we’d signed a really talented footballer but talent only gets you so far. We paid a big transfer fee and big wages, and we got nothing close to value for money.  – Arseblog

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Johan Djourou and Francis Coquelin may be technically regarded as “deadwood” as well, but they are currently on loan and still have contracts with Arsenal so I decided not to add them on this list.

As for Marouane Chamakh, Park Ju-Young and the World’s Best Striker, Nicklas Bendtner, their cases are in Mount Olympus.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal Transfer Rumors: Thoughts on Bernard the Brazilian Wonderkid

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Is he what we need right now?

Ivan Gazidis had promised the optimistic Arsenal fans at the start of the summer that there was enough money for the manager to spend in his bid to bring quality additions to the Emirates.

It wasn’t long before rumors of a potential Gonzalo Higuain move came into the fray and we all know how that panned out. Then of course, there was the Luis Suarez transfer saga and I’m certainly in no mood to talk some more about the Uruguayan because I’ve had my fill.

The media Vultures and their host of keyboard warriors reported that Arsenal was linked with a move for Brazilian wonderkid, Bernard. The youngster has been in Atletico Mineiro’s ranks since 2006 but he was released twice because of the mere fact that he was a bit taller than a goblin but probably at the same height with a hobbit.

Exclusive interview here (you may wanna translate though)

Injury crisis in his club to playing personnel in his position paved the way for the young winger and after a loan move away at Democrata FC (where he scored 14 goals in 16 games), he made his debut in the 2011 Campeonato Brasileirão season notching up 28 appearances.

Last season, Bernard rose to prominence as he, alongside Manchester City reject, Jo, and Brazilian legend, Ronaldinho Gaucho helped Atletico Mineiro to a second place finish in the Brazilian league. Ronaldinho and Jo had 10 goals apiece while Bernard topped the goalscoring charts with 15 goals.

The diminutive Brazilian is renowned for his fleet-footed nature, flamboyancy, finishing, pace, agility, creativity, technique and lovely dribbling skills as you would expect from a Brazilian winger.

With Arsenal reportedly linked to the winger, the manager, Arsene Wenger, was quick to douse any flames from the fire the media Vultures almost started.

Unlike the Higuain situation that made some Arsenal fans gnash their teeth in anguish, there would be no need to lose sleep over this hobbit because his agent has confirmed that he’s on his way to FC Porto or Shakhtar Donetsk, or both for all I care,

“I can confirm that FC Porto is the strongest possibility, but Shakhtar are interested too. He should join one of the two clubs.

“If it is up to me, Bernard will be a Porto player. As I have said, this would be the best solution for him. He would prefer to join a middling, but good, club in Europe rather than risk joining an elite club and not getting the chance to play. Bernard has great interest in going to Porto.”

According to Goal, the young lad also had some conversations with his compatriot, Hulk, about the prospect of FC Porto and I’m positive that Bruce Banner’s angry side would have sang some sweet tunes about his former club, which would wet more ground ahead of a move to FC Porto.

Right about now, Arsenal is blessed with a vast array of versatile midfielders / attackers that can play on the flanks and if I have a chance to choose between any of these players and a hobbit, I’d go with that Gunner, probably with the exception of Gervais Yao Kouassi, that’s closing in on a move to join his former boss, Rudi Garcia, in AS Roma.

As good as Bernard is, he’s no where near Santi Cazorla or even Theo Walcott in class. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is a young player that has his best years ahead of him, Arsene Wenger has high hopes for Serge Gnabry and Ryo Miyaichi then of course, Lukas Podolski in simple terms, is an efficient German Machine.

Notwithstanding, Bernard is a player with great potential and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

However, that future will certainly not be with Arsenal Football Club.

Sayonara.

Bonus Reading: Gareth Bale – from an Arsenal Fan’s Perspective. A damn good read!

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2013 Asia Tour: 10 Things We’ve Learned From the Far East Campaign

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The 2013 Asia Tour was a major success both on and off the pitch.

There were also some emotional moments like Ryo Miyaichi return to his motherland, the passionate Asian fans, some breathtaking football and the whole nine yards.

Arsenal began the Asia Tour with a resounding victory over Indonesia before replicating the same goal count against Vietnam. When Arsene Wenger and his Red and White Army ventured into the shores of Japan, things got a lot more difficult and it was heartwarming seeing Le Professeur coming up against a player who is now coach of the team he managed before coming to Arsenal.

The Asia Tour ended with a tough clash against a side with the match winner for Arsenal reminiscent of the debacle against the 2011 Carling Cup final in Wembley.

Without further ado, here are 10 things learned from the Asia Tour.

Gedion Zelalem is Absolutely Brilliant

At an age no different from when Cesc Fabregas got a shot in the spotlight, Gedion Zelalem has shown in the Asia Tour that he can become a force to be reckoned with in the foreseeable future. His technique on the ball is exemplary, he dictates the tempo at the heart of midfield and he has an eagle-eyed vision, which was proven by his inch-perfect assists.

The folks at Highbury House believe that he is even better than Fabregas when he was 16. Be the judge of that…

Tomas Rosicky has Gotten his Sharpness Back

He came on as a substitute on two occasions and started two games as well but one thing was certain in all Rosicky’s outings – he has gotten his sharpness back.

His elegant movement on an off the ball was pleasing on the eye and his dinked assist to Olivier Giroud for his opening goal against Vietnam was a pleasurable sight.

At the tail end of last season, Rosicky deputized in Jack Wilshere’s absence and his renaissance was important in Arsenal’s surge for a fourth place finish. Rosicky has stated that he’s hungrier than ever and he wants to end his time at Arsenal was a flourish.

The aging Czech maestro had a decent Asia Tour campaign and we can only hope that he would contribute to Arsenal’s cause as the season progresses.

Bacary Sagna can Play as a Center Back

With Johan Djourou loaned out to Hamburg, Sebastien Squillaci sent into oblivion and Ignasi Miquel not fully ready, Arsenal’s miseries at the center back positions were compounded when Thomas Vermaelen suffered a back injury that would sideline him for three months. This ultimately meant that Arsenal had only two recognized center backs in the forms of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny.

If things weren’t bad enough, Koscielny suffered a knock before the Nagoya Grampus game and as expected, all Hell broke loose. Arsenal has been linked with a move for Swansea’s captain, Ashley Williams, but the wily old fox had something up his sleeves when he fielded Sagna as a center back against Indonesia.

With Koscielny out for the game against Nagoya Grampus, Wenger fielded Sagna in the unfamiliar center position and to be fair, he has excelled in the role, which ultimately means that Arsenal might not invest in a center back.

The writing was on the wall though, Wenger has always fancied Sagna as a center back after his 5-star performance against Sunderland in February.

Aaron Ramsey is a Workhorse

Since his introduction in one of the holding midfield roles last season, Aaron Ramsey has shone like a bright star as he simplified his game, improved his passing range and showed off his unbelievable work rate. To everyone’s delight, Ramsey has picked up where he left off and his performances in the Asia Tour are no different from the standards he set at the tail end of last season.

Ramsey has covered every blade of grass in every game he played and of course, who can forget this…

Olivier Giroud’s Finishing has Vastly Improved

He came off the bench to score a brace against Indonesia and used his wand off a left foot to score a hat-trick against Vietnam. The first was a first time volley from a Rosicky lofted pass, the second was a brilliantly curled effort that left the goalie for dead and the hat-trick was an intelligent chip over the onrushing goalie to crown a perfect first half for the Frenchman. He scored his sixth goal in the Asia Tour with a thumping header against Nagoya Grampus.

With Arsenal missing out on Gonzalo Higuain and the Luis Suarez transfer saga taking different twists and turns, it’s high time we lay all our eggs on a Giroud basket with the hope that the likes of Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski come to the fold.

The manager has already stated that Arsenal can compete for major honors with or without signings. Call me a pessimist but I have a hunch that there may not be signings, which ultimately means that Giroud has to come up with the goods on a regular basis or else it’s curtains.

I certainly hope that he will carry his goalscoring Asia Tour form to the forthcoming campaign because they’ll be needed. At least, Rosicky believes so.

Jack Wilshere Looks 100 Percent Fit

When Jack Wilshere broke into the scene following a loan move at Bolton, the 2010/11 campaign was widely regarded as his breakthrough season as his outstanding performances on the pitch won him the Young Player of the Year award. When Wilshere hoped to build on his exploits in the start of the 2011/12 campaign, injury struck and he was out for the best part of 15 months.

Wilshere made his long awaited comeback against Queens Park Rangers in October 2012 and his road to full fitness hit a few blocks as the campaign progressed. After suffering another injury in the tail end of last season, Wilshere’s return to the pitch was marred with rash displays and he was replaced by Tomas Rosicky in the final games of the season.

Wilshere wasn’t fit enough to play against Indonesia, came off the bench against Vietnam and Nagoya Grampus but he was fit enough to start against Urawa Red Diamonds. The midfielder has expressed his delight in his return to full fitness and he hopes to play for 90 minutes in the Emirates Cup.

Wilshere is an indispensable player to the club and his fitness will be key as the season progresses.

Lukas Podolski Needs his Own TV Show

We all know that he was more or less the most substituted player last season, has a left foot no different from Thor’s Hammer and carried niggling ankle injuries throughout the season. As expected, he was part of the squad that traveled to the Asia Tour and on the pitch, he got on the scoring act against Indonesia and Urawa Red Diamonds.

Off the pitch, Podolski has been a class act with his shenanigans on the plane and of course, his Samurai Showdown with Per Mertesacker.

Chuba Akpom is a Loan Move Away From his Breakthrough

He was one of the standout performers in last season’s NextGen series and Arsene Wenger afforded him an opportunity to roll with the big boys in the Asia Tour. Akpom hasn’t disappointed with well-taken goals against Indonesia, Vietnam and the match winner against Urawa Red Diamonds.

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Akpom can look back that the Asia Tour with a keen sense of pride and he has even stated that the tour has given him some motivation for the forthcoming campaign. He has been at the club since the age of seven and he scored an impressive 18 goals for the Under-21’s last season.

In my honest opinion, Akpom needs to go on loan to a team that would give him the much-needed exposure to first team football, which will improve him and do wonders to his confidence.

Laurent Koscielny Doesn’t Know What a “Friendly Game” is

When Bleacher Report’s James McNicholas published an article about casting Arsenal players as Hollywood characters, he likened Laurent Koscielny to a velociraptor,

They both have short arms with claw-like hands. They’re both rapid across the ground, and can be deadly at close range. 

The similarities between Laurent Koscielny and a velociraptor are undeniable.

The velociraptor made its name stalking kitchens in Jurassic Park. Koscielny has made his name patrolling the heart of the Arsenal defence. Have you ever seen them in the same room? 

He came off the bench against Indonesia, started against Vietnam, missed out on the Nagoya Grampus game because of injury and made his return against Urawa Red Diamonds. In all these games, Koscielny was at his brilliant best with his trademark interceptions, aggressive defending and he was a standout performer throughout the Far East campaign.

It will take some stuffing from Thomas Vermaelen to displace Kos the Boss from the team when he returns to full fitness.

The Only Thing Arsenal is Smoking is a Victory Cigar

Seven goals against Indonesia, seven goals against Vietnam, three against Nagoya Grampus and two against Urawa Red Diamonds.

Arsenal may have conceded three goals in the Far East, but Arsene Wenger’s side scored an astonishing 19 goals. To make things more special, the goals were evenly distributed among nine players with Giroud scoring six, Akpom scoring four, Podolski and Walcott scored two each while the others had a goal apiece.

With four wins from four games in Asia, Arsenal can look back on their Far East campaign as a benchmark for the season ahead.

The Emirates Cup comes up next and we can only hope for a great spectacle.

Thanks for the inspiration Bobby.

Sayonara.

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