Monthly Archives: July 2023

Thoughts on Arsenal’s Links with David Raya

Arsenal transfer news: Club set to make offer for Brentford's goalkeeper  David Raya

David Raya had been on Arsenal’s radar in 2020, when he was still in the Championship with Brentford, but Arsenal’s £10 million offer to Brentford was rejected, and the Gunners went to Sheffield United to sign Aaron Ramsdale to provide competition to Bernd Leno, with Emiliano Martinez moving to Aston Villa. We all know how it panned out – Leno lost his place in the squad to Ramsdale, and Arsenal signed Matt Turner as backup to Rammy.

Ramsdale had his struggles in his first Arsenal season but showed massive improvement last season, starting all 38 games in the Premier League for the Gunners, making 94 saves and keeping 14 clean sheets. Ramsdale also grew in influence in the club, and right earned himself a new contract extension

It seemed that Arteta and Edu Gaspar were focused with player departures ahead of the new campaign, but the transfer window can be very dynamic and sometimes, clubs have to react to mitigate potential changes with player movements. The Mail Online published an article confirming Nottingham Forest’s interest in signing Turner from Arsenal, which will leave a backup goalkeeping void with the likes of Karl Hein, Arthur Okonkwo and Runar Alex Runarsson not good enough to compete for Arsenal at Premier League and Champions League level. 

Turner would know that his only avenue to game time this season would be in the domestic league cup competitions, and if Arsenal crash out early, he will have to wait for something as extreme as Ramsdale getting injured before he can feature between the sticks again, and with Nottingham Forest calling, surely he would heed the call. Keylor Navas has returned to Paris and Dean Henderson is closer to being Andre Onana’s backup than being No. 1 at Nottingham Forest. The club still has the seasoned veteran, Wayne Hennessey, and the returning Ethan Horvath, that had a great loan spell in the Championship for Luton Town last season, but Turner represents experience and a cheap avenue to have a consistent goalie in the Premier League. He’s also a full time international player and will want to keep his place in the USMNT squad by getting good minutes in club football.

With Turner potentially leaving, signing Raya would be very interesting, because the goalkeeping position isn’t one that requires much rotation. If you look at the big Premier League sides, they usually have one dominant goalie and a not so good backup. 

Raya put up some monster numbers last season for Brentford, helping them to their mid-table finish with some breathtaking goalkeeping displays. He was first in the Premier League last season for saves (154), first for saves from outside the box (64), first for touches (1,550), first for long passes completed (410) and second for crosses caught (50), garnering 12 clean sheets along the way.

In direct comparison with Ramsdale, Raya faced 205 shots and conceded 43 goals while Ramsdale faced 138 shots and conceded 42. However, Ramsdale beat Raya to win the Best Goalkeeper award in the London Awards, as well as the Premier League Team of the Season. 

Like Ramsdale, Raya is an excellent shot stopper, contains bags of bravery and can build up from the back. So Arteta will be signing a goalie that can offer just as much as Ramsdale in goal. However, Raya’s arrival will produce very stiff competition for Ramsdale and he would know that he’s one cock up away from being benched permanently, and at a club like Arsenal, the trend is quite scary – Leno came up as a backup to Petr Cech, Cech messed up, Leno stepped in. Ramsdale did the same to Leno, and he will be fully aware of how ruthless Arteta can be. 

Ramsdale might have usurped Leno to be the No. 1 goalie at Arsenal, but he would know that he will need to improve massively with how he deals with crosses, his distribution, his command of area and sometimes, his one-on-one duels with opposition forwards. Arsenal fans will not be quick to forget how he fed the ball directly to Carlos Alcaraz in the 3-3 draw against Southampton last season, and he has already shown two gaffes in preseason – deceived with the bounce of the ball from Bruno Fernandes shot and his flat-footedness from Raphinha’s free kick.

Arsenal hasn’t launched an official bid for Raya and a whole lot can happen between now and when the window ends on September 1st. Till then, we will keep monitoring the situation and react accordingly.


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Arteta and Edu on the Same Page Regarding Departures

Arsenal should sack Edu before replacing Mikel Arteta

With the help of Edu Gaspar, Mikel Arteta has assembled the team he needs to challenge again for the Premier League title in the forthcoming season. Arteta and his team will be remembered for leading the division for 248 days last season, only to lose pole position to Manchester City, as the Gunners lacked the depth and experience to sustain their place at the top with a Manchester City juggernaut breathing down their necks.

This summer, Arsenal conducted their business early, confirming deals for Kai Havertz, Jurrien Timber and a British world record fee for Declan Rice, who have spent some time together and are adapting to life at Arsenal. Following the exciting 5-3 win over Barcelona in the magnificent So-Fi Stadium in California, Edu Gaspar stated that having 30 players is unsustainable, and it is the same sentiment that has been echoed by Mikel Arteta,

“We have 30 players here which is unsustainable, and obviously the market is still open, and things can happen – but we are prepared,”

“We are really happy with the squad we have at the moment [in terms of quality]; we obviously have improvements to make in terms of what we want to do in games, and we have to do that. Overall, I’m really pleased with the team.”

If you recall sometime in April 2022, Arteta mentioned that what he ideally wants in a squad is 22 outfield players and three goalkeepers. We all know Arteta isn’t big on rotation, trusting the same set of players that come up with the goods for him, but this summer he mentioned something about being unpredictable, which essentially means that the gaffer might spring a surprise or two in his lineups – like Leandro Trossard getting the nod ahead of Gabriel Martinelli, or Timber taking Ben White’s place, or Havertz playing alongside Martin Odegaard with only Declan Rice as the anchor man, instead of a double pivot featuring Rice and Thomas Partey. With so much talent at his disposal, Arteta has what he needs to keep the squad fresh as he competes on all four fronts this season, with the priority still being winning the Premier League for the first time in 20 years. 

A few weeks ago, I reviewed the squad that traveled to the United States preseason tour, and there were some very notable absentees from the list. Reiss Nelson just signed a contract extension with the club and was certainly left out due to injury with Academy graduate, Amario Cozier-Duberry taking his place in the squad. Emile Smith Rowe and Thomas Partey were left out of the initial squad, with Smith Rowe recuperating from his Euros Under-21 sojourns, and Partey rumored to be heading to the exit door with Saudi Arabia calling, but both players jetted to the States to join their mates, and featured in the win over Barcelona.

The ones that were left behind were Nicolas Pepe, Cedric Soares, Nuno Taveres and Albert Sambi Lokonga.

Lokonga is way down the pecking order in midfield, and the addition of a superstar like Rice doesn’t help his cause. He has been linked with a move to Burnley to join his former boss, Vincent Kompany, but nothing concrete has come into fruition. He is currently nursing a muscular injury and will want to get to full fitness before pondering about his future. Pepe has been an underwhelming signing since he arrived with his club-record fee in 2019, and he has a year left on his contract. The latest rumor mill is that his agent offered him up to Fenerbahce, as it was well publicized that the Turkish giants needed a winger. Arsenal will want to get his huge wages out of the way and will certainly entertain what Fenerbahce has to offer.

As for the Portuguese duo of Taveres and Cedric, there is nothing concrete regarding their departure, even though there were whispers of West Ham and Galatasaray having some interest in the young gung-ho fullback. Cedric is one that will probably have his contract rescinded if the club cannot find some plausible for him regarding his departure.

There are some players that traveled with the squad for the US Tour that are also earmarked for potential exits out of the club. I expect youngsters like Auston Trusty and Marquinhos to go out on loan again, while the exit rumors for Kieran Tierney has certainly cooled off. Arsenal had no choice but to hold onto Rob when Besiktas offered that pittance of an amount for his services, and Flo Balogun has garnered huge interest from Inter Milan, following their failed pursuit of Romelu Lukaku. 

The potential departures of Pepe, Soares, Taveres, Lokonga, Marquinhos, Trusty and Balogun would trim the squad to the level Arteta and Edu Gaspar would deem ‘sustainable’, and all focus will be moved to starting strong with a good showing at the Community Shield against Manchester City and the opening fixture at home to Nottingham Forest.


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Arsene Wenger’s Top 10 Moments with Arsenal


Arsene Wenger - Premier League Hall of Fame Inductee 2023 | BT Sport

Arsenal finally immortalized Arsene Wenger with a statue at the Emirates Stadium, etching his place in the club’s amazing history for his 22-year stint with the club. As expected, the club took to social media to celebrate the legend and current head coach, Mikel Arteta, waxed lyrical in his praise of Wenger,

“It’s such a great tribute that the club has done something special for Arsène that he fully deserves and merits. With a statue now at the stadium, Arsène can have that recognition and be here at our club forever.

“I’m so grateful to have played for Arsène at this club in my career. He chose me to be one of his players and selected me to be the captain of the club and that’s something I will never forget.”

With Wenger spending over 8,000 days as Arsenal’s head coach, he had a lot of moments with the club, so it was difficult to pick my top 10, but here’s my best of the lot

The Invincibles

You can’t mention Arsene Wenger without speaking about the Invincibles, the amazing team that went through 38 matches without experiencing defeat in the Premier League, raking up 26 wins and 12 draws.

The team was led by Patrick Vieira and has so many important players with Jens Lehmann protecting the goal, Kolo Toure and Sol Campbell in the heart of the defense, Robert Pires providing attacking returns from the left wing, and Thierry Henry raking in phenomenal numbers in attack. Sadly, that Premier League win of 2004 still remains Arsenal’s last title win, and the clock was almost reset by Mikel Arteta last season.

18 Consecutive Champions League Appearances

We will always remember when Wenger stated that finishing in the Top Four is a trophy, but Wenger must be lauded for his consistency in qualifying for the competition, with Arsenal always finishing in the European qualifying places in the Premier League.

It’s really amazing when you think of the fact that Arsenal’s second place finish last season ultimately ended Arsenal’s wait to return to the competition, as they had been out of it for seven seasons.

The 98′ and 02′ Doubles

Arsenal dominated the domestic scene in the early years of Wenger’s reign in the club, with Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United providing stiff competition for the right to be the alpha club in the division.

However, Wenger and his lads blew the division away with two Premier League and FA Cup doubles in 1998 and 2002, which epitomized his legendary status with the club. Wenger went on to win six FA Cups in the course of his managerial career with Arsenal.

Promoting Project Youth

In Wenger’s time at Arsenal, there was enhanced focus on producing young talent that went on to be world beaters for the club. One of the greatest prodigies the club ever had was Francesc Fabregas who was poached from Barcelona’s La Masia Academy, but there were some phenomenal talent like Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, and Wojciech Szczesny.

Under Wenger, Arsenal unearthed so many gems and gave them opportunities to shine at the club.

Ending the Trophy Drought

When Patrick Vieira scored that penalty against Manchester United in Wembley in May 2005, Arsenal fans and Arsene Wenger probably didn’t believe that they’d go through nine years of a trophy drought.

There was the 2006 Champions League final heartache against Barcelona in Paris, the failed 2007/08 Premier League title challenge, reaching the Champions League semis in 2009, shockingly losing the 2011 Carabao Cup final to Birmingham City, and yet another failed title challenge in 2012/13.

The 2014 FA Cup final against Hull City was meant to be a walk in the park, but the Gunners found themselves two goals down, but goals from Santi Cazorla, Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey allowed Arsenal win the FA Cup, which coincided with the biggest trophy ground parade of over 250,000 fans!

Signing Thierry Henry

Thierry Henry was a struggling winger Juventus signed from AS Monaco and shipped him off to Arsenal at the first call from Wenger.

377 games and 228 goals later, Henry is regarded as a one of the greatest ever forwards to play the beautiful game.

This was all down to Arsene Wenger.

An Unfortunate Night in Paris

It started with five wins on the trot against FC Thun, Sparta Prague and Ajax, before the dead-rubber draw with the Dutch giants in Matchday 6. The first knockout round fixture was against the illustrious Real Madrid, but an exceptional solo strike from captain Henry was enough to seal victory. The departed Patrick Vieira and his Juventus teammates came to Highbury and were outclassed by Fabregas, before Kolo Toure’s header and Lehmann’s penalty save from Juan Roman Riquelme spot kick sent Arsenal to the Champions League finals against Barcelona.

Sure, Lehmann’s red card for his professional foul on Samuel Eto’o put Wenger’s men in the lurch, but Campbell’s header put Arsenal ahead, and they had the uphill task of holding on for the entirety of the game, which seemed insurmountable. Eto’o’s equalizer was inevitable but Juliano Belletti’s effort from the byline was heart wrenching to say the least.

The quest for a triumphant campaign in Europe’s premier competition is still on the hunt, but Arsenal has Wenger to thank for coming really close.

Creating Wenger-Ball

Arsenal under George Graham was a bore-fest, with the manager building a reputation for having one of the meanest defenses in the division.

The uber-talented David Seaman had a rearguard of Nigel Winterburn, Lee Dixon, Tony Adams and Martin Keown / Steve Bould in front of him that took no prisoners, with 1-0 to the Arsenal becoming an instant cult classic.

Arsene Wenger revolutionized how Arsenal played, going the further mile in enhancing the well-being of his players, which translated to orgasmic football on the pitch.  

Moving to the Emirates Stadium

In May 2006, Arsenal hosted Wigan Athletic in what would prove to be the final fixture at the club’s old ground of Highbury. Henry scored a magnificent hat-trick and the Gunners got all three points, but the major milestone was that Arsenal were leaving their eternal home to the state of the art Ashburton Grove, or Emirates Stadium, when you factor in the greens.

This turned out to be a monumental time with everyone associated with the club, as it coincided with some years of lack of silverware, but Wenger was there to steer the ship and kept the team competitive.

There you have it, my top 10. What’s yours?


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