These Lions Aren’t That Indomitable After All

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As a Nigerian, I support the National Football Team at every level, which sometimes has made me do things I’m not going to mention on this post. With club football out of the way for a while, it was only normal for a Nigerian Gooner to brace himself up for what proved to be a very crucial World Cup qualifier against the current African champions, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon.

For those that don’t know, there are some similarities between Nigeria and Arsenal. For starters, they are very good bottlers. C’mon, how many defending AFCON champions fail to qualify for the next two editions of the tournament? Following our poor showing against South Africa, we stand a chance of missing the tournament three times in a row bar some sort of miracle in Johannesburg for the second leg.

However, our road to Russia has been a smooth ride with wins against Zambia and Algeria in our first two games. Yesterday, Cameroon, fresh of their AFCON triumph and Confederations Cup campaign, arrived in Uyo knowing that they needed a victory on the ground of one of their fierce rivals, as they had struggled to draw their first two games against Algeria and Zambia.

The home side featured a very strong lineup, as the manager learned from the lessons of the South Africa debacle and they opened the scoring with some quick thinking from John Mikel Obi and some improvised attacking play from ex-Watford striker, Odion Ighalo. There was a sour feel to the goal as the striker was booked for revealing the message on his inner shirt. Shitty rules if you ask me. He didn’t even remove his jersey. The Super Eagles doubled their money when Ighalo dummied two defenders to allow Victor Moses’ corner get to Mikel’s path. The Nigeria captain still had to reacted quicker than his marker to smash the ball into the roof of Ondoa’s net.

Going into the break with 2-0 lead was welcome, but Nigeria still had to keep their foot on the pedal. Cameroon were on the ascendancy after the break but it took a well-deserved Moses goal to put the game beyond doubt. The buildup was from lovely counter attacking football and when he got on the end of that Simon Moses cutback, the writing was on the wall. I loved the soaring Eagles celebration more though. An injury concern for Odion Ighalo saw Kelechi Iheanacho join the fray to put the icing on the cake for Nigeria with his seventh goal in 11 games for his nation.

Three games, nine points in the bag and qualification to next year’s World Cup within sights. The Super Eagles will be heading to Yaounde to finish the job and they should be spurred with the fact that Cameroon’s manager, Broos, has resigned from position following their poor qualification campaign that has seen them amass just two points from a possible nine.

I guess the Lions of Cameroon aren’t indomitable after all.

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In the End, Money Prevailed Over Football

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Following what was one of the most disastrous campaigns last season that ended with a silver lining in winning the FA Cup, one most have thought that Arsene Wenger, Ivan Gazidis and Stan Kroenke would have braced themselves for a busy summer, getting the quality required to improve and sorting the niggling issues that required attention, like the contract situation of some of the squad’s key personnel.

The transfer window saw a whopping £1.3 billion spent among the 20 Premier League teams and with three games gone already, the table has started taking shape with the Gunners struggling in a lowly 16th place. As early as June 6, 2017, the Gunners announced the signing of Sead Kolasinac on a free transfer from Schalke 04, with the Bosnian defender winning a place in the Bundesliga XI for being the best leftback in the competition.

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With Roberto Di Matteo playing a three-man defense, Kolasinac flourished in the left wing back role, scoring three goals and creating five assists for his teammates. With Nacho Monreal aging and Kieran Gibbs badly regressing, he ticked all the boxes for a long term move, and the fans lauded the boss for a smart summer move.

But it wasn’t enough. There were other positions on the team that needed to be beefed up and the club still had to sort out the futures of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson, Yaya Sanogo and a host of others.

Three days after Kolasinac arrived, the club waved its goodbyes to one Reserve forward, the great Yaya Sanogo (Toulouse) and three Reserve defenders, Stefan O’ Connor (Newcastle), Kostas Pileas (Anorthosi Famagusta) and Kris da Graca (Goteborg). Yeah, there will always be a couple of youngsters that wouldn’t make the grade at the club, so it’s always nice to let go of them, especially when you’re sure you don’t have long-term plans for them but I was sure surprised when Chris Willock packed his bags and went to SL Benfica on a Bosman at the end of June.

That didn’t matter because five days later, Arsenal broke their transfer record for Alexandre Lacazette and there were positive vibes in the Goonersphere. We knew about Lacazette for quite some time and we were very happy to land a forward with such a profilic goal record from France.

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We had needed a new forward for quite sometime and in Lacazatte, we had a forward that could incite fear in opposition defenses, or so we thought, till the manager decided to do his thing and bench him for you know, Danny Welbeck. Ok, I digress.

Following Lacazette’s capture, youngster Kaylen Hinds joined our former Academy boss, Dries Jonker, at Wolfsburg, then more youngsters, Glen Kamara (Dundee) and Dan Crowley (Willem II) were shipped out. The speculation surrounding Wojciech Szczesny’s future was confirmed as he joined Juventus to understudy the legendary Buffon and take over when he retires at the end of this season. The rest of July went past and there was no more activity. Just the usual rumors and speculations here and there.

August stepped in and this time, we had the distraction of the Premier League in addition to the usual transfer shenanigans and meanwhile, we were still at crossroads concerning those players that needed their futures sorted out. The performance against Leicester wasn’t utterly convincing but we got three points and moved on. Just before we visited the Bet365 Stadium to play Stoke, we surprisingly sold Gabriel Paulista to Valencia. Yeah, he didn’t convince many but he was a good squad player at best, and many believed that his sale was going to pave way for a better center half. Virgil van Dijk perhaps.

The loss at Stoke was hard to take, but we still imagined it was a lesson to the manager, letting him know that a central midfielder would be needed as Granit Xhaka had a shocker of a performance. Three more youngsters, Ismael Bennacer (Empoli), Savvas Mourgos (Norwich) and Jon Toral (Hull) were shipped out before the Gunners visited Anfield to take a thrashing from Liverpool.

A day before the transfer deadline day, Arsenal stalwart, Kieran Gibbs, joined West Brom after failing to agree terms with Watford and on transfer deadline day, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain joined Liverpool while Donyell Malen completed his move to PSV Eindhoven.

In summary, the Gunners spent £46.5m on Lacazette and Kolasinac (free) and made up to £74m from the sales of five first team players and 12 Reserves, which clearly signifies that there is more money in the club’s coffers for Uncle Scrooge Stan Kroenke and his folks to sleep on. One would have expected Arsene Wenger of all people to know that the team still needed improvement on certain areas but as usual, the team has fall short and we are heading into the campaign with the same lads that bottled things up in the Premier League to the extent they couldn’t even meet the barest minimum last season, which was Champions League qualification.

There is no Arsenal fan that would look at this transfer window and not feel some sort of disappointment. There were targets there for the taking but it just seemed difficult for the club to sign some players sometimes. Even the Lacazette deal seemed like it wasn’t going to work out at some point with Lyon president, Jean-Michel Aulas making it clear that Lacazette was already on his way to Atletico Madrid before they were hit with that transfer ban that made the deal fall through.

Then there was the pathetic failed pursuit of Thomas Lemar as Arsenal seemed like the only team that couldn’t reach a sort of agreement with AS Monaco. In the same transfer window the club lost Bernardo Silva, Valere Germain, Corentin Jean, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Benjamin Mendy and even football’s most coveted prized asset, Kylian Mbappe, it was evident that Lemar would have been an Arsenal man if the right price was offered. Not those paltry bids from the club.

I guess we have to make do with the squad but when you think of how some of the players in the team have under-performed under Wenger, you can only feel gloomy about the campaign ahead of us. Three games in, the Gunners are already on crisis mode, but in the end, it was money that prevailed over football.

Sayonara.

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Just Three Games and We are in Full Crisis Mode

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At full time on Sunday afternoon in Anfield, I had a sober reflection of what has befallen us this season. Three Premier League games, just three points with a terrible goal difference looming, it has become another terrible start to the Premier League. Just three games and we are in full crisis mode.

How did we get ourselves into this messy situation? One would have thought that finishing in fifth place would have spurred Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal hierarchy to do everything in their power to go to greater strides with the team. The early capture of Alexandre Lacazette was nice and we the fans were hoping for the club to kick on from there with more signings, sorting out the messy contract issues and of course, improved performances on the pitch.

Let me start with the football – the curtain raiser against Leicester was enthralling and exhilarating but the writing was on the wall. Arsenal needed to sort out their defensive frailties and concentration lapses, as well as being more clinical in attack. The game against Stoke was an aberration to say the least. Wenger continued to feature some his players out of position and there was no cohesion in our play. Then there were the Danny Welbeck misses. One must wonder how this lad continues to feature consistently in the team, despite his glaring failings as a footballer. Liverpool drove the nail in the Arsenal coffin with such an attacking display of football, and as you’d expect from a spineless side like Arsenal, they had nothing to offer. The international break couldn’t come any sooner for these pathetic set of players.

Then there’s the contract sagas here and there. Sadly, Arsenal has a shitload of players with a year left on their contracts, and some efforts have been made to offload some of the deadwood. Kieran Gibbs has completed his move to West Brom after failing to agree personal terms with Watford, Carl Jenkinson was shipped out to Birmigham City and suffered an unfortunate injury on his debut and efforts are still ongoing to ship out Lucas Perez and Matt Debuchy. Then there’s the curious case of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, a relatively unknown youngster that received full support and education from the club from when he was a kid but he had the effrontery to reject 180,000-per-week contract and made his intentions clear on leaving. If Wenger knew the Ox was done at Arsenal, why did he continue playing the lad, even to the point he played Hector Bellerin out of position to accommodate the Ox in the first team. Word on the street is that Ox has also turned down a chance to play for the defending champions, Chelsea, with Liverpool being his preferred destination. Let’s hope for a 40 million plus one pound bid from the Merseysiders.

I don’t want to go on about the Alexis Sanchez conundrum because that has lasted all summer. It seems Manchester City are coming with an improved offer that might include Raheem Sterling as part of the deal, but the Englishman certainly has no plans of joining Arsenal. Then there were whispers of Sanchez submitting a transfer request, which has since been denied.

What the hell happened to Skhodran Mustafi? 12 months into his Arsenal career and it seems he’s jumping ship to Internazionale on a proposed loan move with an option to buy. He was benched in the debacle at Anfield and it seems things have gone sour between him and the boss. I’d consider this a shame, bearing in mind that it took us forever to get this deal completed and the fans really liked Mustafi when he finally completed his move from Valencia. C’mon, didn’t you all enjoy ‘He has never lost a game for Arsenal’ memes? If we really let Mustafi go, I would expect us to go into the transfer market to purchase a new defender. Virgil van Dijk perhaps? He’s done at Southampton and he can certainly do a good job for a defense in dire need of real leadership.

We are currently in this situation because of Arsene Wenger and the Board, but he alone must do what is expected of him to salvage what’s left of this sinking ship, jettison the mutinous crew members that not willing to play for him and restore us back to steady waters. It’s evident that new signings will be required to galvanize the team, but when he keeps saying that he’s happy with the team, yet there are some members of the team that are certainly not happy at the club, something has to give.

Let’s see what happens in the coming days.

Sayonara.

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