Almunia a hornet, Chamakh in Besiktas link, Arshavin talks with Wenger – AFC

Former goalkeeper Manuel Almunia has found a new club in Watford FC. Our former number one has made the short move across London to sign a one year deal with the hornets. Manuel was one of the high profile free departures from the gunners at the end of last season and most gunners will join me in wishing the Spaniard well at his new club.

At least Almunia’s departure was a smooth one and hopefully he won’t have any bad words for the gunners once he has his interviews and settled in at vicarage road. A number of players at the club have been dragging their feet upon leaving the club despite declaring their intentions to leave the club a while back now. Players that fall into that bracket are Denilson and Niklas Bendtner, although Denilson managed to engineer another season loan at Sao Paulo a clean break from the club would have been a more feasible arrangement for all. The manager’s door was hardly being knocked on repeatedly  full of prospective offers and Arsenal in the end were forced to succumb to Sao Paulo’s terms.

Bendtner another player on his way out is hardly trying his best to attract the masses, the big Dane was fined by the courts after a non-appearance to answer charges of driving without a valid driving license. He apparently chose to go on a shopping spree rather than turn up at court yesterday. Its such petulant behaviour that tarnishes the strikers reputation, he is starting to be known for a number of pointless misdemeanours and needs to get his head together and make his football be the only thing people talk about, well… the good points of his football be talked about. At the moment the news of an imminent move has not exactly been filtering through. Though he will eventually move on it seems quite clear the big clubs around Europe he believed would be his destination are yet to be convinced of his star quality.

Maroune Chamakh has been linked to Besiktas in Turkey, their manager Samet Aybaba has gone on record to say that he has targeted the Moroccan and Tucay Sanli as the players he would like to lead their attack in the coming season. No comment has so far been released by Chamakh himself so it is not known if the admiration for the striker is mutual. He has previously gone on record to express his happiness at arsenal and his determination to succeed at the emirates this season. I don’t think many gooners would be too distraught if the striker made the move. He will find it hard to win back the belief from the arsenal fans who have noticed his progress move in a backwards direction ever since he lost the snood. With new signings Giroud and Podolski in the mix opportunities will be limited for the striker, Van Persie will be gone so there’s no need mentioning him in the equation.

According to the Daily Mail Arsene Wenger has refused to rule out the possibility of Andrei Arshavin staying with the gunners next season. he admitted he could have talks with the Russian this week about his future. Arshavin staying would be no bad thing for the Arsenal, on his day he can be unplayable and his performances at the recent Euro 2012 tournament showed how effective he can be when played the right way. Its down to the player himself I guess; if he wants to try to make it work this year. Bridges appear to have been burnt with Zenit St Petersburg after his comments received negative press in Russia after a defeat in the Euros. I’d be happy for him to stay as our squad still requires strengthening and as the season draws closer no signings look a possibility apart from potentially Santi Cazorla.

Enjoy your day people

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Sunderland tickets on sale this week, walcott to stay – AFC

As the new week kicks in we move closer towards the month of August and towards the 18th of that month which marks the new premier league season kick off. In turn on Thursday this week will be the 1st opportunity for fans to purchase tickets for the opener against Sunderland. The tickets on sale on 2nd August are only to the silver members whilst the following week on the 6th red members will get their chance to purchase tickets.

Season ticket holders of course need not to worry about sale dates as their allocation are guaranteed but for silver members like myself it’s a first chance to get our hands on the discounted cheaper category C seats as revealed by the Arsenal ticketing folk earlier in the month.

I’ll be sure to log in early to ensure a decent seat in a block I prefer and I advise all others to do the same, the opening fixture tickets will not hang around waiting for you.

It was revealed yesterday in the Daily Star that Theo Walcott has given his biggest hint yet that he intends to stay with Arsenal.

He was quoted as saying when asked about contract negotiations:

“The club and my agent are talking but it is a slow process and my last contract took six months to agree – but it will come.

We’ll see what happens but I am not too bothered about it. I am keen to work with the team just trying to get fit and there is still got a long way to go yet.”

A rather laid back response but still a positive indication that he forsee’s an outcome where he will still be an Arsenal player. I know many have grumbled at his alleged wage demands that have been thrown out there but I guess the overall wage should not be our concern, only the fact that he eventually puts pen to paper. The situation we find ourselves in with current captain robin van persie should not be a situation we find ourselves in again with other players. It is frustrating as a fan to see players walking out the back door for free or for a heavily discounted price due to time left on contracts. Nasri did it last year, Robin this time. I remember when Matthieu Flamini walked out on us at a time he really established himself in the team, the departure left a bitter taste in the mouth.

started the trend of contract rebels

Though when you look at it we got a taste of our own medicine as we acquired him from Marseilles under the same circumstances (running down his contract) and the season prior to his departure he was seen by arsenal fans in the same light we look at Denilson. He turned it around though and was able to engineer a move to a big club like AC Milan, I suppose he at least showed some loyalty by not moving to another Premiership team. He may still get booed whenever he returns to emirates but I don’t hold no animosity towards him I just hoped that was the last time we let one get away due to lack of urgency in negotiations. Lets hope we can buck that trend after Van persie is gone, nobody likes giving away things for free especially when they are valuable assets.

I didn’t catch any of the game yesterday against Kitchee but heard the same old reasons mentioned for the loss of our goals, defensive lapses, missed chances, improved second half. I find it hard to assess Arsenal on the pre season friendly games especially when we don’t have the whole group together. I’m sure Wenger, Bould et al have been able to see where improvements are needed from the fringe players, they will work on them when they return. We must not forget the games are just as important for Arsenal on a marketing level as they are on fitness side. The real hard work starts when the whole group is together, the younger players who impressed Wenger on the Asia tour will be integrated with the first team and given another chance to show their stuff in the final few warm up games.

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Snitch is back, Afc lose, No Sahin, Arshavin to Fulham?

Well what a difference 3 weeks makes, I jetted off for my holidays to the US of A full of optimism we could keep our captain and build on our squad. By the time I touched down in Orlando and found an internet connection our skipper released his infamous letter to the fans. I managed to relay my views at the time but since then I’ve been enjoying my time in the sun with the help of Mickey and his friends at Disneyland. Now after finally flying back, overcoming the jet lag and returning to work I now can resume sharing Arsenal news and my thoughts you with via the blog.

In between the midst of the buzz created by the Olympics opening ceremony Arsenal managed to play a game against Manchester City in Beijing around lunchtime on Friday. A game which the gunners lost 2-0 and produced a number of positives and negatives really. Some of those were the same old we have been used to, defence going to sleep at times, full backs caught out of position for the goals, sloppy passes leading to chances for Man city. We did create a number of chances but the age-old Achilles heel of profligate finishing reared its ugly head. Our second half performance was more forceful and the introduction of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain certainly added more class to the Arsenal team.

In general I won’t start doom-mongering the forthcoming season based on the game. It’s pre-season, only our second game and many 1st team players have not even travelled to Asia. It’s a good exercise especially for the more fringe players and should benefit our players in removing some of the rust. I think the most important thing is the younger players show they can rise to the occasion and give Arsene Wenger food for thought. So far Chuks Aneke has stood out, Eisfeld’s goal in the last game will not go unnoticed and Bartley is getting vital time on the field to stake a claim.

Benik Afobe’s pre-season hasn’t taken off yet as he was quite wasteful against the Malaysian XI and didn’t get as much minutes against Man City but I’m confident he can still show what he can do. Craig Eastmond, a player who must be in last chance saloon got some minutes and it was interesting to see him slotting temporarily into the right back role. It was a position he played in throughout youth, some claimed he wasn’t a great right back and he came to prominence from the moment he was shifted to midfield by Wenger against Liverpool in the Carling cup. I believe the key to his Arsenal future is his potential versatility, if he can produce as cover in the right back role he may just rekindle his place in Arsene’s good books; the ball is in his court.

In other news Arsene Wenger has dismissed news of the imminent loan of Nuri Sahin from Real Madrid. In the press conference after the Man city game Wenger when probed about a deal said:

 “We did not sign anybody today, this report is wrong. We are not signing anybody at the moment, we are not close. In the future you never know.”

Typical Wenger statement really, keeping his cards close to his chest though if a deal was close he may have hinted. If any deal is on the table for Sahin or Santi Cazorla I do hope they get wrapped up pretty quick before any of our rivals come knocking with their blank checkbooks. We do not have good form when it comes to dawdling on negotiations for potential signings (and contract renewals it seems) so let’s keep our fingers crossed some more deals are conducted swiftly and under the radar like they were for Podolski and Giroud.

Another piece of news that surfaced yesterday is the news that Fulham are interested in signing Andrei Arshavin and Yossi Benayoun. Quite an ambitious move by the west London club if true but also slightly disappointing news to hear. Yossi is a player that many gunners fans would welcome back to the club after his stint with us last season, he showed he had what was needed when he got his chance and if available I don’t see why it would be a gamble to take him on unless there are other midfielders in the pipeline that may be signed before the window shuts. I would also be disappointed if Arshavin was to move across London to Fulham, he may be frustrating on his day but I still class him as a premium player that can still make things happen at larger clubs that play to his strengths. That would be a backwards step in my eyes and I couldn’t see that partnership being a success. Who knows, lets see how this one plays out

Enjoy your day people

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Laurent Koscielny: Providing stability in times of unrest

Robin van Persie. Yes, he’s virtually gone, but we shouldn’t let that dampen the optimism that surrounded the club pre-RVP statement. We all know that it’s a blow – any team who loses their captain, top scorer and best player can agree with that – but it’s definitely not the end of the world. Although, reports have transpired this morning, emanating from the ever reputable L’Équipe, that Laurent Koscielny wants to sign a new deal, a stark contract from our ‘captain’ and talisman.

In many Arsenal fans’ opinions, Laurent Koscielny was our best defender last season – I agree with that.

Ever since his arrival, in the Summer of 2010, from FC Lorient, opinion has differed on the pacey centre-half. The 2010/’11 season, his first in English football, wasn’t a resounding success. His calamitous blunder in the Carling Cup Final affirmed what Arsenal fans had believed to be the truth – he’s a ‘terrible centre-back’. Looking back on it, most of those Arsenal fans were justified. As previously mentioned, his Carling Cup Final mishap was nigh-on unforgivable. His ‘air kick’ ultimately denied our chance to put the ’7 trophyless seasons curse’ firmly to bed. Not the best of starts for the French centre-back.

Although, Koscielny’s revival to form was meteoric. After his Carling Cup cock-up, he reappearaed in the Arsenal first-team as a new player, a rejuvenated man. His dominant, clean tackling became an iconic image during the latter half of Arsenal’s season. Koscielny’s reading of the game was something which any world-class centre-back could take pride upon – often breaking up opposition attacks before setting off on one of his own. This, once again, posed a problem as it would influence the fans’ perception of Koscielny, a perception which took a negative turn on 27th of February, 2011.

Laurent has forged a formidable partnership with Thomas Vermaelen.

Intelligent, pacey, strong and positive are all adjectives which Koscielny has inherited. His game revolves around his intelligent, future-thinking mind set, and this is his main asset. This is what, in my opinion, has endeared himself even further to Arsène Wenger and the Arsenal faithful. It’s an asset which most Arsenal player needs – a trail of thought which is capable to handle the quick-tempo, free flowing Arsenal philosophy.

This season has been his best in an Arsenal shirt, and offers much optimism for the future. He was most certainly Arsenal’s best defender last season and, in the process, repaying the faith in him from manager Arsène Wenger. The arrival of Per Mertesacker was a welcome incentive to up his game too. International honours came calling too – a destination which many thought was a long, long way away after his debut season at Arsenal. He travelled with the French squad to Ukraine for the European Championships after making his French debut against USA.

The arrival of Olivier Giroud to the Emirates was influenced by Laurent Koscielny himself, who’s a close friend to the former Montpellier man.

One thing that is needed when a member of Arsenal’s squad, something which Arsène Wenger looks for in any possible target, is the said player’s demeanor and ability on the ball. Composure, assurance and confidence are all musts for any Arsenal player, wherever they play on the field, and Laurent Koscielny has the aforementioned qualities in abundance.

It transpired this morning from French newspaper L’Équipe, on the 9th of July, that Laurent Koscielny was seeking a new contract at Arsenal, with the club keen to grant him one. No-one can say that he hasn’t deserved it. It’s reported that Laurent Koscielny was on the shopping list for Italian side Internazionale, therefore tying him down to a new contract is even more essential;

The London club would like to do re-sign [Laurent Koscielny] for three more years, until 2017.

Extracted from Monday’s L’Équipe

I, like many other Arsenal fans, are delighted with this positive news. With much negativity and disappointment surrounding Arsène Wenger’s side, not to mention the widespread unjust criticism of Arsenal’s hierarchy, it’s a welcome boost to the club. Much like he does on the pitch, Laurent Koscielny has now provided stability in a time of unrest.

As important as it is to challenge here and now, it’ still important that we have a stable foundation to build upon for the future – tethering down Koscielny to a long-term deal will go a long way towards setting that solid base. The long-term future of the centre-back position seems stable. The trio of Vermaelen, Mertesacker and Djourou all have contracts which expire in the Summer of 2015, while Ignasi Miquel, the young Catalan cornerstone, and Kyle Bartley also look to have a bright future ahead of them, in particular the former of the two.
In a week of uncertainty and confusion, the news of Laurent Koscielny, as mentioned above, is a welcome boost to the spirits of the squad. Commitment and loyalty has all but disappeared from the modern game, but there are a few determined souls who’ll fight and truly love a club – Laurent Koscielny seems to be one of those. Mérci, Laurent! 
I hope you all enjoyed my guest piece! Follow me on Twitter: @LlewAFC

Van Persie and AFC talks to resume this week now holiday is over – AFC

Dear all apologies for lack of recent posts, being on holiday means putting feet up and enjoying sun takes preference. To be honest it sure beats being back home in London with the bad weather and bad feeling over Robin Van Persie and his recent publicized decisions.

Now our former captain should be returning from his holidays this week and talks are expected to be resumed between Wenger, Gazidis and his agent. There’s nothing for Arsenal fans to hope for in terms of whether he can be talked into changing his mind or not; he made it pretty clear he will not be signing a new contract with the club. For him to make a sudden turnaround will not please all, despite us initially not wanting our former captain to leave the statement he made pretty much closed the door on any goodwill and respect in his relationship with the fans.

The club have experienced this before and it didn’t work out with positive results as Emmanuel Adebayor was pimping himself out to any big club that looked his direction. He started likening clubs that showed interest in him to Beyonce, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Lady Sovereign or whoever was hot to him at the time as he was ill-advised by his agent that concrete interest was on the table. This showed great disrespect to the arsenal faithful after we took him to our hearts following a fantastic season just completed at the emirates.

Wenger and his people called him in for talks, he realised he had a good thing and signed an extension and declared he was staying at the club, the problem was the damage was already done. Arsenal fans were divided on whether he deserved our forgiveness and support; in the end he played out the following season to lukewarm reception, sometimes booed and eventually shipped out as the connection with the club was severed.

"I love this club"

He left for Man City with a few parting shots at the club and fans and ironically enough he had a much publicized spat with former captain Robin Van Persie when the clubs met. RVP clearly wasn’t happy with the mercenary ways of the Togo forward and it was clear to see on the pitch by the clashes between the two and THAT reaction to the goal scored.

Now from my perspective I accept if he wants to go, we will move on as the club will last longer than his career. That is unless of course there is a Glasgow Rangers style collapse of the club, never gonna happen. One thing we can guarantee is good balancing of the books.

Moving forward is Van Persie’s decision on which club he prefers to go to. This is where I draw a line, he attempted to be fair and upfront to the fans with his statement and didn’t fall short in expressing his love for the club. Now if he really does love the club then his decision on his next club should not involve another premiership rival. There is no bigger kick in the teeth than to line up against the club you supposedly love in the same domestic league when you are at the top of your game. Coming to the end of your playing career, no longer getting into the first XI then fans can understand an idolised player moving to another domestic rival for a final long-term contract and the chance to play more regularly in their twilight years. When you are at the top still then its disrespectful to move to a rival, if its trophies and honours a player craves then they can cherry pick that from a number of teams abroad.

What will Robin Van Persie choose? It has been mooted for a long time now that Man City is interested in signing him. Fans can’t be angry at the club for wanting to sign him, they have the money to buy who they want, he was the premiership’s outstanding player last season and would always court interest from the top teams.

Would Arsenal fans accept a move there? highly unlikely. That would in effect turn RVP into public enemy number one ahead of Samir Nasri. Robin has been at the club long enough to understand what would and would not be accepted by the fans, he has seen over the years the returning legends such as Wrighty, Adams, Pires and Bergkamp; the reception they received because they showed true respect to the club and receive it back any time they return to the club. That will not happen if Robin moves across the UK, is he willing to throw away 8 years of connection and history for maybe a bit part of a money machine with not exactly guaranteed silverware. Man City was effectively 2 minutes away from a trophy-less season.

The talks this week will not really mean much in terms of Arsenal’s future as he is 99% gone but it will be important in terms of his future connection with the club. The ball is in his court, seeing out his contract or moving across the EPL is not an option…

Enjoy your day people

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