Monday Reflections On The Arsenal

Well, we’ve had a day or so to digest the game from Saturday night, the three points are on the board and the mood has slightly changed compared to last week. No repeat of Stoke Station-esque outbursts required leaving Gunners fans to enjoy their weekly dose of Match Of The Day.

It’s Monday so it gives me a chance to give my reflections of the game, not a match report as I’m sure many have been viewed since Saturday evening but a reflection of key points from the game.

giroud

Giroud’s valued return

How important is Giroud’s contribution to the team right now? He has returned from long term injury with a hunger to make up for lost time. Although scoring hasn’t been a major flaw in Arsenal’s team so far this season the fact that someone other than Sanchez has their scoring boots on is a big plus. Giroud brings attributes that none of the current strikers bring to the squad. What’s that? Sanogo you say? I actually think they are different types of players and until Sanogo adds goals to his CV then I can’t make a true comparison. During the Frenchman’s absence it was probably debated to death how his less pacy attributes would actually work with the quick fire zip provided by Sanchez, Welbeck and Walcott (when he returns from limbo). Well its working fine enough for now and long may it continue.

Welbeck’s goals

With the welcome return of Giroud and his goals the gloss has been taken off Welbeck’s impact to the team. There’s no denying that Welbeck is a hard working forward and his contribution to the team so far has been satisfactory in his efforts however as a forward it’s always the goals record people value the most. We have come off the back of a run of games against lesser opposition where you would expect your main striker to really bag a few goals, like I said he has offered assists and played his part In some of those games but I still see he has the potential to be more of a regular finisher than a provider. The less prolific return has resulted in Welbeck surrendering the central striking position to Giroud and playing slightly wider, a position he admitted he was less fond of at Man United. In his favour Arsene does like to enforce interchangeable positioning by his forwards and so that door isn’t completely shut. It’s also worth mentioning that Welbeck was stripped of a perfectly legitimate goal on Saturday and so I do sympathise that he was unable to add to his tally however there were other chances in the game he could have taken also. I’ll get off his back as my frustration is only aimed at what he is capable of not coming to fruition just yet

Santi hex finally banished

It’s nice to see the Santi hex is finally over, a short while ago Santi and Ramsey couldn’t hit the back of the net despite all their efforts. Slowly but surely the signs were there that the luck was changing, Santi produced an amazing run and cross to set up Welbeck for a goal at West Brom the other week and that seemed to be the spark needed to ignite Santi’s form back to life. On Saturday both of Cazorla’s goals would not be in the back of the net a month ago but the hex is finally broken and now the mojo is back. I look forward to seeing a lot more contribution from the Spaniard from now on, it’s just a shame that Ramsey picked up an injury as he also seemed to break that hex at the same time.

Defence held firm

debuchy newc

It was nice to see the team came through the game fairly unscathed taking into account the patched up back line that started. Yes a goal was conceded but the back line dealt with what was thrown at them. Debuchy is a welcome return and his performance was probably aided that little but more given the fact he was facing his old club which sparked some extra motivation. A much tougher task is due next week when the team visits Anfield, the scene of one of our worst results last season. Chambers will return however with the news of Koscielny now being unavailable for a few weeks is a concern. Liverpool may have been swept away by United yesterday but if Raheem Sterling had his shooting boots on a draw would not have been an unbelievable outcome, the odds of Sterling forgetting his shooting boots again are pretty short. Arsene will need to make working on the defence this week his absolute priority to ensure a decent result at Anfield is achievable.

Champs league draw

The Champions League draw is today, Arsenal finished runners up so will most likely face Bayern or Barcelona. It’s an annual tradition so I will hardly be shocked if it’s either of those two are drawn as the next opponents. Whoever Arsenal do get I will be excited, you can’t beat the atmosphere in the Emirates when the big guns come to town. The only thing that is an absolute given when it comes to the champions league draw is that Chelsea will get the easiest tie of the round.

Enjoy your day people.
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Is the Arsenal/Madrid business far from over?

The International break churns on, leaving football fans up and down the country yearning for domestic football to return. In all fairness the importance of the final group games to confirm qualification for the World Cup in Brazil has at least sparked some interest. England’s quest for qualification kept me firmly lodged in my armchair on Friday evening and the all-important deal breaker of a game against Poland will surely have me glued to the box. I just wish there were more Arsenal players to cheer on for the Three Lions to make it all the more worthwhile. No worries, a victory tonight will ensure that the seats on the plane for Brazil are merely being kept warm for the likes of Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott et al.

Anyway, enough of the mean old international break to slow down the momentum of the high Gunners fans are still on after the signing of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid. Arsenal’s record transfer signing is still a topic of discussion amongst football’s elite a good six weeks after the German signed on the dotted line at the Emirates.

Sami Khedira was quoted in the papers as saying the Real Madrid team seems weaker for the loss of the talented playmaker. Some may say the two players are close and it is just a sign of affection shown to a friend. Well, if Khedira misses his German colleague there is plenty of space here in North London for him to link up with his buddy.

ozil bromance

Over the years the closer link to Arsenal has been from Real’s Catalan rivals Barcelona with the likes of Emmanuel Petit,  Marc Overmars, Cesc Fabregas, Alex Song and Thierry Henry to name a few who have hopped on an Easy Jet flight over to Spain for a new adventure.  The favour hasn’t been reciprocated quite so much.

Could the door that has been opened with the arrival of Ozil stay open in future? For much of the summer the pursuit of Gonzalo Higuain dominated the Arsenal transfer news. Real were prepared to let the Argentinian join the Gunners only for (depending on which rumour you believe) Arsene to pull out of a deal to focus on another target alleged to be Luis Suarez.

To be linked with Real Madrid players is a big thing for Arsenal; we are not talking about 18 year olds looking to gain experience but full international accomplished players. Higuain may not have been in his managers plans for the season but he was hardly an underperformer for the Spanish giants.

All those years back the signing of Davor Sukor was a big one for the Gunners, his lob over Peter Schmeichel at Euro ’96 was enough to place him into hero status. Although the move itself didn’t quite work out a great success it was one of the few times Arsenal were able to negotiate a deal with Madrid for a player and that cannot be understated. Especially when you look back to the years of Vieira speculation Arsenal fans had to endure summer upon summer it was quite an amazement that he never ended up at the Bernabéu after all that pursuit. Arsenal were always the team that had to fight to keep their better players if a team like Madrid came calling but the events of the summer gone have no doubt created a shift in the pulling power at the Emirates.

I mentioned Luis Suarez earlier and the Uruguayan could play a big part in potential future business between Arsenal and Madrid. It has been widely speculated that Suarez has been holding out for a move to Real Madrid. No such move materialized during the last transfer window but there are strong rumours that the move can become a reality in January. It could well draw the Madrid fans back to the Bernabéu in their droves not that the fans have been keeping away but the impact Suarez could bring could re-spark the underwhelming bang that Gareth Bale has produced so far.

benzema

Such a transfer could signal a move for Karim Benzema, the Frenchman seemed like he needed some convincing to join the Gunners when speculation arose in the summer. I am sure the impact that Mesut Ozil has had at the Emirates is likely to change the striker’s initial views.

Let’s see how this all plays out, a potential meeting between the Gunners and Madrid in the latter stages of the Champion’s League? A mouth-watering possibility that is sure to make tickets for the Bernabéu and the Emirates the most in demand on the market.

Enjoy your day people.

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Napoli win showcases strength of Arsenal squad

Given the recent loss of Theo Walcott to his mystery abdominal illness the Arsenal team in recent games appeared to lack the outlet of pace which only Theo could provide. I suppose over time Arsenal fans have become accustomed to the threat posed on the right hand side and the special attention paid to Walcott to nullify his strengths.

When all of a sudden Walcott was removed from the team there was apprehension as to how Arsenal would cope without an outlet on the flanks. How would Arsenal scare teams and get in behind them? Serge Gnabry was drafted into the starting eleven and took the opportunity to prove his worth and readiness for Arsenal duty. With all due respect to the talented German his attributes are more similar to that of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain; Stocky and strong, excellent dribbling skills and the eye for a shot. The obvious pace is used sparingly and the dribbling is more directly at defenders rather than storming down the flanks playing of the shoulder of the fullback.

theo w

In other words the style of play has had to adapt to compensate for less pace on the wings from Theo. Arsenal fans have developed an almost complacent expectation that the right wing is for a pacy winger to stretch teams, if Walcott is not available then an identical player should surely be waiting in the wings to step up when he is not available.

So when the line up to face Napoli was revealed last night Arsenal fans could be forgiven for wondering how the team would line up and where the pace would come from. Tomas Rosicky was drafted back into the team following injury to line up alongside fellow returnee Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, Matthieu Flamini and Mesut Ozil. The starting quintet did their best to dispel the notion that pace is the one and only commodity for success in football.

The quality of the football produced by the Arsenal team as a whole was something to behold. The passing at times was exquisite as each of the midfielders on the pitch so comfortable in possession stroked the ball around with such finesse that at times in the first half Napoli were reduced to mere spectators. They would have been best advised to take advantage of the comfortable seats in the stands at the emirates and join the fans in admiration of the football on show.

gunners celebrate

That Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott were not starters on the pitch during the fantastic display is not an indication that their contributions are surplus to requirements now but a mere indication that the squad as a whole is a lot stronger than people take for granted. Theo and Jack are key players for Arsenal and the thought of them waiting in the wings alongside the likes of Cazorla, Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain is one to trigger an excitement for the team that hasn’t been felt for quite a few seasons now.

The football yesterday was a joy to watch especially in the first half, with Napoli despatched qualification from the difficult group looks ever the more realistic. Despite their defeat in the opening game week of the Champion’s League Borussia Dortmund is still the team to beat for Arsenal. It seems such a long, long time ago that uncertainty clouded over Arsenal on whether they would even get past Fernabache to qualify for the competition proper. The performance yesterday made a mockery of there ever being the possibility of the Gunners not gracing the competition. Arsenal belong in the competition, they are literally part of the Champion’s League furniture and they intend stick around this season.

Enjoy your day people.

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Tough ECL draw for Arsenal to reinforce need for signings

Yesterday was a busy day for Arsenal in terms of news as this season’s Champion’s league opponents were selected and a new signing was announced by the club. The Champion’s league draw pitted Arsenal against Marseilles, Borussia Dortmund and Napoli in what could be deemed a very tough group. In theory partaking in the Champion’s League does not produce easy games however there were a few teams in the draw that would be more favourable to ensure qualification from the group stages.

champs lge

It is what it is, if you want to be the best you have to beat the best, the teams Arsenal are facing are not exactly super powers of Europe with the exception of the threat of Dortmund having finished runners up last year the other two teams despite being daunting opponents are most certainly beatable.

Sometimes focus can be on opponents so much that we can forget what a challenge it can seem to the other teams of facing the Arsenal. Maybe our potential to win the competition is not as great as some of the other teams in the competition but Arsenal are hardly at the other end of the talent scale. Seriously with the right signings before the transfer window shuts on Monday the club can increase and have every chance to put in a strong challenge this season. Talent is a defining factor along with a slice of luck and fortune at times and most importantly a collective team spirit is what can carry a team that extra yard to success.

Despite the obvious lack of strengthening of the squad so far this season one thing we cannot deny is the current personnel representing the club on the pitch do work hard for each other. The bonding and camaraderie between the players is evident for all to see and is a strong starting block to build upon. If there are disruptive players in the squad I don’t know who they are, I’m not naive enough to believe every Arsenal player loves each other as they live under a hedonistic love bubble but you can see from the body language before, during and after the games there is a mutual respect and belief amongst them.

In other news a signing was announced by the club, not quite the signing to release some of the built up tension amongst Arsenal fans as Matthieu Flamini was revealed as the 2nd signing of the summer. One of the worst kept secrets as the fans anticipated when he would be announced rather than if.

flamini

A sensible signing in my eyes as Flamini’s experience will be invaluable to the Arsenal squad, whether he will directly be challenging for 1st team action remains to be seen but he will be available to be called on if and when required. The Frenchman isn’t the marquee signing we have been calling for all some summer however there is still time in the transfer window, Champion’s League qualification was confirmed only a matter of days ago and potential transfers that were conditional of qualification may be at advanced stages.

I admit I have found the transfer window frustrating, the number of names linked only for other clubs securing their signatures instead. Our rivals across North London are making signings like there’s no tomorrow certainly doesn’t help, though their acquisitions do not guarantee an adequate replacement for Gareth Bale. Time will tell how their expensive duds will work out but if history has anything to go by (Bentley £15m anyone?) they are in for an interesting ride.

From an Arsenal fan perspective all I can say is judge Wenger when that window closes, we have had the wool pulled over our eyes in the past but this time it’s different. The squad needs reinforcements and there is no way no further signings will go down well. It will surely produce a negative feeling from the stands which will filter through to the players. The injuries to Oxlade Chamberlain and Lukasz Podolski merely add to the need to sign players and are likely to accelerate negotiations for a player to fill their void. I wont use the word patience but I will just say wait until the transfer window closes.

Enjoy your day people.

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Arsenal claim 4th place ‘trophy’

So that’s it, fourth place secured with a win at Newcastle. No playoff though I doubt Arsenal fans were too bothered about that, Spurs won but that effort was in vain as Arsenal took hold of their own destiny and achieved the win required.

Any Arsenal fan that tells you they were not nervous before or during the match are cold faced liars, the tension was unbearable at times and the final whistle could not come quick enough towards the end.

AFC FINAL WHISTLE

Laurent Koscielny provided the deciding goal to maintain champion’s league football for the Gunners and was a rock at the back to boot. Man of the match in my eyes and it is hoped his form from the second half of the season is here to stay permanently.

The whole team deserves praise for holding their nerve to carve out the result when the pressure was surely on, Tottenham had the far easier game to play and it was important that Arsenal scored the first goal to alleviate any extra nerves which could disrupt their performance.

The importance of securing fourth place cannot be stressed hard enough, competing in the champions league is the difference between attracting players of the calibre of Jovetic or settling for players of lesser ability. European football is a bargaining chip in negotiations and will ensure top players will consider signing up at the Emirates, it also ensures the current squad won’t get itchy feet for football elsewhere.

giroud celebrates v newc

Many have commented on Arsenal’s celebrations at the final whistle, saying that they celebrated as if they had won a trophy; I can assure you if fortunes were reversed and Tottenham achieved the fourth place they would have celebrated the same way if not harder. Fourth place was at stake but also was the chance to better your bitter rivals, nothing can be sweeter than achieving at the expense of your rivals. A trophy was not won but the tears of the spurs players at the final whistle is worthy of celebrating 20 times over.

worth it

worth it

Arsenal can now build on this, it will take shrewd business from Arsene Wenger to improve the team and create a squad capable of challenging for honours in an Alex Ferguson-less Premier league. The core of the team is there, there shouldn’t be a Robin Van Persie-esque departure from the squad this summer. The additions from last summer should improve on their solid debut seasons and a clear out of the less involved players should come to fruition.

Andre Arshavin took to twitter to bid farewell to Arsenal, he thanked the fans, his colleagues and all the staff at the club as well as wishing the club well in next year’s champion’s league. It’s a nice touch from the diminutive Russian who never said a bad word about the club during his exiled period this season. He left the club with many quality memories most notably the 4 goals at Anfield and that winner against Barcelona. He will be fondly remembered by Arsenal fans and I for one wish him well in the next chapter of his career.

arshavin tweets

Guys, please take advantage of the bragging rights to all the Tottenham fans you know. Do not feel sorry for them because they would not hold back if roles were reversed. Make them feel like rubbish today and for the rest of the week if you can.

Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy…

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