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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Arsenal go out of competition in best possible way

The Arsenal boys can hold their head high after last night’s performance. After the debacle of the performance in the first leg it really was a night of damage limitation. The Arsenal managed to restore a lot of pride and belief with a totally unexpected 2-0 win at the Allianz Arena. It was the perfect outcome behind obviously pulling off a victory clawing back the 3 nil deficit.

It was important leading into the match that the players raised their game and put in a performance to restore the belief that could hopefully be transferred into the domestic form. It has been a long wait since the last game against Tottenham for the Arsenal players to get on the pitch and right their recent wrongs.

I’ll hold my hand up and admit that I didn’t believe Arsenal would win the tie; I believed they could win on the night but not enough to go through. By the time Koscielny planted that header in the back of the net all scepticism was thrown out the window as my fingernails were chipped away with nervous tension. Arsenal may have bowed out from the competition but much like the exit to AC Milan last season they can draw strength from the performance and channel it to the chase for top four position in the Premier League. In a night in which Arsenal had nothing to lose they walked away gaining so much.

giroud bayern

Much respect to the players on the pitch because based on the rumours leading up to the game of players left out and then viewing the starting line up the final result did not seem possible. Fabianski in goal is enough to send the jitters through to the bones of Arsenal fans. Spending the majority of the season on the treatment table he was drafted into the starting line up for his comeback game in quite high profile circumstances. Fair play to the Pole, he did everything right on the night; it was an assured performance and a sign of what he can be capable of.  When he is good he is good but the bad often outweighs the good, let’s hope he can change that trend if he is called upon again this season.

Koscielny was magnificent in partnership with Mertesacker at the centre of defence. That is probably one of the most frustrating things about the defence. We know they have these performances in them but on too many occasions the errors undo all the hard work. Koscielny has been disappointing this season in comparison to his efforts last season however last night showed why the manager believes in him.

Kozzer

Jenkinson also had a big game last night, he has improved with the run of games he has had in the side and Arsene will have a dilemma when Sagna returns to fitness. At the start of the season when Jenkinson was playing to a high level and growing with each game he was unfairly yanked from the first team as soon as Sagna was fit. I think this time when Sagna returns to fitness he should earn the right to usurp the English right back from the starting eleven.

It was good (and a relief) to see Gibbs return to first team action, he certainly contributed to the performance last night and it was important he lasted the 90 minutes. Of course Nacho Monreal has settled in well to the team but some competition at this stage of the season will keep the two left backs on their toes.

All the players played their part and helped to erase the memories of the first leg defeat. When you think back Arsenal were so out played in that game they made Bayern look like supermen. Last night Arsenal made those Bayern players look human; they had them scared in the end and reduced them to scurrying in the corners and playing for free kicks to waste time.

The players put in a shift and fought until the end to get the result, what they need to do now is transfer that into the game with Swansea at the weekend.  Everything earned last night will be for nothing if they come up short against the Welshmen. I understand it was a tough gruelling game away in Europe which will be followed by a tough away game to a Swansea team that have given Arsenal some tough games this season but this is the time to build on the momentum. There are players rested who can return to duty and with a number of options in the squad fatigue should be heavily reduced.

Well done Arsenal, enjoy your feats from last night but don’t dwell on it too long, there’s a job to be done at the weekend.

Enjoy your day people.

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