Long summer will feel even longer for Arsenal fans

‘Arsenal’ and ‘Transfer Speculation’ are certainly two phrases that are never far apart from each other, the summers have become one of irritation and frustration for Gooners over the years as the ins and outs occupy the long days which lead up to the new season. Transfers affect football fans of all teams however the annual media heavy speculation over which big star would leave Arsenal for pastures new has become so regular that it would often take the focus off of the targets that would come into the club.

This summer hasn’t followed the trend, no big players are rumoured to be leaving and so surely Arsenal fans should relax, kick back and enjoy a stress free season break? Wrong.  You take away the stresses of the ‘will he won’t he leave’ scenario and it will only lead to an increased focus on who is coming in to strengthen the team.

jack wilshere hols

Football players get a holiday when the season ends, they welcome a chance to forget everything football related and let their hair down. They deserve it, well… most of them, a football season is physically and mentally challenging, it requires 100% effort at all times if a player wants to gain all they can in their careers and so it is important to make the most of their time off. Football fans can’t afford that luxury; we don’t switch off from being football fans for 2 months. We need our fix and the next best thing to watching our teams play is evaluating the goings on with the acquisition of new personnel to the ranks. Days without football in between seasons are long and drawn out, we find solace in watching things like the U-21 European Championships or the upcoming Confederations Cup but they are never an adequate substitution for the domestic football we all hold close to our hearts.

we signed anyone yet...?

we signed anyone yet…?

New signings bring back the excitement fix, they are like a nicotine patch to fans and before the ink has even dried on the new guy’s contract we are already fixating on who is next in. This will continue until that transfer window closes, and Arsenal fans being ever the pessimist would be forgiven for believing no signings will be made until the final day of the transfer window. But things changed last week, not just for the fans but for the press too, a change that will magnify the expectations tenfold.

When Ivan Gazidis spoke last week of Arsenal’s new found funds available to compete in the market with the other big clubs it potentially opened up a whole new can or worms. Because now the club has given the press licence to link it with players that in the past were probably deemed out of financial reach.  Within hours of Gazidis statement the big names were linked with Arsenal: Rooney, Higuain, Fellaini, Fabregas, Jovetic you name it. The reports had evolved from Arsenal eyeing up certain names to Arsenal having reached advanced negotiations to sign the players, all in one weekend immediately after Gazidis’s words.

higuain

A long summer is now going to seem even longer. The potential signings are now limitless, some of the names mentioned so far I would love at the club but many of them will have to be taken with a pinch of salt. The rumours surrounding Fellaini, Jovetic and Fabregas have already been knocked down a peg. We will have to wait and see which players will come in. I believe there will be marquee signings, patience is the key as the transfer window doesn’t even officially open until the end of this month. Somehow we need to revert back to expecting Yaya Sanogo to join and take each day as it comes otherwise our heads will explode from anticipation before the new season kicks in.

Enjoy your day people.

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New week but Swansea woes remain.

It’s Monday; can we put the events of the weekend behind us? Hardly, this is getting all too familiar now, the poor performances and results are becoming too frequent for any Arsenal fans liking. All teams go through bad patches but you would think the 5-2 win over Spurs would have been the launch pad to a positive run of results. Instead the opposite effect has happened, the performances have been way below par and the concurrent results prove that.

jenks

The Swansea result pushed us to a new low on the morale scale; I’ve never witnessed such negativity around the emirates when the game ended. Something has to change because right now we seem to be equivalent to a volcano bubbling up and ready to blow and the potential devastation of that eruption is frightening. I’m not part of the Wenger out brigade but I am unhappy with the where we are at right now.

Still, I’ve managed to compose myself after the initial red mist on Saturday to reflect on some points from the weekend’s events, feel free to agree/disagree in the comments section.

Wenger is under pressure like never before.

I believe this time that Arsene has lost the faith of a high percentage of fans this season. A culmination of several factors has pushed the limits of many arsenal fans, those being the continuing lack of silverware year on year, the selling of marquee players each season, the lack of quality signings to replace the marquee players and perseverance with the poor quality players. Those are just a few factors but seem to be key to the current bad feeling. It’s nothing new hearing the press mention the uncertainty of Wenger’s job but this season it seems slightly more real it could be a possibility. I don’t think the time is right for a parting of ways especially with a transfer window opening in January; there is an opportunity to right the mistakes and spend some of the so-called extra cash at Arsene’s disposal. I feel our next few transfer dealings can make or break our season and Arsene’s fortunes. One disturbing thing I noticed leaving the ground on Saturday was the witnessing of some fans chanting at Wenger: “you’re just a French Jimmy Saville, Paedo Paedo”. Although some frustrations can be justified to start attacking the manager using the kind of nasty, crass material we wouldn’t accept from opposition fans is taking it too far. That’s just a spiteful, personal attack on a human being which is uncalled for, any criticism for the manager should be kept to football reasons alone, they were just a handful of fans but I hope it doesn’t spread to more unhappy fans.

There are problems up front.

One thing that was evident on Saturday was that the alternatives we have to Olivier Giroud simply did not do enough to back up any claims they can provide any genuine cover in that position. On this occasion I witnessed the central striking role being alternated between Gervinho and Podolski but the threat was minimal. I suppose it’s unfair to base this on one game after all I have called for Podolski to be given a run of games in that position. Gervinho earlier in the season managed to score from that position but since he has returned from injury he has looked quite poor up front and on the wing.  Olivier Giroud did make an appearance in the second half but his threat was dealt with quite comfortably by the Swansea defence. Giroud has proved himself of late but we still require a plan B for when he isn’t firing. Right now experimenting is not the answer, we do not have that luxury as we slip down the table. What is the solution? Well I suppose the transfer window since Chamakh is not even considered an option we have no specialist centre forwards.

Why is Rosicky thrown in so soon?

It was only last Wednesday that we got our first glimpse of Tomas Rosicky as he had returned to training. It was good news that he would soon be returning to the team. Arsene in his press conference before the Everton game informed us that Tomas would be a few weeks away from gaining match fitness. He was meant to gain that match fitness with a few appearances for the u-21 team however he was named as a substitute or the Everton game. To be honest I put his inclusion down to the fact that Lukasz Podolski was a late withdrawal and Rosicky was making up the numbers on the bench. On Saturday he was named again and he even came on the pitch replacing Wilshere in the second half. I question why he is being rushed back; especially taking into account how long he was injured for. I’m not linking his appearance on the pitch contributing to the defeat I am just highlighting how his inclusion smacks of desperation. Andre Arshavin was again missing from the bench and I really need to understand how he is behind the pecking order for someone who hasn’t played this season. The last thing we need is for Rosicky to break down so soon after returning, the results aren’t great at the moment but the need to rush back injured players is a bit much. Diaby should be a marker that easing back into the groove is the best policy or face more time on the treatment table.

What style do we play?

Lately I have become slightly disillusioned to the type of football we play, we have always been known to playing beautiful football that would win plaudits from all over. Even when we weren’t winning any trophies we still had a style of play that would destroy teams, our only weakness was the ability to maintain the results throughout the whole season, and we would generally lose form in the final quarter of the season. This season the performances have been flat, even when we have won games it has been more like a chess stalemate between us and teams who in the past were never the same level as us. We don’t dominate teams like we used to and our standard recently has dropped to the point we are battling to get anything out of games, it is not enjoyable to watch from the stands at times. The formation we played seemed more effective when we played our rapid passing game with Fabregas at the centre of everything. Since he left along with some other personnel the question is do we have the players currently who thrive in our 4-3-3 formation? This season it doesn’t seem so, we still have quality players who can grind out results for us but are we now playing a system that gets the best out of who we have? Do we have the kind of system that would scare the hell out of anyone who came to the emirates as we dominate and overpower them? It could just be a confidence thing at the moment but it is a dangerous precedent if teams become comfortable playing against us at home. Once you lose the fear factor you risk a hard battle to regain that back. I just feel apart from some games early in the season we don’t seem to have the balance right in our style of play, the Shalke game was a warning we have not heeded. If we are to continue with the 4-3-3 then we need the right personnel playing in the right positions and have quality back up when injuries occur. Some of the holes that have been filled at times have been with the wrong players and it has affected the shape of the team, again I refer to the transfer window; strengthening is required of the squad and the uncertainty of players’ futures does not help. We need committed players working together and making our game play click once again.

Well those are my thoughts; please feel free to agree/disagree in the comments section.

I must add that thoughts go out to Peter Hill-Wood and family after the news of his heart attack on Friday. Let’s hope for a speedy recovery for him; no matter what your views on how the club has been run he is part of Arsenal and we stand by and support our own. Get well soon PHW.

On the F.A. Cup draw look at it as a chance for revenge. Swansea are not our rivals they are merely a club in our division, the sooner order is resumed the better. Wenger now has a chance to make up for Saturday at least.

Enjoy your day people.

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Barcelona grumbles lead to rumours of return to AFC. Arshavin uncertainty

Some news has been emanating from Spain that a former Arsenal midfielder is not happy at the moment at the prospect of not playing 90 minutes for his team Barcelona. Instantly the first name that springs to mind is that of Alex Song though even the most arrogant player would not be complaining at lack of minutes after three weeks at his new club. No the player in question is in fact our former captain Cesc Fabregas; although the midfielder has started every game for the Catalan giants he has been slightly perturbed by the fact he has been hauled off in nearly every game so far and has broken his silence on the matter.

A strange outburst, surely something must be in the water over there in Spain as it was only a few days ago that Cristiano Ronaldo was voicing his frustrations over something within the backroom at Real Madrid. I know the last time I visited Spain I was advised not to drink the water there and stick to drinking the bottled water only surely with Barcelona DNA Mr Fabregas would be immune to anything suspect about the quality of the h2O flowing through the Catalan taps.

I feel part of Cesc’s outburst could be linked to the different personnel in charge of the first team at Barcelona, initially the Spaniard attributed part of his reasoning for cutting ties with Arsenal was down to his admiration for the man in charge at the time Pep Guardiola. Now that his former idol has moved on from the hot seat you do wonder if all is well in his relationship with Tito Vilanova. I am only speculating here but I hardly believe that Cesc would ever speak out if Guardiola was still in charge. His respect for the man would ensure anything he disapproved would be kept in-house, to speak out like that is a clear sign that 100% respect for the manager is not there.

The outburst itself was not damning of the manager directly and I suppose he was careful to not upset his fellow professionals at the Camp Nou. He did however say:

 “There’s no such thing as a great substitute in the world of football. I couldn’t tell you what makes a great substitute.”

Again I find it strange to find a player not happy despite starting every game; surely to start on the bench would be more frustrating for any player. I know players love to play every minute of every game and especially if you are a striker on two goals chasing a hat trick the last thing you want to see is your number come up on the assistant referee’s board. As a midfielder who has given his all and contributed to the team performance you just have to accept a change in tactics may be required; it’s not always an attack on your abilities but as a team player you have to accept the manager sees a need for change. If the team collapses and concede three goals after you come off then you may be justified to hold your hand up and give it the ‘I told you so’.

This news has sparked rumours of a return of Cesc to Arsenal, that’s a move I can never see happening until Cesc has long passed his peak. The moment he signed the contract to join Barcelona was the very moment he was priced out of any possible move to Arsenal. We could never afford him now, unlike us Barcelona know how to tie down assets and it would take a hell of a lot of money to get him. Despite the place arsenal has in his heart even he knows it could never happen unless it was some sort of loan deal. I wouldn’t read too much into the unrest, I’m sure he will kick on at Barcelona and get over his current irritation.

Andrei Arshavin is again in the news as uncertainty over his Arsenal future will linger until all the transfer windows are closed. I believe the Russian transfer window closes on Thursday and it seems our diminutive Russian attacker will be linked with moves until it closes. He has been named in our 25 man champion’s league squad though it would be suicide not to name him in case any move was to break down last minute, so him being named should not carry any weight to the possibility of him staying at the club.

I would like him to stay and believe he can still contribute to our team over the coming season, there is a place for him in the squad and he offers a different type of alternative to our attacking options. The telegraph paper has gone as far to suggest Arsenal are willing to let him leave on a free to get his wages off the payroll. A ludicrous suggestion, I know we have not been the best at getting money closer to the true valuation for some of the players we let go but the idea of a free transfer is enough to slap who ever wrote that article.

Enjoy your day people

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Van Persie mess, Denilson back on loan, why? Nigeria tour postponed – AFC

Well the past 48 hours have been a bit of a PR disaster for Arsenal football club haven’t they? The biggest hammer blow being the Robin Van Persie revelation that he has made the decision that he will not extend his current contract and therefore signalled the end of his Arsenal career. This news was excellently summarised by my partner in crime Cdrive77’s blog post yesterday.

Arsenal fans are used to losing their top player (and captain) year on year, when will this trend stop? For all the talk of self sustainability that gets spewed out to the arsenal fans time and time again when will this policy transpire into a top team unrivalled by all? We the arsenal fans have had the patience, stuck by the team and manager as we await the new dawn of Arsenal reaping the benefits from the being ahead of the rest when the Financial Fair Play rules kick in.

I admit the financing from a sugar daddy rich owner doesn’t sit well with me, a team should build their own success and buying titles is a major cop-out. I would not like Arsenal to win things that way and besides it’s a bit too late in the day as the F.F.P rules are just around the corner.

What the other big clubs seem to be doing now is building their teams with a strong core that when such rules come into play it will take minor acquisitions to add to the core to continue and grow. This is the part where Arsenal needs to catch up with the rest, if the overall plan is for the future when exactly does the team itself come into the reckoning?

Ever since the new stadium was built the one area that suffered was the playing team, I believe the general plan at the time was minor additions to a highly successful core. What wasn’t in the plan was for the team to disband as rapidly as they did. Many of the players from the invincible’s era were happy winning things, we put the money in for the right players and reaped the benefits. This stopped and so then did the commitment of the players who got us to that standing. They were used to being the best and then suddenly changed to carrying the team as lesser players came in. The emphasis was heavily leaned on the youth and many young players needed nurturing; the bigger players did not favour rubbing shoulders with and carrying the young. The opportunity to rub shoulders with the best as they were used to was more tempting. Once we peaked and conquered the premiership back in 2004 the next step would be to attack Europe and bring in the champions league trophy instead we reached a plateau and concurrent regression.

Winning team

It is from this stage where a team which should have been growing has weakened with each year, the bigger marquee players have moved on year after year and the team itself has suffered as we have had to rebuild to fill voids of those who have left. The key eye for spotting talent from Arsene Wenger has ensured that with every gem that has moved on another gem surfaces and becomes invaluable.

The problem I have is that such a policy cannot last forever; the signs were there last season as we were so close to finishing the season outside the top four for the first time in Arsene’s era. This is the wakeup call the club needed, the scare that would open the eyes of the money men at arsenal that the team needs to be the focus and has to grow. If we lose a massive cog from the team we end up going back to the drawing board. I’m not advocating purchasing players we could not afford in the long run but im happy in the knowledge that everything was done in our power to keep a player. And if those players do not want to be a part of the team then we move on, we don’t honour their wishes and send them on their way with a handshake and a smile. Our focus should be on Arsenal and Arsenal alone. The timing of Robin’s announcement was all wrong and in a way didn’t show respect to the same men who honoured Van Persie’s silence. They protect him while he pissed over them without a second thought; and this is what irritates me as it makes the club look like chumps. We are Arsenal football club and we should call the shots, if a player wants out then we play hardball. Too many players have left over the past few years wrapped in cotton wool only for the club to reveal the bad points of the players long after they are gone. Why tell us at the last AST meeting that Fabregas refused to play for us last season as he wanted to play for Barcelona only? what benefit is there in telling us this last month and not at the time? They might as well have taken that story with them to the grave.

The Arsenal hierarchy need to start doing things differently to avoid turning us into a laughing stock. The team needs to be the focus from now on, do everything in their power to keep the players we build the team around and keep the core together. Let the Robin Van Persie saga be the last year this happens. Self sustainability may be the way forward but without a team you risk falling out of the top four places and that’s where the money stops and trouble starts. We are no longer guaranteed top four and our new acquisitions already have the burden of needing to hit the ground running to ensure we stay there.

Go away…

In other news that further dents the fans relationship with the club is the news that Denilson has signed another season long loan with Sao Paulo. It is well known Denilson had no intention of returning to Arsenal. The club have put the player up for sale however it is alleged no offers have come in for the player. We were in negotiations with Sao Paulo to turn his loan last season into a permanent deal. We were adamant on a price but the Brazilian club wouldn’t budge and in the end we succumbed and granted the player another season long loan. This is the kind of thing that infuriates fans, myself included. Why is the player calling the shots? If Sao Paulo didn’t want the player they wouldn’t be negotiating with us. If there is no budge then the player returns and rots in the reserves until his people can organize a transfer to someone willing to pay for him. I would not be surprised if we are footing the majority of the players wages, it is claimed Arsenal have a clause to cancel the loan if an agreement for his sale can be arranged with another club. We all know that isn’t going to happen so we end up with the Brazilian who doesn’t want to play for us still on our books picking his big wages. Why are we so soft when it comes to transfer negotiations?

In more embarrassing news on the Arsenal front it was announced last night on the official site that the tour of Nigeria is now postponed till possibly next summer. In the announcement the club stated:

“We could not get comfortable on everything needed to satisfy our requirements, so we have reluctantly taken the decision to postpone the team’s visit”

To be blunt these kind of things should be looked into long before announcing any possible tour and game. This is a major own goal by the club and again sends the PR team into the spotlight. I only hope not too many fans have made arrangements and booked flights for the sole purpose of this tour. If so should the club make an effort to reimburse those who possibly could lose money if they attempt to cancel their bookings?

Enjoy your day people

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Oguzhan Ozyakup: is Arsenal youth policy failing?

When the recent unconfirmed news that Oguzhan Ozyakup had signed for Besiktas broke this week it had me thinking of the many young players that have left arsenal over the years. Arsenal is a club famed for its development of young professionals and it’s rare to find a player who started at Arsenal who did not credit the academy for giving them a great grounding.

The thing about having a great youth set up is it is meant to transpire and develop into an integration of promising youngsters into the first team squad and carry on the traditions and foundations created.Barcelona despite their superstars still manages to successfully integrate youth players into their set up.

Given the way it has worked out at arsenal you could argue that is a flawed strategy as many players have worked their way through the ranks only to become frustrated at not becoming a first team player instantly. Wenger would champion them and talk up their unlimited potential but then their heads would be turned by the first chance of 1st team football elsewhere.

Don’t get me wrong not every player that has come through the ranks has been the level of a jack Wilshere but many have had the potential to be as good. Some players develop to that next level of superstardom a little later in the process, not everyone can crack the first team at 17/18. That is one of the main problems, some youngsters choose Arsenal because they saw Fabregas getting his debut at 16 and think they will get the same opportunities. Their development can be different and the coaches in charge of the younger players and Wenger himself can spot those that have that something special that warrants fast tracking to the first team as well as those that may need a bit more time.

Footballers’ egos are one of the hardest things to manage; they go from running rings around opponents their age and being praised no end to then being told they’re not ready just yet for the first team which is something many young players just don’t seem to register with anything but negativity. This is the point to knuckle down, work even harder and earn the right to be a part of Arsenal first team squad. Some players are not prepared to just play reserve football and get the odd run out in the Carling cup, they want more sooner.

The opportunity to go on loan becomes available and most take it. I’m a big fan of young players going on loan; they get a chance to experience the real ins and outs of first team football. It can also be a measure of their potential if they excel at the club they go on loan to. I mean if a player goes out on loan (in this instance a striker) to a league 2 club and doesn’t score his fair share of goals there it can give an indication that maybe he may not ready to dislodge Robin Van Persie just yet. It can be a nice reality check as the goal a game ratio they had at u-18 level was just that.. u-18 level, the real world is not as easy unless your name is Messi.

The players that go out on loan and do have successful spells often return to Arsenal and find it hard to shift back into reserve football and out of the limelight. They taste that idolisation and when they return they struggle to accept being out of the picture again.

This is the stage where Arsenal has lost many a player they were not planning to let go of. If you look back names such as David Bentley, Sebatian Larsson and Steve Sidwell come to mind. I know, you see those names and probably think not good enough players but to me I honestly believe if they stayed at Arsenal and carried on their development they would have made it at Arsenal.

Ok, David Bentley turned out to be a complete sewer rat but he did have the ability to make something of his career. The main problem for David Bentley was David Bentley; he believed his own hype and thought he was a superstar before his time. Honestly with the right mindset and people around him he could have been a massive player for club and country instead he’s deemed a pompous joke that wasted a promising career. Larsson and Sidwell have carved out decent premiership careers for themselves and could have done a job at Arsenal without setting the world alight if they showed a bit more patience but the good times at Reading and Birmingham swayed their heads.

When Arsenal chooses to let a player go they often prove it was the right decision as we tend to hold on to the ones that have the superstar quality required for the top. I guess that must be part of our ‘business model’ to create marketable superstars with massive returns if ever sold.

A player that had the potential to follow in Cesc’s footsteps towards Arsenal 1st XI was Fran Merida. He had amazing technical ability and was slowly integrating into the Arsenal squad before deciding he wanted a lot more a lot sooner. As is the risk you take from obtaining a player from abroad Merida seemed to miss Spain and it was inevitable he would go back, it was just how soon it happened that wasn’t expected.

His career has stagnated after a bright start at Atletico Madrid and is probably another reason that proves moving too soon isn’t always so prosperous. His situation when you look at it hasn’t changed much from his time at Arsenal as he has struggled to get into the team and spent half of last season out on loan to Braga. Was it worth it? He might say it was but deep down he knows the truth.

Ozyakup falls into a similar category as Merida in terms of ability and potential, if channelled correctly a very good player could emerge. The move to Besiktas still hasn’t been confirmed and I hope it is a made up story. There is some weight behind it since Ozyakup has recently swapped national representation from Holland to Turkey; so a move to a leading Turkish team wouldn’t seem so crazy. I actually think Ozyakup is in Wenger’s plans and should have a long hard think before jumping ship.

A loan move would be a more logical career move at this stage of his career, we will have to wait and see how this plays out but if Ozyakup does decide to move on then Arsenal will have to take a long hard look at whether their strategy to grooming youth is working. The time, money and effort put into these young players is not a guarantee but a gamble and its interesting to know how much money is lost when these players move before their time.

P.S Thank you to Oguzhan Ozyakup for breaking my spell checker.