Will Arsene make key signings part of his New Year resolution?

So Arsenal start the New Year in 1st place, a hard fought victory over a stubborn Cardiff team ensured they stayed there. The proud record of being the best performing team of 2013 can be seen as the perfect springboard to continue the improvement into 2014 and hopefully reap the benefits come the end of the football season.

The fans are happy (well most of them) and will no doubt be settling back into their normal routines following all the festive fun. As the majority of us tend to do in the New Year goals are set, a chance to put right the wrongs of the previous year with new gym routines or money saving tactics. We all enter into these with the best of intentions unfortunately the motivation dies before March is with us.

It would be nice to think that Arsene has incorporated some resolutions to help Arsenal for the second half of the season. The ideal resolution would be to make some key January signings.
As we all know Arsene isn’t a big fan of January buys, the Frenchman has a lot of faith in his squads and doesn’t tend to put his hand in his pocket at this time of year unless his hand is forced or a super bargain is available. One of the main requirements this season is a top quality striker to share the burden with Olivier Giroud. Will Arsene buy or will he see the recent change in Bendtner worth waiting for him to recover from his recent injury rather than purchase a player? Although whilst still an Arsenal player I’d back Bendtner 100% every time he goes out on the pitch I don’t see Bendtner part of any long term plans and for that reason it may suit both parties that he finds new employers during the transfer window.

bendtner

Arsene is also a big fan of adaptability in his players and he has said it in the past that Walcott and Podolski are very much able deputies to the central striking role. The recent return of Podolski has already prefilled the possible quotation of “like a new signing” though the German hasn’t quite grasped the opportunity in that role with both hands. His goal in the West Ham game reminded us of his valuable contribution to the team though his starting role in the Cardiff game in the central striking position was slightly underwhelming.

Podolski is one of the best finishers at the club and certainly offers a goal threat but at the times he has played in the central striking role it hasn’t quite clicked. This is taking into account times he played there before his injury also. One game does not condemn a player and you never know he could well grow into the role; he also didn’t have the luxury of the creative talents of Ozil and Ramsey at his disposal. Flamini has been a great acquisition to the Arsenal team this season but his performance in an advanced role on New Year’s Day was rather limited in the attacking third whilst Arteta covered.

Walcott also offers a goal threat though question marks will always remain over his effectiveness with his back to goal as opposed to the outlet of pace he offers on the wing. What we gain in Walcott playing central we lose from him not playing wide.

Taking all this into account a striking addition to the squad would be the best option, a loan or permanent transfer? If a top quality player can be brought in on loan I don’t see why not. A permanent arrangement can be readdressed in the summer. If it’s the difference between playing over the odds fees for a player and assessing a potential signing up close in the short term for peanuts then we all know which option our manager would rather take.

In addition to that a central defensive signing would be reassuring, beyond the excellence of the Koscielny/Mertesacker and the cover from Vermaelen there aren’t much options at all. Given Arsenal’s injury history it would be foolish to rely on the current partnership not receiving another injury for the rest of the season. Vermaelen is an able deputy but in recent times the Belgian has hardly been injury free himself.

per and kos

Arsene has never been one to recall players from on loan during injury crisis’s and so if the worst was to happen the next step would be to rejig the whole defence by slotting Sagna into the middle or calling upon the services of Isaac Hayden. Not ideal given the massive chance the club has of winning the title this year, the last thing Arsenal fans would want to do is feel regret at the missed opportunity of strengthening to enhance the clubs chances for silverware.

Well, Arsenal has a month to hopefully make the right signings and give the rest of the season a good go. Signings for the future are not required at present, focus really needs to be on the now, it’s the clubs best chance in years to bring in a trophy.

Enjoy your day people.

Please feel free to like the Facebook page for regular updates of the blog.

Follow Gambeanosnitch on Twitter

3 points are all that matters for Arsenal

Sitting in the premier league table above Tottenham Hotspur is a good feeling, one that has been taken for granted over the years by Arsenal fans but the general importance of the feat has never been underestimated. They have slowly chipped away at their north London rivals and with the win over Norwich have now climbed above their rivals.

poldi celebrates

Getting back above Spurs was the easy part; it’s now ensuring they stay there that becomes hard. It’s in their hands so there can be no complaints if at the end of the season fortunes change.

The game yesterday was one of high interest to me; based on my experience last year in the 3-3 draw with the Canaries I was quite desperate to get some sort of redemption with a victory.

Seated close to the Norwich fans it was a chance to go back and forth with the banter; despite a first half of wasted chances and no shots on goal for the visitors they still made a vocal presence in the stadium. The game last season was similar to yesterdays in the sense that top four and champion’s league qualification was very much undecided and Norwich had a chance to throw a spanner in the works.

The Norwich fans were not shy in ribbing the Arsenal faithful with chants of Thursday Night Channel five. Quite outdated considering the Europa football is screened on the ITV channels however it was nice to get the opportunity to throw those chants right back down their throats.

Based on yesterday’s game here are some points of note:

Wilshere was rusty.

The loss of Jack Wilshere was a big blow to the Arsenal team; he returned from his long term injury and eventually found his rhythm to become a key cog of the Arsenal midfield. Despite the team’s good record during his recent absence his return to first team duty can definitely be seen as a psychological boost to the team. Eyebrows may have been raised that he returned straight back into the starting eleven but considering last week’s two goal hero Tomas Rosicky was unavailable Arsene Wenger’s hand had been forced. Wilshere displayed rustiness in his game, although not awful he was way off his influential best, the Arsenal game was becoming stale as Norwich were relishing their backs to the wall defending and so Jack was sacrificed to inject new impetus into the Arsenal play.

Gervinho had one of those days.

It is inevitable that Gervinho will never convince all Arsenal fans of his worth. You never know which performance you will get from the forward and until consistency is added to his game he will split fans opinion. One thing he is even when at his most frustrating worst is he is a threat, his pace stretches teams and especially with the loss of Theo Walcott to injury he has played a part in the recent run of form for the team. We may have a laugh and a joke or moan at the times he messes up but he has pace and a box of tricks (that all be it has a success rate of 1 in 10) that when it comes off is a great tool. Yesterday wasn’t his day but his starting place was earned by his contribution in the previous two games, he may still play a big part in Arsenals quest for fourth place.

Defence was well despite conceding.

Yes a goal was conceded against the run of play but the partnership of Koscielny and the returning Tomas Vermaelen played well. That Norwich’s first shot on goal wasn’t until they actually scored was testament to how the Canaries attack was kept under control. As is the Arsenal default game plan they prefer to concede when under complete control however the goal was from a set play. I’m not sure who exactly was picking up Turner but that set play required a team effort to ensure all men were picked up and unlike the goal conceded against Blackburn in the FA Cup which was a complete cock-up there was fault but not entirely attributed to the centre back pairing.

I believe Vermaelen had a good game, he was determined in the tackle and dealt with the threat of Grant Holt. Although Per Mertesacker is likely to return to the starting line up after serving his suspension it was encouraging that the Arsenal captain had an event free performance. He has set a platform he needs to build on to win back the confidence of the fans and the manager.

It was a penalty.

"it's not fair, they are time-wasting..."

“it’s not fair, they are time-wasting…”

I don’t think I need to elaborate on this non topic, the Norwich fans are bitter as you would expect from any opposition team who concedes a penalty but it was a clear pull on the shirt of Giroud from the Norwich player. Doesn’t matter who saw it a foul is a foul end of.

Enjoy your day people.

Please feel free to like the Facebook page for regular updates of the blog.

Follow Gambeanosnitch on Twitter

Learning’s from the North London Derby defeat

Frustrating times once again for gunners fans across the land. With hopes of pulling off a result to get our season back on track we came up short once again. How do you put a finger on it to pinpoint the cause? The problem is a finger isn’t enough to identify the cause, two hands may not even be enough because the problems identified before the season are still there, the problems identified when the last transfer window opened are still there and right now there is nothing that can be done to fix this until the season is over.

giroud spuds

It‘s never nice to lose any game, double that feeling when it comes at the hands of your local rivals. We are at the business end of the season and now is not the time to throw things away, with each week we are losing time to put together this magical run of form which is meant to save our season.

With our champions league campaign over (I’m sorry but it is), all focus should be on the league, every game treated as a cup final (a cup final we win, get out of my memory Birmingham game!) as the players fight to the end to repay the managers faith in them.

It’s not quite working out that way so far and I hope that Arsene, if still in the Arsenal hot seat next season will take note of those that have underperformed, let him down and put his own position at the club under the greatest pressure it has ever been.

Some of my conclusions after witnessing the North London Derby:

Defence not solid as a unit.

It feels like Groundhog Day having to write this same problem up so many times this season. The Bould factor has long evaporated and each week we have come to witness our evident defensive shortcomings. In the games where we keep a clean sheet it tends to be pure luck that we do not concede. Our back line just does not perform well enough in games to form a basis in which to win a game. Every game we play the opposition know they are good for a goal against us, we guarantee in every game at least one golden opportunity for the opposition to score a goal. It just depends on the quality of the player that gets the chance whether they take it or not. When we concede goals we should be saluting the excellence in creating an opportunity against us but instead we end up noticing how comical the defending was that gifted the opposition the chance. This is a trend that needs changing and fast.

Giroud simply not big enough a player to rely on

Giroud was probably our worst performer in the match, totally ineffective, he was totally out of tune with the rest of the team and highlighted one of our biggest shortcomings. Up front we lack a match winner to make the difference in games finely poised. I believe Giroud has a lot of qualities we’ve lacked in previous seasons but those were qualities that were required as a plan B when things didn’t work. Our system does not allow Giroud to play up top with another striker and so we have to rely on him as our main attacking threat. Arsene didn’t buy a striker in the last transfer window to compliment the Frenchman or provide an alternative when things aren’t working and yesterday was a fine example why it may have been a mistake. In the early stages of the game when we were pretty much in control Giroud found himself in the position to run onto a couple through balls but lacked the pace or cutting edge to produce a goal scoring chance. I believe ruthlessness should be shown in front of goal at any time in a match, we should not be waiting until we are behind late in a game to put real effort in. sometimes a chance can be missed early in a game much like yesterday and when wasted it is shrugged off because the forward expects more of the same. In big games chances aren’t guaranteed in high numbers throughout a game so you have to take your chances whenever they come. Yesterday that was taken for granted and we paid for it.

Defensive midfielder still a priority

This is not a dig at Mikel Arteta, he is still one of our most vital players but his strengths are not fully utilized in the holding role. We have not replaced Alex Song who despite his tendency to drift forward to help in attack offered a physical strength that we currently lack. It was good business getting the money we did for Song but in not signing a replacement we weakened the squad.

Big game mentality lacking

We really have lost the knack to raise our performance for big games. When we have faced a top of the table clash we have come up short almost every time. This is a worrying habit and the only consolation is that we only really have Manchester United left to play from the top teams although Everton could maybe be added to the list.

Run of games for Podolski up front

With the limitations of Olivier Giroud and no possibility of signing a new striker would it hurt to give Podolski a run of games up front? Theo Walcott can play up there but struggles against teams that play deep. The German has been preferred on the left hand side by Wenger and hasn’t really tried him there. He can finish, he is mobile and I’m sure he could get on the end of the chances the midfield make for the forwards. It is only a suggestion but you look back to earlier in the season when Gervinho was given a run there and wonder why wasn’t Podolski given a similar opportunity?

What’s with Ramsey at right back?

This is a weird one for me, the use of Aaron Ramsey as a makeshift wing back. We were first introduced to this in the game at Sunderland when a red card forced the use of the Welshman there. Now we are seeing it more and more; on reflection Ramsey played well when moved there but Carl Jenkinson was also having a good game at right back. In the grand scheme of things it weakened our defence at a time when we were chasing the game and needed to ensure a third goal didn’t go in. I believe Jenkinson and Ramsey offered the same attacking threat and therefore found the change bizarre.

Try to enjoy your day people. Stay strong.

Please feel free to like the Facebook page for regular updates of the blog.

Follow Gambeanosnitch on Twitter

Several points from Gunner’s win over Swansea

We won the game; we are into the next round, that’s all that matters isn’t it? With morale low in the team and frustration high amongst the fans the win over Swansea was the perfect tonic. There were as many plusses as there were negatives from the game but we have finally managed to break the hoodoo which Swansea seemed to have had over us this season.

I won’t give a match report on the game; I am sure the majority of you watched the game and/or know the outcome however I will discuss some points that became apparent to me from viewing the game.

Wilshere is a class above

jack celebrates

In a season of ups and downs so far one of the biggest boosts to the team is return of Jack Wilshere from injury. He has shaken off the rust, integrated himself back into the Arsenal engine room and is now at the point where he can dominate games. He wears his heart on his sleeve and is Arsenal through and through it is a refreshing sight to see him in full swing. Teams now recognize him as the danger man and target him. Manchester city put that into practise at the weekend but it didn’t break him. As much as I love Santi Cazorla, given his early season form he became a target and at times would play within himself when given the extra attention. Jack has now been receiving similar attention but has managed to brush off the extra attention and still graft it out. Some of the challenges he has been on the end of I am surprised he has got up from many of them but that just shows the steel he has acquired to complement his majestic skill and control. Yesterday Jack put in a man of the match performance which was well deserved despite close competition from Michel Vorm. He drove on the team and was an inspiration leading by example, the icing on the cake was his winning goal to take us through to the next round.

Diaby not broken

It was encouraging to see Abou Diaby starting the game yesterday; after his long layoff he returned to the team on Sunday and managed to play the majority of the game against Citeh with an extra man. I honestly thought that would be too much for his body and so to see him start against Swansea was a nice boost. Could he be over the injuries this season? We’ve been there too many times to be optimistic about that but if he can avoid an absence that lasts as long as the last injury then we will be on to a good thing. His presence in the team provides assurance as he patrols the middle like a big brother to look out for the likes of Wilshere and Cazorla. I hope to see a lot more of the leggy Frenchman for the rest of the season.

Coquelin proves worth

Francis Coquelin earned a starting berth against Swansea, less of a surprise due to the injury to Mikel Arteta. Whether his selection was deemed by default or not the young Frenchman provided an encouraging performance to show Arsene he can be trusted to perform in the absence of first choice Arteta. He hasn’t reached the point where he dominates from defensive midfield but that’s hardly expected when he hasn’t had a run of games yet to sharpen up his craft. His mobility is one of his great attributes and he offers more to his game than just breaking up play. Wenger may not have started him in many games but he has been here and thereabout in the first team squad often utilized from the bench. Arteta’s injury is a worry but Coquelin can use this opportunity to his advantage and prove any doubters wrong and most importantly give Arsene a massive nudge.

Welcome clean sheet

It was nice to claim a clean sheet last night, the soft goals have been creeping in of late and so it was encouraging to have a complete shut out. The defence actually put in a good performance, there were the odd scares but in general the team remained focused and kept the Swansea threat to a minimum. The introduction of Michu in the second half which usually equals a goal against us didn’t materialize; this was the perfect outcome leading into the big game at the weekend. We now have a foundation to build on; Chelsea will offer a far different threat but it is still important we remembered how to stop teams scoring.

Too many chances missed

giroud miss

The one nil score line was not a reflection of the amount of chances we had last night. Although Michel Vorm was on a one man mission to thwart anything thrown at the Swansea goal there were a number of chances that you would expect us to score regardless of who was in goal. It was bordering on the point where you felt it was one of those days and Swansea would probably nick a late goal to rub chilli, sand and bleach into your eyes. Thankfully Jack had different plans but the profligacy was worrying and very frustrating on the night. Possibly we were saving up the accurate finishing for Sunday, I sure hope so, Walcott and Giroud I’m talking to you.

Empty stadium seats

Much fuss was being made over the number of empty seats seen last night. I believe it is being slightly blown out of proportion; in my experience cup replays have slightly lower attendances unless it’s a game against one of the big boys. Tickets go on sale for less time than a standard league game due to the unpredictability of having to play a replay. Add to the conundrum it is cold as hell outside at the moment, a freezing Wednesday versus the comfort of the couch and TV I think there is only one winner. I certainly don’t think the empty seats were some sort of protest from the fans and it is just mitigating circumstances that resulted in the gaps. Seats are paid for so I don’t think the Arsenal money men will be worrying too much. I think this topic is a non story; the commentators just needed something to talk about.

Bartley’s comfortable performances

bartley swan

It’s quite frustrating to see Kyle Bartley perform so well against us over the two third round games. You would half expect him to be torn a new one by our forward line but Bartley put in a performance to make a mockery of our decision to let him leave without giving him a chance. A lot of investment was put into the acquisition and development of Bartley and after his loan at Rangers you would think he would be pushing for a first team place. It may have been impatience on his part but I feel he could have offered something to our team if he stayed. His encouraging performance’s against Arsenal makes the fact we still have the likes of Squillaci still on the payroll a bit of a dampener. I am basing this only on two games and former players do tend to raise their performance against their former employee but it will be interesting to see how the career of Kyle Bartley develops here on in.

Enjoy your day people.

Please feel free to like the Facebook page for regular updates of the blog.

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.

Please feel free to like the Facebook page for regular updates of the blog.