Newcastle victory helps to highlight Gunner’s issues

Last game of 2012 is signed off with a win, a bit of a crazy victory but three much-needed points to continue the slow recovery back to the level we know we should be at. 7-3 is a flattering score-line and I suppose did its best to sugar-coat the evident frailties within the team. On three occasions we were pegged back by a Newcastle team low on confidence with the kind of goals that are becoming our trademark. The individual errors and soft goals keep on coming to the point where seven goals may be needed every game to ensure victory. That’s never going to happen so the next best thing is to address the defending and tighten it up at the back.

To be honest I’m not sure how that can be addressed with the current personnel, our defending has been highlighted all season and I am sure the backroom staff are doing something about it; problem is it is not transpiring through to the first team on match days.

I am not trying to put a dampener on a victory where we scored seven goals but the defeats to Bradford and Swansea are still pretty fresh and despite stretching our winning run to four games all it will take is for another defeat for all the gloom and negativity to return amongst Gooners.

This game served as the perfect evidence to present to Arsene Wenger and put forward the case for signings.

Defensively we need third wheel to shake things up.

At the back we are leaking too many goals to mount a serious challenge up the table; without a solid base all the good work upfront is for nothing. When you have a reputation for soft goals then the opposition are always confident they can get something against you. Mertesacker was missing yesterday through illness but on paper Koscielny is able cover at the back.

ba v verm

The problem we have is individually our defence are popular with the fans. When on fire Vermaelen is the darling of the Arsenal fans, Koscielny has proven himself now, Mertesacker has won plaudits this season, Sagna will always be regarded one of the finest right backs in the country and Gibbs has grown to the point where we feel we have replaced Clichy. So why the poor goals conceded every other game? Collectively it doesn’t seem to be working, we never seem solid enough and there are always clear-cut chances against us. We ride our luck a few times but eventually we pay for it.

My suggestion is that the timing is right for a top quality centre half to be purchased in the January window to keep the current personnel on their toes. Johan Djourou is clearly not regarded reliable enough, this is evident from his sparse appearances this season. In the summer I claimed he would be a good quality 4th choice centre back going into the season but in reality we need a player signed not as fourth choice but immediate competition for the starting role.

I can only put down the poor goals to complacency and with no competition for the starting role beyond the three core centre halves there is a little less pressure to maintain the highest standard. I know players don’t make individual errors on purpose but at the same time another (top quality) defender in the mix should let everyone know they need to their job and do it very well.

It may be deemed better to have a good balance of competition in certain positions and three top centre halves should normally be enough but a bit of unhealthy competition may do us some good.

Up front we need recruits

The game threw up many points regarding our options up front. We have Theo Walcott who is doing his best to prove he could fill that central striking role; his three goals yesterday again highlighted his promise and gave Arsene food for thought over his use in that position. The problem with Theo’s goal scoring form is until he signs a contract with the club he cannot be considered as the answer to anything. We are none the wiser if he will be signing a new contract and until he does we have to contend with the possibility of him moving on.

theo newc

That leaves us with Olivier Giroud as the only option as specialist centre forward at the club; indeed he has won over the fans after an initial slow start to his Arsenal career but we need an alternative to just playing to his strengths. Marouane Chamakh is as good as gone in the next transfer window after failing to prove himself at the club and Gervinho has shown no consistency in any position of late that he cannot be considered in any capacity.

Not forgetting the ACN in January when we lose the services of Gervinho; Chamakh was not called up for the Moroccan squad but that is not enough to suggest we have options now.

The player touted as a possible acquisition in January is Demba Ba; he still has that clause in his contract making him available at £7.5m. He has been touted as talking up a move to Arsenal recently and he did his chances of being snapped up no harm by exhibiting his attacking threat with two goals against us right in front of Arsene in the flesh.

Arsene was quite coy on the potential signing of the striker in his pre match press conference but that would be expected given the fact the two teams were meeting.

The question is whether the delay on Theo’s contract is in relation to Arsene signing such a player? Would that end his chances of playing up front or will Demba only be signed as a replacement for Theo if he decides to definitely leave.

It’s a tough one to call, ideally I want Theo to stay and Ba to come in; much like I mentioned with the defence that competition is required to keep players on their toes. Theo would need to be prepared to fight for a chance up front and take his chances when they come in the midst of the competition from players like Ba. It’s all very well playing up front knowing you only have Chamakh and Gervinho to compete with but to improve and be the best you need to take on the best (or at least a better standard of competition).

January will be an interesting month and we will need a lot of open books closed. Players need to be signed, I’m not talking signings for the sake of signings but we need quality to improve the squad and increase competition for places. We have too much dead wood making it easier for the starting players to let their standards slip. I hope yesterdays win despite the high score-line doesn’t help deflect from what is really required.

Enjoy your day people.

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Time to move on from Villa and focus on Everton.

The mood has now hopefully settled amongst Arsenal fans; the result and the substitutions in particular left many fans directing their fury towards Arsene Wenger. A 0-0 draw is one result that is universally unwelcome to football fans; the prospect of no goals has no place in any person’s life and can result in blood boiling frustration to those who witness the event. A score draw is acceptable because at least the ball has hit the back of the net; that is unless the team draws after being 4-0 up a la Newcastle. Anyway, it seems the lack of goals was contagious as the games hosted by Swansea and Chelsea on Sunday followed suit.

The biggest gripe was behind that substitution of Giroud and the resting of Jack Wilshere. The Jack issue I suppose is easier to defend, the substitution not so much. Hopefully we have grunted and snarled all the frustration out of our systems, put Saturday behind us and now focus our attention on the tough game against Everton on Wednesday.

I do have some points concluded from the game on Saturday, they are a more constructive and reflective round-up of factors I have noticed. Don’t get me wrong I swear blue in the face, throw ornaments and kick furniture with the best of fans when a match is on however it can be better to take time to reflect on things rather than vent in the immediate aftermath. Here goes…

Ramsey can do no right.

One thing that is clear is our Welsh midfielder is not the flavour of the month with many Arsenal fans. Forget the mantle of flavour of the month it has stretched closer to the past 12 months and longer for Ramsey. In an earlier post I had highlighted the Arsenal players most likely to be the scapegoat for the season, the player to feel the full brunt of the fans fury when fortunes don’t go our way. I predicted it was a toss-up between Ramsey, Andre Santos and Gervinho and to be honest I feel that title is being shared between the three. Gervinho stemmed the flow slightly with his purple patch of goalscoring form at the earlier part of the season; Andre Santos is out of the firing line lately simply because his appearances in the starting eleven have been heavily reduced more for his own sake than anything else. Ramsey has featured more in the team than the other two players and has come in for criticism for his performances regardless of what he contributes. I am not blind there are times he has struggled in games, more so when he has been deployed in the front three. In my opinion a position not suited for him but as a player you put in a shift wherever the manager chooses to play you. Ramsey’s problem is his performances are more under the microscope from fans than any other Arsenal players, any good he does is instantly forgotten and replaced by any misplaced pass or scuffed shot. On Saturday he was not awful, the team on a whole did not click but he still came out with the most criticism, he can do now right at the moment. I feel we need to ease up on him, he may still be looking for his best form but he won’t achieve that with constant groans and abuse. He is an Arsenal player at the end of the day and we need to support every player on the pitch not alienate individuals. Save the venom for the players that showed no respect for the club and left under acrimonious terms like the Van Persie’s and Nasri’s of the world.

Is Oxlade-Chamberlain suffering 2nd season syndrome?

It hasn’t quite clicked for the Ox this season, after such a prominent first season with the Gunners that elevated him into the England squad for Euro 2012 his development this season has stagnated slightly. Admittedly he has played a lot of football, he didn’t get much of a break due to appearing in the Euros this summer and suffering a few niggling injuries this season. It’s hard to single it down to burnout because he hasn’t had much of a run in the team this season but it was quite noticeable that his performances against Montpellier and Aston Villa were quite below the standard he has set for himself. He is still young and still learning his trade so he can be forgiven for not being at the stage where he wins games single-handed by just being on the pitch. We have though, witnessed him at his devastating best last season so when he is below par it’s quite noticeable. He still has so much to bring to the team and has that bums off the seat aura about him when he is on top form. 2nd season syndrome is more about players struggling to handle the pressure of the their achievements from the season before, I don’t think Oxlade-Chamberlain suffers from that kind of pressure, he is level-headed enough and the form of Theo Walcott on the right side ensures the fans are not overly dependent of Alex to perform. I hope the 2nd season theory turns out to be nonsense from me; the best way to rubbish my idea starts with Everton on Wednesday.

Defence continues to shut them out.

I suppose the one positive you can take from a 0-0 draw is the defence has produced a clean sheet. That’s the second game in a row we have managed a clean sheet and is a sign than we may have overcome the teething problem of soft goals conceded in recent weeks. With Kieran Gibbs returning to fitness skipper Thomas Vermaelen who was deputising the left back role was dropped to the bench for the Englishman to return. Vermaelen’s form had been a bit up and down when playing in the centre of defence in recent weeks but a reshuffle at the centre of defence was probably not required and was behind Wenger’s reasoning for his choice. Whether Arsene keeps the same back line against Everton is debatable, he will have hungry, fresher players to choose from and Vermaelen may have a point to prove if selected. The most important thing is the goals have stopped leaking and we need to continue that habit now.

Arshavin deserves more game time.           

I understand our Russian 23 is out of favour with Arsene this season; he is most likely to move on in the next transfer window however I feel when called upon he hasn’t let the team down. At times when we have had players missing through injury and been forced to play players like Aaron Ramsey out of position in the front three attacking role it does make you wonder why Arshavin hasn’t been considered. I don’t have knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes at Arsenal but I believe he could contribute more to the team than the Capital One Cup outings and the closing stages of Premiership games. Even if he is as good as out the door he has from the outside showed professionalism on the pitch, there has been no strops or rants in the press, he has just got on with it. I feel he can be utilized more until he has gone, when he does move then maybe he will let the cat out of the bag and give all the juicy details of what really went on but for now he is an alternative that can be used; we don’t have great depth in our squad but there are still players that maybe aren’t being used as much as they could.

So here they are, feel free to agree/disagree in the comments section. They are just points, I can be convinced to change my views if you present a good case. What we can all agree on is three points at Everton on Wednesday would be nice.

Enjoy your day people

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What should I do with my Andre Santos shirt? – AFC

Football shirts, an essential part of a football fans wardrobe, we wear them with pride, we wear them to death and when they are no longer in the condition acceptable to wear in public they make great house shirts to wear for any situation.

I have gone through my fair share of football shirts over the years, mainly arsenal shirts but a few random purchases have snuck into my collection. I own an Olympiacos shirt that cost me the grand total of £2 from the bargain bucket at sports direct last year. Too good a bargain to turn down, no logo on the front just the badge and kit maker logo, only a fan of Olympiacos would recognize it for me it’s a handy option for my 5 a side footie sessions.

With the prices of shirts and the frequency they are churned out at arsenal I don’t even own the current home or away shirt. The tight wad in me is happy to purchase the previous seasons jersey when they hit clearance prices to make way for the latest. Either that or the Christmas/January sales entice me to part with my cash.

One thing that I had stopped doing was purchasing shirts with players’ names on the back. The reasoning behind this wasn’t to save the pennies but the fact that every player I put on the back left us. There’s nothing worse than having a player leave and then you are stuck walking around with an ex players name stuck there much like the indignity of having an ex partners name tattooed on your body.

During the good times I purchased a shirt with Henry printed on the back – gone, Vieira – gone, Pires – gone, Reyes (don’t laugh) – gone. You can almost get away with most of those shirts when certain players carry legendary status with your club. Most of the names I mentioned carry high esteem amongst gunners long after they are gone and so their significance isn’t reduced. Though I am pretty sure there are a high number of fans out there that have possession of a shirt with Samir Nasri’s name across the back, possibly Adebayor too.

When players leave on acrimonious terms and you are left with a shirt carrying their name you might as well throw that shirt in the corner of the bathroom lying in wait for when the toilet needs a good scrubbing. Maybe the letters can be removed, I’ve never tried so don’t know how successful that is.

Now to my dilemma, earlier in the season upon one of my frequent visits to emirates I decided to have a look around the armoury store. I believe this was after one of the u-21 games that were hosted at the emirates. With only five thousand or so fans turning up that day the area was a lot less congested and the store had a more bearable number of people browsing. Normally on a match day the armoury can be so packed there is no room to breathe let alone move around. So on this day I was able to have a look around and take my time, I had no intention to purchase anything but it doesn’t harm to have a look. It was here where I spotted the shirt; it was a Brazil shirt, the latest shirt going for £25. the drawback? It has A. Santos and 11 on the back. Now I am a massive fan of Brazil, have always admired their football and the quality players they have churned out since forever. To own a Brazil shirt has been something I have always considered however I could never justify the purchase due to the price of the shirt. You never get a Brazil shirt for a reasonable price even the older shirts hold their price so to see that the current shirt is available at such a price I just couldn’t turn up the opportunity. I know it was going against my name on the back policy but I was getting a Brazil shirt. Santos was still popular amongst the fans; the speeding incident with the police was still fresh and probably endeared Santos even more to the gunner’s fans. So I bought the shirt, well happy with my purchase I wore it to my next home game I attended.

Fast forward a couple of months and Andre Santos can do nothing right at the moment. His mixed performances since coming into the side because of Kieran Gibbs injury have almost turned him into the pantomime villain amongst arsenal fans. Much like favour turned sour with Emmanuel Eboue once results stopped going our way a similar situation has developed with Santos and it seems it will take a hell of a lot of hard work to win back favour with the arsenal fans.

His confidence is low at the moment and his morale must have been shattered to pieces when Arsene decided to drop Santos in favour of playing Vermaelen out of position in the left back role. Not a good sign when a player being shifted out of position is preferred in your specialist position. That is probably the biggest sign yet that Andre Santos’s arsenal career is on borrowed time. He has every chance between now and the next transfer window to turn things around but at present it seems a hard task.

So this now leaves me in a situation where I have the Brazil shirt I always wanted but the name of Andre Santos on the back which is likely to result is some heckling from football fans. The weather has changed now so im less likely to wear a football shirt fully exposed, the cold in the stands will ensure I am well wrapped up and any shirt I wear will be covered up. However the times I do wear my shirt fully out in all its glory will I be hiding my back to avoid being seen? I suppose when you look at it in the grand scheme of things if every arsenal fan was offered a football shirt with any current players name printed on the back for free what percentage of those fans would request a Santos shirt? Maybe 2-3%? In a way the shirt is unique and maybe I should celebrate the fact I stand out from the thousands of Cazorla and Wilshere shirts.

I spent a season sharing a season ticket for a seat behind a bloke who brought a massive sheet to every game saying ‘Eboue is my homeboy’ funnily enough Eboue would spot this guy every game and on more than one occasion he would go over to the guy at the end of the game and give him his shirt. I used to look on enviously that this guy got the attention just for holding up a flag but he was bold enough to show his support for an out of favour player. The same bloke probably jumped off the nearest bridge when Eboue left.

Could Santos be my Eboue is my homeboy? At a time where he is public enemy number one maybe I should put on my shirt with pride, decorate my bed sheet with an encouraging message for Santos and display it at all the games I go to. It might inspire his performances; he may also donate one of his XXL shirts to me.

Maybe owning the shirt isn’t a bad thing after all, Santos you are my homeboy and you drive how you want. Make me proud to wear your name on my back you are a Brazilian after all…

Enjoy your day people.

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Arsenal a plan B? Vertonghen to prove his ambition

That awkward moment when a transfer target openly admits your team is plan B. Even more awkward the moment becomes when plan A is your fiercest rivals. Jan Vertonghen has openly admitted Tottenham Hotspur is first choice.

I suppose to get our heads around this we have to weigh up the factors for Vertonghen that is or was swinging his decision towards spurs. That one season they were in the champions’ league a couple of years ago I admit they won over many a neutral observer throughout Europe with some of their performances and results in that campaign, that put them and players like Bale on the map.

So I can understand players around Europe knowing a bit more about spurs through that campaign BUT that was two seasons ago now.

Add to that the fact that spurs were on the verge of qualifying for the champions league again next season would understandably be attractive to many a player. English teams are flavour of the month again; the new black in a sense.Chelsea’s victory in the champions’ league has added to the appeal of English premier league teams.

Now the fact Vertonghen is not a spurs player right now probably was due to the uncertainty of their place in the champions’ league. Now it is confirmed that channel 5 on Thursday night is their future the power has shifted towards team Vertonghen in negotiations.

It is at this point where I question the ambition from the Belgian defender. He will definitely be afforded more opportunities in the Spurs line up. They could potentially build their defence around him and so does his motivation stretch any further than being a regular in a team that failed to guarantee football at the highest level in European football.

He is moving from Ajax; a team which is one of the major power houses in Dutch football who regularly play champions league football and are used to challenging for trophies. Arsenal may not have won a trophy for a few years now but they have always competed at the top of all competitions and come close many a time. This is the point where an ambitious player should look at themselves and asses if they could be the missing piece that is the difference between taking that final step and obtaining success or if they just want to pick up big wages and play regularly without really challenging at the highest level.

It has been cited that Vertonghen isn’t prepared to face competition for places that appears to be the case at Arsenal however would that not be challenge enough to prove himself against what Arsenal currently has and show he deserves to be 1st choice? If you move to any big club you should have to prove your worth not get assurances of no competition and a regular starting place before you even kick a ball for a new club. I would prefer the players Arsenal sign to be ones who are prepared for a challenge and fight to prove their worth and have the desire to win things with the club and I hope that is the kind of player Vertonghen is if we are to sign him.

Spurs are throwing everything into signing the Belgian without many bargaining chips and probably using a champions league campaign from 2 years ago as their main selling point.

You find with most transfers over the past few years a player claims they have always admired the club and wanted to sign for them. These are words that if Vertonghen does sign for us cannot use as his public flirting with spurs will rest uneasy with many Arsenal fans.

We will expect as a minimum if he signs for Arsenal for him to just knuckle down and show in his performances how much he wants to play for this club. Thomas Vermaelen won the fans over instantly with determination and fight in his first few games for the club and Vertonghen has the potential to do the same. All the spurs flirting will instantly be forgotten.

It will be interesting to see how this transfer triangle will play out and what type of person Vertonghen will prove himself to be.

Arsenal is certainly not a plan B club. Jan, have the chocolates, flowers and sorry card ready if you turn up at the Emirates door.

Enjoy your day people

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