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.

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Gunners Defence Rocked by Koscielny Injury

It’s not something any of us would have said 18 months ago, but Laurent Koscielny’s absence through injury this Christmas is a bitter blow to Arsenal’s title challenge.

The Frenchman, who was once derided as a quiet, impressionable defender incapable of positioning himself within five yards of the ball, has been superb over the past year and has provided a bedrock at the back, alongside Per Mertesacker, from which the Gunners have grown.

kos

As much as we have enjoyed the attacking prowess of our front line and midfield, the defensive unit this season is the main reason we’re top of the league.

Yet it seems our title challenge will have to be maintained by others after Koscielny was stretchered off against Manchester City on Saturday with a deep gash in his leg. There is no timescale for recovery to cuts like these – remember Wayne Rooney’s head scar earlier this season? – and so people who bet on football should plan around the Frenchman’s absence this Christmas.

This is as bad an absence as Arsenal could have had, for our clash with Chelsea next week requires a competent back four – especially after our 6-3 drubbing at City.

Who will fill the Koscielny role? Ironically the man who looked set to become the new Tony Adams 18 months ago, but who has since declined and now sits firmly behind Kos in the pecking order.

Of course, as club captain, Thomas Vermaelen will play with just as much intensity as he always has but there is a feeling among football betting punters the Belgian is not cut out for containing Premier League strikers while having captain responsibility. Robin van Persie’s goal against Arsenal at the Emirates last season tells you that.

Since he was given the armband, his performances have dropped and, although Vermaelen is adequate cover for Koscielny in the short term, let us hope our so-far solid defensive unit is back to normal come the FA Cup clash with Tottenham.

Enjoy your day people.

Guest post brought to you courtesy of Mark W.

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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.

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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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Song to leave after all, Vermaelen captain, Jack the new no.10 – AFC

Robin Van Persie news aside it’s quite exciting that the start of the new premiership season has finally arrived. The break in the season has been quite adequately filled through a combination of European championships and the Olympic games but now its time to get down to the real stuff. Sunderland will come a knocking on the Emirates door and the Arsenal faithful will be turning up in their droves to witness what is hoped to be a new dawn. Another captain has gone, Alex Song could soon follow, quality players have been brought in yet we are still in a much better position than last season. The transfer business seems far from done but the preparation for the new season has been a lot more balanced and I cant see why will not end the 1st game of the season with 3 points on the board. I’ve got my ticket for the game and cant wait to take my place in the north bank and soak up the pre match buzz; A chance to see the new boys in the flesh and welcome Thomas Vermaelen as our new skipper.

Skipper

Although it was quite obvious Tom would take on the role once van persie was gone we still awaited the official announcement which was revealed yesterday on the official website. The poisoned chalice has been passed on and I hope that now Vermaelen has taken on the role he doesn’t follow the embarrassing trend of leaving next summer. Vermaelen was the only real contender for the role since he was vice captain last season, he leads by example and typifies the kind of fighting spirit football fans love. Mikel Arteta has been promoted to vice captain and he is another player who fits the mould, I would have chosen either Arteta or Song for the role as vice captain but since the revelation that Song may move on he has voluntarily opted out of the reckoning.

On the song topic we have moved from two days ago when Alex Song revealed his love for the club and how happy he was to yesterday’s admission by Arsene Wenger than there is every chance that Song could leave. In yesterday’s press conference Wenger backed up his admission of Song’s departure with:

“Midfield is an area where we have much more freedom to make decisions”

That answer was in conjunction with the potential acquisition of Nuri Sahin. So it seems we may lose our Cameroonian enforcer but gain a new member in the Real Madrid midfielder. Not a like for like replacement as Wenger maybe has plans for other players currently in the squad to step into that defensive role. Francis Coquelin could continue his development and rise to the challenge if thrown into the role. Wenger revealed Emmanuel Frimpong is three weeks away from starting training which is great news and then we also have Abou Diaby’s return to fitness. On paper we are well stocked for that position in reality it’s not that simple, could interest in Yann M’vila be reignited? Possibly especially since Arsene has a spare £24m in his back pocket now.

In another bit of interesting news, the squad numbers have been updated for the new season and the no.10 shirt which we all thought was being reserved for Lukas Podolski has actually been awarded to Jack Wilshere. A great honour for the young Englishman and the sooner we see him donning that shirt and restoring some legendary status back to that number after it was tarnished by the previous tenant the better.

Jack was overly pleased with the number and explained:

“It’s such an honor for me,”

“Getting the No 10 shirt again at the Club means so much to me as I wore it all through the youth teams at Arsenal.”

Nice touch Jack and I’m sure you will do the shirt service like the last Dutch legend DB10 as he revealed:

“It has a special place for all attacking or creative players. I feel proud to wear it now after some real Club legends have worn it, such as Dennis Bergkamp.”

Podolski has taken up the no.9 shirt after Park was demoted moved to no.30 the move makes sense. No.9 is one of the premier attacking numbers and it would be fitting it went to a player more likely to be in the starting XI. Park appears to be on borrowed time and will probably move on by the time the transfer window closes.

Francis Coquelin has also been rewarded for his rise through the ranks and into 1st team recognition by taking on Gael Clichy’s old number 22.

I hope you guys have done your fantasy league teams for the new season. I decided to finalize mine last night to avoid a possible meltdown of the fantasy premier league website as many of the last minute fans rush to register their team. The exact thing happened last year and the website was forced to start the season a week later to compensate. Get ‘em in early to avoid disappointment, use the details below:

Join my mini league  at http://fantasy.premierleague.com/ and prove you have what it takes. Join the Gambeano Snitch league with the following entry code: 377771-102013.

Register, create your team then click join a league and enter the code when prompted.

Depending on numbers there may be a prize available for the overall winner. Prize TBC

It’s free to join, you have nothing to lose!!

Enjoy the first day of the new season people

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