Dreams Really Did Come True For Arsenal Against Fulham

Now that is how you start a new season. Yesterday I threw some caution to the wind as promoted teams have the potential to throw a spanner into the works. Luckily it didn’t turn out that way as the Arsenal team ran out comfortable winners against new boys Fulham.

A couple of the new boys in Gabriel and Willian started the match, both of them contributing largely to the win, Our star striker scored a trademark peach of a goal and we kept a clean sheet. What wasn’t to love about that? The only dampener was the fact the fans weren’t able to be there in person to celebrate with the team.

It really was an impressive start and that feeling of being top of the league for however long it lasts does feel nice. Let’s enjoy it while we can as you can never guarantee once you are off the top how long before you return.

So what were the takeaway points from the game? Well I could start with before the game as BT Sports weren’t slow in beaming out footage of a warm up spat between Dani Ceballos and Eddie Nketiah. Yes, things were a little heated in a couple of clashes but the whole thing was over as soon as it started. The two players sharing a picture of solidarity post match to quash any overzealous journalist’s plans to take their first chips at Arteta’s Arsenal amour with a negative story.

With that out the way and the game underway all eyes were on the new boys. It raised a few eyebrows when William Saliba wasn’t even named on the bench given the injury to David Luiz. Arteta has his reasons and the young Frenchman’s chance will come but in his absence Gabriel was given his first start and he didn’t fail to impress.

Gabriel winning over teammates instantly.

Admittedly in the opening few minutes there was one moment where a mix up with Leno could have led to a goal but beyond that initial moment the performance of the Brazilian was calm, composed and dominant. The icing on the cake was a debut goal and clean sheet to make for an instant impact to his Arsenal career. I’m liking this start and there’s capacity for him to get better and better, a massive tick of approval on this signing so far.

As for the other new boy, Willian took to his berth in the Arsenal line-up like a duck to water. Understandably he has bags of premiership experience and has been one of Chelsea’s leading players over the years. His quality was not a surprise and I’m sure that now those that may have doubted his signing might have got a glimmer of what he has to offer.

Willian with a pleased Arteta

A debut with two (or three depending on how rose tinted your glasses are) assists isn’t too shabby at all. His quality shone through and he has laid down the gauntlet of competition to his new colleagues that also occupy his position. Competition is healthy and it will no doubt bring out the best in the players. They cannot afford to rest on their laurels and there will be an expectation to bring their A game when called on to the pitch.

Lacazette chipped in with a goal which is always great for a striker to get off the mark nice an early into the season and of course our skipper contributed with what is becoming a trademark finish.

A finish I’d like to call the reverse Robben, you know that goal where he would fly down the right hand side, cut in onto his left, work an opening and bang! Back of the net. Aubamyang’s finish was almost a carbon copy of his last goal against Liverpool in the Charity Shield in the way he cut himself an opening inside his marker then provided a finish of pure quality, power, bend and accuracy into the far corner. I wouldn’t say you don’t save those but more often than not even the best keepers struggle to handle such finishes. Another goal and the hope is a final conclusion to a new and improved signed contract this week.

One thing noticed was the absence of Emi Martinez from the squad and if reports are correct then he is on his way to Aston Villa. It will be sad to see the Argentinian go. He spent many years as an understudy in the hope of one day becoming number one keeper. Last season really was a defining moment in his career and one he hasn’t needed to look back from since. It has been a meteoric rise in such a short space of time and Arsenal fans can’t begrudge him the ambition he has to be a number one keeper somewhere. There are many keepers out there happy to be a career number two, pick up their wages, play a handful of games and be content with that.

Martinez will be missed but will always be remembered for his contributions.

Martinez has proved himself a very able keeper and a return to the Argentinian national squad and potentially become a feature for them is a very realistic possibility with club football as a number one. From a selfish perspective having two top quality keepers would be ideal but we can’t begrudge one of our longest serving current players an opportunity to be more than a number two.

It’s funny when you look back to that game against Brighton when Leno got injured and the amount of dread that spread through the fans that the season would be seen out with an understudy. Martinez had deputised many times in the past but it’s really from the Brighton game that he proved all those years of hard work were visible in his performances. Can you imagine his worth before the Brighton game compared to now? He will be leaving us for a fee circa £20m which will hopefully be spent wisely on reinforcements.

The Martinez story could act as inspiration to the current crop of keepers and Matt Macey another keeper who has put in the years at the club could take any opportunities that come his way with both hands. Although I think a new keeper may come in, the door is not shut on current personnel to prove their selves. Let’s see how this one plays out.

For now we can just bask in the knowledge that we are top of the league and for our new signing Gabriel dreams can come true.

Enjoy you day people.

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Please Don’t burst Any Bubbles On Day One Arsenal

And so we have arrived at the dawn of a new season. The optimism has returned, the belief, the hope, the expectation; it’s all there in abundance. With a new season comes a reset of sorts, many fans instantly dismiss the roller coaster ride of the previous season and address the new one with a clean slate. The title is on despite finishing the last season 20/30…40 points behind the champions. A cup is obtainable this time, top four? Top 6? Upper half of table finish? Avoid relegation.

Ready for new season

We as football fans start the season with many bubbles which inevitably burst as the season progresses but it’s nice to be at that point until that reality kicks in. My club has every chance as much as the next team to win everything on offer until the first ball is kicked and the first round of games complete to calibrate some home truths.

You can’t blame Arsenal fans for feeling optimistic leading into this new season. Of course the league title is very far fetched but… but there’s a feel good factor that has returned to the fan base. A feel good factor helped in part by the rewarding end of season silverware earned and a promising charity shield victory over the reigning champions.

There’s been some shrewd transfer dealings too but with the window still open for a few more weeks yet there’s plenty that could change on the incomings and outgoings of the playing staff.

Our new Head Coach has won over many of the doubters that questioned his initial appointment. The new respect has been well earned and I’m sure that the same way the players are clearly buying in to his idea and philosophy the fans are mirroring that.

As Arsenal fans although many of us may seem demanding but in reality we just want the good football back. With the good football the rewards will follow, the DNA of the club had been siphoned out over the past few years and it’s about time we instilled some discipline and quality that many fans were raised on and always associated with Wenger Arsenal teams.   

The club I feel is on an upward trajectory however it will be a bumpy ride, plenty highs and lows but the important thing is to acknowledge we have the right man in the job and we stand by him through the good and the bad until we get back to where we belong.

So first up is an away trip to newly promoted Fulham, no offence Fulham fans but I really wanted Brentford to win that playoff final. Nothing personal but we’ve been there done that with Fulham, would have been nice to get a new entity in the mix. From what I recall there haven’t been a massive influx of major signings pouring in to Craven Cottage so it seems much reliance is on the team that won promotion (many who saw through relegation too). The keeper coming in Areola is a good acquisition but it seems a lot of hopes fall on Mitrovic and how impactful his anger management sessions over the season break have been.

On paper you wouldn’t be laughed at for expecting an Arsenal win however its opening day of the season, a promoted team with the motivation to prove they aren’t dropping straight back into the Championship and with no fans it’s still unclear who the advantage lies with anymore. 

With the news of the David Luiz injury it’s highly likely we will see one if not both of William Saliba and Gabriel in the starting line-up. I’d expect Arteta not to radicalise the back line instantly and sway to more familiarity at the back meaning Holding and possibly Tierney occupying centre back positions if we go with a back three leading to either Gabriel or Saliba joining them.

Will Saliba start today?

We may see Willian for the first time, it will be interesting to see some competition in those wide areas between Willian, Pepe, Saka and Aubamyang.  It’s actually quite difficult to predict what the line-up will be today but most importantly it’s exciting to get some football back again. We might not be able to go to games and a lot of opening day traditions will have to be put on pause but my God it’s great to have it back. A lot of questions may be answered such as will Ozil and  Guendouzi ever appear in a squad again, will Nketiah start up front ahead of Lacazette, will Ceballos slot straight back into starting eleven, will Arteta wear a tracksuit or slim fit designer clobber?

One thing I do hope is that many of those bubbles I alluded to earlier stay intact after this first game. Let’s start this season well and see where Arteta can take us.  Come on Arsenal!

P.S. As it’s a new season I’m sure many of you have been tearing your hair out deciding your final FPL squads,  hopefully you are now is a settled place and are ready to take on your respective leagues. Well, why not add another league to your bow and join mine. I’m looking to reward the winner with a prize. Come join up, take me on, it’ll be fun. Sign up with the link below or use the following code:

Good luck.

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Giroud magic ensures Gunners keep on going

A game that will be remembered for that goal more than anything else. The terminology of ‘Scorpion kick’ was something I only associated with Rene Higuita’s audacious piece of skill during a friendly against England many years ago now in the space of a week it’s the term of choice to describe the jaw dropping new way to score a special goal.

To be fair the one from Mik.. Miki..Miktarian the Armenian midfielder and Giroud’s one yesterday were both pieces of individual spontaneous excellence that they should be appreciated for what they are rather than debating which was onside better.

giroud-2

Fantastic goal aside the most important thing was getting the three points against Crystal Palace, regardless of their erratic form this was a potential banana skin for the Gunners. Under new management it can always be a dangerous time to play a team as all the players have a point to prove to earn their place in Big Sam’s plans. Additionally there was added pressure on the Arsenal players to get the win to keep up the pace with Chelsea and Liverpool and fend off the chasing pack knowing all the rival teams’ bar Man City gained maximum points.

The points were gained however goal difference could play an important part come the final stages of the season and if there is one criticism I have to throw at the team it was the lack of killer instinct to really put Crystal Palace to bed. Yes the performance was comfortable and yes there is another game in a matter of days but it would be far easier to take your foot off the gas in the game once the club are three to four goals up. It seemed the magic of Giroud’s goal set a feel good mood amongst the players and the fans but any sign of urgency was muted.

The team played it safe and you could sense that a search for a second goal wasn’t high priority. Crystal Palace has been wretched of late but they are still capable of putting the ball in the back of the net. I wouldn’t say it’s a vote of no confidence to say keeping a clean sheet is far from impossible for the Arsenal but the team has got the capacity to fall asleep at the back when they are at their most comfortable. The first half petered out very comfortably and I have to admit it was worrying that the mindset of the players might get complacent in the second half.

On the plus side the team did come out in the second half more determined to get a second and kill off the game unfortunately the other Achilles heel reared its ugly head: profligacy. Many chances came and went, Alex Iwobi did eventually put the ball in the net to calm a few nerves but when the final whistle did eventually blow you couldn’t help but feel Palace were let off in a game which could easily has ended with four or five goals for the Gunners. At times it seemed like Crystal Palace players were trying their best to gift the team goals but they were politely declined each time through wasteful finishing.

ox

Like I mentioned the win was the most important thing and the finishing aspect is just a slight frustration because at times this season we have seen our rivals up against similar and they have been ruthless. It would be nice to see this Arsenal team show no mercy a bit more often, all will be forgotten if we beat Bournemouth in the next game.

You may have noticed I have risen from the ashes to provide a blog post, 2016 has not been the most fruitful year for this site but I hope to put that right in 2017. Start the year as I mean to go on… commenting on Arsenal victories.

I’ll see you on the other side after the Bournemouth game, in the meantime here’s some food for thought after yesterday’s game:

With Giroud now starting and scoring in games is it hindering the influence of Alexis Sanchez?

Flamini returned yesterday but do you recall seeing any contribution he made in the game?

Mustafi is now back, does he replace Gabriel now that the Brazilian has finally settled in the team?

Feel free to discuss in the comments section. Other than that enjoy your day people!

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Valentine’s celebrations all round for the Gunners.

Now that is the way to end a game, to win with effectively the last kick of the game you would struggle to find a scenario which can be bettered in football. It may not be the winner on the final day of the season but when you consider the turn of events during the game the relief, joy and ecstasy experienced in one special moment will live long in Gunners’ fans memories. The fact that it was Danny Welbeck who got the winner made for a Hollywood script in its execution.

Other than the fact that many Gunners fans most likely spent the rest of their Valentine’s day with a loss of voice I’m sure the spouses of those very same fans will have enjoyed the company of their partner in one of the best moods of their lives (well, those who didn’t decide to celebrate the victory down the pub for the rest of the day).

Leading up to this game the pressure was on the Gunners to get a result to avoid losing touch with Leicester. Home advantage meant little, you only had to see Leicester’s result at the Etihad last week to realise that Arsenal were coming up against a team in top form playing with no fear whatsoever. Much talk was over how the Gunners would cope with the pace of the Leicester attack and the overwhelming consensus was the choice of Gabriel to partner Koscielny at the back was best to deal with the threat of Vardy, Mahrez et al.

About an hour before kick-off news filtered through that Gabriel was in fact injured and Per Mertesacker had returned to the line-up. Not the news everyone wanted to hear however it is easy to forget Mertesacker has got to where he has in his career never having pace. Reading of the game and 100% focus is equally important and I stand corrected for also having kittens when the team news first broke.

Generally we did ok handling the pace of Leicester, understandably the red card to Danny Simpson made defending somewhat easier in the second half but it is those very moments in the past where Arsenal have shot themselves in the foot from a comfortable position. You need to be focused, well organised and concentrate at all times to reap the benefits of the victory gained.  Not forgetting Koscielny was replaced at half time and the slightly raw and less pacey Callum Chambers replaced him. The chances that Leicester did create were more down to great build up rather than exposing any lack of pace.

This post is less focused on providing a match report and more focusing on the key points of the game so it is definitely worth touching on Ozil’s performance.

Now if I’m being honest yesterday happened to be one of the worst performances I have seen from Mesut Ozil in a long time. I am one of his biggest backers and this season has certainly been one of his best in an Arsenal shirt but yesterday absolutely nothing was coming off for him. Every neat flick and trick did not come off; he dwelled on the ball that micro-second longer than usual which resulted in him getting dispossessed in good positions and his head seemed to drop at the frustration. I do not even recall hearing his recent chant being heard from the stands and that can only be testament to a performance below the excellent high standards which have been set.

Another assist.

 

Having said that the key assist to the winner came from the very boot of Mesut Ozil. If anything it proves that when you have class players on the pitch even if they are having a bad game there is always the possibility of that one piece of quality that can be produced to win you the game. Take your star player off at your peril, well done Arsene on keeping the faith.

Special notice goes to Danny Welbeck for his fantastic winner after such a long time out injured. He may not be everyone’s cup of tea but he certainly endeared himself that little bit more to Gunners fans in his time with the club. His naming on the bench came as a surprise given Arsene’s caution in handling his comeback but at the final whistle the choice was justified.

The tough games are coming thick and fast with Man United, Barcelona and Spurs game not too far away it hits home how important 3 points were yesterday. It is hoped the recent blip is now behind the Arsenal and a chance to prove true title resolve will be taken with both hands.

Enjoy your day people

 

 

Will Arsenal Make The Most Of Transfer Deadline Day?

As the transfer windows draws towards shutting today many Arsenal fans are still left scratching their heads wondering if the club will address the problem areas which have been identified since last season to turn Arsenal from nearly men to genuine contenders for league honours. Gary Neville’s words last Monday may have ruffled a few feathers amongst the Arsenal hierarchy however it was hard for many Gunners’ fans not to agree with some of the points addressed.

The good feeling and belief from a near perfect pre season was wiped instantly on opening day and the grumbles and moans have become more and more audible with each week that Arsenal fail to live up to the big expectations laid upon them. A few results have been churned out to repair the opening day damage but the quality of performance in general has been lacking from the play.

Will the often pleaded signings of a defensive midfield challenger and top class striker have made a difference to the games so far? Most likely, in the same way that any new signings can boost a team’s performance on a psychological level.  Petr Cech is no doubt an excellent acquisition but the deficiencies outfield are yet to be addressed.

Francis Coquelin has earned his way into the 1st team but much of his elevation to the Arsenal team has been fuelled by a hunger last season to prove himself. That is only part of the battle, once you rise to the top and receive the plaudits you require a new focus to maintain the upward trajectory of influence upon the team.

Right now there is no one in the Arsenal squad that offers true competition to Francis Coquelin’s position in the defensive midfield role of the team. He can sit pretty in the knowledge that there is no true challenger to keep him on his toes from the likes of Arteta and Flamini. Beyond those two is the promising but completely raw Bielik and that is where the problem lies. It is not to say that Coquelin’s performances have been poor so far this season but the threat of complacency setting in is very real.

I can almost liken the defensive midfield conundrum to the goalkeeping situation at the club a few years back. Sczcesny rose through the ranks to become number 1 choice between the sticks for the club. At the time it was deserved, he was fulfilling his potential and making a go of it. His challengers at the time Vito Mannone and Lukasz Fabianski although as proved now are far better keepers than many believed at the time were never ever a threat to the number one jersey.

mannone

Season after season with no true threat to his position you could see the complacency set in with the Polish stopper. Instead of pushing on to a higher level he became stagnant in the knowledge he was number one and anytime Manone or Fabianski played they dropped a clanger. I still believe Sczcesny to be a good keeper but the professionalism and concentration in his game has waned in the last couple years. The arrival of Ospina was the kick up the arse he needed and although he is out on loan the door is not shut on his Arsenal career. It’s up to him to get his head down and focus on what is required of a top level goalkeeper and win back his place and respect of his peers.

Now we don’t want that situation to occur with Coquelin, an ideal situation is for him to have a genuine threat to his position in the team. A player that could usurp Coquelin if his level of performance drops and require him to fight to earn back his place.  At present Arteta and Flamini offer something to the squad but their best days are behind them and in all honesty do not pose genuine competition to Coquelin. Can Wenger surprise us and address this area of the team or will his loyalty to current midfield cloud his judgement?

Up front is the other problem area and you do wonder if the striking position will be addressed. All Arsenal fans can see it, all pundits can see it but the one man who can make it happen does he see it or choose to ignore it? With Danny Welbeck currently out of the picture the argument that a top striker is needed may be falling on deaf ears. Arsenal fans can argue that so far Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott haven’t delivered as much as we would like. The big question is whether Arsene Wenger has the ‘like a new signing’ excuse readied for Welbeck’s return as his answer to the criticism.

When we review Arsenals strikers’ you could say that Olivier Giroud offers power but lacks pace and a clinical finish. Theo Walcott offers Pace but lacks power and a clinical finish whilst Danny Welbeck offers Pace and Power but is probably the least clinical finisher of the three.

welbeck

The answer to all Arsenal’s striking problems is a striker that has all three attributes but they aren’t exactly hanging off trees. I struggle to list off established strikers that fit that criteria, it’s an exclusive club and is likely to cause some serious damage to the Arsenal Cheque book to acquire any. Arsenal have the spending power now  to get most players they desire, despite Manchester City doing their best to implode the market a top striker should still be acquirable within a non astronomical price range.

deadline day

All Arsenal fans can do now is sit back and watch how the rest of the day unfolds. For ITK’s today is like Christmas day, expect an avalanche of BS stories clogging your timelines/feeds.

Enjoy your day people.
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