Arsenal’s Fire Sale now on

The January Sales seem to have started at the Emirates, a number of players have been linked with moves away from the club in the past couple days. The fans have demanded signings to change our stuttering fortunes and it seems the manager has taken note.

As I understand the rules will still apply on the number of players you can have named in each premier league squad and so it seems we will move on the players surplus to requirement before any new faces come in.

One of the mistakes we probably made in the summer was not shifting on certain players that were not in the managers plans early enough and we were then left with the problem of not commanding buyers  for those players. Instead we had to make do with makeshift season-long loans and in Arshavin’s case keeping on a player. I still believe Arshavin could have done a job for us this season but his sparse appearances this season more or less signalled Wenger’s true feelings on the player. Players like Bendtner and Denilson are still AFC players despite the possibility of never wearing an Arsenal shirt again but their generous contracts they signed with us played a part in their reluctance to run out of the back door.

squillachi

This time around the first business in place it seems is the shifting on of players. Johan Djourou seems on his way to Hannover, Sebastian Squillachi on his way to Bastia and Maroune Chamakh is seemingly on his way to West Ham. The moves seem imminent although not confirmed yet Arsene did manage to confirm at least that Squillachi and Djourou have his blessing to find new clubs.

chamakh

With the spaces made by those players’ departures it seems clear Arsene Wenger has his targets, although he keeps his cards close to his chest it appears quite logical a defender will be a potential signing. All the rumoured players so far have been offensive players so it will be interesting to see who does come in.

The offensive side seems to hang in the balance depending on the developments of Theo Walcott’s contract situation. We have missed out on Demba Ba and the motives for Wilfred Zaha’s move seems more based on being a replacement signing rather than an addition to the squad.

The most important thing of all is the fact that Arsene is moving his chess pieces into place, he knows he cannot use returning injured players as new signings. The squad needs recruits and any players coming in have to be improvements on the players that move on.

This will be an interesting January, a month in which we have a few tough games coming up; a few bad results and the fans will be sure to let Arsene and the team know their true feelings.

Enjoy your day people.

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Reading FC next up, Szczesny to start? AFC

Capital one cup tonight, many of the first team will be afforded a rest ahead of the premiership trip to Old Trafford this Saturday. Arsene’s line up is likely to include a number of fringe players in need of vital match practise while a few younger more raw players will be utilized from the bench. We have a high number of fringe players more used to first team action that can provide the necessary experience for a cup game like this. Reading will be no push over and the policy of fielding a team with the majority youngsters has been relaxed over the past couple seasons.

Although the capital one cup is way down the managers list of priorities to achieve each season there is still an element of seriousness in preparation for the competition. Arsene fields the teams he feels can win the games they play by ensuring the right balance between experience and youth is struck. In the home ties there are more opportunities to field more youth as the occasion and buzz from the crowd can have a positive effect on their performance. In away ties the pressure is a lot different and the younger players have to be in Arsene’s eyes up for the challenge.

Reading is far from an easy game, they are a premiership level team now and will be highly motivated to progress in the competition. The relationship between arsenal and reading has been a good one over the years; many young players have experienced loan spells at the club to further their development. Steven Sidwell made a permanent transfer to the club after a good loan deal there and most recently Benik Afobe enjoyed the promotion experience after joining the club on loan towards the tail end of last season.

The game tonight will be a chance for players such as Andrei Arshavin, Johan Djourou and Theo Walcott to stake a claim for inclusion to the squad for Saturday. Theo is likely to receive the opportunity to play in his favoured role to continue his ongoing battle of proving his worth as a central striker. Arshavin has the opportunity to earn a role in the team now that a void has been created by the injury to Gervinho. There has still been no official clarification of the injury to Gervinho. At the game on Saturday he seemed to pull up after planting a cross from the byline. He hobbled off the pitch and as the game carried on the medical team spent quite a bit of time tending to the Ivorian. He was eventually taken from the field of play on a stretcher. Arshavin impressed in parts in the last round against Coventry and a repeat tonight will definitely put him in contention.

Ignasi Miquel and Johan Djourou are likely to continue their partnership at the back whilst Carl Jenkinson may get a run out after losing his place to Sagna on Saturday. Serge Gnarbry is likely to get more minutes on the pitch to impress the gunners faithful. Wenger clearly likes the boy and the capital one cup is the perfect platform to showcase his talent; he is likely to be joined at some point by his german compatriot Thomas Eisfeld.

Eisfeld is probably one who has yet to be given many chances to play first team football this season, after impressing with some goal scoring displays for the first team in pre-season I half expected more opportunities for the German. Understandably the role he plays is fully stocked in the first team squad so chances like tonight need to be utilised to remind the manager of his potential.

One possible surprise in tonight’s line up is the return of Szczesny. Although Dami Martinez warrants an opportunity to play against Reading the chance to blood our Polish keeper in some first team action may be too tempting to ignore. Sczcesny joined the squad for training yesterday and being a keeper the fitness side of his game is not as essential as say a midfielder. The old Trafford game on Saturday may be in sight for our number one so do not be surprised if he is named in the team tonight. This would be a massive boost for the team, the fans and all concerned with arsenal. No disrespect to Vito Mannone who has had some good games for us but it is quite clear he is not ready to wrestle the number one jersey from our Polish stopper.

Emmanuel Frimpong is likely to start the game to continue his rehabilitation from injury. Our Ghanaian Hardman will relish the opportunity to play in this game and is in no rush to force his way into the first team. The two injuries he suffered over the past two seasons are enough for him to be cautious and not rush back and risk breaking down again. I for one hope that he is over the big injuries and can now kick on to the next stage and fulfil the potential he showed before injuries. It all starts from tonight. Although slightly nervous of the outcome of the tie it is not impossible for us to gain a win. Reading although likely to contain more of their premiership line up can still be beaten. We have enough quality and experience to give as good as we get. Come on you gunners!

Enjoy your day people.

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Laurent Koscielny: Providing stability in times of unrest

Robin van Persie. Yes, he’s virtually gone, but we shouldn’t let that dampen the optimism that surrounded the club pre-RVP statement. We all know that it’s a blow – any team who loses their captain, top scorer and best player can agree with that – but it’s definitely not the end of the world. Although, reports have transpired this morning, emanating from the ever reputable L’Équipe, that Laurent Koscielny wants to sign a new deal, a stark contract from our ‘captain’ and talisman.

In many Arsenal fans’ opinions, Laurent Koscielny was our best defender last season – I agree with that.

Ever since his arrival, in the Summer of 2010, from FC Lorient, opinion has differed on the pacey centre-half. The 2010/’11 season, his first in English football, wasn’t a resounding success. His calamitous blunder in the Carling Cup Final affirmed what Arsenal fans had believed to be the truth – he’s a ‘terrible centre-back’. Looking back on it, most of those Arsenal fans were justified. As previously mentioned, his Carling Cup Final mishap was nigh-on unforgivable. His ‘air kick’ ultimately denied our chance to put the ‘7 trophyless seasons curse’ firmly to bed. Not the best of starts for the French centre-back.

Although, Koscielny’s revival to form was meteoric. After his Carling Cup cock-up, he reappearaed in the Arsenal first-team as a new player, a rejuvenated man. His dominant, clean tackling became an iconic image during the latter half of Arsenal’s season. Koscielny’s reading of the game was something which any world-class centre-back could take pride upon – often breaking up opposition attacks before setting off on one of his own. This, once again, posed a problem as it would influence the fans’ perception of Koscielny, a perception which took a negative turn on 27th of February, 2011.

Laurent has forged a formidable partnership with Thomas Vermaelen.

Intelligent, pacey, strong and positive are all adjectives which Koscielny has inherited. His game revolves around his intelligent, future-thinking mind set, and this is his main asset. This is what, in my opinion, has endeared himself even further to Arsène Wenger and the Arsenal faithful. It’s an asset which most Arsenal player needs – a trail of thought which is capable to handle the quick-tempo, free flowing Arsenal philosophy.

This season has been his best in an Arsenal shirt, and offers much optimism for the future. He was most certainly Arsenal’s best defender last season and, in the process, repaying the faith in him from manager Arsène Wenger. The arrival of Per Mertesacker was a welcome incentive to up his game too. International honours came calling too – a destination which many thought was a long, long way away after his debut season at Arsenal. He travelled with the French squad to Ukraine for the European Championships after making his French debut against USA.

The arrival of Olivier Giroud to the Emirates was influenced by Laurent Koscielny himself, who’s a close friend to the former Montpellier man.

One thing that is needed when a member of Arsenal’s squad, something which Arsène Wenger looks for in any possible target, is the said player’s demeanor and ability on the ball. Composure, assurance and confidence are all musts for any Arsenal player, wherever they play on the field, and Laurent Koscielny has the aforementioned qualities in abundance.

It transpired this morning from French newspaper L’Équipe, on the 9th of July, that Laurent Koscielny was seeking a new contract at Arsenal, with the club keen to grant him one. No-one can say that he hasn’t deserved it. It’s reported that Laurent Koscielny was on the shopping list for Italian side Internazionale, therefore tying him down to a new contract is even more essential;

The London club would like to do re-sign [Laurent Koscielny] for three more years, until 2017.

Extracted from Monday’s L’Équipe

I, like many other Arsenal fans, are delighted with this positive news. With much negativity and disappointment surrounding Arsène Wenger’s side, not to mention the widespread unjust criticism of Arsenal’s hierarchy, it’s a welcome boost to the club. Much like he does on the pitch, Laurent Koscielny has now provided stability in a time of unrest.

As important as it is to challenge here and now, it’ still important that we have a stable foundation to build upon for the future – tethering down Koscielny to a long-term deal will go a long way towards setting that solid base. The long-term future of the centre-back position seems stable. The trio of Vermaelen, Mertesacker and Djourou all have contracts which expire in the Summer of 2015, while Ignasi Miquel, the young Catalan cornerstone, and Kyle Bartley also look to have a bright future ahead of them, in particular the former of the two.
In a week of uncertainty and confusion, the news of Laurent Koscielny, as mentioned above, is a welcome boost to the spirits of the squad. Commitment and loyalty has all but disappeared from the modern game, but there are a few determined souls who’ll fight and truly love a club – Laurent Koscielny seems to be one of those. Mérci, Laurent! 
I hope you all enjoyed my guest piece! Follow me on Twitter: @LlewAFC

Will Arsene need to address right back position? – AFC

With all the transfer talk over the past week or so focusing on the potential strikers, midfielders and centre backs coming into the club it seems one vital area of the Arsenal team has been neglected.  The right back position in my opinion is an area that will require attention before the season starts. I am sure Arsene Wenger has taken this into consideration and possibly has it all worked out already but I believe any decision lays heavily on the developments of Bacary Sagna’s recovery from his fractured right fibula.

The right back area is equally as important an area as any of the striking positions or midfield and we need to make sure we are covered adequately enough in that position. Bacary is the main man in that position and so any right backs during his extended period on the side-lines merely serve the purpose of keeping his seat warm until he returns. And there is where the problem lies, how long can we cope without cover of the same calibre of Sagna?

In the current squad the obvious candidate to fill that void is Carl Jenkinson. My question is whether young Carl can raise his game to reach such heights that we are not calling for Sagna’s return. I believe in Jenkinson’s abilities however I class him more as potential rather than the finished article.  He is Arsenal through and through and would give everything when on the pitch; he loves the club and that is a great motivation for any player.  He is still learning his craft though and still has a few things he needs to work on with his defending.

One thing Arsene Wenger has not been scared of is to throw youngsters he believes in into the deep end and see if they could sink or swim. He certainly did that with Ashley Cole a few years back, Clichy too and last season he planned the same with Kieran Gibbs. Unfortunately for Gibbs injuries certainly disrupted his promotion however he has grown into that role when he has had a run of games.

Beyond Carl Jenkinson there is not much on offer for cover if in the unlikely event Carl also requires time on the side-lines. We experimented with a number of players in the right back position when Carl and Bacary were injured last season to mixed results.

We experimented with Centre backs playing in there. Johan Djourou had a stint there. At the time we had were fully stocked for centre backs and the right back availability was a chance for Johan to get into the team. Although Johan started off ok in that position, he added height at the back and was generally comfortable on the ball he didn’t offer much in an attacking sense to the team which is understandable. He was also suspect against any attacking players who dribble at the defender. He was found wanting a number of times against those types of players. Junior Hoillet, Antonio Valencia and Nani come to mind. In his defence he is a centre back by trade and was doing his bit to help the team by covering at a time when we needed cover.

Laurent Koscielny also had a few games at right back and to be honest was quite impressive there. I believe he mentioned in an interview he has played there previously in France and does not find the position too alien to him. One drawback from that arrangement was that from all the good we gained from Koscielny playing right back we missed his presence and all the positives he brought to the centre of defence. We needed him in the middle more than at full back and in conjunction with Mertesacker’s injury against Sunderland that option became null and void.

The midfielders gave it a try too. Francis Coquelin slotted into the right back position and was quite impressive there however maybe due to the extra sprinting that position involves he obtained a few injuries which were in effect muscle pulls.  In the grand scheme of things Coquelin is a midfielder and that is the position he learned his craft and sees his future so any stint at right back was merely short-term solution. Adaptability is no bad thing and I’m sure he is prepared to play there if ever needed.

Nico Yennaris is another player who is a midfielder primarily but had played a few games at right back last season. He actually played alright in that games but is very raw and would benefit more from a loan spell to aid his development. I would not expect him to be called upon apart from maybe Carling cup games.

One thing that strikes me is over the years we have churned out so many promising left backs yet in the right back position we have tended to always have established more experienced right backs purchased. I cannot remember the last time a young right back has been on the lips of gunners fans as one to watch out for. Justin Hoyte is the last youth player I can recall who broke into fringes of the first team and maybe Kerrea Gilbert but those two players never really fulfilled any promise.

At present there are a couple of names in the youth set up who could possibly make the breakthrough though it is still quite early days for them. The Neymar lookalike Martin Angha and his Swiss compatriot Sead Hajrovic are just names for the future for now. We clearly need to buck the trend and produce some future Arsenal right backs.

In the meantime it’s over to you Carl Jenkinson. Get your head down, work hard over the summer and make that right back spot your own. Well until Sagna is back…

Enjoy your day people.