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!

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Snitch is back, Afc lose, No Sahin, Arshavin to Fulham?

Well what a difference 3 weeks makes, I jetted off for my holidays to the US of A full of optimism we could keep our captain and build on our squad. By the time I touched down in Orlando and found an internet connection our skipper released his infamous letter to the fans. I managed to relay my views at the time but since then I’ve been enjoying my time in the sun with the help of Mickey and his friends at Disneyland. Now after finally flying back, overcoming the jet lag and returning to work I now can resume sharing Arsenal news and my thoughts you with via the blog.

In between the midst of the buzz created by the Olympics opening ceremony Arsenal managed to play a game against Manchester City in Beijing around lunchtime on Friday. A game which the gunners lost 2-0 and produced a number of positives and negatives really. Some of those were the same old we have been used to, defence going to sleep at times, full backs caught out of position for the goals, sloppy passes leading to chances for Man city. We did create a number of chances but the age-old Achilles heel of profligate finishing reared its ugly head. Our second half performance was more forceful and the introduction of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain certainly added more class to the Arsenal team.

In general I won’t start doom-mongering the forthcoming season based on the game. It’s pre-season, only our second game and many 1st team players have not even travelled to Asia. It’s a good exercise especially for the more fringe players and should benefit our players in removing some of the rust. I think the most important thing is the younger players show they can rise to the occasion and give Arsene Wenger food for thought. So far Chuks Aneke has stood out, Eisfeld’s goal in the last game will not go unnoticed and Bartley is getting vital time on the field to stake a claim.

Benik Afobe’s pre-season hasn’t taken off yet as he was quite wasteful against the Malaysian XI and didn’t get as much minutes against Man City but I’m confident he can still show what he can do. Craig Eastmond, a player who must be in last chance saloon got some minutes and it was interesting to see him slotting temporarily into the right back role. It was a position he played in throughout youth, some claimed he wasn’t a great right back and he came to prominence from the moment he was shifted to midfield by Wenger against Liverpool in the Carling cup. I believe the key to his Arsenal future is his potential versatility, if he can produce as cover in the right back role he may just rekindle his place in Arsene’s good books; the ball is in his court.

In other news Arsene Wenger has dismissed news of the imminent loan of Nuri Sahin from Real Madrid. In the press conference after the Man city game Wenger when probed about a deal said:

 “We did not sign anybody today, this report is wrong. We are not signing anybody at the moment, we are not close. In the future you never know.”

Typical Wenger statement really, keeping his cards close to his chest though if a deal was close he may have hinted. If any deal is on the table for Sahin or Santi Cazorla I do hope they get wrapped up pretty quick before any of our rivals come knocking with their blank checkbooks. We do not have good form when it comes to dawdling on negotiations for potential signings (and contract renewals it seems) so let’s keep our fingers crossed some more deals are conducted swiftly and under the radar like they were for Podolski and Giroud.

Another piece of news that surfaced yesterday is the news that Fulham are interested in signing Andrei Arshavin and Yossi Benayoun. Quite an ambitious move by the west London club if true but also slightly disappointing news to hear. Yossi is a player that many gunners fans would welcome back to the club after his stint with us last season, he showed he had what was needed when he got his chance and if available I don’t see why it would be a gamble to take him on unless there are other midfielders in the pipeline that may be signed before the window shuts. I would also be disappointed if Arshavin was to move across London to Fulham, he may be frustrating on his day but I still class him as a premium player that can still make things happen at larger clubs that play to his strengths. That would be a backwards step in my eyes and I couldn’t see that partnership being a success. Who knows, lets see how this one plays out

Enjoy your day people

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Ramsey wanted by Fulham, Giroud deal agreed – AFC

News started circulating yesterday that Aaron Ramsey is on the radar of Fulham. It has been suggested that the west London club are preparing a bid for the Welsh captain as they look to find a replacement for Danny Murphy who yesterday signed for Blackburn rovers on a free. Murphy has been a big player for Fulham over the years and it would be no surprise that Fulham would look to a big player to fill his boots. Ramsey hasn’t had the best of times in the season gone; Arsenal fans were divided in support for the Welshman as his form fluctuated throughout the season.

In Ramsey’s defence it was his first full season at Arsenal after his horrific leg break, he was not rushed back into the side as Arsene Wenger took on the cautious approach to his rehabilitation. A couple of loan moves in the 2010-11 season helped him along the way and with a full pre-season behind him he seemed ready to work his way back to the level he reached before the long term injury.

One thing that wasn’t in the plan was the long term injury to jack Wilshere which disrupted Arsenal’s midfield options through the season. This in turn led to Ramsey playing a lot more games than planned. In a season where he should have been eased back into the team he was thrust straight into the heat of the action and probably didn’t get the chance have the break he clearly needed. He clearly has the talent to feature as an important cog in the arsenal midfield for years to come and taking into account his young age he is still learning his craft. He was such an exceptional talent at a young age that many forget that he is far from the finished article at the age of 21 especially with the last 2 years disrupted so badly.

The question is what will Arsene have planned for the midfielder? I certainly don’t think Wenger would be mad enough to sell Ramsey to anybody however a loan move would not be out of the question. If Ramsey could get the opportunity of a loan playing at premiership level it could help him sharpen up his game again. The duration of that loan? I’m not too sure if a season long loan would benefit Arsenal, maybe a 3 month loan would be more realistic. He just needs a change of scenery for a short while then a return back into the arsenal team.

Whether Fulham are prepared to accept a loan we will have to see but the figures of £5.5m rising to £9m based on appearances etc are laughable.

To be honest more evidence is required for this transfer rumour to gain credibility, Fulham have indeed been previously in for the player trying to take him on a season loan at the start of last season but Ramsey’s name could just be a knee-jerk reaction to the loss of Murphy.

Olivier Giroud’s transfer to arsenal has moved even closer as the Frenchman was snapped in the UK apparently on his way to complete a medical. Very good news indeed though announcement of the official transfer will probably be held off until the full photo shoot and interviews are conducted with the striker.

His club Montpellier in the meantime have confirmed the transfer after the club president told French radio station RMC:

“The negotiations have gone very well” “we’ve agreed within the last few days”

You can’t get more conclusive than that.Montpellier do not have reason to keep the deal quiet if they have agreed everything

No point in wondering if the transfer will happen but more a case of when will the deal be announced.

With the Giroud transfer wrapped up now all we need is Yann M’Villa to get a move on. Once we wrap up the signing of our targets and Robin signing a contract extension then we can focus on offloading those who are surplus to requirements.

Update: He has officially signed for the gunners. Good times

New number 9

Enjoy your day people

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3rd Place secured – AFC

Well wow that was a tense final game wasn’t it?

All gooners, myself included woke up yesterday even more nervous than the day before.

So much to lose, we did not want fourth, no way in hell would fifth be acceptable but leading up to the game these were all possible outcomes.

The news that Clint Dempsey was definitely out of the game against Spurs and not a hoax meant even more we had to do the job ourselves.

Robin Van Persie was still on course to achieve another record; one more goal would equal the record 31 goals in a 38 game season.  Would we accept RVP getting the record and finishing fourth? Erm no thanks.

Onto the game and in typical Arsenal fashion it was not a straightforward affair. We tried our best to recreate the Norwich game .

It almost seemed a jinx that if Yossi scored early for us in the game we would eventually be 2-1 down.

And so it went, great perseverance from Yossi to close down the Fraudster impersonating a goalkeeper led to an easy tap in to take the lead. News had filtered through just before that Spurs had taken the lead. It was important to get that goal so the nerves didn’t get to players if they get wind of the score from white hart lane. 

So much for keeping it simple West Brom were level within 6 minutes and to be honest it was an injustice the goal stood. Shane long was clearly offside. Decisions like this can have such repercussions on a team and Mike Jones was a lucky man that the final result worked in Arsenals favour. Just look at the goals Bolton conceded against Stoke to see how a referee error can cost you.

I can only put the second goal down to nerves as Graham Dorrans slotted in easily to put West Brom 2-1 up.  Oh dear one of those days again? Please God no.

Luckily for us our 12th man wasn’t having any of it. Step forward Mr Marton Fulop.   Now the commentator reminded us a million times during the game this was Fulop’s debut for West Brom . To be honest this means nothing, he was not a 17 year old rookie, this is a full international and has played in England for the best part of  8 years.  Best stat of all is he was on Spurs books for a number of years, sent out on loan constantly while he was there I can only assume he wanted to dish out some payback to Spurs

Right on cue when we were struggling to get our rhythm Andre Santos lashed in a desperate shot after a West Brom player was robbed of the ball just outside the area. A good shot on target indeed; but a bread and butter shot for a half decent keeper. Mr Fulop proceeded to palm the ball in at his near post.

Good times, this was the game changer for me. A vital goal early enough in the game for us to push on and hopefully win now. Fulop was inspiring the Arsenal players, he certainly inspired me as he looked to make a mistake every time he was near the ball.

We needed to win this as Spurs seemed to be comfortable against a Dempsey-less Fulham.  Half time finished at 2-2. Not a complete disaster, we had a whole half to reorganise, Wenger had a chance in the interval to drill into the players that they needed to switch on and focus.

Second  half  we came out more determined, Theo came on at the break for Rosicky, I presume in the hope of causing West Brom to have more to think about from both wings. Gervihno was a threat constantly but had one of those games where every time he worked a good position he messed it up.

The important thing is by working these positions is West Brom had to adjust to ensure his threat was nullified Theo on the other wing would give them even more food for thought.

Eventually we nudged ahead in the game, that man Fulop was again sticking two fingers up at Spurs. From a corner swung in by Van Persie the keeper managed to connect with a punch. The punch to my amusement went in the opposite direction you would expect (behind him) and spun just enough for Koscielny to poke in the winner.

An absolutely amazing goal due to the sheer comedy value and the importance in our quest for third place.  The rest of the game was a nervy affair, Arsenal don’t do comfortable. A fourth goal would have settled everything.  We managed a few breaks here and there but a fourth goal wasn’t coming. We needed to maintain the discipline and focus to see this out. An absolutely terrific last-ditch tackle from Gibbs towards the end of the game typified how much we wanted to keep this. Arsene was pictured on the touch-line showing as much nerves as us fans.  The 5 minutes of injury time wasn’t easy on our heart rates but eventually the final whistle went and the game was won. St Totteringham day finally!!

Normality resumed, Spurs below us confirmed. A Great day all round, the tension finally gone. If I ever see Fulop in the street I will shake that man by the hand. He would probably somehow mess that up.

Even given the events in Manchester my only focus was on the Arsenal. Everything else was and still is irrelevant. My only concern is the Arsenal.

Enjoy your day people. I certainly will.

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