Good luck Podolski, Super Eagles await, Burton for reserves – AFC

The Euros are drawing to an end; one semi final is out the way with the Germans set to take on the Italians tonight for a spot in the final. I missed the game yesterday but was able to catch the penalty shoot out which was a blessing in disguise. No matter how entertaining a 0-0 draw can be, it’s still a 0-0. The shoot out itself was an event filled spectacle which included saves, misses, sublime chips and player mix ups. Cesc scored the deciding penalty though with him no longer playing for us I don’t share his joy. I don’t want our former skipper to fail I just don’t feel a connection with him now that he is not longer part of us.

Today’s game carries Arsenal interest in Lukasz Podolski and Per Mertesacker so they are the team I’m backing all the way. Mertesacker hasn’t played a part all tournament and probably won’t be involved unless there is an injury to the first choice pairing at the back for Germany.

I fully expect Podolski to play a part today, it was like he and his other two partners in crime Gomez and Mueller were rested against the Greeks however for the big game they will all be back.

Podolski is a man for the big stage and he will show us what he is all about in a high pressure game.

I’m getting pretty excited about our forward line for next season, no offence to these guys but Chamakh and Park as our options up front was a bit of a joke. How we managed to finish last season 3rd with them as our cover laid testament to the important contribution from our skipper Robin Van Persie. Whatever his secret to fitness was last season, whether he stays or goes I hope he passes on those secrets to our new forwards and maybe to Diaby, Rosicky and Jack.

In other news it was announced that our game being played in Nigeria will be against the Nigerian national team. I’m quite pleased about that, the game will be more high profile against the super eagles and more of a stern test in our pre season preparations. Interest in this game will be high and it’s about time Arsenal recognised the massive fan base in Africa and Nigeria particular. Win win situation for both really and if the game is a success we could expect this to be a regular feature for pre season plans.

It has been mooted that Terry Burton is in line to take up the vacant reserve manager position at Arsenal. A nice appointment if it comes to fruition.Burton has deep Arsenal links and would be a popular choice. Neil Banfield did a good job for the reserves if you measure it by the successful transition of young players integrating into the first team squad over the years. Reserve titles may be nice on your CV but one of the main purposes of the reserves is bridging that gap between youth and first team. Development is more important and I feel we do that well here, Arsene Wenger does take interest in the young players and his relationship with Banfield was invaluable in terms of identifying those players that had the potential to make it at Arsenal.Burton will be privileged to join and be part of the organisation.

Other titbits you may already know Olivier Giroud revealed he chose Arsenal ahead of Chelsea. Jack Wilshere is on course to be fit and ready for Arsenal pre season and youth player Alban Bunjaku has joined Sevilla.

That’s it from me, let’s get behind Podolski tonight.

Enjoy your day people

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Euro 2012 round up 2 days in – AFC

The Euros really are making up for the loss of football in the close season. We are two game days into the tournament and have now witnessed four very enjoyable games. There has been Arsenal interest in all the games so far and plenty of talking points have been raised from their involvement.

The opening showpiece of the Tournament involved hosts Poland and our keeper Szczesny had a game to forget. A very entertaining game all the same and after impressing and taking a one nil lead through a Lewandowski goal, Poland had the added bonus of Greece  being down to 10 men after 2 dubious yellow cards for Papastathopoulos.

Poland and our keeper decided they wanted to make the game difficult for themselves and proceeded to let the Greeks back into the game with a goal that was easily preventable. Szczesny probably shouldn’t have come out for the cross which led to the goal, the resulting melee led to an easy shot for Salpindingis to score the equalizer.

If Szczesny thought it couldn’t get worse it did. The polish defence was caught flat-footed as a ball over the top left Salpindingis one on one with the keeper. Szczesny anticipated a first time shot and flew out with a trademark star jump to block but the player decided to take the ball around the keeper, Szczesny’s momentum carried him too far and he proceeded to upend the player. This resulted in a penalty and a straight red for the pole. The keeper didn’t question the decision and walked straight off. Luckily for Poland the substitute keeper who came on saved the resulting penalty. Amusingly Szczesny was pictured celebrating the save in the tunnel watching on a TV screen. The game ended at 1-1 but was thoroughly entertaining.

The next game in the evening involved the Czech Republic and Russia. Both countries captained by Arsenal players Rosicky and Arshavin. This went on to be another entertaining game which ended up 4-1 to Russia. Andrei Arshavin had a fantastic game. Starting on the left of a front three our no.23 tended to play a freer role compared to what he normally does for the Arsenal. He really dictated all of the attacking play and although he wasn’t on the score sheet he definitely left an imprint on the game. Many gooners must have been wondering why he doesn’t produce that type of performance for the gunners though to be fair a lot more defensive responsibility is required in the Arsenal team. Some players really turn it on when playing with their countrymen as opposed to their club team; Arshavin seems to be one of those players. Though he has had his fair share of criticism when he has played for Russia it just shows he is human and doesn’t produce man of the match performances in every game for his country, but when he is good he is good. Poor Tomas Rosicky tried to rally his Czech Republic team but they were swept away by the more clinical (once Kerzhakov was withdrawn) Russians.

The group of death matches played yesterday were really highly anticipated matches. It was clearly deemed Denmark would make up the numbers in the group as Holland,Portugal and Germany would fight it out for the top two slots.

The Danes first test was against many neutral fans 2nd team Holland. A country with near flawless qualification achieved for the Euros and boasting our very own skipper Robin Van Persie in their line up. The game started off at a slow tentative pace but as the game wore on was slowly dominated by Holland. They bided their time and played some good intricate football, carving away at the Danes. What wasn’t part of the plan was the Danes going on to score the first goal.

I suppose in a similar way to how Arsenal plays their football; they are most vulnerable at the back when they are on top. Robin wasn’t having the best of games and the TV cameras weren’t shy in zooming onto the face of Jan Huntelaar every time something didn’t come off for our skipper. It has become an unwelcome distraction in the Dutch camp over who should be starting up front for Holland in the championships between RVP and Huntelaar. It clearly wasn’t going for Robin yesterday and interestingly Clarence Seedorf pointed out that maybe Robin was trying too hard to impress on the big stage which actually proceeded in affecting his performance. He missed a couple of chances that we have seen him gobble up for Arsenal last season and he also had one embarrassing moment of an air shot when unchallenged. The game actually finished 1-0 though Holland despite a flat performance really should at least have equalised; another culprit from the game was Arjen Robben who seems to have carried over his poor luck and decision-making from the champions league final. Arsenal target Ibrahim Affelay started the game well but faded later on, his start surprised a few due to his low number of games played last season due to injury woes at Barcelona.

Nicklas Bendtner led the line for the Danes and did his part holding the ball up at times and linking play but never looked a goal threat throughout the game. I guess he did what was asked of him by the management but to a neutral his game was easily forgettable and typical. Bad day at the office for the Dutch, wonderful smash and grab for the Danes and yet another fantastic game at the Euros.

Going into the evening game yesterday Portugal and Germany would have been well aware of the result between the Danes and the Dutch. I suppose it was a chance for either country to take advantage of the slip up by Holland. It was a game for many gunners to have a look at Podolski close up. Per Mertesacker wasn’t included in the starting line up probably as a result of all the time he has spent on the sidelines leading up to the competition and the emergence of Matt Hummels.

This game was a rather tense affair as two countries with aspirations of having a good tournament realised what was at stake and did not want to open up too much. Although Portugal was never deemed as strong as Germany they still posed a threat through Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani. Our new Gunner Podolski had an ok game; he fits in well with the German system and showed a very good hard work ethic tracking back helping out his team. That will be a trait that will go down well with Arsenal fans when compared with Bendtner per say as fans like to see effort on the pitch. Podolski was neat and tidy and efficient and though he didn’t score he looks like he will have a goal or two in him as the competition moves forward.

The game itself did fall into a lull as no goals were scored first half and midway into the second half dare I say it the game was getting less and less interesting. Just when fans were calling for Mario Gomez to be removed he popped up with a goal. I believe Miroslav Klose was ready to come on for Gomez the next time the ball went out, luckily for him an opportunity arose from a cross and he managed to extend his neck muscles enough to connect with a cross from Sami Khedira. Game over, well not really as towards the final stages of the game Portugal took the game to Germany as nerves kicked in and should really have equalised when Varela had the ball break free to him only for Neuer to pull off a desperate save.

All in all the least entertaining game of the four but still a decent game that came alive after the goal was scored.

Today it’s the turn of Republic of Ireland,Croatia,Spain and Italy. No current gunners on show but there is an interest for former gunners Eduardo and Fabregas.

Here’s to some more good games in an already satisfying Euro 2012.

Enjoy your day people.

Podolski is here. RVP talks today – AFC

So Lukas Podolski has done some promo for the Arsenal. The official site released some video of the German in his first official interview as an arsenal player. Although the deal was announced a while back you still can’t help but get excited at the thought of Podolski turning out for Arsenal when you catch sight of him wearing the kit.

I mean the actual interview itself was no different from your standard Arsenal interview for a new signing. Lukas proceeded to say all the things we wanted to hear and tick all the boxes to satisfy the fans. This to me is such an important signing and very shrewd piece of business conducted by Arsene and his team.

It goes to show we do have the pulling power and that we can be crafty enough to nip in and get signings of big players. This is not the potential we have become accustomed to signing over the last few years. This is a player for the now, a full international with an impressive record for a major country in world football.

Can this Podolski signing be another piece of evidence to prove the Arsenal strategy for signing players has evolved from future to right here right now? I certainly hope so. Too many times over the past few years heavy resources have been poured into developing the future stars of Arsenal only for their heads to be turned at the very stage when they should be the leading members of the team.

We have lost too many players because of this and have had to reinvest in youth to get back to this stage. On the other side of the coin many players deemed for bright futures have failed to live up to expectation.

Any signing is a gamble at the end of the day but if we continue to add the odd experienced quality to complement the raw potential the right balance will enhance the team growth.

One significant thing to notice with the signing of Podolski is the countries in which the club is targeting for players.

Germany has always been a leading force in world football and currently boasts an envious batch of highly talented young footballers coming to prominence. I am encouraged by the fact that we are targeting players from this country as opposed to the star player from Kazakhstan per say.

Per Mertesacker was the catalyst to us attracting German players to our club.

Of course he offers a lot more to the club than attracting his mates but it always helps attracting foreign players to your club when you already have a countryman on your books.

Eisfeld is on the books, we have long been targeting Mario Gotze. A German core is not a bad thing at all.

Germans are known for their professionalism and winning mentality. The kind of mentality which belongs at big clubs. We are a big club and will return back to where we belong at the top of the table before too long.

I refuse to take notice of anything said by Samir Nasri. The guy is a massive waste of space and I’m ashamed to believe I used to cheer on this guy and sing his name from the stands. Karma will have something planned for him.

Robin Van Persie is set to have his much-anticipated talks with the Arsenal men today; it will be just as nerve-racking to gunners fans as we were on Sunday. This is a massive set of talks that could have repercussions on the whole dynamic of the Arsenal squad. If he were to decide to leave the Arsenal we WILL need a replacement. Podolski should be deemed as an addition of quality to build on our 3rd place finish not a replacement for our golden boot winning, top scoring captain.

This was one of the situations that left us in so much despair at the start of last season. The uncertainty over Fabregas and Nasri left us feeling somewhat underwhelmed when players were linked as they were seen as mere poorly shaped plugs to fill massive holes.

We do not need that for next season, we need to do everything in our power to keep our captain and build. If unfortunately he has already made up his mind to go then we must think long-term and buy a replacement of equal standing and sell RVP as early as possible. We cannot let this drag out; we cannot beg him to see out one last year on his contract.

As much as I love Van Persie if he feels the need to fulfil ambition elsewhere then we need to sell him ASAP. Wenger is a man of honour and will not stand in his way and hold him to ransom. We will need to rebuild as soon as possible.

Dont let go Arsene.

I have a gut feeling Van Persie is staying with the Arsenal. I believe today’s meeting will serve as Wenger and his team convincing our captain that Podolski is just the start. Robin will be assured that we will be bringing silverware back to Arsenal and that he will not regret signing a new contract.

England squad for Euros should be named today. Heavy rumours that The Ox will be included. Will be interesting if true but I will wait until confirmation before passing my views on what impact they may have.

Enjoy your day people