Napoli win showcases strength of Arsenal squad

Given the recent loss of Theo Walcott to his mystery abdominal illness the Arsenal team in recent games appeared to lack the outlet of pace which only Theo could provide. I suppose over time Arsenal fans have become accustomed to the threat posed on the right hand side and the special attention paid to Walcott to nullify his strengths.

When all of a sudden Walcott was removed from the team there was apprehension as to how Arsenal would cope without an outlet on the flanks. How would Arsenal scare teams and get in behind them? Serge Gnabry was drafted into the starting eleven and took the opportunity to prove his worth and readiness for Arsenal duty. With all due respect to the talented German his attributes are more similar to that of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain; Stocky and strong, excellent dribbling skills and the eye for a shot. The obvious pace is used sparingly and the dribbling is more directly at defenders rather than storming down the flanks playing of the shoulder of the fullback.

theo w

In other words the style of play has had to adapt to compensate for less pace on the wings from Theo. Arsenal fans have developed an almost complacent expectation that the right wing is for a pacy winger to stretch teams, if Walcott is not available then an identical player should surely be waiting in the wings to step up when he is not available.

So when the line up to face Napoli was revealed last night Arsenal fans could be forgiven for wondering how the team would line up and where the pace would come from. Tomas Rosicky was drafted back into the team following injury to line up alongside fellow returnee Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, Matthieu Flamini and Mesut Ozil. The starting quintet did their best to dispel the notion that pace is the one and only commodity for success in football.

The quality of the football produced by the Arsenal team as a whole was something to behold. The passing at times was exquisite as each of the midfielders on the pitch so comfortable in possession stroked the ball around with such finesse that at times in the first half Napoli were reduced to mere spectators. They would have been best advised to take advantage of the comfortable seats in the stands at the emirates and join the fans in admiration of the football on show.

gunners celebrate

That Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott were not starters on the pitch during the fantastic display is not an indication that their contributions are surplus to requirements now but a mere indication that the squad as a whole is a lot stronger than people take for granted. Theo and Jack are key players for Arsenal and the thought of them waiting in the wings alongside the likes of Cazorla, Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain is one to trigger an excitement for the team that hasn’t been felt for quite a few seasons now.

The football yesterday was a joy to watch especially in the first half, with Napoli despatched qualification from the difficult group looks ever the more realistic. Despite their defeat in the opening game week of the Champion’s League Borussia Dortmund is still the team to beat for Arsenal. It seems such a long, long time ago that uncertainty clouded over Arsenal on whether they would even get past Fernabache to qualify for the competition proper. The performance yesterday made a mockery of there ever being the possibility of the Gunners not gracing the competition. Arsenal belong in the competition, they are literally part of the Champion’s League furniture and they intend stick around this season.

Enjoy your day people.

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Tough ECL draw for Arsenal to reinforce need for signings

Yesterday was a busy day for Arsenal in terms of news as this season’s Champion’s league opponents were selected and a new signing was announced by the club. The Champion’s league draw pitted Arsenal against Marseilles, Borussia Dortmund and Napoli in what could be deemed a very tough group. In theory partaking in the Champion’s League does not produce easy games however there were a few teams in the draw that would be more favourable to ensure qualification from the group stages.

champs lge

It is what it is, if you want to be the best you have to beat the best, the teams Arsenal are facing are not exactly super powers of Europe with the exception of the threat of Dortmund having finished runners up last year the other two teams despite being daunting opponents are most certainly beatable.

Sometimes focus can be on opponents so much that we can forget what a challenge it can seem to the other teams of facing the Arsenal. Maybe our potential to win the competition is not as great as some of the other teams in the competition but Arsenal are hardly at the other end of the talent scale. Seriously with the right signings before the transfer window shuts on Monday the club can increase and have every chance to put in a strong challenge this season. Talent is a defining factor along with a slice of luck and fortune at times and most importantly a collective team spirit is what can carry a team that extra yard to success.

Despite the obvious lack of strengthening of the squad so far this season one thing we cannot deny is the current personnel representing the club on the pitch do work hard for each other. The bonding and camaraderie between the players is evident for all to see and is a strong starting block to build upon. If there are disruptive players in the squad I don’t know who they are, I’m not naive enough to believe every Arsenal player loves each other as they live under a hedonistic love bubble but you can see from the body language before, during and after the games there is a mutual respect and belief amongst them.

In other news a signing was announced by the club, not quite the signing to release some of the built up tension amongst Arsenal fans as Matthieu Flamini was revealed as the 2nd signing of the summer. One of the worst kept secrets as the fans anticipated when he would be announced rather than if.

flamini

A sensible signing in my eyes as Flamini’s experience will be invaluable to the Arsenal squad, whether he will directly be challenging for 1st team action remains to be seen but he will be available to be called on if and when required. The Frenchman isn’t the marquee signing we have been calling for all some summer however there is still time in the transfer window, Champion’s League qualification was confirmed only a matter of days ago and potential transfers that were conditional of qualification may be at advanced stages.

I admit I have found the transfer window frustrating, the number of names linked only for other clubs securing their signatures instead. Our rivals across North London are making signings like there’s no tomorrow certainly doesn’t help, though their acquisitions do not guarantee an adequate replacement for Gareth Bale. Time will tell how their expensive duds will work out but if history has anything to go by (Bentley £15m anyone?) they are in for an interesting ride.

From an Arsenal fan perspective all I can say is judge Wenger when that window closes, we have had the wool pulled over our eyes in the past but this time it’s different. The squad needs reinforcements and there is no way no further signings will go down well. It will surely produce a negative feeling from the stands which will filter through to the players. The injuries to Oxlade Chamberlain and Lukasz Podolski merely add to the need to sign players and are likely to accelerate negotiations for a player to fill their void. I wont use the word patience but I will just say wait until the transfer window closes.

Enjoy your day people.

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Djourou breaks silence to dismiss transfer rumours – AFC

So Johan Djourou has no intention of leaving the Arsenal. The Swiss stopper has taken the opportunity to make a statement to dispel any rumours of unrest by reaching out to fans and public alike through his Twitter account.

The press has been rife with rumours of a potential move to Italy with Napoli being mentioned as a likely destination. Fees have even been reported with a price range of £8-10 million being mentioned.

All be it most of the quotes for this story have been allegedly made by Johan’s agent. Djourou’s twitter account has given us the opportunity to hear the news from the man himself as he tweeted:

“I just want to deny all what have been said in the press about my transfer. It isn’t true at all.

I have been at Arsenal since 10 years now and I’m always committed to the club”

The statement seems pretty clear on Johan’s intention to stay at the club. He clearly seems proud of his long-term affiliation with the club and has stated so. This is the type of statement Arsenal fans have been waiting to hear from skipper Robin Van Persie yet we still wait.

Many questioned the authenticity of the Djourou twitter account as it contradicted all the news in the press about unrest and Johan wanting to play first team football to enhance his international career. I can confirm that account has been active for a very long time as Johan conducts many a competition on twitter and via his fan page on facebook. The account @JohanDjourou is listed on the Arsenal.com website as one of the official twitter accounts for the Arsenal players. To have a fake account fed through the Arsenal website would be very poor and embarrassing to all concerned with the website. Check for yourself: http://www.arsenal.com/news/player-tweets

The comments from Djourou have clearly split the opinion of Arsenal fans. On one camp Djourou is not rated good enough for the Arsenal team and we should sell and take as much as we can get for the player. In the other camp Arsenal fans see the worth of Djourou as a squad player for Arsenal; one of the best 4th choice defenders around who would be hard to replace.

I would fall into the latter camp, I see Johan’s worth to the team. He has been part of the set up for a very long time and clearly loves representing the club. He still has some parts of his game he needs to work on but is able cover to the defence.

I do not think he currently is good enough to dislodge the first choice pairing of Koscielny and Vermaelen but that is just currently. He showed a couple of seasons ago the fight and determination that Arsenal fans demand and was probably our best defender that season. After taking a backward step last season Johan needs to knuckle down, work hard and get back to the level of a couple of seasons ago. It’s unfortunate he has to prove himself all over again to win back the faith in many Arsenal fans but it’s not an impossible task.

I’ve been here so long I remember changing your diapers

He is a great 4th choice back up but there’s nothing to say he can’t improve further, especially with Steve Bould now involved with the first team. That is an ideal situation as Bould was a master of the centre back craft, his advice and guidance should be a boost to all the defenders at the club.

Now that Johan has stated his intend to stay at the club Arsenal fans really need to get behind him and support him. There’s no point abusing him on twitter telling him how rubbish you think he is, we need to recognize the respect he has shown. As I mentioned earlier he has at least used his social networking platform to put the fans straight on his career.

Our captain has done no such thing, understandably Robin has been invaluable to the Arsenal team and without him our season would have been in massive limbo. Yet the longer the silence continues the more likely it seems he may move on. One feels if he was really staying a tweet about his love for the club would dispel all the gossip mongers and leave him to have a distraction free Euro 2012. There’s no point hearing from his dad, his wife, his cousin or his cleaner, we need to hear from the man himself.

Johan may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I think Robin should take a leaf out his book and be honest to the fans that clearly love him. Like a jilted girlfriend we need to be able to get over it and move on, don’t string us along. The Radiohead album is in the CD player, do we need to press play?

Enjoy your day people.

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