Should He Stay Or Should He Go? (Part Three – Attack)

Sorry for the delay Gooners – attempting to watch every single match of Euro 2012 certainly has taken it’s toll! Here is my final part of who I think should stay and who should get their coat.

Forwards

9. Park Chu-Young: I’m sure I’m not the only one that was baffled by this one. However I’m probably the only one that’s actually seen him score a goal for Arsenal, in the Carling Cup v Bolton. I hoped this was the beginning, that he could potentially become a valuable player for the end-of-season run-in. Instead there were sporadic pointless ‘appearances’ on the bench and a classic example was the 7-1 against Blackburn. We’re 6-1 up with 30 minutes left, you’d have thought this would have been a perfect opportunity to bring him on, boost the confidence against a side praying for the end but instead on comes Benayoun and Henry. There are lots of cynical theories regarding him going around, but for me the bottom line is if he isn’t good enough ship him out to get on with his National Service. Go

10. Robin van Persie: What can be said about RvP that hasn’t already been said? An outstanding season, capped off with 30 goals and a glut of awards its frightening to imagine how our season would have gone without him, he was rightly the first name on the teamsheet. The last 18 months have shown just how good van Persie can be when his fitness is uninterrupted by injury, treating us to some of the most sublime goals we’ve been deprived of since Messers Bergkamp and Henry left. Even when he tired towards the very end of the season he still pulled out that cheeky penalty against Wolves. A world-class talent, it remains to be seen whether he’ll sign a new contract (and lets hope he does), but if we can get at least 2 of the other players to play with the same clinical intensity as him just imagine what we could be capable of? Stay

14. Theo Walcott: Another frustrating season punctuated with criticisms, some warranted and some not. Can show so much at times and deliver so little that he is another player who divides Gooners. In terms of combined goals and assists this was one of Walcott’s more productive seasons, and when you compare him to a player like Stewart Downing (and our own Andrei Arshavin – more on him later), he is actually a very valuable player. Of all the quick players I’ve seen down the years though he seems to be the only one where his pace looks like a curse rather than an asset at times. Confidence is everything, and it is disheartening to hear the crowd getting on his case. So it certainly was a highlight when he transformed from shrinking violet to clinical finisher in the 5-2. More of the same please Theo, you’re getting better. Stay

15. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: Was quietly frustrated at being held back earlier in the season, but what a decision that was by Arsene as like Benayoun he was fresh for the run-in. I remember seeing him against Shrewsbury and he was strong and had an eye for a long shot, very exciting to watch. Capped that performance with a great goal and has rarely disappointed in his gradually increasing appearances since then. His big moment came in the United game at the Emirates, when the crowd were incensed at his removal for Arshavin. He’s become someone that fans look to change the game – I admit regularly found myself watching the touchline nearest the Arsenal bench in the second half to see if Pat Rice was about to call him back to strip down and come on. The worry is that this is a lot of pressure on young shoulders, but the signs are that he is coping well with it. Another upshot of his good form is that it seems to coincide with Theo’s fine end of season end – perhaps The Ox’s direct nature is pushing Theo? An explosive start to his Arsenal career. Stay

23. Andrei Arshavin: Another underwhelming season. The 4-goal spree at  Anfield is now a very distant memory. It’s a real shame, as many fans hark after those sort of performances, and for the longest time I always hoped they were just around the corner. At least with the 2010-11 season his goals/assists stats were actually quite good even with his ‘relaxed’ demeanour. Fans can almost forgive a lazy disposition if a player is coming up with the goods – but 1 league goal between August and February is just not good enough for a man of his talent.  A low-point for me was 60-odd minutes into a match (I forget which one) the subs board went up and he appeared to run to the touchline, perhaps believing the number 23 was up when actually it was 29. All too often it would seem like he would run out of steam after the hour mark. Against United at home, I suspect the crowd weren’t just angry at The Ox’s removal – Arshavin replacing him also had something to do with it probably. A crying shame, as like many others I loved him when he first arrived – I’ve felt for a while that he needs a change of scenery, a theory backed-up by his more fruitful form at Zenit. Thanks for those times when you couldn’t stop scoring at Anfield, the screamer at Old Trafford, the winning goal against Barça Andrei, all the best. Go

27. Gervinho: For me a decent first season. After a Premier League baptism of fire (I’m pretty sure he’d never faced a player like Joey Barton before) he was playing well, there was a period where he couldn’t stop finding RvP in the box. Went off the boil a little bit but the killer was the African Nations Cup – that missed penalty shot down his confidence and he never equaled his early season form after that. The only attacking player at the club who almost appeared to travelling backwards when he was bringing the ball forward, he seemed afraid to shoot at crucial moments. Some of our greatest players have had worse first-seasons and a great start is no guarantee of a fruitful Arsenal career (see below) but if he can recapture his early form and eradicate his bashfulness in front of goal he will be an asset. Stay

29. Marouane Chamakh: The 2011-12 season not being a terribly good one for Chamakh would be an understatement. In fairness opportunities to start have not been plentiful such was the extraordinary form of Robin van Persie. However, he was on the bench a lot and when Arsene did send him on, there was always something lacking. Towards the end of the season it certainly wasn’t effort, preferring to help out in midfield when he could see he wasn’t being effective up front. Some people forget that when RvP was injured early in 2010-11 Chamakh lead the line very well, and I had hoped this was on it’s way back after the consolation goal in 4-3 defeat at Blackburn. Sadly I feel that, like Arshavin, he needs a change of scenery. Go

12. Thierry Henry: Even though it was a very brief loan period I’ve added him in to end on a high note, such was his impact. Despite the apprehension in some quarters as to whether or not it was a good idea to come back he proved to be the decisive element in two matches and topped off the 7-1 against Blackburn (although that has since been awarded to Scott Dann – bet he’s pleased about that). His winning goals produced fantastic moments of euphoria, the returning king’s goals-to-games ratio put the then-misfiring Fernando Torres to shame. His excellent start to the MLS season was the product of a great ‘pre-season’ at the Emirates. In fact, he was so good my Henry DVD is now missing some great goals!


That’s it for my look at the squad, probably lots to agree/disagree with there. From an attacking point of view it looks like some of my suggestions can come to fruition with the arrivals of Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud. Generally speaking though, I don’t think an awful lot needs to change. A few new players, clearing of the deadwood and a continuation of that winning mentality from the 5-2 onwards and I feel we can certainly push on next season.

CDrive77

England through, Giroud closer, Arshavin slips up – AFC

So England are through to the knockout stages at Euro 2012, they made hard work of it against the Ukraine who should feel hard done by for the goal that was not given. As predicted Roy Hodgson took the cautious approach and did not promote Theo Walcott to the starting eleven. Milner was chosen to provide more defensive cover against a determined home nation who went for a win. Rooney returned and scored the winning goal however his performance overall was rusty and ineffective.

Theo did get on the pitch in the second half though he was starved of any service as the England players chose to ignore him as an outlet. Strange choice there as his pace could have been utilized to stretch the Ukrainians who kept pushing for a goal. The minutes though will hopefully keep Walcott fresh in readiness for the game against the Italians.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came on with a few minutes to go but didn’t really get a chance to have an effect on the game. He had one run but the ball trickled away from him at the point when he could have spread the ball to Theo. It’s still assuring that Roy Hodgson showed faith in the Arsenal man to come on in the closing stages of the match. A big boost to his confidence and there’s no reason why he wont be in Roy Hodgson’s plans for the Italy game.

As I mentioned earlier England will be facing Italy after winning the group; the French lost their final game against Sweden 2-0 and will now face Spain by default. The group stages are now over and the real pressure starts, Arsenal still has a part to play in the competition, roll on the Quarter finals.

The Olivier Giroud transfer to Arsenal seems to be gaining more momentum as the deputy president of Montpellier has confirmed negotiations between the two clubs over a transfer. This is the most definitive news yet concerning a deal with the tall striker and prices of around £13million are being quoted related to a clause in Giroud’s contract. Either way expect any deal to be concluded once France are no longer participating in the tournament.

Giroud managed to get some minutes on the pitch in France’s disappointing defeat to Sweden as so did the heavily linked Yann M’Vila. The midfield terrier started the game however my focus was on the England game and so I cannot report on either player’s performance against the Swedes.

Andrei Arshavin has caused a slight bit of controversy in his homeland after he was embroiled in an argument with some fans at the hotel the Russian team were staying at. Mobile phone footage captured the Russian captain responding to abuse from the fans in where he claimed his country’s failure to advance from their group was not the players fault but could be pointed towards the Russian fans and their expectations.

Although the words were not said on an official platform it has been enough for members of the Russian football union to condemn his lack of remorse and question his status as captain of the team.  Ideally this controversy will blow over as soon as possible especially if Arsenal harbours plans to sell Arshavin back to Zenit St Petersburg. Factors like this could affect negotiations over any transfer fee and Arshavin’s decision to move back to Russia if he falls foul of the Russian public.

Enjoy your day people

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New season fixtures, Walcott fit for England – AFC

Well the fixture list was revealed for the 2012/13 season, the wheels are in motion and we have our first reason to get excited about a new campaign. We really have been blessed this summer in terms of the European championships filling a massive void AND the added distraction of the London Olympics to come to further quell the football cravings.

The release of the football league fixtures is the first sign of closure from the last season and an indicator that we have it all to come again. We now have something to discuss other than the countless transfer rumours that drag on and on.

The rumours that flooded twitter and other social media networks were confirmed correct as Arsenal were scheduled to kick off the new season at the emirates against Sunderland. Shout out to RedAction for the scoop.

http://www.arsenal.com/fixtures/fixtures-reports

It’s always nice to start off the season with a home game, a chance to put three points on the board and start the season as you mean to go on. The only problem is that from the next four following games we have away fixtures against Stoke, Liverpool and Manchester city. As hard a run as you could imagine and a real test of the mettle and resolve of the Arsenal. If we can come through that test with minimum damage it can bode well for the rest of the season. Each of those three away fixtures are potential banana skins in any season so to have them out of the way early can potentially be a good thing.

We have the added bonus this season of no qualifiers for the champion’s league. That is something that really affected our start to the last season as transfers were dependant on qualification and the futures of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas weren’t concluded. It was quite a mess and an embarrassment to the Arsenal that preparation to a season was so up in the air. This time around transfer business should be concluded nice and early, morale should be a lot better and no qualifiers will be in place to upset our momentum.

So what of the other fixtures? The first north London derby takes place at the Emirates on the 17th November; our chance for redemption at Old Trafford takes place on the 3rd November. I’ve always been scared of November when it comes to Arsenal; in seasons past it is usually the month when things start to wobble a bit. Last season we managed to come through unscathed but maybe it was the football gods balancing things out after our wretched start.

The Christmas holiday schedule doesn’t seem too bad with two home games leading up to the New Year. West Ham visits on Boxing Day while Newcastle visit 3 days later. The holidays conclude with a New Year’s Day trip to Southampton.

The final run in seems to contain winnable games with the exception of a home game with Manchester united set for the end of April. Of course we can beat Manchester united at home but it won’t be one of the easier games. The final fixture of the season scares me, an away trip to Newcastle. If we find ourselves in the chase for any silverware or placing needing a result at the St James Park it will be very tough. There is no guarantee Newcastle will match the heights of last season but one thing that is certain is Alan Pardew will not let his team roll over for us. Ever since his touchline spat with Arsene Wenger when at West Ham a few years back a bad feeling still exists between the managers and Pardew always ensures he gives Arsenal as much trouble as possible.

Theo Walcott was passed fit for England which is great news; I do however feel that Roy Hodgson will not start the Arsenal man against the Ukraine. Hodgson will go for the cautious approach but I will expect to see Walcott or Oxlade-chamberlain to make an appearance at some point in the game. If you are going to be neutral fans watching the game today drink some coffee and/or Red bull, it’s not going to be a pretty match.

As witnessed in the past couple nights these final group fixtures have been tense affairs, everything is at stake and so the football will be nervy and downright energy sapping. I hope for all our sakes I am wrong and the game will be an open entertaining end to end spectacle, I’m clutching at straws now.

Enjoy your day people

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Theo Walcott, England saviour – AFC

Ladies and gentlemen he’s back on the national radar. The critics were left to eat their words last night as Theo Walcott’s introduction midway through the 2nd half changed the game in England’s favour. England were in dire need of inspiration from somewhere; they did well to fashion a one nil lead in the first half only to self implode with two poor goals conceded. One being an own goal from Glen Johnson and the second a free header for Olof Mellberg; England really went to sleep for ten minutes in the second half.

England were in desperate need of a change to stem the flow as Sweden were growing more and more in confidence. I mentioned in my blog yesterday that I felt Roy would use Walcott’s pace in the second half to stretch the Sweden defence and keep them on their toes. What I didn’t expect was for Sweden to be leading at that time however what an impact that was made by Theo Walcott.

Theo was brought on as an immediate reaction to the 2nd goal scored by Mellberg. The change was needed, something was needed to bring the game back in favour of England. Theo didn’t take long to make his mark, within 5 minutes of coming on he pounced on a loose ball cleared to the edge of the Swedish box from an Ashley Young corner, he cushioned the ball and pinged it through a crowded box. Luckily the keeper was unsighted and saw the ball too late to react, the ball flew into the back of the net and England was level.

Walcott is not known for is long-range shots so this was a welcome surprise for all. England fans, especially gooners were jumping up and down and cheering the goal that given England a second chance to get a result. Arsenal fans have had to put up with the constant barracking of Walcott as people questioned his right to be in the England squad. Mark Lawrenson tended to put the knife in when Walcott came on the pitch when he suggested that Theo has apparently been living off of his hat trick performance against the Croatians 4/5 years ago. Pretty harsh but Mark Lawrenson doesn’t do positivity, I’m sure he must have Stewart Robson as a facebook friend.

That goal was the perfect response to any critics and a reminder to Roy Hodsgon of exactly what he can bring to the England team. Theo wasn’t finished there though,England were level but the boost from the goal meant that their heads were up as they had a new impetus. And so then came the winner courtesy of some excellent work from Theo. From an England break Theo received the ball just outside the area from Glen Johnson; he turned at the defence and drove forward, he used his pace to get past two defenders to reach the by-line, he cut the ball back to Danny Wellbeck who with a brilliant piece of adjustment sneaked the ball into the goal with a back flick. Although it needed a good finish the pace of Theo unsettled the Swedish defence enough to create the chance, what an impact.

The turnaround was complete,England had the lead and all they needed to do was hold on for the last ten minutes or so. With a few minutes left Roy Hodgson made a change and brought Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on. A bit late for the youngster to make much of an impact but he did mange to get in the right position for a late chance. Theo was the creator again as he put on the after burners to chase a ball played out in a counter attack, the Swedes were stretched at this point and as Theo worked his way into the box he saw Oxlade-Chamberlain at the far post. The ball was played over and heading to the boot of young Alex only for an over enthusiastic Steven Gerrard to charge into the box and steal the ball before it could reach the Arsenal man. The connection from Gerrard sent the ball flying into row Z and the chance was gone. England still managed to hold on to record the 3-2 win and move a step closer to qualifying from their group. Roy Hodgson’s tactics were working in the first half, they got thrown upside down with the sloppy Sweden goals early in the second half however he had a plan B in the two Arsenal players on the bench and thankfully he saw that early enough to introduce Theo who made the all important difference.

Enjoy your day people

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Oxlade-Chamberlain doesn’t start, Bendtner is pants – AFC

So as England get ready for their second match day of the group against Sweden news filtered through that Roy Hodgson has decided to go with two strikers up top at the expense of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.  Many gooners may be upset with this news but I don’t see it as a major issue. As we saw in the first game against France the England unit went into the match with a game plan to nullify France’s attack and nick something on the break. Many saw this as negative tactics but at the end of the day the draw achieved was a great result against one of the stronger teams in the tournament.

Now Roy Hodgson has come in for a lot of stick for his squad selections and obvious excitement killing approach. I myself have not been overly optimistic of England’s chances going into the Euros however after examining the France match and hearing the plans for today’s match with Sweden I realise Hodgson’s tactical nous for these types of games.

Many people lamented the appointment of Hodgson over Harry Redknapp. The nation seemed to have their heart set on the now ousted spurs manager. Though when you think about it given England’s loss of many important players England really need to get their tactics spot on to advance in this competition.Roy Hodgson can draw on his experiences of managing around the world to instil into the England team some tactical savvy.

Big European tournaments like this need tactics to be spot on and I’m sorry but Harry Redknapp who has proved over the last season he lacks heavily in that department. If he was the England manager he would have just picked his fastest players and told them to play like how they do for their club team. That would have been a suicide mission against the French. The gaps that Hodgson ensured were filled by the likes of Milner, Gerrard, Parker and Oxlade-Chamberlain would have been exploited and would have left to an open game in which we may have scored a few but also would have conceded and probably lost. We may have experienced an amazing game but that is irrelevant if we lose the game. There’s no point gaining plaudits for entertaining attacking football spectacles if we are on the first plane home.

Much like how Tottenham played the season with their swashbuckling style which worked at the early part of the season, once the season moved to the business end and required a change and more clever approach to games; Harry just kept on trying to play the same style with the same players and ended up burning out his important players. That is probably what opened the FA’s eyes as to what the Tottenham man was lacking and did not want an embarrassment on their hands at Euro 2012.

Anyway I feel Oxlade-Chamberlain not starting today is not based on him not performing against France or Roy Hodgson not believing in the player. I believe the England manager has adjusted his tactics to ensure his game plan for today’s game is spot on. It was a nice surprise when Alex started against France there cannot be a bigger compliment that the manager believes in you if he starts you as an 18 yr old against a big team like the French. Today’s game Hodgson recognizes the need for a second striker against Sweden; he will utilize Ashley young’s experience on the left after assessing the Swedes weaknesses in the game against Ukraine. Oxlade will gain a lot from the experiences for England and developing the non attacking side of his game, this is equally as important as beating 3 men on the wing. Arsene Wenger did a similar thing when bringing Jack Wilshere into the team; he played Jack in a more withdrawn defensive role in the Arsenal midfield and allowed him to develop that side of his game. Jack developed into an a more all round midfielder because of this and his contribution was invaluable to the Arsenal team. Defensive awareness and contribution may be unglamorous especially when you can see what a player can do offensively but it is an important attribute needed in today’s game. It’s when a player learns when to utilize both skills sets that he becomes a valuable cog in the team.

Expect England to be more offensive against the Swedes though still cautious of what is at stake. I actually feel Walcott will more likely be used in this game than Oxlade-Chamberlain as his pace can stretch the Swedish defence if the Swedes are still chasing a result in the second half. Young Theo is almost becoming the forgotten man after all the headlines focused on Alex making his first start against France. However I feel Theo still has a part to play in this competition we will see him involved more in the next two games.

Niklas Bendtner has drawn attention to himself for all the wrong reasons after his two goal performance against Portugal. After heading in the second goal against the Portuguese he shamelessly decided to lift his shirt; revealing his underwear which was conveniently positioned higher than his shorts. The shorts had Paddy Power emblazoned across the fabric and now UEFA and the Danish F.A are pulling him up for plugging the Irish betting company with his stunt.

Bendtner denies the claim and states it wasn’t pre-planned, he also states they are lucky pants which he wore in the previous game (hope he washed them). Very silly move from the Dane and I hope any impending fine is covered by the fee Paddy Power probably paid him to reveal himself in such a way. Many other players probably have planned the same thing. I’m sure Cristiano Ronaldo has a massive Giorgio Armani logo on his man knickers ready to expose to the world, problem is he has been pants and can’t score to save his life at this tournament so far.

Enjoy your day people

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