AFC turn on style against Saints to move third

Goals galore yesterday, this was the swashbuckling Arsenal that Arsene promised us to be patient about after our first two games of the season yielded no goals. Yesterday we came out with verve and swagger of a team who expected to win and put in the effort to ensure we won.

Some of the football at times had the fans drooling in the stands; at the centre of everything was mercurial Santi Cazorla. Everything good was flowing through his magical small feet. So comfortable on the ball, so direct and so unpredictable he is a joy to watch.

Southampton clearly were swept away in the first half and but for a fumble late in the half by Sczcesny which led to us conceding our first goal of the season there was only positives to report from our game.

I commented yesterday how Olivier Giroud could possibly break his duck for the season against the Saints and join that exclusive club with Bergkamp, Henry, Wright et al. that possibility shortened once Wenger decided to start the guy on the bench. Unfortunate in the greatest sense of the word as Kelvin Davis seemed to try his best to give us goals yesterday. Taking nothing away from our boys at least three goals could raise questions over the quality of the goalkeeping. Giroud did get on the pitch in the last 10 minutes or so however it was probably not enough time for him stamp his mark on the game and get amongst the goals. He will no doubt be up for playing against his former club on Tuesday.

Although Giroud did not start the game you cannot question Arsene’s decision making as his choice of Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervihno were constant threats all game. Gervihno receives special praise for his contribution to the game, he is often maligned for his questionable decision making and finishing that accompanies his quality dribbling and close control. Yesterday he had one of his best games in an arsenal shirt as Wenger gave him a chance to shine in a central role. Though as is the Arsenal way the front three were inter-changing positions all game making it a nightmare to mark. Gervihno relished this opportunity and came away from the game with two goals. His contribution was such that when he was substituted his received a standing ovation from the whole stadium and the whole crowd chanted his name as he walked off. He was clearly lapping up the adoration as he took his time walking off and acknowledged the appreciation by waving back to all. Podolski played his part, he is a very direct player and loves to receive the ball, turn and run at the defence. He can definitely be an option in the central striking role and doesn’t need to be pigeon holed on the left hand side; he was rewarded for his efforts with a nicely taken free kick. It’s nice that we have so many options for free kick takers, it leaves food for thought for the goal keepers as they have to consider all options. In the past Robin Van Persie would take all free kicks and at times it would be quite predictable.

The defence was good again and were only let down by an error by the keeper. Carl Jenkinson was impressive yesterday and seems to be really growing into the right back role. The run of games is clearly doing him a world of good and his confidence on the ball and battling is evidence of this. The real test of his development will be against better quality teams but so far this season he has definitely stepped up a level compared to last.

Our keeper Sczcesny seemed a bit rusty and was clearly ruffled by his mistake which allowed Southampton to score. Maybe nerves from the mistake crept in as his kicking was really off in the second half and played the defence into trouble quite a few times. We all know he is a quality keeper and he will move on from this but with Vito Mannone doing nothing wrong in his two game cameos there may be more pressure on our Pole to keep up the standard to ward of any competition.

Overall yesterday was a fantastic performance from the whole team, an absolute treat to all the fans in the ground,  we now kick off our champions league campaign this week on a high, lets keep the momentum up boys.

Enjoy your day people

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Deadline Day Withdrawal was Right Decision – AFC

While the majority of Barclays Premier League clubs scrabbled around on transfer deadline day, desperately trying to make team-disrupting signings, Arsenal remained relatively calm, as boss, Arsené Wenger, sat down for a quiet Friday night in.

Frustration may have been justified at this lack of final-day spending, yet Arsenal’s dominant display at Anfield on Sunday will hopefully have put certain fans’ grumblings of discontent to rest.

The only thing happening at the Emirates seemed to be the swinging of the exit door. Henry Lansbury had already sealed his move away from the club when the enigma that is Park Chu-Young departed for Celta Vigo on loan.

Nicklas Bendtner finally got his move away after years of underachieving in a red shirt, a reputation that has flown with him to Italy, as Alessio Tacchinardi – former defender at Juve – revealed:

“I will not say that Bendtner is a bad player, but he does not help improve Juventus either. He is not the player that helps them make the step up in quality,” said the despondent ex-international.

Two strikers out and none coming in may seem like a mindless move by Wenger but his confidence in his early-summer signings certainly paid off against Liverpool. 

What was the most refreshing about that performance was not just the 2-0 victory and the clinical nature of our goals, but also the working dynamic of Arsenal’s new front three.

Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla both showcased their talents to silence a stunned Anfield kop, assisting each other in scenes of telepathic communication reminiscent of Pires and Henry. 

Yet praise must also be given to Olivier Giroud, for if it weren’t for him, Podolski would not have opened the scoring. Unlike Bendtner, Park, or Marouane Chamakh, this striker knows how and where to make a run. 

While Cazorla ran direct at Liverpool’s penalty area, Giroud occupied Reds defender, Daniel Agger, with a great turn of pace, first dragging the defender into the middle before pulling him back out wide.

Without Giroud’s run, Agger would have closed down Cazorla yards before the Spaniard found Podolski in space. 

It is movement like this up the field that Arsenal have lacked in vital games. Luckily, we had RvP last season to win matches on his own but far too often Wenger’s boys find themselves camped in opposition halves with not enough movement to manipulate static defenders.

These new signings proved to fans betting on sports that they have what it takes to play as a unit and unpick tight defences. The boss may be tempted to delve into the transfer market this January but he will be happy with how his new forwards are progressing at the moment.

It seems Arsenal were right not to get caught up with desperate transfer dealings this summer and could benefit off the back of their withdrawal.

Post written by Alex Chang.

 

Another goalless draw,Tiote no go,Song speaks out – AFC

Second game into the season and the second goalless draw; it’s not exactly the ideal start to the season. The Robin Van Persie sized monkey on our back refuses to go away and until the goals start to roll in we will have to fend off the scathing assessments of our attacking options. I suppose it doesn’t help when Robin himself is already off the mark in his Man United career, the comparisons will be made and last seasons goals will be mentioned at every opportunity.

Arsenal in fairness have not played badly in the two games so far, Santi Cazorla has taken to the team like a duck to water, the defence has not conceded a goal and that’s without first choice Laurent Koscielny playing a game yet. Neutrals watching the game yesterday will be cursing knowing they will never be able to get that hour and a half of their lives back. It’s very rare to get an exciting 0-0 draw and yesterday’s game certainly followed type by not exactly exciting the masses. As an arsenal fan I can’t find the game boring as my focus is solely on seeing the gunners succeed, I kick every ball, head every header and the heart beats faster when we attack or defend.

I’m quite happy that we have come away from the Britannia without a defeat, the ground hasn’t been the best to us over the years and on reflection Arsenal came off the pitch disappointed not to have all three points. We were hardly tested as much as we have been in the past against Stoke, we pretty much kept their attack under control and apart from the offside goal scored by Jonathon Walters the defence stood up to the task. Getting this tie out of the way so early in the season is a good thing I feel when stoke visit emirates that will be 3 points on the board, the away tie is always the banana skin with added pressure due to the bad feeling between the clubs.

The Stoke fans were at their putrid best yesterday, mocking Wenger at every opportunity and showing even more class by booing Aaron Ramsey when he came on as substitute in the second half. Nothing from that club surprises me from the manager to the players to the fans they really are something else and sooner or later their one dimensional football will be found out, let’s hope they are propping up the table this year. I’m quite glad Shawcross has decided against playing for Wales, he still thinks he has a chance with England; he should take a ticket and wait in the queue next to Jermaine Pennant and Joey Barton. Aaron Ramsey doesn’t need the extra burden it would have brought and the right outcome has come about.

classy fans who boo Ramsey

Back to the game and Arsene gave his thoughts on the performance in his post match interview, he said:

“We showed we are very strong spirit-wise and we were dominant in the challenges. We were prepared, highly-focused, defensively very strong overall. Offensively we still have some work to do because we miss a bit of accuracy in final third, in our movement and in our passing. We are used to finding each other blind in the final third and there is still something missing. But I still think we should have won the game 1-0.”

It’s a pretty fair and accurate assessment really, we are still finding our feet up front due to new personnel but I can see goals will come soon. Olivier Giroud worked hard up front and did some good things when holding up the ball and bringing others into play, Podolski was more withdrawn playing in the left attacking role, he certainly played his part supporting Gibbs in defence but also showed flashes of danger in the final third.

There was one chance in the final minutes that fell to Olivier Giroud after a quick counter attack, with the stoke defense stretched Aaron Ramsey was steaming through the middle hoping to collect a pass into the middle however the Frenchman spotted Begovic off his line and attempted a lob from about 40 yards. In fairness it was a good shot and skimmed the roof of the net, if that went in we would be talking goal of the season contender. Giroud saw how close the chance was and seemed quite impressed with his effort unfortunately the cameras panned straight to Arsene who was screaming in frustration at a wasted opportunity to square the ball for a better placed player. Poor Giroud was not even aware of the bollocking he was due in the dressing room after the game. The important thing from that chance is it showed Giroud’s confidence to even attempt and nearly execute such a chance, his performance was ok and after a week or two of fine tuning in attack and we will score for fun.

Since I last blogged we have lost out in our pursuit of Nuri Sahin, a shame maybe but after hearing the kind of money Liverpool were prepared to pay for him for one season it is clear they haven’t learned from the open chequebook wasting of money Kenny Dalgleish brought to the club. Wenger has been quite open that he still intends to add to the squad before the window closes. I feel we really need to add reinforcements to midfield with Song gone. One player not coming in to replace him is Chek Tiote after Wenger ruled out any truth to that rumour. After being asked about the player in yesterdays press conference the manager said:

“Tiote is a good player but he is not on his way to Arsenal”

A shame as he was a player that had some good battles with song in the middle of the park for the past couple seasons and has impressed for Newcastle.

Alex Song has been speaking to the press over in Spain and claims that he wanted to sign a new contract to stay at Arsenal for the past year. He explained that the club kept putting off talks using the excuse that he had enough time and did not need to rush negotiations.

Song said:

“I was ready to commit my future to the club. All I wanted were talks about a new contract but each time we were due to sit down, the club postponed it. I was fobbed off. I wanted a new five-year contract at Arsenal. In the end I got one… at Barcelona”

Not the kind of thing we want to hear when we are trying to move on. It certainly turns the heat back onto Ivan Gazidis and his team as to why something like this could happen (if Song is telling the whole truth). As I’ve stated in the past the departure of Song is not a disaster and he can be replaced, the important factor is a player coming in as cover; Arteta and Diaby have been doing a good job covering but I would still prefer an experienced specialist defensive midfielder coming in. I won’t dwell too much on the contract situation with Song but it will be a problem with me if it become a regular occurrence.

Special mention to Vito Mannone who came into the side yesterday after Szczesny didn’t recover from a rib injury in time. Fans up and down the country were hardly filled with great confidence when that news broke however the Italian did all that was asked of him and came out of the game with a clean sheet. Fair play.

Enjoy your day people

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0-0 draw not disaster, Song exit confirmed – AFC

Well the new season kicked off yesterday, we welcomed Sunderland to the emirates in the baking weather as we hoped to get a good start in the post Van persie and Song era. I had my reservations before the match that it wouldn’t be a stroll in the park against Sunderland; they are no mugs and on their day can frustrate the biggest of teams. Sessegnon is always a danger and caused us problems in the games last season. I still expected a win but a hard fought win, that wasn’t the case as we were frustrated into a 0-0 draw.

With the news of Alex Song’s potential move to Barcelona coming into fruition it was no surprise to see he was not on the pitch warming up with the rest of the squad before kick off. He was probably en route to Spain at that very time and the writing was pretty much on the wall that the Arsenal midfield will never see those blond highlights ever again.

The starting line up did include 2 of the new signings in Lukasz Podolski and Santi Cazorla, Frenchman Olivier Giroud started on the bench. With injuries to Koscielny and Oxlade-Chamberlain Arsene Wenger played his strongest team possible with Per Mertesacker drafted in and Abou Diaby starting in the midfield.

Overall it was a tense game with Sunderland causing some problems with their pace early on. Thomas Vermaelen’s Arsenal took their time to find their rhythm; I guess we had new personnel that still need time to gel into the Arsenal way. Whether time for them to bed in can be afforded is another matter, given the negative press awaiting any games we don’t win the team and new players really needed to hit the ground running. We will constantly be reminded of Robin Van Persie and his goals so the sooner we can make the press see life goes on without him the better.

Podolski didn’t have a bad game however it seemed he wasn’t allowed much space by the Sunderland defence and despite the German showing his strength and close control in tight situations he was never really given any clear opportunities to gobble up. Santi Cazorla really showed how good he was in the game, he appeared to pull all the strings from midfield and showed his shooting prowess with a few chances especially one amazing dribble and shot from 25 yards that was clawed from the top corner by Mignolet. He really does look the part and is the kind of player the midfield could be built around, he has a big part to play this season and will help players like the Ox and Ramsey improve their games.

Competition for places is looking good however we need to gel quickly. Olivier Giroud when he came on in the second half to replace Podolski looked a massive imposing figure and I’m sure once he gets a run will be scoring for fun. Unfortunately the only lasting memory people will have of the striker so far is his miss late in the second half. He was slipped in by Cazorla and without realising he had time on his side he dinked the ball past the keeper and just past the post. In his defence the opportunity came to him on his weaker right foot but I’m sure the player knows deep down he should have at least hit the target. Arsene was in agreement in his press conference after the game when he said

 “Giroud had a great chance on his right foot. I think he had more time than he thought and we expected him to score that one, of course.”

I’m sure he will be fine but the sooner he gets his first goal the better. In the grand scheme of things a 0-0 draw isn’t a disaster, it would have been nice to start with a win but given all the negative press over the past week with the loss of players it was sure to be playing on the teams mind. We will get past this after all we have become experts in rebuilding after the loss of stars.

A quick word on Alex Song, it was made official yesterday that terms have been agreed between Arsenal and Barcelona. The player leaves us and although I initially didn’t want him to leave I wish him well at his new club. He will find it tough to break into the team there and personally I can see his time at the club following a similar path to that of Alexander Hleb. As big as a player Song became in the Arsenal team he was not quite the complete player, he did master a niche for himself playing around much more talented attacking players. Some of those attacking talents he played with clearly rubbed off on him as exhibited by his number of assists last season.

Arsenal fans have a reputation for being a bit impatient whenever a flowing move breaks down due to a stray pass; song was no stranger to the odd stray pass. The Barcelona fans expectation of perfection trumps the arsenal fans ten fold so Song will have to step up his game to another level to make his move a success. I could be wrong and he could carve out a successful spell at the club however if Barcelona are asking him to just act as a shield to the defence then they may need to have a word. Unlike Van Persie moving to a rival I don’t begrudge Song the opportunity to become a Barcelona player. It is a great honor to represent such a big club and the chance to play alongside superstars like Messi, Xavi, Iniesta amongst others would be a hard choice for any player to turn down. Song has moved abroad which I have no problem with, I actually think he is a replaceable player and so do not find his departure as hard hitting of that say Van Persie or Fabregas before him. I will miss his presence due to the amount of time he has been part of the club but his departure is an easier one to recover from with the right signings.

Enjoy your day people

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Song to leave after all, Vermaelen captain, Jack the new no.10 – AFC

Robin Van Persie news aside it’s quite exciting that the start of the new premiership season has finally arrived. The break in the season has been quite adequately filled through a combination of European championships and the Olympic games but now its time to get down to the real stuff. Sunderland will come a knocking on the Emirates door and the Arsenal faithful will be turning up in their droves to witness what is hoped to be a new dawn. Another captain has gone, Alex Song could soon follow, quality players have been brought in yet we are still in a much better position than last season. The transfer business seems far from done but the preparation for the new season has been a lot more balanced and I cant see why will not end the 1st game of the season with 3 points on the board. I’ve got my ticket for the game and cant wait to take my place in the north bank and soak up the pre match buzz; A chance to see the new boys in the flesh and welcome Thomas Vermaelen as our new skipper.

Skipper

Although it was quite obvious Tom would take on the role once van persie was gone we still awaited the official announcement which was revealed yesterday on the official website. The poisoned chalice has been passed on and I hope that now Vermaelen has taken on the role he doesn’t follow the embarrassing trend of leaving next summer. Vermaelen was the only real contender for the role since he was vice captain last season, he leads by example and typifies the kind of fighting spirit football fans love. Mikel Arteta has been promoted to vice captain and he is another player who fits the mould, I would have chosen either Arteta or Song for the role as vice captain but since the revelation that Song may move on he has voluntarily opted out of the reckoning.

On the song topic we have moved from two days ago when Alex Song revealed his love for the club and how happy he was to yesterday’s admission by Arsene Wenger than there is every chance that Song could leave. In yesterday’s press conference Wenger backed up his admission of Song’s departure with:

“Midfield is an area where we have much more freedom to make decisions”

That answer was in conjunction with the potential acquisition of Nuri Sahin. So it seems we may lose our Cameroonian enforcer but gain a new member in the Real Madrid midfielder. Not a like for like replacement as Wenger maybe has plans for other players currently in the squad to step into that defensive role. Francis Coquelin could continue his development and rise to the challenge if thrown into the role. Wenger revealed Emmanuel Frimpong is three weeks away from starting training which is great news and then we also have Abou Diaby’s return to fitness. On paper we are well stocked for that position in reality it’s not that simple, could interest in Yann M’vila be reignited? Possibly especially since Arsene has a spare £24m in his back pocket now.

In another bit of interesting news, the squad numbers have been updated for the new season and the no.10 shirt which we all thought was being reserved for Lukas Podolski has actually been awarded to Jack Wilshere. A great honour for the young Englishman and the sooner we see him donning that shirt and restoring some legendary status back to that number after it was tarnished by the previous tenant the better.

Jack was overly pleased with the number and explained:

“It’s such an honor for me,”

“Getting the No 10 shirt again at the Club means so much to me as I wore it all through the youth teams at Arsenal.”

Nice touch Jack and I’m sure you will do the shirt service like the last Dutch legend DB10 as he revealed:

“It has a special place for all attacking or creative players. I feel proud to wear it now after some real Club legends have worn it, such as Dennis Bergkamp.”

Podolski has taken up the no.9 shirt after Park was demoted moved to no.30 the move makes sense. No.9 is one of the premier attacking numbers and it would be fitting it went to a player more likely to be in the starting XI. Park appears to be on borrowed time and will probably move on by the time the transfer window closes.

Francis Coquelin has also been rewarded for his rise through the ranks and into 1st team recognition by taking on Gael Clichy’s old number 22.

I hope you guys have done your fantasy league teams for the new season. I decided to finalize mine last night to avoid a possible meltdown of the fantasy premier league website as many of the last minute fans rush to register their team. The exact thing happened last year and the website was forced to start the season a week later to compensate. Get ’em in early to avoid disappointment, use the details below:

Join my mini league  at http://fantasy.premierleague.com/ and prove you have what it takes. Join the Gambeano Snitch league with the following entry code: 377771-102013.

Register, create your team then click join a league and enter the code when prompted.

Depending on numbers there may be a prize available for the overall winner. Prize TBC

It’s free to join, you have nothing to lose!!

Enjoy the first day of the new season people

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