Monday Reflections On The Arsenal

The Arsenal passed their test at the weekend, a Saturday stroll ensuring 3 points on the table to keep pace with those around them. Now at the business end of the season there are no more easy games, each match regardless of the opposition is a potential banana skin and it was important that the disappointment of the game against Bayern Munich in the week did not have a knock on effect to the players.  I’ve had a day or two to digest the events of Saturday and thought I would share my thoughts and reflections with you this Monday morning.

Bit of a flat atmosphere in the Emirates

For a game that produced four goals for the Arsenal the atmosphere was quite subdued inside the Emirates. The weather was nice, an early goal was scored and I suppose the urgency within the match was quelled as soon as Olivier Giroud struck the opener.

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When you compare in contrast the electric atmosphere when Bayern Munich came to town it was like matching a 100 bpm Scooter track to anything sung by Norah Jones. In fairness there is hardly any bad history between Arsenal and Sunderland to spark the ire of the fans. Another reason for the atmosphere could be related to my next point.

Best time to play Sunderland

By this I am referring to the timing of the Carling Cup Final next weekend. You could sense in the performance that Sunderland were content with getting through the 90 minutes injury free. You  would think that players would put in a good performance to ensure their name is on that starting eleven team sheet on cup final day but it has been evident year after year players just don’t want to take that risk and miss out altogether. Arsenal didn’t have to move out of 2nd gear on Saturday which you would think would lead to an event free afternoon, this moves on to my next point

Potential growing injury list

With the lack of intensity in the game on Saturday the team still managed to suffer on the injury front. It is hoped players were replaced as mere precautions rather than anything serious.  Nacho Monreal was replaced at half time by Carl Jenkinson after receiving a kick on the foot in the first half; Laurent Koscielny then went off meaning Sagna had to cover in the center of defense with Matthieu Flamini covering at left back. Jack Wilshere was also struggling towards the end of the game meaning the backroom staff will be putting in some overtime this week to patch the players up ready for next week’s game at Stoke. The defensive injuries are the biggest worries as a Monreal injury would come at the worst time following Kieran Gibbs misfortune in the week. Vermealen is rumored to be returning to the side soon and he will be surely needed if any of the starting back four have any injuries longer term.

The Legend Bergkamp

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It was a special day in the memory of Dennis Bergkamp’s legacy as a player for Arsenal. The non-flying Dutchman’s statue was unveiled on the morning of the match to a very appreciative crowd. It’s always great to see former greats return to the club and one of such standing as Bergkamp certainly brings back the good feelings of where Arsenal used to be and could one day be again. He was fully deserving of his statue and was humble enough to dedicate such an honor to his team mates and the support of his wife and family. For those who could not make it to the unveiling he made an appearance at half time to the Emirates crowd to great applause and adulation.

Ozil rested

Although the official reason was an injury to the German playmaker I am pretty sure Ozil was rested just to relieve some of the heat he endured in the past week. In fairness he has played a hell of a lot of football this season and the break could do him some good. Although he was rumored to be present at the Emirates on Saturday, Ozil still can benefit from having no football to affect him physically or mentally and start afresh next week. He still has the support of his team mates and the majority of fans despite what the tabloids say.

Mannone returns

It was nice to see the Italian return to the Emirates as a more respected goalkeeper. Mannone has certainly seized his opportunity upon leaving Arsenal and has made himself the first choice in the Sunderland team. He has proved himself to be the goalkeeper he had the potential to be whilst with Arsenal but failed to build upon. I’m sure Gunner’s fans will back the keeper 100% next week in the Carling Cup Final as he remains popular amongst them. Mannone’s career advancement has surely acted as inspiration for our very own Lukasz Fabianski to seek pastures new. He has likely glanced over at his former rival with envy and aimed to seek similar success to boost his club and country fortunes.

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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Sunderland tickets on sale this week, walcott to stay – AFC

As the new week kicks in we move closer towards the month of August and towards the 18th of that month which marks the new premier league season kick off. In turn on Thursday this week will be the 1st opportunity for fans to purchase tickets for the opener against Sunderland. The tickets on sale on 2nd August are only to the silver members whilst the following week on the 6th red members will get their chance to purchase tickets.

Season ticket holders of course need not to worry about sale dates as their allocation are guaranteed but for silver members like myself it’s a first chance to get our hands on the discounted cheaper category C seats as revealed by the Arsenal ticketing folk earlier in the month.

I’ll be sure to log in early to ensure a decent seat in a block I prefer and I advise all others to do the same, the opening fixture tickets will not hang around waiting for you.

It was revealed yesterday in the Daily Star that Theo Walcott has given his biggest hint yet that he intends to stay with Arsenal.

He was quoted as saying when asked about contract negotiations:

“The club and my agent are talking but it is a slow process and my last contract took six months to agree – but it will come.

We’ll see what happens but I am not too bothered about it. I am keen to work with the team just trying to get fit and there is still got a long way to go yet.”

A rather laid back response but still a positive indication that he forsee’s an outcome where he will still be an Arsenal player. I know many have grumbled at his alleged wage demands that have been thrown out there but I guess the overall wage should not be our concern, only the fact that he eventually puts pen to paper. The situation we find ourselves in with current captain robin van persie should not be a situation we find ourselves in again with other players. It is frustrating as a fan to see players walking out the back door for free or for a heavily discounted price due to time left on contracts. Nasri did it last year, Robin this time. I remember when Matthieu Flamini walked out on us at a time he really established himself in the team, the departure left a bitter taste in the mouth.

started the trend of contract rebels

Though when you look at it we got a taste of our own medicine as we acquired him from Marseilles under the same circumstances (running down his contract) and the season prior to his departure he was seen by arsenal fans in the same light we look at Denilson. He turned it around though and was able to engineer a move to a big club like AC Milan, I suppose he at least showed some loyalty by not moving to another Premiership team. He may still get booed whenever he returns to emirates but I don’t hold no animosity towards him I just hoped that was the last time we let one get away due to lack of urgency in negotiations. Lets hope we can buck that trend after Van persie is gone, nobody likes giving away things for free especially when they are valuable assets.

I didn’t catch any of the game yesterday against Kitchee but heard the same old reasons mentioned for the loss of our goals, defensive lapses, missed chances, improved second half. I find it hard to assess Arsenal on the pre season friendly games especially when we don’t have the whole group together. I’m sure Wenger, Bould et al have been able to see where improvements are needed from the fringe players, they will work on them when they return. We must not forget the games are just as important for Arsenal on a marketing level as they are on fitness side. The real hard work starts when the whole group is together, the younger players who impressed Wenger on the Asia tour will be integrated with the first team and given another chance to show their stuff in the final few warm up games.

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Enjoy your day people