Man City next, Walcott contract an unwanted distraction – AFC

Match day at last, the time has come to reach our first real test of the season. Any win over Liverpool at Anfield always ranks highly in my book however the victory this season if looked more closely under a microscope showed a Liverpool team still coming to terms with a new system, a new manager and still broken from the bad buys of Kenny Dalgleish’s last reign. A win really was the only possible outcome from that tie and now we reach the stage where we take on the current champions in their own patch. This will be the acid test of how far we have come and how our improved defence can cope against quality opposition.

Both teams meet today coming off the back of gruelling away games in the champion’s league, we will start the game with a slight psychological advantage given the fact we won our game. Man City’s opposition were a far harder test, no disrespect to Montpellier but Real Madrid is another level of football club. The fact that Man City were fighting to the last minute it is hoped that physically they will show fatigue in today’s game.

From their team it looks like Sami Nasri will miss the game due to a hamstring strain obtained in the midweek game. In a way that will probably work in Arsenal’s favour. Too much is made of Nasri when the two clubs clash that part of the focus slips away as it turns into a personal battle.

These situations are definitely new to arsenal fans and have slowly crept up on us the past couple of years. In the past players that left the club acrimoniously were well past their peak to the point if we ever faced them their involvement didn’t warrant any attention. More frequently since Emmanuel Adebayor left the club we have come to face the ‘pantomime villain’ ex player. It certainly left a bitter taste the way he left the club with his tail between his legs to a premiership rival, although Man city weren’t as big then he was still a player in his prime moving to an up and coming rival club.

Nasri was then the next player to join that club and now the latest addition is Robin Van Persie to join the unique club founded by Ashley Cole. The games all of a sudden become bigger than one club against another, it’s personal between the player and the rival fans and the result almost becomes second best as long as that player has a poor game.

Back in the day all we had to contend with was Jermaine Pennant playing out of his skin against us to try and prove some point. He was so irrelevant most fans didn’t care at all because they knew his lack of brain cells would have him in the papers for all the wrong reasons before too long.

I’m quite greedy and would rather have the result and a poor performance from Nasri (if he plays). To be honest our team has changed so much that beyond Emmanuel Frimpong not many of the current squad will give two hoots about Nasri. He is clearly in our past and their focus is on bigger and better things.

It is hoped Theo Walcott and his non contract doesn’t affect the good start we have had to the season. Personally I believe once the transfer window closed and he didn’t sign anything that his days with Arsenal were numbered. His agent now holds all the cards and can hold the club to ransom over negotiation terms. I would not be surprised if the player moves on in the next window. Arsene Wenger is reported to be frustrated about the whole situation and gave his biggest indication yet that if things are not resolved in the next two months his hand may be forced to cash in on the England winger. Us Arsenal fans have been through it all before and understandably we are a little less forgiving despite the positive comments that come out of Theo’s mouth. If you want to play for us do whatever it takes as soon as possible so that your only focus is on the team. Right now doubts remain, some negative vibes are coming off from the stands and it will most definitely transpire into his mental state and affect performances when he’s on the pitch.

I hope he does prove us all wrong and signs a contract soon though at present everything points to him moving on. I’m sure with the pressure on from Wenger we will hear a lot more about this situation over the next few weeks.

Look at me rambling on about something other than today’s game. See Theo, even I’m distracted.

Back to today’s game and I’d take a score draw, anything more than that would be fantastic. it’s not impossible, heres hoping our amazing away fans sing us on to victory

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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Euros start today, exciting times – AFC

It’s Friday 8th June and the Euros are set to start today, the long wait is over and I’m feeling a little excited. Operation “cope without premiership” has moved into phase two if you are wondering phase one was the spluttering of pre-Euro friendlies we have witnessed recently but in my opinion international friendlies just don’t hit the spot. We as football fans need football that matters, games that have that life or death feeling. The friendlies are an excuse to iron out the mistakes and get sharp; the tournament is the time when the mistakes are unacceptable. 

Our wives and girlfriends dread this time of year; the odd jobs we have promised to do are placed firmly at the back of the list of importance. They will have to wait a little longer for that shelf to be put up; they might as well buy a brand new washing machine because we are not taking a look at the current one now.

By the way no disrespect to the bona-fide football loving ladies, I know there are a lot of you and you will be enjoying the tournament as much as the next person.

Now the added interest to the tournament comes in the form of the Arsenal players that will be representing their countries.  Many past and present stars will be on show in the majority of the games to give gunners fans plenty to mull over.  We also have a category of potential former players which gunners fans will be divided over supporting through the competition. And a final category of potential signings, gooners across the land will turn into scouts and run the rule over the players linked with moves to Arsenal and give their assessment of those players and hope Wenger is taking note on Twitter.

I will give a brief summary of the players in question to look out for:

POLAND: Szczesny (current).  Our current number one will be playing between the sticks for Poland. He has earned his plaudits whilst playing for his country and now on the grand stage hopefully he can show what he can do. Will be a major boost for his confidence to have a good tournament and will benefit Arsenal in the long run.

RUSSIA: Arshavin (could be going). Our Russian no.23 will be captaining his country and will hope to have a good competition. He seems likely to move on after the Euros so expect him to have extra incentive to impress potential suitors.

CZECH REPUBLIC: Rosicky (current). Super Tom will also be captaining his country at the Euros. Given his form towards the second half of the season for Arsenal it will be nice to see him carry that form into the Euros and have a good tournament.

NETHERLANDS: Van Persie (could be going) our skipper will be going into the tournament after a fantastic season for Arsenal. His confidence will be sky-high so his contribution in the tournament could be that final piece of the puzzle that can push Netherlands towards success. With his future put on hold until after the Euros many AFC fans will be backing Robin for success.

Ibrahim Afellay (Scout watch). Will be interesting to see what the Barcelona winger has in his locker

DENMARK: Bendtner (could be going) The big Dane looks to have one foot out the door, after spending the season out on loan and vowing not to return to Arsenal. Reception from Arsenal fans will be mixed.

GERMANY: Podolski (current) a great chance to have a good look at our acquisition on the big stage. We have all seen what Podolski can do in previous tournaments but this time as an Arsenal player there will be more interest in his actual play and how it can fit in at Arsenal.

Mertesacker (current) the tall German will be coming into the tournament on the back of a long-term injury. Hopefully he is back fully fit and has a good tournament.

SPAIN: Fabregas (former) Former skipper, some may wish him well, some don’t really care. I’ll still have an interest in him but not too bothered how he does.

CROATIA: Eduardo (former) Dudu is still liked by many Arsenal fans and it’s still quite sad it ended the way it did after his horrific leg break. What’s good is he got his career back on track and I would like to see him have a good tournament.

FRANCE: Koscielny (current) Our Kos is coming into the tournament on the back of a great season at Arsenal. He improves with each game he plays and has worked his way into Laurent Blanc’s plans.

Nasri (former) No comment

Clichy (former) nothing against Gael, hope he has a good tournament if he can dislodge Patrice Evra from left back slot.

Giroud (Scout watch). Let’s see what the striker can do, he has impressed in recent friendlies.

M’villa (Scout watch). Another we will anticipate to see on the big stage if he overcomes his ankle injury.

ENGLAND: Oxlade-Chamberlain (current) hopefully the Ox has a good tournament for an injury ravaged England squad. He has nothing to fear going into the tournament and if used right by Roy Hodgson should have a positive impact on the team.

Walcott (current) this will be Theo’s first proper tournament. After being swept into the England squad for the 2006 world cup and was unused, he was then left out of the 2010 world cup squad by Fabio Capello. Theo will need to use this tournament to make up for lost time.

Cole (former) No comment

SWEDEN: Larsson (former) Former player Sebastian should star for the Swedes this tournament. Never quite made it at Arsenal before deciding on taking his career elsewhere. Amazing dead ball skills, will be interesting to see if he scores any trademark free kicks at the Euros.

 Well that’s the players with Arsenal links. Enjoy your Friday at work and then hurry home or to the pub for kick off. Roll on 17:00 (UK time of course)