Ramsey back to his best. Wilshere return impending.

That injury to Diaby during the Chelsea game is a big, big blow to this Arsenal team. One of the main reasons why we were dominating games until then was because we were dominating midfield and we were dominating midfield because we had a delicate mix of players in the centre of the field. Although the spotlight has always been on Cazorla from the beginning, the contribution from Diaby was far too much to ignore. For such a tall man with such long arms, it’s hard to comprehend how he dribbled the ball the way he did and made decisive turns to burst out and open spaces in midfield. That unpredictable nature and the physical presence will be sorely missed.

 

But it was always in the minds of all Arsenal fans that an injury to Diaby was waiting to happen. It always does. And it did. Now what?  Obviously Coquelin is the most obvious replacement. He’s a guy I trust, mostly because he is very mature for his age. But should he really be the guy who would slot right in?

 

Maybe, but I think it would only be temporary. Ramsey is a player who is booming with confidence. His performances in the last couple of games have been very eye-catching and he seems to be on course to prove his doubters wrong. Confession: I honestly thought Ramsey might have lost it after his injury. His injury was so similar to that of Eduardo’s that I could not help but predict the same fate for the Welshman. But as of right now, the lad is flying. But the question is- will Wenger continue to play him on the wings? He has been effective but I think Wenger could slot him  to directly replace Diaby, as he has more experience than Coquelin. We got far too many wingers at our disposal if we play Ramsey in there. With Ramsey on the wings, players like Walcott and Oxlade are forced to be on the bench, merely acting as impact subs.

 

But there was one more piece of good news that Arsenal fans got to savor and that was the return of the teen-sensation, Jack Wilshere(well no longer a teen, but I like to call him that). No one has any doubt that this boy is an absolute gem.  He recently got back to full training and even had his first proper match with the Under-21’s a couple of days back. Even Frimpong, who by the way is also back from injury, recently tweeted that it was as if Wilshere was never gone,when asked about Wilshere’s performances in training sessions.  But Wenger did say today that he will be very cautious to bring him into the Premier League games.

“Jack needs a few games, progressive build-up to get his body used again to competition, to shocks, to fights, but he is doing extremely well, the situation looks very good”

“We have to be cautious, not crazy, because of his talent you are always pushed in a situation where you would like to rush him back, and we have to resist that.The next match should be next week and he is working very hard.”

When this boy is back in our squad, get ready for some major surgery to happen in the midfield. One thing is for sure, Wilshere is not the kind of talent who will be put on the bench for too long. Sooner or later, he will claim his rightful place in the starting eleven. In any case, there is no doubt about Wilshere’s physical presence in midfield. He even gave Joey Barton a run for his money the last time he played against him. This is why, I believe there is no reason why Wilshere cannot continue what Diaby was doing for us until now which was to provide immense offensive burst and also be a physical presence in midfield.

So that’s been your future forecast for the week. Stay tuned for more.

The Return of Henry and What It Means For Arsenal

After a thunderstorm of stories over the past two days, Wenger confirmed that he has decided to sign Henry for 2 months. So how do I feel about his return? Great, in fact, I am overjoyed at the return of our all-time record goal scorer. But that is at an emotional level. Practically speaking, I am satisfied.

 

In the current situation, Arsenal are very lucky. We are very lucky that Robin Van Persie has actually lived up to his goal scoring expectations over a course of a season. All of this possible because he finally has been able to stay fit and not get injured on a regular basis. In fact, I don’t remember the last time he was injured. But what if he was not as fit as he is now? There’s no way we would have recovered the way we had without the influence of RVP.

 

Looking at our current squad, we have no one to actually step up if RVP gets injured. Chamakh? The lad lacks serious confidence and from what I’ve seen so far, he can have little or no positive impact in the near future for the team. Gervinho and Walcott are both not naturals at that position (even if Walcott claims he is). And Park, well, Arsene did say he has completed his adaptation process, but I don’t really know how. Has he adapted to life in England or to the game that Arsenal play? The former I am indifferent towards and the latter is simply not possible with the number of games he has featured for Arsenal. In our current situation, we are really vulnerable and badly need a backup striker for RVP.

 

So does Henry have all that is required for this position? It’s questionable but very much possible. Looking at recent statistics, during his first season at NY Red Bulls when he was just adapting to American Football, he scored 2 goals in 12 appearances. But the next season (2011/2012) he seems to have improved/adapted significantly scoring 15 goals in 29 appearances.

The Hero Returns

But practically speaking, the influence of Henry can only be effectively felt if RVP actually gets injured. If he doesn’t in the course of 2 months, I doubt we will see much of Thierry Henry. Otherwise, the wing position, the position that he started his career at Arsenal, is the position that we may to see Henry playing in. With Gervinho gone, there will be a decision to be made by Wenger on who to play there. Arshavin and Rosicky are the only ones who I can see playing there. Out of the two, Arshavin is in horrible form and in my opinion should be the last in pecking order even after Henry comes in. Henry, who is practically a two-footed player, can put pressure on Rosicky for that position. So yeah, unless RVP gets injured/rested, we can expect only to play on the left.

 

And lastly, I would like to warn those who are expecting too much from the return of the talisman striker. He is, after all, 34 and a player very much in decline. Even though Arsene says he still has pace, I very much doubt it is enough to cause trouble for defenders already adapted to playing against players like Theo and Bale. Also, there are many who fear that the return of Henry might have a negative impact on our players, especially RVP, whose authority in the team may be undermined.  I do not believe so.  Henry and RVP have played before and have enough respect for each other for these types of issues to arise. In any case, although he might not get to see him much, I welcome Thierry Henry back at Arsenal with open arms.

Captain Van-tabulous

Robin van Persie has caught the attention of the media, and the rest of the world. They’re all for the right reasons.

He sits on 34 goals for the year 2011 and close to beating Alan Shearer’s record of scoring the most goals in a calendar year. This would be an impressive feat in any league, but even more so in the Premier League because of the gritty and compact defenses that it possesses.

The timing of his incredible form in front of goal could not have been better. The club was looming with disappointment with the loss of stars Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. Someone needed to step up to the plate and inspire hope into the side. RVP took the mantle of captaincy with glee and led from the front.

This season we witness the Van Persie that we missed in previous seasons, when he found himself injured in the sidelines on a regular basis. The past is past, and Wenger still had confidence in his ability as he became the Arsenal frontline striker.  While a couple of years ago he used to produce flashes of brilliance with his dribbling and powerful free kicks. Now he is able to singlehandedly produce a string of classy, consistent performances which reap positive results. Even though the side heavily relies on his performance day in and out, he handles the pressure incredibly well and thrives in it.

Transfer rumours will always surround a player of his quality. 3 years ago it was Juventus, and now it is Real Madrid and Manchester City who are anticipating his signature. It is difficult to gage the future but it is unlikely that Dutchman will leave the club so soon. He should realize his enormous responsibility and importance to the club, something he would not get in parity with clubs filled with big names. Either way, Arsenal fans can just hope that he pens a new contract with the club as soon as possible and continues to mesmerize us with his match winning contributions.

He loves the club, and he loves his role as captain. This was evident when he scored the wonder volley goal against Everton (see video below). Instead of doing a solo celebration for his magical personal effort, he ran over to the Arsenal bench to celebrate the crucial 3 points earned for his side. Salute to you, Captain Van-tabulous.

An Article to Cheer You Up

The Barclay’s Premier League is back from the dead. Well, dormancy. Fans around cannot wait till the kick-off. Frisking through the sports section of the newspapers, watching shows in SkySports News they have already watched and fooling around in social media sites, the fans are ready the do just about anything to kill time right now.

Cannot say that I am an exception.

For the last few weeks, I have been in depression. Depressed about the fact that I feel that our team is not ready to challenge for the title, that there has not been adequate signings this summer and the ones that have been done were trivial.  All the negativity got to me. Sure, I was not caught up in the crazy ‘Wenger Out!!’ rebellions but I was sure as hell dispirited.

But today I woke up with an odd aura of optimism and hope. No, it’s not because we signed Joel Campbell, it’s something else.

It’s August 13th baby!

I realized that this is not the time to stay all gloomy and sad. The season hasn’t even started yet! A new season is upon us and here I was yesterday, all disheartened and heavy. I understand many fans are still not feeling confident about today, but seriously though, cheer up! It’s not that bad. There’s so much going on.

I am actually looking forward to Ramsey filling in for Fabregas. The same way I was looking forward to Fabregas filling in for the departed Viera. What a blast that was! Cannot wait to see how Ramsey proves that Cesc is not only replaceable but upgradable as well. Can’t wait to see how he links up with our captain RVP to score some wonderful goals.

Also looking forward to seeing enhanced wing play. I’m talking about Gervinho of course. With Gervinho and playing on one side and possibly Theo on the other, I simply cannot wait to see how our game will be changed. They will simply rip apart the likes of Simpson and Gutierrez. One thing I am sure our team will improve upon is our wing play. We seriously lacked width last season and with really fast wingers such as Theo, Gervinho, Ryo and Oxlade, our game might be very positively altered. As I said before, cannot wait to see!

Also looking forward to Rosicky. Hope he continues his pre-season form and finds his shooting boots because he will be very important for us this season, at least for the first few games.  I’m just praying that his injury curse has been lifted during his visit to the Egyptian gypsy and that he can live a normal life now.

Looking forward to our new No.1- no, not Almunia- the actual No.1- Wojciech Szczęsny(I still have to do a Google search every time I type his name). One thing that I believe will improve is our GK situation. With Almunia finally out of the picture (he’s what, 4th choice now?), I am expecting a significant improvement between our sticks over the last few seasons. Note that  this is the first season that we start with Wojciech  Szczęsny in goal and not anyone else, no bullshit. And also, Fabianski is a much better No.2 than Almunia, so that’s a win as well.

And lastly, Emmanue Frimpong. Sure, the kid goes crazy on twitter through his #DEEEENCHEs, but as long as he performs on the field, he can #DEEEENCH all he likes. With Denilson gone, he will be the one to fill in and thank god for that. Even at his young age, so far, every time he played the DM role, he played it better than Denilson. His physical presence is a very welcome bonus. We have an abundant amount of technical players but sometimes all we need is that good ol’ bully-type time player and Frimpong can be that player.

So as you can see there’s a LOT to look forward too. And if you are still going to cry in that corner, then I pity you.  New history will be written today and I sure as hell want to be a part of it, regardless of how it goes.  Up the Gunners!

 

PS: LAST DAY to join our Fantasy Premier League for the 2011/2012 season, league invitation code: 169093-63714

Just get Scott Dann!

Arsenal has been looking for a solid defender ever since the start of the transfer market this season. Yes, we signed Carl Jenkinson but he’s just one for the future.

Firstly we were close to signing Phil Jones, but he just chose to join Manchester United instead. Considering Manchester United’s recent successes, no one can blame him.

The rumor of Gary Cahill has just been inconspicuous. First it seemed the rumor was pretty strong, and then the news just kept fading away. His transfer to Arsenal now seems highly unlikely

Then there was Christopher Samba, who was misquoted by The Sun that he expressed an interest to join Arsenal. He came back and quashed it furiously. He might as well be leaving Blackburn, but his price tag may just a bit too much for what he’s worth to Arsenal.

The first bid of 10m was turned down by Everton for Jagielka. He seems to be the most likely defender to join Arsenal as rumour has it that Wenger will re-bid for 15m. That would be an interesting dilemma for Moyes, and only patience will dictate this transfer.

What about Scott Dann? Arsenal has been linked with him for a while now. He was close to a switch to Stoke but it didn’t materialize in the last minute. From then on the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool have also joined the race. I know Birmingham was relegated last season, but they have always been a gritty defensive team. All the Premier League clubs last season found it hard to break the Birmigham defense, especially in St Andrews. The reason for that is both Roger Johnson and Scott Dann were rock solid in defense.

One thing is encouraging is that Wenger is only showing interest in Premier League defenders, those who have been performing consistently and are physically capable of handling the pressure week in and out. He’s not going to risk it with an overseas signing this time around.

If a 10m bid is enough to secure Scott Dann, then Wenger should put in some serious thought to getting the 24 year old centre-back to Arsenal. Let’s face it, time is running out and teams will be more and more hesitant to get rid of their first choice defenders as it’ll be even harder to replace them. Dann would be a strong back-up to both Vermaelen and Koscielny. He would also probably provide stiff competition to Squillaci for a run in the first team!

 

 

PS: Join our Fantasy Premier League for the 2011/2012 season, league invitation code: 169093-63714

Follow me @sharjil

 

What Effect Did The Pre-Season Games Have On Fabregas And Nasri?

This has hardly been one of our best pre-seasons in recent years. Whether you accept it or not, there is a very pessimistic vibe around the club now-a-days. Anxiety mixed with tension from practically throwing away our title hopes last season still remains. The lack of signings so far, especially in the defensive department, is not helping at all. On top of that, we just lost a trophy in our own tournament which featured far weaker teams than previous pre-seasons.

Of course, the boos were unnecessary and uncalled for. It’s just another pre-season game, after all. The whole point of the matches was to improve fitness levels, try out different formations and experiment with different combinations of players.

I think there were a number of reasons why some of the fans were upset:

1)     Szczesny, Djourou and even Wenger himself have been saying how they have been practicing to avoid conceding silly goals. But, in none of the pre-season games did this show. All we saw was the same shaky Arsenal defense giving away comfortable leads and conceding at the most awkward times. At the moment, it looks like the ‘one defender’ Wenger promised may not be enough.

2)      Arsenal has been poor in most of the pre-season games so far. Yet after each match, Wenger would come out and praise the team as if it was all fine and well. He even managed to squeeze in some ridiculous comments such as ‘we managed to play well for 60 minutes’. Sometimes I feel Wenger intentionally tries to anger the fans! I just hope he acts differently in the dressing room.

3)      According to Wenger, this is supposed to be our ‘most important transfer window’ in a long time. Yet, so far, there is hardly anything that’s been done in the transfer market to A) strengthen our defence and B) replace players who have or are yet to leave.

4)      Squillaci

So, losing the Emirates Cup was pretty disappointing and some fans certainly overreacted to the situation. But there are some delusional fans that have hardly reacted. I remember reading some of the post-match tweets saying stuff like ‘Glad that we didn’t win the Emirates Cup, now the players will want to win the PL title even more’. I’m sorry, it’s one thing to be spiritual but that’s just absurd. How can anyone justify losing/drawing in any game, regardless of its triviality, as being positive?

Some fans went on to say things like ‘I’m glad we are playing this bad, at least this will help Wenger realize how weak the team is!’ If you ask me, losing a pre-season game is hardly something which will bring Arsene to realize the problems within the team. If throwing away 4-0 leads and making ludicrous defensive errors in actual competitive cup matches did not bring Wenger to reality, a mere pre-season friendly surely wouldn’t!

In any case, all this pessimism brought me to think about the Cesc and Nasri situation. Both are apparent want-aways but both have different reasons to leave.

Cesc wants to leave the club to play for his boyhood club Barcelona. In fact he wanted to leave for quite some time now. Reportedly, Fabregas was ready to leave Arsenal last year but cunning Arsene convinced him otherwise. Arsene bought Fabregas for one more year saying that Arsenal would win trophies the following season. Cesc was already frustrated with the lack of trophies after serving for Arsenal since he was sixteen, but he couldn’t say ‘no’ to the man who made his career. So that was that, one more year for Cesc. But as we all know, the trophies never arrived and things are now more unstable than ever in the Cesc transfer saga.

The Nasri situation is quite different. Although it’s clear Nasri is reluctant to sign a new contract, the reason for not signing is still obscure. Some say that Nasri is a typical sports mercenary and is holding up for a big-wage contract offer while others say he would not commit to a club who are not winning trophies and furthermore doing hardly anything to change that.

Surely the current way Arsenal are playing is not helping either of the situations. The same old problems shroud the team and this seems to be clear to all but Wenger. In the last game, Nasri seemed to be in all sorts of disarray. His mind never seemed to be in the game. Cesc  reportedly left the match during half time. The fans losing hope in the team is one thing, but when players themselves lose hope, it’s something completely different.

But, maybe things aren’t as bad as they look. Maybe we will perform when it’s required for us to perform and maybe things will be done to fix all the issues before the start of the season. Maybe…

 

PS: Join our Fantasy Premier League for the 2011/2012 season, league invitation code: 169093-63714

Defensive Frailties Continue – Will Jagielka Save Us?

Arsenal couldn’t even win the Emirates Cup. This year our opponents were much weaker, and they still failed to win it. Two utterly disappointing draws.

It’s true that there weren’t too many goals either. The same old story, Arsenal creates countless opportunities but convert only a few. However, once the season starts we know Arsenal will start to convert more. Nobody has ever been in doubt over our attacking threat. Yet, while the defense disappointed us last season, it’s started failing us again this pre-season.

If our defense looks weak against the likes of Boca Juniors, New York Red Bulls and Hangzhou Greentown, how do you expect to contest for titles? Arsenal’s priority this year in the transfer market was clearly to go out and reinforce our defense, yet there has just been one defender entering the team. While our first choice LB in Clichy left, Wenger announced that our second choice LB was up for the task. Those who saw the match against NYRB would agree that Kieran Gibbs had no impact on the game whatsoever.

A month left in the transfer market, and Wenger will definitely sign a defender. He doesn’t want to name names, but it’s evident he will. The most likely transfer targets so far have been Phil Jagielka, Gary Cahill and Chris Samba. Will a Jagielka just come in and plug our leaking defense? I certainly hope so. I’m happy atleast Wenger is looking at center backs who are established in the Premier League rather than resorting to ones abroad.

If for some reason we don’t see a new defensive signing, or if it’s just a young defender like Carl Jenkinson, all hopes for the coming season are gone. Just a couple of injuries in the backline, and our season would be instantly over. The only thing we can hope for then is that we don’t turn into a Liverpool.

Follow me at @sharjilh

PS: Join our Fantasy Premier League for the 2011/2012 season, league invitation code: 169093-63714

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