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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.

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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

 

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

Santi Cazorla – The Ideal Signing

I didn’t know much about Santi Cazorla before his name appearing on the Arsenal radar this week. He often comes off the bench for Spain, but we all know the supreme quality of even the Spanish reserves.

The reason his name is even appearing on the Arsenal rumor mill is clear – Wenger is preparing for Fabregas’s departure. As Mata and Hazard seem less to likely to come to Arsenal day by day, Wenger is looking for the other options.

Villareal’s Cazorla is strongly linked to a move to Malaga (the new Man City of the Spanish Primera), and his availability has sparked interest from elite clubs everywhere. However, is he worth his 20m valuation? Or more importantly, does he suit the Arsenal bill?

He looks to be the ultimate playmaker. Although a bit on the short side (height wise), he always creates his own space all over the field, and more importantly looking for the ball to come to him. Passing is exquisite, whether short or long balls. He does have the tendency to take some rash shots from distance, but his goal scoring record for Spain and at club level is decent. Take note that he’s quite fast too, so blending into the already fast-paced Arsenal side shouldn’t be a problem.

In the scenario that either Fabregas or Nasri leave, Cazorla could be the ideal signing for Wenger. Hopefully Malaga doesn’t snap him up quickly, and then Arsenal could race for his signature over the next couple of weeks.

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

Bend it like Bendtner

Our super star striker, Zlatan Ibrahimovic wannabe is finally heading to a graceful Arsenal exit.

I’ve been so surprised over the last one year of his continued insistence of trying to leave Arsenal. His main justification was that Wenger was sidelining him from the Arsenal first time when he feels he is ‘ready’. You’re ready Nicklas, nobody doubts that. That’s why you were Wenger’s first choice striker in the Champions League a couple of seasons back. When Van Persie had been sidelined through injury and Bendtner was available, he was playing. Sadly enough, Bendtner couldn’t live up to his own standards last season and Marouane Chamakh took his spot. Still he continuously got chances, and except for a few quality finishes, he continuously failed.

So I hope he doesn’t blame Wenger, because he did get plenty of opportunities. In fact, a lot more than even the fans wanted.

It’s his ego that is always questionable. On many instances he said that he has the potential to be the world’s greatest striker, and compared himself to the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic (who knows why Ibrahimovic is his benchmark in the first place?). It’s not joke to be of the class of Zlatan. No doubt there was a lot of hype around him. Steve Bruce picked up his potential pretty quickly in his loan spell to Birmingham City. Still, you can’t just go to the press and make over-confident statements like that. Prove your quality on the field first, and others will judge potential and ability. I’m sure he expected ‘top clubs’ all over the world to come knocking after finding out his transfer availability, but that didn’t happen. Hopefully that has brought him back to earth.

Either way I wish him the best of luck wherever he goes. He’s still young, so maybe he will be a top world-class striker one day. If only he was a bit more patient, he could have been an Arsenal favourite.

Barcelona finally outclassed

Yesterday was historic. It’s the day we’ve been waiting for a long, long time. The day when Arsenal finally beats Barcelona. To all those who support Arsenal, it was a special moment. We forgot about everything else going on in our lives atleast even for a few seconds, to spare some thought on this glorifying victory.

Those who saw the match should however know that it wasn’t really an easy ride. Barcelona really dominated the game in the first half. They played breathtaking possession football, passing it around almost training session like. It was not a pretty sight for the thousands of fans in the Emirates Stadium who were eagerly waiting for a result. If the first half was so poor, then what could’ve possibly turned it around and placed the match in our favour?

It was possibly the first time in a major victory that Cesc Fabregas is not at the heart of attention. In fact, it was the young Jack Wilshere who inspired everyone. He was arguably the best player in the whole match and he got stuck in at the Barca field when they had possession and made some fantastic passes when he had the ball at his own feet. His perception was brilliant and tracked back extremely well to always anticipate and tackle that growing Barca move. What a display from this young Gunner. If anyone had any doubts about him, this performance should remove them completely. Actually the rumour is out already that after yesterday, Barcelona have lost their interest in Cesc Fabregas and have shifted towards Jack Wilshere. Hopefully this will never happen!

 

 

Wilshere was the Man of the Match, but it was one moment of brilliance that catalyzed this win. Robin van Persie’s form just continues to get better, and he continues to impress. I don’t remember the last time RVP was so prolific. I still remember just a couple of months back all we were talking about was Chamakh and his goal scoring form. Woah, but where is Chamakh now? He is pretty much out of the scene because van Persie comes back in the team in a bang! What RVP provides to the team is that cutting edge finishing ability. Just the way he moves when he has the ball in his feet is mesmerizing. I mean no offence to Chamakh, but van Persie is provides just a totally different class of striking ability up front. It was his awareness that made the crucial goal. It was a flash of inspirational play, from a true Gunner.

You know who is our super sub now? Before it was Walcott, now its Arshavin. Andrei won’t be too happy about because he wants to start for Arsenal every game. The important thing is he is making an impact in every game he features in now. We get glimpses of the old Arshavin back in his true colours. It’s his ability to be at the right place at the right time which makes him such a great player. His finish yesterday might have looked easy, but it wasn’t at all. A composed and accurately placed strike from our little Russian. Not even a sign of doubt in his eyes when he struck that. This is the Arshavin we want to see everyday.

However, the department that most impressed against Barca was the defence. Yes, the defence. I can’t believe I’m saying this as well. Wenger didn’t sign anyone in January and many started to speculate that we would stand no chance against a resilient Barcelona side. The first half was horrid though. There was a lack in concentration and Song’s flurry of tackles was frustrating to witness. But the defence regrouped, and put up a match winning defensive display. It’s not easy to contain the likes of Messi and David Villa upfront for even a few mins, let alone the full match. Djourou and Koscielny were right on the money as they kept intercepting passes and clearances with great precision. Then again, we have the Szczesny factor, who also seems to be improving on a daily basis. From being in the utmost outskirts of the first team, he is now out best goalkeeper and is putting up match winning displays against the best teams in the world. It seems as though the future of our goalkeeping lies in good hands. It must be said, Vermaelen’s absence was not felt yesterday. Just to put it in the most simplest of terms, our defence is awesome!

It’s not over yet, since it’s just the first leg. Nou Camp will be a hell of a game, and Barcelona will be at the top of their game. Whichever way it goes, this victory means a lot.

Leading up to the next game, Andrei Arshavin puts it perfectly when asked about Arsenal’s chances.

“Without belief you can do nothing, so we must believe”

Couldn’t have said it any better, it is belief that will take us forward.

 

Scouting Michael Ciani to Arsenal

With Arsene Wenger confirming he will sign a defender for cover to both Vermaelen and Squillaci, rumours of a new center back are more frequent. One of those defenders that have popped up in the media as being in the Arsenal radar is Michael Ciani

He is Chamakh’s former team mate at Bordeaux, and tall too! Standing at 6 ft 2 inches is not a joke. Arsenal are always linked with tall defenders (Gary Cahill for e.g.) but have not signed any in the recent past.

Ciani has been quite impressive for Bordeaux after joining the club in the summer of 2009. He was especially strong and composed for Bordeaux in their Champions League campaign last season and has continued his consistency so far this season as well. So Ciani is definitely not inexperienced in the Champions League side of football. Infact he has already got one international cap. After France’s dismal display at the 2010 World Cup, it looks like Ciani could be looked upon and called up more often to the national side.

Michael Ciani Michael Ciani of Bordeaux gestures during the UEFA Champions League Group A match between Juventus FC and FC Girondins de Bordeaux at the Olympic Stadium on September 15, 2009 in Turin, Italy.

However, is he too expensive as cover for two frontline defenders? Probably. Michael Ciani would be atleast 10 mill and I’m not sure Wenger will gamble on a defender without Premier League experience to use as cover for January. Secondly, Ciani is also French. Arsenal have always been criticized for being the French team of England. It probably is true. Just imagine Clichy, Sagna, Koscielny, Squillaci, Nasri and Diaby in the same lineup. It’s all French. Fans are a bit wary of that and I think Wenger will be too to sign another French player for Ligue 1. It’s probably why we’re hearing more rumours of English defenders being linked with Arsenal, like Cahill, Upson and Woodgate. Not to even forget that Bordeaux will try a lot harder to keep one of their star defenders, after losing both Chamakh and Gourcuff last season.

I personally don’t see Squillaci as being our main central defender. He’s more like Mikael Silvestre of Arsenal type of player. Since Vermaelen’s injury just keeps getting worse and it seems like his role this season will be minimal, we definitely need to sign someone better than Squillaci. Ciani has all the qualities to be a formidable defender in the Premier League and possibly much better than Squillaci as well. So if the Arsenal backroom is as ambitious as they portray to the media, then Wenger should give some serious consideration in signing someone like Ciani. With just a few days left to the close of the transfer window, Wenger has to think quick!