Archive for the ‘ Player Related ’ Category

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.

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

Thoughts on the Mata Stories, Lucas Biglia and the Left Back Situation

Not much on the news today. Seems like the same old rehash of the last few days. Transfer-wise, nothing solid has emerged and it seems Arsene will wait till the last moment again. Some Xabi guy made some Cesc-like comments today but I was not bothered to read. Biology and DNA were never my strongest suits and should be left to professional footballers. The transfer window itself seems like a rehash of last season.

Another potential replacement for Cesc Fabregas seems to be out of our reach now as Santi Cazorla has signed for Malaga. I do not know if we were really after him but if we were, Malaga signing him really shows the power of money in the modern transfer market. A player is willing to give up an opportunity to join an elite club like Arsenal to join Malaga. Really says a lot, doesn’t it?

Speaking of Cesc replacements, the Mata situation has warmed up a bit now. When I first saw us being linked with Mata, I right away called bullshit. But the rumour has survived long enough to catch my attention. To be honest, the Mata situation has been bit like a roller coaster ride. At first Mata, himself went on to say that he was happy at Valencia, but never actually dismissed the possibility of a transfer. But in the past few days, Mata has been constantly linked with us which is leading me to believe that there may actually be a story in this. Maybe Valencia are intentionally playing ‘hard-to-get’ to get a better deal out of Arsenal? But, just has a heads-up, Mata used to play for Real Madrid as a youth, so maybe we should do a DNA test before seriously looking into this transfer. Eh?

The Metro links us to a new midfielder named Lucas Biglia. I have never heard much about this guy and after  searching through the web, apparently neither did the internet. He plays as a defensive midfielder and therefore is not a potential replacement for Cesc as many might have assumed. The Torres look-a-like is 25 and has only recently capped for Argentina. The few Youtube videos about him do not give away much either. I am in no position to make a final judgement here but I do not think he can add anything to our squad for the immediate season. In any case, Lucas has clearly stated that he is open to transfers and that, for some reason, it would be easier for him to play in other leagues than his current league. This is what he said:

“I think I have come to the end of my time at Anderlecht… The board know what I want. Playing for Argentina opens lots of doors for me.

“Sometimes I feel I have to work harder because I play in Belgium. It would be easier in a different league.”

 

In other news, Walcott and Henderson have joined Abou Diaby and Cesc Fabregas in the list of pre-season injured players, with Henderson being out for at least 6 months. So your squad doesn’t seem that big now, does it, Arsene?

Arshavin, who has been pretty lively in pre season has dismissed rumours about him leaving and has talked about his personal targets for next season. He aims to score exactly 15 goals for next season. If he cuts down on his laziness, that target should be achievable for a player of his caliber. I just hope he does not stop scoring after acheiving his target of exactly 15 goals! That would be plain stupid.

Lastly, I would like to talk about one position which no one seems to be concerned about- the left back position. I do not have any exact stats from previous seasons, but many of Arsenal’s conceded goals came from the left hand side. Clichy was very error-prone and opponents constantly took advantage of this through counter attacks. Furthermore, Arshavin who plays in the left of midfield is not one who tracks back very well. Even though Clichy has left Arsenal, both his replacements are very similar to him. I do not know about Traore, but Gibbs’ performances in pre-season weren’t very convincing. I still think Wenger should find a replacement for Clichy soon as we cannot afford to take any more risks for this season. If Jose Enrique’s recent rant on twitter is anything to go by, Arsenal should seize the opportunity and make a move for him. Plus, the Spaniard has only one year left on his contract- the optimum condition for Arsene Wenger.

Well, that’s all for today. Hoping for some positive news tomorrow. Till then, take care.

MATA UPDATE: Other than the news in the Spanish newspaper, the Daily Star goes as far as to claim that Mata will sign for Arsenal within the next 24 hours!

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.