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

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

Why Wenger’s Latest Comments Do NOT Make Any Sense

“Certainly, we will have to find one more defender. I can promise we work very hard on it. In fairness, everybody looks for players.”

“I don’t want to comment individually because I do not want to destabilise clubs. I do not want to do to other clubs what Barcelona some clubs do to us so I wouldn’t like to comment individually on any player”

 “We still try to strengthen our side but I’m already very happy with what we show at the moment. If you look all around Europe at the different clubs there’s very little movement. I will all speed up in August I think.”

”We are traveling [toCologne] with 23 players and 3 goalkeepers. We have a big squad already”.

‘’Looking at [Abou] Diaby, [Cesc] Fabregas and [Emmanuel] Eboue, still behind plus [Nicklas] Bendtner still behind, that’s 27-28 players, we have a massive squad already, there’s very little movement at the moment.’’

These are the latest comments from our Boss, Arsene Wenger. Anyone else feel there’s something seriously faulty about those remarks?

First of all, was our squad good enough to win the league last season? I am talking about the whole squad, not just the first 11. The answer to that question is clearly a ‘NO’. So basically if we have players leaving that squad and they are not replaced, will that strengthen or weaken the squad? It will weaken it.

So far, to improve our squad we have bought Carl Jenkinson and Gervinho. If you think about it, the signing of Carl Jenkinson probably did improve our squad but it did not really correct anything that was wrong with it. Jenkinson is a rightback and as far as I know, our critical problems last season were NOT in that particular position. To be fairly honest, I have no problem with the Sagna/Eboue combo at right back. Point being, although I welcome the signing of this youngster, I feel that he did not really fix any of the problems with our squad. He is just a ‘good addition’.

Gervinho signing for us is different. From what I know, Gervinho is a winger and we did lack width last season. So if Gervinho is a proper winger (we will probably find out today vs FC Cologne), then he will improve and correct some of the problems in the squad. Apparently Gervinho can play as a striker too, so he can possibly fill the void if RVP and/or Chamakh are absent.

Now, IF everything remains the same and we do sign a new defender (as Wenger suggests above), then I would say we have a decent squad for next season. But it’s not all that simple is it?

The real complication arises when players have to leave the squad. So let’s see:

1)     Clichy and Denilson have already left for Mancity and Sao Paolo respectively

2)      Bendtner, Almunia and possibly Eboue to leave imminently

3)      Either Cesc or Nasri or both to leave soon

So basically, FIVE players are guaranteed to be out of our squad next season. And although Arsenal fans are tearing up their hair with anxiety and fear, Wenger is ‘already happy’ with the situation!

He mentions that we have a huge squad already. Ok, but isn’t this pretty much the same squad as last season? Using just logic, nay, common sense, even a retarded person can point out the flaw in Wenger’s comments.

Is he trying to say that the squad, which is the same as last season, has improved so much  that he does not need any new additions? Is that even possible? It’s been just around 3 months since the season ended. In just three months, how much could a player have possibly improved?!

Players like Diaby, Rosicky and RVP will probably be out for long periods during next season as it has been for last few seasons. There will surely be other unpredictable casualties like that of Vermaelen last season. If you deduct five players from that squad, then surely it is something to be alarmed about.

As a wise man once said ‘Always prepare for the worst’, we should too, especially after seven years of failure. But so far, all that I  see is faulty optimism. Wenger is gambling at a time when the stakes are higher than ever. All I can do is just close my eyes and hope it somehow pays off.

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.

 

A Few Things I Realized About Arsenal This Week

Looking back at the game against Ipswich and indeed the season so far, I’ve come to realize some changes that are unique to our squad this year- things which were not there or I did not feel were present in the previous seasons. And who better to share those feelings than my fellow Arsenal fans? So here goes:

1) Every player can make an impact at any moment: Time and time again, I have mentioned how full of depth our squad is this season. A simple way of demonstrating this is by randomly dividing our 25 man squad into two halves (well not equal halves of course). Do it a number of times and chances are you won’t be able to tell distinctly which half is better.  Arsene Wenger has always mentioned how he trusts each and every player in his squad and this time, and this time only, he actually means it. The obvious example was Bendtner’s impact last game…it was a match changing goal- possibly the ‘goal’ that will become the key to our first trophy in six years. I have never doubted Bendtner”s finishing ability as some other Arsenal fans did. One thing I did doubt, though, was his technical ability but he surprised me in that aspect this week. The way he handled the high ball from Jack was top draw stuff. ‘Twas smooth as silk to be honest and his finishing was mesmerizing to say the least. This type of performance reminds me that our players are in a constant process of improvement and what they were last season does not necessarily reflect on the current season. But I digress, the players in our team, ranging from from youngsters to more experienced ones, are well capable of surprising us at any moment, making this season more exciting than any in recent years.

2) We actually ‘CRAVE’ to win a trophy this time: I do not know if it is just me but I really feel there’s a different aura to the team this year. I can’t quite describe it myself- just an abstract belief at the back of my head that keeps getting stronger and stronger. Every year when we are on a good run, I find myself wondering when this form will end. I always look backwards. It’s something of an involuntary reflex that is ingrained in my brain, I guess, because we always screw something up and end the season with nothing. But watching the team play this season, I truly believe that we can do it this time around. I truly believe we are all in this together- the manger, the first team, the subs and the fans. I do not look backwards anymore. My eyes lie only forward because we have finally crossed the point of no-return and the only thing that is left is destiny.

3) We have been really lucky with injuries so far (I hope this does not jinx it): We really have. While Chelsea and Manutd have had injuries to the likes of Terry, Essien, Lampard, Rooney, Ferdinand etc, we had a pretty smooth ride down injury lane. We have had only one serious injury which was to Vermaelen, and the rest have been quite ephemeral. To be honest, our only serious concern thus far is to our defense, namely the CB position. Even then, Squillaci is coming back and is apparently ready to be in the squad for the next game. Sagna was taken to the hospital and in any other season, I swear, he would have been out for at least 3 weeks which would later be extended to around 6 weeks. But that is not happening. Sagna is currently  ‘well and in good spirits’ Injury gods such as Rosicky and Van Persie are still fit and running which really surprises me. So yeah, we deservedly have some luck with our injuries this season.

4) Szczesny apparently makes a world of difference: Sure, he hasn’t been world class in any way which is hardly surprising. The lad is only 20. But I think defenders actually trust Wojciech. Indeed, when defenders play in front of a goalkeeper who they really have faith in, there is an extra incentive to defend better. They have the assurance that they are not the last ‘reliable’ line of defense and that load of pressure off their minds really benefits them. Plus, at 6ft 5 inches he is the tallest keeper (and the tallest player) we have. Wojciech has some problems with his distribution but that is not a major concern right now because distributing the ball does not directly influence our defense and I believe his performances, although he has had very little to do recently, played a big part in achieving our current defensive record. I just want to make it clear, that by supporting Wojciech, I am in no way discrediting our other keeper Lukasz Fabianski who had been playing great until he got injured (?). All I am saying is that our defenders have been playing extraordinarily while Wojciech was between the sticks. That’s all.

5) I don’t give a sh*t what Manutd do anymore: I watched the Ipswich game on television and while watching it, I inevitably switched regularly between channels taking quick glances at the Manutd vs Blackpool game that was happening at the same time. It was a bonus to watch our title rivals concede two goals and quite obviously I enjoyed it. But, as they slowly came back to game and eventually went 2-3 ahead, I found myself to be less frustrated than I thought I would be. I realized that this season I genuinely believe we are better than them. This feeling has never occured to me before. I realized that this year, I finally trust our team enough to not care about what happens with the likes of Chelsea and Manutd. This year, we are the real deal and if we keep playing our cards right, we will win trophies no matter what.

But those were my feelings from this week. Next week, we have a very important game against Huddersfield and there’s no reason to underestimate them. After all, they are a club that at a certain time in history won the Championship for 3 consecutive seasons. Yes, I am serious…

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!