Thoughts from Wembley: Torturous afternoon’s Final flourish


I don’t know about you, but I remembered reaching an FA Cup final as a good deal more fun. Don’t Read more

Everton 3 - 0 Arsenal: Is it over?


Is it over? Not the title race. That’s been over for a while. Not the “race for fourth”, either. That’s Read more

Arsenal must find a way to replace Theo Walcott’s goals


It’s rare that a piece of Arsenal news shocks me. We live, lest we forget, in a world where Read more

Video: Arsene Wenger sings Cee-Lo Green hit to Robin van Persie


Alright gang. I've done another one of my silly songs. This time, my slightly strange brain has got Arsene Read more

2004-2011

Twitter & Transfers

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2004-2011 | 516 Guns

I really love Twitter. I use it every day. It’s an amazing way of interacting with folks the likes of which I would never encounter in day-to-day existence. That ranges all the way from the far-flung readers of this blog, to the wife of Bacary Sagna.

It’s also an incredible source of news. The sheer breadth of contributors means it is inevitably faster than any newspaper or television channel. If something happens, anywhere in the world, you can be pretty sure that someone, somewhere has tweeted about it.

I must confess, however, it is rather trying my patience at present. The winds of change have blown the transfer window wide open, and suddenly every @Tom, @Dick and @Harry is telling you who is going where, when, and for how much.

Transfer windows have always been testing times for those who value the truth. Journalists play fast and loose with facts, turning whispers and nudges in to concrete stories to sell papers and attract hits. With the rise of self-publication, millions of individuals are now doing just the same.

It’s a fairly easy game to play. I make an informed guess that Jan Vertonghen will end up at Spurs; I tweet something to that effect, and when it comes off I am proclaimed as being ‘ITK’ – an acronym which supposedly anoints those who are ‘in the know’. If it doesn’t come off, I can always claim the deal fell down at the last minute due to some minor technicality – the kind of insider knowledge that only reaffirms my ITK status.

The big boys are just as bad. Take Sky Sports News, who have developed a habit of ‘understanding’ something about twenty minutes after every newspaper journalist, blogger and fan has heard it via the online grapevine. Twitter poses a threat to their position as the sport’s most prominent newsbreaker, and they need to up their game and do some proper investigative journalism on a day other than transfer deadline day.

Sky have fallen behind because the whispers and rumours that used to be exclusively theirs are now public long before they reach them. A true ‘exclusive’ is almost impossible to maintain – the risk of someone getting to it before you is simply too great. It’s the same old pyramid of murky untruths and occasional scoops. It’s just a bigger, noisier and possibly more irritating pyramid than ever before.

It takes a little of the joy out of it aswell. The ‘surprise signing’ may become a thing of the past. Whoever your club signs, there’s a chance someone’s claimed a deal is in the offing somewhere, so you’re probably bored of the idea before it even happens.

I’m guilty too. I pass on the small bits of information I get here and there, when permitted, in order to try and keep fans in the loop. I’m feeding the machine. The distinction, I hope, is that I’m not fabricating anything. Maybe none of these people are, but I find it hard to believe that there as many ‘ITK’ people as Twitter would have you believe. There simply aren’t enough people working in football to have that many friends/associates to pass information on to. Something, frankly, doesn’t add up.

There is, of course, a very simple solution: switch Twitter off, cancel my Sky subscription, and wait till everything is announced and confirmed on Arsenal.com. But I’m hardly going to manage that now, am I?

Let The Longest Summer commence.

Official: Joel Campbell to jet in on Sunday

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2004-2011 | 433 Guns

Hello all.  In the broader scheme of things at the club, this is not big news, but having followed it all the way I wanted to carry on the story: Costa Rican striker Joel Campbell has confirmed he will fly to England on Sunday, when he is expected to sign for Arsenal.

Campbell gave the news to website EverardoHerrera.com, who initially broke the news of Arsenal’s interest.  Although Campbell has not yet explicitly confirmed that Arsenal are his destination, he laughed and joked with the presenters when wished luck wearing the red and white shirt of the Gunners – and confirmed to journalists off-record that he would be joining Arsenal during the u-20 World Cup.

He is saving the announcement itself for a press conference which will be held by his club, Deportivo Saprissa, at 1am UK-time.  Spanish speakers among you can listen to the interview here.

Arsenal would like the player to become part of the first team squad immediately, but that will be dependent on whether or not he receives a work permit.  There are some rumours flying round that he has Irish grandparents: he doesn’t.  He is as Irish as Ryo Miyaichi (ie. not very), so like the Japanese winger would most likely have to be awarded an ‘extraordinary talent visa’.  There is also a rumour you cannot only make one application for an extraordinary talent visa per season; this is also untrue.  It’s one application per season per individual, if that makes any sense.  Anyway, Campbell will have his day before the FA panel, and that will decide whether he stays in England or goes out elsewhere on loan.  His caps for Costa Rica will certainly stand him in good stead.

UPDATE: Arsenal just confirmed the deal on the official website.  Arsene said:

“Joel Campbell has already shown that he is a player with great ability, and has also performed well on the international stage at a young age. We look forward to the formalities of the transfer being completed and working with Joel when he joins us at Arsenal.”

Why have the club chosen to announce the deal now?  Well, partly because they knew the press conference in Costa Rica was about to steal their thunder somewhat.  But there is an amusing sub-plot: Barcelona officials are currently waiting in their offices for an email confirming the deal for Cesc after the clubs reached verbal agreement this morning.

Catalan journalists close to the club have told me that Barca leaked news of an agreement and are now left feeling embarrassed and concerned that an official agreement has not been forthcoming.  Arsenal, meanwhile, are presumably enjoying making them suffer a little.  Announcing Campbell now shows we have staff on call – we’re just letting them stew.

Petty, but amusing.

Right.  The rebuilding continues.  Till tomorrow.

Afternoon update: Arsene’s press conference, Cesc, Dann, Mata, Eboue

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2004-2011 | 288 Guns

Greetings all.  Wipe away those tears and sit down for your second blog of a big day for Arsenal.  It’s been busy for me too, but I’ve managed to keep an eye on the traumatic events at our beloved club.

First up, at 9am, was Arsene’s press conference.  Reading the quotes coming in I was quite sure that our manager had cracked under the strain and gone completely mad.  A couple of choice quotes:

“I expect nobody to leave the club.”

“At the moment we have too big a squad – We are not in a position where we are short of players.”

Naturally the twitterverse was up in arms about this.  It seemed for all the world as if The Emperor was indeed well and truly naked, and frankly it was becoming a little awkward and embarrassing.

Until, that is, I saw the video.  You can have a watch of it here.  It proves that, as ever, context is everything.  The familiar curl of the lip and the twinkle eye instantly give an entirely different reading to what Arsene says.

He’s playing a game.  And the aim of that game is “give nothing away; disturb the squad as little as possible before the Newcastle game”.  And, on reflection, he does it rather well.

Of course it’s frustrating for us as fans – when Arsene communicates with the press he communicates indirectly with us, so when he tries to pull the wool over their eyes he simultaneously deceives supporters – but he has his reasons.  What’s very clear to me is that Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri due to depart imminently.  Both players have accordingly been left out of the squad for tomorrow’s game at Newcastle.

If you believe some reports, the Cesc deal is already done.  There are conflicting stories coming out of the two clubs on this one, and the smart money is on the move being finalised on Monday.  I for one won’t be saying my goodbyes until he’s definitely off.  We’ve put up with this one for so long that another 48 hours or so isn’t going to hurt.

In Manchester, Roberto Mancini said still were “still working” on a deal for Nasri, but conceded it was “not easy”.  I’m sure a few million pounds would smooth over any difficulties there.

In his pre-game interview for Arsenal.com, Arsene was asked about Birmingham centre-half Scott Dann.  He said:

“He is one of the centre-backs we look at.”

We know Phil Jagielka is one of the others.  Hopefully Arsene’s ultimate decision is driven by quality rather than value.

According to The Guardian’s Richard Williams, Arsene later told the newspaper journalists there was no deal for Juan Mata and none was likely, whilst reports of an agreed fee for Jadson are premature.

Finally, the club today announced their squad numbers for the 20011/12 season.  New boy and possessor of “exceptional qualities” Alex Chamberlain inherits Denilson’s 15, suggesting the Brazilian probably won’t ever be back, whilst Ryo Miyaichi takes 31, Jenkinson 25, and Szczesny downgrades his 53 to a 13.  One the major reasons for the delay in announcing the numbers was that Gervinho wanted compatriot Eboue’s 27, but the club were waiting for the right-back to be sold.  Now, they’ve decided to just give it to him anyway, leaving Eboue without a squad number.  It’s safe to assume he’ll be joining Cesc and Nasri in leaving the club before August is out.

Right. Tomorrow I’ll be back with a piece more focused on the Newcastle game and the season ahead.  Till then.

Jadson identified as Cesc’s replacement

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2004-2011 | 543 Guns

Tomorrow is the first day of a new season.  Ordinarily, I’d be hugely and embarrassingly excited about that.  Today, it feels like a speck on the horizon as compared to the impending horrors of the transfer market.

The trio of Arsenal, Barcelona and Manchester City have been very quiet about the futures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, until last night, when Arsenal.com released this small clip. Give it a watch.  Arsene doesn’t say much, but he doesn’t have to.  It’s clear that Cesc Fabregas is on the way out, possibly as soon as today.

The player himself has maintained his silence, breaking it only to say:


Presumably it’s a new work phone.  Or perhaps this was the clincher in negotiations.  €29m + €6m + €5m + blackberry bold 9900.

Joking aside, it looks like I’ll have to roll out the ‘Cesc’s Arsenal career’ obituary imminently.  I might start pre-writing them for any decent player we ever have.

On Nasri, meanwhile, Arsene says the situation is “stable”.  Stable how, exactly?  Even if he’s not sold he’s still at most ten months away from leaving.  My increasing feeling is that both players will indeed be sold, and probably over the next few days.

As worried as you are about Jadon coping in the Premier League, he looks far more worried himself

The surest sign yet that the pair of playmakers are on the verge of leaving the club comes in the form that Arsenal have already identified his replacement: the Brazilian JadsonThe Independent go as far as to say a £12m fee has been agreed – and my information is that this deal is very much on Arsenal’s agenda, with the only concern surrounding the playmaker’s eligibility for a work-permit.

With all the talk about Juan Mata, I was reminded of what happened when we lost Thierry Henry.  The expectation was that we would move for a big name, like Nicholas Anelka.  Instead, Eduardo da Silva appeared from nowhere.  It’s much the same with Jadson, who ironically now plays alongside Eduardo currently for Shakhtar Donetsk.  Some papers are suggesting Arsenal would like to sign both Mata and Jadson, but I’m not convinced Arsene will move for more than one dwarfish attacker.

Jadson is even smaller than Mata, standing just 5’6″ tall.  To put that in perspective, it’s an inch shorter than Arshavin.  His age would also make him an unusual Wenger signing – he’ll be 28 in October.  Yesterday he tweeted:

“If everything goes to plan, I’ll have some news for everyone at the start of next week. Hope it works out. #happy”

If Jadson does arrive, I hope it’s as part of a concerted spending spree in order to restore morale and strengthen our ever-weakening squad. Joel Campbell, another potential signing from across the Atlantic, is due to hold a press conference in the next 24 hours at which he will announce which club he is due to join.

Speaking of press conferences, Arsene will step before the media at 9am UK-time before travelling to Newcastle.  The chances of taking Cesc or Nasri with him have got to be slim to none.  The rest of the team news is here.

For more on Cesc, Nasri, Newcastle and the season ahead, keep your eyes peeled on Arseblog for the first Arsecast of the season, with myself and Goonerholic.  I won’t, I hasten to add, be rapping.

The End Is Nigh

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2004-2011 | 433 Guns

Whisper it, but it may almost be over.

El Mundo Deportivo: "Today, Cesc"

A transfer saga that has hung its miserable shadow over us since the day Cesc Fabregas first arrived in London, and that has spent two years showering uncertainty on to our captain and our club, may be about to end.

Widespread reports in England and indeed Barcelona (click images on the right) suggest a deal is imminent.  Of course, we’ve been here before, but the sheer weight of speculation suggests there may be fire at the heart of all this smoke.  The impending commencement of the season, too, may have hurried negotiations along.

Barcelona’s supposed final offer, which they expect Arsenal to accept today, totals €40m.  It’s unclear whether that’s a full €40m, or if the Catalan club are including in that figure the €5m Arsenal will save by not paying Cesc any kind of loyalty bonus.  Whatever they end up paying, it won’t be more than about €29m upfront – and it’ll be a bargain.  Cesc will go for marginally more than Andy Carroll.

Sport: "Cesc – Yes"

As I said a few days ago, the specifics of the deal don’t matter that much to me.  In fact, I’d happily lose out on a million euros or so if it meant we could get it done quickly.  Going in to the new season with this huge issue resolved and a new captain appointed would provide a welcome boost.

When the deal is finally done, both clubs will declare the fee “undisclosed”.  Barca well tell the Catalan press they got a bargain, and Arsenal will brief the English press that they got a fair price.  We’ll never know the truth.

There’s plenty more to say about Cesc and his departure.  I’ll save it for when any of this speculation is confirmed.  The next days promise to be painful, but I think it’s best for everyone now that this gets sorted.  The night is darkest just before the dawn; we can and will emerge from this still unbowed, still Arsenal.

Parting with Cesc will certainly hurt more than seeing off Samir Nasri.  If rumours are to be believed, he could follow Cesc through the door marked ‘exit’, with Manchester City ready to pay upwards of £20m for the midfielder.  If we’re going to lose Nasri, I’d rather do it now for that sort of money than in a year for nothing.  He played for France in their 1-1 draw with Chile last night, so if he is left out at Newcastle on Saturday it’s safe to say he has little future at Arsenal.  If, that is, he’s still here.

An Arsenal executive told the BBC that “all the funds generated by the sale will be reinvested in new players”.  I don’t doubt the board would be willing to do just that, but the final decision, as ever, will rest with Arsene.  Will he be pragmatic enough to forget some of his principles and spend the money required to settle an unsteady ship?  Time will tell.

One signing that does appear imminent is that of Joel Campbell.  I told you on July 29th he’d agreed to join, and last night a Costa Rican journalist who met the U-20 international side off the plane from the World Cup in Colombia confirmed to me that Campbell intends to hold a press conference announcing his decision on Friday before travelling to England on Saturday to finalise things.  The club have applied for a special talent visa as they did with Ryo Miyaichi, and, if successful, would make Campbell part of the first-team squad for 2011/12.

Right, that’ll do for now.  Something tells me I might be back here before the day is out.

Miyaichi joins our stable of flyers

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2004-2011 | 333 Guns

After completing the signing of Alex Chamberlain on Monday, yesterday Arsenal added another flying winger to their first team-squad, with the news Ryo Miyaichi has been granted a work permit for the forthcoming season.

Arsene Wenger travelled to an FA panel meeting at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday to give evidence as to why Ryo ought to be granted an “exceptional talent” visa.  Fortunately, the committee concurred, and Ryo will now be part of the first team squad for 2011/12.

It’s the culmination of a meteoric rise for a player who, a matter of months ago, was playing Japanese schoolboy football.  Indeed, a year ago a potential move to Arsenal looked to have been scuppered when he broke his leg and was out for five months injured.

Now, one impressive loan spell at Feyenoord later, Miyaichi is joining the Premier League.  It’s comic-book stuff. Manga, even.  Arsene said:

“We are absolutely delighted that Ryo has been granted a work permit. This is almost like a new signing for us, as we weren’t completely sure we would be given the authorisation. Ryo has worked extremely hard in pre-season and performed very well during the matches in Asia, Germany and Portugal.

Ryo has natural technical ability. He has good balance and phenomenal pace, and his passing and crossing is consistently of a high quality. He is a very exciting player.”

He’s also hard-working, and genuinely two-footed, although he normally operates from the left-hand side.  I don’t expect him to be starting league games any time soon, but he provides us with an option, and will certainly get games in the domestic cups.  His permit didn’t arrive in time for him to eligible for the Champions League qualifier, the squad for which has been announced but is not really newsworthy in for any reason other than the slightly surprising omission of Henri Lansbury.

As Goonerholic has pointed out, the arrival of Gervinho, Chamberlain and Miyaichi this summer means we have some real speed out on the flanks to add to last season’s singular threat of Theo Walcott.  Clearly Arsene has identified this as a problem last season, and is attempting to give our approach plays a few revs with some sprightly sprinters.

It also means we now have a collection of wide attackers that includes the aforementioned quartet, Andrey Arshavin, Tomas Rosicky, Samir Nasri and Carlos Vela.  Eight in to two just doesn’t go, so it seems there will be at least one departure.

Real Sociedad’s Director of Football has confirmed their interest in signing Carlos Vela, and has said that Arsenal would prefer a loan move to a permanent deal.  Meanwhile, doubts persist over the future of Samir Nasri.  At yesterday’s press conference for the French team, Laurent Blanc said:

“I just know that he is in talks with his club. Not to extend his contract because he said he would not, but to change clubs.”

Nasri is expected to start for France tonight, but I’d be very surprised if Arsene chooses to use him against Newcastle.

Meanwhile, in an interview with French tv show Foot & Co, Marouane Chamakh sounded just as skeptical about the future of Nasri’s partner-in-disruption, Cesc Fabregas:

“I think both of them are likely leaving the club. It’s a difficult situation for the manager.

I don’t think it’s a matter of money for Fabregas or Samir, I think he (Wenger) is looking for their successors and he hasn’t found them. I think before letting them go he wants to find the players to replace them. That’s my opinion about the situation. The problem is the season starts this weekend, and it’s even more difficult for us.”

Today's cover of 'Sport'

Today, Catalan paper Sport lead with the story that the end of a Cesc saga is a “matter of hours” away (see right).

It’s just a few days until the big kick-off, and it’s mad to think that between now and the end of the August, a list of players including Manuel Almunia, Emmanuel Eboue, Fabregas, Nasri, Vela and Bendtner could all depart.  Assuming several of those do, it’s impossible not to imagine replacements arriving.

It’s also impossible to write any kind of season preview until those issues are resolved.

It looks like we’ll have to take this month on game-by-game basis, starting on Saturday. I can’t wait.

ps. if you missed it yesterday, listen to ‘Stan’ – Kroenke vs. Wenger, the Arsenal remix.

Truly yours, your biggest fan, this is Stan (Kroenke)

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2004-2011 | 589 Guns

Since buying Arsenal, Stan Kroenke has truly lived up to his reputation for being ‘Silent’. Until now.

Gunnerblog has uncovered correspondence between Kroenke and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, set to the tune of Eminem and Dido’s hit, ‘Stan’. Enjoy.

Thanks to David Rudnick for that remarkable Japan rhyme. I might be back later today with more bloggery – it’s a big week at Arsenal.

A real life signing: Alex Chamberlain

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2004-2011 | 465 Guns

Young Gun: Alex Chamberlain

Well, we were promised transfer activity this week, and now we’ve got it.  Southampton’s 17-year-old winger Alex (Oxlade) Chamberlain has signed for Arsenal, for an undisclosed fee.

Depending on who you believe, Southampton stand to receive either ten, twelve or fifteen million pounds for the player, depending on performance-related clauses.  One things for sure – it exceeds the £9m we ended up paying for Theo Walcott, with the Saints themselves saying their previous transfer records have been “blown out of the water”.

Arsene initially pushed for a deal to be done in January, but Southampton’s desire to ensure promotion to the Championship saw them resist any bid.

Ideally they would have liked to keep Chamberlain this season too, but the player made life harder by declaring his desire to move.  Now it seems Arsenal have come up with the requisite fee to make all parties happy.

He’s clearly a player of real potential, and as such is a welcome addition to the squad.  However, it’s a signing that’s taken me a little by surprise, despite Arsenal’s long-term interest in the player.  When you look at our squad, we’re not lacking in wide attackers: Nasri, Arshavin, Gervinho, Walcott, Rosicky, Miyaichi and Vela can all occupy those positions.  With a fee of this size, it’s hard to see us loaning Chamberlain out, so perhaps the rumours that Carlos Vela and Miyaichi may be set for temporary moves abroad have some truth to them.

There will doubtless be fans who are frustrated at Arsene’s willingness to pay such a high price for a teenager when he baulks at similar fees for established internationals.  I share that frustration.  All I can say to that is that I hope Chamberlain is the first of several new faces, the rest of which will be slightly more experienced than the young Englishman.  Of our three summer signings thus far, two have only ever played in League One.  Intriguingly, the other, Gervinho, has played in the similar-sounding but significantly more competitive Ligue 1.  I can’t be alone in hoping we still get that Premier League-hardened defender we badly lack.

For now, however, we welcome Alex Chamberlain aboard the good ship Arsenal.  An ankle injury has held up his pre-season, so I don’t expect him to be in contention for a few weeks yet.  Having followed the same path, the press will doubtless be hailing him tomorrow as ‘The New Theo Walcott’.  If, however, you want a more considered view of the player, you can read this piece – Ready Or Not: Alex Chamberlain, from January.

Or, indeed, have a gander at the video below.  More tomorrow.

Comfort from an unusual source

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2004-2011 | 507 Guns

It has come to something when the words of David Dein provide comfort for Arsenal fans.  In recent months he and his family seem to have actively destabilised the club they profess to love.  However, in an interview with the BBC, Dein has urged the supporters to stand by manager Arsene Wenger:

”Arsene Wenger will admit he has had the most difficult couple of years of his career, for two reasons.

‘One is the fact the game is getting more competitive, we have seen more money coming in so the competition out there is more intense. ‘Secondly, he has had to contend with the fact he hasn’t achieved what he would have hoped to achieve, albeit he has done remarkably well in the quality and style of play.

‘But he himself, and the fans, want to win trophies. Arsene is very focused and very determined. I see him regularly, I see a man who still has as much fire in the belly today as when he started.

‘He wants to win. I believe in his ability and I know for a fact he is trying very hard to improve the squad this year and I hope he does it. People have got to remember what he has achieved. It is easy in life to get rid of people. Then what?

How do you follow Arsene Wenger? That is going to be the trick for the board and it is not going to be an easy exercise.”

Naturally, Dein is going to defend his friend, but I do think the in-fighting among Arsenal fans over Wenger is decidedly unhelpful.  He’s here now, for this season at least, and probably beyond, so let’s get behind him and support him as we would anyone who our crest.

It will certainly help Arsene’s case if he can strengthen the squad in the next few weeks.  Dein stated that he knew for a fact that the manager is trying to add “another two or three players”, and after his comments last week about how “something might happen” in the coming days, I’m expecting speculation both from the fans and the media to run riot.

Today’s rumour of choice, printed in the Daily Mail, The Telegraph, and The Times, is that Arsenal will complete a £12m deal for Alex Chamberlain.  The young winger missed Southampton’s opening weekend victory over Leeds with an ankle injury, and the suggestion is that he may have played his last game for the club.

Whilst Chamberlain clearly has potential, his acquisition is far from a priority this summer.  Granted, he’s been a long-term target, but he remains a long-term prospect.  We’ve got plenty of youthful wide attackers – what we need is an experienced centre-half.

Regardless, part of me suspects this report is a question of several journalists putting two and two together.  Whether or not they’ve made four or five will become clear in the coming days.

As ever, much of the speculation this week will surround the futures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.  On Nasri, Arsene said over the weekend:

“I cannot speak about it but there is no major problem between Samir and myself.”

Which does beg the following questions:

1) If there’s nothing to hide, why can’t you speak about it?

2) Does that mean there is a moderate problem, if not a major one?

It does seem like the position on Nasri is shifting.  A couple of weeks ago Arsene was insisting he would stay; now the language has returned to “hoping”.  Maybe the player has made his desire to leave urgently clear.  With £185,000 p/week on offer from Man City, who knows what length a footballer might go to?

Finally, Jack Wilshere is set to be withdrawn from the England squad because he’s injured.  Some papers have tried to turn this in to a story about a “bust up” between Capello and Arsene, but I’m not sure I buy that.  England want the player; he can’t play.  End of.

Right.  Let the frenzied, mouth-frothing, eye-popping, rumour-mongering twitter-nonsensing week commence.

 

Benfica defeat needs to be put in perspective

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2004-2011 | 333 Guns

Arsenal lost their final pre-season friendly of the summer 2-1 to Benfica last night, sparking widespread panic among Gooners and initiating a witch hunt for Sebastien Squillaci.  Video highlights here for those that are interested.

A little perspective is required.  Missing from the squad were:

Laurent Koscielny, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Abou Diaby and Carlos Vela

That’s without mentioning Emmanuel Eboue and Nicklas Bendner, who could yet remain at the club.

Even so, in the first half we were on top, and indeed went in at the interval ahead thanks to a goal from birthday boy Robin van Persie, who lashed in Kieran Gibbs’ cutback.  Gibbs was one of the real pluses, showing tremendous energy to break forward in to the box, as well as composure once he arrived.  Gervinho also looked lively, as he has done throughout pre-season.

The second half was, of course, a different story.  Benfica dominated and only a string of saves from Lukasz Fabianski prevented it from becoming a rout.  However, it is worth pointing out that for the majority of the second 45 the XI we had on the field was:

Fabianski, Jenkinson, Squillaci, Vermaelen, Traore, Frimpong, Ramsey, Lansbury, Gervinho, Miyaichi, Chamakh

With the exception of Vermaelen and Gervinho, and possibly Aaron Ramsey, this was essentially a ‘Carling Cup’ side.  None of the others can expect to be first choice this season – and the players themselves acknowledged that they had an off night, to say the least:

However, it is worth saying that the performances of Squillaci and Chamakh underline the fact that there are areas of the squad where we seem very short of depth.

If Nicklas Bendtner does leave, it’s vital he’s replaced.  And even if we retain our current quartet of centre-backs, there’s plenty of room for a step up in quality there.  As others have suggested, you don’t have to be “super quality” to enhance this Arsenal squad.

Arsene’s pre-game interview in Lisbon suggested we were on the verge of adding at least one player this week.  Of course, comments like that run the risk of generating mass panic if we don’t.  Whilst I’m as desperate as anyone else to see us bring in new players, we’re now less than a week from the big kick-off, and I’ll be getting as excited as anyone else about the prospect of facing Newcastle with our current crop of players.  As things stand, even accounting for injuries, we could be seeing:

Szczesny; Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Song, Ramsey, Nasri; Gervinho, Arshavin, Van Persie (c)

It’s an XI good enough to go to St. James’ and win.  And, crucially, it’s a side significantly better than the one which lost to Benfica last night.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 ... 170 171   Next »