Alexis Sanchez: The Brilliance Without The Biting


The signing of Alexis Sanchez has left me elated, but it shouldn’t leave anyone surprised. Looking back at the Read more

2013/14: Arsenal's Season Blogged - Sagas, songs & a cup


As the enthralling World Cup comes to a close and eyes begin to turn towards next season, I thought Read more

Gunnerblog End of Season Awards 2014


It’s that time again. Ladies and gentlemen, please be seated. The results are in. PLAYER OF THE SEASON In a season Read more

A Party 9 years in the Making


A cup nine years in the winning. A party nine years in the making. A blog nine years in Read more

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

2012-13 Pre-season

Newcastle Preview, Theo Thoughts & SKREAMER competition

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2012-13 Pre-season, Match Previews, Premier League | 146 Guns

Arsenal host Newcastle United today in our final match of 2012.  It’s been an up-and-down year – more on that next week – but victory today would enable us to end it with four consecutive Premier League wins.

The team news is worryingly good.  Worrying in that anything unfamiliar is unsettling, but also because a clean bill of health might encourage Arsene to keep his cheque-book closed in January.  The return from illness of Olivier Giroud gives Arsene his major selection headache: whether or not to reintroduce the Frenchman or persist with Theo Walcott in the central striking berth.

Much of Arsene’s press conference focused on Walcott’s hypothesised evolution in to a centre-forward:

“I like the signs that I have seen.  If you look at my statements, I always said that one day he would play through the middle and it grew in his brain.

He is now 23. I decided to play Thierry Henry at 23 through the middle because you have to learn a lot before. The fact that you play in other positions as well helps your technique.  On the wing you need a shorter technique against the line. Once you [then] play in the middle you can go on both sides.

From [the ages of] 19 to 23, Theo has learnt a lot. Now we will sometimes play him on the flanks and sometimes through the middle. I like what I have seen through the middle.”

I have to say I’m not convinced by this switch.  It seems odd that having resisted playing Walcott through the middle for so long, Arsene has suddenly introduced such a radical shift halfway through the season.  It looks, to me at least, like something of a desperate move, with as many as four possible motivating factors.  The first is his lack of options: Arsenal are patently lacking in quality strikers.  The second is a desire to convince Theo to sign a new deal and remain at Arsenal.  The third is to save a bit of money in January by turning Walcott in to a striker instead of bringing one in.  And the last, and arguably most worrying, is that Arsene might have been influenced by the huge consensus among the media that Walcott deserves a chance through the middle.

I don’t foresee it being a long-term solution.  Firstly, because I’m not certain that Walcott is more suited to the central role than one on the wing, but also because I don’t think Theo will be here come next season.  Arsenal still need a forward, and while Arsene insists he is preparing to be ‘busy’ in January, I am concerned he is mainly going to be busy making excuses about ‘super super quality’ and lack of value.

Today, Walcott is guaranteed to start, and my hunch is that despite all the noise from Arsene it’ll be on the wing.  Rotation is important at this time of year, and Giroud should be fairly well rested and raring to go.  Other than that, the team will surely be as we expect, with Podolski on the left flank, Cazorla joining Wilshere and Arteta in midfield, and Vermaelen and Mertesacker flanked by Gibbs and Sagna.  It’s possible that one of the centre-backs will be rested in the next couple of games, but I don’t think Arsene will take that chance today against the dangerous duo of Ba and Cisse – the former of which he has denied an interest in.  Again, a little worrying.

The fact that Arsenal had a rest of Boxing Day while Newcastle suffered a morale and energy-sapping last-minute 4-3 defeat at Old Trafford means we really have no excuses today: we ought to win.If you fancy a flutter on today’s match, then you can check out my predicted team and betting tips over at Unibet.

In other news today, I’ve got a bit of a competition for you lot.  The guys at Warrior Football have given me a pair of their new SKREAMER football boots to give away.

They’re a really lovely bit of kit.  I wore a pair myself in my final Sunday League game of 2012, and whilst the bright colours probably attracted an extra few kicks on the ankle, they feel great on the pitch.  They’re apparently packed full of scientific advances, much like the Predator was all those years ago, so fair play to Warrior for attempting to do something genuinely innovative.  You can read more about them here.

And if you fancy, you can nab yourselves a pair.  I’ll be running a competition – entry is via Twitter only, I’m afraid, so make sure you’re following me @Gunnerblog.  As we all know, a ‘Skreamer’ in football terminology is a rocket shot – a goal from distance that flies past a helpless goalkeeper.  My question is simple:

Which Arsenal player scored the most goals from outside the box last season?

Tweet me and tag your answer with #SKREAMER to go in to the hat.   You’ve got until Monday to enter.

Good luck to you, and good luck to Arsenal today.  Three points required to end 2012 on a relative high.  And three cheers for Pat Rice, who has been awarded a richly-deserved MBE.  Congratulations to him.

Chelsea thoughts: Familiar failings & Feeble Fire-power

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2012-13 Pre-season, Match Reports, Premier League | 665 Guns

Match Report | Highlights | Arsene’s reaction

Arsenal should be kicking themselves…
This first defeat of the season felt completely unnecessary. Arsenal were punished for stupid mistakes at the back and poor finishing up top. Arsene Wenger will be furious, though some of course have suggested he has only himself to blame…

I’d be a hypocrite to criticise Arsene for leaving out Per…
I called it earlier this week and didn’t raise the alarm then. In fact, it seemed to me to be an entirely reasonable decision. As it was, Koscielny had an absolute stinker, and will probably find himself back on the sidelines for the next two games at least. I’m loathe to heap all of the blame on Kos, though – when you concede from a set-piece, more often than not it’s the result of collective disorganisation and a touch of cowardice. Positional intelligence is only worth so much: you have to fight to go and win the ball too.

Gervinho’s strike was a fantastic finish…
You know the saying: If you give enough monkeys enough typewriters, one of them will eventually thump the ball in to the top corner. Or something like that. I was pleased for Gervinho, but equally I’m conscious that he probably had about as much idea about where that ball would end up when he hit it as he did when firing off those haphazard shots against City. By the laws of probability, eventually he is bound get one right, as on Saturday. I’m not sure, however, that it makes him the solution to our striking problem.

For me, Giroud had to score…
The defence “it was a tight angle” is not valid when the angle is only tight because of the strikers touch around the goalie. He had a perfectly good opportunity to strike before that, dallied, and paid the price. I make that three clear one-on-ones and a penalty he’s missed since joining the club. I’m not writing him off, but I am a little concerned. On which note, I won’t pretend to understand why Arsene saw fit to bring off our best finisher, Lukas Podolski, with twenty minutes to play.

A couple of things the cameras might not have picked up…
The first is that substitute Theo Walcott was very chummy indeed with his Chelsea counterparts whilst warming up. I suspect I’d find that easier to stomach if his time on the pitch hadn’t consisted of hiding in the centre when we needed him to be driving at his full-back out wide. I may be being unfair, but then if Theo refuses to commit to the club then I’m afraid he will invite this kind of scrutiny.
The second thing was just how much of a hatchet job Mikel Arteta did in midfield. With Chelsea threatening on the counter, he produced a series of outrageous off-the-ball fouls to halt runners in their tracks. Fortunately, the referee missed most of them, otherwise he would have been lucky to stay on the pitch. The same goes for Laurent Koscienly, who appeared to slap a Chelsea player in the centre-circle.

I’m off on holiday now…
I’m heading abroad for the next two weeks. Chances of getting to see our games during that period are slim. See you here when I’m back…

RVP to United is painful but unsurprising

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2012-13 Pre-season | 425 Guns

Arsenal fans know more than most that, in football, loyalty is a lie.  Putting your lips to the badge is almost always a Judas kiss; a horrible precursor to an inevitable betrayal.  All that said, there is something particularly painful about losing Robin van Persie to Manchester United.

It’s partly to do with the individual in question.  Here’s a guy who claimed to have grown up an Arsenal fan, admiring the exploits of his idol Dennis Bergkamp.  In his eight years at the club, Van Persie seemed as dedicated as anyone to Arsene Wenger’s policy of sustainable success.  Arsenal, in turn, were good to him, showing tremendous patience throughout years of injury problems, resulting in the rewards of last season and a 36 goal haul.  I will confess that as the season drew to a close, I firmly believed the dutchman would sign a new deal.  It turns out that what we were witnessing was not a glorious blossoming, but a bittersweet swansong.

What makes this divorce particularly painful is the third party: Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United.  Over the years, Fergie has tried to snare several Arsenal players – most infamously, Patrick Vieira.  In the past, such moves seemed improbably.  United and Arsenal were simply too close in their rivalry and their status.  Now, for the first time, one of our assets has been prised away to Old Trafford, and it stings.  Arsenal fans will claim Van Persie left for the money.  They’ll chuckle at the fact he’s ended up at a team that probably wasn’t his first choice.  But the uncomfortable truth remains that he’s joined a club where he stands a better chance of winning the trophies that have eluded him for so long.

I’m disappointed that the self-professed ‘Gooner’ would so readily join a rival, but I’m not surprised.  Footballers are just doing a job.  Never allow yourself to believe it means any more to them than that – you’ll only get hurt.

Considering that his departure has been inevitable for some time, I feel Arsenal have handled it well on several counts: they have kept it relatively quiet in the media; they have got the deal done before the start of the season; and at £24m they have secured a very reasonable fee for a 29-year old with brittle legs and a year remaining on his deal.

Van Persie’s replacements, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud, are already in place.  Whilst Nicklas Bendtner and Park aree both certain to depart, it’s looking increasingly like Marouane Chamakh will remain at the club to play second fiddle to Giroud as a target man.  It’s possible another forward will come in, but it’s by no means a certainty, or a necessity.  We have been preparing for life without Robin for some time now.

Preparations are going well.  We have a stronger squad than last season, even without the Dutchman, and can look forward to watching an exciting new team take shape.  As for Van Persie?  Well, he’s about to destroy whatever legacy he might have had at Arsenal.  From talisman to traitor, so swiftly.  That’s footballers for you.  Disappointing, but no surprise.

-

Still keen to show your loyalty? Click here for Arsenal’s new kit.

FC Koln 0 – 4 Arsenal: Podolski off the mark as Arsenal show off strength in depth

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2012-13 Pre-season, Friendlies | 216 Guns

FC Koln 0 – 4 Arsenal (Vermaelen 5, Podolski 15 (pen), 43, Gervinho 62)
Match Report | Highlights

Arsenal’s first goal had all the hallmarks of Steve Bould…
That corner routine was classic Arsenal – near post flick on from one centre-back to the other.  Clearly the new assistant has been drilling them on the training ground.

Lukas Podolski looked good in that number nine shirt …
It had been widely assumed Podolski’s squad number was yet to be announced because he was waiting for Robin van Persie’s number 10 shirt to become available.  Perhaps we’re merely waiting to sanction the sale of Park Ju-Young before handing him the number nine shirt he wore in such style yesterday.  Podolski began the match on the left-flank, but showed a real willingness to tuck inside, and a goalscorer’s instinct to net twice against his former club.  The first was a typically German (ie. accurate) penalty, and the second a sweeping finish after a great one-two with Kieran Gibbs.

 Olivier Giroud wore 12…
…and yet is every inch a traditional number 9.  This guy is huge, and yesterday his hold-up play and interlinking was fantastic, whilst slightly sharper shooting would have seen him grab a goal or two.  I was hugely encouraged by the two new strikers, and Theo Walcott’s constant threat from the right gave us a consistent attacking threat.

Santi Cazorla is a class act…
…just as we knew he would be.  As expected, he played at the tip of the central midfield trio, spraying passes to either flank with consummate ease.   I don’t want to heap pressure on the lad, but something tells me we will look back on his signing as one of the steals of the summer.

The Ox’s evolution to central midfield is well and truly underway…
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has made almost all his pre-season appearances as a central midfielder.  Despite impressing as a winger last season and at the European Championships, it’s clear Arsene likes the idea of deploying him as a deep-lying midfielder, where his footballing intelligence and driving runs can be put to more frequent use.  It’ll be interesting to see where he is deployed when the season proper gets underway.

Gervinho has had a fantastic pre-season…
I’ve been one of the Ivorian’s sternest critics, but I take my hat off to him: he’s knuckled down and been one of the best performers of our pre-season period.  There was the trademark terrible miss yesterday, but there was also a fantastic goal and some very effective dribbling.  Signs of improvement and adaptation?  Let’s hope so.

Our squad looks to have a lot more depth…
Although the line-up changed almost entirely at half-time, there was little discernible difference in quality between the two teams.  We have options all over the pitch, and if we can keep our players fit then we certainly have a squad capable of coping with the rigours of a long season.  There are still issues to resolve, but there is an overwhelming sense of optimism around the club.  Roll on Saturday.

For your consideration: Thoughts on Cazorla, RVP, & Song

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2012-13 Pre-season | 39 Guns

Hello all. I write this from the Edinburgh festival, where I am making my way through a mostly fun but occasionally torturous month of work. I have been meaning to sit down and write this blog for some time. Finally, having pretended to be meeting a fictional family member by the name of ‘Gavin’, I have found the peace and quiet required to do so.

Let’s begin with the most exciting news of the past couple of weeks: the signing of Santi Cazorla. I was rather deliberate about not talking too much about the Spaniard’s potential signing. This was in part because I had no substantial information to add, but also because it all sounded a bit too good to be true. A Spanish international midfielder for just £12.6m? Surely not. Even now that the deal has gone through, I won’t really believe it until I see him run out in red and white.

It’s clear that Arsene has been a long-time admirer of the player, and now he’s got his man, twelve months later than originally intended. I’ve bored you before with my observation that Arsenal never signed a replacement for Cesc Fabregas last summer – the deeper deployment of Mikel Arteta made him more of a stand-in for the injured Wilshere. Now, in Cazorla, we have one: a playmaker with experience, class, and match-winning ability.

Most independent observers of last year’s La Liga will tell you that Cazorla was the best Spanish midfielder outside the top two. When I’ve watched him, the thing I’ve most been struck by is how genuinely two-footed he is: at first glance, it is almost impossible to tell whether he is right or left-footed. Inevitably, this makes him a dangerous prospect in the wide positions, as he can go both inside and out. However, I expect he will start his Arsenal career in a less familiar central role. Not only are we already well stocked in wide areas, but Tomas Rosicky is injured and will not be fit for the start of the season. Cazorla should be able to slot in beside Arteta and Song to form an impressive midfield triumvirate.

Whilst Malaga’s financial plight made the fee far from extortionate, it’s still a massive signing for Arsenal. When you add his arrival to that of Podolski and Giroud, it’s even bigger. So much so that fans seem far more relaxed than previously about the future of Robin van Persie.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the Dutchman intends to leave Arsenal this summer. The recent comments of Alex Ferguson convince me that he has probably arrived at some sort of provisional agreement with Manchester United too – they wouldn’t risk the embarrassment of going public with the bid if they thought there was a chance RVP would reject them.

From the outside it looks as if Arsenal are waiting for a bidding club to hit a trigger point – probably somewhere around the £20m mark. If that happens, Van Persie will go. If it doesn’t, he’ll stay and see out his contract. The latter option is feasible: I don’t think he’s the type to kick up and fuss and refuse to play if he doesn’t get what he wants. However, my gut instinct is still that he will be gone by August 31st. It might go all the way to the wire.

I made my peace with Van Persie’s probable exit a while ago, but I am a little worried about the reports of Barcelona’s interest in Alex Song. Whilst I admit he has flaws, I’m a big fan of the Cameroon midfielder, and unlike with Van Persie I cannot see an obvious replacement within the squad. Ironically, if Barca do get Song, they are likely to field him as a centre-back rather than a midfielder. Arsenal remain in a strong position: Song has three years remaining on his deal. However, We know that Barcelona like to do their business in the newspapers, and this one could get quite ugly.

For now, though, I’m not going to dwell on the negatives. We face FC Koln tomorrow afternoon, and it’ll be a first chance to see Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla in an Arsenal shirt. The new season is just around the corner, and there’s cause for optimism. I’ll have a report on the friendly for you on Monday.

-

With the new season just around the corner, you can get in the football spirit by heading over to casino.ladbrokes.com to play some football slots games. How about the great ‘Shoot!’ based on the classic magazine. Or ‘Soccer Safari’, the beautiful game with an African twist. It they get you in the casino mood, then you could try out some blackjack too.

Cazorla makes more sense than Sahin

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2012-13 Pre-season, Friendlies | 754 Guns

Hello folks.  Apologies for radio silence.  Serves me right for trying to use a radio to write a blog.

In the time since we last spoke, Arsenal rounded off the Asia tour with a 2-0 defeat to Manchester City, and a 2-2 draw with Kitchee SC.  The latter through the Kitchee sink at us, and exposed almost as many defensive frailties as our Premier League rivals.  There’s much work to do, and it’s worrying that only one official pre-season fixture remains in which to tighten up at the back and introduce the new strike pair of Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud.

There were, however, some positives on the tour.  We’re used to the defensive problems, but there were some less familiar sights, such as Gervinho being efficient and productive, and Abou Diaby not limping.  Now we return to London and the hard work continues – away from the pitch, too.

In recent days we’ve been heavily linked with two Spain-based midfielders: Malaga’s Santi Cazorla, and Real Madrid’s Nuri Sahin.  It’s well known that Arsene is a huge admirer of both players: he attempted to sign Cazorla from Villarreal last summer, and six or so years ago named Sahin as the world’s best teenage talent.

The need for Cazorla is clear.  Despite selling both Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri last summer, Arsene’s didn’t buy a direct replacement in the form of an attacking midfielder, choosing instead to rely on Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky across the course of the season, with mixed results.  Cazorla would fill that gap and add an extra dimension to the side – and, at a reported £16m, be an absolute bargain.

At first glance, the signing of Sahin would be a little odd.  He plays a deeper role than Cazorla, without being a destroyer.  It’s an area in which Arsenal are seemingly well-stocked.  If there is anything in this story – that of Arsenal pursuing a left-footed, box-to-box creative midfield player, then one has to wonder just how worried Arsene Wenger is about the amount of playing time he’ll get out of Jack Wilshere this season.

If a deal for Sahin was imminent, I doubt the player would have flown to America with the rest of the Real Madrid squad.  There seems to be a significantly bigger fire at the heart of all this Cazorla smoke, and Malaga’s financial troubles could hold the key to us nicking their prize asset on the cheap.  I had a brief chat with a journalist from Malaga Hoy last night, and he told me that people around the club accept that the player has decided his future is with Arsenal; it’s now just down to the two clubs to reach an agreement.  Whether or not that’s possible will depend on how desperate Malaga are to bail themselves out – I can’t see Arsenal bidding much more than the current £16m on the table.

Arsene has already confirmed that messrs Park, Bendtner and Squillaci will soon be on their way, and there are a couple more who could face the chop.  And that’s without mentioning the precarious contract situations of Robin van Persie, Theo Walcott, and even Alex Song.  It’s going to be a busy few weeks…

Malaysia conquered, it’s on to China – with Cazorla in tow?

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2012-13 Pre-season, Friendlies | 41 Guns

Arsenal’s pre-season campaign got underway in earnest yesterday as the squad took on a Malaysia XI in the first friendly of our Far East tour.  A relatively strong side started the game, captained by Thomas Vermaelen, and with a midfield featuring the stringy, unfamiliar figure of a fit Abou Diaby.  Andre Santos played in the front three.  I could not love that man any more.

The team, suffering from both the rustiness and the oppressive heat, actually went in at half-time 1-0 down after a cracking long-range strike from Azmi Muslim beat a stranded Vito Mannone.

The second half saw a raft of changes.  Alex Song took both the armband and control of the midfield, and it was his pass that set Nico Yennaris away to square for Thomas Eisfeld to tuck in a late equaliser.  There was even time for a winner, with Chuks Aneke’s deflected strike deceiving the keeper after a neat one-two with Ignasi Miquel.  Video highlights are available here.  The squad have now flown on to China, where they will play against Manchester City in a showpiece game on Saturday.

There’s very little to gleam from a game so early on in our preparation, but it must be a terrific experience for the likes of Eisfeld, Aneke and Miquel to be spending this time in and around the first-team.  Whilst we all clamour for signings, the emergence of young talent from within the squad is an important tradition of the club, and one we should look to preserve.  Speaking of young talent, I was particularly struck by the performance of Ryo Miyaichi yesterday.  The Japanese winger was a constant threat from the left flank, and looks to have matured significantly during his time at Bolton.

Whether Ryo stays at Arsenal this season or heads out on loan again will depend largely on who else arrives.  All the chat at the moment is about Spanish midfielder, Santi Cazorla.  It’s an interesting one.  Cazorla was one of two players (Juan Mata being the other) earmarked to replace Cesc Fabregas last summer.  In both instances, Arsenal were financially outmuscled.  Mata ended up across London at Chelsea, whilst Cazorla remained in Spain with moneybags Malaga.

However, in the intervening twelve months, the fountain of oil money that funded the Malaga revolution has seemingly dried up.  The likes of Cazorla, Ruud van Nistelrooy and, crucially, the Spanish taxman have all gone unpaid.  Understandably, the two-time European Championship winner wants out.

It’s hard to know just how real our reported interest is.  The player’s camp might be stoking the fire in order to force Malaga in to paying Cazorla the money he is owed.  Equally, Arsene might genuinely be moving to snare a quality player on the cheap.  I hope the latter is true: Cazorla would be a terrific signing, and add a much needed option in the central attacking midfield position as well as in wide areas.

Of course, half the time we have to be more worried about keeping the players we have, which is why it’s such terrific news that Laurent Koscielny has signed a new long-term contract.  His improvement last season was dramatic, and this is due reward.

Till next time.

Make no mistake: this Robin is flying away

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2012-13 Pre-season | 700 Guns

In his first interview with Arsenal.com this summer, Arsene Wenger said Arsenal were experiencing ‘a classic pre-season’. He meant that the squad are being put through a regular and rigorous routine, but intentionally he sounded as if he might be talking about events off the field. The drawn-out departure of a talisman and captain is now all too familiar.

In the intervening period since my last post, it has become abundantly clear that Arsenal are preparing to sell Robin van Persie. First the club leaked new of bids from three carrion clubs: Manchester City, United and Juventus. Then Van Persie was excluded from the travelling party to Asia. Granted, the likes of Giroud, Podolski and Koscielny have all remained at Colney, but all of those players progressed past the group stage. Van Persie’s Holland infamously didn’t, and he, like Nicklas Bendtner and Andrey Arshavin, clearly remains ‘home’ in the expectation that he’ll soon be leaving the club.

Arsene Wenger, as usual, is making all the right noises, stating openly that he wants to keep Van Persie. He’s too canny a negotiator to publicly admit the battle for his skipper’s future is already lost. The decision by the club to leak news of the bids was a clear attempt to create an auction, and the boardroom will be braced for the renewed bids in the next seven days. Talk of a £30m fee is mere brinkmanship. I suspect we’d accept anything over £20m.

There are mixed reports on Van Persie’s preferred destination. I’m sure we’d all prefer to see him move abroad in to another league, especially if he is able to maintain last season’s form. If he’s going to stay in England, I’d rather see him join City than United. If he goes to the blue half, it’s easy enough to write him off as a money-grabber and hypocrite. United are a long-standing rival, and seeing an Arsenal hero in their shirt would rankle.

Whatever happens, I know I’m not alone in praying that it’s done sooner rather than later. Even if it isn’t, I don’t expect Van Persie to be in contention to play for Arsenal any time soon. I hope we’ll avoid a repeat of the horrendous situation where Arsenal were forced to field a player in Samir Nasri who clearly did not want to be at the club.

Whilst I’m not surprised that Van Persie has remained in London, I’m intrigued by Arsene’s decision to leave Giroud and Podolski at home. I’d imagine that he’d want to give them as much playing time as possible, especially in the light of the RVP situation. They’ll now miss three of our four remaining pre-season friendlies, leaving them with little time to bed in.  On the other side of the coin, they’ll be able to settle in to their new homes without the disruption of a jaunt to the other side of the world.

Talk is understandably turning to any further additions Arsene Wenger might choose to make.  There has been exotic talk of the likes of Llorente, Ganso and Cazorla.  Certainly an attacking midfielder in the mould of the latter two would be a welcome addition – both Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilshere will miss the start of the season with injury, whilst Aaron Ramsey will be recovering from his Olympic escapades.  If I had to prioritise on area for recruitment, this would be it.

Time will tell.  Not yet, despite my pleading.  All we can do is wait.

A strange day: Arsenal win a trophy & Gervinho scores

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2012-13 Pre-season, Friendlies | 455 Guns

Markus Liebherr Memorial Cup

ARSENAL 1 – 0 ANDERLECHT
Video highlights: Henri Lansbury ’34

ARSENAL 1 – 1 SOUTHAMPTON
Video highlights: Jay Rodriguez ’31; Gervinho ’35

I suspect in your head, when you pictured the next man to raise a cup aloft and end our trophy drought, you never for a moment believed that man would be Johan Djourou.  However, Arsenal are Markus Liebherr Memorial Cup Champions.  Perhaps we should take that, and our Emirates Cup victories of 2007, 2009 and 2010 and use it to plug the gaping void after ‘FA Cup 2005′ in the roll-call of silverware that lines the interior of the Emirates Stadium.

Obviously, in real terms, our victory in a friendly competition where we didn’t even play a full ninety minutes against a single opponent doesn’t mean all that much.  But if winning is a habit, then this could one day prove to be a helpful step in the right direction for the many kids involved yesterday.

The side that took to the field in the first 45 against Anderlecht was:

Martinez – Jenkinson Boateng Miquel Gibbs (c) – Yennaris Eastmond Lansbury – Eisfeld Chamakh Watt

Arsenal won the game thanks to a solitary goal, which showed off the qualities of both Carl Jenkinson and Henri Lansbury.  Jenkinson showed good tenacity to drive to the byline, and then demonstrated why I’ve long insisted he’s the best crosser at the club with a devilish ball which Lansbury arrived to thump home.  Whenever he’s played for the first team, Henri has shown a knack for arriving in the box at the crucial point, and this was no different.  Personally, I hope he gets a long overdue chance in the first-team this season.  His loan spell at West Ham was something of a disappoint, but a player with his style was never going to be the first name on the teamsheet in a Sam Allardyce side.  We could do a lot worse than to keep him involved in 2012/13.

In the second game we had a more experienced side on the field:

Mannone – Eastmond Djourou (c) Bartley Meade – Coquelin Lansbury Ebicilio – Santos Gervinho Aneke

Arsenal fell behind as Jay Rodriguez made himself an instant hero with the Saints fans by nodding home on his first appearance at St. Mary’s.  It was a good cross but new assistant Steve Bould won’t be happy about how easily Rodriguez rose between our two centre-backs.  With the games lasting only 45 minutes, there wasn’t much time to level, but Gervinho managed it with a corker.  He sprinted to the byline and cut back inside before firing past the keeper.  The confidence with which he took his goal was almost as surreal a sight as Djourou raising a trophy.  Gervinho has duped us with these pre-season antics before, netting twice on his first appearance in a friendly last season, but hopefully this is an early sign that he may have a more successful second season than his first.  A quick glance at the video reveals that our supposed left-back, Andre Santos, was in the six yard box.  A poacher’s instinct from the tubby Brazilian.

The game went to penalties, and Southampton emerged victorious, but it didn’t matter: the trophy was already ours.

So, Arsenal are back.  Next week the remainder of the squad will return to training before we fly to Malaysia in around a week’s time.  Something tells me the coming days will tell us a lot about the make-up of our squad for next season.

Friendly Fun + Grimandi’s Confession

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2012-13 Pre-season, Friendlies | 694 Guns

Incredibly, Arsenal are already back in action.  As far as I’m aware we’re the first Premier League side to play any kind of friendly this summer.  And if that weren’t enough, we don’t just face off against one side today, but two: after 45 minutes against Anderlecht, we will play a further 45 against hosts and top flight newcomers Southampton.

It’ll be a very unfamiliar Arsenal side.  First-teamers Gervinho, Chamakh, Djourou, Santos and Gibbs are all included, as well as the likes of Coquelin, Bartley, Lansbury and Mannone.  The rest of the squad will be made up with youth-team players.

It’s possible triallist M’Baye Niang will be given a run out.  If you don’t know too much about Caen’s teenage forward, you can read French Football Weekly’s profile of him here.  Caen have confirmed that Niang is on trial at Arsenal with their permission, and as yet no bids for him have been received, despite reported interest from Francophiles Newcastle.

Arsenal.com aren’t showing the match live but will be tweeting updates @Arsenal.  If I can get a stream working I’ll try and do some stuff over on @Gunnerblog too, but it may be I have to wait to see highlights on the Sunday.  It’ll be a fairly low-key affair: Arsenal don’t play another friendly for 10 days, and presumably we will use the opportunity mainly to help these players build their stamina.

Presumably when we face Southampton we might get a glimpse of our new away kit in action.  The purple and black hoops have received a bit of stick from some fans.  I have to confess I’m not really too bothered about what our kits look like: my attitude towards them is defined more by the results we achieve in them.  If we win something in that kit, I’ll love it, pure and simple.

Of course, winning anything at all is going to be tricky, what with our star players wanting to leave all the time.  In this recent interview, scout Gilles Grimandi as good as admitted that Olivier Giroud was bought with half an eye on Robin van Persie’s potential exit:

“Was the recruitment of Olivier Giroud made ​​to compensate for his departure? Yes, we work to avoid being cornered. But we do everything to keep him [Van Persie] and we want him to stay.

If there’s a great offer and if he wants to leave and it will be difficult to keep him.”

The pressure on new boy Giroud grows daily.  If Van Persie leaves – and in my opinion that is by far the most likely outcome here – the burden the Frenchman will have to shoulder will be immense.  And as each day goes by without news on Theo Walcott’s contract, that situation gets more perplexing too.

It’s going to be another one of those summers…