United Preview + Park signing imminent

There is a massive match today, and at the risk of sounding uncannily like manager Arsene Wenger, I’d like to talk solely about that.  However, with the window creaking towards closing, inevitably there is transfer news on the agenda.

It appears that Arsenal are about to sign South Korea striker Park Chu-Young.  After Monaco were relegated last season, Park, who is captain of his country, has spent the summer searching for a move.  It seemed he’d found it when French champions Lille agreed a fee of €3m + €2m add-ons.  He underwent a medical, and this morning Lille president Michel Seydoux sought out Park at his hotel to finalise the contract.

Only, Park wasn’t there.

A series of furious phone calls to Monaco and the player’s representatives confirmed Seydoux’s fears: Park had travelled to England, to meet with Arsenal.

Park was as surprised as anyone; the deal has come from nowhere.  On Friday, Arsene confirmed Arsenal’s desire to sign a striker – a decision motivated by the impending departure of Nicklas Bendtner and the fact Joel Campbell has been denied a work permit.  That evening, Arsenal informed Monaco of their interest.  By Saturday morning, a formal bid had arrived, and Arsene Wenger had spoken to Park on the telephone.  As soon as he received the call, the player departed for London.

It’s an intriguing signing, and in my eyes a positive one.  A couple of days ago I didn’t think Arsene was going to buy a striker, so I’ll be delighted if we do secure one.  Some fans seem disappointed by he player’s relatively low profile and price-tag, but I think they’re odd criteria by which to judge a signing.

Even so, I expect bigger names to arrive in the areas which require more significant strengthening: defence and midfield.  Speaking of which, Owen Coyle’s criticism of Gary Cahill’s performance at Anfield, suggesting the player has had his “head turned”, seem to me to be further evidence of a club preparing for the player’s departure.

Anyway.  More of Park, Cahill and others in the coming days of frenzied activity.  For now, for today, it’s Manchester United at Old Trafford.

First: team news.  As you all know, the Arsenal squad is currently decimated by injuries and suspensions.  From the game against Udinese we lose Song, Gervinho and Frimpong (all suspended), who join the likes of Gibbs, Squillaci, Wilshere, Diaby and Bendtner on the sidelines.

Wojciech Szczesny will continue in goal.  Thomas Vermaelen will form the bedrock of our defence, with his first-choice partner Laurent Koscielny hopefully able to be picked alongside him.  There were some rumours yesterday that Bacary Sagna was suffering from a stomach bug – assuming he recovers, he’s likely to continue at left-back with Carl Jenkinson on the other flank.

The central midfield trio will be comprised of Tomas Rosicky, Aaron Ramsey and another.  The likes of Oguzhan Özyakup and Francis Coquelin have reportedly been called up to the first team squad, but I suspect Arsene will go with Johan Djourou in a holding role.  The Swiss defender began his career as a midfielder and should be comfortable enough in that position.

The attack picks itself: captain Robin van Persie will be flanked by the in-form Theo Walcott and out-of-sorts Andrey Arshavin.

United have started the season in fine fettle, with plenty of new blood to supplement the established set.  They’re champions and favourites for this year’s title.  Arsenal, meanwhile, have spent the first part of the season lurching from one disaster to the next, until the reprieve granted by defeating Udinese in the Champions League qualifier.  All of that means that we start this game as massive underdogs – a position which ought to suit us.

Considering this is always a huge fixture, we go in to it under remarkably little pressure.  Hopefully that will liberate some of the younger players in our side, and allow us to at least make a decent fist of it.  The squad strengthening that will happen between now and Wednesday could dramatically alter our season – but, arguably, a positive result today could be more.

We’re due a win at Old Trafford.  And we’re due some luck.  A victory, or even a convincing performance, could rarely be more timely.

Come On You Gunners.

Arsenal 0 – 2 Liverpool: Cracks widening with every game

arseneliverpool

Match Report | Highlights | Arsene’s reaction

Quite often, I get criticised in the ‘Comments’ section of this blog for being “too positive”.  I’m accused of being sycophantic to the manager and blind to the club’s problem.  Those readers will probably enjoy this blog a little more.  Equally, I hope that those fans who enjoy my more positive outlook will forgive the sombre mood of this post – but I was deeply alarmed by what I witnessed today.

When Arsenal took to the field at St. James’ Park a week ago, our first XI looked decent enough.  It was the bench that bothered me.  One week, and a few predictable injuries later, those substitutes have been promoted and are getting game-time.  Their inexperience and insufficiency was exploited ruthlessly as Liverpool recorded their first victory away to Arsenal of Arsene’s reign.  A watershed result in a watershed month for the manager.

I’m not blaming the kids.  The likes of Jenkinson, Frimpong, Ramsey and Miquel tried their very best.  Unfortunately, however, they made rookie errors which, at this level, simply don’t go unpunished.  The truth is that they oughtn’t have been out there today – it is not their fault that the squad has been stripped of experience.

In the first half we were performing well enough without creating any chances of note, until we lost Laurent Koscielny to a back injury.  That setback saw Miquel introduced, and a nervy Arsenal never really found their footing again.  Watching in the stands, the match had a 0-0 draw written all over it – Liverpool were seemingly happy to park their five man midfield and take a valuable point.

The game hinged on the sending off of Emmanuel Frimpong.  Along with the outstanding Thomas Vermaelen, Frimpong had been Arsenal’s best player, but after clattering Lucas Frimpong picked up a second booking and had to go.  Over-enthusiasm and a rush of adrenaline put an end to what was otherwise an outstanding full debut – the FA should be doing everything they can to convince him to change his mind and play for England.

Liverpool, smelling blood, introduced Luis Suarez, who set about tormenting our backline with his speed and movement.  The goals Liverpool got were admittedly graced with luck: both appeared to be offside, and one was the result of a calamitous own goal after Miquel’s clearance hit Ramsey and looped over the advancing Szczesny.  But with ten men and a defence of Sagna at left-back, Jenkinson at right-back, and Vermaelen and Miquel in the middle we were asking for trouble.  For the first time I found myself wondering with concern just where Sebastien Squillaci was.

Miquel did alright, and can obviously pass a ball, but was understandably nervy.  He wasn’t alone in putting in a less than inspiring performance: Sagna looked uncomfortable at left-back, Jenkinson was committed but struggled on the ball, Ramsey was erratic, Walcott anonymous, and Arshavin awful.  But, at the moment, they’re all we have.

The knocks and suspensions we’re picking up are unfortunate.  But we know we have a squad prone to injury and discipline, and have taken no steps to counter that.  When Liverpool went ahead, a good number of fans chanted aggressively, imploring Arsene to spend some money.  I didn’t join in – at that point, the team were still very much in the game and needed our support.  I did, however, entirely understand the sentiment.

Liverpool weren’t brilliant today, but their team looked an awful lot better than it did twelve months ago – and this, let’s remember, was without Gerrard and with Suarez starting on the bench.  It’s no coincidence that since January, they’ve spent about £100m.  Yes, they’ve overpaid for some players, but they’ve got the personnel they needed.  And they’re better for it.

There is a lot to be learnt from their handling of the Fernando Torres sale.  Torres was a symbolic and pivotal figure at Anfield – much like Cesc was at Arsenal.  After selling him to Chelsea, they immediately replaced him with players able to come in and make an immediate impact in their first team.  Crucially, it also gave the entire club a lift, and convinced players and supporters alike that they would recover from the transfer.  I’m not advocating anything as absurd as paying £35m for Andy Caroll, but some new additions would not only plug the gaping holes in the squad, but also give the whole club a boost.

Those holes will widen further if Samir Nasri leaves next week.  The headline news was that he started the game, and I thought he did OK.  During the match a story broke on French TV station Canal Plus that the deal with Manchester City may have fallen through – I have to say I doubt that very much indeed.  Arsene Wenger said he knew nothing about it after the game, but City officials are privately briefing journalists that they’re confident a move will go ahead.  Wednesday will act as a deadline of sorts – if he plays against Udinese, he would be cup-tied for the Champions League (IF Arsenal qualify).

Whether he stays or not, I wish Arsene would stop telling us how much Nasri “loves” the club.  Today he said:

“I have always said I will try to keep Samir Nasri. I have never changed my mind. I played him, much to the surprise of everybody, because he loves this club and at the moment I am happy he is here.”

Right, let’s get this straight: Samir Nasri doesn’t love this club.  Or, if he does, it’s a love which comes second to monetary gain, which is no kind of love I know.

The fans in that stadium today love the club.  Unlike Nasri, they’re putting their money in to the club rather than taking it out.  And unlike Nasri, they’ll be here next week.  And next season.  And beyond.

I didn’t join those who left early, or who booed.  But I understand why they’re frustrated.  For the first time, I have serious doubts about our ability to qualify for the Champions League both for this season and next.  I hope, with all my heart, that I’m proved wrong.

Liverpool Preview: Nasri in from the cold?

Samir Nasri

Apologies for the lack of blog yesterday. A sleepless night and a five hour train journey meant sharing my thoughts with you would’ve been an unpleasant situation for us both. Fortunately, I am now slightly recovered, and feeling rather better. About everything, in fact.

This morning I’ll cycle up to the Emirates for my first live game of the season. In fact, work commitments have prevented me actually getting to games since around March. I watched our end of season collapse on the television, or through my computer/fingers.

The summer hasn’t been any easier on the eye. But tomorrow lunchtime, when I’m confronted with the full horror of Liverpool FC and their fans, all I will care about is that the eleven men in red and white triumph over the eleven men in whatever hideous away kit Liverpool’s marketing men have concocted for this season. And that, really, is what football ought to be about.

For ninety minutes, I’m calling a truce with my angst.  All I want to do is beat Liverpool.  I’m even calling a truce with Samir Nasri, who has been surprisingly recalled to the squad.  It shows how stretched we are when the manager is prepared to risk a £23m asset just hours before he’s due to leave the club.  The fact that Tomas Rosicky has joined Jack Wilshere, Abou Diaby, Gervinho, Alex Song, Kieran Gibbs, Armand Traore and Johan Djourou on the sidelines has forced Arsene to reconsider Nasri’s position, and I now expect him to start in a midfield trio with Emmanuel Frimpong and Aaron Ramsey.

It’s certainly a change of position from when Arsene said he was only prepared to use players who were 100% committed to the club.  And it’s a change brought about, quite clearly, by desperation.  Arsene said:

“You do your job until the last day of your life at the Club – the rest is speculation. That doesn’t interfere with your dedication and the way you do your job.

Nasri is in the squad. If I decide to play him he will play. When you are professional you play until the last day.

Everywhere I have worked in my life I have made sure that until the last second of where I was I did the job properly. He is paid this month by Arsenal Football Club so why should he not play?”

Nasri’s impending move to City has seen his relationship with the Arsenal fans very quickly and very publicly disintegrate.  There will doubtless be those in the Emirates crowd who want to vent their frustrations at a player who has reneged on a new deal at Arsenal to double his money elsewhere.  My advice to you is this: save it for when he comes back with City.  There’s no need for a negative atmosphere around the ground on a day when teenagers like Carl Jenkinson and Emmanuel Frimpong could be making their first league starts for the club.

The team will most likely be:

Szczesny – Sagna Koscielny Vermaelen Jenkinson – Frimpong Ramsey – Walcott Nasri Arshavin – Van Persie (c)

Japanese winger Ryo Miyaichi, having completed his paperwork, is also in contention and is likely to be on the bench.  Interestingly, there’s been no talk of whether or not Nicklas Bendtner could be involved, perhaps in one of the wide attacking roles.  I wouldn’t be adverse to giving the Dane a game, although his lack of match practise might be a worry.

Regardless, it’s a line-up that tells you a lot about the state of the squad and where we require strengthening – especially when you take Nasri out of the equation too.  I was encouraged by the news that Arsenal made an enquiry for Lucho Gonzalez - an experienced, quality player – albeit one whose form has dipped in the last twelve months; but seriously, why would Marseille allow one of their best players, who cost them €18m two years ago, to leave on loan?  Much like when we bid only £10m for Phil Jagielka, I think we were being optimistic at best, and naieve at worst.

It doesn’t look like we’ll be getting Juan Mata either, with the Spaniard now set to sign for Chelsea.  That’s a shame: he’s a great player and would’ve been a good like-for-like replacement for Nasri.

One player who has signed is Joel Campbell.  The teenage striker will now wait to hear if he is awarded a work permit before the club decide the next stage of his development.

It’s a huge game today.  Our first two matches have come with creditable results, if uninspiring performances.  This is a different kind of test, against the team a whole host of pundits have predicted will supercede us in the race for Champions League qualification.  It’s an opportunity to make a real statement, and give both the players and fans a much-need boost ahead of a very difficult week in which we travel to Udinese and Manchester United.

Arsene looked as fiery as he ever has done in his press conference yesterday, swatting away journalists with defiant rhetoric.  He’s clearly been riled by those hacks and fans who have openly questioned his decision-making this summer, and feels he has a point to prove.  As supporters, we should consider that a good thing.  Three good results in the next eight days would certainly silence many of his critics.

Come On You Gunners.

Barton, Brawls & Babies on the Bench

newcawaywide

Match Report | Highlights | Arsene’s reaction

In some respects, this game was much like the equivalent fixture last season.  Arsenal dominated the first half, fell away in the second, and had a French-speaking black man sent off for a spat with Joey Barton.

Missing were two key ingredients: a stomach-turning, apocalyptic sense of despair; and goals.  A 0-0 is quite an unusual thing for an Arsenal team, and suggests two things.  1) We were surprisingly assured at the back – 2) we were surprisingly lacklustre in attack.

The team was as I expected, with Laurent Koscielny and Andrey Arshavin picked ahead of Johan Djourou and Theo Walcott.  From our existing crop of centre-backs, Koscielny and Vermaelen is clearly Arsene’s preferred pairing.  Walcott, meanwhile, is only just returning from injury, and with Cesc and Nasri both absent the manager was always likely to plump for Arshavin’s craft.

In the first half we dominated without actually creating too many clear-cut opportunities.  Tomas Rosicky had a good opportunity early on but, having gone 34 league games without a goal, never looked convincing.  Gervinho was lively, exhibiting some direct dribbling and elusive moment, but all too often his final ball was inaccurate.  The closest we came was through Laurent Koscielny, who beat a hesitant Tim Krul to Rosicky’s corner, only to see his header cleared off the line.

Newcastle barely threatened, and when they did Wojciech Szczesny was in dominant form, showing great confidence to come off his line and punch the ball away whenever the opposition put a threatening ball in to the box.

Newcastle’s 4-4-2 formation meant they constantly found themselves outnumbered, so at half-time Alan Pardew introduced Gabriel Obertan, who played from a little deeper than Demba Ba.  Newcastle improved, particularly defensively – it would’ve been impossible for them to play much worse – and as a spectacle the game dropped off.  The second half will live longer in the memory, however, because it was punctuated by two very unsavoury incidents.

It will not surprise you to know that Joey Barton was involved in both.  First off, he lunged in to an untidy tackle on Alex Song.  It wasn’t particularly pleasant, but it didn’t warrant what followed, as Song maliciously stamped down on Barton’s unguarded ankle.

It was an incredibly stupid thing to do.  For one thing, Song was already walking a tight-rope having been booked.  As it is, the fact that the referee missed it means he’s likely to be pulled before the FA and handed a three-match ban for violent conduct, missing games against Liverpool and United in the process.  With Jack Wilshere also a doubt due to an achilles injury, that’s the last thing we need.

The incident clearly riled Barton, who stormed off the pitch to ask why the fourth official hadn’t communicated what had happened to the referee.  God knows what he’d have done if the fourth official had answered honestly: the batteries on his walky-talky had run out.

With fifteen minutes to go came the game’s second major talking point.  Gervinho, who had switched flanks throughout the contest, darted down the left in to the penalty area, and skipped inside Cheikh Tiote.  As he did so, he went to ground.

The first question is: was it a dive?  Match of the Day’s Alan Shearer, who is as quick as any pundit to throw out the ‘Johnny Foreigner’ cliches, felt it wasn’t, and I’m inclined to agree.  Whilst Gervinho undoubtedly left his foot in and went to ground easily, there was contact.  The referee didn’t blow for a penalty, but nor did he go to give Gervinho a yellow card for simulation.  In fact, he turned his back on the incident, and waved play on.

And this is when Barton saw fit to get involved.  Charging up to Gervinho, he dragged the Ivorian to his feet, and in the resulting melee Gervinho reached a hand out and slapped Barton on the side of the head.  The debutant was sent off, and Barton booked.

It was reminiscent, of course, of last season, when Abou Diaby was dismissed for reacting to a horrible tackle from Barton.  There’s no doubt in my mind that Barton was out to get an Arsenal player sent off as ‘revenge’ for the Song incident.  Barton is the type of player who gets involved purely to induce that sort of outcome – it’s not coincidence that these incidents follow him around.  Pundits will sometimes call these players ‘great wind-up merchants’ – Wise, Savage, Bellamy – everyone else calls them horrible little shits.

The way he reacted to Gervinho’s tap on the face, falling to the ground as if he’d been shot, with Steven Taylor (who has a history of that kind of thing himself) miming an elbowing motion was rather embarrassing.  After the game Alan Pardew defended Barton’s attack on Gervinho by saying “no professional likes to see diving”.  But it’s OK to writhe around on the floor after being caught by what is essentially a pat on the head?

Gervinho was, I hasten to add, no angel.  He didn’t make much contact with Barton’s head, but that was largely because he was off-balance.  Let’s be honest: he wasn’t reaching out for a tender stroke, or to gently replace the preposterous fringe Barton was sporting.

I can understand why Song and Gervinho reacted the way they did to Barton’s provocation, but I’m still disappointed.  It’s no excuse to say, “he started it”.  Barton is a twisted individual whose consuming anger has forced him to seek medical and psychological treatment.  He is someone whose consistently aggressive behaviour makes it difficult for him to exist peacefully in wider society.  He is no barometer by which we should judge our own players.  Part of their responsibility, as professionals, is not to respond to idiots like him.

I think Arsene called it right when he said post-game that the referee should have given Gervinho and Barton equal punishments.  There is nothing in the rules that says that “raising your hands” is an automatic sending off.  The definition of violent conduct is employing “excessive force or brutality against an opponent”.  I’m not sure either Gervinho or Barton were guilty of that, and if anyone was excessively forceful it was certainly Barton.   Amusingly enough, what Barton did to Gervinho should probably have resulted in a spot-kick being rewarded anyway, as play had continued.

The frustrating thing is that the referee didn’t actually see what took place, but having booked Barton there is no chance of him being punished retrospectively.  I expect Gervinho’s ban to be upheld, and for him to be joined in a three-game sin bin by Alex Song.

After that brief drama the game petered out.  Arsene brought on Johan Djourou and debutant Emmanuel Frimpong to shore things up, and despite a couple of late chances to release sub Theo Walcott, the match ended in a 0-0.

And so, we kick off our campaign with a draw, which I probably would’ve taken before the game.  Credit must go to our defence, who coped well with an admittedly tame Newcastle attack.  I thought the back four of Gibbs, Vermaelen, Koscielny and Sagna looked composed throughout, and it was particularly great to see the Belgian back, even embarking on a couple of trademark marauding runs up the field.

Further up the field, however, we lacked precision in our passing in and around the box.  As Arsene might put it, we “lacked a little sharpness”.  Despite dominating possession, we barely created a single clear-cut chance from open play.

What distressed me most, however, was how little flexibility we had to change from the bench.  Our substitutes were:

Fabianski – Jenkinson – Djourou – Frimpong – Chamberlain – Walcott – Chamakh

Of the outfield players, only Djourou, Walcott and Chamakh have any kind of Premier League experience, and with Chamakh looking out-of-sorts a rusty Walcott was the only real option.  When you consider that there was only one player excluded because of injury – Jack Wilshere – the squad begins to look incredibly thin.  The suspensions for Gervinho and most likely Song are only going to make that situation worse.

If Eboue, Nasri, Fabregas and Bendtner really do depart, as seems certain, then Arsene simply has to bring in at least three players to replace them.  Anything less will leave us with a squad that is, in my opinion, unlikely to qualify for the Champions League.

Watching us on the pitch yesterday suddenly brought home the significance of losing Cesc and Nasri all the more clear to me.  These are huge, huge players.  Aaron Ramsey is a talented and characterful kid, but he’s not even close to their level.  Replacements are necessary if we’re to achieve our minimum aim of a top four finish, let alone challenge for major honours.

Anyway.  There will be time to talk about that.  For now, we have to concentrate on preparing for Udinese on Tuesday – by which time, our coffers could be significantly swollen.

Newcastle & Season Preview

Last season's fixture holds horrible memories for Arsenal fans

Ordinarily, I would write a full and in-depth season preview, taking an appropriately full and in-depth look at the squad’s various areas of strength and weakness, and assessing our chances for the new season.  However, in the current circumstances, it feels impossible to do that.

By the time you’ve read this piece, Cesc and Nasri might have gone.  Hell, they might have gone by the time I finish writing it.  One thing is clear: they are going, and in doing so leaving a gaping hole in the squad.  And that’s on top of all the other gaps we’re yet to fill.

There is a huge amount of work to be done between now and August 31st.  And I’m only talking about off the pitch.  What’s frightening is that in those two and a half weeks we also have to play some very important fixtures.  To me at least, it doesn’t really feel like the season kicks off today, because this Arsenal squad is so obviously unready; so patently half-baked.

I’m praying that feeling isn’t shared by the squad.  Arsene said yesterday that “transfer speculation is disruptive but not an excuse”, and he’s right – we simply have to hope the players whose future is with Arsenal are focused on the job in hand.

We do, of course, have a team capable of beating Newcastle tomorrow, even without Cesc, Nasri, and the injured Jack Wilshere.  Robin van Persie will inherit the armband and play in the central striking role, supported by Gervinho and one of Arshavin or Walcott.  Tomas Rosicky will most likely fill the playmaking role, with Alex Song and Aaron Ramsey patrolling midfield behind him.  Wojciech Szczesny will keep goal behind a back four of Kieran Gibbs, Bacary Sagna, a fit again Thomas Vermaelen, and one of Djourou or Koscielny.

There will, of course, be scars for our collapse their last season.  To avoid any repeat, I advise going 5-0 up as soon as possible.  Surely that will be a bridge too far.

Last season's fixture holds horrible memories for Arsenal fans

In my opinion, Newcastle have bought well this summer, and our centre-backs will have to concentrate to keep out the lively Demba Ba.  If I were Alan Pardew, I’d be picking Joey Barton too: there can’t be a player in the country more determined to make a point on the pitch.

We should, however, have enough.  We look strong in attack, and as much as we’d all like to see more defenders arrive, we can be thankful that we have our ‘first choice’ defence available this evening.

For the next few days, the transfer market will play second fiddle to the return of proper football.  We travel to Newcastle and then we face Udinese at home, when we’ll be without the suspended Robin van Persie.  Both games are vital: for morale, for our bank balance, and for ensuring we’re remain an attractive enough proposition to attract the reinforcements we clearly need.

“The league may kick off today, but between now and September 1st we have five cup finals.”

And it doesn’t end there.  A few days after Udinese, we face Liverpool, before heading out to Italy for the second leg.  Then the following weekend we travel to Old Trafford for what an encounter that could define the opening portion of our domestic campaign.  There is no respite.  No week off in which Arsene can ponder his targets, or embed a new signing within the team.  The league may kick off today, but between now and September 1st we have five cup finals.  Five cup finals around which the manager has to rebuild his squad.

Joel Campbell is presented in Costa Rica (click to enlarge)

We all know what is required.  Certainly a centre-back, and certainly an attacking midfielder if both Nasri and Cesc depart.  Beyond that, I think we’re potentially week in both full-back positions, defensive midfield, and indeed upfront, with Nicklas Bendtner still hoping to secure a move away from the club.

The signing of Joel Campbell means the acquisition of another promising teenage talent, but will do little to placate concerned fans: for one thing, he may not even receive a work permit for the coming season.

Those hoping for big names might need to readjust their sights – Juan Mata, for one, this not be arriving this summer.

It is a rebuilding in its truest sense.  If you look at the list of possible departures this summer, by September it could should read: Denilson, Clichy, Fabregas, Nasri, Bendtner, Almunia, Vela.  That is a generations-worth of Arsenal talent.  At one time or another, Arsene has earmarked them all for a significant role in ‘this’ Arsenal team.

That team, Cesc’s team, has now been disbanded.  A new one is emerging, with a far more Northern European than Mediterranean flavour.  A team dominated by Van Persie, Vermaelen, and a growing British core of Wilshere, Ramsey, Gibbs, Walcott, Jenkinson and Chamberlain.  In most circumstances, it would be exciting.  But the revolution has come at a time when Arsenal fans do not have the patience for yet more transition.  Arsene has nurtured a team around Cesc and Nasri, only to have the creative heart ripped out of it when he thought it was closest to fruition.  Now he’s left to pick up the pieces and try and build yet another new side.

With the growing pressures on him, his only option is pragmatism.  He has to be more short-termist, and bring in experienced players who represent immediate solutions.  We’ve said this before, but never has it been more urgent, and more true.

The season proper starts on September 1st.  If Arsene isn’t careful, his position could become untenable before then.

If you want to follow today’s game, I’ll be doing updates on twitter.

Finally, anyone playing fantasy football at http://fantasy.premierleague.com can join the Gunnerblog league by using this pin: 1767385-375923.  Site is a bit bogged down at the mo but keep trying!

Don’t forget you can subscribe to the new season on Gunnerblog via email or RSS.