Arsenal’s New Year’s Resolutions for 2009

In no particular order:

1. Find Cesc a partner.  With the Spaniard out for the next four months, central midfield is a bare stage, ready to receive auditionees for the permanent position of playing alongside the skipper.  Denilson has had a fair crack already, but seems to lack the defensive know-how neccessary.  Hopefully this transfer window will see another pretender arrive to have a crack at replacing the much-missed Mathieu Flamini.

2. Keep Van Persie fit.  So far, so good for Robin, who has played a fair few games and scored some very important goals – particularly against Chelsea and Liverpool.  If he could last through the calendar year it might provide him with the platform he needs to fulfill his undoubted talent.

3. Integrate Ramsey and Wilshere.  We have many talented youngsters at the club, but these two are a cut above.  Now 18 and 17 respectively, one would expect them to begin to make an impact on the first-team.  Whilst there is a need for older heads during our current ‘crisis’, the cream will always rise to the top, and one would expect 2009 to be a very big year for these two Young Guns.

4. Rehabilitate Eduardo.  For my money, the end of 2009 is realistically when Eduardo could be said to fully rehabilitated.  I doubt we’ll see him in the first-team for another month or so, and even then it’ll only be fleeting glimpses.  For him to overcome the psychological barriers his injury will have caused will take time, but if he can do so then we’ll have an excellent player on our hands once more.

5. Get rid of Gallas.  Yes, he’s a good player, but he’s a corrosive influence.  Whether it’s now or ideally in the Summer with a suitable replacement coming in, he has to go.

5. Shore up the defence.  Whether it’s a new centre-half or two, a new goalkeeper, or a different approach on the training ground, something needs to be down about our leaky defence.  I would suggest that Resolutions 1 and 5 might represent the first steps down that particular path.

6. Improve the squad.  We’ve been over this so many times, but like a tapeworm trapped inside Victoria Beckham, the squad is desperately thin.  The transfer window is now ajar, so hopefully Arsene is working on this one as we speak.

7. Qualify for the Champions League.  It’s not something we can guarantee, as we’re now reliant on Aston Villa slipping up.  And yet it goes without saying that it remains absolutely vital.

8. Win the FA Cup.  A little ambitious to think we can win anything at all this year, but then isn’t that the point of resolutions.  This is the football equivalent of, “Go running every morning”.  You know it’s unlikely to happen, but it’s a lovely thought nonetheless.

Some will be harder to keep than others, but they would all make 2009 an awful lot better than 2008.

Happy Transfer Window from Gunnerblog!

Happy New Year to you all.  2009 is upon us and I hope it brings you everything you want.  (I, for one, am sure we were promised hoverboards by now.  Alas, they’re nowhere to be seen.)

1st January 2009 is actually rather significant for Arsenal, as it’s the day that Jack Wilshere turns seventeen and signs his first professional contract with Arsenal.  I think in the next twelve months he’ll make a significant impact on this team – but more of that tomorrow, when I’ll be looking at our New Year’s Resolutions.

The transfer window also swung open at midnight, and will close on February 2nd at 5pm, unusually.  We’re all hoping for some fresh faces, but today has brought the news that the club have rejected a transfer request from Kolo Toure.  Chairman Peter Hill-Wood said:

“I know about it (the transfer request), but we are not going to accept it.  We are not looking to let any of our players go and he is under contract – and we expect him to honour it.”

Although he has fallen out of form and favour this season, Kolo is one of those players I always envisaged seeing his career out with us.  He has always given his all on the pitch, and seems to have a lot of affection for the club.  Furthermore, he’s the last remaining relic of the Invincible side, and one of the few players who seems to have any sense of the traditions and standards of this great club.  Whilst his poor form and the emergence of Johan Djourou have seen Kolo tumble down the pecking order, I firmly believe that time and an appropriate partner could rehabilitate the Ivorian.

Perhaps, however, Arsene does not agree: if you don’t want to sell a player, you don’t let the chairman talk openly about his unhappiness to the press.

Wait and see on this one.

A very Happy New Year for three Young Guns

Jay Simpson, Nacer Barazite, and Gavin Hoyte have all signed long-term contracts with the club.  Not only that, but they’re also set to get the short-term boost of loan moves to West Brom, Derby (extension), and Watford respectively.  Good luck to them all in the new year and hopefully beyond.

And so we wave goodbye to 2008.  Not the best of years – it started with so much promise and ended with so much despair.  Much of 2009 could be dictated within the next month.  It’s an exciting time, at least.

I’m off out now.  Have a good night, wherever you are.

GS x

Three big points in the last game before January

Arsenal 1 – 0 Portsmouth (Gallas 81)
here; Arsene’s reaction here

Say what you will about William Gallas: he scores some very important goals.  A winner against Portsmouth might not seem the most crucial of his recent efforts, but given the fragile state of our confidence and the fact we hadn’t won in four games, his header was a big moment.

The performance was, as many have been of late, poor.  Robin van Persie was left on the bench, with Nicklas Bendtner starting the game alongside Emmanuel Adebayor.  Kolo Toure was also left out, with Mikael Silvestre slotting in alongside William Gallas.

Early on it became apparent that our central midfield of Diaby and Denilson lacked the neccessary craft to break down a very defensive Portsmouth side.  To counter that, Arsene pushed Bendtner out to the left and granted Nasri a free role behind Adebayor.  Nasri was a rare positive in a stagnant performance, buzzing all over the pitch and, in the absence of Cesc, being the only genuine creative outlet.

The change in system was a response to almost falling behind when Peter Crouch nodded a header against the near post.  Soon after, we ought to have taken the lead when Abou Diaby slipped in Emmanuel Adebayor.  The Togolese striker skipped round David James and looked certain to score, but a combination of Sol Campbell and Sylvain Distin somehow prevented the goal.

Adebayor arguably had the best chance of the second half too, volleying into the side-netting after David James had flapped at a corner.  The Portsmouth keeper had been up to his calamity capers all day, and it was no surprise when our goal was eventually the product of a set-piece.

Carlos Vela and Aaron Ramsey had injected a bit of pace into our game, and as the pressure mounted Portsmouth eventually succumbed: James was beaten to Denilson’s free kick by Gallas, and the ball bounced agonisingly into the net.  After the frustrations of the last few weeks, my celebration was a moment of unadulterated joy.  I wasn’t at the ground yesterday, but the passion was still there: tea was split, laptop knocked over, and my dog looked on confused by the provenance of my valedictory dance.

I could spend a long time going over the same old flaws – principally the chronic lack of depth in central midfield – but we (and, we pray, Arsene) know those already.  We have stumbled through to January, and before yesterday we had won only three of our last ten games. However, a new year, new resolutions, and new players beckon. The next league game we play is at home to Bolton in almost two weeks’ time. By January 10th, we might even have a signing…

Well, you never know.

No room for sentiment as Adams returns

Today is the first time Tony Adams arrives at the Emirates Stadium as a manager.  Sadly for Adams, it’s as manager of Portsmouth.  Nevertheless, he harbours ambition to one day be sat in the home dugout:

“I’d love that job. Arsène is showing no signs of moving at the moment but it is my ambition to manage Arsenal Football Club.”

He’s a long way away from being ready to be Arsenal manager, but it’d be nice to think he might one day be able to be considered for the job.  It’d be fantastic to be in a position like Manchester United, whereby we have several former players performing well as managers and staking a claim to succeed Arsene.

Adams still loves Arsenal dearly, and it’s easy to see why:

“Ken Friar still calls all the old captains every Christmas Day to wish them Happy Christmas. When Portsmouth got to the Cup final last season I had a voice message on my mobile. ‘Hello Tony, it’s Ken Friar. Just want to wish you all the best today. Go and win it, you know Arsenal boys always do’. When I got the job here, it was the same. ‘Congrats, you’ll be a huge success’. Lovely touches.”

That anecdote tells you plenty about not only the esteem in which Adams is still held, but just how classy a club this is.  His take on our current predicament also makes interesting reading:

“Not really. They are in transition. They’ve got a lot of young players but not much experience. I remember when Sol and Ashley were about to go, I said to David Dein, ‘You need to hold on to these guys. Too many seem to be leaving at the same time’. I’d retired, Patrick went, Dennis left, Dicko and Bouldy went. There was a tremendous turnaround in the space of two years — usually it should take about six. There was nobody left to pass on the old standards in the way we used to and the way Manchester United have done.”

The problem with such a problem is that there is no way to fix it.  Those players have gone now.  You can’t buy heritage.  Ask Chelsea.

Anyway, it’s Pompey today, and they’ll be without Glen Johnson – arguably their best player this season.  With Sol Campbell seemingly on his last legs, their defence has looked very shakey of late, and the returning Emmanuel Adebayor will look to take advantage of that.

After three consecutive draws in the league (and no win in four games), victory is both expected and neccessary.  Whatever Pompey’s defensive problems, they’re no worse than our own, and Crouch and Defoe can be a real handful.  As with seemingly every game this season, it’s impossible to call.

Anyhow: win we must.  Come On You Gunners.