Gunnerblog is 10 today

To my considerable surprise, Gunnerblog is 10 years old today.

I can’t believe that it was fully a decade ago when I took my first faltering steps in to the world of blogging. Although I have neither the time nor inventiveness to blog on a daily basis, the site (and its accompanying Twitter feed) has been a pretty consistent presence in my adult life. It’s brought me huge satisfaction, and I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who has looked in along the way. Without the support, the debate and the encouragement I almost certainly wouldn’t have made it this far. Thankyou. It continues to be a pleasure.

Writing about Arsenal is a particular joy this summer, with the club conducting it’s transfer business in an unfamiliarly efficient manner. Today, the club added David Ospina to a growing list of signings alongside Mathieu Debuchy and Alexis Sanchez.

Ospina looks to be a fantastic acquisition, especially at the bargain price of around £3m. His signing follows the growing trend for every elite club to have two top class goalkeepers. With Ospina around, Wojciech Szczesny faces a real battle to keep hold of the No. 1 shirt.

Another announcement could be just around the corner. Arsenal are also on the verge of declaring a deal over Southampton’s England U-19 captain Calum Chambers.

I have to say, I’m enormously excited about this one. I watched Chambers play right-back against Arsenal back in January, and was struck by his athleticism, technical ability and poise on the ball. The youngster obviously made a similar impression on Arsene Wenger, who is prepared to spend in excess of £10 million to get his man.

Speaking to The Daily Mail, Wenger admitted that Chambers’ versatility was one of the main attractions:

“He hasn’t played many games but the English players on the market in England are very expensive. At the end of the day I was ready to take a gamble because he is a one for the future.  

He is a player I wanted because I rated his quality and intelligence. He is only 19 and can play at centre-back, right-back and central midfield. I hope he will give us competition for the players in those three positions.”

Wenger was disappointed to miss out on Phil Jones a couple of years back, but now it seems he has the promising, powerful, adaptable English defensive player he’s been craving.

On that note, I’d better depart. Thanks again, and here’s to the next decade of drivel.

A toast to Arsene & other bits

There’s only one place to start today, and that’s with wishing a very happy birthday to Arsene Wenger. Our manager is now 62 years old, and has dedicated almost a quarter of his life to serving Arsenal Football Club.  It’s a debt of service and a body of work that leaves me in awe.  Here’s to you, Professor.

I was struck by a quip from Arsene to French TV last week.  He said:

“When I arrive at the gates of Heaven the Good Lord will ask ‘what did you do in your life?’

I will respond ‘I tried to win football matches.’ He will say: ‘Are you sure that’s all?’ But, well, that’s the story of my life.”

At a time when opinion over the manager is more divergent than ever, you cannot question his dedication to the Arsenal cause.  The quote above underlines the paradox of Arsene: he is a fiercely intelligent man, who has spent his life pursuing something as absurd as football.  At times he has transcended that, turning sport in to art.  At the moment, he goes game to game, trying to claw three points from each fixture.

That process continues tomorrow against Stoke.  The team news sees Carl Jenkinson added to our injury list.  Arsene says that one of Johan Djourou or Laurent Koscielny will fill in at right-back.  I’d be inclined to choose Djourou, simply because I’d be cautious to split up the increasingly effective partnership between Koscielny and Per Mertesacker.  Arsene has been speaking about the teutonic titan:

“I brought him here for more than this type of game [Stoke] because I feel he is a good player. He is a good organiser, he understands the game, he is an intelligent player and physically he is getting sharper and sharper in every game.

He had no real preparation for the season and now you can see that we look less nervous at the back and he contributes to that.”

Arsene also says he’d like to see the German get more goals from set-pieces, but for that to happen the delivery from the likes of Mikel Arteta and Robin van Persie needs to improve dramatically.

Stoke will be a significant test, and hopefully I’ll be able to furnish you with a full preview tomorrow.  I unexpectedly have to dash, but why not spend the afternoon raising a glass to our manager, and enjoying some of his finest turns of phrase here.

RVP contract story is something we’ll have to get used to

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You might think a 3-0 win and a century of Robin van Persie goals would be enough to earn Arsenal some positive headlines this Monday morning.  If you did, you’d be wrong.  And very very naive.  Arsenal are a side “in crisis”, and so tradition dictates that even a positive result will be spun in the most unfavourable manner possible.

The Sun joins the fun

In this instance, the chosen stick to beat us with is that of Robin van Persie’s contractual situation.  As you’ll all know by now, he has less than two years to run on his existing deal, and is hardly in a rush to discuss a new one:

“I still have almost two years left, so for the moment that’s fine. I’m happy with my contract. I can’t look into the future. I can’t see us talking now because we are so busy.”

And who can blame him?  This is an Arsenal side beginning yet another period of transition.  Van Persie held a meeting with Arsene Wenger this summer in which he asked for reassurances about investment in the squad following the sales of Fabregas and Nasri.  That process has begun, and he’ll want to see if and how it continues in January.  More importantly, he’ll want to know if he has a chance of playing Champions League football next season.

RVP’s next contract is likely to be the last major deal of his career.  With the early part of his development so stunted by injuries, it could cover the period in which stands as the peak of his powers.  He’ll want to make sure he gives himself a chance of winning the trophies befitting of his talent before it’s too late – ideally at Arsenal, but potentially elsewhere.

I sympathise with his position.  It’s not like Samir Nasri, who left aged 24 and yet to achieve his full potential at Arsenal. Van Persie has given good service, and 100 goals in to the bargain.  If he goes, it will be with a heavy heart.  It’s up to the club and the manager to give one of the remaining jewels in our crown a reason to stay.

I don’t expect any major negotiations to take place until after Christmas, and there may not be a decision until next summer.  There were some stories circulating that City could come in for RVP in January, but those are most likely the work of RVP’s representative Darren Dein, who will be doing his utmost to stir the proverbial pot and make sure wherever RVP signs his new deal, it’s more as much cash as is humanly possible.

There’s plenty of other, less disconcerting stuff to read about Van Persie today.  In this piece Arsene compares his positional play to that of Messi, whilst here RVP talks through some of his favourite goals.

Finally, a nod to arseblogger, who turns 40 today.  On the day of his birth, back in 1971, Maltese outfit Sliema Wanderers beat Icelandic side IA Akranes by four goals to nil in the UEFA European Cup first round first leg.  In every sense, a momentous day for football.