Arsecast Extra 45: Stoke, Wenger and the screams of Joel Campbell

Thanks to @MattGCorbett for the image.

Hello all – just a quick note to urge you to have a listen to the latest Arsecast Extra, in which Arseblogger and I dissect the weekend’s events. This Arsecast Extra is brought to you by Audible.com – turns out you can get a free audio book download and a 30 day free trial. Click the banner below to sign up or go to audibletrial.com/arsecast.

You can subscribe to the Arsecast Extra on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do that too. To download this week’s Arsecast Extra directly – click here – 40mb MP3. Thanks to Arseblog as ever for the mighty hosting power.

The Arsecast Extra is also available on our SoundCloud channel, where you can leave comments and such, as well as via the SoundCloud app for iPhone and Android. Alternatively, you can find it on the Stitcher podcasting app for iOS and Android.

Once you’re done with that, why not have a read of my new column for SportsLobster: 5 questions raised by Arsenal’s defeat at Stoke. Cheers all.

The summer of the long knives begins

Have you ever tried eating with a long knife? It is very awkward, particularly when the knife is disproportionately large when compared with the fork. It is probably relatively easy, however, when compared to the task of offloading Arsenal’s glut of overpaid squad members.

The list, by now, is familiar: Fabianski, Squillaci, Denilson, Arshavin, Chamakh, Bendtner and Vela are all very much available. The problem is finding someone who will a) pay a reasonable fee, and b) match their current salary. One can’t help but think that we will end up sacrificing a) in order to facilitate b). From the little I know about the murky world of transfers, I can tell you this: no player will lose out financially.

It has become common practise in the Premier League for clubs to pay up the remainder of players contracts using transfer fees. Take for example, one transfer between two Premier League clubs last season. A player at a top six club was being moved on by the Chairman to make room for a new signing. A mid-table club wanted to take him, and made a reasonable offer, but could not match his wages. The player refused to take a pay-cut and move, and on transfer deadline day the selling club’s desperation to get the player off the wage bill saw them pay him a fee which would make up the difference in his earnings for the duration of his remaining contract. In doing so, they essentially halved the fee they received. This happens all the time, so anyone expecting us to rake in a huge warchest by selling of our fringe players is barking up the wrong tree. Getting them off the books and distributing our salary budget more sensibly remains undoubtedly worthwhile.

That process began in earnest on Monday with the release of seven players, including Manuel Almunia. I’ve always been somewhat fond of Manuel, despite his much-publicised flaws. For a brief time, when he first ousted Jens Lehmann, he looked like a reasonable number one, although he was always distressingly vulnerable at his near post. In the end, old foibles crept back in, and he ended up being taken out of the firing line. His departure comes as no surprise, and his shirt number will surely join his spot in the team in falling in to the safer hands of Wojciech Szczesny.

We all hope the clear-out will make room for a few new signings, but it’s worth remembering we have some good prospects returning to the squad from loan spells last year. Yesterday Ryo Miyaichi became Japan’s second youngest ever player when he made his international debut as a substitute. Bolton seem keen to take him next season, but I suspect Arsene may want Ryo to test himself at Premier League level again. We shall see: he’ll certainly accompany us on our pre-season tour. If he performs well he may make a case to remain with the squad next season.

The same is true of Joel Campbell, although his situation is dependent on him being granted a work permit. If he does, I can foresee him being kept around as a third or fourth choice striker. It’s worth noting that he’s played a lot of his football at Lorient as a right-winger cutting in on his left-foot, so he does bring a degree of versatility.

Right, that’s all from me today.  Time to enjoy the freshly-arrived sun and the silliness of summer.

Gunnerblog on: Campbell’s goal, Thierry’s return, Gervinho’s assists & more…

You can come out. The interlull is over, and between now and Christmas, there’s a veritable flurry of football. Here’s some of what I’ve been thinking about:

…Joel Campbell

As some of you know, I spent a good deal of my summer following the trail as Arsenal pursued Costa Rican striker, Joel Campbell. Whilst a deal was ultimately agreed, Arsenal were forced to send the player on loan to Lorient after his application for a work permit was rejected.

Since then, he’s fared well – this piece from French Football Weekly will bring you up to speed on his start to life in Ligue 1, whilst this week he notched the most significant goal of his career to date, curling in a twenty-yard effort to put Costa Rica 2-0 up against World Champions Spain. Whilst the Spanish clawed their way back to a draw, it will doubtless remain a famous goal in his homeland.

If he continues to rack up international caps he has a chance of qualifying for a permit next summer.

…Thierry’s return

Despite his relative success at Lorient, Campbell will be kicking himself that he’s not in London at the moment. If he were, he’d be able to pick up a few tips from one of the game’s true greats. Arsenal’s record goalscorer, Thierry Henry, is training with the club to keep himself fit in the MLS off-season.

The sight of Thierry in an Arsenal training strip is enough to make me feel all fuzzy inside, like the mouth of person suffering from flu. So, in the hope of giving you the same on this cold Friday morning – the nice feeling, not the flu – here’s a picture:

The blonde man behind Henry is American Brek Shea, who is here not only to keep fit, but also to try and impress Arsene enough to earn a move across the Atlantic. By the looks of things, he’d instantly take Gervinho’s crown as possessor of the worst haircut at the club.

Whilst I don’t think anyone would realistically want Henry to come back and sully his record and reputation, but at times Arsene must be tempted to bring him back to the club on loan. This January will leave us with only the injury-prone van Persie and anonymous Park as striking options. Tempting, isn’t it…

…Gervinho’s assists

Whoever plays up front for Arsenal will be able to rely on a decent supply from Gervinho. In ten starts, the Ivorian has created six goals. It’s an impressive return, and suggests his record as the most productive attacking player in France last season was no fluke. The challenge now is to improve his own finishing and take some of the goalscoring burden off RVP.

…Kieran Gibbs

Yesterday saw Jack Wilshere tweet the following:

It doesn’t take Jonathan Creek to work out that Gibbs must have been going some sort of surgical procedure, and the whispers are that it was for a troublesome hernia. If that is the case, I’d expect him to miss a further month. Still, at least Andre Santos has been working hard on his new fitness regime:

…Norwich

Our next game is away to Norwich tomorrow lunchtime. I’ve been really impressed with both the Canaries and Swansea, who’ve managed to combine decent results with attractive, enterprising football. Any lapse in concentration will doubtless be punished, so we’ll need everyone to refocus immediately after their international exploits.

…the Arsecast

In order to celebrate the return of proper football, I had a chat with Arseblogger for today’s Arsecast. Why not head over to www.arseblog.com and have a listen? On the agenda: Injuries in defence, Koreans in Sunderland, and racism in football. Enjoy.

Transfer frenzy: 5 signings in 2 days

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Two days. Five signings. One goal: Regeneration.

I expected activity from Arsenal.  I hoped for three, maybe four additions.  But five signings in two days is more than I could have wished for.

The 8-2 defeat to Manchester United brought the club to its knees.  But it also brought a change of ideology.  Arsene saw how on that day how vulnerable his young squad was, and has moved decisively to reinforce it with experience and quality.  The cavalry has arrived.

On Tuesday we completed the signing of Park Chu-Young, and Wednesday afternoon saw us secure the anticipated signings of Andre Santos and Per Mertesacker.  That saw the defence and attack sorted, but huge concerns remained about the midfield.  As night drew in and the 11pm deadline inched closer, fans were deeply concerned: could Arsenal really go in to the season without adding to a midfield shorn of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas?

They needn’t have worried.  An impeccable source tells me that Mikel Arteta was at London Colney as early as 6.30pm.  After some haggling over wages – it seems Arteta may have taken a pay-cut to secure his four year deal – his signing was secured, right on the deadline.  Not only that, but he was joined by Yossi Benayoun, on a season long loan from Chelsea.

The signings all bring a wealth of experience and character to the table

Per Mertesacker – 26 years old, Former Werder Bremen captain, 75 Germany caps
Andre Santos – 28 years old, 22 Brazil caps
Mikel Arteta – 29 years old, 161 Premier League appearances – more than any other Arsenal player
Yossi Benayoun – 31 years old, Current Israel captain with 83 Israel caps
Park Chu-Young – 26 years old, Current captain of South Korea with 53 caps

And all that for a total outlay of about £28m.

The negative element of the fanbase with complain that we haven’t made a marquee signing – someone of the stature of a Cesc or a Nasri.  To a degree they’re right – although I consider Mertesacker and Arteta to be unusually high profile signings for Arsene.  What we have done is significantly strength the squad – certainly since Sunday, and perhaps even since last season.  I expect Santos, Mertesaker and Arteta to make a significant impact on the first XI this season, whilst Benayoun and Park will provide capable options in attacking areas.

The big German centre-half is what we’ve been crying out for, and I’m looking forward to him forming a mean looking partnership with Thomas Vermaelen.  Santos will provide stiff competition for Gibbs – you don’t play for Brazil regularly without being a half-decent footballer – and Arteta is an absolutely vital addition.  He knows the league inside out, he can pass the ball, and score goals.  We’ve seen how someone like Ashley Young has stepped up to another level since joining a Champions League club, and I believe Arteta has the talent to do the same.

I think Benayoun is regarded a little harshly by Arsenal fans, perhaps because he’s played for several rival clubs.  I believe he’s talented and capable of scoring goals – and he hasn’t cost us anything yet!  Remember, this is the man who scored the goal for West Ham that put us in Europe ahead of Spurs after lasagne-gate, so we owe him a little goodwill.  Park, meanwhile, seems like a very solid pro who will fit right in to our technical style of football.

It’s all unprecedented for Arsenal on so many levels.  To make so many signings – and this kind of signing too.  Mertesacker is the tallest player Arsene has ever bought.  He’s added two veterans of the Premier League.  He’s signed players who are ready to go now – and for some of whom time is actively running out!

For those who wanted a global superstar: Arsene will tell you that within twelve months, the likes of Wilshere or Gervinho could reach that level.  These players will provide the platform they need to do that.  My favourite aspect of deadline day was seeing the tweets flood in from young Jack:

Maybe Arteta will give him the support Cesc needed but never had.  Against Manchester United, we saw an Arsenal team that didn’t believe in themselves.  Now, they might just have a reason.

There were departures too.  Henri Lansbury joined West Ham on loan, and with his contract close to expiry he may not be coming back.  Nicklas Bendtner also joined Sunderland on a temporary deal – his long-term future is harder to call.  We might get him as a proven Premier League goalscorer.  Gilles Sunu got himself a four year deal at Lorient, who have also taken Joel Campbell on loan for the season.

It is a radical overhaul of the squad.  At a glance:

Out: Denilson (loan), Clichy, Fabregas, Eboue, JET, Vela (loan), Nasri, Traore, Lansbury (loan), Sunu, Campbell (loan), Bendtner (loan)

In: Jenkinson, Gervinho, Chamberlain, Miyaichi (WP granted), Campbell, Park, Santos, Mertesacker, Benayoun, Arteta

I’ve probably missed some out – but still, you get the point.

Over the international break there’ll be plenty of time to analyse each signing individually and their potential impact on the side.  For now, I’m exhausted, and need to rest for a long time.

It’s a new look Arsenal squad.  It might not be good enough to win the league, but it’s certainly good enough for Champions League qualification.  Also, it’s one I can take pride in, which is more than I can say for the situation last week.  I’m glad that Arsene, too, seems to have shown some humility and amended his transfer policy.  It was, I’m sure we all agree, entirely necessary.

The season starts against Swansea.  I can’t wait.