Archive for June, 2009

Melo extends contract with Fiorentina

Add comment June 30th, 2009

Melo in action for BrazilFiorentina have announced that Felipe Melo has extended his contract by one year, seemingly putting to an end speculation linking him with Arsenal:

Fiorentina announces that its sporting director Pantaleo Corvino met in Milan with Felipe Melo’s agent and an agreement was reached to extend the player’s contract until 2013 with a buy-out clause also included.”

Whilst it would seem that rules out any chance of a deal being done, the mention of a buy-out clause confirms that Melo would still be available at an as yet unspecified fee.  It’s possible speculation will roll on, but were the Brazilian truly interested in a move why would be sign a new deal at all?

In other news, in what is being called the most mourned departure since Michael Jackson finally moonwalked out of this life and into the next, Amaury Bischoff is one of eight youngsters released by the club.  Goodbye, Amaury.  I was never really sure if you were French, German, or Portugese.  Nor was I sure if you were actually any good.  But thanks for the memories.  And yes, by that,  I mean both appearances.

Felipe Melo reminds me of Yaya Toure

Add comment June 29th, 2009

The Confederations Cup has its detractors, but some of the football it’s produced over the past couple of weeks has been exhilarating. After Spain triumphed over South Africa in an enthralling third-place playoff (a contradiction in terms, perhaps?), Brazil came back from two goals down at half-time to triumph 3-2 over the USA in the final.

Whilst it’s clear both that European nations don’t hold the competition in great esteem and that Brazilians are a particularly emotional sort of folk, the tears of the Seleccao players are the end seemed indicative of how highly they value this prize.

I was impressed with Brazil. In Julio Cesar they have their best goalkeeper for generations, and the spine they have ahead of that – Lucio, Gilberto Silva, Kaka, and Fabiano is both physically imposing and, as you’d expect, technically adept.

All Arsenal eyes were on Felipe Melo, the Fiorentina midfielder linked with a switch to Arsenal. Melo is an interesting player. Unlike Flamini, he’s not a scurrier – he has a big, loping stride. Another reason he appears less mobile is his massive physical frame – Melo is six feet tall, the same height as former Gunner Julio Baptista, and has a similarly broad, muscular build. He is strong in one-on-ones, good in the air, and has a powerful shot from distance. The one concern would be his close-control in tight situations.

All considered, I would be very happy if we were able to prize him away from Italy. He reminds me in style of Yaya Toure, and is young enough that he could certainly still improve. Former Arsenal man and international team-mate Gilberto Silva says a move would make sense:

“We heard rumours and he asked me. I said it’s a fantastic club and if he’s interested he should go without thinking. He is exactly what they need – a powerful player with quality.”

Nice one, Gilberto. Silva himself was, by the way, outstanding last night. The commentator mentioned that it was his sixtieth-odd game of the season, and yet his 32-year old legs were carrying him the length of the pitch throughout. Letting a player go for £1m and then seeing him remain a mainstay in the Brazilian side really doesn’t look too clever.

Elsewhere, AC Milan have set Wolfsburg a deadline of Thursday to sit down at the negotiating table and discuss Edin Dzeko, or they will turn to other targets – namely Brazil’s Fabiano, and our very own Emmanuel Adebayor.

Dzeko seems fairly resigned to staying, so hopefully we may be the recipients of a bid for Adebayor in the next few days.

Finally today, good luck to Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs in the European U21 Final.  Theo will be playing in his preferred position as a striker, so let’s see what he can rustle up.

Round-up of the week: The greatest villain in Arsenal history?

Add comment June 28th, 2009

Can you blame me for my occasional absences when things resolutely refuse to just, well, happen?

It tells you something when the biggest story of the week is in fact the denial of another story.  Fair play to Cesc, though: he doesn’t mess around.  With Real Madrid reportedly planning to spend £30m or so on Xabi Alonso, and Barcelona already possessing the world’s most potent central midfield, I think we can be sure of seeing Fabregas begin next season as Arsenal’s club captain.

Who will partner him?  Not Yaya Toure, who was signed a new deal with the Catalan club.  Perhaps Felipe Melo, who you can all watch play for Brazil against the USA in the Confederations Cup Final at 7.30pm.  There’s talk of a £20m+ fee, which I’m sure would rule us out, but if we can negotiate the price down then he’d be an excellent signing.

AC Milan have named Emmanuel Adebayor as a potential signing, should their bid for Wolfsburg’s Edin Dzeko collapse.  Much as I’d like to think we might pick up a £20m windfall from Milan, this looks to me like a tactic for force Wolfsburg to the negotiating table.

Both The Sunday Times and The News of The World have suggested this morning that should Adebayor leave we’d look to replace him with Karim Benzema.  Benzema is a player about whom I have my doubts – but then the concerns I have are very similar to those that led me to believe Fernando Torres wasn’t worth what Liverpool paid for him.  Regardless, I can’t see us competing with United financially.  And perhaps more depressingly, I’d question the scale of the player’s ambition if he chose us.

Speaking of United, after a relatively low-key few years out in Spain, Ruud Van Nistelrooy is back on our wanker-detecting radar.  Not content with his goal-plundering years in Manchester, old horseface is planning to climb right back to Darth Vader-esque villainy by joining forces with Blackburn Rovers and their very own Emperor Palpatine, Sam Allardyce.

I shudder at the thought…

Phil Brown, Melo, Adebayor/Dezeko, 4-3-3, & more…

Add comment June 25th, 2009

Apologies for my absence of a few days.  I think the End of Season Awards really took it out of me – there was a hell of a lot to take in last season and reliving the most notable parts of it was about as exhausting as blogging could ever reasonably be.

In my absence, not much has happened.  In the wider world of football Glen Johnson moved to Liverpool for the sort of money that might have kept Setanta briefly afloat, whilst Michael Owen (following on from the bigggest Michael-based since PR disaster since Jackson slung his baby out the window) has been weighing up a move to either Stoke City or Hull.

Speaking of Hull, Phil Brown has been fined for his comments after Cesc Fabregas spat at Brian Horton he fought back tears on national television after crashing out of the FA Cup at The Emirates.  Excuse me while I cough coffee all over my keyboard in amusement.  Truly, I hate Phil Brown.

What else is there… oh, there’s plenty of smoke around Felipe Melo, but no real fire of any sorts.  Funnily enough, I watched Melo play in Brazil’s 3-0 victory over Italy, and was more impressed by Melo’s partner: one Gilberto Silva.

Plenty of rumours about Emmanuel Adebayor too, but nothing suitably substantiated.  As far as I can see, only a top European club will have the money and the clout to get him to leave his sizeable Arsenal contract before time.  If Milan fail to get Dzeko he may become a target – likewise, should Manchester City snatch Samuel Eto’o from Barcelona I could see the Catalans stepping foolishly in.  Until then, however, he is a very heavy African albatross lolling drearily about our collective neck.

Cesc Fabregas isn’t happy about not winning trophies.  There’s no story here, is there?  It’s not as if any of us want to hear him declare his delight at ending another season empty-handed.

Some recent comments from Arsene Wenger have suggested that switch of formation might be on the cards.  You have to say, it makes perfect sense.  A holding midfielder with power (like Melo) could be deployed just behind a midfield twosome of Cesc and Nasri (with Denilson, Diaby, Song etc all waiting in the wings).  Then you’ve got Arshavin and Walcott playing either side of a sole front man – most likely Van Persie.  It’s not quite got the star-studded allure of the Barcelona line-up, but the potential is obvious.

Right, is that it for this morning?  I think it may well be.  Until we meet again, enjoy yourselves.

Gunnerblog End of Season Awards 2009

1 comment June 22nd, 2009

It’s been a good few weeks now since the season ended, and the signing of Thomas Vermalen for the 2009/10 campaign seems to confirm that the door has well and truly been closed on the previous campaign.  Therefore, it’s fairly pressing that I hand out the obligatory Gunnerblog End of Season Awards.

In some ways, the positive choices were far easier to make than the negative ones.  Picking a Player of the Season, whilst not obvious, was a doddle compared to 07/08, when there were so many deserving candidates.  Similarly, choosing the worst game of the campaign was a bit like being locked in Hell’s toilet and asked to pick a snack from The Devil’s pooey pic&mix.

Anyway, here we go…

Player of the Season
As I just intimated, there aren’t many contenders for this one.  If it was done purely on an average level of performance per game, Andrey Arshavin would walk it.  Unfortunately, I don’t think you can justify giving a Player of the Season award to anyone who only played their first game in February.

Manuel Almunia is another potential winner, if only for being able to string together a good deal of consistent performances.  He wasn’t exceptional, but he was solid, and in a squad that struggled as much as ours that enabled him to stand out.

My winner, however, is Robin van Persie.  Whilst I’ll admit he faded at the back end of a trying season, at a time when the team was suffering blow after blow it was his goals that provided the crutch which enabled us to stay on our feet and lurch onwards in pursuit of Aston Villa.

There were a few months when Van Persie won about four player of the month awards consecutively.  It was a spell in which he donned the armband, provided assists, and scored most of the goals which took his tally for the season to an impressive twenty.  Before Arshavin arrived and Cesc returned from injury, the weight was entirely on RVP to deliver, and it can’t be disputed that he shouldered that responsibility magnificently.

Van Persie: Player of the Season

Young Player of the Season
At the start of the season, the list of candidates for this award would have included players like Aaron Ramsey, Carlos Vela, and Nicklas Bendtner.  And whilst all of those players had varying degrees of success (but success nonetheless in 2008/09), none of them pick up this award.

Bendtner has every right to feel particularly aggrieved, what with fifteen goals to his name and a goals/starts ratio almost identical to Van Persie and Adebayor.  He overcame the boos of the fans almost immediately to demonstrate the potential that has some fans calling for him to replace Emmanuel Adebayor in the first team on a permanent basis.

The winner of this award also had to overcome the doubts of the fans.  But it took him far longer.  To say that some supporters were uncertain about his ability would be a huge understatement, but nonetheless by the end of the season he had dragged himself into a regular first-team spot.

Alex SongAlex Song is not a great footballer, and never will be.  He has limitations to his technique and his speed which I think will mean he is always an auxillary squad member rather than the lynch-pin of a top side.  Nevertheless, this season he made huge strides forward, even ending up on Soccer AM’s ‘Showboat of the Season’ for an outrageous chest over an onrushing Liverpool midfielder.

I would love us to improve the squad sufficiently to render Song an impressive substitute rather than a starter, but I’d also far rather see him in the side than any of the other current options to partner Cesc Fabregas.

Worst Player of the Season
Well the fans’ candidates have been made audibly clear with the booing that so sickened me earlier this season.  They are: Eboue, Adebayor, and Bendtner.

Adebayor would be the populist choice.  I don’t know a single Arsenal fan who wants him to stay.  But I’m loathe to label someone who scored sixteen goals (some of them very important) our worst player across an entirely dreadful season.

Bendtner would be a ridiculous selection, and despite Eboue’s flaws he proved to be a decent squad player with some solid performances all across the midfield.

Players who actively damaged our campaign with their level of performance include Lukasz Fabianski and Mikael Silvestre, but I think that is as much down to them being at the extreme ends of their careers as anything else.

My selection here pains me somewhat, but I’m going to go with it anyway: Abou Diaby.

Diaby has more talent in his little toe than Alex Song has in his entire body.  And yet he has so little application.  Diaby scored two fantastic goals, one at Villa and the other at Newcastle, that underlined his massive potential.  At the start of the season he put in a display in Turkey that made him genuinely look like a man who had finally grown into his enormous talent.

And yet throughout the year a consistent lack of application proved to be his downfall.  He has the strength, the skill, and the physique.  Does he have the concentration and, most crucially, the desire?  Next season is crucial for Diaby, and it looks like he knows it.

Game of the Season
We were involved in a few thrillers, though not always for the right reasons.

The 5-2 win over Fenerbahce was exciting but showcased defensive issues which came to the fore again in the horrifically painful 4-4 draw against Spurs: an incredible match but a terrible night for Arsenal fans, and the moment when our season began to look somewhat doomed.

The 2-0 victory over Manchester United certainly stands out, though the way in which they comprehensively thumped us in the Champions League taints the joy of that result somewhat.

Some of the performances of the Carling Cup kids were a joy to watch, and I look forward to seeing more of Ramsey, Vela, Wilshere & Co next season.

My favourite game this season was not one that we won.  It was the 4-4 draw at Liverpool.  I think part of the reason I enjoyed it so much was because Liverpool were involved in the title race, so it was one of our few domestic games which had some of the drama of the table’s upper echelons about it.  Aside from that, it was a pulsating, thrilling affair, which we will be remembered as the night when one little man announced himself in a very big way.

Worst game of the season
Although that sickening moment when Aaron Lennon equalised in the 4-4 with Spurs will never leave me, it was the game that followed that which takes this infamous prize: Stoke away.

The mood around the club was terrible after we had chucked away a two goal lead in injury time.  I myself actually travelled to Stoke, hoping for a change in our fortunes.  The pundits predicted we’d struggle to deal with their physical approach, and I was determined that we’d prove everybody wrong.

What was so painful was that we proved all our detractors right, with a gutless display that saw us beaten by a side who, at that stage of the season, relied almost entirely on the projectile throw-ins of Rory Delap.  We were a shambles, and the mood outside the ground that night was as angry as I can remember during Arsene’s tenure.

The Champions League exit to United was painful, but it was United.  Losing to Stoke felt like our nadir.

Highlight of the season
It’s been alluded to in my choice of Game of the Season, but beyond doubt my highlight of the season was the arrival of Andrey Arshavin.  Following the story itself was a real rollercoaster ride, culminating in what was (on reflection, at least) a thoroughly entertaining Transfer Deadline Day.

Arshavin signs

Not since Marc Overmars has Arsene moved to bring in an attacking player at his peak.  Arshavin looks like he is capable of having a similar impact.  Alongside Cesc Fabregas, he is the team’s outstanding footballer and ought to be an integral part of our plans for next season.

Arshavin’s presence in the team made me excited about Arsenal again.  For that, I can’t thank him enough.

Disappointment of the season
Rather than one specific moment, I’ve chosen the feature of our season that I feel defined and caused its horros: Arsene’s failure to replace Mathieu Flamini.  Denilson tried, Song improved, Diaby had his moments and Ramsey showed potential, but no-one came close to provided Cesc with the support Flamini had the season before.  What’s more, when Cesc picked up the first major injury of his Arsenal career, we were not in any position to cope.  The failure to sign Xabi Alonso on deadline day, and the neglect that meant no alternative was lined up were, I believe, the principal reasons for our disastrous form.


After some good progress in 2007/08, 08/09 represented a backward step for Arsene and the side.  The failure to replace the likes of Senderos, Hleb, Flamini, Gilberto and Diarra sufficiently left us in a very weak position, and it was no surprise when the rigours of the season exposed the inadequacies of those players promoted beyond reasonable justification.

The signing of Vermaelen is a step in the right direction, but if we’re to avoid similar struggles next term, he must be joined by a central midfielder.  If that player arrives, then we can begin to look forward.

Till tomorrow.

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