Archive for August, 2010

Deadline Day Is Upon Us

15 comments August 31st, 2010

The tempestuous nature of this day is such that by the time I bring you this news it will probably be out of date.

Here’s a quick run down of the mights and might-nots for Arsenal:

Mark Schwarzer
This is the big one.  After a summer of chasing a new keeper, it comes down to the next eight hours.  However, the decision of Shay Given to remain at City as well as the injury to Fulham’s David Stockdale means a move looks improbable at best.  At the moment, our number one for the season will remain…

Manuel Almunia
If, by virtue of a last-minute miracle to give Michael Thomas a run for his money, Schwarzer does arrive, then surely Almunia will have to be on his way?  We’re overstocked with keepers, and a new signing would leave us with five in the first-team squad.  Of course, given the choice, I’d sell Fabianski, but only a fool would buy him.

Armand Traore
Linked with loan moves to both Birmingham and Juventus.  I suspect Arsenal would rather he went abroad, though whether cash-strapped Serie A would be able to meet his wage demands is in question.

Henri Lansbury
Subject of a tug of war between Championship clubs Leeds and Swansea, both of whom are trying to capture him on loan.

Jay Emmanuel-Thomas
The monstrously powerful JET is linked with a return to Doncaster, although I’m fairly certain that Football League clubs can continue to sign players on loan after today’s deadline, so I’m not sure how pressing this one is.

Some news already in – Mikael Silvestre has joined Werder Bremen, which has to go down as a significant boost to Spurs’ Champions League chances.  Speaking of former Gunners, Alex Hleb is rumoured to be on the verge of a return to the Premier League with Birmingham.  That’s coming back down to Earth with a rather big, ugly bang.

Daniel Taylor of The Guardian aptly borrowed the following quote from Macbeth to describe Deadline Day:

“…it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”

Well said, that man.  That man being William Shakespeare.  And Daniel Taylor.  And the “idiot” in question will be Sky Sports News’ shouter extraordinaire, Jim White.

If it all gets a bit much for you, you can take a lighter-hearted look at the whole thing over on Threeandin.

For up-to-the-minute Arsenal-based panicking, follow me on twitter.

Theomenal Result + Schwarzer move not a Given

8 comments August 30th, 2010

Blackburn 1 – 2 Arsenal (Walcott 20, Biram Diouf 27, Arshavin 51)
Highlights | Arsene’s reaction

I think it was Goodplaya who first coined this as a ‘swing’ fixture – the sort of game that would determine whether or not we could improve on last season.  The result, therefore, has to be classed as evidence of progression.

As expected, Blackburn used every opportunity to hold our goal under siege, with Andrey Arshavin describing their tactics as, “Beat run and surround the gate”.  Our gate, for the most part, stood firm.  Manuel Almunia had a good game, and was ably supported by Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny, with Song and Diaby dropping back in to provide extra bodies when needed.

After withstanding an initial onslaught in which the towering Christopher Samba ought to have scored for Blackburn, our class told with a quite stunning opener.  It was an instant twenty-second break, which ended with Arshavin turning to ball on to Robin van Persie, thirty yards from goal.  Van Persie’s turn and pass with the outside of his left-boot was as exquisite as Theo Walcott’s burst to reach the ball was blistering.  Having got there, his finish said everything about the confidence with which he’s playing: one touch, then a shot fired with such force in to the far corner that it ruptured the net.  Let’s hope he can keep this form going.

It had been a slight surprise to see Robin start ahead of Chamakh, but the goal vindicated Wenger’s decision.  The movement of Robin, Arshavin and Theo was mesmeric, with Walcott in particular showing that all that time studying Freddie Ljungberg’s crossfield runs is starting to pay off.  Predictably, Robin departed with an injury soon after.  Fortunately it’s not a serious one, and his replacement Marouane Chamakh subsequently did very well in the lone striker role.

Robin’s injury aside, the other major lowpoint was our defending for Blackburn’s goal.  After an attempted Arshavin through-ball was cut out, the likes of Diaby and Van Persie didn’t chase back, allowing Samba to storm up the pitch and slip a through-ball to El-Hadji Diouf, one-on-one with Laurent Koscielny.  Koscielny did well for most of the game, but in this instance he showed why I fear for him in the Premier League, losing out in a shoulder-to-shoulder battle with Diouf and allowing the Senegalese winger to race in on goal and square for his namesake Mame Biram Diouf, untracked by Gael Clichy, to tap in.  Our one major defensive lapse in the match was punished.

Fortunately, in the second half we took more control of the game, with the midfield trio of Song, Diaby and Cesc beginning to dominate.  Walcott’s pace gave us a constant outlet on the break, and Chamakh worked tirelessly to keep up the pressure.  The reward came quickly: Bacary Sagna did very well to keep a ball in on the right flank, before accelerating away from his man and squaring to Cesc Fabregas.  The captain’s shot cannoned off Theo Walcott’s back, fall at the feet of Andrey Arshavin, who squeezed home what would prove to be the winner.

It was a big win.  Seven points from nine available is a good return, and we’re very much in the leading pack after only three games.

Unsurprisingly, attention is now turning to tomorrow’s transfer deadline.  The registration period slams shut at 6pm, at which point clubs will have to name their 25-man squads for now until January.

All summer we’ve waited for Arsenal to buy a goalkeeper, and unsurprisingly it’s come down to the last few hours.  The number one target remains Fulham’s Mark Schwarzer – he has made his desire to play for Arsenal abundantly clear to both Arsene and Mark Hughes.  There are two issues which require resolution: the fee, and Fulham’s lack of a replacement.

Arsene says our transfer activity is “dead at the moment”.  It will only complete a Frankensteinic rise if Fulham are able to find a replacement for Mark Schwarzer.  Hughes has identified Man City’s unsettled shotstopper Shay Given, and will try and reach an agreement for a loan move by tomorrow’s deadline.

I have to say, at this stage I’m not hopeful.  It’s widely known that City would never lend us Given for fear of strengthening a rival.  But by giving him to Fulham, they’d effectively be allowing us to strengthen by securing Schwarzer.  It wouldn’t surprise me if they forced Given to stay and pulled the plug on this goalkeeping merrygoround.

Of course, if Schwarzer did sign, it would leave us with five goalkeepers.  One would expect one or two of them to head out, most likely on loan.  There were some rumours that Manuel Almunia threw his shirt and armband in to the crowd at Ewood Park.  Was he saying his goodbyes?

Finally, it’s a firm “no comment” from me on Jack Wilshere’s arrest.  There simply aren’t enough facts around it to make any sort of intelligent comment.

The next 24 hours could be lively.  Follow me on twitter for the latest breaking news.

Quick Blackburn Preview

4 comments August 28th, 2010

Last season’s game at Blackburn was nightmarish.  After taking the lead through a Robin van Persie header, Blackburn turned the tables with their route one tactics, taking every opportunity to launch high balls in to our penalty box.  They made Stoke’s approach look like ‘Total Football’.

It was made all the worse by the fact that the man between the sticks was Lukasz Fabianski.  The Pole allowed himself to be bullied in to conceding two goals.  Today, it’ll be Manuel Almunia who is responsible for withstanding the inevitable onslaught.

This fixture last season took place on Cesc Fabregas’ birthday, but the captain was forced to watch from Barcelona, on crutches.  Today, he could earn his first start of the season, with a chance to put things right.

Almunia will play in goal, with Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen and Clichy ahead of him.  Fabregas will join a midfield three with the power of Diaby and Song behind him.  The front trio is harder to call – Chamakh will play, but the rest is, like Blackburn’s approach play, up in the air.  Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky are the men in form, so perhaps Andrey Arshavin will find himself benched – he wouldn’t be much use against those long balls, anyway.

This is the first of the games that could tell us something new about this season’s team.  As Arsene puts it:

“We have more [steel] than a few years ago when I felt we were a bit too immature with this kind of game. But I don’t feel that anymore. I’ll tell my players to be committed and that means dealing with every single challenge.

I feel we have a good opportunity to send a strong message on Saturday.”

Come On You Gunners…

Arsenal must beg Mikael Silvestre to come back immediately

195 comments August 27th, 2010

It’s a headline that requires an explanation.  However, to instill the blog with an element of suspense, as well as to force you to read the rest of my drivel, I’ll make you wait for it.

This morning, announced the signing of Sebastien Squillaci from Sevilla.  It was odd timing: Arsene had already let the cat out of the bin in his press conference yesterday.  After Arsene confirmed the deal, failed to make any mention of it, withdrawing their video coverage of the press conference and putting their fingers in their ears until this morning’s press release.  Why the delay?  Who knows.  Perhaps the work experience boy hadn’t yet put together the factfile.  Perhaps Squillaci hadn’t had the obligatory photos with the number 18 shirt made infamous by Cygan and Silvestre.  Either way, he’s here now, and he has the eyes of a deranged mentalist.

It’s the old “long-term contract/undisclosed fee” combo, though John Cross quotes Arsene here as saying we got him for just €4m, which is an absolute steal.  He’s a France international with Champions League experience.  And he’s making all the right noises too – namely guttural, aggressive ones.  When Koscielny signed he talked about the weakest aspect of his game being his physical strength.  Squillaci has no such concerns:

“Yes, I do like the duels. I feel it is one of my qualities and here in England there are many duels and it is good to be able to respond physically.”

Arsene says the signing offers us “some variation at the back”, which suggests he might be preparing to chop and change the centre-backs depending on the opposition.  For what it’s worth, an informed fan of French football told me that he rates Squillaci way above Koscielny.  He described Arsenal signing Koscielny, a player with just one top flight season under his belt, as a “big shock”, comparing it to a European giant like Barcelona making a move for Birmingham’s Scott Dann.  Squillaci, meanwhile, has an established reputation as a reliable defender.  I think he could make himself first choice fairly quickly.

Despite training with the first team this morning, he’s not available for the game with Blackburn tomorrow, so Koscielny is due to start alongside Vermaelen.

The other big news yesterday was that of the Champions League draw – we’re grouped with Shakhtar Donetsk, Sporting Braga and Partizan Belgrade.  Apart from the length of a couple of the away trips, we couldn’t have hoped for a more favourable group.  Nice too that Eduardo, newly of Shakhtar, will have a chance to bid farewell to the Emirates Stadium.  He’s started well in the Ukraine, scoring twice in his first three games, so I think we can pretty much guarantee he’ll knock several past us.  This is the law of the sod.

Spurs, meanwhile, must face Inter Milan, FC Twente, and Werder Bremen.  At first glance, it’s exactly the sort of tricky group you’d want them to have.  Until, in a moment that resulted in me involuntarily vomiting my heart out on to the desktop in front of me, I read the following headline: Mikael Silvestre on brink of joining Werder Bremen.

This must not be allowed to happen.  Spurs vs. Werder Bremen is an evenly-matched game in which Tottenham stand every chance of losing.  Spurs vs. any side including Mikael Silvestre is, comparatively, a disaster.  Silvestre makes the Young Boys look mature.  And he’d make Tottenham look good.  Let’s sign him now, and play him in goal or something.  If he is playing for Bremen, Spurs will have a field day.

Blackburn Preview tomorrow.

Missing: French defender, 20 caps, unusual name

173 comments August 26th, 2010

And still we wait for Sebastian Squillaci.

Perhaps his disappearance can be explained by this picture taken at the scene of his medical, leaked by trusted sources:

Arsene has a press conference this afternoon, which may well shed some light on the delay in the deal.

In other nonsense news Andrey Arshavin has revealed that he wishes to be remembered as a magician:

“I want to be remembered as a small Russian guy who did some magic things where people did not understand how he did it.”

Take heart, Andrey.  Many people are amazed at how you manage to pick up £80,000 p/week or so without for what constitutes about an hour’s light jog.

Last night the Reserve team played its first game in the newly-formatted league, and emerged as 5-0 winners over a Bolton side which included Danny Shittu, Tamir Cohen, Joey O’Brien and Mustapha Riga.  Jay Emmanuel Thomas was the star of the show, scoring two goals in an all-action display.  There are rumours of a loan return to Doncaster, but I’d be inclined to keep him in the first-team squad.

Tonight sees the draw for the group stage of the Champions League taking place.  It won’t have escaped your attention that Spurs will be in it, having spent last night mauling the Young Boys.  I’m waiting eagerly for the hysterical media reaction to Jermaine Defoe’s handball last night.  After all, we remember what happened a year ago when Eduardo dived at a far less crucial stage of our qualifiying tie.  Defoe can now expect to roundly derided as a cheat and an enemy of the game, right?  Somehow, I doubt it. have helpfully compiled a list of the teams we could draw.  If we’re fortunate we could have a group containing Panathanaikos, Basel and Zilina.  However, knowing our luck, it’ll be Real Madrid, Spartak Moscow, and the Brazil team of the 1970s.

More on that tomorrow.

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