Archive for August, 2011

Deadline Day Preview

190 comments August 31st, 2011

Deadline Day is upon us.  As you rise this morning, Brian Swanson will be dusting down his giant iPad, Jim White will be gargling salt water and taking speed, and some unfortunate soul will be stood outside the Tottenham training ground waiting for Harry Redknapp to tell him he’s signing a “triffic player”.

Yesterday, we knew of three deals going down: Park Chu-Young, Andre Santos, and Per Mertesacker – whose signing I tried to inform you about before the press broke it, albeit in code.  All three of those have since progressed to different stages.

Park was paraded by the club on the official site, and gave the kind of interview that immediately endears you to fans, stating:

“I’m really happy to be at Arsenal. In my opinion this is a great club. Now I have to show what I can do on the pitch. I will do my best, I will never give up, I will show heart and I will give everything I hope you will support me.”

You can be sure he’ll be keen to make a swift impact: in two and a half years time he’s scheduled to return to Korea to do two years of military service.  Arsene, at last, is thinking in the short-term.  Park will wear the number nine shirt, and compete for a starting position in our front three.

Further reading on Park:

We talked about Andre Santos at more length yesterday – the player has now since Turkey to head to England to seal the move (video here), having been granted a work permit yesterday afternoon.  I’m told he’s agreed a four year deal, with a fee of £6.2m.

Further reading on Andre Santos:

The signing of Santos should be announced today, along with that of Per Mertesacker.  I have to say I think Mertesacker is just what we need.  A big, strong, bruising centre-half with plenty of experience.

The deal came about rather quickly, with Arsenal only formalising their interest on Monday afternoon.  Mertesacker flew in from Germany yesterday to undertake a medical, and has agreed personal terms on a weekly wage of around £80,000.

Any centre-back signing was bound to split opinion, especially with Arsenal fans having been fed on a steady diet of Cahill, Jagielka and Samba across the summer.  I have to say that what Mertesacker lacks in Premier League experience, he makes up for in other areas.  At 26, he has 75 Germany caps.  He’s the captain of his club.  He’s played in 2 World Cups and a European Championship.  He has all that over Cahill, plus about four inches in height.  And, even at around £10m, he’s significantly cheaper.  It’s a no-brainer.

Further reading on Per Mertesacker:

There will be plenty more to say about all three players once the deals are done and the dust has settled.

Quite a lot could still go on today.  I’m expecting one or two departures.  Armand Traore completed his permanent move to QPR yesterday, and immediately began by assuring their supporters his disastrous performance against United was a one off.  I can assure them that it wasn’t.

Nicklas Bendtner was widely expected to move in this window, but that one was very quiet yesterday.  Indeed, there was more noise about a possible loan deal for Marouane Chamakh – it seems the two target-men’s futures are interwined.  Another striker, teenager Joel Campbell, is set to join French side Lorient on loan having failed to win a work permit.  Manuel Almunia will still be hoping to find a new club, whilst Henri Lansbury is another that could be on the move.

Lansbury leaving would be dependent on Arsenal finding a new midfielder.  Arsene was very clear that this was an area he wanted to strengthen, and whilst he seems to have shored the defence and attack up there’s still no sign someone to fill the void left by Cesc Fabregas.

Yesterday all the talk was of a €40m bid for Dortmund playmaker Mario Goetze, but the German club were swift to deny both the bid and the player’s availability.  More realistic targets are said to include the Chelsea pair of Benayoun and Malouda, whilst the rumours around Rennes’ Yann M’vila persist.

My personal opinion is that Santos, Park and Mertesacker may be it for this window.  I would absolutely love us to sign a midfielder, ideally one with the creative ability and flair  we’ve lost in Cesc and Nasri, but with less than 24 hours to go and no sign of a fee being agreed I consider it unlikely.

Still, stranger things have happened, and if Arsenal can pull three irons out of the fire, then why not four?  Whatever happens I’ll be following the news all day.  There may well be some sort of liveblog, so stay tuned for that, and I urge you to follow me on Twitter, where I occasionally dish out some quite useful bit of info.

Right.  See you on the other side, folks.

Transfer frenzy: André Santos, Mertesacker, Eljero Elia & More…

651 comments August 30th, 2011

Since the 8-2 hammering at Old Trafford, there has been a radical shift in Arsenal’s transfer policy.  With the shallowness of his squad painfully exposed, Arsene has moved to bring in a clutch of experienced players.  The cavalry are finally coming, and Arsenal could now make as many as four signings between now and the end of the transfer window.

Yesterday was a Bank Holiday in England, but that didn’t stop Arsenal from holding transfer talks late in to the night.  Richard Law, the chief negotiator, remained glued to his desk as Arsenal sought to secure some much needed recruits before Wednesday’s 11pm deadline.

Another one for the collection

Their efforts, it seems, are bearing fruit.  At around 9pm last night news broke in Turkey that a €7m (£6.2m) fee had been agreed with Fenerbahçe for Brazilian international full-back André Santos.  The move was necessitated by the impending departure of Armand Traore to QPR, whose scouts obviously weren’t watching the debacle at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Santos is an example of our revised transfer strategy.  A cynic could call it ‘panic buying’.  I call it a vital overhaul.  He became available on Thursday, when Fenerbahçe were forcibly ejected from the Champions League after match-fixing allegations.  They may yet be relegated from the Turkish top flight.  Uruguay skipper Diego Lugano was the first to flee, joining PSG.  Now Santos looks set to follow – after all, he has his position as Brazil’s first-choice left-back to protect.

I haven’t seen him play too much, but like many of Arsene’s full-backs, he began his career as a winger and his natural instinct is to attack.  A little glimpse of him in action suggests he’ll be tremendous fun to watch:

He likes a long-shot too:

Of course there’ll be concerns that he’s not more of a rugged defendery-type, but it’s worth noting that we still have Kieran Gibbs as an option.  It ought to be some battle between those two for the first-team spot – and that’s just how it should be.  Competition is incredibly healthy in any squad, and that’s a big part of what this set of signings need to offer.  A Brazilian international with Champions League experience?  It’s a good enough signing for me.  If personal terms are agreed and a medical is passed, this could be tied up today; tomorrow at the latest.

Santos will join Park Chu-Young in our new-look squad.  The Korean has passed his medical and agreed personal terms, and flown out to join his international team-mates.  Arsenal are merely waiting for several paperwork formalities to be completed before confirming the deal, and Park himself has told the Korean media that he “won’t regret” his decision to join Arsenal over Lille.

As I said at the top of the piece, there are at least a further two targets.  One, you’ll be delighted to hear, is a centre-back – though perhaps not the one you’re expecting.  It seems our fall-out with Bolton has had quite significant consequences for the Gary Cahill deal.  Watch this space.

Update: L’Equipe now running that the target is Per Mertesacker, which I can confirm is true.  And don’t say I never give you exclusives:

How did you miss it?  Tut tut.

The club also want to bring in a midfielder, but I can’t pretend to know who their priority is here.  One thing I can say with some certainty is that it won’t be either Eden Hazard or Mario Götze, both of whom are required to lead their respective clubs in to the Champions League this season.

You’ll have seen us linked with Chelsea’s Yossi Benayoun.  I have to say, I don’t think that’d be a bad signing: he’s an intelligent, technically capable player who scores goals, and could play either wide or in the ‘Fabregas’ role behind a striker – which is where I think we’re really lacking.  Something is certainly afoot with Chelsea: in the past 24 hours we’ve been linked with Benayoun, Alex, and Florent Malouda.  I can only infer that the media have got wind of a meeting between the two clubs about some sort of transfer business, and are attempting to solve the riddle by randomly selecting Chelsea squad players.

Another one to watch is exciting Hamburg winger Eljero Elia, who told Dutch TV he would rather move to England and Arsenal than Juventus – news confirmed by his agent. Whether or not he gets his wish remains to be seen – Sky Italia are reporting that he’s due in Turin for a medical, so this one may have passed us by.

Finally, as relieved as I am that the club finally seem to be spending money in the transfer market, I was also glad to see them take the step of shelling out around £130,000 to buy replacement tickets for those fans who were subjected to the events of Sunday in the flesh.  Fair play to the new ownership for making that happen.

However, given the choice, I’m sure the fans would rather that money invested in the squad.  What will earn the club true forgiveness is turning our season around, and to do that we need to continue to be active over the next two days.  There’s so much still to happen: a fistful of signings, departures for Bendtner and possibly Almunia, and loan moves for the likes of Joel Campbell.

Stay tuned, and hold on to your hats: the wind of change is blowing through the transfer window.

8 – 2 : A Post-Mortem

593 comments August 29th, 2011


Arsene's lowest ebb?

Match Report | Highlights Video | Arsene’s reaction

A couple of weeks ago, when Cesc Fabregas left for Barcelona and Samir Nasri seemed determined to follow him through the door, I told you that “the night is darkest just before the dawn”.  It’s a turn of phrase I had heard the character of Harvey Dent use in Christopher Nolan’s Batman film, ‘The Dark Knight’.  It’s supposed to engender comfort among troubled souls; to tell them that although things seem bad, they are almost certainly about to get better.

I conveniently forgot to mention that shortly afterwards Dent loses half his face in a fire and becomes a psychopathic killer.  The night, for Gotham, just gets darker.  And so it has proved for Arsenal’s start to the season, as yesterday we reached what we can only hope is our nadir, losing 8-2 to our supposed rivals Manchester United.

8-2.  8-2.  It doesn’t look like a real result.  I believe in the old days of teletext, eight is the point at which they’d spell out the number in letters (eg. Manchester United 8 (E I G H T)) to assure you it wasn’t a typo.  It’s a shocking scoreline, in every sense.

The writing was on the wall as soon as the line-up was announced.  Robbed of Vermaelen and Sagna to injury and illness respectively, the XI took on the look of a Carling Cup team, with Jenkinson, Traore, and Coquelin all involved from the start.  The bench was even more distressing, with names like Chamberlain, Ozyakup, and Sunu all awaiting league debuts.

With such a weak line-up, the relatively experienced heads of Djourou, Koscielny, Rosicky and Arshavin had a duty and responsibility to hold things together and make sure the defence was not exposed.

That, as we all know, is not how it turned out.  The defending was apocalyptically, comically bad.  By the time goals five, six, seven and eight hit the net, I was laughing through the anguish.  Here are our errors, catalogued:

Goal 1: The cracks began to show when Carl Jenkinson was caught way out of position, allowing Patrice Evra to charge in behind.  Theo Walcott did brilliantly to get back and recover the situation, but was even quicker to let Jenkinson know what he thought of his defending, leading to a slanging match between the pair that carried on as we defended the resulting corner.

When the ball was cleared as far as Anderson, more horrors followed.  His wedged pass over the defence should have been cleared, but for a combination of indecision and cowardice that allowed Danny Welbeck to steal in and score.  First Johan Djourou inexplicably allowed the ball to bounce inside his own area, and then Koscielny ducked out of a challenge with the English forward.  A Martin Keown or Sol Campbell would have put his body on the line to prevent a goal.  Koscielny is not that man.

Goal 2: Again came from Wayne Rooney running in behind Jenkinson.  Coquelin could’ve been quicker to close Ashley Young down too, but what a strike nonetheless.

Goal 3: Sorry Carl, but there was another basic positional error from the teenager here.  Young was goal-side and Jenkinson had no choice but to bring him to ground, leading to a sensational free-kick from Wayne Rooney.

Goal 4: Wojciech Szczesny, who made several good saves on the day, made the classic mistake of edging across goal behind his wall and allowing Rooney the space to curl a terrific dead ball in to the far corner.

Goal 5: Goal five exhibited our most spectacularly bad defending.  Andrey Arshavin, who found himself in the left-back position, stepped up alongside Johan Djourou, whilst Traore and Jenkinson were left behind.  This left Nani onside and unmarked to score.

Goal 6: A couple of errors from Johan Djourou here, who dived in on Park, missed his tackle, and then failed to track the Korean when he broke free.

Goal 7: A penalty conceded by Theo Walcott.  No complaints at all from the winger about the award – his trip on Evra seemed to be born as much out of frustration as any realistic attempt to defend.

Goal 8: Another sumptuous finish by young, but again Djourou found himself standing too far off in no-man’s land.

Amidst all the awfulness, there were a couple of goals for Van Persie and Walcott, a missed penalty by the Dutchman, a red card for Jenkinson after another positional error, and several instances in which Andrey Arshavin was lucky not to join him in receiving his marching orders.  If you have lots of time and a similar amount of self-loathing then I suggest you read the match report linked at the top of the page.

I’ve touched on our weakened team.  It’s no excuse.  We had injuries?  So did they.  United were without their first-choice central defensive pairing of Ferdinand and Vidic, as well as key midfielders like Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia.  Our team was young?  Well, on average, United’s was younger.  What we witnessed yesterday was, plainly, inexcusable.

Some of the performances were dire.  You’ll have noticed that Jenkinson’s name crops up repeatedly in the listed litany of mistakes.  He looked very much like a player who has played a handful of games in the Conference and League One – unsurprising, because that’s exactly what he is.  He managed to get through the game against Udinese on Wednesday, but here he was out of his depth, and drowning.  The same could be said for Armand Traore who, with Premier League and Serie A experience on his CV, has less excuses than Jenkinson.  Johan Djourou is going backwards faster than the DeLorean time machine, and on a couple of occasions Laurent Koscielny showed that whilst he is an able defender, he is not willing to get hurt for the sake of stopping a goal.

And yet, for the most part, I don’t really blame the players – especially not kids like Jenkinson.  As I’ve said before: it’s not their fault they’re out there.  It’s the fault of the manager (and quite possibly the board) for failing to strengthen a squad that has simultaneously been stripped of some of its most prized assets.

Bank balance aside, the numbers don’t look good for the manager – and I don’t just mean the glaring ‘8’ on the scoreboard; the first time we’ve conceded that many goals in a game since 1896.

It’s Arsene’s worst ever start to a Premier League season.  Taking in to account our form at the back end of last season, it’s also our worst ever run under him.  Since losing the Carling Cup Final to Birmingham, we’ve won just three league games.  One was against Blackpool.  And, to help matters, we’ve now had a player sent off in each of our three domestic matches this season.  We have more red cards than points.

Yesterday it was made painfully clear how far away our squad is from being able to compete with United.  With no Ferdinand or Vidic, they were still able to call on two centre-backs who both looked more capable than our own.  How it will have stung Arsene to know that Phil Jones rejected his overtures to sign with the Red Devils this summer.  To outsiders, Jones’ choice is easy enough to understand: wouldn’t you rather sign for the club where you can learn from good, experienced defenders, and play for a manager who actually seems to care about the art of keeping clean sheets?

As poor as our defending was, United showcased a real ruthless quality in front of goal.  Much of our attacking talent remained available, but do we have players with the ability (or perhaps more importantly, the confidence) to score the kind of goal that Ashley Young and Wayne Rooney did yesterday?  Just so we’re all clear, Young cost United £16m – £1m more than we’ll end up paying for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who made an unmemorable debut as a substitute.

What sickened me more than anything was to watch this team perform without pride, and without belief.  The players know the squad isn’t good enough to compete.  It was written all over their performances – and some of them have even said as much.  They were caught in a losing battle.  When Van Persie and Walcott were withdrawn to fight another day, they sat down on the bench without so much as a glance at Wenger.  Inside, they will have been fuming.  You can bet that neither are in any mood to open contract negotiations anytime soon.

Meanwhile, the manager sat in the dugout, motionless.  He didn’t even walk to the touchline to cajole his troops.  He just sat there and watched his lambs slaughtered.  You know Arsene is in trouble when he’s receiving pity from his supposed adversary.  After the game, Alex Ferguson said, “we could’ve scored more, but you don’t want to score more against a weakened team like that”.  It’s a comment almost as withering and humiliating as the scoreline.

As I watched at home, I briefly (and, I now realise, irrationally) wondered if Wenger might resign in the aftermath of the game.  What changed my mind was our extraordinary fans, who for much of the second half drowned out the United supporters with a chorus of “We love you Arsenal”.  They will have reminded Arsene of his commitment to this club.  He won’t walk away now.

Nor should he.  This is his mess, and he needs to fix it – a change of manager at this stage would benefit no-one.  The obvious place to start is in the transfer market.  A centre-half and a central midfielder are absolutely vital.  We’d all like business to have been done earlier, but there’s no point moaning about that now: we’ve got three days to do the required repair work on this squad.  Transfers can be done very quickly.  Take the case of Park Chu-Young: Arsenal received news that Joel Campbell’s work permit appeal had been declined on Friday afternoon – by Saturday morning the Korean striker was on his way to London.  That deal should have been completed last night, and will most likely be announced today, leaving Arsene and the board to concentrate on the other reinforcements we urgently require.

A particularly optimistic fan tweeted me last night to say that Feyenoord were once beaten 8-2 by Ajax but went on to lift the title in the same season.  The performances of the two Manchester clubs yesterday, and by contrast our own, shambolic display, have shown us that winning the league is almost certainly impossible.  However, we are perfectly capable of recovering from this to retain our Champions League spot, which has to be the realistic target for this campaign.  Get the transfer business right, and our season could start against Swansea on September 10th.

Either that, or Arsene will lose half his face in a fire and become a psychopathic killer.

United Preview + Park signing imminent

447 comments August 28th, 2011

There is a massive match today, and at the risk of sounding uncannily like manager Arsene Wenger, I’d like to talk solely about that.  However, with the window creaking towards closing, inevitably there is transfer news on the agenda.

It appears that Arsenal are about to sign South Korea striker Park Chu-Young.  After Monaco were relegated last season, Park, who is captain of his country, has spent the summer searching for a move.  It seemed he’d found it when French champions Lille agreed a fee of €3m + €2m add-ons.  He underwent a medical, and this morning Lille president Michel Seydoux sought out Park at his hotel to finalise the contract.

Only, Park wasn’t there.

A series of furious phone calls to Monaco and the player’s representatives confirmed Seydoux’s fears: Park had travelled to England, to meet with Arsenal.

Park was as surprised as anyone; the deal has come from nowhere.  On Friday, Arsene confirmed Arsenal’s desire to sign a striker – a decision motivated by the impending departure of Nicklas Bendtner and the fact Joel Campbell has been denied a work permit.  That evening, Arsenal informed Monaco of their interest.  By Saturday morning, a formal bid had arrived, and Arsene Wenger had spoken to Park on the telephone.  As soon as he received the call, the player departed for London.

It’s an intriguing signing, and in my eyes a positive one.  A couple of days ago I didn’t think Arsene was going to buy a striker, so I’ll be delighted if we do secure one.  Some fans seem disappointed by he player’s relatively low profile and price-tag, but I think they’re odd criteria by which to judge a signing.

Even so, I expect bigger names to arrive in the areas which require more significant strengthening: defence and midfield.  Speaking of which, Owen Coyle’s criticism of Gary Cahill’s performance at Anfield, suggesting the player has had his “head turned”, seem to me to be further evidence of a club preparing for the player’s departure.

Anyway.  More of Park, Cahill and others in the coming days of frenzied activity.  For now, for today, it’s Manchester United at Old Trafford.

First: team news.  As you all know, the Arsenal squad is currently decimated by injuries and suspensions.  From the game against Udinese we lose Song, Gervinho and Frimpong (all suspended), who join the likes of Gibbs, Squillaci, Wilshere, Diaby and Bendtner on the sidelines.

Wojciech Szczesny will continue in goal.  Thomas Vermaelen will form the bedrock of our defence, with his first-choice partner Laurent Koscielny hopefully able to be picked alongside him.  There were some rumours yesterday that Bacary Sagna was suffering from a stomach bug – assuming he recovers, he’s likely to continue at left-back with Carl Jenkinson on the other flank.

The central midfield trio will be comprised of Tomas Rosicky, Aaron Ramsey and another.  The likes of Oguzhan Özyakup and Francis Coquelin have reportedly been called up to the first team squad, but I suspect Arsene will go with Johan Djourou in a holding role.  The Swiss defender began his career as a midfielder and should be comfortable enough in that position.

The attack picks itself: captain Robin van Persie will be flanked by the in-form Theo Walcott and out-of-sorts Andrey Arshavin.

United have started the season in fine fettle, with plenty of new blood to supplement the established set.  They’re champions and favourites for this year’s title.  Arsenal, meanwhile, have spent the first part of the season lurching from one disaster to the next, until the reprieve granted by defeating Udinese in the Champions League qualifier.  All of that means that we start this game as massive underdogs – a position which ought to suit us.

Considering this is always a huge fixture, we go in to it under remarkably little pressure.  Hopefully that will liberate some of the younger players in our side, and allow us to at least make a decent fist of it.  The squad strengthening that will happen between now and Wednesday could dramatically alter our season – but, arguably, a positive result today could be more.

We’re due a win at Old Trafford.  And we’re due some luck.  A victory, or even a convincing performance, could rarely be more timely.

Come On You Gunners.

Bolton want to sell Cahill

425 comments August 27th, 2011

Although the clash with Manchester United is tomorrow, the talk around the club is still dominated by transfer speculation.  It’s understandable: with just five days to go, Arsene has indicated he’d like to add three players to his squad.

“It is important [to strengthen] because we will lose players in January with players going to the African Nations Cup.

We lose Gervinho and Chamakh together so, first of all, it is important to strengthen up front. It is important that we find one midfielder and one defender as well. So we are still short of three bodies.”

Arsenal, it seems, need something of everything.  Obviously, working to such tight deadlines is not ideal, but sometimes the end of the window can prove a fertile ground in which to ensnare a bargain.  For some clubs, this five days represent a final chance to cash in on saleable assets.  Take, for example, the case of Gary Cahill and Bolton.

It is widely known that Arsenal have a long-standing interest in Cahill as part of their search for a centre-half with Premier League experience.  After having had a bid for Phil Jagielka rejected earlier in the summer, Arsenal have set their sights on Cahill, holding formal discussions over a possible transfer this week.

Yesterday, Bolton manager Owen Coyle and chairman Phil Gartside chose to speak publicly about the negotiations, with Coyle labelling Arsenal’s offer (which, at this stage, remains verbal) “derisory”.  Gartside, meanwhile, chose to retweet the following eloquent message expressed by a Bolton fan:

Image courtesy of 'Metro'

What a classless, clueless idiot.

Arsene responded with his usual dignity, and refuted the suggestion that the offer was as low a £6m:

“That number is completely wrong. If Gartside can say I am lying I am ready to confront him.

I believe every negotiation is between two parties and you only have to sell the player if you are all right with the price. In this case the information is below what has been spoken about.

You can believe Gartside or you can believe me. It’s not right. It’s not the truth.”

Bolton’s behaviour is entirely transparent.  All summer long Coyle has talked about what a great player Cahill is, how he deserves Champions League football, and how he’s surprised no offers have been forthcoming.  Now an offer arrives, and he’s up in arms about it.

If Bolton didn’t want to sell Cahill, they would quietly reject the offer and speak no more about it.  Their decision to publicise the bid can only have one desired outcome: to create an auction.  Cahill’s contract expires in twelve months, and with Champions League clubs looming, he’s unlikely to sign another.  Bolton stand to lose their most valuable asset for nothing.  If they can sell for a decent price in this window, they will.  In the current circumstances, the timing of the loan signing of Dedrcyk Boyata was particularly interesting.

With Liverpool about to sign the Uruguayan Coates, and City having bought Savic, Arsenal are Cahill’s only obvious suitors.  It remains to be seen if Gartside and Coyle have shot themselves in the foot and driven us from the negotiation table.  I think Cahill’s a good footballer and a solid defender and would fit in well.  If Arsene shares my conviction, then a deal could definitely be done.

As for the midfielder and the striker Arsene is looking at, your guess is as good as mine.  There’s been a lot of talk about Rennes’ Yann M’Villa, but I think we need a more creative presence in midfield.  The arrival of a striker is contingent on the departure of Nicklas Bendtner, of whom Arsene Wenger said “we know he will leave”.

It’s hard to envisage anything but these deals going right to the wire, which promises to be exciting/traumatic.  As ever, you’ll be able to follow it all as it goes down on Gunnerblog.

There’s some early team news for United here.  With Wilshere, Diaby, Song and Frimpong all unavailable, Johan Djourou could be asked to play in midfield alongside Aaron Ramsey.  I’ll have a full preview for you tomorrow.  Today, I’m off to Stamford Bridge to check out the competition…


Previous Posts

Search Gunnerblog

Get your Gunnerblog t-shirts now!

get regular updates from GS with twitter

Top Gunn

Cesc Fabregas
The man in form.

    Retro Arsenal T-Shirts from - Bringing Back The Good Old Days!: Click Here!

Latest Posts

Sponsored Links


August 2011
« Jul   Sep »

Posts by Month

Most Recent Posts

Posts by Category


Powered By

eXTReMe Tracker