Archive for August, 2013

Arsenal 2 – 0 Fenerbahce: Thoughts on Ramsey, Mata & more

760 comments August 28th, 2013

Arsenal 2 – 0 Fenerbahce (5-0 Agg)
Match report | Highlights | Arsene’s reaction

On the pitch, it’s been a good week…
Three wins in seven days is more than I expected after that disastrous opening day defeat.  The performances in Turkey and at Fulham were both wonderfully cohesive displays of counter-attacking. This match had less dynamism. The tie was essentially dead, and despite a spirited first-half performance from Fenerbahce Arsenal were never less than in control.

The club has now qualified for the Champions League for the 16th successive year. It’s both a laudable achievement and the minimum requirement. I’m pleased but not yet satisfied.

Aaron Ramsey has been outstanding…
It’s amazing what a difference confidence can make. The way he took his second goal was the mark of a player who has absolute faith in his ability at the moment. Having gone through a process of simplifying his game and bringing it back to basics, Ramsey is now supplementing his hard work with the flair he patently possesses. His progress is exciting.

Injuries highlight the weakness of our squad…
With Arsenal holding a 3-0 lead, this match was essentially a dead rubber. It would have taken an extraordinary collapse – even by our standards – for Fenerbahce to progress at our expense. Despite this, barely anyone was rested from our first choice XI. Kieran Gibbs was on bench, but was called for as soon as Lukas Podolski’s picked up a hamstring injury early in the second half.

The youthful trio of Emmanuel Frimpong, Ryo Miyaichi and Yaya Sanogo were all on the bench last night. The latter pair were afforded the opportunity to play, and both looked about as raw as you’d expect. Players of that level of inexperience should simply not be called upon in a Champions League qualifier.

If you discount that fledgling trio, and the forgotten pair of Nicklas Bendtner and Park Chu-Young, Arsenal currently have just 12 fit senior outfield players. If you don’t believe me you can count yourself.

It is simply not enough. Arsene can talk all he likes about his faith in the “quality” of his squad, but it’s the quantity that looks set to give us most problems.

The Juan Mata story looks like a non-starter…
The fact that Juan Mata’s father was at the Emirates last night, just 24 hours after Jose Mourinho left the Spanish playmaker out of his starting XI at Old Trafford, has led to stories circulating that Arsenal might be considering a bid for a player they tracked prior to his move to Stamford Bridge.

First things first: Mata’s dad is a professional agent and represents many players other than his son. His presence at the game does not necessarily mean anything. I’m not familiar with his client list but he may simply look after one of the Fenerbahce boys.

Secondly, I can’t see Mourinho allowing Mata to join another English club. His ego wouldn’t run the risk of a decision backfiring so painfully and publicly.

The only hope for Arsenal is that, having been left out of such an important match, Mata might panic about the amount of game-time he will get this season. It is a World Cup year, and that makes players more jittery than usual. That short-termism is something Arsenal can use to their advantage in what remains of the window: players who would ordinarily be out of our reach might be prepared to come to the Emirates if they are guaranteed playing time.

The Real Madrid trio would all be incredible signings…
Arsenal are being linked with moves for Karim Benzema, Mesut Ozil and Angel Di Maria. All three would add a huge amount to the Arsenal squad, but only the latter seems remotely probable. Madrid seem unlikely to sell Benzema and Higuain in the same window, while Ozil is likely to also be a target for Manchester United. That is not a tug of war I’d fancy us to win.

Intriguingly, the BBC are speculating that the delay in Gareth Bale’s move to Madrid might be part of a deliberate ploy to frustrate us. Madrid are unlikely to sanction the sale of any attacking player until their move for Bale is confirmed.

After watching Arsene Wenger’s post-match interview…
…I have never felt  less confident about the prospect of us making big signings this summer. I expect we’ll tie up a deal for Mathieu Flamini on a free transfer, and possibly add Yohan Cabaye to the mix, but the marquee attacking player we all crave looks set to elude us.

I’d love to be wrong. We’ll know in less than a week.

You might spot a few teething problems with the site…
We’ve moved over to new hosting and that brings with it a few problems. You’ll notice that the comments are now full of spam – although some would argue they were beforehand too. I’m working on a solution and it should all be up and running properly soon. The good news is that the site should be slightly less likely to fall over every time I write a new blog post.

Transfer Update: The Trolley Dash Begins

786 comments August 20th, 2013

It has begun. Arsenal have started the painfully inevitable desperate scrabble for signings. Dale Winton has sounded the klaxon, and the footballing version of Supermarket Sweep is well and truly underway.

It began with a brief conversation I had with an agent yesterday, in which they indicated that Dick Law had been unusually open to a suggested signing. Then the news broke that Arsenal had bid £10m for Newcastle midfielder Yohan Cabaye.

Cabaye is a decent player, but not at the elite level as some of the names we were linked to earlier this summer. Targeting him suggests Wenger recognises the need for squad numbers as well as “super quality”. Cabaye is less of a glamorous marquee player and more of a cosy tipi.

Don’t get me wrong, the Frenchman is a decent player, and will help plug the gap created by the departure of Francis Coquelin and the injury to Mikel Arteta. However, he is not the sort of world class talent who will transform us from a side battling to stay in the top four to one competing for major trophies.

It’s all somewhat reminiscent of the final days of the summer 2011 window, when Arteta was one of five hurried signings. Back then, an 8-2 defeat to Manchester United radically altered the club’s transfer policy. Arsenal had been offered Per Mertesacker several times throughout the summer, but never showed an ounce of interest. However, shortly after that game, Werder Bremen’s asking price was met and Mertesacker boarded a plane to London. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Arsenal appear to have reached that point even earlier in this window.

After months of insisting that Arsenal would look after all transfer business in house, I learnt today that the club are now actively briefing agents about the positions they are struggling to fill. They are welcoming propositions for a defensive midfielder and a striker – the latter requirement suggesting the club are close to abandoning hope of securing Luis Suarez.

With Suarez, it’s clear Arsenal were led up a particularly winding garden path by the player and his agent. The £40,000,001 bid and Arsene Wenger’s statement that “we believe we havee done enough” indicate that Arsenal understood this convoluted clause in Suarez’s contract to be a legitimate release fee. The swift scaling down of Suarez’s agitating for a move suggests he was never particularly convinced by the prospect of joining Arsenal – the whole flirtation may have been a ploy to attract a bid from Real Madrid that never arose.

Instead, Madrid have turned their focus to Gareth Bale, and Suarez seems to have accepted that he will spend this season at Anfield. In the meantime, Spurs continue to strengthen their team in preparation for Bale’s departure. Brazilian midfielder Willian is set to join the likes of Paulinho, Capoue and Soldado in a list of signings that would all have been welcome on the other side of North London.

Spurs appear to have a plan. That’s something that Arsenal fans can only dream of. The clock is ticking and the stakes are rising. Things could be about to get very messy indeed.

Arsenal 1 – 3 Aston Villa: It was just a mirage

893 comments August 19th, 2013

I had a vision of a better Arsenal. It was a vision sold to me by Ivan Gazidis, who promised me that after a decade of harsh desert we were approaching an oasis of plenty. It was a vision that sustained me through a summer starved of football.

It seemed entirely plausible: Arsenal were changing. The shifting financial landscape had left us in a position of relative security. Our prudence had paid off, and it was time for the purse-strings to be loosened. Arsenal would challenge for major honours once again.

It was a vision that I, somewhat foolishly, believed in. And it was just a mirage.

The dream evaporated and condensed in to the cold wet reality of a 3-1 home defeat to Aston Villa. Some dream. Some start.

Arsenal must be the only club in world football who can begin the summer with a triumphant declaration of renewed spending power, yet plunge in to crisis just one game of the new season. The journey between that zenith and the subsequent nadir has been riddled with negligence and incompetence.

Let’s put this simply: a better Arsenal side would have beaten Aston Villa, regardless of referees and injuries. Arsenal have the resources to build a better team – they spent the early part of the summer boasting publicly about the fact – they have simply neglected to do so.

The buck stops with Arsene Wenger. It is easy to make jokes the vagueness of Gazidis’ role or the clowning of chief negotiator Dick Law, but the truth is that all major decisions on transfer policy are made by one man: Arsene.

My impression is that Gazidis and the board would like to see Arsene spend. However, the manager seems unwilling to let go of the parsimonious habits of the last ten years.

Wenger is fond of challenging reporters to name potential targets:

People always say ‘buy players, buy players, buy players’. When you tell them ‘tell me who?’ it becomes much more problematic.

I’ll play your game, Arsene: Gonzalo Higuain. Luis Gustavo. Etienne Capoue. Paulinho. All of those players are well within our financial grasp and would significantly improve our squad. Two have joined our closest rivals. Arsenal are knowingly allowing the gap to close.

Our squad is in a state of drastic disrepair. A spate of injuries picked up on Saturday means we must travel to Fenerbahce for a crucial Champions League qualifier with a severely weakened team.

There is still time left in this transfer window. What’s more, I fully expect Arsene to embark on another desperate trolley dash before the window closes. However, by then, it may already be too late.

Opening Day Preview: New season – No new faces

755 comments August 17th, 2013

It’s not easy to feel optimistic.

A new season ought to feel fresh. It ought to be a new start. The manager ought to enter the new campaign free of the pressures of the last. However, Arsenal’s disastrous summer has put Arsene Wenger under considerable strain before a ball has even been kicked in anger.

Incredibly, The Gunners are still yet to make a major signing. The dead wood may have gone, but it’s yet to be replaced by any live wood. Arsenal barely have enough players to fill tomorrow’s matchday squad, and the window is just a fortnight away from closing.

I can’t hide my disappointment: this summer has been embarrassing. Our bizarre decision to declare our flush hand at the start of the window seemed hubristic at the time, and has proved so since. Arsenal have lurched from one dead end deal to another. The likes of Clement Grenier, Gonzalo Higuain and Luis Gustavo have all escaped our grasp. Luis Suarez seems certain to join that ever-expanding list.

There are those who will say my judgement is premature. The window is not yet closed, and the situation may yet be put right. Possibly so, but given the resources at our disposal there is no excuse for not having the squad in place before the start of the season. Arsenal face crucial fixtures on both the domestic and European front. Our inactivity means that any early failure will be met by an unforgiving response from the supporters.

If Arsenal fail to beat Aston Villa today, the Emirates will resound with the boos from fans who will understandably feel they have been misled. They were promised statements of intent and a change in policy. Instead they’ve suffered more of the same penny-pinching and indecision.

The one relief about today’s game is that it allows us to concentrate on events on the park rather than inadequacies in the board room.

Football is back. I just wish it felt a bit different.

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 2013
« Jul   Sep »

Posts by Month

Most Recent Posts

Posts by Category


Powered By

eXTReMe Tracker