Category Archives: Friday Night Preview

Three headlining transfers the Gunners should prioritize in the summer

It’s obvious that Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta needs to make wholesome changes to his current squad in the summer transfer window if he must keep Arsenal be in contention for next season’s Premier League title.

Having inherited the team from Freddie Ljunburg midway through to the campaign, Arteta had to do with the current players at his disposal until the January transfer window.

However, the North London club managed to make some additions to the team with two new players in Cédric Soares (loan from Southampton) and Pablo Mari (loan from Flamenco) during the January winter transfer window, which leaves the Spanish gaffer with few quality players.

That said, there have been speculations in the past couple of weeks linking the Emirates outfits with top-rated players across Europe ahead of the next summer transfer window.

In light of that, amongst players linked move to Arsenal, gooner news have highlighted three players believed will be a shrewd piece of business if the club can prioritize their signing in the summer:

*Note: The names on the list are in no particular order as they are some of the hottest transfer speculations making headlines in Europe and beyond

1. Thomas Partey (Atletico Madrid)

Thomas Partey is arguably the best player currently linked with a move to Arsenal owing to his incredible performance in midfielder for Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid side.

The Ghanaian international, who despite being a defensive midfielder, can also be used in the central midfield and attacking midfield has been in red-hot form for the Rojiblance so far this season registering 34 appearances with three goals and one assist to his name.

However, his days with the Madrid club seems numbered with reports that the Gunners are considering to trigger the release cause in his contract with Atletico.

According to FourFourTwo, Arsenal are keen to meet Atletico’s asking price of £42m in the summer amid Liverpool’s interest.

2. Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo)

Domenico Berardi is another player who is being linked with a move to the Emirates Stadium as Offside-football claimed on Tuesday that the Italian star has attracted Arteta’s attention.

The Gunners could be in the market for new strikers following the uncertainties surrounding Aubameyang and Lacazette’s future. Hence, the manager is keeping close tabs on the 25-year-old striker who has scored 83 goals in 245 appearances for Sassuolo.

3. Maitland-Niles (Tipped To Leave Arsenal Next Summer)

As much as getting new players will improve the team next season, it is also good to note that Arteta will have to create space for the incoming ones by letting go of underused players.

Arsenal’s Hale End Academy product Aisely Maitland-Niles is one of the players who could be shown the exit door in the summer. The 22-year-old has fallen out of favor under Arteta who prefers Hector Bellerin and Sokratis ahead of him.

Luckily, the player won’t wait for too long before joining a new team as Serie A sides AC Milan and Inter Milan are reportedly keeping a close tab on his situation at North London.

Report via The Sun revealed that the young man could finally part ways with his childhood club if he fails to regain his spot in the club’s starting line-up before the close the season.

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Filed under Arsenal, Arteta, Friday Night Preview, gooner news, Transfer Bollocks

Sailing in uncharted waters with a man overboard

West Brom arrive at the Grove tomorrow for a game that we would normally be eyeing up with eager anticipation. But these are not normal circumstances. Poor performances, daft mistakes and a worrying lack of goals have left the manager looking a little flummoxed in post-match interviews recently and he’s had to adopt a pretty defiant stance in front of the media. Senior players talk about the need to fight together, work together, and get the fans back on their side. Although Arsene tells us the club is in good shape – and in many respects he is absolutely correct, there’s no escaping the fact that this has been the worst opening sequence to any season during his tenure.

There came a point last season when Gooners and pundits everywhere looked at each other and made the solemn pronouncement that the manager was facing the greatest test of his reign at the club. After the debacle at OT a chap at work even offered me €20 that Arsene would be gone by the end of the season (I took the bet, but not his money).

Now, however, the challenge seems even greater. The mighty dreadnought that was our team of the early noughties has gradually been transformed into a creaking, leaky gunboat with a dodgy rudder. Last season the gunboat hit a couple of mines and survived some aerial attacks, but running repairs were effected and a spirited fight back began with a key battle against the Old Enemy. This season, however, we have run aground since blowing the Spuds out of the water. Not only that, but it looks somtimes as though we’ve lost our way – no charts, a dodgy compass, whilst struggling with a damaged mizzen and three feet in the well, not to mention one of the manager’s favourite able seaman on the sick list (I could go on and on….). There can be no doubt that Arsene is well and truly up against it. But although he acknowledges there are issues, he’s confident that they can be resolved. Is he right?

The statistics for our recent poor run of form make for depressing reading: one win in the last five league games (and averaging only 1.4 points per game over the season so far), and no wins and only two goals in the last four games in all competitions. The midfield has ceased to function effectively and lacks confidence, the defence remains prone to calamitous error and we don’t have enough firepower to make the most of the chances we manage to create. A lot of this is down to the opposition. The likes of Norwich, Shalke, Swansea etc. etc. have played a pressing game and marked our key players closely. Everton managed to prevent us from playing the game as we wanted despite running out of energy after 60 minutes and reverting to a long ball game. The problem is – and you hardly need me to spell it out – that we don’t seem to find a way to cope with the defensive strategy employed by the opposition, and then when the opposition attack we get caught ball-watching and are carved up like the proverbial festive season poultry dish.

I don’t think these problems are purely down to the players on the one hand or coaching staff on the other. It seems more likely each group is failing the other. The gameplan doesn’t work at the moment; consequently the results are not forthcoming, and the players’ morale suffers. But they are sent into the next encounter with the same plan, and it becomes even harder to execute because confidence is lacking and players are scared of making mistakes.

Arsene made these observations on the club website three days ago (at a presser, in fact, but you know what I mean):

“I believe what is important is to play our football, improve the way we play and keep faith in our players. At the moment, that is very important to me. If you look at people’s reaction, everything is dramatic. What is important is to be capable to play football.”

Of course it is very easy in this era of social media for everyone to chuck their opinion around (hence this blog, obviously), and it is even easier to allow one’s texting/typing fingers to rule one’s brain and hurl expletive-ridden knee-jerk reactions around after every poor performance. That doesn’t mean that everyone’s doing it, however. Several well-established pundits, journalists and bloggers have questioned tactics and team selection while maintaining a considered perspective. Everything has not been dramatic.

It’s more likely his comment was aimed at the tabloid hacks in the media and the more extreme end of the club’s supporters. But even the dissent of the angry brigade would be rather less virulent if there were not such a yawning gulf between the capabilities of players and their actual output. Trying to play our particular brand of football doesn’t appear to be working. It seems to me that this is largely because we have become so predictable in our tactical methods that we make it easier for other sides to defend against us. This is compounded by problems with the squad which lacks sufficient depth and balance to provide options when things aren’t working and when key players are tired and injured. There’s no point in keeping faith with your first team players when they are fatigued or carrying a knock. Furthermore, it’s blindingly obvious that Arsene himself is keeping faith with only certain players, having decided with some justification that others (Chamakh and Arshavin – this means you) are not worth considering, except for early-round League Cup purposes. So, while I understand why Arsene is being publicly defiant and resolute, he must surely be aware that our problems need a more thorough fix than “improving and keeping faith”.

There needs to be a tactical rethink, and a change in the structure of the team, by which I mean both in personnel and organisation on the field. Both of these issues are fundamentally interlinked. Not only has the squad has failed to develop in the way the manger had hoped and anticipated, but key personnel have left. The new players that have been brought in our obviously talented, but they still haven’t provided the wider range of options that we need. Our midfield is in particular need of attention – this is not a criticism of our existing trio, but I can’t help feeling (as I’ve said before) that there is need for someone with greater physicality and presence in the mix.

Yesterday’s Tactics Column at Arseblog highlighted Arteta’s role change compared to last season. When he played with Song one of them could join an attack knowing the other would remain deep to protect the defence. When Arteta was injured our results suffered because Song lacked the discipline to stay back with no-one there to cover his forward runs. Now Arteta remains much deeper and leaves Wilshere and Cazorla to do the attacking. Unfortunately this makes it much easier for the opposition to mark him, and likewise Wilshere and Cazorla. All three of them find themselves isolated, and the man on the ball has no option but to put his foot on the ball, turn and play it back the BFG. Perhaps having Wilshere and Arteta alternate roles during games would introduce an element of unpredictability? Jack has played the deeper role before, after all, and this would bring him closer to Arteta as the Tactics Column suggests. This would change the formation somewhat, but that’s surely no bad thing at this stage. Whether or not Arsene is contemplating a mid-season tactical rethink is another matter. It would be unprecedented as far as I am aware, but it seems a necessity.

It seems to me the key element missing from Arsene’s plans for this season has been Diaby. I have remarked on this blog before (and others have made the same observation elsewhere) how  Arsene took a massive gamble in not looking for an alternative to the Frenchman in the transfer market. Perhaps he did look but didn’t much fancy what he found.  If he could stay healthy Diaby would provide a far better balance to our midfield, but hoping/assuming he would remain fit was a leap of faith. I have a very strong feeling that Diaby will not make any meaningful contribution for the rest of the season… or perhaps even any other season. I hope that I’m wrong, but I would be very surprised if he regained sufficient fitness to make a significant number of appearances, let alone starts.

The logical thing to do, therefore, would be to find a replacement for him. Unsentimental, perhaps – but keeping faith with a player who may never be physically robust enough to withstand the demands of the Premiership seems like a luxury we can no longer afford. A lot of Gooners are looking at next months transfer window and wondering who Arsene’s two possible purchases might be. I must confess I haven’t a clue. The media through several names around but it appears as though a lot of these – e.g. M’Vila, Gotze, Llorente – are mentioned simply because they’ve already featured in media speculation over the past 12 or so months, and it’s far easier to regurgitate and rehash old reports than do some genuine research. I’d rather not buy two players though – how about a midfielder, another striker and a left back for a start? A centre half might not be a bad idea, but it’s highly unlikely Arsene sees the need.

Rosicky’s return should be a matter for general rejoicing as he seems one of the few players we have with the determination to keep the ball moving quickly and with purpose. He played a key role in our resurgence last season, and it would be an opportune moment for him to exert a similar influence now. Walcott and Podolski aren’t fit for tomorrow, which in the former’s case may be just as well for his own sake. The manager has expressed his frustration at the stagnation of Theo’s contract negotiations, and another performance like his last would have brought a lot of negative attention from the faithful at the Grove. At this stage, Theo should own up and stop treating us like idiots.

On a final note, Liam Ridgewell will be turning out for the Baggies tomorrow. He’s a player I developed a thorough dislike for when he was at St. Andrews, and this week he confirmed what an odious, classless moron he is by appearing in The Sun, sitting on a toilet with wads of cash littering the floor at his feet, while wiping his arse with a £20 note. I am fully confident that all right-minded Gooners at the game tomorrow will be eager to show him the warm welcome he deserves.

Up the Arse. And here’s hoping for a win…

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Filed under Arteta, Cazorla, Diaby, Friday Night Preview, General Musings, gooner news, Mertesacker, Podolski, Tactical Bollocks, Wenger, Wilshere

QPR v. Arsenal Preview: Hoops on Toast? & Transfer Spin Speculation

Queens Park Rangers have always been one of those clubs I have found it difficult to dislike. Bowles had charisma and buckets of flair. They used to be sponsored by Guinness. I even had a soft spot for Paul Parker at one point – I was young. All that goodwill (or on the worst days, ambivalence) has been eroded recently, however. First their new owner throws his cash around in a most vulgar manner, and then he hires Mark Hughes.

You’d have to go a long way to find any Gooner with a nice thing to say about Sparky. ‘Gobshite’ would probably be one of the nicer descriptions. And although our recent form has been very good (to say the least), and he’s been talking us up in the run lead up to this game, you can be morally certain he’s looking forward to this game, because there’s nothing he likes more than trying to get under our skin.

His chances of bringing our winning streak to a halt will be hampered by the fact that Cissé is an idiot and is banned, and also by injuries to players like Helguson – who has outscored Zamora so far this season – and Campbell. Their recent form hasn’t been great, as you’d expect from a side in the relegation zone: they have one win and one draw in their last six games. But those points were picked up at home against Everton and Liverpool, and they’re making much of the latter in their build-up. I daresay Barton will start, however, as Hughes will send him out as agent provocateur (which is french for ‘irritating tosser’) in midfield, and I expect Mackie is champing at the bit to make an impact again.

It seems likely that Koscielny will start, though I would recommend that he sleeps in a cottonwool-lined sleeping bag wrapped in duct tape tonight, to ensure no twisting of the knees can occur. The rest of the team (almost) picks itself at the moment: Chesney, Sagna, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Arteta, Song, Rosicky, Walcott and RVP. The only question should be: who do you pick from Gervinho, Ramsey and the Ox? For me it has to be either Gervinho or the Ox – both offer more width than Ramsey, and although Gervinho is less of an attacking threat at the moment his overall team play and defensive work against Villa last week should earn him the start. Not that I have anything against the other two, far from it.

I’m not going for a scoreline prediction for two prinicipal reasons: 1) I’m always wrong, and 2) I’m not particularly bothered about the scoreline, as long as we win. It’s all about points at the moment, so if we scrape by with another last minute winner from – well, from anyone – I’ll be happy. Mind you, my ulcer won’t be.

Mikel  Arteta has made an interesting observation in an interview with Sport magazine which I came across courtesy of Arseblog News (where would we be without it?). He’s reiterated his feeling that our best form would follow once we got over key injuries, and he clearly feels that this issue is of greater importance than the acquisition of new players.

Now, I’m not one to subscribe to conspiracy theories, but I can’t help wondering if this isn’t linked to Arsene’s recent repetition of the ‘Quality not Quantity’, ‘We will spend if we think it’s right’ and ‘Where would we be if everyone had been fit’ mantras. Are we being given a clear message, albeit in an obscure, murky, indirect, vaguely suggestive sort of way?

At the beginning of last summer we were told that there would be some players coming in and more leaving. At the moment the situation is quite different in the sense that there a some players out on loan who clearly do not have a role to play in our future, but are too expensive for other clubs to buy. At the moment we are faced with the need to persuade our best player to stay, as opposed to last year soul-destroying struggle to fight off the repeated attempts of a bunch of shabby Iberian motherfuckers to shame us into flogging our best player at a ridiculously low price. Then there were others who wanted out for oil money, whereas at the t moment the squad seems relatively settled.

Thus, I think it is highly unlikely that there will be several summer signings. Podolski, it seems clear, is on his way. Perhaps another defender might be added, but I would enormously surprised if we acquired more than two senior players who could step right into contention for a first team place. It seems to me that the noises coming from Arsene and now Arteta reflect this likelihood, and we are being gently prepared accordingly.

In the meantime, let’s hope for a jolly serving of Hoops on toast tomorrow. (Sorry, I couldn’t help using it again). And if Joey sees red again, well that would be just fine.

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Filed under Arteta, Friday Night Preview, Gervinho, Koscielny, Ramsey, Transfer Bollocks

Arsenal v. Villa preview & other asstd. titbits

Alex McLeish brings his stuttering Villa team to the Grove tomorrow in what could prove to be a significant day in the battle for Champions League positions.  T*******m travel to the Bridge for the day’s Clash of the Arseholes, and with a bit of luck they’ll enter into bitter combat with each other for a debilitating no score draw. Failing that I’ll settle for the spuds being sent home with a point by a heartbreaking injury time own goal by The Best Player In The World Who Happens To Be Welsh.

Villa are currently in 15th position for the principal reason that they are not very good at scoring goals – they have found the net only 31 times in 28 league games. Surprisingly, though, their goal difference is only -4, and they have been pretty tight defensively over the last four games, conceding only three goals. So given their attacking limitations, which are compounded by the loss of Bent for the duration, it seems unlikely that they’ll be gung ho tomorrow and look to take us on. Instead, I daresay McLeish will be parking his pockmarked, ginger-roofed Caledonian bus at the edge of the area, and looking to use Agbonlahor’s pace for counter-attacks. N’Zogbia is doubtful with a knee ligament problem he picked up in training yesterday.

Fortunately we do not appear to have any significant injury problems following the win at Everton. Personally, I’d rather see Ramsey on the bench and Gervinho or the Ox starting on the left hand side. Hutton should be targeted in particular; he got himself sent off when we played them last December and either Gervinho or the Ox could give him a torrid time if they go at him.

If we play with the same level of urgency we showed in attack for the first 20 minutes on Wednesday we should profit – mental discipline will be crucial, and the players are going to have be utterly focussed and committed. We cannot take Villa for granted and on too many occasions in the past few seasons we have seen ineffectual performances follow a win. But there’s no reason why we shouldn’t claim all the points tomorrow.

Moving on, it has been very encouraging to see promising young players going out on loan over the past couple of days: Chuks Aneke has gone to Preston, Benik Afobe to Reading and today Yennaris joined Notts County. These are promising developments for each player and they can only benefit from the experience, provided they don’t end up being kicked from here ’til next Thursday by some lower league clogger and put out of action for the long term. The manager had some interesting points to make in todays press conference regarding the size of the squad and how this influences our involvement in the transfer market next summer. The mantra – as it was last year – is “quality not quantity”. Arsene pointed out:

“…don’t forget we have many players out on loan and we have not had Jack Wilshere or Abou Diaby for the whole season… These players will be back and it means that number and quality-wise we are strong because we are in the position we are in without these players.”

Observations like this lead pundits, journos, hacks and fans to subject them to the same kind of feverish analysis that resulted in the Engima decrypts 70-odd years ago, by sheds full of tweed-jacketed Oxbridge boffins at Bletchley Park. From where I’m sitting (in my navy blue 125th anniversary track top, by the way – no tweed here) it seems pretty obvious from his comments that he doesn’t intend to sign a midfielder. So assuming that the Podolski deal is pretty much sorted, that means – perhaps – one additional signing, and the obvious thing to do would be to get another centre half in place of poor old Squillaci. So that would mean two top quality signings in the summer, rather than the four suggested by Marco Van Basten. I think I could live with that, but will it be enough to sway Van Persie?

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Filed under Friday Night Preview, Gervinho, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Transfer Bollocks, Van Persie