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Some tricky decisions for Alan Pardew and Newcastle for the West Ham game

By Stefano on May 3rd, 2013

Following an embarrassing 6-0 hammering by Liverpool, and after a week where newspapers were warned against revealing the extent of Newcastle’s dressing room tensions, this weekend’s trip to West Ham feels like a particularly important game for Alan Pardew.

Newcastle are now in 17th, just one point away from the drop-zone. They could do without further selection issues, but the suspension of Mathieu Debuchy following his unnecessary dismissal against Liverpool last Saturday gives Pardew with another selection headache at right-back. Luckily, he has a variety of options in that position, Danny Simpson is apparently fit after a couple of injury lay-offs, but James Perch and Vurnon Anita appear more likely to be selected in defence.

Perch has been fielded in the centre of midfield recently, but it probably makes sense for him to be shifted to his natural position at right-back. He’ll be up against West Ham’s left-winger Matt Jarvis, and while Perch can struggle against intelligent movement, he’s decent when battling against tricky but predictable players like Jarvis.

This would allow Anita to come into the side in the centre of midfield, although Pardew might name both players on the team-sheet, and we’ll still be unaware of precisely where they’ll play, as the duo are capable of playing in either position.

But Pardew will also be aware of Andy Carroll’s presence upfront against his former side; he’ll primarily be battling against the centre-backs, but he might also draw wide to meet diagonal balls, and while Perch isn’t the tallest, he’s got five inches on 5’6 Anita.

This post courtesy of Pick Our Team is by Michael Cox. PickOurTeam is a new type of football community giving fans an opportunity to have a meaningful say on the formation and selection of their team. PickOurTeam is the voice of the fans – collecting views on who should play where and ratings on how the players, manager, and referee perform each week. Every match the findings are compiled and presented back to the fans. The article was originally posted here.



Arsenal update: news on QPR targets from Harry and Arsene

By Stefano on May 3rd, 2013

Arsenal travel to QPR on Saturday and as Arsene Wenger has reiterated today they only have one thing on their minds – winning three points.

Maybe afterwards though Arsene will sit down for post match cuppa with Harry and talk about the future of several QPR players.

The most obvious one is Julio Cesar who seems to have emerged as Arsenal’s number one goalkeeping target.

Wenger is clearly keen and Cesar wants to leave. But Harry is obviously angling for as big a fee as possible. He told Sky Sports

“He’s a top, top goalkeeper. There’s no doubt about that. He’s a Brazil international so for him to play in the Championship next year would be difficult. I can understand that.”

“But he’s a good goalkeeper. It would take a good offer. How this game works is you buy players and those who don’t do well, you’re stuck with them but those who do well, they think they’ll walk away for nothing.

“You’ve got to get what you feel is value for him. He’s going to cost decent money if anyone wants to buy him. He’s a good goalkeeper.”

Wenger might also have word about Loic Remy. Wenger said of him today at his press conference.

“I’ve known him for years,” said Wenger. “He is a very efficient striker.”

He may only cost £8 million too. If Arsenal fail to qualify for the Champions League then he may end up rivaling Frenchman Olivier Giroud in leading the line next year. If Arsenal do grab a CL spot then he could be teaming up with Stevan Jovetic.

Then there’s a certain Chris Samba too.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall.



Arsene Wenger on a Cesc Fabregas return to Arsenal

By Stefano on May 3rd, 2013

Among the many things that Arsene Wenger has commented on this morning, he had a word or two to say about Arsenal’s one time star Cesc Fabregas. A man who is struggling at Barcelona and yesterday said when asked about his possible return to London

“I do not know what is being said and even what is written,” said Fàbregas. “I can only say that I alone know my own future.”

Wenger said today.

“No, it is not a short-term option [for Fàbregas to return]. The short-term option for us is to just to focus on tomorrow’s game [at Queens Park Rangers] and finish the season well. That’s the short term option.”

Which in my book sounds like he simply peignoir the question as he doesn’t want to comment.

I think there must be a pretty high chance of Fabregas returning to Arsenal in the summer, and that won’t be the only business they do either.


Arsenal round up: Gonalons, Fabregas, Koscielny and Cesar

By Stefano on May 3rd, 2013

It is no secret that Arsenal are looking to strengthen their midfield this summer with one, maybe two signings. On the Emirates wants list somewhere is likely to be the £15m-rated Lyon captain Maxime Gonalons.

Wenger has sent scouts to watch the 24-year-old on several occasions this season and Lyon have hinted that it take offers of over £15 million seriously.

Gonalons is a defensively minded midfielder and is another option for along side old boy Alex Sony and Etienne Capoue.

Meanwhile Laurent Koscielny is continuing to attract attention from Europe’s footballing elite. After a supposed inquiry from Barcelona, Goal is reporting that Bayern Munich are also interested in the French defender.

Apparently they are mulling over a £20 million bid, but but the good news for Arsenal fans is that the club is confident that he will stay.

Meanwhile Cesc Fabregas has spoken openly for the first time about a possible return to The Emirates. Quizzed about his life in Spain and a possible move back to London Cesc told Sky Sports.

“I do not know what is being said and even what is written. I can only say that I alone know my own future.”

Which hardly sounds like a resounding commitment to the Catalan club. This one is going to run all summer.

Finally the gossip over the future of QPR’s star player continues with three and in speculating that Arsenal may make a move for the Brazilian keeper Cesar, but they might find his wages too much to accommodate.

I guess you could say the same for several other Rangers players too.


Arsenal’s new striker? Or a last throw of the dice?

By Stefano on May 2nd, 2013

The other week Arsene Wenger hinted that he has been working with Lukas Podolski on playing the German as a striker through the middle. And then against Man United, with Giroud sidelined, Podolski lead the line in a to be honest largely ineffective way.

Anyhow with rumours of a possible bid for the German from Galatasary Arsene Wenger has been speaking today about how Lukas Podolski can be as effective in the centre as he has at times been on the left.

Wenger said “I believe so, he has the qualities because he is a good finisher,” the manager told Arsenal Player.

“He has a good technique and because we have a game based on very quick combinations I believe he can be a part of that. Overall I am convinced in the coming games he will show it.

“At the moment, yes [I will play Podolski in the middle]. A definite decision has not been made but if there is an opportunity then there is a good chance I will do it.”

While it is clear that Podolski will start as a striker against QPR is this where the German will play next season? Or a last throw of the dice by Wenger to get the best out of a player with a huge amount of potential but hasn’t fulfilled it and maybe leaving i the summer? What do you think?


Villa, Valdes, Sanchez, Song – should Arsenal sign any of them?

By Stefano on May 2nd, 2013

While everyone else was marveling at a wonderful performance from Bayern last night Arsenal fans had another reason to keep a very close eye on Barca’s woeful Champions League exit.

This is because for the latter part of the game all five of the players that have been linked with the club in the last few months were on the pitch at the same time – a very rare occurrence.

It gave Arsene Wenger a chance to have a peek at how a new Barca flavoured Arsenal might look next season and the results don’t look too pretty. Would this lot be an upgrade on what Arsenal have now? Mmmm.

The worst performer was Alex Song. In for Javier Mascherano he simply didn’t look that interested. His distribution was poor, he seemed off the pace and in truth his body language betrayed what an awful few months he has had in Catalonia. He looks like a player who has completely lost any self-belief.

Alexis Sanchez didn’t seem to much better either. He huffed an puffed on the left for the last part of the game to little avail. Again his link up play was poor and he seemed also to be lacking in confidence.

As for David Villa, he looks a shadow the player that has been terrorising defences for years. He created little and apart from a very good header that went just wide he barely hit anything that was remotely near the target.

Apart from picking the ball out of the net three times- none of which were really his fault, Victor Valdes had an ok game. And as for Cesc Fabregas, he was one of Barca’s better players on the night looking a lot more comfortable in the middle than out on the right where he was stationed for part of the game.

If last night is a barometer for how the players are at the moment, and let’s remember the were up against a very good Bayern team, Wenger won’t be convinced and will need to look elsewhere to offload some of their squad players.

Fabregas would always be welcome back and life might end up being a lot easier for him in London too, and Valdes would be a significant upgrade on Arsenal’s current keepers.

Barca screwed up badly by not selling Villa to Arsenal in the window. It would be astonishing if the 31 year old ended up as Arsenal’s marquee signing ahead of say Stevan Jovetic. He would be a useful addition to the squad but he as gone from being a must buy to a luxury and Arsenal won’t pay Barca anything like the money they want for him.

I also think Wenger will pass on Sanchez, and as for Song, well much depends on how damaged he thinks the player is following his season in Spain. He doesn’t resemble the cocky £15 million Arsenal reluctantly let go last summer.

In the great tradition of Arsenal and Barcelona, I think we might see some rather mickey taking offers coming in this summer. The irony is that it won’t be Barcelona saying no thanks unless they get players on cut-price deals, but Arsenal looking for bargains.

So which is the Barca quintet would you sign?


ITV gets scoop of the year with Jose Mourinho to Chelsea – then does an Adele

By Stefano on May 1st, 2013

In case you haven’t seen it yet this is the ITV interview in which Jose Mourinho was just about to reveal where he was going to manage next year, but got interrupted as the channel had to shoot off to the news/ads.

I think the technical term for this is doing an Adele.

Mourinho did say though “I know in England I am loved, I know I am loved by some clubs, especially one.”

This says to me that he will be managing Chelsea next season.


Arsenal update: Draxler, Adler and Benteke

By Stefano on May 1st, 2013

It is a fairly quiet morning for transfer rumours today, but there are a few lingering on from yesterday that have small updates.

Firstly Julian Draxler has been rubbishing suggestions that he will move to Borussia Dortmund in the summer. With Gotze on his way to Bayern Munich Draxler was apparently being lined up as his replacement for the Champions League finalists.

Not so. Draxler was quoted as saying

“Some of the rumours have been taken for face value, which has made me sad. I can promise to all that I will not play for Borussia Dortmund.”

Meanwhile Schalke general manager Horst Heldt said it would take at least £85m to bring them to the negotiating table.

So Wenger just needs to find a spare £15 million round the back of an Emirates sofa then!? This doesn’t sound like it is going to happen now does it!

Also in Germany Hamburg keeper Rene Adler says that he is honoured to be linked with Arsenal. The German number two/three keeper says that he is staying focussed.

“I am under contract with Hamburg, but for every professional it will be a pleasure and honour to get linked with a club like this,” said Adler.

“This is flattering. It will absolutely hand me more motivation, I will not lose my focus.”

Finally, after a brilliant performance on Monday for Villa the stakes are being raised even higher over the future of Christian Benteke. The Belgian will be offered a new and much more financially rewarding contract by Paul Lambert/Randy Lerner to keep him at the Midlands club.

Whether that will be enough to see off the North London vultures – both Arsenal and Spurs are allegedly interested in the player – remains to be seen.

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Henry? Laudrup? Klopp? Who will be the next Arsenal manager?

By Stefano on April 30th, 2013

Ok, so he might not go this summer (but then he might) but Arsene Wenger can’t go on forever and Arsenal will soon have to address the issue of finding a new manager.

On one level Arsenal are still a pretty attractive club to manage – nice stadium, stable-ish board, probability of Champions League football – they tick a lot of boxes.

But the last couple of season have seem them slip down the list of Europe’s elite clubs and they can’t be quite as picky as they once were.

The manager that the fans dreamt of, Pep Guardiola, will soon be ensconced in Bayern Munich snapping up players like Gotze who Wenger would have loved to have bought. And as for Jose, the bonkers Portuguese genius is probably on his way back to Chelsea.

So with a lot of the big names out of the frame who else is there who could take over at The Emirates if Wenger does take the Eurostar and exit this (or next) summer.

1 David Moyes - The Scotsman would be an obvious contender. He is ready to make the move to a bigger club and might not get a better opportunity than Arsenal. He has worked wonders in creating teams for next to no cash- something that will appeal to the Arsenal board – and tactically he is very sound. He is not the dream manager that some of the fans want, but he could become an Arsenal legend (the new George Graham) if things go well. If things go badly though he could find himself as the new Bruce Rioch- out on his ear after a year.

2 Michael Laudrup – In my book the Dane could well be favourite. He might have committed to Swansea, but I think if the job were offered him (with Champions League football if Arsenal qualify) he would take it. He would be a hit with the fans and the type of football his team play is fairly similar to Arsenal. He also has the advantage of possibly bringing his captain Ashley Williams and star striker Michu with him.

3 Jürgen Klopp - Klopp may decide that in taking Dortmund to a Champions League final he has gone as far as he can. He has already lost Gotze to Bayern and several other star Dortmund players could be heading for the exit too. Arsenal would a be a real challenge for the young, ambitious and articulate German. Again he could bring some prize assets with him too – Lewandowski?

4 Joachim Löw – The current German manager might fancy a return to club football and Arsenal would be a good fit for a boss whose teams play fast attacking, fluid football.

5 Thierry Henry – The very long shot. But the fans would welcome his return, he is very popular with the players and he loves both London and Arsenal. He has some pretty amazing contacts too. Maybe the club could appoint a director of football to work with him in the short term too. Stranger things have happened.


The five reasons why Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger isn’t PSG-bound this summer

By Stefano on April 30th, 2013

First it was clear that he was staying, and now the Telegraph has suggested that he is on his way to France. So where will Arsene Wenger be managing next season? I think there is only one place – Arsenal.

The Frenchman isn’t about to jettison his North London project a year earlier for the following reasons.

1 At Arsenal he runs the show – If he wants a player he works with the board to get them. At PSG it could be different. There are the club’s cash backers who may insist on signings too. Did Anecelotti really want David Beckham in his squad? Wenger has huge power at Arsenal, that won’t be the case in Paris.

2 He won’t want the pressure – Sure next season at Arsenal could be tough, it will be especially difficult for the Frenchman if the signings and real campaign for silverware doesn’t materialise. But in Paris success will have to be instantaneous. If Wenger doesn’t at the very least stroll to the Ligue One title and mount a very serious challenge for the Champions League he could be out on his ear. Does a guy in his 60s need that kind of pressure?

3 It would mean breaking his contract with Arsenal – Arsene just isn’t that type of person. He will want to see what happens next season with the Gunners. He may after all be angling for an extension to his contract if things go well.

4 There will still be plenty of options in summer 2014 – If Wenger does still want to manage PSG there’s a good chance the job will be available – especially if the manager that the club choose doesn’t succeed.

5 If he goes now he will be leaving the club at a low point – Arsenal might still finish third, but there is no doubt that this has been Wenger’s most difficult season at the club. He will be desperate to go out on a high and one last crack at winning some silverware is very tempting for him.


Is Wenger leaving Arsenal and heading for PSG?

By Stefano on April 30th, 2013

I though we had this one sorted yesterday when Arsene Wenger seemed to commit to Arsenal for the next twelve months, but apparently not.

In case you haven’t seen it though this morning The Telegraph is suggesting that leading figures at PSG have been telling members of the French footballing elite that Arsene is on his way.

And not just in summer 2014 when his contract with Arsenal runs out – but this summer.

The theory runs like this. Carlo Anecleotti has said he wants to go – possibly to replace the Chelsea-bound Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid. PSG need a manager to guide them through a serious crack at the Champions League next season. The French club is quite possibly the only club that Wenger would consider. His family could even stay in London while he works in Paris

It would also mean leaving Arsenal behind hopefully for Wenger safe in the knowledge that the club has weathered the worst and can also make a real attempt at the Champions League/Premiership next season off the back of £70 milion worth of investment.

As the Telegraph reports

Asked about the rumours in his native France connecting him to Ancelotti’s job, Wenger said after the 1-1 draw with Manchester United on Sunday: “First of all I don’t know too much about what’s been said about me. Then I’m concentrating on the next game and the next season. At the end of my contract I’ll see what I can do. I’ve always respected my contracts. I can’t see at my age why that should change.” Seasoned Wenger-watchers detected a note of ambiguity in that statement.

So what do you think? Is Arsene on his way back to France?


Will Arsenal fans ever forgive Robin Van Persie?

By Stefano on April 29th, 2013

There was one very brief, but very poignant moment yesterday at The Emirates. After heading towards the away fans to applaud them the ex-Arsenal striker turned awkwardly towards a section of Arsenal fans and continued to clap. But with his ears ringing with boos the Dutchman realised that no one in the home section of the stadium was going to appreciate his gesture and he headed off down the tunnel.

I must admit I had very mixed feelings about RVP’s return. I knew it was going to hurt, but I wasn’t quite sure how much. Fortunately I missed the shenanigans at the start of the game, but I am told that it passed off without too much of an incident. And while seeing the fella tearing down on our defence wearing that horrible white shirt was an awful sight, I really couldn’t bring myself to add my voice to the pantomime booers.

I think I had moved on a lot more than I had previously thought.

As for RVP I don’t think that anyone can deny that he still has a real affection for the club. Heading for the wrong dressing room and hanging out with his old team mates afterwards said it all yesterday.

The sad part is that it is also clear that after yesterday RVP really wants Arsenal fans to still love him.

Today Patrice Evra has confirmed that RVP was hurt by the boos that greeted his every touch of the ball.

But then again, what did he expect…

So will Arsenal fans ever forgive RVP? I do wonder if the bitterness will start to subside a little. I think much of what we feel about him is fueled by the fact that he has been so successful at United. Next season won’t be the same. His lack of form in recent weeks shows that he is unlikely to be the exceptional player that he was at the end of his Arsenal carer and his start at United for much longer.

Maybe, and it is a big maybe, if Arsenal seriously compete for the tile next year and even finish above United things will start to look different.

So even though the manner in which he left Arsenal was pretty low and the fact that he went to one of our deadliest rivals, I wonder if in the long run RVP might be hailed once again as an Arsenal hero.

Time will tell…


Has Arsene Wenger had his transfer war chest cut to £60 million?

By Stefano on April 29th, 2013

Bit of an odd one this, but in an interview with French paper L’Equipe Arsene Wenger not only confirms that he will be at Arsenal next season, but also seems to suggest that he has had £10 million cut from his transfer budget.

Up until now the figure that has widely reported is that Wenger has been given a £70 million war chest. However in the interview it is suggested that the board…

‘will make available £60 million for Wenger to strengthen his squad this summer.’

Hmm, so is that just a typo? Or has someone got their fact wrong? Or will it be £50 million next week now that the fans seem to be pacified and Champions League football looks like a string possibility.

What do you think?


Is Cesc Fabregas on his way back to Arsenal? The four reasons why he might be

By Stefano on April 28th, 2013

Well that’s what the Star is suggesting this morning. The theory runs like this.

1 Barcelona can’t seem to accommodate him in their team. This article looks in depth about how they have chosen to use him. The evidence is clear is that while he was brought in to replace Xavi he just hasn’t worked in that role. He has played best just behind the strikers or as a fake number nine – roles that Barca find tricky to offer him on a regular basis.

2 Barca need a big spend this summer - The shock defeat at Bayern has set alarm bells ringing. The club needs to spend and the cash received for Cesc could help fund that spree.

3 Arsenal are rumoured to have first option on the player – Is there a clause which gives the north London club first option on a Cesc return to the Premiership? Possibly. Wenger would clearly jump at the chance of re-signing his star player.

4 Fabregas’ girlfriend is London based - Daniella Semaan, which has just given birth to his first child, is London based and Cesc is rumoured to have tried to buy a flat in London for her.

So it does kind of add up. I think it would be hard for Fabregas to leave his home club with his tail between his legs. He has been reasonably successful at the club but not really replicated his astonishing form for Arsenal.

Might he be part of a £50 million package along with Villa and Song? Keep dreaming Arsenal fans…


Gervinho, Walcott, Podolski – who should start upfront for Arsenal today?

By Stefano on April 28th, 2013

With all the talk about Robin van Persie, this would have been a perfect opportunity for his successor at Arsenal, Olivier Giroud, to prove he’s been a decent replacement in his first Premier League campaign. Giroud has been unable to match Van Persie’s goalscoring tally, but his all-round play has been decent.

Giroud’s red card for a clumsy tackle at Craven Cottage last weekend means a three-game suspension, however, and therefore Arsene Wenger has a choice between Gervinho, Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski upfront this weekend. All three have more regularly started on the flanks, but Gervinho started the season well upfront, and the other two insist they prefer a central striking role.

Walcott’s main quality, of course, is his raw pace in behind. He’s often played well when given opportunities upfront this season, but expect Sir Alex Ferguson to field a centre-back pairing that won’t be sluggish against his acceleration. Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic probably isn’t the right combination, and Jonny Evans alongside Chris Smalling worked well at the Emirates last season.

It’s difficult to see what Podolski offers over the other two ­ he’s similarly direct, and likes breaking onto through-balls, but lacks Walcott’s raw pace or Gervinho’s dribbling ability. Interestingly, the German hasn’t started a Premier League game since January, with some suggesting his lack of work rate and stamina in a defensive sense has frustrated Wenger.

If Podolski isn’t starting on the left, and doesn’t start upfront despite Giroud’s unavailability, you wonder precisely what his purpose at Arsenal is. Gervinho and Walcott seems a better bet, with the duo able to alternate between the right flank, and the centre-forward role.

Article originally published here.


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