Archive for the ‘Football’ Category


Arsenal update: All quiet, but for one last push for David Villa or Edin Džeko?

By Stefano on January 31st, 2013

After a game in which Arsenal created a huge number of chances only to see many of them squandered by their current striker you might have thought that Arsene Wenger would be combing Europe for reinforcements. Well Wenger said after the game last night

“We will try to be active. It won’t be easy but at the moment I have nothing to give to you unfortunately.”

This does however tantalisingly suggest that the Arsenal fax might get a bit of a whizz today and that it is pointing in the direction of Barcelona.

Whether it is hearsay, or maybe that they have ruin with the story so long, a couple of sources are suggesting that Arsenal will have one last crack at persuading the Catalans to part with David Villa.

It is a move that Vila is keen on and that would suit Arsenal too, but the fact that there are only a few hours left would suggest a lot of work would have to be done very quickly to push it through. And that would have to start with a change of heart from Barca’s management team.

The Metro suggests that Wenger will add left back to cover for Kieran Gibbs who will be out for three weeks with a thigh injury.

Meanwhile the talk of The Emirates last night was that Edin Džeko was once again a target. Even though Balotelli is gone Mancini appears to be looking to offload the Bosnian and several German clubs are interested in the player.

Wenger, however likes a last minute trolley dash – remember how many players Arsenal signed at the window’s end in August 2011? – so who knows what will happen today.


BBC reports that Arsenal and Spurs target Mohammed Diame will sign new contract at West Ham

By Stefano on January 30th, 2013

At one point it seemed like West Ham’s Mohammed Diame was within a few hours of becoming an Arsenal player. Then yesterday it appeared as if he would be on his way to White Hart Lane.

The latest news from West Ham is that the player is not only staying with the Hammers but may even sign a new contract.

Don’t hold your breath though for this is the player that Hammers’ boss Sam Allardyce says “changes his mind from one hour to the next.”

However the BBC’s Ben Smith has just posted this on the Beeb’s sports website

“West Ham are increasingly confident that he (Diame) will sign a new contract with them in the coming days. Contrary to reports, Diame’s release clause is closer to £7m than £3.5m, but West Ham are hopeful that any new deal would see that removed and end speculation on his future.

“The one variable in all this is the player himself.”

Both Arsenal and Spurs are apparently looking for a central, defensively minded midfielder and Diame would fit that bill. It seems now though that both teams will wait until the summer to strengthen.


Five possible reasons why Arsenal haven’t signed any players in the window

By Stefano on January 30th, 2013

So with less than 48 hours to go Arsenal have signed exactly zero players in the window (I am not counting Walcott). Their rivals for Champions League places, Liverpool and Chelsea, have both significantly strengthened their squads by adding new players and in the case of The Reds it has already given them some very real momentum. Arsenal will find out exactly how much momentum later today.

Yet there remains the very strong chance that at the end of tomorrow night the Arsenal squad will be pretty much as it was a month ago.

Arsenal fans seem unsure of what to make of this. I read the always interesting Ashburton Grove this morning who talks of how he was not expecting any signings, but if one does land it would be nice surprise.

He says

I’m at peace with myself that we won’t make any signings. If we do, it will be a nice surprise. So that means putting my full support behind the players pulling on the Arsenal shirt until the end of the season, continuing against Liverpool tonight.

Other fans take a more aggressive view. They think that the club is going to struggle to reach fourth place and is in dire need of reinforcements. Wenger, Gazidis and their team have had a month to get new blood in, what has happened? The money is there, there are financially struggling clubs all over Europe and there are some great potential deals to be done. So why no new players?

No one knows exactly what has gone on at Arsenal this month part from Arsene and Ivan, but here are my pet theories as to why it is possible that Arsenal haven’t signed anyone.

1 Arsene is happy with the squad he has – The club’s recent results haven’t been bad, Walcott has signed a new contract and, although it is not a done deal, fourth place is still a very real possibility. Arsenal have the players,  they just need to gel together.

This all depends on expectation levels. If the limit of Arsenal’s ambition is fourth place then Wenger may have a point. Ultimately Arsenal fans are expecting a lot more. They want to be  challenging United and City for the title. If that is the case the team desperately needs new players. Even Wojciech Szczesny admitted to this yesterday when in The Guardian he said.

“Over a long time I’ve honestly had enough of people saying Arsenal’s defence is not good enough. People judge defence on the back of goals conceded but you have to have a look at the defending in general. If my back four are completely exposed against Chelsea – most of the time in the first half there it was four of my defenders against six Chelsea players – they were disadvantaged all the time. You have to look at the defending of the whole team, the shape of the whole team. People blame the Arsenal defenders way too much over the past couple of seasons.

That sounds like to me a cry for a reliable committed defensive midfielder.

Also look at Arsenal’s rivals. United might be many points clear but even they looked to  the future in the window in signing Wilfried Zaha – a player who realistically could have been an Arsenal signing.

2 Arsene can’t make his mind up -
The Frenchman knows that he needs to add players, but he can’t decide which ones. So Yann M’Vila is coming, and then he isn’t. Mohamed Diame is on his way but then Wenger goes cold on him.

I do think that indecision is playing a role. Arsene has consistently stated he only wants to sign exceptional players, but I am not sure in his head who he thinks is exceptional as it seems to change all the time.

3 Arsene can’t bear to spend the money – There are lots of players who Arsene would consider signing, but he isn’t going to splash the cash to get them. He has constantly alluded to the fact that you don’t apparently get good value in the winter window and this means that he is not bidding enough money for the players he wants.

Who knows if Arsenal made bids for Zaha, Villa etc. But I know Arsenal clearly bid for Gary Cahill and that piss takey sum incensed Bolton so much that it was inevitable that Cahill was on is way to Chelsea. I can also see Arsenal getting gazumped by City on a David Villa deal. I wonder if Wegner was so traumatised by criticism of his recent transfer policy (coughs, Park) and the way he seems to be paying mediocre players large wages that this means he deems it essential to be financially very, very prudent, and Arsenal end up with players who are 30% less talented than the ones they are replacing.

4 Wenger and Gazidis are just rubbish at transfers – This one gets trotted out a lot by Wenger’s critics. In the old days David Dein  spoke to Arsene, got a shopping list and off he went. Since Dein’s exit Arsenal’s transfer strategy seems to have been a lot more haphazard and there are those who think that Wenger doesn’t know what he is doing. They point to the fact that other clubs tied up players early while Wenger  has left it until last minute in search of a bargain.

For me this has a ring of truth. Arsenal’s transfer strategy seems flawed in that the longer you leave it to execute on your targets the more complex things become. Sure you pay more money earlier in the window, but then you get the pick of the players you want. I sometimes wonder if Wenger likes a deal more than he likes making great signings.

5 The money isn’t there – Maybe this £100 million war chest doesn’t exist. It is all a sham and Arsenal were never going to sign any players at all.

So what do you think? Any other reasons?


Arsenal update: one last try to sign David Villa, but now Man City want him too

By Stefano on January 30th, 2013

In what is perhaps the most predictable news of the day The Daily Mail is running with the story that after crisis talks with Ivan Gazidis Arsene Wenger is going to have one last try to sign David Villa in the window.

The Mail says

Arsenal remain in pursuit of Barcelona striker Villa, despite Wenger insisting yesterday that a potential deal for the Spaniard was dead in the water.

The Gunners will make a final offer to Barca chiefs in the next 24 hours in a bid to bring him to the Emirates, with Villa understood to be keen to join the Gunners.

The trouble for Wenger is that he might have to think about upping his bid a little to stave off a possible challenge for the player from the newly minted Man City. With the best part of £20 million jingling in his pocket Roberto Mancini needs another striker to replace Mario Balotelli and according to the Mirror David Villa more than fits the bill.

The Mirror says

The Mirror has learned that City have already made an inquiry about Villa, with a view to rushing through a deal before Thursday night’s transfer deadline.

City boss Roberto Mancini wants to bring his quota of senior strikers back to four after finally getting rid of Balotelli and sees Villa as the ideal recruit.

Ex-Barca officials Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain, now City’s chief executive and sporting director respectively, could use their contacts at their former club to help seal a deal.

Although Barca do not want to sell Villa, Eastlands bosses are hoping an offer of £15m could tempt them to part with the 31-year-old, who has a poor injury record.

If City are serious their deep financial reserves and their relationships with Barcelona would seem to put them in pole position. In Arsenal’s favour Villa is alleged to favour a move to London and they are also owed a significant amount of cash by Barca for the Song and Fabregas deals.

How galling would that be for Arsenal fans? Lose a load of players to City and then they grab your top transfer target.

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again – this one is going to to the wire.


Allardyce acknowledges he ‘might lose’ Diame. But will it be to Arsenal or Spurs?

By Stefano on January 29th, 2013

Interesting quote this morning from a press conference given by West Ham boss Sam Allardyce.

Asked about what the situation was with Mohammed Diame Allardyce seemed to acknowledge that the controversial midfielder could be on his way out of Upton Park.

Allardyce said ‘It is total confusion. I’m as confused as anyone. I hope we don’t, but we might lose him.’

Diame, who has played superbly for the Hammers this season has been tracked by Arsene Wenger for quite some time. However some sources, well the Metro are suggesting that Spurs may have moved ahead in the race to sign the player. The rumour is that he has a £3.5million buyout clause in his contract, but in reality the clubs may expect to pay a lot more than that for his services.


Are Reading likely to trouble Chelsea?

By Stefano on January 29th, 2013

Brian McDermott has a selection dilemma for the home match with Chelsea: he’s started the last two matches with a 4-5-1 formation. However, in both matches he’s changed to a 4-4-2 formation midway through the second half, with fantastic results. First, Reading won 3-2 at home to West Brom, having trailed 2-0, and then they came back from 1-0 down at Newcastle, to record a 2-1 victory.

So what does McDermott do: preserve with the 4-5-1, or move to the shape that has brought second half success? It’s impossible to ignore the strengthof the opposition: Chelsea have a plethora of talented attacking midfielders who thrive on space between the lines, and McDermott will recall how Reading conceded four goals at home Manchester United, and five at home to Arsenal, when he was brave enough to select two strikers. Mikele Leigertwood will probably play a disciplined holding role, shielding the defence.

Therefore, a return to 4-5-1, or 4-1-4-1, to be more precise, seems likely. But who will spearhead the side? Pavel Pogrebnyak has been a regular in the Premier League over the past month, but Adam Le Fondre was excellent in the win at Newcastle as a substitute, while Noel Hunt scored two in the FA Cup win against Sheffield United.

Still, Pogrebnyak will battle against Chelsea’s physical centre-halves and provide a target for crosses, and he seems the most likely lone striker, especially as he scored in the early season defeat at Stamford Bridge. Le Fondre is set to play a supersub role again.

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.


Wenger says Barcelona don’t want to sell Villa to Arsenal

By Stefano on January 29th, 2013

Bad news for Arsenal fans. Arsene Wenger has revealed during his press conference this morning that David Villa is unlikely to join Arsenal during the transfer window as the Catalans aren’t prepared to sell their star striker.

In spite of Villa being keen to join Arsenal and Wenger being keen on the player, the Gunners boss said

‘Barcelona do not want to sell David Villa, they have made that very, very clear.’

David Villa’s wife gave birth to their third child last night, a boy named Luca, which may complicate any possible move.

Given the way that Arsenal have undertaken negotiations in the past though I wouldn’t completely rule it out until midnight on Thursday.

At the same conference Wenger also ruled out signing David Beckham who has been training with the Arsenal team.


Liverpool’s tactics against Arsenal – some interesting decisions for Brendan Rodgers

By Stefano on January 29th, 2013

A peculiar feature of Liverpool’s difficult away games under Brendan Rodgers is his tendency to completely change his side’s formation at half-time: away at Everton, Chelsea and Manchester United he’s dramatically altered his side after an underwhelming first-half performance. Now, especially after the weekend embarrassment at Oldham, he’s under pressure to get it right from the start.

Following the arrival of Daniel Sturridge, Fabio Borini’s return from injury, plus Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson’s good form, Rodgers has plenty of experienced players to call upon. As a result, Raheem Sterling will predominantly be a substitute for the rest of this season, while Suso is no longer a regular, and instead on the periphery of the squad.

Sterling, Borini and Joe Allen were omitted from the side that convincingly defeated Norwich 5-0 at Anfield ten days ago, and none did anything against Oldham to suggest they deserve a place in the side for the trip to Arsenal. Sterling would be a risk defensively, Borini isn’t yet 100% fit following his injury lay-off, while Allen has been in poor form.

The natural approach would see Rodgers revert to the side that faced Norwich: Lucas Leiva and Steven Gerrard sitting deep, then Downing, Henderson and Luis Suarez behind Sturridge. But will Rodgers be brave enough to play that system at the Emirates, considering Arsenal’s tendency to dominate possession? I can’t help feeling that he’ll will want some extra passing quality in the centre of the pitch, and might start Allen: this is surely a game made for him, despite his recent form.

That would probably mean Henderson dropping to the bench, with Downing on the left and Suarez cutting inside to join Sturridge. With so many versatile options, Rodgers’ tinkering is understandable, but he needs to get things right at Arsenal.

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.


The truth about Arsenal transfer denials – and why I think Villa is on his way

By Stefano on January 29th, 2013

So Arsenal fans – in 48 hours or so time the squad you cherish so much might still be exactly the same with no new additions. And this in spite of the fact that Arsene Wenger stressed that he wanted buy two players.

But then again one of Europe’s top strikers might just be about to sign.

It is eerily quite this morning concerning the possible move of Barcelona’s David Villa to Arsenal. The story broke once again yesterday with claiming that Arsenal had dispatched Dicky Law to Spain to push the deal through.

A few hours later Sky Sports said that Arsenal hadn’t begin talks with the player.

But who is right? I can’t comment on the Goal story, someone must have seen Law jumping off the EasyJet flight from Luton… But the Sky Sports story is completely uncredited. It may be the words of an Arsenal employee, but it is more likely to be the TV network’s Spanish expert Guillem Balague, who Gunners fans may remember was a rather annoying sideshow during the Fabregas sale.

The point is that we really don’t know and even if Arsene Wenger denies that talks have begun today I wouldn’t write the transfer off. Arsene has consistently denied that Arsenal about to sign players before going on and signing them. Arteta, Cazorla, Arshavin – there’s a long list here. He even denied that Podolski was a done deal when it patently was. And as for Carzorla there was plenty of noise from Malaga about him not going, just as there is now from Barcelona.

It is not that Arsene is a liar, it is just that club is in the midst of complex negotiations – the Villa one could be very tricky given the money that Barca already owes Arsenal – and they are not going to admit to the press that the deal might be about to go through.

You might also remember this story about a Liverpool blogger and the supposed impact he had on deals.

Of course this all might be wishful thinking (as it seemed to be with Arshavin a few years ago), but I don’t think we can forget the Villa to Arsenal story to one minute past twelve on Friday morning.



Arsenal begin ‘formal talks’ with Barcelona to sign David Villa

By Stefano on January 28th, 2013

Ok Arsenal fans. So you have endured a pretty rotten transfer window, but there are signs that it is about to get a whole lot better. If I were a betting man I’d put money on Mohamed Diame being an Arsenal player in the next 48 hours.

But even more exciting is the news, which has been reported by Goal, that Arsenal have opened formal talks with Barcelona to sign David Villa.

Goal says

The Gunners’ contract negotiator Dicky Law has been in Spain to negotiate the transfer of the country’s all-time leading goalscorer and Arsenal are increasingly hopeful they can push through what would be a sensational deal in the last days of the window.

The club are reluctant to let the player go, but it appears that Villa has set his heart on leaving Catalonia and that Arsenal are his preferred destination.

The rumour is that Arsenal will fork out £13.8 million to sign him on a permanent deal and match his current £110,000-a-week wages.

The interesting part is that Arsenal may hold a lot of the ace cards as Barcelona owe them money for both Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song.

So Arsenal fans would the arrival of Villa be some recompense for all the players (Petit, Overmars, Henry, Hleb, Fabregas and Song) who have moved to Spain over the years?

And is Villa finally a replacement for Robin Van Persie?

Or is Wenger about to cough up a lot of cash for a player who is past his best, will be dogged by injuries and might not suit the way the Gunners play?

What do you think?

UPDATE – Sky are saying that Arsenal have denied that the talks are taking place. This one is going to the wire…

Great post here on how Arsenal denied interest in both Arteta and Cazorla



Arsenal tracking hot Dutch youngster Adam Maher

By Stefano on January 28th, 2013

There’s a bit of a buzz about a potential Arsenal transfer this morning of AZ Alkmaar youngster Adam Maher. The midfilder’s boss at Alkmaar is even suggesting that he would be ideal for the North London club.

Maher is one of the hottest properties in the Dutch Eredivisie and is being tracked by many European clubs.

Gertjan Verbee thinks that the nineteen year old would thrive at the Emirates. In an interview with Studio Voetbal (via Metro) Verbee said

“I think Arsenal would be a good environment for him. He would work with Arsene Wenger, who knows how to bring on these young talents. I think he would improve a lot there, just like Robin van Persie.”

It sounds like Verbee is resigned to the fact that he could be losing his star player (Maher has indicated that he wants to go) and doesn’t want to sell to another team in the same league (PSV Eindhoven are especially keen on Maher) – take note Arsene Wenger.

The asking price for the player is apparently around £8.5 million.

I am not sure where he would fit in the current Arsenal team – maybe as a replacement for Rosicky – but judging from the YouTube he clearly would be a very useful addition to the squad.

Pic from Wikipedia


Liverpool fans. Is it time to say goodbye to Brendan Rodgers?

By Stefano on January 28th, 2013

Our Liverpool FC corespondent, David Owens, thinks that Rodgers could be two games away from getting the push

Hours after Liverpool’s humiliating FA Cup exit at the hands of Oldham, it is easy to go route one and call for the head of the manager… after all that’s what modern football is all about isn’t it? Time was when managers had what was called time – amazing to think Slur Alex Ferguson went 4 years before winning a trophy and gave the United faithful the delights of Ralph Milne to enjoy…. Will his successor be given such a luxury (time not Ralph Milne!). Liverpool fans have always given managers time – but that all changed last season when our owners decided that a trophy, and a cup final were not enough compared to a poor league finish in 8th and so our manager was sacked, giving in my eyes carte blanche for fans to expect the same treatment to all managers – I mean, they were the ones mentioning progress, Champions League etc etc not us!

In truth the time to properly assess Rodgers is at the end of the season. He has the benefit, if you could call it as such, that for half the season he was working with one hand behind his back only having one striker, a situation for which he was not wholly responsible. That said, this defeat will heap a whole cart load of pressure on him and sadly all now of his own making.

Liverpool of late have been playing well, scoring goals and looking slick in terms of passing and tempo. However, all of the good work done is being destroyed, and then some, by some absolutely disastrous team selections – selections which in terms of their regularity and awfulness ask serious questions of Rodgers’s suitability as Liverpool manager. Many of Liverpool’s recent defeats come back to selection. Now you could say that most defeats do, but it is the lack of sense or thought in some of these selections which ask questions, and don’t get me started on the tactics.

For example, Stoke City away, no place for the likes of Suso or Stewart Downing – but both started and were ineffective. Liverpool spent far too much time tippy tapping the ball around their own penalty area and allowed Stoke to hassle them down. Sadly Stoke away is a game for men, and a team willing to put a shift in, you play a bit more direct and play them at their own game.

The game at Old Trafford, Liverpool were not at the races for 55 minutes – when Manchester United are clearly struggling at the back and any team attacking them have half a chance, what does Brendan do, sets up his team to sit back and soak up pressure…. Granted he did change things at half time but too late.

And so to today, cold wet Lancashire day, a big tough limited Oldham side – and what does Brendan do… include slight slender players not used to this sort of pressure bowl – Coates, Allen, Sterling, Borini, Robinson… just totally ludicrous selections, handing on a plate to Oldham a massive slice of initiative.

Add in some serious questions of the buys Rodgers has authorised – £15m for Joe Allen looks worse value than £14m for the improving Henderson, £12m for Borini looks laughable not to mention the waste of time that was Sahin, and Rodgers has some crawling to the fans to do… it is OK for some to say we must back him and trust him – but first of all you need to earn the right, and every time he buys a packet of trust, he washes it all away with poor decisions.

This is where the equation at year end really takes a strange turn. In my eyes, and I think 95% of fans eyes – even Arsenal fans, the most important decider on a season’s success is silverware. Liverpool won a cup last season and were arguably a whisker from a second ( I still think Carroll’s header was over the line in the FA Cup final). However by finishing a poor 8th in the league, our owners said it was not enough – even for a legend of the club, and Kenny Dalglish was sacked…. So what is Brendan’s minimum requirement from the owners? … and, what is it from Liverpool fans, keen to cut him some slack but desperate to see progress.

Brendan’s only hope of a cup is now the Uefa Cup, but with potentially 2 awkward trips to Eastern Europe ahead, and his habit of playing a few younger lads, it seems to indicate it is not priority number 1 – he may have to change that now as now as a lack of silverware will place a very sharp focus on league form. Liverpool fans overlooked 8th last season because we won a trophy… no trophy means a European place is a must in terms of a league finish. This may still yet be 6th place if the FA Cup is won by Arsenal / Man U / Man C or Chelsea as all 4 are likely to be top 6… if you include Everton and Tottenham in that list, Liverpool are at the moment fighting West Brom for 7th… unacceptable. So what can Brendan do to get into that top 6, can he break into the top 4?

Much will depend on the next 2 fixtures – Arsenal and Man City away. 2 defeats and I would say Liverpool fans ire will be palpable… if we are still in touching distance then slack will continue to be cut.

Given though no one really knows what is going on in our owners mind’s as they do not seem to say much, we can only go on their actions at the end of last season – and the dreaded Champions League word was mentioned – so with potentially no trophy this season and 4th possibly a pipedream come Sunday of results are poor… I’d say Brendan could well be inundated with offers of getting his coat for him.


Arsenal update: Mohamed Diame ready to join, striker hunt continues

By Stefano on January 28th, 2013

With only three days to go before the end of the transfer window Arsene Wenger should in theory be a busy man today. If Arsenal are going to sign two players before the deadline we should start hearing some concrete news from The Emirates very soon.

One player who is apparently desperate to join Arsenal is West Ham’s Mohamed Diame. The Daily Mail reports that the tough tackling midfielder has already told friends that he is very keen to head to North London. Diame is allegedly in trouble with Hammers boss Sam Allardyce for missing a 7am meeting last week to go through the games against the Gunners.

Wenger’s hunt for a striker continues with the morning with the papers highlighting three fronts. The Daily Mail says that Wenger is stepping up his campaign to prise David Vila from Barcelona.

If Villa doesn’t join Wenger is still apparently interested in both Fiorentina’s Stevan Jovetic and Atletico Madrid’s Adrian Lopez.

I guess we will hear some more new today.

Meanwhile Arsenal’s current striker Olivier Giroud has been talking about how much he is enjoying life in the Premiership.

“I chose this championship because there is more intensity, more physically, you have to be ready in the athletic way. I like it but I like to play good football as well. It’s been a very important week. I’ve had a lot of time to play. I had a difficult time a couple of weeks ago when I didn’t play a lot so I had to keep confident, keep going and it’s important for me to score in both matches.

“I was not so far from scoring a hat-trick again. But I want to continue to work hard, to succeed and I’d like to score my first hat-trick soon.

“I play better not when I’m angry but when I’ve got determination. It’s very important in football. When you don’t have the hunger you can’t play very well and succeed. You need it. We want to get six points against Liverpool and Stoke to reach Tottenham and fourth place. We are looking forward now, we want to reach fourth and then we will play and see where we get.”


Arsenal update: Does Giroud’s form mean the chase for David Villa is over?

By Stefano on January 27th, 2013

Given the circumstances a 3-2 FA Cup win away at Brighton isn’t too bad a result for Arsenal. Well it would have seemed that way to the fans until they saw Man United blast their way past Fulham.

The most notable thing about the Brighton game though was the excellent form of one Olivier Giroud.

The French striker has now scored six times in eight games and is starting to win over the Arsenal faithful who were concerned by the length of time he took to acclimatise to the Premiership.

Arsene Wenger has been singing his praises too likening him to Arsenal legend Alan Smith. Yesterday’s goals were top drawer too. The first a bending shot from outside the area that gave the keeper no chance. The second, possibly even a better, a beautiful piece of skill to control a long pass from Diaby and then a lethal shot. Dare I say it it was almost Van Persie-esque in its execution.

In spite of his form though most Arsenal fans are still desperate for an A list striker to be added to the squad. Barcelona’s David Villa tops many fans wants lists, but others like Adrian Lopez would be welcome additions.

The only problem for Gunners fans is that Giroud’s run of form has coincided with Wenger’s back tracking on buying players in the window. In spite of rumours about team on their way to the Catalan Capital to secure Villa’s services, Wenger has said that there has been no contact between the two clubs about the player.

It isn’t just Villa. There is the ongoing link with Lopez. The dream move for Cavani – though that has gone predictably quiet – and the mooted move for Aston Villa’s in form Christian Benteke.

As well as Giroud (and Walcott) are playing at the moment if Arsenal are to qualify for the Champions League they do need to replace Van Persie with a world class striker. Giroud is arguably a tanned version, not of Alan Smith, but another Arsenal forward with ball holding attributes Nick Bendnter. The French man will achieve more at The Emirates in long run, but he is not the player who will ensure that Wenger end the season with the fans on his side.

Wenger said at his conference yesterday

Asked if he needs to sign a new striker before the transfer window closes on Thursday night, Wenger said: “Quality-wise, no. But number-wise we are maybe a bit short.

“It will not be easy, though, because you do not find strikers who are good enough to play for us on the street.”

That doesn’t sound like a man ready to break the bank to re-ignite Arsenal’s season.


Arsenal’s decline – it isn’t all about Arsene Wenger

By Stefano on January 27th, 2013

Julius from one
Gunner Gooner blog on why Arsenal’s troubles aren’t all about the manager.

Arsenal’s players are still not good enough, our board is still too stingy and our fans still pay too much money to sit in sub-zero temperatures and watch the away end dance for 90 minutes. Yet I still have optimism that the season can be saved, by which I mean finishing ahead of Tottenham and having enough change kicking around to buy a decent player or three.

For this is a road trod by Gooners all too often since Patrick Vieira kick started the annual Islington merry-go-round. To list every star player replaced with a slightly worse one would not only pluck at tired heartstrings but also tease anger out of a normally docile support that has collectively sighed more times than Private Eye’s legal team. Summers meant for relaxing are spent shredding nails over the latest overpaid, underworked mercenary that sees both silver and gold at stadia other than the Emirates. Gruelling winters are endured at the computer with a mug of tea, scanning forums and social networks for signs that Arsenal will purchase anyone other than pre-pubescent fullbacks in the January window.

This should not be the reality. There is a generation of young supporters who are growing up with scarce remembrance of any trophy more prestigious than the Markus Liebherr Memorial Cup. The highlight of each season is increasingly likely to be a turnaround against our North London rivals, inspired by another world class Wenger-tuned mercenary who’s off in the next window. The delight in celebrating a derby win is paradoxical given one’s acceptance that this is about as good as it’s going to get. Of course, Walcott has just signed a new contract. But the fact that this wasn’t expected speaks War And Peace-style volumes about the logistical mess that is our club. This should not have taken 7 months. We were too slow.

And through our giddy sideways stumbles, the enemy three miles up Seven Sisters Road have strode forward to emerge as serious rivals. Tottenham have bought shrewder than us, kept and neutered their players better than today’s Arsenal seems capable of. Their previously limited ambitions have become rather grand, and now there is little reason other than history as to why Spurs cannot take our Champions League place. In Gareth Bale they have the kind of game changer that we have sold several times over, yet the reason why he could be persuaded to sign a new deal and Hleb, Flamini, Adebayor, Nasri and Van Persie could not is perplexing to say the least.

At the heart of it all is Arsene Wenger. His faults are well established. He is, at least publicly, too loyal to players that don’t appreciate his commitment to their careers. He is perhaps too prudent, an Economics degree surely contributing to his view on what is true value for money. He is notoriously stubborn and has training his way, not giving enough time to Steve Bould to mould the defence into a shape rather than just four footballers occasionally in a weak horizontal line. Saying that the top four is like silverware doesn’t help the supporters of a club that hasn’t lifted the curse, or a trophy for that matter, for over seven years now. No matter what happens this season, it will be at least eight.

But it is too simple to address Wenger and Wenger alone. He is an easy target, a gangly Frenchman who almost looks to be a caricature of himself. He is obviously incredibly intelligent, yet all too often boils over when things don’t go his way. The world seems to be against him at the best of times; he can receive a touchline ban for kicking an innocent water bottle yet Ferguson often gets away with what can only be described as harassment of officials who, unlike water bottles, have feelings. When his side has come close to recreating the magic of 1998-2005, he has endured torment and heartbreak as it is often inches or seconds that take Arsenal’s tilt at a trophy away. Take Lehman’s sending off against Barcelona in 2006. Eduardo’s leg break in 2008, a year in which Arsenal should have won the Premier League. Van Persie’s ridiculous sending off against Barcelona, and Bendtner’s miss in the same game. Koscielny and Szczęsny’s clanger in the League Cup final, and more recently Gervinho’s open goal clanger against Bradford. Had the Gunners seen off the Bantams (who are 65 places below them in the standings), they would have set up a semi final against a painfully average Aston Villa.

There are those that say Arsenal’s decline is down to Arsene himself. I can emphasise to some extent, but there is no such thing as a perfect manager. It is not a coincidence that David Dean’s departure was the end of champagne and bus parades. He was always the one that forced deals over the line, the one who was willing to push the boat out for top talent. The game is evolving to the stage where the amount of unknown future stars is becoming non-existent, and Wenger himself hasn’t evolved with it. You can guarantee that the best young talent abroad is no longer Arsenal’s market to corner as English clubs have aggressively networked in recent years. This has pushed the price up as competition for players has soared. The result? Juan Mata costing a dear £27m. Chelsea had to shell out £35m to ward off competition from Arsenal and Spurs for Eden Hazard, and Sergio Aguero set Manchester City back £38m.

The introduction of oligarchs in football has dumped gooey black sludge on our beautiful game, tarnishing its foundations and skewing the playing field. It is pointless to debate the ethics of pumping money into a club and ripping the quality away from others, simply because ethics isn’t even closely linked with the sport anymore. Football is no longer about the area, supporters, history and footballing culture. It is about the business, sponsorship and finance speaking louder than the name and crest which have taken hundreds of years to garner their significance. Kroenke’s involvement with the club speaks volumes about how Arsenal’s culture is eroding, as does the blood and £1,955 supporters annually cough up to watch their team stutter and stop season after season.

In any dynamic as complex as the football landscape, there will always be paradoxes that speak for the good and bad shoulders of the football world. In the case of Arsenal, it’s decline is complicated as football appears to have left Arsenal in a time before clubs became rich men’s playthings. Whilst there is hope that this season can be rescued, unless there is a change in Arsenal’s frankly bewildering wage, contract and transfer policy, this decline may be terminal , at least in terms of Arsene Wenger’s astoundingly fascinating reign at the helm of a club he loves will all his heart. No matter what you say about a man turning greyer by the day, you can’t deny his story at the North London outfit would make one hell of a book.

Let’s hope that at the end of Arsene’s reign there will be a happy ending.

Pic Flickr – photographer Dyobmit

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