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Thursday, 29 July 2010

Nike are useless and Federico Marchetti linked to Arsenal

Last night Arsenal posted a statement on the official website telling us that the shorts from the new home kit would not be available before 26th August from any supplier (mine arrived with the pre-ordered shirt?!), apparently due to a problem with Nike. The new kit is out today, but Arsenal waited until last night to tell people there was a problem. What the hell is going on? This is not the first time Arsenal's fans will have been let down by Nike. In 2001 the new gold kit was delayed until after the season had begun. In 2007 it was apparent that the kit released in Summer 2006, as we moved to the new stadium, had a problem with the sponsor printed on the front. Surely this latest problem, along with the non-Arsenal kits produced by this shower over the years, should be enough for Arsenal to tell them the crappy contract they signed with Keith Edelman is now invalid. Let's get a deal with Adidas and get some proper Arsenal kits made and sold from next Summer. Red and white (this years home shirt is by far Nike's best effort) and yellow and blue - it's not rocket science is it?

The latest player linked is goalkeeper Federico Marchetti. He has been told he can leave Cagliari after asking for a transfer. The 27 year old is understudy to Gianluigi Buffon in the Italian national team. Marchetti played in every game for Italy at the World Cup due to Buffon's injured back. I have to say that, with Italy being rubbish, I didn't notice him standing out at all. That's not to say he isn't any good - most Italian national team keepers are pretty useful. I'd rather sign the man he understudies for but, in the absence of a better alternative (and I'm confident Mark Schwarzer isn't better) I'll be happy if Marchetti joins Arsenal.

No blog tomorrow as I am working nights (unless we make a morning signing). The Emirates Cup starts Saturday and I'll preview the AC Milan game on Saturday morning.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Another comfortable win, Big Sol disappoints me, injuries and World Cup hangovers

The boys finished their tour to Austria with a comfortable 4-0 win over SC Neusiedl 1919 yesterday. The stars of the show were, once again, Jack Wilshere (whose delightful dummy set-up the opener for Theo Walcott) and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas who scored superbly from a Kieran Gibbs cut-back. Gibbs was also impressive down the left as he linked superbly, again, with Arshavin. Manuel Almunia made his first appearance of the pre-season campaign as captain - a concern to those of us who want a new goalkeeper. Marouane Chamakh made it 3-0, his first goal for Arsenal, as he put away a penalty he had earned himself, and a delightful Carlos Vela chip wrapped up the scoring. There was still time for Chamakh to give away a penalty with a silly handball, but Vito Mannone (replacing Almunia at half-time) kept up his impressive record against penalties - he's made quite a reputation in the reserves for his prowess at spot-kicks. Of the World Cup players that returned to training only Diaby (more of that below) and Song (no apparent explanation) were missing. Johan Djourou went off in the first-half but should be available for the Emirates Cup this weekend. The mickey mouse pre-season fixtures are finished for the first-team, with rather more serious opposition lying in wait this Saturday when AC Milan come to London. The reserves play at Dagenham tonight.

I am extremely disappointed that Sol Campbell has not signed for Arsenal. The big man has gone to Newcastle instead. When I heard that this was likely yesterday, I assumed he had got his two year contract, that Arsenal were never going to offer. Imagine my surprise to find that he has signed a one year deal. Why? Why would you sign for Newcastle when you could have continued at Arsenal? Surely at 37 your only ambition should be to win trophies while you still can - going to Newcastle is an absolute joke. It's not the first time Sol has let us down at Arsenal. Perhaps we should have known what sort of guy he is when he left Tottenham to join us nine years ago. Back in 2006 he expressed his desire to play abroad, so Arsene Wenger released him from his contract, only for Campbell to join Portsmouth. What happened? Did he get to the ferry and realise he didn't like sailing, so turned up at Fratton Park instead? This time around, his career was over. Wenger allowed him to train with Arsenal and then signed him up. Campbell was outstanding, far better than any of us could have hoped. How does he repay us? By saying that signing for Newcastle is the best move he could have made at this stage of his career. I could have understood if he'd gone to Celtic - easy football, European football, and almost guaranteed silverware. I have loved watching Sol Campbell play for Arsenal, in both his spells - a legend of the Club - but I feel let down by him for showing no respect to Arsenal and to Wenger. The fact that he has not signed for Arsenal brings our defensive problems in to even sharper focus - especially with the injury-prone Djourou limping off again last night.

Arsene Wenger announced today that he doesn't know when Nicklas Bendtner will be fit, and that he will miss the start of the season - just as I said he would last week. Denilson should be fit for the trip to Warsaw next week, as should Diaby. Diaby is a real enigma to me. Brilliant on his day, awful all the rest of the time. I thought he'd made a breakthrough around Christmas as he stayed fit for more than three matches and showed some consistency. Then we played the big clubs and he was back to normal - inconsistent and missing games. It is no surprise to hear he has a knock again (I'm sure he still suffers the effects of his horrendous leg-break in 2006) and he is one of the dead-wood players I often refer to - time to cash in.

Wenger has also given an update on Fabregas and Van Persie, saying that they might miss the start of the season. He needs to assess them physically and mentally on their return on 5th August. What? Thousands of pounds per week, Arsene - get them on the bloody pitch and earning their money! Why exactly have these two been given this time off after the World Cup? Van Persie had a five-month lay-off last season so why does he now need a long break? Fabregas missed the last five weeks of the season, as well as other large chunks of action over the past two years. I just don't get it. I can tell you now, if we go to Anfield 0n the first day with Chamakh, Vela and Walcott as the attacking options, you can forget it. We would be praying for another Arshavin Anfield miracle.

Until tomorrow - please can we have a signing or two?

Monday, 26 July 2010

Aggression is the word of the month, three weeks to go, Commonwealth Games

It seems that Arsenal have a new watch-word - aggression. Over the past few days on the official website we have heard Vermaelen tell us that Koscielny is "strong and aggressive", the new man has, himself, recognised the need for a "physical approach", and Johan Djourou has stated that we must be "more aggressive". The sentiment is fine, but we heard similar soundbites last season and only Vermaelen (and then Sol Campbell) ever fitted the bill in this regard. The fact is that, if someone is not naturally aggressive on the field, they can not become so. The only way for Arsenal to be more aggressive is to sign combative players that will be prepared to mix it with the Stoke's and Blackburn's of the Premier League. We currently don't have those players, so the words will prove to be pretty empty.

There are now less than three weeks until we play the Premier League opener at Liverpool and yet the only signings are Chamakh and an unknown centre-half. The need for a high-standard goalkeeper, a stopper centre-half and a defensive midfielder is still there, and becoming more chronic by the day. If we go in to the new season without these players, and are stuck with the same men that failed to do the job last season, I fear horribly for Arsenal. I also fear horribly for Arsene Wenger because, make no mistake, it will be his fault if the season opens without the necessary reinforcements. I hope that, on the night before we play at Anfield, I will be previewing the new campaign with the necessary reinforcements in place (the sale of some dead-wood like Rosicky and Traore - to name but two - would also please me immensely).

When I started this blog I said that I would, from time to time, comment on non-football stuff. Which brings me to the Commonwealth Games. More specifically it brings me to the non-participation of some of England and Scotland's biggest name stars. Forget Usain Bolt deciding not to go - he is not British - but I am disgusted by Jessica Ennis, Sir Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins and Victoria Pendleton. It appears that, having won a few medals, they believe they can pick and choose when they represent the nation. This is utterly disgraceful. They all (with the exception of Wiggins who is "tired" after the Tour de France) say they are concentrating their efforts towards London 2012. I fail to see how the Olympics, two years hence, can affect your participation in a Championships in 2010. The fact is they do not want to go to India - if the Games were in Britain, Australia, Canada, South Africa or New Zealand they would be going. Their failure to represent their country should result in two things - firstly their automatic deselection from London 2012 and, secondly, the withdrawal of 100% of the National Lottery funding they currently enjoy. I suspect there would be a very quick change of mind should such a choice/ultimatum be given. Can you imagine the furore if an England footballer said he didn't want to go to the Euros in 2012 so that he could prepare for the World Cup in 2014? It would be complete nonsense, just as this is.

I'm back to work tomorrow and Arsenal are playing in the evening. I will blog again on Wednesday, unless Arsenal announce a signing in the morning tomorrow.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Jagielka linked again, two dfferent goalkeepers, Man City cull good for Arsenal?

This years group photo from Austria

According to a couple of papers today we are again linked to Phil Jagielka, with prices ranging from £10m to £15m. I gave my views on Jagielka early last week when there was talk that a £14m bid had been rejected. I really don't see Jagielka benefiting Arsenal's defence, and I certainly don't think he is worth the kind of money being quoted. Time will tell on this one, but there is certainly a lot of talk pointing in the direction of the Everton man.

We are also told that David James is set to go to Celtic after being overlooked by Arsenal. I am told that James spent transfer deadline day in January at London Colney, but a deal could not be concluded with Portsmouth. I would probably be in the minority, but I would welcome his arrival at Arsenal. This is, perhaps, a sign of our parlous goalkeeping situation - but in the face of signing Mark Schwarzer I know who I'd rather see between the sticks next season. The other goalkeeper linked to Arsenal today is Maarten Stekelenburg. He certainly performed well at the World Cup, but apart from that I know little of him. He clearly knows the highest level of the game, though, and he would be a very reasonable acquisition. The goalkeeper that impressed me most at the World Cup was the Swiss, Botaglio. I thought he was dominant in his penalty area and made a series of good saves. I was watching the DVD from the final season at Highbury the other day and noticed that he played against Arsenal for FC Thun, and very nearly secured them a draw in both games.

With the new rules regarding squad size starting this season in the Premier League, Manchester City are going to have to start clearing out their squad. This could be good news for Arsenal as, among the players mooted for a transfer, is Nigel De Jong. The Dutchman was strongly linked with Arsenal before City paid stupid money for him, just months before they could have signed him for nothing. De Jong is strong and a good tackler. He would complement Alex Song very well in the defensive midfield role - a far better option than the likes of Denilson and the woefully inconsistent Abou Diaby. Will Arsenal sign him? Probably not. But there can be no doubt that a player of his type (I've already stated I would like to see Scott Parker at Arsenal) is desperately required to improve the squad. Other City players on the way out appear to include Stephen Ireland, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Craig Bellamy, Wayne Bridge, Roque Santa Cruz and Jo. I wouldn't be surprised to see Adebayor get kicked out too - and how much would we laugh?

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Andrey misses training, Mertesacker linked by the press

There is very little to say today, apart from "happy anniversary" to the wife.

Andrey Arshavin missed training last night, though there is no indication as to why. I can't believe there is anything untoward going on, so I suspect he has some sort of knock, or illness, that prevented his participation. I was hoping to find out if he returned to training this morning but I have been unable to speak to my source in Austria. Fingers crossed that the little Russian is okay.

LATE EDIT: Andrey trained this morning with no apparent problems, so good news there. The players have a night out tonight, to relax following a week in intense heat. No training tomorrow.

The Daily Star is now linking us with a £10m bid for Per Mertesacker. The Daily Star is not what I would call a reliable source, but in the absence of anything else it becomes worthy of comment. Hopefully there is no smoke without fire on this one as we desperately need a big centre-back to play with Vermaelen.

It being a weekend I was hoping for a bit more transfer gossip to give no credence to, but no such luck today. The reserves play this afternoon, with Liam Brady saying he will put out the same squad as played at Crawley the other night. At £11 to get in, it's not bad value, so if you're around North Kent this afternoon, why not pop along and see the young Gunners in action?

That's your lot for today, sorry there's not a bit more.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Wenger staying on in Austria, Almunia in limbo, Denilson and Bendtner update, old habits die hard for Thierry

Arsene Wenger is staying in Austria for at least one day longer than the rest of the Arsenal group. The reasons why are unclear. However, Arsenal are replaced in Styria by Werder Bremen, for whom both Per Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil currently ply their trade. I'm probably reading too much into it, but I can live in hope that a deal is about to be tied up for both of them (or even one of them).

My man in the training camp spoke to Manuel Almunia this morning and asked if he was leaving Arsenal. Manuel replied "I don't know, yet". It doesn't sound too promising for his future Arsenal career. If he is still at Arsenal on Tuesday and plays little or no part in the friendly that evening, then we can be certain he is on his way out. Either way, I think a new goalkeeper will be signed, and that Almunia will be leaving. I have some mixed feelings over this. Obviously, despite great improvement in his time at the Club, Almunia is not good enough to be number one for a Club chasing the major honours - he is a good goalkeeper, but not a VERY good goalkeeper. Having said that, he makes a fine back-up man (certainly more able than Fabianski). The problem is that, having been number one, nobody wants to be number two.

The official website today has quotes from Arsene Wenger claiming that Denilson and Bendtner are BOTH suffering groin problems (I still think Denilson's is a back injury) but that they will be only one week behind the rest of the squad. Nonsense as far as I'm concerned. Experience also tells us that, when Arsene Wenger says someone is a week or two from fitness, we will not see them for at least three months. Time will tell.

Thierry Henry made his debut for New York Red Bulls overnight against, of all people, Tottenham. Thierry showed great delight when he opened the scoring, having been roundly booed and abused by the Spurs fans in the capacity crowd. A bit of chest-thumping to acknowledge his goal, while a plethora of Arsenal-shirted fans celebrated wildly, must have really wound up the neanderthals watching on TV in England. He went off at half-time and Spurs came back to win with second-half goals, but a moral victory for the great man, I'm sure you'll agree.

I would have liked to go to Welling tomorrow to watch the reserves, but it's my wedding anniversary. As I have learned to appreciate living, I will be spending time with the family instead. I will be posting something at some time tomorrow, hopefully with some nuggets from Austria.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

A correction, issues in Bad Waltersdorf, Harry should be on stage, reporters and facts

Pre-season Dover Gooners in prominent place last night

First of all, a correction from yesterday. I stated that the next game in Austria is on Saturday. I was, as usual, talking nonsense. The next game is Tuesday, but the reserves are playing at Welling on Saturday (do they still have the San Siro stand at Welling?)
I was alerted yesterday to an incident among the Gooners in Bad Waltersdorf. Over the past couple of years, more and more Eastern Europeans have joined the Gooners (a bit of a trend, I'm sure you'll agree). These people would be most welcome if they weren't such objectionable, nasty, lowdown scumbags. The incident in question happened on Tuesday when a regular pre-season Gooner had his Arsenal shirt destroyed by a Hungarian who didn't like that fact that the pre-season regulars get "favourable" treatment when it comes to autograph time. The upshot is that Keith (who many Gooners will know from his tattoos and general support of Arsenal all over Europe) has been forced to make peace on behalf of the regulars. The Eastern European fans (particularly those from Hungary) will henceforth be referred to as the "caravan utilising nomadic travellers" (read it closely for an abbreviation).
I was watching Sky Sports News last night and was confronted by Britain's best stand-up comedian. Peter Kay, I hear you cry? No, of course not! Harry Redknapp is the man in question. He thinks that Tottenham can win the League this season, particularly with three new signings. Of course they can Harry...and stop smoking whatever that substance is. I expect this sort of inane nonsense from the knuckle-dragging idiots that follow Tottenham, but from their manager? I must check the odds on him being sacked before Christmas. If that wasn't comical enough, he's in The Sun today saying how Joe Cole "wanted to join Tottenham" and "we spoke a month ago and I was sure he was coming". Of course he wanted to join Tottenham, Harry. That's why he signed for Liverpool. Keep 'em coming Twitchy, this gets better by the day.
I read the match report from Graz on Skytext last night. According to that, Marouane Chamakh set up Arsenal's third goal. Considering he was substituted at half-time this was one hell of an achievement - given that it was Jay Emmanuel-Thomas who actually set it up, the change in skin tone is even more miraculous. The report went on to tell us that Thomas Vermaelen should also have added a fourth late on - again he went off at half-time. Reporters, it seems, have no need to avail themselves of facts. If you read today's Sun you will see a match report by Charlie Wyett, who tells us how well Chamakh linked the play yesterday, including setting up the first goal - watch the bloody game, and stay out of the complimentary press bar! The previous day, Mr Wyett was given to describe our "Czech" goalkeeper, Wojciech Sczeszny - that's the POLISH INTERNATIONAL GOALKEEPER Wojciech Sczeszny. Like I say, don't worry about facts.
More tomorrow.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

3-0 win in Graz, Eduardo deal confirmed, the reason for Denilson's absence, Arsenal ban the vuvu, Schwarzer latest

Samir Nasri - impressive start

Arsenal have beaten Austrian side Sturm Graz 3-0 this evening, with goals from Samir Nasri (2) and Henri Lansbury. I was extremely pleased to see Thomas Vermaelen lead the team tonight (Rosicky was captain after Vermaelen went off). None of the players who came back on Monday were involved this evening. Fabianski again started in goal and made one smart save, though every time an aerial ball comes in to the box he looks very unconvincing. Arsenal's first goal came when Nasri superbly got the ball out of his feet and shot right-footed into the bottom corner. The second was a free-kick by Nasri in to the top corner - he has had a fine start to pre-season. I'm not a huge fan of Nasri who I think gets an easy ride from the fans - I'll be happy for him to prove me wrong. Theo Walcott was his usual ineffective self, while Arshavin cut the disinterested figure we are becoming used to. Jack Wilshere was quite happy to put himself about and once he'd been chopped down a couple of times, he decided to have a go back - he was predictably booked (and it wasn't even an English referee). The third goal came in the second-half and was the end result of a beautiful passing move, created by Jay Emmanuel-Thomas' superb piece of skill and lovely through-ball, to Henri Lansbury. Lansbury filled the space vacated by defenders tracking Wilshere's excellent run across the defence, and he finished beautifully after dummying the goalkeeper.
I have to say that I am concerned though. I am concerned about Marouane Chamakh. Every time the ball went near him he mis-controlled it, and not slightly, but horribly. The first goal came as a result of his poor touch, with Nasri's bit of skill making up for it. I can understand new players being unable to link play, or to get on the end of things as the understanding builds, but controlling the football? There was a real Baptista look about him tonight and it worries me deeply.
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas staked his claim tonight. He was nothing short of superb and his impact was similar to that of Wilshere two years back. He really took his opportunity tonight, initially at centre-forward, and then on the right-wing. Perhaps he will be able to convince Arsene Wenger he is worth a squad number. Emmanuel Frimpong, meanwhile, learnt quickly that playing against a top-division European side is somewhat different to playing fourth division rubbish like Barnet - he was completely at sea in midfield and there is a lot of work for him to do.
For anyone who missed it, the reserves drew 2-2 at Crawley last night, with Rhys Murphy netting both for Arsenal.
Arsenal confirmed Eduardo's sale to Shakhtar Donetsk today. I gave my opinions on this a couple of days ago so I won't repeat myself. Save to say that I wish him every success and I am gutted that his career was ripped apart by such heinous foul-play at Birmingham. I don't know how Martin Taylor and Alex McCleish can sleep at night. A good piece of business for Arsenal, with a reported transfer fee of £6m.
I have got to the bottom of the Denilson issue. He is absent, as I suspected, due to a recurrence of his back injury. My source for this is none other than Emmanuel Eboue! I am worried for any athlete with a back problem, as they never really seem to heal. Hopefully Denilson can get over it quickly and manage the problem, as we are chronically short of any sort of cover for Alex Song. Unless of course Arsene pleases me immensely by signing Scott Parker - I can dream, I suppose.
Arsenal have banned vuvuzelas from the ground. Good. Horrible, noisy things that they are. I would have become quickly annoyed by anyone blowing one anywhere near me. I have no doubt they were excellent for the World Cup - God knows that the football was so bad at times, and the crowds so sparse, that the noise of the vuvus was the only thing to talk about. We are not alone in banning them - eight Premier League teams so far - though not the FA, who are so concerned that nobody wants to watch England that they have halved ticket-prices, and made it clear that they are not banning vuvuzelas just yet.
Finally, Mark Schwarzer was once again linked with Arsenal in the papers this morning, this time with a player-coach role at Arsenal. Not for me. I would far rather, as I have said, spend proper money on a top keeper. I was playing golf this morning and my friend (another Gooner) and I were both of the opinion that, if Wenger wants to sign an experienced man on the cheap, he should go and sign David James for a year. Other than that, quality only...please.
Arsenal next play on Saturday, against an amateur side, again in Austria. I think we will see Clichy, Sagna, Diaby, Song, Vela and Eboue make their first appearances of pre-season. Manuel Almunia might even get a game - unless he is sick. Again. More tomorrow, after evening training.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Austria gets going, Per Mertesacker, stands renamed, Joe Cole likes money

Pre-season Gooners get Theo's signature at Bad Waltersdorf

Arsenal landed in Austria at 6.35pm last night and were met by the usual pre-season Gooners at the airport. Denilson and Eduardo are not there. Rumours now abound that Eduardo is on his way out and his absence from the tour seems to confirm it. But what of Denilson? There is no news of a potential transfer, nor of an injury. I must task my spies in the camp with finding out an official line! Training started today, and Sagna, Clichy and Wilshere signed my shirts for me, as per instructions given to those present - excellent stuff. The boys play Sturm Graz tomorrow night, which will be a very stern test so early in pre-season.
There were some youngsters included in this years squad, as usual. The lucky ones this time are Henri Lansbury, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Craig Eastmond, Havard Nordveit, Emmanuel Frimpong and Conor Henderson. All four goalkeepers are present, while Aaron Ramsay and Nicklas Bendtner are still injured. From this we can assume that Arsenal careers are over for Jay Simpson, Nacer Barazite (both of whom played at Barnet), Mark Randall and Gavin Hoyte. It will be interesting to see which of them get a game for the reserves tonight at Crawley Town - £14 for standing, hardly value.
I notice in the pictures that Carlos Vela is wearing a training top with number 12 on the front - his squad number is now number 11, which seems to put to rest any idea that he will be leaving. Robin Van Persie has been confirmed as the new number 10 at Arsenal. Good. It never looked right on the back of William Gallas. As for which, if any, of the youngsters on tour get rewarded with a first-team number remains to be seen, though I think Lansbury and Eastmond may get lucky in this regard.

Anyone logging in late last night will have seen my comment on yesterdays blog that the signing of Per Mertesacker is a big rumour going around the training camp, and he is expected to be an Arsenal player at some time in the next week. If this is true, then you heard it here first. Mertesacker was part of the successful German team at the World Cup. Regular readers will know that I really liked the Germany team and how they played. I am extremely happy that we are getting linked to a BIG centre-half (Mertesacker is 6'6" I believe). However, from what I saw in South Africa, Mertesacker is a giant who doesn't use his height. He is not one to attack the ball in the air - witness his failure to get anywhere near crosses in the last couple of minutes against Spain in the semi-final, when deployed up front. Overall, I think I would be pleased with his signing, but would want to see him prove me wrong in a big way.

Arsenal announced yesterday that the stands are to be renamed at Ashburton Grove. We will, at last, have North Bank, Clock End, East Stand and West Stand. This puts me back in the East Upper, where I belong. I'm really looking forward to the Blackpool game and the first renditions of "We're the North Bank/Clock End/East Stand, Highbury". All credit to Arsenal on this one and, in particular, to Ivan Gazidis who seems to realise that fans are actually quite important to any football club. This is something his predecessor, Mr Edelman, seemingly refused to accept, and chose to, it appears, lie to fans about the reasons things couldn't be done to "Arsenalise" the new stadium.

Finally today, Joe Cole. I am disappointed that he didn't sign for Arsenal. Around 6 weeks ago this appeared a done-deal, with every message board awash with people who "knew someone, who knew someone, who was friends with Joe Cole's mum's gardener" and it was a certainty. Clearly it wasn't. The fact that Joe Cole has signed for Liverpool makes it clear to me that he was only interested in money - why else do you join a club outside the Champions League, when offers are apparently there from two clubs (Arsenal and Spurs) that are in it? The only thing in all this that has amused me is that he didn't go to Tottenham, despite Harry and his public pursuit. Redknapp has been in the papers every week for the past month-and-a-half talking up Joe Cole and how much he'd like to sign him. I think Harry was so sure he would get him, especially having had Cole at West Ham. This is exactly why Arsenal stay quiet on transfers until they're done. Egg on your face Twitchy - you've made my day.

More tomorrow evening, after the game in Graz.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Jagielka for £18m? Not April 1st is it?

There's really not a lot of news about today. I expect the travelling party for Austria to be revealed later today, with 6 of those at the World Cup joining up from now on - as confirmed by Arsene Wenger on Saturday. There will be no Fabregas or RVP until at least the Emirates Cup.

One or two of yesterdays papers had us linked once more with Phil Jagielka of Everton. Apparently Arsenal were unsuccessful with a bid of £14m. I liked Jagielka before his bad injury last year, but I'm not sure he has really recovered form since he came back. I'm even less sure that he is worth £14m. You can imagine my surprise, therefore, when today's press "reveals" Arsenal are willing to pay £18m to secure his signing. £18m? Good God. We obviously need more centre-backs, but £18m on Phil Jagielka? You must be joking, surely? Quite apart from the idea that Arsenal would spend so much on a centre-back with one international cap, he is not really the kind of centre-half we need, in my opinion. Arsenal require a big, hard, knock-em-over, type of centre-back. Vermaelen is a footballing defender who, by Christmas last year, had been taught not to attack the ball anymore it seemed - note his more limited impact in the New Year. Jagielka is of similar ilk and, given his (true) height and build, Koscielny appears much the same. Johan Djourou is no Steve Bould either. It is no coincidence that Sol Campbell stood out so much last season when he came back.

It appears that Werder Bremen are willing to let Mesut Ozil leave this season in order to get a transfer fee for him. Get in there Arsene, and get in there fast. I'd rather have Ozil than Joe Cole anyway. If we were to get Ozil, then Spurs are welcome to Cole. Having said that, I'd still settle for signing Cole and getting rid of Rosicky and/or Vela.

In the absence of anything else worthy of comment, I'm going to finish there and go and enjoy the glorious weather in the south-east today. Having holidayed in last weeks west-country rain
it will be a nice change to see some sunshine.

More tomorrow, with a first Austrian update hopefully.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Eduardo on his way, and something I missed yesterday

According to a Croatian website, Eduardo will be signing for Shakhtar Donetsk this week for €7.5m. This is good business for Arsenal, if true. I mentioned in yesterdays blog that Eddie has never recovered from his injuries at Birmingham, so a move away from the Premier League is best all round. He is/was a fantastically natural goalscorer and I am certain he would have been an all time great at Arsenal with his finishing ability. Thanks to the thuggery of Martin Taylor he will forever be remembered as the bloke whose Arsenal career was destroyed by a horrific leg-break. I feel cheated that we never got see what Eduardo could have achieved for Arsenal and I wish him every success. I'll always remember his headed, first-half goal, in his comeback game against Cardiff - it truly brought tears to my eyes, and was greeted with such warmth from the Arsenal players and fans alike. Thanks Eddie, we'll never know how good you might have been.
I was reminded by my Dad last night that there was one other absentee from yesterday at Birmingham - where was Denilson? Arseblogger has also picked up on this today. Denilson was struggling at various times last season with a back injury, which I believe was a recurrence of an old problem. I have never subscribed to the idea that Denilson is a poor player. In fact I think he is a very useful squad member, though not a first-choice man in my opinion. It is worrying to me, therefore, that he is nowhere to be seen - he hasn't been in any of the photos of the first-team in training either. If he is not in Austria come tomorrow I will suspect that he is either suffering a serious setback, or being transferred. Given the performance of Frimpong in yesterdays game, it could be that Denilson has played his final game and the young Englishman is set for a promotion. We'll wait and see.
I don't buy Arsene Wenger's explanation of Manuel Almunia's absence - he claims the goalkeeper is ill. Again. He also said there is no number one at Arsenal, and that he is not interested in Mark Schwarzer. Fine. Go and sign a TOP goalkeeper then, and stop cocking us around.
More tomorrow.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Off and running

Barnet 0 - 4 Arsenal
So here we go then. Arsenal's season is off to a bright start following the boys 4-0 win at Barnet. None of the World Cup players are back yet from their holidays, so Arsene mixed things up a bit with a decent XI playing each half. In other years it has been a first-team for 45 minutes followed by a reserve team in the second-half. From an entertainment point of view this was much better. I didn't go to Barnet this year due to the price of tickets - I wanted to take my 4-year-old to see The Arsenal for the first time, but I was not willing to pay £20-odd for myself, and the same for a little boy. No concessions at Barnet? That's taking the p*** as far as I'm concerned.
I watched the game on Arsenal TV Online which meant having to listen to Stewart Robson, a self-confessed non-Arsenal fan - but happy to take Arsenal's dollar when it's offered. I'm sure Arsenal could make better use of former players with a genuine Club affection (though, please, not Perry Groves, surely the World's most improved player since his retirement).
The boys slipped easily back in to the passing routine with the first goal after 90 seconds, before a Barnet player had touched the ball. Arshavin finished coolly, coming in-field to take the ball and dummy the keeper about 4 times before finally rounding him and slotting home. After that it was the Jack Wilshere show for the remainder of the first-half. Wilshere was deployed in the middle of midfield and seemed to revel in it. He set up both goals for Jay Simpson. It's nice to see Simpson scoring, but I have to question what the man is still doing at Arsenal. Along with a number of others I can not understand why Arsenal still have them on the payroll - Barazite, Hoyte, Nordveidt, to name a few - money to be made, surely, not spent on weekly wages. Other notable first-half performers were Armand Traore, Thomas Vermaelen and Emmanuel Frimpong, who was typically combative in midfield - he was clearly determined to take his opportunity in front of Arsene Wenger, which is more than can be said of the younger players in the second-half. Laurent Koscielny had a nice, quiet start, to his Arsenal career, and number 6 always looks so good on an Arsenal shirt. Notable, for his anonymity, was Tomas Rosicky. Pre-season or not, I was very disappointed with him - for me, his race is run, and it's time to cash in while we still can. Those, like me, who would like to see Vermaelen replace Fabregas as skipper, will have been disappointed to see Arsenal being led by Rosicky today, and not TV5. I suspect Alex Ferguson would not have been slow to demote Fabregas in the same circumstances, were he a Man Utd player.
In the second-half things started brightly, particularly for Theo Walcott. His touch was good, for a change, and he easily had the beating of the defence. Unfortunately, the usual problems are still there, though one superb ball across the area deserved to have someone getting on the end of it. Which brings me nicely to Marouane Chamakh. He already has his own "Chamakh" chant, to the tune of "Attack, Attack, Attack, Attack, Attack". Sadly he didn't inspire today, though the service he received was not to his obvious aerial strength - he had a couple of shots well saved by the keeper. Johan Djourou looked a cut above at the back, while Nasri (second-half captain)grew in to the game and eventually struck the fourth following some poor mistakes by Barnet defenders. Henri Lansbury seemed strangely subdued in midfield, following his energetic cameo against Fulham at the end of last season. Kieran Gibbs took things understandably easy in his first game since last Autumn.
Strangely, Arsenal used three goalkeepers - Fabianski for the first-half, Mannone and Sczeszny during the second. On Friday, arsenal.com advertised that Fabianski and Almunia were the keepers in the squad for this game. Where is Manuel? I think he may be on his way out - probably the best thing for him as he would not want to go back to being the understudy when Arsenal eventually sign a new goalkeeper.
The other notable absentee was Eduardo. Again, he was named in the squad (whilst Simpson wasn't). It is my understanding that he has picked up yet another injury. It's tragic that Eduardo has never recovered from the assault at Birmingham, but again it's time to cut our losses. He is never going to make it back, so let's get rid and make the money while we still can. Eduardo's loss was certainly Jay Simpson's gain on this occasion.
I knew the season had started midway through the second-half when the familiar voice of Maria broke the silence with her always welcome "COME. ON. YOU. GUNNERS. COME ON ARS-E-NAL!" It seemed to get the rest of the crowd going too.
The squad fly to Austria now for the next leg of their preparations. It will be interesting to see which players on show today will NOT be on the trip to Bad Waltersdorf - the younger players on show all wore the squad numbers of those players on World Cup duty, including Craig Eastmond, which I thought was a bit unfair on a youngster who made such a breakthrough last season. I've no doubt the travelling Gooners will be royally welcomed by the great friends they've made in Austria, and I'm sure the legendary Andy Kovacs will be looking after them as usual. I just wish I was going too. I will have spies in the camp in Austria, so if any story is breaking, then it will break here (assuming I'm at home and in front of the computer!)

Monday, 12 July 2010

Webb wins World Cup, Hansen & co change their tune, Cesc sickens me

Congratulations to Howard Webb, the first referee since Mr Mendoza in 1990 to win the World Cup. What a prize twat this man is. He should have sent off De Jong, of course, and probably Van Bommel too. But that does not excuse his failure to award various free-kicks to the Dutch, the last one in particular, which lead to Spain's winner. The BBC team, especially a certain Lee Dixon, need to realise that a series of wrongs do not make a right. To suggest the Dutch can't complain after the lack of red cards is a joke. Howard Webb, you're a complete prick and all my predictions for your failings on the biggest stage have been proved correct. It's just a shame Mathijsen didn't punch him after the goal - that would have made my day. He cost Robin Van Persie a World Cup winners medal, and couldn't wait to book him in the first-half. I hope Robin reminds him when they meet in the Premier League.

Alan Hansen, Alan Shearer, Lee Dixon and Gary Lineker were appalled by the Dutch rough-house tactics. How dare they try to win by intimidating more talented opponents? Funny that, when Arsenal are being belted by crap like Bolton, Stoke or Blackburn, they have to be able to stand up to it - it's all part of the game. Just watch Match Of The Day after we lose up north for the first time and the mind will have changed once more. Cretins, the lot of them. They also say that Spain have been the best team throughout the competition - apparently it only starts after the quarter final has been played then. Eight goals in seven games - the best side throughout? Do me a favour.

Cesc Fabregas has dedicated the win to Arsenal and their fans. Apparently it's a great Club and he is proud to be an Arsenal player. Really? I thought you wanted to play for Barcelona? Message to you, my friend, it is too late to ingratiate yourself in the affections of scores of Arsenal fans. You have let us down with your public transfer saga which has included a failure to condemn your Spain team mates that have spoken about your wishes to leave Arsenal. If you really want to be popular then persuade Barca to stump up the necessary cash. You are one of the all-time greats at Arsenal, but you are no different to the likes of Ashley Cole and Alexander Hleb. I took more pleasure from watching Fabregas miss his one-on-one last night, than I did thinking we had an Arsenal player as World Champion.

I'm pushed for time as this is costing me a quid, so I will sign off with an apology for any typos you find. I'll blog at the end of the week, probably Saturday, after watching Arsenal v Barnet. The real stuff is upon us already!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Put the flags out - Arsenal make a signing! Robin is the new Dennis after all

As reported yesterday Arsenal have signed Laurent Koscielny (pictured above) and he will be the new number 6. The fact that he has been given that number would indicate that he is to be Thomas Vermaelen's new partner in central defence, which is bad news for anyone who was hoping for a defender with a track record and/or experience in the Premier League (as I was). You can forget signing Gary Cahill or anyone like that. Arsenal have "revealed" that the new boy has signed a "long-term contract" on an "undisclosed fee." Why do Arsenal feel the need to shroud everything in such secrecy? Are Arsenal fans held in such contempt that they are not worthy of knowing the details of a signing their money has gone towards? Time will tell if Koscielny can cut it at Arsenal and I sincerely hope he becomes a legendary figure at the Club. However, the fact that Arsenal have signed a man with one year in Ligue 1 behind him, with that undisclosed fee reported at £10million, I am very, very worried. Surely we could have signed someone proven for that sort of money? Given Arsene Wenger's record in signing centre-backs (Cygan, Senderos, Tavlaridis etc) I think we will have to wait and see...and hope. Good luck Laurent, welcome to Arsenal Football Club.

In other news it appears that Robin Van Persie wishes to be compared with Dennis Bergkamp. RVP has asked to be given the number 10 shirt vacated by Williams Gallas. Given that Arsenal are not printing any replica shirts with "Van Persie 11" on the back, and that the official website no longer shows him as number 11, we can safely say we have a new number 10.

This, of course, leaves number 11 free for Joe Cole should he become an Arsenal player. I have to say that my previous excitement about this deal has abated somewhat due to the fact that the whole thing is dragging on and on. If, as many rumour-mongers would have had you believe, the deal was tied up then it should have been announced by now. I think it still might be, but it won't give me the boost I was hoping for a few weeks ago.

Holland scraped their way in to the World Cup Final last night with an uninspiring 3-2 win over Uruguay. For a game with 5 goals in it I thought it was a pretty turgid affair with very little good football. When the Dutch did manage to string a few passes together it largely involved a nice touch or two from Van Persie, who will be very much looking forward to trying to be Arsenal's latest World Cup winner on Sunday. Holland also produced the goal of the tournament, for me, from former Gunner Gio Van Bronckhorst.

Tonight it's the turn of Germany, the team of the tournament, to try their luck against Spain. I hope they win, regardless of the Arsenal link with Spain (he who we no longer talk about on this blog) as Germany have been fantastic throughout. Maybe we could sign Mesut Ozil instead of Joe Cole. Just a thought.

There will be little or no blogging over the next 10 days as I am away on holiday. I may try and get something written on Monday, after the World Cup finishes, or if we make another signing. I hope you won't be missing me too much.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

The boys are back in training, Bendtner crocked, LK6, Barcelona get worse by the day

The Arsenal first-team (those that were not at the World Cup) were back in training today. The official website has some exclusive shots of the boys being put through their paces. The most notable absentee is Arsene Wenger himself. The boss is still in South Africa, presumably being paid by Arsenal AND French TV while his players are slogging their guts out. This does not sit well with me. Arsene Wenger is the Manager of Arsenal Football Club - his players are back in training and so should he be. Arsenal pay your wages Arsene, so stop promoting Castrol GTX and appearing on Canal+ and get your backside to London Colney. Oh, and sign some quality and clear out some dross while you're at it.

Nicklas Bendtner was clearly unfit throughout the World Cup for Denmark with an apparent recurrence of the serious groin injury that put him out for months last season. Now he has revealed the extent of the injury which will probably put him out for at least the opening part of the season. Bendtner says that he feels such pain that he struggles to get out of bed in the morning and will probably need an operation. Get it done Nicklas, and get it done quickly.

Laurent Koscielny has apparently been made the new Philippe Senderos (it brings less pressure than calling him the new Tony Adams) by taking the number 6 shirt. He has, according to youngguns, been training with the youth team pending the announcement of his deal with Arsenal. Good luck to him - let's hope he lives up to TA6's standards. We are still way short of satisfactory cover at centre-back though, with Djourou and Vermaelen the only other recognised first-team players in that position. To consider Bartley and Nordtveit as cover for the Premier League would be defensive suicide.

And so to Barcelona. Again. Getting sick of this now. The new President of FC Barcelona says he will never pay more than €40 million for Fabregas. Okay, we'll sell him to somebody else then. It really is time that something was done about the way the two Spanish giants do their business. The public statements of intent are just disgraceful and betray the arrogance of people who seem to know that UEFA will do nothing to stop them. Arsenal will certainly not bow to Barcelona's bullying - not until the requisite amount of money is on offer. The latest story to hit this evening, albeit on one of the less reputable football websites, is that Inter have entered the race for Cesc, offering Mario Balotelli as part of the deal. The best thing that could happen, as I alluded to yesterday, is for another club to offer proper money and have a bid accepted by Arsenal. In the meantime I will say no more about Barcelona - if I'm getting bored with it, then so will you be, I'm sure.

Finally, best of luck to Robin Van Persie tonight in his World Cup semi-final. Hopefully Robin can turn it on and inspire The Netherlands to a place in Sunday's big game. Hup Holland.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Cesc gets a new spokesman, Messi sees something most Gooners haven't

Blogless Sunday very nearly brought me personal success. A shock appearance in the Cricket Club single-wicket final made my day but, like Arsenal, I fell on the run-in to a possible surprise title. There's always next season, unless the knees/back give out once and for all. The cricket was certainly an improvement on Saturday's golf, which was largely awful.

My readership, meanwhile, seems to be growing. I had a text from a Man Utd supporting friend who told me he was enjoying the blog and was looking forward to my comments on Spain v Paraguay. Unfortunately he will be disappointed as I have nothing to say - it was two days ago after all.

On to most things Arsenal. The latest Barcelona player to speak on the Fabregas saga is Gerard Pique who joyfully told the press that this Summer had been "bad news for Arsenal" due to Cesc spending so much time with Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol etc. The smugness of this quote gives me even more reason to despise Barcelona and their outrageous arrogance. Fabregas and his people are trying their best to orchestrate a move away. I think Arsenal should offer him to Man City for £60million, and then tell him that's what has been accepted and to go and talk to them - you want to leave, fine - but you don't get to choose where you go for a knock-down fee. This would smoke out Barcelona as they'd have to match it or back off.

Lionel Messi has emerged as a surprise cheer-leader for Theo Walcott. On the face of it he appears to have seen something most Arsenal fans haven't. He describes Walcott as Arsenal and England's danger-man, admitting his surprise that Theo was left out by England. When you analyse what Messi says it actually makes a lot of sense. He is basically making the point that Walcott scares defenders with his pace and should have been England's impact sub. If you consider Theo's contributions toward goals on the big occasion, you can't argue with that, however ordinary he may often appear - in Europe and around the World, they will only really see Walcott as the guy who ran the length of the pitch at Anfield, scored the hat-trick in Croatia, and sparked the Arsenal comeback against Barcelona. When you think about it that way, it's no wonder the World may be worried about facing him. That said, England were that bad, Pele in his prime would have struggled to make an impact. As I said before, a good one to miss Theo.

More tomorrow, when I hope Holland are ready to book their place in the World Cup Final.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Schweinsteiger lights up the World Cup, RVP has clear scan for first time ever

"The Germans are a new team, I can't see them going too far." Quote from just about every "expert" (Hansen and Shearer in particular) leading in to this World Cup. It was an opinion that overlooked one thing - most German footballers are exceptionally good (with the obvious exceptions of Stefan Malz and Alberto Mendez). Bastian Schweinsteiger has, in the last two matches, put himself among the elite of World football. I can not praise his football highly enough. He destroyed England last week and dismantled the Argentinians this afternoon. There is no doubt that, along with Ozil, the Germans have the very best two players in this tournament. Given that Germany have been just about the only team to attack in every game of this World Cup it is absolutely right that they are in the semi-final - I hope they make the final, against Holland, and make it a classic of attacking football.

The closest to an Arsenal story today is that Robin Van Persie has been passed fit for Holland's semi-final following an injury scare to his arm. His scan showed no damage. There is, clearly, a first time for everything.

I have to offer my sympathy to Asamoah Gyan and Ghana. Gyan ran himself in to the ground last night, only to miss the last minute penalty that would have taken his side through. I thought he didn't looked too confident and clearly he felt he should just smash it. His frame of mind probably wasn't helped by his captain, Jon Mensah, doing something akin to a lap of honour when the penalty was awarded. It's a shame that they went out as I can't stand Uruguay's brand of cynical foul play when they do not have the ball. Hopefully Robin and his Oranje mates can do a proper number on them on Tuesday.

Finally, Arsenal are starting to be linked with one of the other, very few, real stars of this World Cup. Arsene Wenger was heard on French TV talking highly of Keisuki Honda of Japan, so obviously he will be at Arsenal imminently. Or perhaps not. Seriously though, I was impressed with Honda in Japan's matches and just think of the easy headlines he would afford newspapers and blog writers with a name like that! Massive commercial opportunities would also open up, so there's another reason why he won't be at Arsenal - despite the profits made from Junichi Inamoto's season at the club.

Might be a blog tomorrow evening if we sign somebody, but more likely not. Off to watch Spain v Paraguay now. Maybe Cesc will get on the pitch tonight for a change.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Fabregas backtracks, Arsenal to wear Arsenal shirt next season, no more Reserves, RVP through

I have to start by paying tribute to that image of sheer Arsenal beauty pictured above. The new Arsenal home shirt - an Arsenal shirt, rather than a Charlton one. On one of the messageboards I saw it decribed as "instantly recognisable as an Arsenal shirt, from whatever angle" and I have to agree. Herbert Chapman will be smiling happily in Heaven at the sight of those glorious white sleeves and crimson body. I can not wait to get my hands on this shirt - pretty much perfection. Apparently it's made from recycled plastic bottles - so Arsenal have also returned to having a "green" strip for the first time since the early 80s (younger readers will have to ask their Dad about Arsenal's green kit or, alternatively, google "Arsenal green kit").

Cesc Fabregas made his first public comments for a couple of weeks yesterday. He is now sarting to say that he could play for Arsenal next season, after all. This comes on the back of the new Barcelona President revealing their problems with "stratospheric debts". Could it be that Cesc is now realising he has made a prat of himself and needs to start ingratiating himself with the Gooner masses again? I rather think it might be. I will be happy if he stays, and happy if Arsenal sell him for seriously big money. Whatever happens, Arsenal need a new Captain for next season, as someone who has been publicly stating they want to play for someone else, can not be the main man in the dressing room anymore. For me it would have to be Thomas Vermaelen, though Robin Van Persie would see that as a personal sleight I'm sure - perhaps if he stayed fit for more than 6 weeks at a time he could be considered, until then it's the vice-captaincy for RVP. With Yaya Toure bringing Barcelona some serious money it will be interesting to see what happens over the next couple of weeks.

Arsenal announced yesterday that there will be no participation from the Club in this year's Premier Reserve League. Good. This was the most inaccurately named competition in football, given that hardly any of the teams involved used reserve players. Take Carlos Vela for example - it would be fair to consider him an Arsenal Reserve, yet how many times did he play for the Arsenal Reserves last season? None is the answer. Armand Traore? Two. Is it any wonder people like Eduardo looked so out of touch after Christmas? I just do not see the point in Arsenal entering this farce. Instead the "reserves" will play friendlies on an ad hoc basis. Perhaps the genuine reserves, rather than the youths, will play in these games, and be a bit more match-sharp when they actually get called in to the first-team.

Holland are through to the semi-final of the World Cup. Robin Van Persie had little impact on the ball, but his work-rate as the lone striker pulled Lucio and Juan all over the place. Holland were well worth the 2-1 win as Brazil lost their discipline - well, Felipe Melo did. I hope to God that Arsenal never sign this thug. His disciplinary record in Italy is a disgrace - he wouldn't complete a match in the Premier League - sent-off today for an outrageous stamp, I hope his ban is a lengthy one. Talking of thugs, Marc Van Bommel has been kicking people off the pitch for over ten years now, and getting away with it. He was at it again today and, once more, he escaped a caution. We've suffered his nasty little ways at Arsenal - I remember one game at PSV where we lost Vieira and Lauren to red cards, while he was finally booked in injury-time despite regstering double figures on the foul count. I would have no sympathy were he to be red-carded in the semi-final.

Half-time in Ghana v Uruguay and Muntari has just hit one of the goals of the tournament to give Ghana the lead. I have been particularly impressed throughout the World Cup, and throughout last season, by Kevin Prince-Boateng. When he was at Tottenham I thought he was awful, but he really shone in a poor Pompey line-up, and has been one of THE players at the World Cup. Available on the cheap? Almost certainly. Better than Denilson? Of course.

Don't forget to order your new home kit - did I mention that it has white sleeves and looks like a proper Arsenal shirt?

Until tomorrow.