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Monday, 30 August 2010

Silly boy Jack, Twitchy gets abusive, 24 hours and counting, Pakistan

A quiet Bank Holiday so far for Arsenal. The main news around the Club concerns the late-night antics of our finest youngster. Jack Wilshere was arrested in the early hours of Sunday morning following a "fracas" (that's a fight to you and me) at London night-club. The Sun decides to make some front page headlines from this story, but finishes the story on the cover with the following line "is unlikely to face any charges" - so why, exactly, is this front page stuff? It appears, according to the police, that Jack was trying to be a peace-maker in the confrontation, though this doesn't explain why he would have been arrested. Whatever the story is, and we will probably never hear the facts, Jack is a very silly young man to put himself in this position. I accept that he is 18, and things like this happen everywhere. The difference is that Jack Wilshere is not an ordinary teenager but, in fact, is the most exciting English footballer to appear since Wayne Rooney. He needs to work out very quickly that he can not be going out and about until all hours because he is famous, and someone, somewhere will always be looking for a story on him. Hopefully this arrest will be enough to scare him in to thinking carefully about his status as a footballer for Arsenal, and for England.

If you haven't yet seen it you must log in to youtube and search for "Harry Redknapp NOT a wheeler dealer." Following Saturday's defeat at home to Wigan Twitchy told Sky's Rob Palmer to "f*** off" when he was called a "wheeler-dealer" by the reporter. This really should have been major news - "Premiership Manager swears at reporter" - but because it was rent-a-quote-Redknapp no paper/TV station is going to report it. They want Harry to keep the soundbites coming so the last thing they will do is make him look a (bigger) twat. You might remember Arsene Wenger getting panned for using the f-word during a pre-match press-conference last season. Double standards in the English press? Surely not?

Twenty-four hours to go until we know for certain where we stand with our squad until January. I think everyone will agree that it really can't come soon enough. Sky Sports News have just announced that Shay Given has been permitted to leave the Ireland squad to tie up a deal. I get the feeling that this deal will have some sort of Arsenal involvement - the unlikely outcome being his arrival at the Club, the more likely being his arrival at Fulham - thus facilitating Schwarzer's move to Arsenal. We will see, but I am fairly sure Wenger will be making at least one addition before 6pm tomorrow evening. I would dearly like a defensive-midfield player to partner Song, as well as a goalkeeper, but I am not sure that will happen.

Finally today a departure from the football. I am not surprised in the slightest that Pakistan cricketers appear to have been caught match-fixing. Just how far the dodgy behaviour goes is anybody's guess. Anyone that knows me from a cricket background will know my views on the Pakistan cricket team - I have suspected them of throwing games etc for a long, long time - not least this Summer. I could go on but this is supposed to be a football blog, so I'll leave it at that.

If we make a signing before lunch tomorrow then I will post something here. Unfortunately I am at work tomorrow afternoon/evening so I will miss Sky Sports News countdown to the transfer window closing time at 6pm. I daresay that, if I miss something, I will pick it up when I get home.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

A very satisfying 2-1 win, Carling Cup woes, Shut-it Pulis, Pele Scholes (yawn)

Theo Walcott: A real netbuster
A superb three points. That is no understatement as far as I'm concerned. Arsenal were not supposed to get a result today. They were expected to surrender to the horrible Northern long-ball merchants, in typical Northern weather, in a typical Northern town. If you've never been to Blackburn then let me describe it: It's very, very Northern - think Coronation Street and The Full Monty and you have the right idea. In the second-half the boys were really quite imperious and got the job done.
I thought that Arsenal quickly settled today and fully deserved to go 1-0 up. A nice through-ball from the otherwise anonymous (and quickly injured...again) Robin Van Persie, set Theo Walcott free in to the box and he, literally, broke the back of the net with a sublime finish past fatboy Robinson. Blackburn equalised soon afterwards with a nicely worked goal, but there were serious concerns for Arsenal. Koscielny was outmuscled and outpaced by El-Hadji Diouf in the build-up, while Gael Clichy played his usual game of statues in the six-yard box to watch Mame-Biram Diouf slot home. We should be worried about Koscielny. A centre-back in England needs pace and power to be a top player. These are things that you either have or you don't. If you're being done by the likes of Diouf then God help you when you meet Drogba and Rooney. I think Suillaci will play in our next outing. Blackburn produced their usual set-piece bombardment and caused Arsenal problems in the first-half with not one red-shirt attacking the ball and leaving Almunia to make at least one tremendous save (more on Manuel below). The injury to RVP was a blessing in this regard as we saw Chamakh enter the fray and mark Samba, very effectively, at every set-piece. Problem solved, pretty much. In the second-half Arsenal dominated and got their second goal (the fiftieth conceded by Paul Robinson against Arsenal in 21 games - STAT) early on following great work from Sagna, a lucky ricochet (lucky in the sense that it fell straight to Arshavin - unlucky in the sense that Fabregas would have scored but for Walcott's backside) and a cool finish from the little Russian. Arsenal then controlled the rest of the game and Jack Wilshere slipped when he seemed set to make the game safe late on.
There were a number of positives from the game today. I thought Vermaelen dominated things aerially in the second-half. Abou Diaby and Alex Song completely ran the midfield, with Diaby particularly impressive in all areas of the pitch. Theo Walcott had another fine game, capped by a super goal - I was pleased to see him have a go at Diaby when he didn't pass to him in the second-half, nice to see him stand up for himself. We repelled the aerial barrage, with a small measure of luck early on. My biggest plus though was the fact that Arsene Wenger made "proper" substitutions for the first time in a long time. Van Persie got injured, so obviously Chamakh replaced him - I begin to think that we should cut our losses with Robin - a great footballer, but a complete waste of space injury-wise. In the second-half Arsene would normally have taken off Theo and brought on Eboue, and probably made some other defensive change in the last five minutes. That he did not do this was great news from my point of view. I was extremely pleased to see Fabregas and Arshavin being replaced - they seemed to be competing to be the least interested player on the pitch. I was even more impressed that Jack Wilshere was one of the replacements. Jack's first involvement was to show the defence how to tackle Samba and get the play moving, even though he stands around 10 inches smaller than the Rovers captain. Great stuff.
And now the negatives. Arshavin got the winner, but was largely anonymous again. Every time he got the ball he ran straight in to the nearest defender with it. He came to life more once he had scored, but I expect so much more from a top player. Of most concern was the lack of application from Fabregas. Okay, it was his first start of the season, but his demeanour was not that which we became used to last season. I have seen reports tonight (don't know if they are true) that Ibrahimovic has agreed to join AC Milan - this could be bad news for Arsenal as Barcelona might just have the money now to force our hand in selling Cesc. LATE EDIT: Ibrahimovic will join on loan initially - for this season - and then sign next Summer for £23million. Watch this space. Koscielny, as I said above, looked weak and slow against Diouf - this is a worry if he is to be relied upon a lot during this season.
Manuel Almunia was apparently the last Arsenal player to leave the pitch and he threw his gloves and the captain's armband to the travelling Gooners. It sounds like this was his last game for the Club. If that is the case then I would like to say "Thanks Manuel." I would dearly like Almunia to stay at Arsenal as the second-choice goalkeeper if and when a new signing comes in before Tuesday, but I fully understand that he would not want to do this having been number one. If it is goodbye then we can be sure that Almunia always did his best for Arsenal, even if that was still not quite good enough.
Finally from today, you will rarely hear me slag the travelling Arsenal fans. Today I will make an exception. Why do Arsenal fans feel the need to start "ole"-ing every pass when we take the lead? How many times have we been made to look stupid? Stop doing it, for God's sake. It's embarrassing and it's arrogant. Not needed.
All in all, a satisfying day for the boys. Three points. Job done.

The Carling Cup draw has seen us paired with the weaker side of North London. Arsene Wenger confirmed after the game that he will continue to play the youngsters, regardless of the opposition. Big mistake. Sending kids in to that bear-pit for what will be an extra "cup-final" for the muppets will do them no good whatsoever. I can see the Arsenal team that lines up over there getting smashed by Tottenham again, and then we'll have to suffer all those mugs at work that follow them when they beat Arsenal (it was SO quiet for ten years!) They also cost me my accumulator today, useless twats.

Tony Pulis has apparently written to Arsenal, the Premier League, the FA, the Coalition Government and Barack Obama about Arsene's "rugby" comments. Amazing. I wouldn't have thought he knew how to write. I was having a row on Facebook last night with a Stoke City supporting friend (a genuine fan who goes week-in, week-out). He believes Wenger is obsessed with Stoke and couldn't see that Arsene was using Stoke as the example to smoke out today's referee. Stoke fans also believe that Ryan Shawcross was as much a victim as Aaron Ramsey. You couldn't make it up. Pulis should concentrate on his small club - three defeats in a row to start the season might see him on his way by Christmas. What a shame that would be (or not.)

I had to turn off the Man Utd game this evening. I can't stand Chris Waddle at the best of times (here is a man whose only trophies in football were literally paid for by the Marseille Chairman) but he was really getting on my tits tonight. We all know Paul Scholes is a fine player, really quite under-rated. You will recall last year that there was a clamour around this time for Ryan Giggs. This year it is Scholes. There is no doubt that Scholes is playing really well, but every time he made a ten-yard pass Waddle was going on about his quality. You'd swear that Scholes was the second-coming of Christ or something. Sky started this a fortnight ago and everyone else in the media is now running with it. Do not be surprised to see Scholes getting talked in to Footballer of the Year come April.

No blog tomorrow as it's my baby's Christening. There'll be more on Monday at some point. I think Jack Wilshere might yet get a place in the England squad with players dropping like flies. Apparently Fat Frank has to have an operation on a hernia. Hope it hurts. Really bad. For a long time.

Friday, 27 August 2010

At last, Blackburn preview

Squillaci: Not the one from Italia '90

At some point this morning/overnight the following headline appeared on arsenal.com, without the merest hint of irony: "Squillaci signs for Arsenal." I couldn't begin to tell you the excitement this shock news caused me. At least they got around to it in the end. As you can see from the photograph our new boy has been given the number 18 shirt. He has my sympathies already. It is often mentioned that there could be some kind of curse on the Arsenal number 9 shirt since squad numbers came in - Smith (retired injured, 2 years) Merson (transferred, 2 years) Suker (transferred, 1 year) Jeffers (least said, soonest mended, 3 years) Reyes (booted out of the English game by ugly brothers, 2 years) Eduardo (leg smashed, 3 years). Amidst all of this the curse of the number 18 shirt is, I feel, overlooked. Just consider this for a line-up of players to have been "fortunate" enough to wear it - David Hillier, Steve Morrow, Gilles Grimandi, Pascal Cygan, Mikael Silvestre. Hardly a list of the great and the good is it? Let's hope Squillaci can buck the trend and become a legend for the right reasons (honourable mention to the Grimster, as ever, for stopping Davids scoring at the new stadium on opening day with the greatest, and most well received, foul committed by an Arsenal player). In fairness I am not saying that those players were not good (with the exception of Silvestre, who was awful) but they were not exactly fan favourites now were they? Even Grimandi, before he was elevated to cult status, was very much the Eboue of his time when he first arrived, and took some serious stick for his ineptitude as a centre-back - the move to midfield saved his Arsenal career. I'm waffling now, but just to say I want Squillaci to be a new hero of the North Bank (or the first hero of the new North Bank if you like.)

Tomorrow the boys are taking on Blackburn Rovers in the early kick-off. Squillaci will not be involved, but Koscielny is back after his ridiculous red-card saw him suspended last week. I wouldn't be surprised to see Kieran Gibbs play, simply because he is taller than Clichy, and I expect Diaby and Song to provide the defensive element in midfield. The Manager told us yesterday that Denilson is back in contention. Again, pre-season is shown to be a waste of everyone's time and effort. How can Denilson be involved? He has not been seen in any match since April. Perhaps if he'd made a 45 minute cameo appearance in the reserves on Wednesday I would be more understanding. Added to the fact that he hasn't played, who exactly does he replace in the matchday 18? Koscielny comes back, but I would expect Djourou (who I would rather see playing against the boneheads of Blackburn) to keep his place on the bench. Fabregas will not miss out, nor Eboue or Van Persie. That brings us down to Gibbs/Clichy, Vela or Jack Wilshere (and remember that Koscielny has already replaced one of them.) If Denilson is in the squad, and Wilshere not, then I give up trying to work out what goes on in Wenger's mind. I like Denilson. He is not the useless clown that a number of Arsenal fans would have you believe. However he is, right now, probably the weakest (in every sense of the word) of our midfield players. Therefore he should not be anywhere near the team tomorrow. We need as much power as we can get against Fat Sam's cloggers so please Arsene, I implore you, leave the lightweight Brazillian out. With no new goalkeeper (I continue to keep everything crossed, but Tuesday at 5pm draws ever nearer) we can expect Almunia to play again - pray to the Almighty that no illness befalls Manuel overnight as we can not, CAN NOT, have Fabianski playing at Ewood Park again tomorrow.

I will post after the match tomorrow. How long after depends on the result and the mood it puts me in. Here's hoping I'm not ranting. Incidentally Rovers are 5-1 with Totesport to beat Arsenal tomorrow - generous odds for non-Gooners to try and take advantage of - my confidence is reflected in the fact that Arsenal are NOT in my accumulator tomorrow.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Squillaci deal confirmed...sort of, Champions League draw

Arsene Wenger "announced" the signing of Sebastien Squillaci during his press conference this morning. By contrast, the official website ("it's not official until it's on arsenal.com") has not yet announced it. I have to say that all the excitement of signing a new player is taken away by this kind of thing. Throughout the day arsenal.com has given us various snippets from Arsene's press conference, such as "Denilson to return" and "Nasri and Bendtner 3-4 weeks away". They have chosen to completely ignore the one thing that every other news bulletin is reporting - the signing of Squillaci. This is so crass it is beyond comprehension. It's really quite embarrassing to be honest. So, still we wait for an "official" announcement. No point in getting upset about it, we know the signing is complete, but that doesn't excuse Arsenal's complete lack of communications on this.

The draw was made for Europe's most inaccurately named competition this evening. Arsenal are drawn with Shaktar Donetsk, Sporting Braga and Partizan Belgrade. At first glance this was a draw that concerned me, with long trips to Serbia and Ukraine. I am less worried now by the trip to Belgrade as I remember how Red Star were dispatched in qualifying a few years ago.
The long-haul to the far side of Ukraine remains a concern however. Apart from the travelling, Shaktar have a striker with whom we are very familiar - Eduardo. It will be great to see Eduardo say a proper goodbye to us in the home game. We have to hope he won't come and haunt us. The away game takes place in early November, so we should avoid the worst of the weather there, and it also comes between two home games in the Premier League. Sky are taking pleasure in saying that we have had a problem with the Ukrainians before, when they beat us 3-0 a few years back. They fail to acknowledge that Arsenal sent a reserve line-up out there for the final game of a group from which we had already qualified. Having said that, the defeat at Donetsk was the beginning of a terrible run that put paid to our Title chances that season - but I only recall that because Arsenal is, essentially, my religion.
Our final group opponents, Braga, are known as the Arsenalistas and play in red shirts with white sleeves - a revolutionary idea copied by Arsenal for this season. They also play in the weirdest stadium in Europe where a cliff forms the backdrop at one end of the pitch. If I had the money I should dearly like to visit Portugal for the game on 23rd November. Sadly I do not have the money so will have to make do with TV.
I think it is a group we should qualify from comfortably, but there is just enough about the opposition that faces us to make us guard against complacency. With two of the first three games to be played at home, we will only have ourselves to blame should we need to get a result towards the end of the group fixtures.

I will preview the Blackburn game tomorrow, including my thoughts on "Denilson to return."

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Reserves get going tonight, Steven Taylor

Arsenal Reserves get their League season underway this evening at Bolton. The Premier Reserve League has undergone a serious revamp this season after most of the big clubs decided not to enter it earlier in the Summer. As a result of the negotiated changes the clubs are now all represented, in the form of three regional groups - two in the North and one in the South. Each team plays home and away against those in the same group, and also play home OR away at each club in the other groups. Whichever clubs finish top of the northern groups will play-off for the right to play the southern winners in the League decider. Complicated? You bet. Despite the changes to the format you can expect Arsenal's Reserve team to be nothing of the sort. As I've said before I consider anyone not in the starting XI to be a reserve for the purposes of any midweek fixture when there is no first-team game. Therefore the likes of Vela, Traore, Gibbs, Fabianski etc should be lining up this evening - they aren't going to though. The team tonight will be the usual mix of "young professionals" (Emmanuel-Thomas, Eastmond, Hoyte, Randall etc) and U18 players. Quite how this is of benefit to Arsenal I don't know. As much as we criticised Lukasz Fabianski over his performances at the end of last season it must be remembered that the guy never plays unless Almunia is unavailable. To expect him to suddenly be on top of his game is, perhaps, a little unfair. To illustrate Arsenal's contempt for the Reserves they will only play something like three or four games at Barnet this season, with the other home matches at the Training Ground, behind closed doors. The official website is running a live text commentary from the game tonight. It's a shame Setanta folded, taking Arsenal TV with it, as the Reserves Live was the best thing about the channel (it would certainly have been more interesting than watching Spurs destroy Young Boys tonight).

Steven Taylor has been placed on the transfer list at Newcastle United. Arsenal have been linked with Taylor quite strongly in the past, though not this season when our centre-back shortage has been chronic. I do not rate Taylor. He is big and rugged, but also slow and ponderous - very prone to being too late on the scene in my experience. Having said that I would not be surprised at all to see him at Arsenal. Along with Squillaci it would be another centre-half on the books and would free Koscielny to partner Song in defensive midfield, where I think his particular brand of good football might flourish. We would have proper depth (numbers wise at least) in two crucial areas of the pitch in my opinion. Watch this space, it might just happen. If it does, just remember who predicted it!

Check out the pictures on arsenal.com from the North Bank/Clock End celebrations on Saturday. Until tomorrow.

Still no announcement.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

No announcement yet!!!!!! Sky's Mourinho obsession is getting worse, Wilshere dropped by England

One of the problems with following Arsenal is that, even when everyone knows a transfer is done, it is never official until confirmed by the Club. I've waited all day to write something in the hope that an official announcement on the Squillaci deal would have been forthcoming. As yet, there is nothing. The law of sod, of course, dictates that whilst I am publishing this the deal will be confirmed. As you may have realised from this paragraph of padding and general waffle, without official confirmation there is not a lot to write about today.

I was shouting at the TV earlier when I heard that twat Mourinho giving his opinions on Arsenal to Sky Sports News. I can't stand this big-headed tosser. Brian Clough always made his arrogant statements with a bit of a twinkle in his eye, Mourinho genuine believes in everything he comes out with. He clearly has a problem with Arsenal and with Wenger. Seeing as we never beat his Chelsea side, such animosity is hard to explain. His latest anti-Arsenal missive, with Sky doing their usual arse-licking routine (I loved it last season when Souness seemed ready to punch hairy-hands Richard Keys for going on and on about Mourinho), was to say how Arsenal's youngsters are no longer young. He claimed that they are all aged around 26 and 27, before going on to name Walcott (21), Song (22), Clichy (24) and Sagna (27). So he got one right. Sky, not wanting to lose their "exclusive" interviews with this overblown cretin, did nothing to point out the errors in his statements. Why let the truth get in the way of a Mourinho soundbite? Quite why Sky believe the English football fraternity to so enamoured with Mourinho is quite beyond me. They kept on last season that he was being "missed" by everyone in England. Really? Not even Chelsea fans miss him anymore! Then again, any channel that thinks Jamie Redknapp is a credible pundit is clearly out of touch with its public.

Jack Wilshere has been included in the England U21 squad for next week. Kieran Gibbs has not, which would seem to mean that he is now Ashley Cole's deputy for the national team. That Wilshere has been left out, despite impressing for Arsenal so far, indicates to me that the previous England squad was merely a sop to the press, used to take the heat off the World Cup players. England's brave new world did not last for long. Hopefully Jack will take the snub well and use his disappointment to stuff Blackburn on Saturday (I can see him getting sent-off against a team like Blackburn as the boy takes no crap from anyone).

Still no announcement.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Squillaci deal agreed, Reserves win in Dublin, Lansbury and Emmaunel-Thomas to go

Arsenal have agreed a deal with Seville for Sebastien Squillaci. The Spaniards put a statement on their website last night to confirm the deal, and to say that Squillaci would be in London today for his medical at Arsenal. Depending on what paper you read the fee ranges from £4m to £5.5m. Whatever it is, at that sort of price, it seems a fairly risk-free acquisition. An experienced French international, who plays in a position where we are chronically short, has to be welcomed with open arms. Squillaci certainly looks tough and mean, so let's hope he plays that way. I expect him to be first-choice alongside Vermaelen, with the injury-prone Djourou and inexperienced Koscielny providing the back-up, along with Alex Song as required. The deal might be completed today. Keep your eye on arsenal.com for any confirmation.
With four centre-backs, plus Song, we now have that position seemingly covered. If we can get our new goalkeeper, which looks increasingly likely to be Schwarzer (beggars can not be choosers, I suppose) and another defensive midfield player to play alongside Alex Song then we can really challenge for the Title. On the subject of Schwarzer, TalkSport reported last night that he had failed a medical - complete nonsense. As the bandwagon of "news" on this subject rumbled through Twitter and various messageboards last night I saw the most ridiculous claim - that Schwarzer had failed a medical given to him by Fulham, who had informed Arsenal. Just consider the validity/stupidity of that statement. Why would Fulham give him a medical for Arsenal? As I said, complete nonsense.

The Reserves won the Platinum One Challenge in Dublin yesterday. Having previously beaten a strong Man Utd Reserve team (including Fabio, Macheda and Ugly Neville no.1) last week, the youngsters beat hosts, Shamrock Rovers, 3-1 yesterday to complete a very satisfactory few days in Ireland. However, the presence of the likes of Hoyte, Randall etc continues to baffle me. They will never be Arsenal first-team players, so get rid.

Also on show in Dublin, and in goalscoring form, were Henri Lansbury and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas. Following impressive first-team pre-season campaigns they can consider themselves unfortunate not to have a first-team squad number. Instead they both look set for loan spells once again. Emmanuel-Thomas is likely to return to Doncaster, where he did well last Autumn, and Lansbury is apparently off to Swansea. I don't see the value for either player in these moves, other than to play somewhere. With both of them having been successful in the Championship last season I would have liked to see them loaned to Premier League clubs to prove whether or not they are capable where it matters. It worked well for Jack Wilshere, after all.

With the weather here improving after last nights horrible storms I might get some cricket in this afternoon! Fingers crossed there is no more rain. I'll post some more tomorrow, when we might be celebrating the arrival of a new defender. Who knows, there might be some movement on the goalkeeper front too.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Theo batters Blackpool, Wenger hints on Squillaci deal

Theo Walcott stole the show yesterday as Arsenal dispatched Blackpool 6-0. A hat-trick for Theo was well deserved, and he was involved in most of the really good stuff from Arsenal, as was Tomas Rosicky in his best performance since returning last season. Okay, it was only a 10-man Blackpool team, but you can only beat what's in front of you. I got annoyed in the last 20 minutes as Arsenal reverted to type and tried to walk the ball in, rather than dishing out the sort of humiliation you would expect Chelsea to deliver (note their 2 goals in injury time at Wigan last night). In spite of that, you can't argue too much with a 6-0 victory. Alan Hansen disgraced himself on Match of the Day last night by picking out a couple of wayward passes from Walcott, whilst ignoring his 3 goals and a couple of lovely crosses that nobody got on the end of. Gary Lineker, I thought, was magnificent in pulling Hansen up on this. Arseblogger also has a take on this today.
The editor of the Gooner, Kevin Whitcher, points out in his online editorial (www.onlinegooner.com) that Walcott needs to now show he can be consistent. This is true, but we must give the lad his moment to enjoy a super display. Mr Whitcher also says that Walcott needs to produce in big games. This is where I am a but non-plussed. I believe that Walcott's best moments have often come in big matches - Carling Cup Final, Anfield, Croatia, Barcelona at home last season. I have no concerns on that score as his pace frightens even the best. If he can just learn to pick the right option at the right time, and learn to run without falling over the ball, he might yet develop in to the player we hope for - we know he can finish. Fingers crossed, and congratulations on a job very well done yesterday.

After the game Arsene Wenger was questioned on Sky about his transfer plans. When asked whether Squillaci would be joining Wenger told Martin Tyler that he would "leave guessing up to you, but your guesses are not often wrong." So you can be fairly sure that the Frenchman is joining Arsenal. We will also be signing a goalkeeper, I am certain, and I think it will be Mark Schwarzer. I still believe we are short in the defensive midfield area, especially if Alex Song has to be deployed as centre-back cover, as yesterday. Scott Parker still fits the bill for me and I think a cash, plus Denilson, deal could be done, whatever West Ham say about him being unbuyable. Whatever Arsene's plans are for the transfer market we will know in just over a week. We have no option other than to trust in him right now. He has to make the necessary moves, or results such as yesterday's will become a distant memory.

The rain has seen my cricket match cancelled this afternoon, as it will tomorrow as well. A great start to a week off! More on Monday.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Blackpool preview, Schwarzer latest, William Gallas - clown

The boys take on Blackpool tomorrow in their first home match of the season. I think Blackpool realise there is every chance they will hit the ground with a hefty thud tomorrow, following last weeks first day fireworks. As long as Arsenal's players display the right attitude we should see a thumping for the Tangerines. I won't be holding my breath though, as we've been undone before by sides who should have been cannon-fodder for us - Hull, Bradford City etc.
The team news indicates that Fabregas is in the squad for tomorrow, assuming he doesn't get another "chest infection." I think we might see Robin Van Persie from the start, and Johan Djourou is apparently fit to play - at least for tomorrow. Denilson, who was going to be fit to play, according to Arsene Wenger, at Legia Warsaw a fortnight ago, is still not available - I am not surprised by this. I hope Jack Wilshere keeps his place, and I think that Rosicky and/or Theo Walcott will start. With Arshavin carrying an injury (which would go some way to explaining his lack of form) I would give the Russian the break that is required to aid the healing process. On paper we should win by at least four goals. Unfortunately football is not played on paper. Fingers crossed for a big win.

Mark Hughes has accused Arsenal of deliberately unsettling Mark Schwarzer. Apparently Arsenal had the audacity to bid again for the Australian, through the proper channels. The fact is that Fulham went public over Arsenal's official approach for the player. Had they not done so, and you can be sure Arsenal would not have made it public knowledge, then there would be nothing to talk about. Mark Hughes is a cretin - always has been, and always will be. I am sure that Schwarzer will be an Arsenal player by the end of August. There is no way that Arsenal will be bidding for Shay Given - particularly with the news that he has had to have further treatment on the shoulder he injured at our place late last season. It could be that the Irishman is finished.

Finally today, William Gallas. What a fool. He turned down Arsenal's offer of a one-year deal in order to sell his over-priced services around Europe. Nobody wanted him. So he now resurfaces at Tottenham - on a one-year deal. I could have scripted Twitchy's press conference today. He described William Gallas as "a World Class player" (fair enough) and "a good lad" (which he clearly is not). But then, everyone Harry signs is described in this way. Gallas perhaps feels he is getting one over on the Arsenal fans who never really took to him, and the Chelsea fans who turned against him, by signing for their greatest rivals. What he will find is a general ambivalence from the Arsenal fans, who couldn't really care less until Derby Day. He will also find, as I've seen on Sky this afternoon, that the Spurs fans will also hate him - because he played for Arsenal and Chelsea. This tells you all you need to know about the mugs from White Hart Lane - they sign the former Arsenal Captain, a top player, but will despise him because he played for Arsenal. We, of course, signed the former Tottenham Captain and loved him, because he left them to join Arsenal. It's all about class, and we have it in abundance.

I'll review the game at some point on Sunday. Until then...COME ON ARSENAL.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Arsene moves for a centre-back, no more Wonder Of You

Sebastien Squillaci - on his way to Arsenal?
Arsene Wenger is making a move in the transfer marker it appears. Canal+ last night revealed that French international Sebastien Squillaci had not been included in Seville's Champions League team as he is on the verge of a transfer to Arsenal. This news spread quickly around the Internet and Seville confirmed this morning that talks are being held between the Club's. Squillaci is an experienced centre-back who played in the Champions League Final for Monaco in 2004. He has just turned 30 so has a wealth of experience. Aside from that I know little about him. I've seen comments on the Internet so far ranging from "not good enough, useless" to "a beast in the air". It's amazing just how many Arsenal fans are experts on footballers from all around Europe. Where do they find the time to view all these players? I am, of course, being sarcastic. The fact that Seville have confirmed Arsenal's interest, with an official bid being made, indicates this is a deal that might well happen. Is he any good? I guess we will know in the next couple of weeks.

With the return of the Clock End and North Bank to the stadium this weekend it has been announced by Redaction that The Wonder Of You is to be dropped from its pre-match slot on the tannoy. I never understood the vitriol aimed at the introduction of the song. One of the popular objections seemed to be that a song by Elvis Presley had no connection to Arsenal. A fair point. But apart from songs written specifically about Arsenal, what music has got a connection to the Club? The pricks in Block 6 (that's the Redaction section), or at least those that turn up before kick-off, would actively chant over the top of TWOY, indicating to me that, as it wasn't their idea, they wanted nothing to do with it. Now they have their way. So what is the Arsenal-inspired music of choice to get us all going then? Well, it's none other than "Right Here, Right Now" by Fatboy Slim - Redaction claim this has a resonance from the Highbury days. What? Absolute bollocks. And what exactly is Norman Cook's Arsenal connection? A season-ticket holder at Brighton and Hove Albion I believe. So instead of having a potential sing-along number to get the crowd going, we have a dance tune that will be played at ear-splitting volume and will only serve to piss people off for the most part. But Redaction (that unelected group of supporter opinion) like it, so the rest of us have to lump it. You might have noticed a certain ambivalence on my part towards Redaction. You would be right. A bunch of largely Johnny-Come-Lately "fans" who think they are more important than the rest of us because they want to stand up and sing, thus creating an atmosphere. Fine. Sing and create an atmosphere - everyone appreciates that. But you might find that if you turned up an hour before the game and got the players name chanting going during the warm-up, then a proper atmosphere might build - just like at away games. Remember the North Bank? The reason the atmosphere was better was that the fans had to be in early to get their places - the same principle would still apply. In the meantime, take your Redaction and stick it up your arse. You do not, and will never, speak in my name.

As I said when I began this blog, it's MY blog and MY opinion - you don't have to like it, that's just the way it is.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Nasri injured, Traore off, Arsenal Fanshare

Samir Nasri - injured again. Big blow to Arsenal

Should I really be surprised? Of course not. Samir Nasri, after a fairly blistering pre-season, and a decent performance at Anfield, is injured. I saw Nasri apparently picking up a knock before half-time on Sunday and he came to the touchline for treatment. What with him going on to finish the match and play quite well I had forgotten all about it. Unfortunately he had picked up a knee problem and has to have an operation. Arsenal say he is out for a month, so you can make that two months. How typical is this? Why do we suffer so many injuries? It can't all be down to bad luck. As much as this is a blow to Arsenal, it is a huge smack in the chops for Nasri himself. Samir is not a favourite of mine. However, his performances in pre-season marked him out as the potential star of our season. To now see him out with yet another injury is particularly galling. The only bright news from this is that it should leave more opportunities for Jack Wilshere (the downside is more opportunities for Tomas Rosicky - though I felt he did turn the game for Arsenal late in the second-half at Liverpool) Get well soon Samir.
Armand Traore appears to be on the verge of a move to Benfica. I'm not surprised to hear he is being sold. As the third-choice left-back he shouldn't get too much action, though I think he is more than useful as a winger. He is, for me, our best crosser of the ball and I have no doubt that Marouane Chamakh would benefit from his presence around the first-team on a match day. That said, there is no way Wenger is going to use him in that role, so it seems to be bye-bye to Armand. I think a move away is probably best for Traore and I wish him well should he depart. I think he'll do well.
Arsenal have launched their Arsenal Fanshare initiative. I won't try to explain it as the official website can do it better than I ever could. Suffice to say that I believe this is a move, supported by the Arsenal Supporters Trust, to try and ensure plural ownership remains in place at Arsenal. I have never been in favour of Arsenal being owned by some individual businessman or another and anything that stops them getting their grubby mitts on OUR Club is to be welcomed. If I get £100 to spare I might even buy one myself - though the thought of having a ton burning a hole in my pocket is only a dream right now.
We might get some early team news tomorrow. I will try and put something out before I go to work tomorrow evening, assuming there's some news to talk about.

Monday, 16 August 2010

A decent point to start, Shay Given rumours grow

Reina: What goes around comes around - can't watch it without laughing

A point at Anfield. I'm not going to complain about that. Arsenal's second-half performance lacked pace against ten-men, but I think if you can come away unbeaten from the other big clubs you're doing okay. In the first-half I thought we looked good. The passing was crisp and quick, but I wanted to see Eboue running at Agger and Nasri taking on the pedestrian Carragher. I think if those players had been more direct we might have created some opportunities. I've seen people saying Chamakh did very little - that is unfair. How many times did Arsenal provide him with the service required. In the second-half I watched him closely as he laid the ball wide and then made his run for a cross in to the box that would never come. If Chamakh plays then Arsenal must use the ball to bring him in to the game properly.
Joe Cole's sending-off was fair. He took off recklessly and caught Koscielny. The fact that even Redknapp and Keys said it was a red card tells you all you need to know. I had a text from a Liverpool fan at half-time saying it was never a sending off. When I replied "are you serious?" I was told to take off my "bias glasses" - watch it again my friend. I must say at this point that Cole's foul was nothing like the Taylor, Shawcross, even Karl Henry, fouls of recent times against Arsenal - Cole is genuinely not a dirty player. However, it was dangerous and could have done serious damage to Koscielny. Also, I must point out to Martin Tyler that the reaction of the Arsenal fans was NOT what got him sent-off - those 3,000 Gooners in the crowd of 40,000 might have been much louder than Sky's beloved scousers, but they did not influence the referee. Somehow Steven Gerrard got away with only one yellow-card for his three heinous fouls in the game - how does this guy continually get away with it? As for Koscielny's red-card, it just showed how weak the referee was in that he felt the need to even things up, however late in the game.
A catalogue of defensive howlers led to Ngog's goal for Liverpool and Almunia got his angles slightly wrong to be beaten at the near-post. He should not take the blame on his own, as some of the various online forum contributors would like - what about the roles of Clichy, Arshavin, Wilshere and Vermaelen? Until such time as a replacement is signed (more below) Almunia, for all his faults, remains the best we have. I was extremely pleased when I saw he was playing yesterday, but frustrated to see him lead the side again - once more the Arsenal captaincy is devalued.
I scared the living daylights out of my unsuspecting five-month old when Arsenal scored - and I thought it was a fairly tame reaction on my part to a last-minute equaliser! Having made a "save of the season" contender from Rosicky, there seemed no way past Jose Reina. However, Chamakh got himself in where it hurts (more of that please) and Reina literally threw the ball in to the net as it bounced back off the post. I've watched it back about ten times this morning and I can't help but laugh at it. It's hilarious. This was a moment of pure Karma as the Arsenal Gods got their own back for his role in forcing the Barcelona shirt on to Fabregas. What goes around comes around Pepe, and it came around for you yesterday.
As I said, I'm happy with the point, despite playing against 10 men for the second-half. If we can get the players back to fitness (if, if, if) and Wenger makes the signings (IF, IF, IF) then we can challenge. There should be a decent win on Saturday as long as the boys go out with the right attitude, and then we can be off and running.
The Shay Given to Arsenal rumours are becoming more prevalent. They've been fuelled by some comments by his former Newcastle team-mate, Warren Barton, on TV in America - he actually says very little if you read the quotes. As I said the other day, I don't think he will solve all our problems at the back as he does not dominate the penalty area. However, he is twice the goalkeeper that any of our current crop are. My concern is that City do not have to sell any player to a Club they consider a rival. We can sit and hope - rather Given than Schwarzer any day - Shwarzer is no better than Almunia. If (that word again) we could add Given and a couple of centre-halves - preferably at least one aerially dominant player like Gary Cahill then we can challenge the ominous looking Chelsea.
I'm not sure if there will be a blog tomorrow as I am playing golf all day, with an awful weather forecast, so I may not be in the mood for writing! The signing of Shay Given, however, would certainly bring me to the laptop.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Arsene going nowhere, Premier League season preview

The Premier League Trophy - resplendent in Arsenal ribbons
Arsene Wenger used his press conference today to state his commitment to Arsenal by announcing he is about to sign a new contract. This has met with some mixed views from Arsenal fans. As someone who has believed Wenger has had his time I am unsure what to make of this. The positive is that Arsene has nailed his colours to the mast and demonstrated to the players that he is here for the long-haul, so a bit of reciprocal commitment would not go amiss. The negative is that, if Arsenal's season fails, he faces the ignominy of being kicked out by the Club as the pressure builds in the future. That a new contract has been offered indicates that the Board is happy with the way things are going. The fact is that the fans will NOT be happy if we start to struggle.
As this is the eve of the new Premier League season I have previewed every team and how I think things will pan out. It's just a bit of fun, written by an unqualified no-mark, but I hope you enjoy it. The teams are in no particular order:
They are reliant on supplying chances for Darren Bent. This is a task that becomes harder with the sale of Kenwynne Jones to Stoke. I also think that Lorik Cana will be missed from their, severely weakened, midfield. The pre-season broken arm for a much improved Craig Gordon leaves them vulnerable at the back and I think Sunderland will struggle this season.
I think (I hope!) that it will be "after the Lord-Mayor's show" for Spurs this season. In recent years a decent campaign has usually been followed by a bad start and a change of manager before Christmas. If they do start to go backwards expect Twitchy to prepare the ground for his departure with a moan about lack of players/investment. Top ten for the scum this season, but not much better.
Another yo-yo season for the Baggies with relegation a near-certainty. They have no goalscorer for this level and a weak defence. They must stick with the Manager though and, eventually, the coming and going from the Premier League will result in a stable Premier League presence - just as it did for Charlton.
Their strong and organised defence will again need good assistance from a goalkeeper. Is Ben Foster up to it? I think they'll slip a little, possibly in to the bottom half, but no relegation dangers as long as most of the players avoid second-season syndrome. They won't be able to rely on so many late goals either.
They've had a weak pre-season. I know that Owen Coyle likes his teams to play a bit of football. He sacrificed those values when he arrived at the Reebok as a means to an end last season, but you can't turn cloggers in to footballers. I think they must play to their strengths, which is lots of high balls to Kevin Davies, or they will struggle badly, as they did when Sammy Lee tried to get them passing. And I hope they don't get to have Jack Wilshere in their squad - he needs to play for Arsenal.
A lack of quality all round makes them relegation-fodder. They need a fit Chris Kirkland to play 90% of their matches at the peak of his form to have any chance of staying up. Relegated come May.
Loads of money. Loads of strikers (another one today!) Poor defence. Top goalkeepers. I think that Roberto Mancini is not so popular with the fans or the players and may not last too long. They have a really tough first six matches - bad start, manager sacked - good start, they become the team to catch. Top four this season.
Javier Hernandez looks to be a bit of a goalscoring gem. I think they need a fit Rio Ferdinand to help them defensively though - Brown, O'Shea and Evans are not top-class. Giggs and Scholes can't go on forever so I think United might struggle a little this season - but everything is relative. Slipping backwards, Fergie moving towards the end.
If they have to rely on Big Sol every week they may struggle. They're already weak in every area with a number of players who are just not Premier League class. They certainly don't have a striker of the requisite quality to score goals at this level. Bottom five as another relegation battle looms.
The Hammers have seen new owners try to make themselves the stars of the East End show. They have been spending money though. West Ham will need Scott Parker and Robert Green in their best form again. I think they will be better defensively, with Avram Grant bringing some proper organisation at the back. Safely in mid-table.

Poor team. Worse manager. Bottom six thanks to a good work rate.
I think Kenwynne Jones is a superb signing for Stoke. He will certainly suit their game and bring players in to the attack with his hold-up play. Strong and physical (downright dirty in fact) will see them in mid-table again.
Losing James Milner, and possibly Ashley Young. Already lost their manager. Villa will slip back in to the pack.
Blackburn have had a decent pre-season campaign and will be competitive simply due to the way Allardyce sends his team out to play the game. Rovers have a severe lack of pace at the back and I'll be watching young Jones very closely - he looked a real talent last season.
Why do promoted teams waste their money on mediocrity? Why spend money on players who will not be Premier League class as long as they live? I suspect Ian Holloway will talk himself out of a job by complaining at the money he was given (or lack of it in his view). Bottom of the table by some distance come May time.
Unfortunately they remain the team to beat. They could, possibly, miss Carvallho. Michael Essien's return to fitness negates any hole left by Ballack. They also have two World-Class goalscorers. Champions again I fear.
I expect them to be stronger this season - last year's poor start set them back badly. Moyes has kept hold of his top players. However, a lack of genuine firepower makes them a little over-reliant on Tim Cahill. UEFA Cup spot.
I think Fulham will really struggle without Roy Hodgson's organisation. Mark Hughes is not a good manager and I can see Al-Fayed dispensing with his services before the season ends.
Make no mistake, they will be stronger this season because they will be better defensively. Mascherano will be badly missed if he leaves and they need a fit Gerrard and Torres to score the goals. Top five.
So, what about us? I've been previewing our season since the World Cup ended really. I am pessimistic right now because we are short of quality and numbers defensively. We lack organisation and little has been done to change things since the end of last season. Having said that, I think we are two, maybe three, signings away from a Title challenge. If the players are added in the next couple of weeks (and we can get out of Anfield without being beaten) my mood will improve and I can see Arsenal as Champions come May. In the meantime I think we will finish comfortably in the top four - but that is not enough.
So there you have it. The roller coaster starts tomorrow. Strap yourselves in for nine months of joy and despair. Get behind the boys. Give them all your support. More on Monday.
I'm now on Twitter (www.twitter.com/ARSENALDvbrisG) as well as Facebook (It's MYArsenalOpinion)

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Early team news, England, why?

I know the Tories are famed for privatising everything they can lay their hands on, but I must have missed the reports of them privatising good news from Arsenal. God knows we haven't had any for what seems like ages. The latest is the news that Johan Djourou has been ruled out of the game at Liverpool on Sunday with a hamstring injury. This shouldn't (and doesn't) come as any shock to me. Djourou is, much like Abou Diaby, the King of the niggle. I can't help thinking that most of his problems are of the mind. Nasser Hussain talks in his autobiography about one of the wasted talents of English cricket, Alex Tudor, and how he felt that most of Tudor's injury problems were in his head, and were not physical ailments at all. I see the same thing with Djourou - I can think of at least two occasions where he has pulled out of matches during the warm-up, claiming some injury/illness. Of most concern at the moment of course is what this latest problem means for Arsenal ahead of the season opener. With the additional news that Alex Song will also be missing we are suddenly left with only Vermaelen and Koscielny to play centre-back. Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that Havard Nordtveit has been included in the first-team photograph this season (see the top of the page) and he is, nominally, a centre-back. However, he has spent the entire pre-season at right-back, or in midfield, which indicates to me that Wenger doesn't fancy him at centre-back. All of this makes the decision to loan Kyle Bartley out to Sheffield United frankly ridiculous. It is an embarrassment for any club to be entering a season with only two central defenders available. For a club like Arsenal it is an unforgivable disgrace. In other team news Wenger says that Diaby and Denilson face fitness tests this weekend. How? How can they be involved following a fitness test when neither of them have played a part in the pre-season matches? It makes an absolute joke of the pre-season preparation that the players do if these two are in the squad at Anfield on Sunday. Meanwhile Fabregas and Van Persie are to be assessed tomorrow. Cesc played 45 minutes for Spain in Mexico last night and the extra day's rest before Sunday will probably see him make the bench at least - so, too, Carlos Vela.
This whole problem is down to Wenger's failure to buy the required players in the transfer window so far. It is an act of negligence for us to enter the new season in this situation, and one which Arsene should explain to the fans in full. We want signings, we need signings, and we need them in a way that we've not seen in the Wenger era.

I've just watched last night's England game in full. Theo Walcott played the first-half and was England's best player. He looked to be doing things we have not seen for a long time as he ran at his full-back and committed defenders before delivering decent balls in to the box. He played like he had a point to prove to Capello and I think he made it. The only note of caution would be to point out that one of the Hungarian defenders was playing for Stevenage, in the Conference, not too long ago. You should remember that the next time Hansen, Shearer, or some prat in the pub decides to talk about "international level" - David Healey has a prolific goalscoring record at "international level," but he couldn't score for toffee in the Premier League.
Kieran Gibbs played the second-half and was a catalyst for much of England's best attacking play. There is no doubt that Gibbs is superb going forward, but I see his defensive abilities as severely lacking right now. Right at the end Hungary got away down his side of the pitch, as he was ball-watching, only for Joe Hart to save England. At the moment he looks a bit more of a winger than a full-back, but the last bloke we converted to full-back was Ashley Cole, and he hasn't had a bad career has he? More of Ashley Cole below.
Jack Wilshere made it a hat-trick of Arsenal players in the final ten minutes. His first act was to launch himself studs-first at a Hungarian midfielder. I like this nasty side to Jack, who is clearly not afraid to put himself in there. However, I suspect he will not be afforded the leniency that is given to Scholes, Lampard and Gerrard - after all, Wilshere plays for Arsenal. It will be interesting to hear what Andy Gray says when Jack flies in on a Liverpool player on Sunday - I bet he won't be chuckling and saying it's a "typical Jack Wilshere challenge" as he does when that dirty scroat Scholes is trying to injure opposition players.

Finally, as a lot of Gooners will have seen outside the stadium last week, we appear to have our own fair-share of toerags following Arsenal. Since we arrived at the new stadium Arsenal fans have complained that it is a soulless bowl of a ground, with nothing to make it distinctively "Arsenal." Last year the club embarked on a programme to "Arsenalise" the stadium and a number of superb additions were made. One of these was the original and brilliant tribute to Highbury - a mural, in the form of a massive team photograph, including the faces (where available) of every player to represent Arsenal at The Home Of Football. I noticed not long after it was unveiled that some twat had taken a knife to Ashley Cole's face and scored over it but, thankfully, the damage was really quite minor. To my surprise Arsenal didn't take any steps to protect the mural - no perspex cover etc. Over the Summer the knives in North London have obviously become sharper and Ashley Cole has been sliced out of the picture completely, thus destroying this most wonderful of Arsenal ideas. Why? Why would you do that to something that is paying tribute to Arsenal players of the past? I dislike Ashley Cole as much as the next Gooner, but I can not, for the life of me, work out what sort of prick would do this. Why stop at Ashley Cole? What about Stapleton, or Adebayor? It's time to get over this hatred of Ashley Cole. Abuse him when he plays against us, fine - we all will. But to destroy something that is dear to Arsenal? Tossers. I hope Arsenal find the little scroats that did it and hang them from the new clock.

I'll be previewing the season tomorrow night, ahead of the big kick-off on Saturday.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Fabianski to play at Anfield, Fulham deny request made, England, my take on Aston Villa

It appears that the worst fears of Arsenal fans may be confirmed this Sunday with Lukasz Fabianski saying he expects to play at Anfield. Fabianski is convinced that, having played more in pre-season than the other goalkeepers, he is the man that will line-up for us this weekend. I have to say that I think he is right. Arsene Wenger seems to be driving Manuel Almunia away from the Club. This is a very risky strategy. Almunia is not good enough to be first-choice for Arsenal, that is true, but he is twice the player Fabianski is. Unfortunately the Pole just doesn't have what it takes. With a severely weakened midfield and, most probably, a debutant centre-half, the last thing we need is a goalkeeper devoid of confidence and, quite possibly, the most gaffe-prone in the Premier League. We can only hope that, in the likely absence of a new player, Wenger will come to his senses and give Almunia a reprieve.

On the subject of goalkeeping, Fulham moved quickly to deny reports in the papers this morning that Mark Schwarzer had made a transfer request. They went on to say that they want to hold on to their best players. Fair enough. I never wanted him anyway - I don't think the guy is any better than Almunia. Fulham have also announced that Philippe Senderos has ruptured his achilles and will miss the season. I think even the most hard-nosed critic of Senderos at Arsenal (and I was certainly NOT a Senderos-basher) would have to feel sorry for the big man. Let's hope he can make a recovery and rescue his career.

England play tonight in the most pointless round of fixtures ever. There is some serious Arsenal interest with Walcott, Gibbs and Wilshere involved. The England squad lurches from one embarrassment to the next and this surely reached its nadir last night with the addition of Blackburn's third-choice goalkeeper! If I had any genuine interest in the England team I would be going absolutely mental at what is happening. I will skyplus the match as I am working, but I will only watch it back if the Arsenal players have been involved properly. We must hope that the fourteen Arsenal players absent this week all come back fit. Fabregas and Vela are having to travel to Mexico which would surely put paid, certainly for Fabregas, to any hopes of them being involved in the squad at Liverpool.

I was working on Monday when I heard that Martin O'Neill had quit Aston Villa. Speaking with some of the blokes I offered the opinion that maybe Randy Lerner wasn't the good foreign owner he was portrayed as, perhaps looking to sell the crown-jewels and not invest properly. I was, as I found out yesterday, quite wrong. I hadn't realised, until watching Sky yesterday morning, that Aston Villa had the second-biggest net-spend on players since 2006, behind only Manchester City. Villa have spent a net £80m on new players. I couldn't work out who these players could possibly be but gradually it started to come to me. O'Neill has spent mega-money on people like Ashley Young, Nigel Reo-Coker, Stewart Downing, Steve Sidwell, Nicky Shorey, Emile Heskey - the list goes on. The fact is that O'Neill is a mentalist. Enough said. It's a real shame for the Villa fans who follow their, genuinely big, Club through thick and thin.

Finally I want to offer my sympathy to the family of Adam Stansfield and the fans of Exeter City. The striker died yesterday following a battle with bowel-cancer. I am friends with a couple of local Grecians and I am sure they will be very upset at this tragically young loss. Rest in peace.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Another big name keeper linked, Spahic rumours given legs by Sagna

According to today's Daily Mirror we are now in for Shay Given. I think this is a non-starter. The report says that we may try to buy him or loan him. There is no way Manchester City would loan any of their players to a rival for a Champions League place. Similarly, with Arsenal's obvious deficiencies in the goalkeeping area, to sell us Shay Given would undoubtedly improve Arsenal, so they won't do that either. City's money means that Arsenal (or any other of the top clubs) could offer a world-record fee, but it wouldn't have to be accepted. Shay Given would be a superb addition to the Arsenal team, though he is not impressive with balls in to the box as any City regular will testify following their problems last season. That he is better than what we have can not be disputed and his experience alone would be of benefit. That being said, if Saturday's link with Reina is genuine, I know who I'd rather get.

Our other area of greatest need is, of course, centre-back. Last week the Bosnian, Emir Spahic, linked himself with a move to Arsenal. Bacary Sagna has now made comments on arsenal.com telling us what a super player he thinks Spahic is, and that he would be a great signing for the Club. This kind of thing is a bit of a departure for Arsenal who, as we know, don't make official comment on speculation. The more I think about it, the more I believe Spahic will be joining soon. The Sagna interview is merely Arsenal's attempt to convince the fans this guy can play, so that we believe there is nothing wrong in signing yet another player none of us have ever heard of.

With a midweek of international matches ahead there is not a lot else around. I think it may be a slightly more lively international week than normal, simply because signings are needed by numerous teams, and the international friendlies will not really stop that from happening. It's unlikely that I will post tomorrow as I have work in the morning and cricket in the afternoon. Who knows, when I'm back here on Wednesday Arsene might have started to address the problems. Then again, maybe not.