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Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Stop believing the lies you read my Gooner friends

This is what the journalists really know about Arsenal FC

I wanted to get this written yesterday but I didn't have the time due to work. Frankly I'm fed up of reading and hearing the rubbish spouted by journalists and then re-hashed as a statement of fact by anyone and everyone on the internet. I'm not talking so much about transfer gossip as the whole "my sources" nonsense by those who claim to be well connected.
On Monday evening the journalist Amy Lawrence went on BBC Radio 5Live to tell the nation that Ivan Gazidis and Arsene Wenger are at each others throats over the lack of spending this Summer. Lawrence is, apparently, an Arsenal supporter. She began her journalistic musings writing in the Gooner fanzine, I believe, before becoming one of those wonderful football "experts" who has never played football at any level, but yet spurts out rubbish in the honest belief they should be deemed as an Oracle of some sort. If you've ever heard Amy Lawrence talk about what it means to be a fan of Arsenal you will have heard single cliché ridden quote you could possibly shake a stick at. I find the woman nauseating, and her writing on the game is abysmal as far as I'm concerned. I would also add that I don't like anyone who claims to be an Arsenal supporter taking advantage of a nationwide platform to come out with the sort of inflammatory story that could cause the Club a problem.
Naturally her comments caused the usual outcry on Twitter. She was lent "credence" by Tim Payton of the Arsenal Supporters Trust who claims he "hears" the same things as Amy Lawrence, and that Wenger and Gazidis have fallen out. Indeed, according to Payton, Ivan has been talking in these terms publicly. So publicly that you haven't heard of it before, obviously, or since. But then you and I don't have the same connections that a luminary like Payton has. Tim Payton has, through his role with the Trust, allowed himself to be set up as a spokesperson for Arsenal supporters. Let's make one thing clear right now: He doesn't speak for me, nor for 99% of other Arsenal fans (in fairness he is at pains to point out he is the mouthpiece only for the Trust, but he seems happy enough with the perception in the media). Across the course of this Summer he has become an even bigger annoyance to me than Arsene Wenger with the way he has preached to Gooners about the need for "patience" over transfers while giving everyone the impression that he might have the ear of important people at Arsenal.
Amid all the hullabaloo on the internet over the Lawrence story I read a Tweet from a member of the Arsenal staff in which he lamented the "rubbish" he was reading on his timeline, then describing it as "jackanory". This individual works alongside the squad and Arsene Wenger on a daily basis. He has also just come back from the Asia Tour with both Wenger and Gazidis. Of course he is highly unlikely to know anything about transfers until they are in the can, but he was pretty well placed to know if the CEO and the Manager are on the brink of civil war.
Payton had described Amy Lawrence as "usually well informed" over the issue on Monday evening. When I pointed out that a genuinely well placed member of the Arsenal staff dismissed it as rubbish he told me that employees of the Club hadn't said such things. He actually cut me dead with his dismissive response. Well, I beg to differ, Mr Payton. Maybe I should wear a stupid red and white rosette and stand outside the AGM talking to Sky in order to self publicise my bid to bag a place on the Arsenal Board. It seems that's the method being employed.
This story of a rift is so well known and publicly spoken about that no other newspaper or outlet has run with it. That leads me to conclude that it is simply not true, and has been fabricated or embellished by Amy Lawrence to further her career in some way by "knowing" the workings of Arsenal Football Club. I don't doubt that there is discussion between the two men, and that they might not necessarily agree on what is the way forward, but to suggest a rift seems like nonsense to me.
The fact is that I've had enough of the lies from these media people. They know as much about what goes on behind the scenes at Arsenal as you and me - absolutely naff all. The only people who genuinely know what's happening at the Club are Arsene Wenger and Ivan Gazidis. I'm not saying the situation at Arsenal appears particularly healthy, but that's another story entirely. Anything else is conjecture. And I'm sick of it. If you believe in it at all then you must be crazy. Don't swallow the lies.

Friday, 26 July 2013

The winning habit

Chuba Akpom celebrates the winner

A win is a win, even in pre-season. Winning is a nice habit to get in to. Winning ugly also has a lot going for it on occasion. Today was definitely one of the latter. Chuba Akpom's opportunism and genuine strikers instinct rescued Arsenal from finishing their Asia Tour with one or two red faces. Incidentally, you might not have noticed that Manchester United are not having very good results so far, such is the lack of press criticism - a bit different to when we were struggling in the Far East this time last year. I digress, but they've not yet won a game under Moyes, all against sub standard opponents.
I'll keep this fairly brief as I want to get on with watching the athletics on BBC this evening. I thought Arsenal's players looked a bit demob happy out there today. I can imagine after two weeks of far too much glad handing the boys were looking forward to boarding the plane home. They started brightly enough and Theo Walcott made a great run through the defence before hitting the post. I thought Olivier Giroud played really well again and was unlucky not to score. Sadly Theo's finishing was to become the major feature of the game as he missed sitter after sitter. He is usually pretty dependable in front of goal, but in the last two games on tour he has been woeful when through on the goalkeeper. The Ox also hit a lovely volley that came off the bar, but that was just about his only contribution. The only other thing of note in the first-half was an outstanding save from Lukasz Fabianski and I thought the big Pole was brilliant all through the game.
The second-half saw the usual raft of changes and Aaron Ramsey was particularly impressive from the bench. Lukas Podolski scored with a typically thumping shot in to the corner. Tomas Rosicky was too good for the Japanese opposition when he got hold of the ball, but that wayward finishing from Theo (who was skipper after half-time) continued to thwart Arsenal. At the back Bacary Sagna had moved to centre-back again and he kept Arsenal together on more than one occasion. It was no surprise when Urawa Red Diamonds did equalise, and it was also not a surprise that it came for a set-piece. If anyone thinks things have changed they are very much mistaken, I'm afraid. For five minutes after the goal the Japanese were right on top, but Arsenal weathered the storm, despite nobody playing the holding role in the absence of Mikel Arteta.
Having got through a tough spell Arsenal finally got a lucky break at the other end. The opposition defence went all Squillaci and left their goalkeeper all at sea. Chuba Akpom, despite playing wide, had followed the ball all the way in to the penalty area. As a result he was on hand to calmly stroke home the winner. I strongly doubt he'll ever be an Arsenal first-team player of repute, but he's certainly done himself no harm on this tour. The game got a little bit feisty towards the end and Rosicky and Podolski were particularly unimpressed with one or two of the opposition challenges. Maybe it was a test that was needed.
Of the youngsters on the tour there are one or two that have pressed their claims. I've already mentioned Chuba Akpom, but the stand out figure has been Gedion Zelalem. He was quieter today in a more physical game, and that is perhaps his problem at the moment - he needs to fill out a little and gain a little strength and physicality. Elsewhere Chuks Aneke, Kris Olsson, Thomas Eisfeld and Damian Martinez have not been involved as much as they might have hoped, and the writing may well be on the wall for the three outfield players. Martinez has plenty of time to impress further and may be loaned out if we bring in some experience to the first-team squad. The other young player to feature extensively on the tour was Serge Gnabry, who started the game again today. I have to say I've been a little disappointed with Gnabry who has looked a real cut above up until now. Again, a loan is probably on the cards, hopefully to a top Championship club, or maybe a lower level Premier League side. We will see.
Right, that's it for now. I'm off to watch some Usain Bolt action. With the team back in England, and the CEO and Manager, perhaps we will finally see some transfer movement. I'm not holding my breath, but the clock is ticking.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Another one bites the dust for Arsene and Arsenal

Ryo scores

I hope Ryo Miyaichi enjoyed his testimonial match on Monday in Nagoya. It was a very nice touch for Mikel Arteta to pass the youngster the ball for the penalty. It gave a local lad the chance to score in front of adoring fans and he certainly took the opportunity - that is how to take a penalty! I strongly suspect that, after this our is over, we won't see too much of Ryo in an Arsenal shirt again. He isn't good enough yet to play for us, and I doubt he ever really will be.
Aside of that I thought there was some decent stuff again from Arsenal. The old problems of over playing when in possession, and not defending the ball properly when the opposition get it wide were again to the fore, but overall it was encouraging again. I thought Carl Jenkinson had a poor game, while the news of Nacho Monreal's injury puts us frighteningly short at left-back. On the positive side we got a goal from an excellent cross by Tomas Rosicky. The finish for Giroud was simple enough, but you have to be there to put the cap on superb delivery like that. Six goals on tour so far is a fine record for Giroud. The final goal was set up by the outrageously impressive Gedion Zelalem. The passes he is playing beyond defenders are as close as anything I've seen to Fabregas in an Arsenal shirt in recent years. Theo should have scored three or four goals on the night, and with service like that from Zelalem he could have a hat-full on a regular basis. I can see young Gedion being around the first team a lot more than I had anticipated before the tour began. Obviously the opposition we are up against allows him time to pick those passes, but you still have to execute them. He is a real talent. The tour finishes on Friday and then it's back to London Colney for more pre-season training.
As it stands there are still no new faces set to be joining the squad, except for Yaya Sanogo. Not a penny has been spent. There can be no doubt that we have chased Gonzalo Higuain since last season ended. I don't know the truth in the rumours that we agreed a fee with Madrid, only for them to then ask for more money. The fact is that if you don't have it in writing then an agreement never happened. I strongly suspect Arsenal went as far as Wenger allowed in terms of what he valued Higuain at and then would go no further. Let's face it, this would not be the first time Arsene's tightness had cost us. As a result of our two months of prevarication Higuain is signing for Napoli. The Italians got the deal done is less than a week. Is it any wonder we don't sign anyone? I wanted Higuain at Arsenal in a big way. He was the sort of goalscorer this team requires. Now we've missed out again.
So it seems all our eggs are in the basket that contains Luis Suarez. I think it will cost us upwards of £45m to sign the Uruguayan. When you think we could have had Higuain and Fellaini for not much more than that you have to wonder why we are pursuing Suarez. I'll say not too much more on him for now as it's still all gossip, and I don't do gossip on this site. However, I worry about the problems he has, the problems he brings, and the fact that he's suspended until October. Does that make a £45m+ outlay worthwhile? More on that if and when Suarez joins Arsenal.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Causing a stir, Value for money, Does training wear tell us to expect new no. 4?

I wonder?
Well yesterday's post certainly ruffled feathers. As I said at the start of it I was offering an opinion, not fact. I remain sceptical about the "running man" (at the very least it is certainly being made the most of by Arsenal's media people) but an acquaintance of mine who is on the tour with Arsenal assures me I am incorrect. He is 100% adamant that the whole thing is genuine. He is out there, I am not, so I am in no position to disagree. However, I have to respond to one or two of the comments left on the site yesterday. Firstly there is the person who told me to keep my opinion to myself - I would suggest a website called "It's MY Arsenal Opinion" might give you a clue as to the viewpoint from which stuff is written. Then there's the chap who told me I "couldn't be more negative." Now I admit that positivity towards things is not my default position, but the previous two posts published had certainly been positive in nature towards Arsenal. Finally there was "Darren Krogh" who helpfully told me to "support a different club." Well, Darren, I've been going to Arsenal for thirty years, I think I'll stick with them if it's all the same to you. Worst comment of the year. Let's move on, shall we?
I considered going up to Borehamwood today with my sons to watch the youth team. The wife has been at work and the weather not so great here on the coast, so I thought a trip to Hertfordshire might be nice. I couldn't believe it when I looked up the admission prices, however. Borehamwood wanted £12 for adults and £6 for concessions. That being the case it would have cost me £24 plus diesel to watch an Arsenal team without even any fringe players in it. I have to say that is ridiculous pricing.
Instead of going to Borehamwood I decided to take my eldest to watch our local side in action. Dover Athletic were playing Hornchurch at Crabble and were charging £5 for adults, while under 11's were admitted free. I don't care what level you're playing at (Dover are a Conference South side) but that is exceptional value for an afternoon at the football. The official attendance was announced as 314 but I reckon they must have counted everyone twice. Given the pricing policy they've adopted this pre-season (season ticket holders get in for nothing, I believe) they deserve far more through the turnstiles. The football wasn't great quality, and the style of play for both teams lacked imagination, but that's not really the point. I hope Dover can get off to a decent start and get plenty on the gates - they have some people working very hard up there and that work ought to be rewarded. Having said that, it will be £12+ when the season gets started, and I'm not paying that to watch non-league football.
Arsenal announced a couple of weeks back that Abou Diaby had changed his squad number from 2 to 24. It's rare for the Club to make such announcements early on, and even the transfer gossip maker uppers couldn't come up with a reason for it. Nothing else appeared to have changed. Per Mertesacker, for example, remained at number four and was carrying that number on the front of his training kit:

Per wears number four
Of course, this week there has been the bid from Manchester United for Cesc Fabregas. Arsene Wenger then was forced to admit Arsenal have a first option clause on Fabregas should Barcelona decide to sell. This has sent the media and fans of both sides in to overdrive. My thoughts on Fabregas are that I dislike him for the way he forced his way out of Arsenal. It was despicable behaviour, and I wrote here on a number of occasions that Wenger should have publicly stripped him of the Captaincy (Wenger never had the bottle to do that). It would have to be a repentant Cesc Fabregas that returned to Arsenal and found favour with me. However, there are plenty of Arsenal fans that really worship at the altar of Fabregas. I'm sure they're a bit mad, but each to their own. But Arsenal, it seems, have added fuel to the fire today.
It could be that someone in Japan is bored and has decided to play a game with everyone, but Per Mertesacker took to the training pitch today wearing the number 2 on his training kit:

Per wears number two

If the BFG has changed his squad number it hasn't been announced by Arsenal. However, it's unusual for the players to wear a number in training that differs from their squad number - especially when they wear different sized clothing to everyone else on account of being 6'7" tall. If Mertesacker has moved number that would leave number four free. And we all know who wears number four, don't we? Despite my reservations about having Fabregas back, I would far rather have him at Arsenal than not have him. Even more I'd rather have him at Arsenal than see him playing for Manchester United. I hope Arsene is ready to step in if he has to.

Friday, 19 July 2013

"Running Man" is an Arsenal sham

Let me start with a disclaimer and say that everything you're about to read is purely my opinion and not a statement of known fact. I may be completely wrong, but you can make up your own minds about what I say.
I am a cynic. There's no doubt about that. My cynicism reaches unmatched levels when referring to anything Arsenal do. That being the case I am taking the whole "running man" thing in Hanoi with a massive pinch of salt. My view is that it was set up by Arsenal FC as a publicity stunt, promoting the Club and it's sponsors to a Worldwide internet and TV audience - the individual concerned was wearing his official, Fly Emirates, replica kit, was he not?
As a tool to deflect attention away from the lack of transfer activity it has worked an absolute treat - have you heard much in the media about Arsenal apart from the "running man" in recent days? Aside from it being picked up on Arseblog, there has been little notice taken of Wenger stating we're not even close to signing anyone - in other words we haven't even had any bids accepted.
Let's consider one or two of the facts here, shall we? This man just happened to be seen running alongside the coach by the players. It just happened that an official TV camera was there filming on the coach for Arsenal's newly launched Youtube channel ahead of the start of "Digital Membership" at Arsenal. Stuart Macfarlane, the Arsenal photographer (who rarely travels on the team bus, and certainly doesn't thake pictures on it - have you ever seen photos from that particular part of the inner sanctum?) just happened to be with the players, camera in hand and snapping away. On a whim it just happened that someone decided a random member of the public should be invited on to the Arsenal team bus amid the security of the police escort. Wojciech Szczesny just happened to be inspired to introduce the video of the "running man" on Arsenal's very polished Youtube video. The whole thing stinks like used socks. This man was just an ordinary Arsenal fanatic in Vietnam, we are expected to believe. He got his shirt signed by everyone on the coach and then left with the  wonderful memories of meeting his heroes. Except for one thing - it didn't end there. I've just found this picture on the internet, taken at the Vietnam match, and published on the Daily Mirror website:

Your face looks familiar

Do you recognise the bloke on the right at all? And what's happened to the signatures on his Arsenal shirt? And how come he's pitch side with Lukas Podolski? I think Ivan's PR department has been rumbled, don't you?

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Giroud laying down his marker - another 7 goal haul for Arsenal

Giroud's spectacular second goal
It was another very pleasing display from the touring Gunners in Hanoi yesterday. There was some nice football, seven good goals (again) and one or two encouraging individual displays. Similarly there were a couple of players who failed to push their case for more game time, especially considering the paucity of the opposition. There was even time for an easily overlooked misuse of the Arsenal captaincy. All in all I suspect Arsene Wenger will have found the game more useful than a 7-1 scoreline might suggest.
Let’s deal first with those who I felt did themselves few favours against the Vietnamese national side. Carl Jenkinson I thought was particularly poor on the day. Given that he was up against opposition like that I felt he was very quiet going forward, while defensively he was the weak link in the first-half. Arsenal were never really threatened too much in that time, but the closest they came to seeing chances created against tended to be from moves where Jenkinson was either out of position or failing to attack the ball properly. This was in marked contrast to Bacary Sagna who played at centre-back. I’ve mused in the past on the fact that I think a move to the centre of defence could prolong Sagna’s career at Arsenal, while helping to develop Jenkinson in the appropriate way. I would very much like us to sign a centre-back, but if it was made clear that Sagna and Vermaelen were there to challenge Koscielny and Mertesacker, then that would be a situation I’d be happy with if money was spent elsewhere on the squad. Having said that, the back four that finished the game (and conceded the goal) showed a lack of depth at the back – with only Monreal and Vermaelen not on the tour we had Miquel out of position at left-back, and midfielders Kris Olsson and Chuks Aneke at right-back and centre-back, respectively.
The other player who I felt was very poor on the day was Ryo Miyaichi. I was a little surprised to see him take the field as I suspected he was being kept fit for the two games in Japan. Having been given 25 minutes to do his stuff he pretty much stank the place out and looked seriously out of his depth in comparison to his Arsenal team mates. The pace that is a feature of Ryo’s game was missing in a big way. In his defence it was his first game since he got injured playing in the FA Cup for Wigan at Everton (and that had been his first appearance in months itself). With Ronald Koeman admitting he wants to sign him at Feyenord I would be surprised if Ryo is with Arsenal for long after the players get back.
The positives were very good indeed. Most impressive was the finishing from Olivier Giroud. The French striker has his critics, me among them on occasion, but you can’t argue with his start to pre-season, which has yielded 5 goals in 90 minutes on the pitch. Yes the opposition is sub-standard, but you can only score past what faces you. His finish for his hat-trick goal yesterday was a genuine strikers touch, while his second goal had been nothing short of spectacular. Given the speculation there has been about incoming competition for him you have to admire such a response.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain dominated the midfield and his goal was also a sublime effort, and thoroughly deserved. He looks so much better playing through the middle, and Arsene has some huge decisions to make on who takes the field in that area for the proper stuff. Jack Wilshere came on for twenty minutes but wasn’t really in it – there is no rush where Jack is concerned. Gedion Zelalem picked up where he left off on Sunday with some glorious passes played through the defence to pick out willing runners. The physicality of the English game is something he will have to come to terms with given his slight build, but his football ability appears unquestionably good. I am very impressed by Zelalem. Chuba Akpom also did himself no harm with a well taken brace, and he might have joined Giroud in the hat-trick stakes with a little more composure and a little more luck.
So what about this captaincy business? Regulars will know that this is a particular issue with me. I believe that Arsene Wenger does not appreciate the importance of being Arsenal Captain as far as the fans are concerned. Over the last few years the armband and its history has been disrespected in the extreme with some of those who have been allowed to wear it (Squillaci and Silvestre?) Obviously Mikel Arteta led the side yesterday at the start of the game, but he was substituted at half-time. I fully expected that Per Mertesacker would have taken over the armband at that point as he entered the fray, as that is what happened at Newcastle when Arteta went off injured. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I noticed that Wojciech Szczesny was the Arsenal skipper instead. With five games to go last season he wasn’t even in the team, having been dropped for his poor displays. Frankly, if we brought in a decent goalkeeper then Szczesny would not get in the side again this season. That being the case, I don’t understand why he was given the honour of being Arsenal Captain, albeit in a pre-season friendly. When he was eventually taken off he gave the armband to the BFG, despite Jack Wilshere also being on the pitch – you will remember that Thomas Vermaelen made a point of putting it on Jack when he went off in a game early last season. It may seem a minor thing. It may even actually be a minor thing. But to this Arsenal supporter it is a source of great annoyance. If there is a positive then at least it let me get through a post without moaning about no signings being made (well, almost get through it).

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Arsenal 7 - 0 Indonesia XI - a very nice start. Now Vietnam.

Gedion Zelalem - a new star?

I'll keep this fairly brief as it's 1a.m. as I write. I've just watched the match from earlier today (yesterday now) and it was a very comfortable way to get the pre-season fixtures off and running. Of course people will rightly say that we were playing against fourth or fifth rate opponents, but so were both Manchester sides who contrived to lose their opening friendlies of the year. You can only beat what's put in front of you, and Arsenal's mix and match squad for the day did just that in a fairly emphatic way.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first goal with powerful running from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain followed by good footwork, excellent skill, and a perfectly weighted pass in to the path of Theo Walcott. The finish from Walcott wasn't bad either. In the rest of the first half I thought Serge Gnabry was the man who was trying to really make an impression and try to get noticed. What better way to spend your eighteenth birthday than on the pitch for Arsenal? We saw more than a couple of glimpses of Gnabry last season, and the overall impression was pretty good. Today he did nothing to dampen the optimism about him.
The second half was all about Arsenal and their attacking. Obviously there was the expected raft of changes and Chuba Akpom was rewarded for making a number of good runs with a goal. His finish was assured, following superb work from Gnabry out wide. Before the third goal there was a showcase for the talent of Gedion Zelalem.  I mentioned the young German was well fancied at Arsenal when I last wrote here on Friday. One pass he played inside the full-back for Eisfeld, with the outside of his right boot, really deserved to be buried. Interestingly, for me, Arsene Wenger was prepared to let Zelalem play in the middle of midfield. Often you will find him pushing a younger player out wide, but such is the talent of Zelalem that I suspect Wenger wants to have a good look at the lad over the next two or three weeks. Who knows, a decent Emirates Cup and he might be rewarded with a squad number. He will certainly be pencilled in for the League Cup when it gets under way.
After that we saw two super finishes from Olivier Giroud, who didn't look to be allowing talk of the possible arrival of big name centre-forwards to affect him. The first of his goals, with the outside of his left foot was exquisite after good play down Arsenal's right. His second was a storming strike in to the roof of the net. Tomas Rosicky then took over and combined with Lukas Podolski for a lovely goal, finished by a trademark Podolski exocet shot. Kris Olsson bagged a debut goal following more super play from Rosicky (I'm aware that ESPN's commentator kept getting Olsson and Zelalem mixed up - one of them is black, the other is white, so that is pretty awful). The final goal again involved Rosicky as he crossed for a lovely knock-down by Giroud, and a stunning left foot finish by Thomas Eisfeld. The young German was a stand out performer on tour this time last year, and may consider himself unlucky not to have had more first-team action than he did. After Christmas he struggled a bit, but the rest afforded to him by the close season might see him come back refreshed and raring to go to make that next step up.
All in all it was a useful run out for Arsenal. Seven goals are always nice, and Arsene Wenger will be relatively pleased. The new kit has been christened in a very nice way, and I hope that bodes well for the season ahead.
Within the last hour or so the players have touched down in Vietnam as they prepare to play in Hanoi this Wednesday. Jack Wilshere is set to make his first appearance since surgery in this game having missed the Indonesian match with a "bug" according to Arsenal. I would also expect Wojciech Szczesny to maybe get some match action out there, ahead of the games in Japan. Whether Ryo Miyaichi is fit enough to take the pitch before Arsenal reach his homeland remains to be seen.
I'll try to write more as the week progresses, time permitting. Wouldn't it be nice to have a big signing announced to get the week off and running?

Friday, 12 July 2013

Ins and outs on Arsenal tour, Thanks to Sky and BT

Can't wait for this rubbish to be over with

Over the last few weeks Arsenal's official website has insulted our intelligence with promotional material for their Asia Tour. I am sick of reading about it. So called interviews with players telling us how the nations out there are "up and coming" and could "be a force" in the years to come. Then we hear how they "can't wait" to meet the "loyal fans" in Indonesia or Japan or wherever else it is they're being dragged to as Arsenal promote their sponsors. Quite what the players get from this kind of trip, aside from a welcome broadening of their horizons, I would have to wonder. When we are being told by Arsene Wenger that they are "little bit fatigued, second half" come late October I will be harking back to a whirlwind of four games in twelve days in three different countries. Quite when the genuine pre-season training is getting done here I can only wonder. Given that the Manager always preferred the surroundings of the Austrian countryside for a proper pre-season training camp I strongly suspect he is out there under sufferance. For once I have sympathy with Arsene Wenger. As for the events organised for the fans to meet the players out there I can only feel cheated - when do I get to meet the players for photographs and signing sessions? Hey, I'm just a long term season ticket holder so why should I get any sort of privilege like that? Personally I will be glad when this rubbish is over with for another year and we can concentrate on the task at hand. Incidentally, it looks like ESPN are covering the tour with live coverage of all the matches.
As for the touring party there are one or two notable absentees. Ju Young Park, despite his marketability in that part of the World, has not been called upon to join the Arsenal players. We all knew his future at Arsenal was non-existent, but if they're not even going to use him for a photo opportunity then I sincerely hope we're in the business of paying the bloke off. Also missing is Marouane Chamakh, which surprises me slightly. He has been fairly prominent in the photos of the pre-season training so far, so his absence from the tour squad makes me hopeful that a transfer is in the offing. Both the player and Arsenal need him to move on. As for Nicklas Bendtner, nobody knows where he is. Of more concern to me is the absence of Thomas Vermaelen. For the third year in a row the Club Captain has not gone away with the squad. It hasn't ended well on the previous two occasions and, given the fact he couldn't get in the team at the end of last season, I am very concerned that Vermaelen has developed a convenient injury. Arsenal need quality like Thomas Vermaelen in the squad. If he does leave I would see that as a big blow.
In terms of those included it is no surprise to see Ryo Miyaichi travelling out for a tour that includes a visit to Japan. However, I would not be surprised to see him off on loan again the moment Arsenal return to London. He seems a long way away from playing in the Arsenal side and I doubt very much he will ever really be part of the set up. As always there are a number of youngsters included. Serge Gnabry and Tomas Eisfeld get another chance to impress, while Gedion Zelalem is a very well fancied prospect who could well make some sort of breakthrough over the next year. Also there are young Englishmen Chuba Akpom and Chuks Aneke, as well as Kristian Olsson. I doubt any of that trio will ever make it at Arsenal, but here is a shop window for them. I'm a little surprised that Spanish full-back Hector Bellerin was left in London and you'd have to start questioning his long-term future having not made it in to the long list for these games.
Sky and BT Sport finally got around to announcing yesterday how the fixtures will really look up until early December. I may have mentioned above that I am a season ticket holder. Regular readers will also know that I am a shift worker, and that my job prevents me from getting to some matches these days. In an ideal World that wouldn't be the case, but needs must. That being the case I am delighted that the matches against Spurs and Liverpool have been moved for television. Thanks to that decision I can now not attend either of those games which, as you can imagine, has me utterly delighted. Still, as long as someone who never leaves their armchair can watch it live, who cares about those who've handed over their money to watch their side in the flesh. I know I am not alone in suffering like this when it comes to the TV fixtures and it gets me more and more fed-up every time the fixtures are interfered with. Thanks Sky and BT Sport for already starting to spoil the new season for me.
The Arsenal season on the pitch gets under way this evening with an U21 fixture at Sutton United. If I wasn't working I might have gone and watched that one, but such is life.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

At last!


Better late than never, I suppose, but it looks like Nike and Arsenal have finally got the picture. The traditional fans have what we want, and it is gloriously yellow and blue. With this being Nike's final season as the kit supplier to Arsenal they are going out on a high. I have to say that just about everything about the new away kit is spot on. I particularly love the hooped socks which set it off a treat and are, unlike most of the nonsense Arsenal have tried to market their kits with in recent years, a genuinely traditional piece of Arsenal history.
I could sit here and write plenty about the ham-fisted "reveal" of the new kit, but it's not really worth it when the kit is so spectacularly brilliant. Unfortunately Arsenal are to marketing what Spurs are to winning League Titles. The mural on the side of the stadium was all over Twitter last night as Arsenal failed to hide it with covers before they started work on it. Only they could get their "audacious stunt," as they put it, quite so wrong. As I say, I could say plenty more, but it's not worth it on this occasion.
I'm not going to linger any further as it's late at night, and there's not much else I can say about the new kit, other than that I think it's the best away kit we've had since the gold shirt of 2001-2003. What I will also say is that it is an "Arsenal" kit. Arsenal players will look right when they wear it. It is, dare I say it, the sort of kit you see Arsenal wearing when they win trophies. We can but hope.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Frustrating, repetitive and embarrassing

Still burning a hole in the pockets of Arsenal FC

Arsenal's inactivity in the transfer market is as predictable as it is annoying. When Gazidis told us we had the money to sign the big names at the end of last season I wrote on this site that I'd believe it when I saw it. It's now July 8th and Arsenal have yet to spend a single penny on new talent. The newspapers have lied about links to players, as they do, while also talking up the players who we are quite clearly showing some genuine interest towards. The fact that we are still waiting sadly shows up the fact that Wenger still refuses to pay the asking price for players, while Gazidis and his assistant Dick Law are completely clueless when it comes to dealing with real football transfers.
Two years ago Wenger and co prevaricated over the transfer of Juan Mata. First of all they missed a deadline to meet a release clause in Mata's contract, and then took so long over completing a deal with the player that Chelsea stepped in and snapped him up instead. Mata is now one of the THE stars of the Premier League. He should be the fulcrum of Arsenal's midfield rather than Chelsea's. Thanks to our management team at Arsenal we missed out on another exceptional talent. I am no fan of David Dein, but what nobody can deny is that he went and did the business and got the players we wanted - Wright, Bergkamp, Platt, Campbell and any number of others were signed by Dein with the minimum of fuss. Gazidis and Law are amateurs when it comes to football, and the Manager has singularly failed to change his philosophy in order to realise Arsenal's ambitions in the transfer market.
The current saga involves Gonzalo Higuain. Such is our inability to get deals completed that it has now dragged on for two months. Furthermore, because Arsenal seem incapable of working on more than one player at a time we are also seemingly not going after other players to strengthen other weak areas of the squad. This lack of players coming in is just an embarrassment. We are Arsenal Football Club, one of the major names in World football, yet we behave like a bunch of penny-pinching paupers when it comes to signing players.
It looks like we're getting no closer to tying anyone up. The players are back in pre-season training, supposedly preparing for the new season. Would it not be better to have the new squad (minus the two Spaniards, of course) in place for training? What is the point in pre-season if you're going through it without you're new players in place? Further to this is the fact that the money-grabbing tour of the Far-East begins on Thursday. That being the case Arsene Wenger and Ivan Gazidis will be on the other side of the globe for the next two weeks, so who are we likely to be signing in that time? Every day of inactivity infuriates and frustrates the supporters further. We've been through this year after year, ever since we left Highbury and it gets more frustrating every Summer. We have become an embarrassment and that won't change until the big bucks are spent, rather than hoarded in the bank of Kroenke and Wenger.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Transfer round-up

Francis Coquelin - sad to see him go

It’s been two weeks since I posted anything. A combination of working hours and personal stuff has prevented me from being able to compile anything. A lot has happened in the Arsenal speaking World since I last wrote so there would actually have been plenty of material had I been in a position to do something. I had keyed myself up to write a piece on the first of our Summer signings, Yaya Sanogo, but a family bereavement had me flying off to Northern Ireland at short notice instead. Incidentally I hired a car in Belfast – it was a Kia Venga. It will surprise nobody to find out it lacked speed up front, was low budget, but was apparently very comfortable. As a result of my lack of written missives there is a bit to get through today by way of a catch-up. Tomorrow I’ll have a moan about what's happening in the transfer market and Tuesday I’ll write about the new away kit as that is when we will get our first official look at it (it’s yellow and blue in case you didn’t already know, as revealed exclusively on this site late last year).
On with business then and let’s start with the arrival of our latest young French striker, Yaya Sanogo. I know very little about the new boy aside from that fact that he scored one or two goals in the French Second Division. Arsenal’s description of his signing from “Ligue 1 club Auxerre” is disingenuous at best given that Sanogo has yet to play in the top flight. I believe he’s done reasonably well in the current international U20 tournament that’s going on, but I’d give about as much credence to that as I would a Spurs claim that they’re going to win the Premier League.
We were told by Ivan Gazidis a month or so back that we have all this money just sitting there waiting to be spent. That being the case I hope he understands why many supporters have greeted Sanogo’s arrival with more than a slight indifference. Let’s be honest, the signing of a kid who’s never played at the top, for a nominal fee, is not the sort of thing that will shift too many of their prized executive boxes or Club Level season tickets. It’s not, generally, what the fans want to see.
I have no problem with bringing in a youngster like this, who may or may not turn out to be a success. However, he would need to be accompanied through the entrance by some proper big signings. Had we been announcing Sanogo on the back of a Higuain or a Rooney or a Fellaini then the youngster would have been made most welcome by the supporters. My personal hope for Sanogo is that he has a Nicolas Anelka style impact at Arsenal, minus the odious money-grabbing brothers, and goes on to be a huge success.
The departures from the Club this week give me some mixed feelings. Johann Djourou has exited, officially on loan, but his contract situation means that he will not be returning to Arsenal I believe. The way in which this was dealt with in terms of communication from Arsenal left me particularly annoyed. His new Club announced they had signed Djourou. Djourou himself posted a photograph on Twitter with his new shirt. Arsenal remained silent until about three days later. It may surprise many to learn to that Djourou was the longest serving player at Arsenal. A few years ago he had a good run in the first-team and was far and away the leading centre-half in the Club for a few months. He subsequently damaged a shoulder in a match at Old Trafford and never reached those heights again. The first time I genuinely took note of him was when he was too physically strong for the athletic Ishmael Miller in the first match of the season at home to West Brom some years ago (it was the same day as Samir Nasri scored on his debut). Injuries were always a thorn in the side of Djourou and, ultimately, he would fall short of being top class. I wish him very well for the future, but Arsenal's communications department must learn to handle the arrival and departure of players so much better in terms of their announcements.
Vito Mannone has also gone on a permanent basis. He wants to be number one at Sunderland but I feel he lacks the quality and consistency to be a Premier League goalkeeper. Vito had some very good moments in the Arsenal first-team and was a half-decent back-up. Sadly he was never good enough to be a genuine threat to the first-choice, however, and this led to the situation we’ve seen over the last 18 months with Szczesny’s poor form. I met Vito once at a pre-season game where he picked up my son to pose for a photo and he came across as a very nice young man. Again I hope he can have a good future now he’s left Arsenal, just not if he ever gets to play against us.
The final player to leave this week has me seriously non-plussed. Anyone who read my player review in May will know that I felt Francis Coquelin was badly under used by Arsene Wenger last season. His absence from the 18 towards the end of the campaign probably meant the writing was on the wall, but I am very disappointed to see the back of him. For me Coquelin was Arsenal’s best player in just about every game he played last season. His pace and willingness to make a tackle, not to mention his versatility, should have seen him more valued than he was in the squad. He has gone out on loan, but the fact that Sanogo has been given Coquelin’s shirt number would indicate he isn’t likely to be coming back. If we go on to make some stellar signings in that area of the pitch I can understand, perhaps, why Coquelin is moving on. However, that would not change the fact that he didn’t get the opportunities he richly deserved over the last year or so. He is one player I can see going on and making Arsenal have some regrets over allowing him to leave.
More tomorrow when I’ll give a view on our inactivity in the transfer market.