IMPORTANT: The Arsenal Way relocated

10 08 2009

Please check out my brand new site Arsenal and England, where I will combine Arsenal news with the latest from the England camp as well as covering the most important issues from all around the world of football.

Here’s the address: www.mbal.org.uk





Sunday Papers: Gibbs, Chamakh and Felipe Melo

21 06 2009

Not a huge amount of Arsenal interest in the paper news this morning as the big stories surround the clubs most likely to get big names this summer – Man City, Manchester United and of course Real Madrid.

Still there is a few pieces of news to bring you from the gossip columns.

Firstly the Mirror reports that Kieran Gibbs will be rewarded for his efforts towards the end of the season with a brand new, long term contract more fitting for Arsenal’s second choice left back. Gael Clichy’s understudy enjoyed a run in the team after the Frenchman’s injury and backed up his managers faith with several high quality displays.

Despite an unfortunate slip in the CL Semi-Final and several moments of unease defensively Gibbs showed himself to have the right ingredients to become a very good Premiership player in the near future. He has followed that up with 3 starts for the England U21s, including 2 goals against Azerbaijan in the warm up game for the main tournament. And despite being the youngest of the team he has played excellently with arguable MOTM performances in each game.

And now he is set to be offered a better pay deal to keep him from any potential suitors and to assure him he has a bright future at the club.

Next there is news of potential incomers to the squad, starting with the latest on the ongoing Chamakh speculation:

I am really struggling to understand why Arsenal would be interested in Chamakh unless one of Adebayor and Robin van Persie is to leave the club, but the Moroccan has rarely been out of the news in recent weeks and the last bit of news was that Arsenal need to bid more than 10 million Euros to get their man. This came from the Bordeaux president and this morning in an interview with Le Parisien Chamakh has hinted that he wants to leave the club if an acceptable offer is made.

“If an offer is interesting for everyone, then I hope that my directors will be comprehensive,” he told Le Parisien.

Whether this means Arsenal remains to be seen, but if Arsenal do make their interest in the form of a bid then there is no question one of our strikers will be leaving in a move that would significantly weaken out attacking options in my opinion.

Finally this morning there is a fairly obvious bit of journalism from the News Of The World detailing our interest in Brazilian midfielder Felipe Melo:

26 years old, a regular now for his country and a player who impressed hugely this season in Serie A Felipe Melo ticks all the boxes for me. He gets stuck in and adds presence to the midfield while still having the talent to spread play cleverly. These attributes and the discipline he shows in sitting back is probably what we need and with not many other alternatives out there availble for less than £15m I would be very happy to see this happen.

The NOTW’s take on it is much the same as the Daily Mail’s earlier this week, saying that want away defender Senderos could be used as part of the deal that brings the Brazilian to the Emriates and this does seem logical although much would depen on whether or not Senderos feels he could do better than Viola I suspect. Personally I think if we get Melo in and lose no one vital it could be a very successful summer for us. But how many times have we said that only to lose a key player straight away? And with rumours surrounding Van Persie, Adebayor, Gallas and Toure with three of them coming to the end of contract I won’t hold my breath for an ideal summer just yet.

And for anyone yet to see the Brazilian in action he should take part in a clash between the Italians and Brazil tonight. The BBC streams Confederations Cup matches live on their website for anyone interested.





The Arsenal Way is back for the summer

21 06 2009

After a very long break due to outside commitments, I have decided to start posting once again. So you can look forward to the latest news and views from the Emriates Stadium throughout the summer as I try to keep up to date with the Gunners in what will hopefully be an eventful summer ahead of a successful season.

As ever, I’d really appreciate comments on any of my articles and new links with other websites are more than welcome.





Andrey Arshavin can follow in Pires’ footsteps

6 02 2009

What a fantastic feeling it is for your football club to splash out on a big name, big money signing. For all the mention of thrifty, intelligent spending that Arsenal get, of a club with a conscience and living within our means, isn’t it great to see Sylvain Wiltord’s fee smashed to pieces by a Russian superstar?

But he isn’t just a marquee signing to please the fans who gaze at Man City and Chelsea with their Football Manager binoculars in awe. He could well become one of Wenger’s very best aquistions for the club. It has been plain for a good few years that Arshavin has had something special, but Gazprom-backed Zenit made him rich, they won titles and he was willing to stay. This all changed when his talent finally caught the eye of a more global audience in the Uefa Cup. Cutting through balls, great movement and fantastic balance made him stand out amongst a very good team who went all the way in Uefa’s 2nd biggest club competition.

Then came the Euros. Suspended for the first and second games, Arshavin proved exactly why he was included despite being eligible for only 1 of the 3 group games against Sweden. Involved in the first goal, and applying the finishing touch for the second, the diminutive Russian inspired his country to victory. It was a brilliant display but more was to come in the next game against Holland. He terrorised the Dutch defence time after time with one of the best individual performances I have ever seen, with some pundits suggesting it was as dominant a display as they had seen since the great Platini.

Of course, I am, much like many other Gunners, not a massive fan of the Russian Premier League and so do not know what to expect from him on a weekly basis, but what I do know is that in the games I have seen him, the big games, he has been superb. Which leads me onto my main point.

With the North London Derby on Sunday, memories of Robert Pires coming to Arsenal in his late late 20’s and becoming the scourge of Tottenham despite often only coming on as a substitute bring a smile to my face even as I type, and who’s to say our new record signing, with his match winning capabilities and big match attitude, can’t do equally as well at Arsenal?

And if he does do half as well as Robert Pires did here, that £15m will look like a bargain buy in the current climate, believe me.





Arsenal’s smoke and mirrors approach needs to work this time

15 01 2009

The January transfer window has been made into a form of torture for Arsenal fans over the years, with all the speculation the summer one has, only without the actual signings.

But this time it will be different, we think. This time Mr Wenger HAS to spend money on quality players. Does this mean this January will be exciting? No, it means it is even worse….

Two words: Andrei Arshavin. 6th in Ballon D’Or voting, star player of the Euros and last season’s Uefa Cup, I’m sure you all know the one I mean by now eh? In the last week or so we have had confirmation of a bid, been informed that Zenit will lower their asking price, Wenger keeps hinting away, Arshavin himself has said he would like a move to the Emirates, and is even willing to help pay for his own transfer fee according to todays reports in Russia.

Yet are we all confident of an immediate transfer before moving onto another target? Can we begin to draw up possible formations that could incorporate the potent attackers of Fabregas, Nasri, Van Persie, Adebayor, Walcott and the diminutive Russian playmaker? No.

While other clubs proceed to bid £12m for the world’s most average left back and those jokers down the  buy their own player back at a £7m+ loss before trying and nab a Honduran international we rejcted for £2m 18 months ago for £15m, what do we think is an acceptable starting offer for a player with twice the talent that the aformentioned Bridge, Defoe and Palacios put together? £10m. That’s like going into a Ferrari dealership and offering a Toblerone, a half eaten Big Mac and £50 in two-pence pieces for their latest supercar.

Well, this time there’s no room for error. We need at least two quality players and with half a month already gone we need to compromise a bit of our reluctance to spend before it’s Febuary and we’re stuck with a team that carries less fear factor than a newborn kitten.

Arshavin’s agent says something will be sorted out early next week. Mr Gazidis, time to earn your money.





How to resurrect our season – Part 2

2 01 2009

Time for the second part of my article looking into the current Arsenal team and analysing what we really need to have a title winning squad at the Emirates once more. Having looked into the goalkeepers and defence, it is now the turn of the weak midfield and the strikers to pass under the microscope.

 

Wingers: Samir Nasri, Theo Walcott, Tomas Rosicky, Emmanuel Eboue, Abou Diaby

 

Now a massive part of our problems have been blamed instantly on the centre of defence, and the lack of a defensive midfielder. But I am starting to believe in another source of our problems. Under Wenger we haven’t always had the most reliable defenders, especially when you consider the Champions League run we had in 2005/06 with the record breaking defence that consisted of Flamini at left back and two very young Swiss centre backs alongside a young and erratic Eboue. So maybe, just maybe, it is our offensive and defensive midfielders that should take the blame. Remember that back four I mentioned had Pires, Reyes, Ljungberg and Hleb to take possession and push the opposition backwards constantly.

Nowadays we only have three (already) quality players in Rosicky, Nasri and Walcott but when you factor in Rosicky’s awful injury-hit career, and Nasri and Walcott’s inexperience and inconsistency there is definite room for improvement which could help other areas of the pitch as well.

 

Rating: 6/10 – Another experienced, high quality signing in this area could push us on massively. Arshavin please….

 

Central Midfield: Cesc Fabregas, Denilson, Alex Song, Abou Diaby, Aaron Ramsey

 

The list above, bar Fabregas, reads like a list of potential midfield stars. But that isn’t enough for us at the moment and there is no doubt a partner for Fabregas needs to be found. However, with Fabregas’ injury one central midfielder is the minimum requirement for January in my opinion. Denilson has been pressurised into being a partner for Fabregas when they are too similar and he wasn’t ready for regular football at Premiership level, and this has battered his confidence. Diaby has no consistency or footballing maturity, and Song could be a great partner for Fabregas – in 3 years time.

 

Rating: 4/10 – We need an ageing stop gap measure and a competitive, energetic midfield battler – players in the vein of Jimmy Bullard and the midfield-playing twin of Bacary Sagna is what I’m hoping for.

 

Forwards:

 

Finally a more positive area of the field to talk about. Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin van Persie have scored 21 goals between them already this season and unbelievably the Flying Dutchman has even managed to keep fit thus far. But even if the worst was to happen and another forward needed to step in, Carlos Vela has looked fantastic in the games he has got this season, scoring 4 goals in just 5 starts, and on his day Bendtner is more than capable of linking play and providing a challenge for defenders.

 

Rating: 9/10 – Definite improvement needed to be as good as the other top four defences.

 

 

 

So looking through the 2 part analysis of our team, I have created a shortlist of what we need and would like to become as good as the sides we once had.

 

We NEED:

 

1st – Defensive Midfielder – Energetic with a competitive spirit

2nd – Creative Midfielder – Able to play wide, experienced and clever

 

Ideally we also WANT:

 

1st – Central Defender – Someone who can battle in the air and is a reliable performer.

2nd – Central Midfielder – A great pro with real experience to fill a gap for a while and provide cover when Cesc returns.

 

In the next few days I will create a run down on all our possible targets analysing how well they’d suit us, where they’d fit in, their cost and whether we will actually buy them.





How to resurrect our season – Part 1

31 12 2008

Now that January begins to loom large on the horizon, just a day away, what do you think Arsenal need to start to ascend the league table once again, to hold off Villa’s challenge while simultaneously pulling ourselves closer and closer to Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United?

 

Well, here is my answer (Stage 1):

 

What do we have at the moment?

 

First we need to analyse what we already have in place, and for that we need to look at our current squad, starting with the defence.

 

Goalkeepers: Manuel Almunia, Lukasz Fabianski, Vito Mannone

 

I am of the opinion that a goalkeeper is of course a crucial piece of any teams’ jigsaw, but is heavily reliant on the strength of those around him, and this is definitely something that needs to be considered when studying this position. Almunia has proven himself a decent enough goalkeeper who makes few mistakes, and for a second choice ‘keeper, that is ideal. For a top four team who wants to challenge for trophies, it isn’t really enough. Meanwhile, the two goalkeepers behind him are inconsistent but potential stars, so I certainly wouldn’t sell them next month, and we cannot afford to promote them either. So maybe we do need a new first choice goalie? But we are not Manchester City and cannot afford to strengthen every area which needs attention, and in comparison to the backbone of our team, I would keep with the same goalkeeper until the summer unless a bargain presents itself.

 

Rating: 6/10 – A new goalkeeper would be nice, but it’s probably a luxury.

 

Right Backs: Bacary Sagna, Emmanuel Eboue, Kolo Toure

 

Although Sagna, the best right back in the league last season, hasn’t had the same sort of start to this years campaign, his performances against Chelsea and Villa in particular showed exactly what he is made of and I wouldn’t swap him for any other right back in world football. Behind him we have Eboue, who is immeasurably better in his natural position, and Kolo Toure who is more than capable of doing a shift on the right flank if needed, providing he stays at the club. And even if he left, a right back is certainly a position we won’t look to buy for in January.

 

Rating: 9/10 – One of the few areas we have strength and depth in already.

 

Centre Backs: William Gallas, Johan Djourou, Kolo Toure, Mikael Silvestre, Alex Song

 

 There is really no end to our problems in the centre half position, and one or two acquisitions are needed to really improve things. William Gallas can be a fantastic defender still, and I admit that even though his actions as captain mean he will never endear himself to the Arsenal faithful, and rightfully so. But I wouldn’t sell him in January now my anger at his stupidity has now passed. It looks like Djourou is now first choice centre back now as well, and the young Swiss international will become a great defender even though consistency and injuries are a problem. And so I think we need a more experienced player to share his place. In fact, even if he was already world class I think a central defender is key because we have only four natural centre backs for 2 positions, something which could easily cost us.

 

Rating: 4/10 – Definite improvement needed to be as good as the other top four defences.

 

Left Backs: Gael Clichy, Mikael Silvestre, Kieran Gibbs

 

One of my greatest fears is that Gael Clichy will get a lengthy injury, because the cover for him is terrible. Silvestre can do an OK job for the odd game, but can’t act like an Arsenal full back should act in the fine tradition of the position under Wenger – full backs at Arsenal should roam forward, take players on, deliver crosses, link up with the strikers and creative midfielders – he can’t do that. Kieran Gibbs has the potential to do that, but defensively is very shaky still. But like the goalies, we probably can’t afford to buy a decent 2nd choice left back.

 

Rating: 7/10 – Great first choice left back but the cover isn’t anywhere near as good.

 

 

So to summarise, our defence is largely acceptable, with the first choice full backs excellent by anyone’s standards, and the goalkeeper decent enough to get a top four finish with. But it the central area that we will need to focus on in the transfer market to avoid giving up easy goals when under pressure.

 

In the next article I will take a look at the midfield, an area of the pitch massively affected by injuries.