Tumbleweed

Tumbleweed

Good morning from an even foggier East Lothian. Yesterday’s haar did clear up, and it was a beautiful afternoon, but it seems especially both pea and soupy today, so I’m holding out less hope. Anyway, we shall see.

Today’s weather forecast for East Lothian out of the way, the main news this morning – all from the official site – is that having arrived in New York, Arsene Wenger seems to have somewhat curbed his enthusiasm about pre-season friendlies on the other side of the world:

These training camps in the modern game are decided for commercial reasons and because of the extent of popularity of the club. We’ve never been to the States before and I was very happy to come to New York, a city I love. But for purely football reasons, the best thing to do is stay and not travel too much – because of the time you waste and the jet-lag you suffer.

I don’t think it’s any great secret the tours are held for commercial reasons, particularly to the States, and it’s a common refrain, what with your bloke with the stupid head at United also complaining about having to go over there pre-season. It’s a wonderful opportunity for fans that might not otherwise see the team play on anything other than a television actually get to a game, but as Arsene says, from a simple football perspective, travelling long distances to play a few games in the run up to a new season simply can’t be helpful. I know it sometimes takes me up to a week to get used to a significant time difference, and while I’m (very, very, very, very) far from being a professional athlete at my peak, jet lag can be a total bummer. People all react differently, of course, but I still don’t think anyone could reasonably argue that the trip is ultimately about the commercials, plain and simple.

And taken in isolation, there’s nothing wrong with that, of course. As I say, it gives an opportunity for people to see the team that might otherwise never have the chance, which in itself is of merit, and it undoubtedly raises the profile of the club in the US, which is a massive growth market. A few years ago it was the far east, but now all the clubs are on trips to the States, trying to win their share of fans, which ought to give an indication of how important it is. And you can’t have it both ways – spending loads of money on players without going out and earning it.

Combined with the fact this was a World Cup year, however, it leaves the players with little recovery time before the start of an arduous new season’s campaign, with the manager confirming our German trio are likely to miss the start of the season. I don’t think we’re likely to see the end of these tours any time soon though.

Returning to the trip itself, and you can watch the manager’s press conference on Arsenal Player here.

He’s also given some insight into the reason the totally dreamy Bob Pires was quite such a special player – and in a stunning development, it’s not JUST that he’s quite so dreamy:

The little details are very, very important, like preferential vision. Some players see more on the right and some see more on the left. If you see a player who passes to the right all the time because of that, then you put them on the left. He has unbelievable preferential vision, so on the right he is a normal player but on the left he became a world-class player. On the left wing he saw everything, but on the right wing he saw nothing.

Which is quite the explanation. I thought the first time I read that someone had misheard, or it was a typo, and was meant to refer to “peripheral” vision, which I suppose is what he is saying – except he only has it on one side. I’m not sure that’s quite true, to be honest. I don’t remember Bobby failing to find the right option because it popped on his ‘blind’ side. I remember him setting up and scoring loads and load of goals, but maybe that’s just me.

(Incidentally, I was sitting only about 50 feet from Le Bob at the Cup Final, but obviously I was far too shy to go and ask for an autograph. I was most nervous about being caught staring, despite the fact that’s what pretty much everyone round about was doing.)

The official site is full of interesting articles today. Another one describes the meeting the manager had with Aaron Ramsey that set him on his way to being the Welsh Jesus:

The problem is that if you play a great shot in golf or tennis, when you go to your next game you want to play the same shot again. But it doesn’t work like that. You have to do basics, basics, basics, and then slowly you get into the zone where it becomes easier.

You have to get back to basics to gain confidence. Aaron accepted that, he did it and he gained confidence again. Then you saw a different player, because he is intelligent, and when I came out of the meeting I knew this guy would come back.

Aaron listened and he realised he had to change his game. That’s why he came back.

So there you have it. Conservative politics in the early 1990s did have merit after all. Let’s just hope no one gets caught sucking someone else’s toes, or anyone, ever again, has an affair with Edwina Currie.

*cough* Sorry, getting a bit political there.

Good to hear that Aaron was willing to take on the advice though, and look what a player he’s become – he scored the winner in the FA Cup Final, for God’s sake (and unless it’s in a particularly obscure gospel, that’s something Jesus never achieved).

Also on the official site, we have another article featuring everyone’s favourite golden oldies track: Thierry Henry saying how awesome it is to be/have been an Arsenal player:

Wearing the shirt was a privilege for me. I understood that when I left and when I came back to play in those seven or eight games. Wearing an Arsenal shirt was the most important thing and it feels unbelievable.

Ah, the classics. Gotta love them.

He’s also got some good things to say about youngster Gedion Zelalem:

Everybody knows him. [He is] quality. Good on the ball, great vision. Everyone is talking about him. It is not easy to break into the first team at Arsenal but certainly he has the quality and the right boss to make sure that he can do it. Hopefully for us as Arsenal fans he can perform and become a great player.

All of which is very encouraging for the young man, and for the rest of us as fans.

Finally for today’s round up of stories from the official site, there’s an article by Rob Kelly about Thierry’s conversion to a striker. Check it out here.

And that’s pretty much your lot. In terms of transfer news, there really isn’t any. In the absence of anything serious, various sources are simply making things up saying “wouldn’t it be good if we signed [so and so]“, but honestly, you’ll be the first to know. ;-)

Until tomorrow.

 

Touchdown

Touchdown

Good morning from a misty East Lothian. It was like this yesterday but turned into gorgeous sunshine by 10am, so I’m sure it’s just a haar what with me being not far from the coast. Anyway, you didn’t come here for a weather report, did you? If you did, well, that was fortuitous for you (assuming you’re in East Lothian) – but that’s your lot.

The lads, and I presume Arseblogger, arrived in New York yesterday for the start of their visit to the US. You can watch a video of the players on the plane, along with their assorted completely anonymous devices, on some airline or other – it’s really not clear who it is – over on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UACUC_onkKc

Arsene Wenger has been talking about how this is a good time to visit the States:

I can tell you something I’m completely convinced of – before people didn’t know who you were, but now every American guy I met knows Arsenal, knows England and knows the Premier League.

The enthusiasm about soccer in the States is new but big. I expect us to have a good crowd there.

And the enthusiasm really is noticeable. I’ve made six or seven trips over in the past year for work, and on each occasion, someone has noticed my accent and said something about “soccer”. The USA team were really good in the World Cup, winning a lot of friends with their effort and attitude – not to mention their quality – but ultimately they didn’t have quite enough to beat a good Belgium side.

In particular, I should mention someone that works for a company my own does business with who was absolutely thrilled to hear that I was an Arsenal fan – since she was too – and it improved our working relationship no end. In a bizarre twist, she said her husband was a Sp*rs fan, which either means he’s some kind of masochist, or their marriage thrives on regular humiliation. But I suppose, whatever works.

The ever changing demographics of the country will inevitably work to improve its national side too, with the self-evident influence of south and central America. Good luck to them, I say, not least since it means individuals like the horrendous Anne Coulter will be even more unhappy (don’t feed the troll).

In unsubstantial transfer news, there’s still nothing about David Ospina on the official site, the club obviously waiting until he’s actually played a game before they think anyone will believe they signed a player in a position we badly need one.

There’s other various nonsense about Khedira, Iker Casillas, and Santi Cazorla, but none of it of too much interest. A couple of outlets pick up on a story that instead of signing a defensive midfielder, Arsene Wenger might try and have Jack play in that position, but I’m not sure that seems terribly likely.

And in more substantial, actual, transfer news, Thomas Eisfeld has left the club and joined Fulham in a permanent deal. I feel it’s a bit of a shame. On the brief occasions we saw him play, I thought he looked like he could become a tidy enough player, but given our options in midfield, he was always going to find it very hard to make a breakthrough. I wish him well (except when he plays us, of course).

Finally for today, a couple of quick stories. Firstly, if you’re so inclined, you can check out some (more or possibly new) pictures of Mathieu Debuchy wearing an Arsenal kit, and secondly, Gedion Zelalem, has said what a dream it is to play with the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Abou Diaby (and Zelalem should know, what with his surname sounding remarkably like a type of sleeping pill). I can only assume it’s like a dream to play with Ramsey because he is, well, the Welsh Jesus, and it’s like a dream to play alongside Diaby because [insert your own joke about him only ever being not injured in anyone's dreams].

That’s your lot. More tomorrow.

Early morning quickie

Early morning quickie

How typical that the morning I’m heading away comes off the back of the quietest day of the summer so far. I really should have got Tom to do this one.

So un-newsworthy was it that stories about Lionel Messi ‘sounding out’ Arsenal, via Cesc Fabregas, about a move to us were met with a quizzical ‘Oh, isn’t that something?’ rather than being laughed out of town. Don’t get me wrong, I think we could probably just about find a place for him in the squad, but he’ll have known there was little chance of us ever paying him what he’s on in Spain.

Which is assuming that he was even interested. He might have once picked up an Arsenal Magazine that Cesc had around, asked about one of Rob the Chef’s recipes and it got blown out of proportion from there.

The only thing going on is waiting for the official announcement of David Ospina. I sense anagram potential with this man. David Ospina = David Pianos. He could be our goalkeeping Richard Clayderman. I like David Pianos, I have to say. He could be the key to the title.

He could pull off a great save, save the world from the evil of Skynet and say “I’ll be Bach.” These gags are off the scale. I deserve a Hammond egg sandwich.

I am so sorry. It’s ridiculously early in the morning.

There’s some chatter that Serge Gnabry (Grabs Energy) might be off on loan to Southampton or to Newcastle or to somewhere else entirely, and that’s certainly something that seems like it could happen. His chances of regular first team football with us are slim at this moment in time, so it makes sense for him to go out, play week in, week out and develop further.

Beyond that, nothing.

Anyway, Tom will most certainly improve on things when he takes over tomorrow. Even if there’s nothing happening, I’m quite sure it’ll be better than this. Not that I’m trying heap pressure on him – perish the thought – but he’s got a whole summer of stuff he hasn’t written about so I’m sure he’s got some delicious anecdotes and witty stories that he can entertain you with.

I’ll try and provide some New York flavour via Twitter and Instagram, which if you’re not following you should be, and I’m really looking forward to saying hello to lots of American Gooners over the next few days.

I’m also looking forward to walking around, eating street food and slices of pizza late at night, drinking many of the beers and finding the places with Happy Hour because it truly is the happiest of hours.

Hope to see some of you in O’Hanlon’s – a full list of what’s on is right here – and I’ll talk to you all on here when I get back.

Have fun.

United States of Arsenal + Transfer talk

United States of Arsenal + Transfer talk

Morning all.

It’s very quiet today, as the full effect of pre-season takes hold. The preparations are well and truly underway for New York, with Arsene Wenger talking about the upcoming trip:

I can tell you something I’m completely convinced of – before people didn’t know who you were, but now every American guy I met knows Arsenal, knows England and knows the Premier League.

The enthusiasm about soccer in the States is new but big. I expect us to have a good crowd there.

A few weeks back, when we put the new book on sale, I was emailed by an American guy on holiday here with his girlfriend who asked if he could come to my house to collect a book. When he arrived we got chatting and it turns out he’s from Houston, Texas.

He said a few years back there were five or six of them who used to meet in a bar to watch Arsenal games. Now, there are a couple of hundred for each game. And that’s in Texas. Talk about an explosion. Being in New York last season was a genuine eye-opener in terms of how big Arsenal are becoming in the USA and it’s brilliant to see it.

That video that went around after the FA Cup final of people going mental when we scored our goals against Hull was just amazing. The locations may change, the reaction of the fans is more or less the same the world over. When I had that trip to LA all those years back (Ole Ole!), there was a pub full of Arsenal fans at midday to watch a Champions League game. It’s different, but the same really.

I’m actually surprised it’s taken us so long to make a pre-season journey to America. I read an article recently which said that, partly because of far-eastern jaunts in the last few years, we’re the most widely supported Premier League club in China now, but with an American majority shareholder and an already established fanbase in the states, we’ve taken our time to make this particular trip.

While I’m not especially convinced by the New York accents, I think it’s going to be a great trip for the players and to play against Thierry Henry and the Red Bulls certainly adds real colour to things. And for those going, there’s a whole slew of events taking place between player signings, a very cool art exhibition, a 5-a-side tournament on the Sunday (not bringing my boots, sorry!), and of course, the book launch we’re holding in O’Hanlon’s on 14th St – the epicentre of Goonerdom on the Friday night.

For all the details on that see this post or the event on the Arsenal NYC Facebook page. Really looking forward to meeting loads of fans out there, and it does seem there’s a good crowd heading over from this side of the Atlantic too. Kinda ironic I might meet some European based people out there for the first time, but if that’s not a great indication of how football can bring us together in weird ways, I don’t know what is.

From an actual Arsenal point of view there’s not a lot going on. Obviously the manager’s transfer stuff had people chatting yesterday about the decision not to sign another forward, but I do wonder if there might be a surprise or two before this season begins.

For a start, Arsene says there’s still stuff going on:

I’m very happy with what I could do until now. It’s not over – there’s still a long way to go. We are still out there to strengthen our squad.

Secondly, it’s very hard to be definitive about certain players and positions. For example, Yaya Sanogo and Joel Campbell are two young players who could, all going well, step up and make an impact in the season ahead. At the same time, it wouldn’t be a shock if one, or both, of them was loaned out. Would that then make room for a more established signing at the top end of the pitch?

The boss was keen to play up his options in midfield, yet at the same time there was definitely something going on with Sami Khedira, which suggests he’s not averse to adding a player there should the right one become available without looking for wages which aren’t necessarily commensurate with his injury record.

As James and I discussed on the Arsecast Extra, it’s hard to see him sign the DM everyone wants without it impacting on the careers of Arteta and Flamini. It would demand a certain ruthlessness on behalf of the manager, but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility either. Perhaps the difference between having a squad which can win the title and one that can’t is making those difficult decisions, where the competition for places is placed above doing the ‘right thing’ by a loyal player.

Regardless of how much you like an individual, shouldn’t you always look to improve if it will make the team/squad better? Maybe it doesn’t quite work like that, it robs the decision making process of the human element, but if a significant upgrade became available we should go for it and worry about people’s feelings afterwards. Players know fine well it’s part and parcel of how football works.  Anyway, we’ll see what happens. I’m still chilled out about the whole thing.

Right, if you haven’t listened to this week’s Arsecast Extra, you can get it right here. I’ll be here tomorrow with a very early blog and after that Tom will be here to provide your daily dose. Right Tom?

TOM?!

I’m sure he knows.

Probably.

Till tomorrow.

Another striker signing? It’s a no-go

Another striker signing? It’s a no-go

Morning, and welcome to a brand new week of pre-season.

It’s fairly quiet but there’s an interesting quote from Arsene Wenger which, although it appears in the rather unreliable Express, is apparently accurate. My podcasting colleague Gunnerblog was at the press conference on Saturday and part of what was said was embargoed and only emerged overnight. It’s the manager talking about his spending in the forward department, and he said:

“Up front we don’t need any more.”

It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest and I’ve said since the signing of Sanchez that I think we’ve spent what we needed to in that area. He’s already got two ‘centre-forwards’ in Giroud and Sanogo. He’s got wide forwards in Walcott and Podolski. People are going crazy looking for Joel Campbell to be a given a chance but ignore the fact another signing would push him even further down the pecking order.

Then there are players like Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain and even Serge Gnabry who can play and contribute effectively in the wide positions. Now, if you want to dig in and discuss the qualities of some of those players, that’s fair enough. I think Sanogo is a willing young man but has yet to display much in the way of finishing ability. However, the manager certainly seems to have some faith in him – he wasn’t afraid to throw him into some extremely important games last season. Games which could have had a serious impact on Arsene’s future.

I don’t imagine he’s put a year of development into him to discard him now. For me, he would probably benefit from a loan but I don’t know if that’s how it’s going to go down. Similarly, I’m not 100% convinced that Joel Campbell is quite as exciting a prospect as people like to think he is. He’s kinda new and everyone loves the shiny new thing, but after a good season in Greece and some nice moments in Brazil, I thought his overall contribution to that Costa Rica team was a bit overplayed.

And look, there’s a massive step-up from the Greek SuperLeague to the Premier League. It will be a big challenge for him, not just in terms of the level, but how he copes with the fact that he’ll be far from a first team regular, a position he’s enjoyed for the previous three seasons with his loan deals. He’ll start as, perhaps, second choice to Sanchez on the right and when Walcott is fit and Sanchez can be deployed more centrally, he’ll be second choice to Theo too. Has he got the character to compete? I guess we’ll find out (assuming he’s not sent out on loan again as some of the whispers would have you believe).

Anyway, my feeling is that our spending is done at that end of the pitch. Unless somebody senior, like Podolski or Giroud wants to move on (or we want to sell them), I don’t think we’re buying another forward this summer. It means there’s big pressure on Sanchez to hit the ground running, and on Theo when he returns from injury, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The manager also went on to say:

We need a goalkeeper for sure and after that it depends on how our midfielders get through without injuries until the start of the season. Maybe at centre-back we’ll still bring one in.

We touched on midfield yesterday and that’s an area many, myself included, would like us to add a player. If we look at the kind of player we need though, a more defensive minded midfielder, any signing there would essentially mean one of Flamini or Arteta would have to be sold. We know the Spaniard is one of his most trusted men, someone whose influence on and off the pitch is a big positive, and Flamini only signed last summer.

I can’t remember another situation where we signed a player and sold him 12 months later. Maybe Diarra, but that was because he was kicking up and wanted to leave. Flamini isn’t doing that and won’t do that (he loves a Bosman). I’d hope that if the right player was available we’d go for it, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we didn’t add a midfielder to the ranks.

Centre-half we know about because of the Vermaelen situation, and there’s chatter this morning that everything is agreed with Nice regarding David Ospina for a £4m move. That’s certainly a positive development. Although I can only judge him on what I saw in the World Cup (which was good), reports from those who watch Ligue 1 regularly are pretty solid, and having a 25 year old international coming in to compete with the 24 year old Szczesny can only be a good thing.

At his age, he’ll be coming in to play, not sit on the bench, and it looks as if the trend of clubs having two keepers who are capable of playing for the first team rather than an obvious number 1 and 2 is really catching on. Reports from France say the deal could be announced today, so we’ll keep an eye on that for you and update over on Arseblog News as and when that happens.

Right, that’s just about that, other than to say we’ll be recording an Arsecast Extra this morning. Get your questions to @gunnerblog and @arseblog on Twitter with the hashtag #arsecastextra, and we’ll do our best to get to as many as we can. It’ll be available to you around lunchtime.

Until then.