Welbeck signs, but no justification for not strengthening the defence

Welbeck signs, but no justification for not strengthening the defence

So, the window is now shut and despite some concerns about the state of certain areas of the squad, I’m glad it has because now we can concentrate on the football rather than the increasingly freakish sideshow that is the transfer market.

I suppose the best place to start is with what we did yesterday and that’s:

Danny Welbeck

He signed from Manchester United on a five year deal yesterday for a fee of around £17m. Whether it was something we had planned for a long time or if it was convenient because he was at our training ground with England yesterday, I can’t tell you. It’s possible we were waiting for United to do their Falcao thing, but if I had to guess I’d say it was circumstance above all else.

Giroud is injured, the manager has seen Yaya Sanogo struggle against Leicester, and Welbeck’s availability made it something we decided to do late in the day. The fact that we had to get an extension to make it happen probably tells you it wasn’t something on our agenda first thing in morning anyway.

And look, even though he was hardly top of anyone’s list, the bottom line is that with our top scorer from last season out injured and the alternatives unconvincing at the moment for various reasons, we needed a striker. That we got one should be welcomed.

The consensus about the England man is that when he’s played as a centre-forward he’s pretty decent and will get goals. At 23 he’s at an age where he can really kick on if given the responsibility and we’ve seen it happen plenty of times that players who have been stifled at one club can bloom at another. Let’s hope that’s the case with Welbeck.

The mantra has been that anyone would be better than Sanogo so I don’t really understand the complaints when we’ve bought someone who has got a goalscoring record. Ok, he’s not a Falcao but at £345,000 per week and with Jorge Mendes oozing from every pore, I don’t think it was ever going to be a deal we pursued. At some point, however, we’re going to have to accept that a sense of morality and the transfer market don’t go hand in hand at the top level.

Don’t get me wrong, I like that we try to do things the right way but if we’ve got genuine ambitions to be one of the biggest clubs in the world then at some point we’re going to have to embrace the darker side of what is, admittedly, a potentially grotty part of the game. Yet it’s one in which all the biggest clubs operate and you don’t get extra points or away goals for being nice.

However, I think it’s easy to see how Welbeck will fit in. There’s a good core of British players at the club and he does have qualities which will be very useful for us. He’s quick, versatile and can play wide (even if that’s where his goalscoring record falls down), a very hard-worker, and he’s also got the size/physique to play centrally more effectively that Alexis or Walcott might against certain opposition.

And most sensible United fans I saw were sorry to see him go.

Our other deadline day business saw us send Ryo Miyaichi on loan to FC Twente (although rather oddly he signed a contract extension before going), Kris Olsson went to play in Denmark, and we sold Spanish centre-half Ignasi Miquel to Norwich.

What we did overall

I have to say that in terms of the players we brought in this summer I don’t have any complaints. Two forwards, one of them a star of Barcelona and the World Cup – a player that most teams in Europe would have taken if they had the chance. Alexis is a superstar capture and had we done Welbeck in July and him yesterday the mood would probably be very different this morning.

We also bought a very solid looking right back to replace our very solid right back; an international goalkeeper who will, now that he’s back from injury, increase the competition in a very healthy way; and in Calum Chambers I think it’s fair to say we’ve got a player of huge potential, even if his inexperience might prove a little costly from time to time.

That, however, will be down to the coaching staff to sort out as well as his teammates to guide him during games. “Stay on your feet”, is something he’s going to hear often, but he’s a hugely exciting prospect and even the best players made mistakes in their formative years. Once the know-it-alls don’t write him off in this increasingly unforgiving landscape when those mistakes do happen then he’ll be all right.

However, there’s the gigantic elephant in the room which is:

What we didn’t do

That we are going into the fullness of a season with just six first team defenders is absolutely staggering to me. We have only two established central defenders. Think about that for a second. I’ve expressed my happiness with Calum Chambers above but let’s be realistic here: before joining us he played his entire 25 appearance career at right back and only circumstance dictated he play centrally for us in the opening part of the season.

That he’s done well there is fantastic and great and very, very convenient, but it’s a lot to ask of a lad of 19 years of age to maintain that in a position where experience is absolutely vital. It’s the base of the team and we’re asking him, Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny to get us through the entire Premier League campaign, the Capital One Cup, the FA Cup and the Champions League.

The fact that Nacho Monreal is now our fourth choice centre-half shouldn’t be a reflection on him, but it’s not good enough for a team with the ambitions we claim to have. At the end of last season Arsene Wenger and Thomas Vermaelen came to an agreement that the Belgian could leave the club; that we haven’t been able to bring in a replacement in all that time is terrible.

For all the praise and plaudits – merited I might add – for what we did this summer, I’m just baffled by what we didn’t do at centre-half. Arguably, it’s an area that needed more attention than up front. There the issue was quality, not numbers. Whatever you might think of the individuals involved we do have plenty of options and with Campbell and Podolski both still staying, along with Sanogo, Alexis and the soon-to-be-back Walcott it wasn’t ever a question of who the hell can play up there.

But at the back we’re a sprained ankle or a flare-up of Koscielny’s Achilles away from being woefully short. Imagine going to Chelsea or Man City away with a pairing of Chambers and Monreal. How confident would you be? Exactly.

I was never expecting the fabled DM to come in, even if it would have been a signing that made some sense given the profiles of the Flamini and Arteta, but I never thought for one second that we’d go beyond the close of the window without signing a central-defender.

It’s negligent, frankly, and although I’m looking at this through the prism of disaster, I think Amy Lawrence gets it bang on in this piece when she says of our methods, “Why gamble on the best-case scenario instead of preparing a contingency plan for the worst that might hit in terms of injuries or suspensions or dips in form?”

It’s easy to see how we might get exposed at centre-half. We’ve let the most obvious youngster, Ignasi Miquel, leave because we don’t think he’s good enough but at least he’d have provided some cover. Now, if things get bad back there, what are our options? Move Debuchy inside where he’s never played? Go further down the youth pecking order to the likes of Isaac Hayden?

I just don’t understand it one bit and my fear is that this, more than any other area of the pitch, is our weak link. And when you’re weak at centre-half we know how costly it might be. Thank goodness that Per decided to retire from internationals.

Maybe he and Kos can do what they did last year and play almost every game, but already we’ve seen signs that Koscielny’s fitness might be an issue. All it’d take is for Per to do his ankle on a boggy pitch like he did at Sunderland in his first season and we’re heading right up shit creek.

I don’t believe for one second that there isn’t a central defender out there who couldn’t have added depth and quality to our line-up, and that’s a collective failure. Not just the manager or the coaching staff or the negotiators because I’m sure we had targets. We had all summer to find that player but failed to do so, and as such we’ve left ourselves, unnecessarily, walking a tightrope when there was, at least, a rickety old bridge we could have used instead.

Overall, while I’m happy with the Welbeck signing yesterday, the second part of our transfer widow has been distinctly underwhelming. After what we did earlier in the summer, it feels like qualifying in pole position for a Grand Prix then driving the race in a Honda Civic.

On such decisions will the manager be judged. I hope that this isn’t something that comes back to bite us on the arse, but nor can I make any sense of what we’ve failed to do defensively. I suspect we’ll promote Bellerin to the first team squad so at least it doesn’t look so empty on the website but even then it’s window dressing rather than addressing our needs.

However, there’s nothing any of us can do now but sit back and see where the season takes us. There is plenty to be positive about, but the area of worry is very troubling indeed. I’d hope that post-Interlull there’s enough match fitness and sharpness in the legs that our performances improve, and when you consider the first game back is Man City we’re going to have to dive right into the deep end.

*holds nose – does a cannonball*

Don’t forget, We’ll have a post-window Arsecast Extra today, if you have questions send them to @gunnerblog and @arseblog on Twitter with the hashtag #arsecastextra and we’ll do our best to get to as many as possible.

Until later.

Leicester City 1-1 Arsenal: Bad decisions lead to dropped points

Leicester City 1-1 Arsenal: Bad decisions lead to dropped points

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Sometimes it’s very difficult to figure out Arsene Wenger. While I fully accept he knows his players better than I do and has more information which has an impact on his team selection, I thought yesterday’s line-up was a bit odd.

Having spoken about how Alexis can play as a central striker ‘for his whole life’, he selected Yaya Sanogo instead, choosing to deploy the Chilean in a kind of fluid trio behind the young Frenchman. In the first half he, Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil switched positions with regularity; each one of them spending time left, right and in the middle.

If it was meant to confuse the opposition, it did much the same to us, and our game suffered because of it. In the second period we ended up with Ozil drifting on the right hand side, Alexis struggling on the left and Cazorla in the middle. When two of those three players aren’t in their best position, you can understand why it didn’t work.

The sight of Ozil feeding balls into Cazorla, playing with his back to goal on the edge of the box, is as good an illustration of why that particular system doesn’t work. It was meat and drink to the Leicester defenders who really just had to stay organised to snuff us out from an attacking point of view.

Behind them we had Aaron Ramsey who had a game reminiscent of the kind that had people frothing at the mouth not so long ago. If he were a golfer he was shanking the ball into the trees all day, while up front Yaya found it tough going again.

Having learned my lesson in the past I’m not writing off Sanogo completely. Once bitten, and all that. Arsene Wenger clearly sees something in him and he’s usually a pretty good judge, but right now he’s about the only one who can see that something.

The young lad is so desperate to score it’s like a millstone around his neck every time he plays. He had a couple of presentable chances yesterday, so even with poor enough service from behind him, he could have made a crucial impact, but couldn’t. The keeper saved one, he headed one over the bar, he tried to shoot whenever there was half a chance, but once again he finished without a goal to his name.

It is just 17 appearances, many of them bit-part cameos, but even Arsene Wenger admitted afterwards that it was a ‘problem’ for the player (not to mention the team). I love to see a young player come through a make it at Arsenal, I think most of us do, but I also find it hard to watch when a young player is clearly not ready for this level of football and I think that’s where we are with Sanogo. Also, this was, with all due respect, Leicester, and he’s going to come up against much better defenders throughout the season.

We spoke about how an injury to Giroud would leave us light up front and so it proved. That’s not to say a more mature, developed striker would have made the difference yesterday, but it certainly wouldn’t have hurt. People will ask why Joel Campbell and Lukas Podolski weren’t considered and my feeling on that is that the manager doesn’t have a great deal of faith in either of them. The latter was about to be sold last week and the former, well if he can’t get picked over Sanogo perhaps that tells its own story.

If there’s criticism of the Sanogo issue (and there is, let’s face it), it ought to be at the decision to select him rather than aimed at the player himself. It’s not his fault he’s out of his depth and he certainly doesn’t pick himself. All it took as an innocuous clearance to damage our main striker (one that many people wanted an improvement on anyway), to leave us in a position where a youngster is being thrust into action.

That’s down to the manager. You can’t convince people you have ‘so many strikers it’s unbelievable’, then play Sanogo and essentially ignore two internationals who have countless goals between them. And look, if the manager doesn’t believe in Podolski as a central striker, that’s fine. It’s a point of view I agree with. And if he’s unsure about whether Joel Campbell can do the job, then that’s grand too. He sees him in training every day and knows his qualities better than I do. But please, don’t talk them up as viable options when that’s not the case.

To be fair to Sanogo, his mishit shot/cross set up the goal for Alexis and we really should have kicked on from there. However, the injury to Laurent Koscielny cost us the equaliser. Having been flat on his back and in serious pain it seemed obvious that a change needed to be made, instead he was allowed off the pitch to put some tight underpants on his head and when Leicester crossed from their left hand side, he must have been seeing multiple balls because he never got close to winning what would have been a routine header for him.

Again, we might wonder if the reason the change wasn’t made straight away was because our only defensive option yesterday was the 19 year old Calum Chambers. Don’t get me wrong, he’s great and I love what he’s done so far, but perhaps if we’d had experienced, quality back-up the manager would have been more inclined to make the substitution straight away.

It’s understandable to be somewhat reluctant to throw on a lad who has only played three senior games in his short-career at centre-half, but we’ve needed a central defender all summer. It was no surprise to us that Vermaelen was leaving, and Chambers deployment there seems to have been something of a happy accident more than part of a grand plan.

Indeed, his inexperience showed when he went to ground in the box in the second half as a dangerous Leicester break caught us out. Ulloa, who scored the equaliser, should have punished us but thankfully put his shot wide. At the other end we have a looping Ramsey header easily saved and a Cazorla shot which went wide, but from an attacking point of view we were pretty turgid.

And overall I think that’s what we should be most concerned about. Sure, a better striker might well have made it easier and positively affected the way we played, but that we drew yesterday wasn’t just because of one position.

It seems as if the manager is struggling to find a way of getting all of his best players into the team and playing effectively. We have a world class number 10 who is being asked to play wide, an explosive talent like Alexis shunted out on the left like a common Arshavin, and a gaping hole up top that really does need to be filled.

We might well have got a bit lucky yesterday but I don’t think we can look at this as anything other than two points dropped.

Now, as you know today is Transfer Deadline Day and after the game Arsene said ‘We are very active’ when it comes to new arrivals. Quite what that means is anybody’s guess, but I would hope at the very least we’re after a centre-half and a forward of some description.

The defender is an absolute no-brainer. Yesterday showed that one small incident leaves us down to the bare bones in that area; and as I touched on above there are forward players the manager doesn’t seem to have a great deal of faith in, so let’s act on that. Move them on, bring in somebody who he can fit into this system of his.

I think a defensive midfielder might also be an option. I know that last week a centre-half and a defensive midfielder was where they were planning to buy, but the injury to Giroud added another layer to their needs. I guess we’ll just have to see what happens, but it’s impossible after seeing that display yesterday to look at us as serious contenders this season unless we look to improve the squad between now and 11pm.

It sounds kind of ludicrous to say that after just a couple of weeks of the season, but while I’m sure our performances will improve, I don’t think we’ve got the depth of quality to mount a genuine title challenge right now.

If you’re so inclined you can follow all the action on our transfer deadline day live blog. It updates automatically so you don’t have to refresh, and we’ll be there all day with news of our late moves for Julio Baptista and Sebastian Frey.

Let’s hope we get what we need. Analysis of that, and more, on tomorrow’s blog.

Leicester preview: Ramsey’s return gives Wenger selection choice

Leicester preview: Ramsey’s return gives Wenger selection choice

An away day before the Interlull as we prepare ourselves for Leicester City today.

It was, some time ago, a mainstay of the Premier League season. Managed by Martin O’Neill they were always a tricky side to face. Who can forget the threat of Muzzy Izzet? Anyway, this time around they’re newly promoted and as such I don’t know a great deal about them.

They had a good first day back with a draw against Everton but lost, as you would expect against Chelsea. They also had a bad day out in the Capital One Cup in midweek, losing to Shrewsbury (and a goal scored by a most excellently named chap). There’s an omen for you, if you believe in that kind of thing.

From our point of view the manager has probably got a bit of re-shuffling to do in terms of his team. Mikel Arteta is back in training and if fit enough (big if though) he could come in for Flamini, while Aaron Ramsey returns after his midweek suspension.

The interesting thing is how the manager changes things to put him back in. Does he leave out Wilshere, who had his best game of the season on Wednesday night? It would seem counter productive to do that, to say the least. Santi Cazorla was also excellent against Besiktas, while Mesut Ozil is going to be a key player for us this season and has to start. You don’t leave a player of his quality on the bench.

Maybe it’ll mean Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sits this one out, he seems the most expendable. Which isn’t to play down his qualities, but only try and guess what Arsene Wenger will do with his team today. I think Alexis has to continue up front as right now he’s our best forward and the more he plays there the more comfortable he’s going to be in that role.

Speaking about Leicester, Arsene Wenger said:

They’ve just come out of a very strong performance against Chelsea. It is a tough proposal for us because they also drew 2-2 against Everton at home and we need a great performance again. Hopefully we have recovered from our game against Besiktas and can focus on the Premier League, because that’s one of the important targets of the season.

And the manager is looking for us to improve in one particular area from Wednesday:

We looked powerful going forward, we looked mobile. The negative is that we couldn’t transform our chances into goals. But that’s the easiest thing to improve. We created chances – you cannot do that in training but in training you can work a lot on the finishing and improve that.

It would certainly have taken some of the excitement out of the last 15 minutes if Cazorla, Alexis or Oxlade-Chamberlain had put the game to bed, so hopefully today we’ll a little sharper in front of goal. Overall though, when you look at the two sides you have to think this a game from which we really should be taking three points.

There were a couple of interesting results around us yesterday with City losing and Chelsea winning. There’s also Sp*rs v Liverpool today, so if they could drop a couple of points each and kick each other into kingdom come in the process, a win today would do very nicely indeed.

In other news, well, there really isn’t anything concrete about potential new arrivals (or departures) beyond reports from Portugal yesterday saying that Joel Campbell’s agent was in Lisbon discussing a loan move with Benfica. The Mirror this morning have direct quotes from Arsene Wenger, who said:

We have had a lot of offers for Joel and have turned them all down. There are plenty of clubs – I don’t know exactly how many because once I said to my assistants, ‘He will not go out on loan’, if somebody calls them they don’t even tell me any more because, when I say no, it’s no.

He will not go out on loan. So that’s that then, I guess, but once more there’s a vagueness about the manager’s words when it comes to the young Costa Rican. Portuguese paper Record today says there’s a €10m offer waiting for our decision with the player open to a move to Portugal because he feels he’ll play more regularly. Well, at least we don’t have long to wait until we know for certain.

Beyond that there’s some talk of us trying to hijack Chelsea’s deal for Loic Remy and as far as new faces go that’s it. I suspect tomorrow might well a busy day though (and we’ll have a deadline day live blog as usual), but for now, the most important thing is taking the points against Leicester.

We’ll have full live blog coverage of today’s game. Simply check back here later on for a post with all the details or bookmark our default live blog page and updates will begin automatically.

Until then, have a good Sunday.

Wenger on Ozil: Ozil on Ozil: thoughts on transfers

Wenger on Ozil: Ozil on Ozil: thoughts on transfers

Morning all, a quick Saturday round-up for you.

Starting with Arsene Wenger coming to the defence of Mesut Ozil. Now, you might ask why he’s had to come to the defence of a player who only arrived back at the club a couple of weeks ago and has got two games under his belt already but that’s the kind of world we live in now.

In maternity wards across the planet there are babies being born, letting loose their first, terrified cry, and pundits saying, “Well, that baby just isn’t good enough. He doesn’t look interested in this world.”

So it is with footballers. Wait until we get to a point where their performances, and futures, are dependent on the ratings they get from a mobile app. SnapBall. PlayJazz. KickSnap. Ftlbr. Whatever. You know it’s going to happen. And Ozil is a player who would suffer from that because of his subtlety.

However, we’re not at that point yet and while the manager acknowledges that there’s a perception issue, he sees the positives in his performances:

People are very harsh with Ozil because he’s a player who’s always very easy on his play but when you watch the game again after, the next day, you see what a player he is. Everything he does is intelligent. The timing of everything he does is absolutely perfect. You never catch him giving the ball too late. The timing, he’s like a guy who plays the music, the timing of what he does is perfect, you don’t get many players like that.

He reckons we’re going to have to wait until he gets four or five games under his belt before we see the best of him, and that’s reasonable. The whole team isn’t yet at its best physically but the more we play the more it looks as if things are improving on that front.

The main issue for me, however, is where exactly he’s going to play. I do wonder if him being played on the left is a way of building up his fitness more quickly, because there’s no doubt that his best position is central. It’s something Ozil himself touches on in an interview with Henry Winter in the Telegraph. He says:

I’m one of the best players in the world in that No 10 position. Fans, coaches, players and everyone knows that my best position is playmaker. What’s important is that the manager gives me his trust and in Joachim Löw and Arsène Wenger I have two managers who do exactly that. Both coaches know that my favourite position is the No  10. I’ve played on the left in a World Cup and for Arsenal but my best performances come as a 10.

I think that’s ultimately where he’s going to have to play for us if we want to get the best out of him. The slight shift in formation in the early part of the season might well be due to fitness issues more than a new style of play, so hopefully when everyone’s firing on all cylinders we’ll see the German in the position where he can really influence games. Even then, it was his clever flick which set-up the goal for Alexis on Wednesday night, so it’s not as if he’s negated completely.

The Telegraph interview is well worth a read, as is this piece in the Guardian from Barney Ronay. Not just for this line, but it rather stands out:

At times last season Özil resembled not so much a high-end creative midfielder as some beautifully frail alien prince being ferried around from pitch to pitch by 10 dedicated human helpers yoked into fawning submission by his regal Martian glaze.

I guess there’ll always be people who are unconvinced by Ozil because of his style; people who would prefer if he ran around a bit more obviously, perhaps gesticulating wildly, and sliding into tackles from twenty feet away. I’m just delighted we’ve got a player of his quality in our team and I’m looking forward to seeing him have a better season than his first, because I really think he will.

Away from that, the manager has spoken about the last days of the window being like a poker game (which resulted in one of the most disturbing Photoshops we’ve ever made), saying:

The last few days are poker games. There’s a lot of lies there in the few days, everybody is interested in the same player even if you’re the only one who wants the player.

And on his transfer intentions:

I will be actively involved but on the last day of the window. I will of course be on alert until the last minute of the transfer deadline.

However, it seems the more and more people suggest he HAS to buy a striker, the less inclined he is to do it. I think Tim Stillman’s column on Thursday is worth a read, because if Wenger’s plan was to move Alexis to the main striking role, then it’s hard to see him buy another player to fill that position. The plan might have been brought forward because of the injury to Giroud, so we may have to adapt on the fly so to speak.

My gut feeling is that we’re unlikely to sign a striker unless we can find somebody amazing and at this point I’m not sure who that is. People mention Falcao but as his agent is Jose Mourinho’s best chum I suspect that’s a minefield we’d almost be best avoiding lest we get led up the garden path. It was interesting to hear Wenger say yesterday that his experience means “you can call it a bluff when it is a bluff.”

It’s not as if we haven’t been there before in seasons past, so I think the idea of the Colombian coming is fanciful, to say the least. That said, with the manager clearly unconvinced by Podolski (whose Instagram suggested he was back in Germany last night – unless he’s posting old shots), I wouldn’t be hugely surprised if we managed to bring in a wide forward, whoever that might be.

As for what else might happen, your guess is as good as mine. Defender, defensive midfielder maybe. I don’t know, but I do get the sense we’re trying to make things happen between now and the close of the window. The first part of our transfer business this summer was very good, no doubt about it. We made the cake, now it’s time to ice it. Let’s see what happens.

Finally, another plug for yesterday’s Arsecast in which we try and work out exactly what we might do between now and Monday night.

Right, that’s yer lot, back tomorrow with a full preview of the game against Leicester. Until then.

UEFA are ruining history, CL draw + Arsecast 321

UEFA are ruining history, CL draw + Arsecast 321

It’s normal to feel tired when you wake up in the morning, but when I cracked an eye open at 6am I felt particularly exhausted.

This was because I’d been dreaming I’d been up all night doing drugs with Nicklas Bendtner who then spilled a bottle of wine, containing all the drugs, in the lobby of the hotel we were staying in. Then we were at a water park and then it was 10.30am in the morning and I was all ‘Noooooo, I have to go to work’ but Bendtner didn’t care because he was watching Hanna-Barbera cartoons on the telly. Typical.

I still feel knackered though. Anyway, onwards with all the Arsenal news of the day for that is why we are here. I guess we’ll start with the Champions League draw which took place in Monaco last evening. I know it’s probably de rigeuer today to criticise the whole show, but I think we’re in danger of ruining humanity from a historical point of view.

What would happen if, some time in the distant future, all that remained of our civilisation was footage of these events? Historians would think us an inept, social awkward, clumsy, barely lingual group who would happily sit through interminable presentations like this. Why, if they had the kind of technology that allowed them stream HD video from space, did they insist on using ancient footballers swizzling some balls around in a bowl to choose the fixtures of a sporting event?

Knowing our luck they’d find some Champions League draws, a couple of old Eurovision Song Contests and a DVD of Mrs Browns Boys. Kids in the future would learn about our prehistoric ways and thank their lucky stars they were born at a time when there were actual goddam hoverboards and x-ray specs from the back of comic books that did exactly what they said.

Anyway, after it all, we drew Borussia Dortmund (again), Galatasaray and Anderlecht. We know the Germans well … very well (*makes twirly moustache gesture*) … having now been pitted against them for three of the last four seasons. And don’t forget we also faced them back in 2002-03 when a fresh-faced Tomas Rosicky scored a penalty against us to win the game for Dortmund.

They also had Torsten Frings in their team. I once wrote an elaborate story about him which ended in a god-awful pun. I must see if I can find it. You won’t thank me for it, but hey.

As for Galatasaray, the only time we’ve ever faced them in Europe was the UEFA Cup Final in 2000 which, as we all know, was a never-to-be-forgotten romp. Or, to put it another way, really really awful and definitely-to-be-forgotten nightmare up there with Cardiff in 2001 and stuff. Sorry for reminding you, but at least now we have a chance for revenge. I like revenge. It’s revengey. And remember, when anybody tells you something else is the best revenge, it’s not. Take it from a man who knows.

And then there’s Anderlecht, the Champions of Belgium. Belgian number 1. The Plastic Bertrand of the Champions League. I don’t know much about them, but I’d rather have drawn them than Monaco. Plus it’s quite close to London and will provide easier access for travelling fans assuming they don’t book their tickets when half-cut and get the train to Paris instead. I don’t know who would do such a thing though.

So, all in all not a bad group and one we really should looking at winning, for that entails. Our carelessness has cost in the last few seasons, finishing second usually makes life that bit more difficult in the first knock-out stage, so hopefully we can improve on that.

The other English teams face interesting draws. Man City get Bayern Munich again (is this, like, a thing now? Are they married?); Liverpool have Real Madrid and a couple of softies; while Chelsea, as per usual, were drawn against a team of old aged pensioners with osteoporosis, a group of part-timers from Lichtenstein and Bushy Park Rangers. Well done UEFA’s balls, you did it again!

Meanwhile, there’s some exciting transfer news this morning involving a centre-half. Except it’s not one coming in, it’s Ignasi Miquel being linked with a move to Norwich. He’s only got one year left on his contract which suggests he’s coming to the end of the Arsenal line, and in all seriousness, it’d probably be a good move for him.

Our need for a centre-half is obvious anyway, and if the manager had the requisite faith in him to step up and do the job he’d have said so by now. So good luck to him and it’d be nice to see him do well as he seems like a very nice young man with lovely hair.

There’s also some pre-Interlull news with Calum Chambers being called up to Roy Hodgson’s squad for the first time, along with Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Some might say it’s too soon for Chambers, but I think it’s the time honoured ‘If you’re good enough, you’re old enough’ thing going on here. When you consider what else Hodgson has to choose from, why on earth wouldn’t you call up a young man who has really caught the eye since he joined?

Beyond that not much happening, so it’s time for this week’s Arsecast. Joining me to discuss the week that was, including Everton, Besiktas, Giroud’s injury, the transfer window and what we might do (or not) in it, are The Man from East Lower and Andrew Allen. There’s something from Amaury Bischoff PI and all the usual waffle ahead of Sunday’s game against Leicester.

You can subscribe to the Arsecast on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes). To download this week’s Arsecast directly click here – 32mb MP3.

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We’ll have all the news from the press conference over on Arseblog News, plus anything that’s stirring in the old transfer market as try and cobble a squad together before Monday night. I kid, but you know what I mean.

Till tomorrow.