New York and Arsenal: A number one

New York and Arsenal: A number one

Ever had *je-boilk*?

It’s not a French *boilk*, it’s when you drink a load of bourbon before a flight so you can try and sleep all the way across the Atlantic, but the made-in-1940 American Airlines plane you’re on is so uncomfortable you can’t nod off even for a second and you end up in Ireland with a cross between jetlag and *boilk*.

Not pleasant, but a very small complaint after what was a tremendous trip Stateside. Without wanting to come across all Oscar winner-ish, I’ll kick off with some thanks, beginning with Tom for manfully holding the fort here in my absence.

To Kurtis and Brett and everyone involved in @ArsenalNYC; to Thomas and all the staff at O’Hanlon’s; to Ragav and Mehdi for services rendered (some of them moist and glistening – it was hot!); Mrs Blogs (of course!);  to David Hirshey for the match ticket; and to all the fantastic Gooners who came from all over to be involved in the events surrounding the Arsenal game last weekend. It was so great to meet so many of you, and thanks for all your kind words.

It was an amazing thing to be the far-side of the ocean and be made feel as welcome and at home as we did. Anyone who doubts the passion of our fans from afar really needs to think again. If I’ve forgotten anyone in that list above, my apologies, I’m still somewhat banjaxed from travel.

Honestly though, it was something else. Leaving aside the small fact that it’s nigh on impossible not to have a good time in New York, the influx of Arsenal fans made it all the more special. It was also interesting to see Arsenal shirts at various locations around town. A big Mikel Arteta right by Penn Station, the huge cannon in Grand Central, things have kicked off in a big way.

Although the game itself wasn’t much to write home about – it was played at exhibition pace throughout due to the early stage of pre-season with World Cup absences on top of that – it was fun to see the Red Bull Arena packed with Arsenal fans. I’d estimate about 90% Gooners, and before and after the game, the people coming together, drinking, singing, and everything else, was a snapshot of what makes football so great even when the football isn’t great.

So, fun times, and we had a couple of nice days in town to chill out afterwards. I even went down to the Arsenal America five-a-sides on Sunday morning to say hi to a couple of people, but given how late Saturday night went I was glad I’d decided beforehand not to bring my boots.

It’d have been like that Paul McGrath story where he, still somewhat under the weather from the night before, goes down ‘injured’ after missing a header,and tells the physio he can’t play on because he’s seeing two footballs. The physio thinks for a moment and says, “Don’t worry about it, just head them both.”

Anyway, from an Arsenal point of view there have been a few things happening in my absence. We’ve signed David Ospina from Nice, replacing the Fabianski sized hole in our squad. Ideally though, he’ll provide stiffer competition to Wojciech Szczesny, and it’s an interesting thing to have two international keepers of more or less the same age in the squad driving each other on.

The manager says that Szczesny will start as number 1, but if Ospina does better he’ll play. If that doesn’t keep Szcz on  his toes then I don’t know what will, but let’s hope the situation is one that remains competitive and doesn’t become unpleasant for either of them. It’s all well and good saying competition is healthy but ultimately somebody’s going to be unhappy if they’re not playing, and that’s going to require some good management. Still, it’s the best kind of problem for Arsene to have.

Then, we signed Calum Chambers from Southampton which is a very interesting move. A few weeks back I got an email out of the blue from someone saying we were going to sign him. It wasn’t somebody I’d heard from before so I replied to ask for more info, but the email address didn’t exist (it was sent via our contact form). So, good work anonymous tipster!

Beyond that, paying as much as we did for a young man who has barely got into double figures in terms of professional appearances suggests to me that Arsene and his scouting team have spotted what they consider to be a player of immense potential. You can point to our increased spending power all you want, but it’s still something of a gamble – although perhaps our track record in this kind of deal with Southampton made it easier.

We did it with Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Chambers is, hopefully, another one who can make the step up as well as those two. As for where exactly he’ll play, it’s hard to know right now. His ability to cover for Debuchy is obviously part of why we’re allowing Carl Jenkinson to go out on loan, but I suspect we’re looking at him to play more centrally to boost our centre-half options.

There’s been no sign of Thomas Vermaelen this pre-season, whether that’s down to injury or something else we’ll find out in due course, I guess, and we’ve spoken before about needing to boost that area as it stands. So perhaps Chambers will be handed some serious responsibility quite soon. We shall see soon enough. It’s still quite an exciting signing though, because nobody’s 100% sure of what he can do, but the deal itself suggests he’s got plenty to bring.

There may still be one or two other things happening in what has been a fun summer in the transfer market for us, so fingers crossed we can get those done in plenty of time to kick off the new campaign. It’s very nice when your outlook is que sera, sera and lots of stuff seras (if you’ll pardon my awful bastardisation of language).

For those of you in need of an Arsecast, fear not, James and I should have an extra for you tomorrow all going well, so keep your ears clean for that one.

In the meantime, I’ll try ease back into the time-zone here, it’s good to be with you again. Till tomorrow.

ps – for those of you who have been emailing about trying to buy the book, I took it off-sale for the duration of the trip because I obviously couldn’t send any orders, but it’s back on sale now right here.

Wednesday waffle

Wednesday waffle

So today’s the last day you’ll have the pleasure of my company, and boy have I got an exciting, riveting, and downright shocking set of stories for you!

Oh, wait, no. The other thing. Tumbleweed. Dust bowl. Vast nothingness of outer space. The dry, sandy emptiness of the Sahara desert. The bottomless depths of the Mariana Trench. The gaping hole of morality, integrity, and conscience in the empty souls of politicians around the world. That’s right. The complete opposite of what I just said. There’s nothing much happening at all. We should really just all save ourselves the bother, stop here, and not waste each other’s time.

But no! I shall painfully persevere on. Just for you.

Firstly for today, it seems that Olivier Giroud is to be offered a new contract. In spite of the manager spending a lot of money on an attacking option this summer, and it being an area no one was in any doubt we needed to strengthen, the extremely handsome (but never dreamy) 27 year old is facing the reward of a two year extension. No doubt the merest prospect of Giroud being handed a new contract will make some folk on Twitter very, very angry indeed (and why are contracts always “handed” to people?), but in my view he deserves it. Like pretty much all players, except possibly Dennis Bergkamp and maybe Thierry Henry, not to mention the, erm, aforementioned dreamy one, Giroud has his limitations, but he’s also come on leaps and bounds since he joined, and his ability to hold the ball up and bring other players into the game is very important to the way we play our football. I expect we’ll continue to see the type of counterattacking game that’s developed over the past season or two, replacing the maintain-possession-at-all-times mantra of the years before that, so when the ball is brought out of defence quickly, we need a centre forward that’s able to hold onto it and draw our midfield options into play.

He was also integral to this, so if you’re one of those people that’s unfeasibly enraged and annoyed by Giroud, simply watch it again and just ssssssshhhhh.

New boy David Ospina has given his first interview to the club’s official site, talking about the excellent performances he and his team mates put in at the World Cup, how he expects to adapt and cope in England, and former Columbian keeper, Rene Higuita. I like how the interviewer asked him about his brother-in-law, James Rodriguez. Nice work there. We’ll have him before too long as well. Absolutely.

Other new boy Calum Chambers has also given an interview to the official site (which given how similar in content it is to the quotes reported yesterday, may actually be where they came from). He talks about the history of the club being a factor in his decision to join, the opportunity to follow in the footsteps Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, working with Arsene Wenger, and the games against Arsenal last season. He comes across as being very excited about the opportunity he’s got, and like most of the players coming through the Southampton academy, he seems like a well spoken young man.

There was something of a storm in a teacup yesterday, when Chambers was photographed in training wearing the number five shirt, which belongs to Thomas Vermaelen, of course, but it seems much ado about nothing if you ask me. I don’t think that specifically is an indication of whether the Belgianator is likely to remain with the club. Perhaps he will go, although it’ll leave us with a serious problem at centre half if he does, but I don’t think Chambers wearing his shirt number is quite The Sign. I can well understand the captain’s disappointment at not playing – about which he’s always been a consummate pro, never making a fuss – and I’ve read some other people that think he’s already gone, but I think we’ll need to wait a little longer and see on that one.

In tenuous transfer tittle tattle, supposed defensive midfield target Morgan Schneiderlin has been told by Southampton that he won’t be leaving this summer, causing him to have an outburst on Twitter, in stark contrast to the professionalism and dignity demonstrated by Vermaelen. If he’s going to be like that about a proposed move to Sp*rs, I’m not sure he’s someone I want in our team particularly badly. I’d still have Khedira in an instant, but it’s all gone a bit quiet on that front.

The rumours about us being interested in Douglas Costa persist, which if true would represent some epic trolling by Arsene Wenger with regard to Cesc Fabregas. But I doubt they are true, so let’s not speak of it again until it happens. Or not.

Finally for today, I’d like to point out that it’s days like these (as well as on a wet Wednesday in February up north etc etc), that I do marvel at the commitment and effort that Andrew puts into writing this blog every day, and has done for the past 12 years. For the price you’re paying, you really should appreciate it a whole lot more than you do. ;-)

Until next time, campers. In the meantime, and if you’re so inclined and really have nothing better to do with your time, you can follow my nonsense on Twitter at @arseblog_tom.

Cheers!

Calum Chambers signs for Arsenal

Calum Chambers signs for Arsenal

So the big news of the day is the confirmation from the club of the rumours from the past few days that Calum Chambers of Southampton will be its fourth signing of the summer. He’s a defensive player who can play both right back and centre back, but it’s thought that the manager also sees him playing as a central midfielder. He’s the current captain of the England under 19 team. The fee is £11m, rising to £16m with add ons related to appearances.

Speaking about the move, the young man said:

I am so happy to be signing for Arsenal. They are a team I have much admired for their playing style, and a team who have been one of the top sides in Europe for many years. (Wenger) is a fantastic manager and everyone can see that. To get the opportunity to work with him will be amazing.

He won’t have long to wait, and is expected to make his first appearance for the club in the Emirates Club at the weekend. He went on to explain where the manager sees him playing:

The manager has a fantastic history of bringing young players through and nurturing them – and especially from Southampton, as you have seen with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott. I would just like to have the opportunity to follow in their path and be as successful as them. He said that he sees me at right-back, centre-back, holding centre midfield. He sees me in a variety of different positions, which I like, because then I can find out where I am best at and push myself as far as I can go in that position.

I’m just excited to get started really.

I’m looking forward to joining up with my new team-mates today and beginning preparation for the season ahead

If there’s one thing you can’t accuse him of, it’s not sounding enthusiastic enough!

The manager himself had this to say:

We are very pleased that Calum has agreed to join us. The way he adapted to the Premier League last season with Southampton at a young age shows that he has tremendous quality. He has a lot of the attributes that we look for in a young player and I am sure that he will do well with us.

It’s initially thought he’ll play back up at right back to the other new boy, Mathieu Debuchy, and has been assured of playing time this season. As the young man himself says, he follows in the footsteps of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott in joining the Arsenal from Southampton, a club whose supporters you simply have to feel a bit sorry for at this point. They played some great stuff last season, but now, with their manager taking a sabbatical to that lot up the road for the first six weeks of the season (or however long he lasts), and the exodus of players probably not yet done, with them apparently willing to let go any player that doesn’t want to stay (it looks like Rodriguez and Schneiderlin are on their way to the Tiny Tots too), you feel they’re going to have a hard time of it. I hope not though. I don’t find them particularly hateful the way I do almost every other club in the league.

Still, their loss is our gain, and all’s fair in love and football transfers. Or something. Welcome to the Arsenal, Calum.

People will say the fee is too much (probably exactly the same people that complain that the manager refuses to open his chequebook), and that £16m would be better spent on Bender, or Khedira, or Schneiderlin himself, but while the money the manager has already put down this summer is a lot, Chambers’ signing doesn’t necessarily mean we’re done. Let’s see how the rest of the window pans out. Chambers provides cover in a few positions as well as right back, not least centre half where we knew we needed some backup, so perhaps there’s still room to bring in the defensive midfielder some people seem to think we need so badly.

Chambers’ signing would seem to spell the end of Carl Jenkinson’s time at the club for the time being at least, with Hull and West Ham interested in taking him. It’s not entirely clear whether his exit will be on loan or as a permanent transfer. If it does turn out to be permanent, it really does show the manager’s ruthless intent this summer, but it’s thought he’s got 12 months to prove himself and then we’ll reassess. It’s a shame for Corporal Jenks, an Arsenal fan coming from an Arsenal supporting family, who always gives everything on the pitch, but it’s hard to argue that he hasn’t quite kicked on and never gave Bacary Sagna the kind of serious competition required.

In other news, Abou Diaby has revealed – not for the first time, I think – that he considered quitting football over the multiple injuries he’s suffered since he was assaulted by no mark cunt Dan Smith (who according to Wikipedia, interestingly, and perhaps not surprisingly, is currently without a club). People will make jokes about Diaby being like a new signing (indeed exactly that point is made in that Mirror article), but what’s happened to him since that day has been such a shame. Hopefully this season will be the season he finally recovers and cements his place in the side. With his contract expiring at the end of the season, you have to think this is his last chance to prove his recovery is complete or he too will find himself a free agent.

That’s it for today. I have multiple candidates for eye spooning, a very large spoon to do it with, and not enough hours in the day. Have yourselves a good Tuesday.

Monday morning musings

Monday morning musings

Another early morning quickie for you today since some of us have jobs to go to, crises to manage, and as yet not-entirely-clear horror to deal with from people I’d happily stab in the eye with a spoon. That’s right, not a fork – not even a spork – a spoon. I might just resign today and see what happens in my three month notice period. It’s not like I *need* a job, is it? Jobs are very one dimensional; they demonstrate a lack of creative thinking. I mean, who cares if The Man comes and takes the car, and then the house? Perhaps I should join a commune. Are those still A Thing? Like, the good, Glastonbury kind, rather than the David Koresh kind.

But then I do like being not-a-minging-hippy though. Toughie.

I’d like to point out today that I think Arseblogger leaves me blog duties on days/weeks when he knows in advance that there’s going to be very little to talk about. Despite his protestations to the contrary, I think he is in fact most definitely “ITK”, and what it is that he knows is that writing a thousand words about nothing on a Monday morning in the middle of summer is something he definitely does not fancy because there’s nothing to write about (in case you were left in any doubt).

The main and indeed only substantive story today can be found in the Telegraph, and is quite an interesting one in that it involves the manager talking about the signing of Calum Chambers, which, given it hasn’t been reported on the official site, or confirmed by the club by any other means (unless I missed something), is quite unusual. According to the paper, the manager has said he can understand shock at the size of the fee – somewhere between £11m and £16m, depending on who you believe - but says the player’s versatility is what justifies such a large amount for a 19 year old who has only started 18 Premier League games:

He can play at centre-back, right-back and central midfield. I hope he will give us competition for the players in this three positions. He hasn’t played many games, no, but the English players on the market in England are very expensive and at the end of the day I was ready to take a gamble because he is a player for the future.

£16m is quite the gamble (and a further counterpoint to those that say he’s generally unwilling to spend money). I’m not sure if I had £16m to spend, gambling it would be too high up my list of priorities, but I suspect if Arsenal Football Club were going to let anyone gamble £16m, it’d be Arsene Wenger they’d choose and probably not me, so the point is moot.

*fades off into dream about how to spend £16m*

Anyway, the second point there is the most important with regard to the price, and that’s that English players come with a premium of £10m (or in the case of Andy Carroll, £34,999,999). £6m for a promising 19 year old, lacking experience, that can play in a few different positions seems about right, but when you add in the fact he’s English, £16m right there. When a ‘home grown’ player can be a non-Englishman, I’m not sure quite why this premium exists. Perhaps it’s just because good English footballers are somewhat rare, and that scarcity leads to an inflation in their price. Look at the relative costs of Luke Shaw and Mathieu Debuchy. Perhaps Shaw is a better full back, but is he worth almost three times the money? Maybe, but it’s hard to understand how.

The same paper reports that Chambers’ signing opens up the way for Carl Jenkinson to move to West Ham, in either a permanent or loan deal. All there is to say about that is that it’ll be a shame if it’s permanent. If he goes out and gets some experience, and comes back able to properly deputise for Debuchy in the big games while Chambers ends up in central midfield or at centre half, all well and good.

In a frankly stunning development, the official site finally confirms the signing of David Ospina to the club. Welcome, David.

Finally for today, and I do apologise for brevity, it seems Alexis Sanchez will be unable to hook up with the rest of the squad on the pre-season tour of Austria since he’ll be busy standing in a queue in Paris trying to get a working visa and won’t join his team mates until the end of the week before the Emirates Cup. I’m not quite sure how that works – why he has to get it sorted out in Paris and not, say, Vienna, or why in this day and age someone can’t go on his behalf – but whatever. While not ideal, I’m sure it’s not the end of the world.

More frustrating for the manager, I am sure, is the shortening of pre-season due to the World Cup, and the absence of our winning German contingent who won’t return until mid-August and will consequently miss the start of the season.

Anyway, that’s your lot for today. I have to go and spoon some people in the eyes, which is much less sexy than it sounds, though if you thought spooning someone in the eyes was sexy in the first place, perhaps you ought to go and reassess your life. There are probably communes for people like you.

Sunday tittle tattle

Sunday tittle tattle

So Arsenal played the New York Red Bulls last night, but what with it being SOMEONE’S birthday, I had things to do and people to see so I didn’t see the game, which makes reporting on it a little difficult. I can’t even watch the highlights on the official site because it seems to be having some kind of issue. However, judging by the general reaction on Twitter and elsewhere online, it seems that we were total dog shit, the players are all dog shit, supporting Arsenal is dog shit, being an Arsenal supporter is dog shit, and in particular, Arsene Wenger is actually a walking, semi-talking, human manifestation of dog shit.

However, somewhere deep inside, there’s a little voice saying that this might be just a tad of an overreaction, typified by much of the utter nonsense you see on the internet, and particularly on Twitter where people seem to lose their shit and become hysterical at the merest of things. Not sure why I think that. It could be that it was a pre-season friendly, on the other side of the world, intended largely as a marketing and PR exercise, or it could be that the side was nothing like the team you’d expect to see in the Premier League or FA Cup with a number of players in odd positions (Monreal at centre back, Rosicky the main focus of the attack). It could be that every single player was substituted except Monreal and Gibbs, with seven of those substitutions coming at half time.

But the main problem was probably that Jack Wilshere was playing, and as we all know, despite the fact it was his first game of the season, he’s now officially a smoker which means we might as well just play with ten men. Or execute him. Yes, that seems like a reasonable and proportionate reaction to his frankly heinous crime. We all know it won’t be long before he’s demanding ‘smoking breaks’, much like we saw during the World Cup for drinks, except with less hydration and more nicotine, tar, and delicious formaldehyde. I’m surprised he wasn’t seen on the touch line having a smoke during the 45 minutes he deigned to play football, and I bet as soon as he got into the dressing room at half time he was puffing away.

(On the basis that he’s a role model and a professional athlete, of course Jack probably shouldn’t be smoking, but he’s hardly the first footballer to have been caught doing so, and won’t be the last. The media attention being given to this whole thing is over the top, and seems particularly targeted at him. Perhaps that’s just my Arsenal bias kicking in, but the story really doesn’t merit the coverage it’s getting).

In all seriousness, while it’s a bit of a shame for those fans in the US that travelled to see the team play and would’ve liked to see a win, the reality is that this was a pre-season friendly, with a team lacking arguably nine first team players. And it’s not like the Red Bulls are a bad side either. These aren’t excuses, they’re reasons, and as unfortunate as it is, you don’t win them all, and given the option, I’d rather lose a game in pre-season than during the actual season.

In other news, a source I’m rather more willing to trust has confirmed David Ospina’s transfer to Arsenal from Nice. Apparently the suggestion is that while Szczesny will start the season in goal, he and Ospina will compete for the number 1 spot, which is good to see. Competition is needed in all areas of the pitch, and quality backups are also very welcome. Now just the rest of those positions to fill.

For those that were wondering, the reason Rosicky was playing up front last night was that Sanogo has an issue with his thigh and they chose not to take him on the trip. A shame for the young man, since it’d have been good for him to have a good pre-season and get some playing time while Giroud recovers from his World Cup exploits, and you’d have thought even having him travel with the squad would be beneficial for him, but the manager chose to leave him behind.

In various transfer tittle tattle, Khedira has reportedly lowered his wage demands to a mere £135k a week to force through a move to the club. It remains to be seen whether the manager will make the German the highest paid player at the club, but during the World Cup I got more than a little bit excited at the prospect of Khedira in an Arsenal shirt, so I’m not going to go overboard yet. Apparently the manager has also set his sights on Roberto Firmino of Hoffenheim as a replacement for Santi Cazorla, who is apparently going to Atletico Madrid, despite having only yesterday stated he was quite happy at the club. And after yesterday’s news about Calum Chambers, Hull City manager Steve Bruce has confirmed he’s interested in taking Carl Jenkinson on loan. It’d make sense, particularly if Chambers is seen as a future centre back.

That’s your lot for today. I’m going to go and enjoy SOMEONE’S birthday, and start looking forward to a bright, shiny new week of work hell.