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.

The Arsecast is also available on our SoundCloud channel, as well as via the SoundCloud app for iPhone and Android. You can now also find it on the Stitcher podcasting app for iOS and Android. Or, you can listen without leaving this page by using the player below.

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.


Arsenal 1-0 Besiktas: Alexis on fire

Arsenal 1-0 Besiktas: Alexis on fire

Match report -By the numbersPlayer ratingsVideo

The game had moved into the single minute of injury time in the first half when Mathieu Debuchy found space down the right hand side. Not for the first time, he put in a tasty cross which a Besiktas defender headed clear.

Jack Wilshere kept the ball alive, played it to Mesut Ozil who flicked the ball first time back towards the England man with the outside of his boot. As Wilshere ran onto it, he realised Alexis was in a better position to take advantage, checked his run, and allowed the former Barcelona man to side-foot home his first Arsenal goal.

And what a big goal it turned out to be. The kind of goal that repays some of the fee paid to Barcelona. The kind of goal that is practically worth paying £30m for anyway. It was the moment that put Arsenal into the group stages of the Champions League for the seventeenth successive season, but as tight as the game was I don’t think there’s any real doubt we deserved it on the night.

The team was as I’d hoped yesterday, but I think it’s fair to say that this is a system we’re going to have to get used to. We’re so accustomed to playing with Giroud as the focal point of the attack it looked as if we didn’t quite know what to do at times. That’s also true of Alexis who is going to have to get some games under his belt to grow into his new role in the team, but even if the Chilean struggled a bit in the first half, he put in a monumental shift in the second and it appeared as if he was finding his feet somewhat.

Yet he wasn’t the only one who worked hard. I think that’s true of the entire team. Afterwards, it was interesting to hear Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain say:

We’ve got a great togetherness, we haven’t played at our best maybe this season but we stuck together and did what we had to do.

Hard to argue with that, right? Performance wise we haven’t clicked yet this season, but what’s holding it all together is a group of players who are working their holes off for each other. Previous incarnations might well have capitulated at Everton, might not have got that late winner against Palace, and when you consider the paucity of character in some of our former players that last 15 minutes against Besiktas would surely have seen us crumble.

I thought the referee had started the game well, but by the middle of the second half he was getting his yellow out like a flasher’s mickey on a crowded train. Mathieu Debuchy can have no real complaints about his first yellow card, he turned his shoulder into man in the air, but I thought the second was very harsh. It was two players battling in the midfield and he got the ball (albeit with a little bit of a grapple but not one that was worthy of a second yellow and a sending off in such a crucial game).

That the referee then booked a 19 year old for ‘entering the field without permission’ even though the board had been held up showed what we were up against. Down to 10 men, with 15 minutes + injury time to go, and having to deal with an overly fussy official who would surely have loved a chance to make the game more about him.

Yet the character in this team came to the forefront immediately. Chambers went off, came back on, and the first thing he did was storm down the right hand side and set up a chance for Alexis. When there was a 50-50 to be won, he absolutely monstered a perfectly timed sliding tackle to come away with the ball. That’s what I mean about us not folding and it was brilliant to see.

Of course we should have won it more easily with two fantastic chances just before the sending off. For the first Alexis could have shot when we had a three on two break but fed Cazorla whose effort was blocked. Then Nacho Monreal set up Oxlade-Chamberlain with a tap-in but he hit it straight at the keeper when he really ought to have made the game safe.

However, for all their huff and puff (not to mention some pretty nasty fouls), Besiktas didn’t really threaten. There was a heart in mouth moment late on when Demba Ba contrived to miss a header at the back post, but throughout the game Szczesny didn’t have a save to make and credit to the way we played and defended for that.

I thought we looked just that bit more composed with Mertesacker and Koscielny back in the centre (both players with a 97% pass completion rate tells a bit of that story), while both full backs were really very good. I know Debuchy’s night was spoiled by the red card, but until then he’d been absolutely fantastic, reading the game excellently and making some fine interceptions. If he can just tone it down a little bit he’ll be fine.

In midfield Jack Wilshere put in the kind of performance that will shut up the early season critics and Jamies, and it was great to see him thrive in those circumstances. You knew it was going to be a good night for him when his first touch was a deft flick around an opponent followed by a burst forward into their half. That will do him the world of good.

As for Santi Cazorla, I thought in the final 15 minutes he was brilliant. There were raised eyebrows about Mesut Ozil being played on the left hand side, which I understand, but Cazorla’s display in the middle was so disciplined – especially late on when his defensive awareness (not exactly the best part of his game) was so important.

Afterwards, Arsene Wenger said:

Overall I feel we produced a performance we wanted on the technical side, on the tactical side and on the mental side. We were at the level that was requested tonight against a good team but we couldn’t finish the game off and that of course made it very difficult for us in the last 10 minutes when we were down to ten men.

When you consider that we’ve just done Besiktas away, Everton away, and now Besiktas at home, that’s a pretty challenging schedule for a team that has got its troubles right now. Injuries, shortened pre-season preparation, new arrivals still bedding in and overall a group of players that hasn’t really gelled yet, to have come through that successfully is good going (I’d consider the Everton point very valuable, especially in those circumstances).

Qualification for the Champions League group-stages also takes away a lot of the pressure and hopefully provides a boost in confidence and belief which we can take forward now, on the pitch and off. Let’s not be blind to the fact that failure to win last night would have had some pretty severe consequences, but there’s no point dwelling on that. Instead we have to act and take advantage of what we’ve done.

The manager was, of course, pressed on transfers last night. Confirming Giroud’s four month absence, he ruled out the stories linking us to Zigic and Welbeck and Falcao (with a smile), and although he sort of played down talk of a new striker, he said:

We are open for any position as long as we feel that the player can strengthen the squad. If we find the players who we feel can give something to our squad, we will do it in any position.

We have until Monday night at 11pm to find those players, and there’s still at least one purchase (centre-half) which is an absolute necessity. After that for me we need a forward, if we can find the right man, and then a defensive midfield player, but look, let’s see what happens between now and the close of the window. The manager’s priorities might well be different.

With European football now assured for another season, and money in the bank, we’re in a good position to do what needs to be done. But let’s not allow that to overshadow what was a fine effort last night to put us there in the first place.

Till tomorrow.

Besiktas preview: Wenger’s two forward options

Besiktas preview: Wenger’s two forward options

The preparation for a game of this magnitude (pop pop) could, let’s face it, have been better. We’re facing Besiktas tonight without our best centre-forward, without our best, and goalscoringest midfielder, and our captain who also happens to be our best deep-lying midfielder.

While for the last two there are obvious replacements, who plays up front tonight is going to give Arsene Wenger something of a headache. For me, there are only two options. Firstly, he goes like for like and plays Yaya Sanogo (assuming he’s fit); or secondly he has another go with Alexis as the striker – something he’s obviously keen to try as his selection against Everton on Saturday showed.

Sanogo would bring us some of the qualities of Giroud in terms of his style and size, acting as a focal point for the attack and tasked with holding it up and bringing others into play. The team certainly played better with that kind of player at Goodison Park. However, with all due respect to the younger of the Frenchman, Giroud has a track record of scoring goals. Perhaps not as many as we might like, but it’s inarguable.

He’s a more mature, more experienced, more developed player and the simple fact is that in the 16 games he’s played for us, Sanogo has yet to score. Of course it’s just 16 games, many of those appearances cameos from the bench, but to me it would be a massive risk to bank on tonight being the night he finally gets off the mark. There’s so much at stake this evening that to put that pressure on Sanogo is verging on unfair.

We know the manager has no compunction using him in big games. He made his debut in the FA Cup against Liverpool and then kept his place against Bayern in the Champions League. On both occasions he acquitted himself pretty well, but those selections were also borne out of circumstances at a time when Giroud hadn’t covered himself in glory off the field. There was more to it that just football.

I think the team needs as much quality and experience as it can get tonight, and that means continuing with Alexis up front. Maybe away from home against one of the best teams in the league wasn’t the place to try it first, but at home, in European competition seems like a much better fit – especially if he’s got the right support around him.

What I’d like to see is something like this: Szczesny – Debuchy – Mertesacker – Koscielny – Monreal – Flamini – Wilshere – Ozil – Cazorla – Oxlade-Chamberlain – Alexis

Moving Ozil back into the midfield where he can pull the strings, with Cazorla and Oxlade-Chamberlain either side of Alexis would be forward three that has plenty of movement and creativity, with Ozil playing in the position in which he’s best and most influential.

Although we didn’t really trouble Everton hugely in that first half, Oxlade-Chamberlain might have changed the complexion of the game completely if he had his shooting boots on, and he’s looked lively when he’s played this season. We know he’s got goals in him and I think he’d do well on that right hand side tonight.

The other options to play up front are less convincing. Joel Campbell is, to my mind, more of a wide forward, and one that’s still finding his feet at the club. To thrust him into this kind of action doesn’t seem sensible but he gives us something from the bench.

As too does Lukas Podolski, but again he’s not a candidate for a start. Let’s remember that 48 hours ago he was on the brink of leaving the club. The Giroud injury has forced the manager’s hand to an extent, but if he was willing to let him go it speaks to a fundamental lack of faith in the player. If we’re desperate for a goal later in the game he’s definitely nice to have on the bench, but even though Arsene says he’s ‘staying with us‘, I’m not 100% convinced he means in the long-term.

As for the rest, well it doesn’t need a whole lot of analysis. Our Champions League hopes rest on this game and it’s going to require a team performance of greater quality than anything we’ve seen this season so far. Besiktas are going to make life very difficult for us and have the advantage of away goals. If they score once, we’ve got to score twice. A draw works for them, it puts us out.

Hopefully having Mertesacker and Koscielny back together in the centre of defence will provide us the calm, authoritative platform we need to do the business. At the other end, it’s not as if we don’t have players who can score, create and make a decisive impact – it’s just that the team, as a whole, hasn’t really clicked yet this season.

Tonight would be the perfect night for that to happen.

Meanwhile, the Giroud news gets worse with the club now fearing he’ll be out until the new year. I really think a striking purchase is almost top priority for us now. Almost. From what I hear we’re looking for a central defender and a defensive midfielder, but surely this shifts our priorities somewhat.

The central defender is a must-have. There’s no question that we need to add depth in that area to get through the season, but would you then spend big on a striker or the midfielder? The dearth of genuinely top class options up front is the only real problem. There are lots of forwards on the same level as Giroud around, but realistically, not too many who would really kick us forward.

Could we get David Ospina to have a quiet word with that lad Falcao? The idea that we might pay £20m to take him on loan for a season are fanciful, there’s simply no way we’d spend that kind of money for that kind of deal, but how much would it take to sign him permanently (if he wasn’t already fixated on Real Madrid?).

Even with a fit Giroud, I’d have liked to see a forward come in during the summer. Without him, it feels like a necessity. Maybe the Alexis experiment will work and Theo Walcott is coming back soon. There’s Sanogo, Campbell and Podolski, but the issue isn’t one of numbers. We most certainly have the players who can fill in.

For me it’s a matter of quality and as yet two of the options are unproven, one of them was on his way out of the club (a decision taken by the manager which speaks volumes), while the two speedsters mentioned above are going to be effective against certain teams in certain situations, but not for every opposition.

Amy Lawrence writes a good piece in today’s Guardian about it, and I really think if we’re serious about challenging this season we should be out there trying to find the best forward we can between now and Monday night.

Remember, if you’re stuck in work later or can’t see the game for some other reason, you can follow it on our live blog. You get updates from first whistle to last, auto-refreshing on your computer, phone, tablet or any other Internet connected device.

Simply bookmark our default live blog page or check back here later on for a post with all the details.

Until then.

Giroud facing 3 months out: Arsenal have to react

Giroud facing 3 months out: Arsenal have to react

A rather inauspicious start to the morning comes with the news – as yet not officially confirmed – that Olivier Giroud faces an extended period on the sidelines with a broken foot.

L’Equipe journalist Bruno Constant Tweeted the news last night and the story has been carried in most of the papers this morning, the suggestion being that he could be out for as long as three months. Here’s the injury as it happened. Looks inoccuous, as is often the case, but if the worst fears are realised it’s a real blow.

Now, obviously that’s bad news in the short-term, because we’re without our best centre-forward for tomorrow night’s game against Besiktas, but also in the medium-term because we’re without him for a period which places huge pressure on certain players who may not be ready to deal with that.

It raises questions now about whether or not we should let Lukas Podolski leave the club, and also means the manager is going to have to seriously consider dipping into the transfer market to find the kind of replacement that a title-chasing team should have.

With all due respect to Yaya Sanogo and Joel Campbell, I’m not convinced they’ve yet got what it takes to score the goals we need (and Campbell, to my mind, is not really a natural replacement, having played most of his career in the wide areas). As for Podolski, he would give us depth but again the times we’ve played him as a centre-forward haven’t exactly suggested that’s his best position.

The injury to Giroud really shouldn’t impact on what our plans with Podolski are anyway. He’s a wide forward in this team, not a central striker, and if the manager has decided to move him on it’s because he feels like he has better options there (or is about to replace him with one). I suspect it might delay, rather than prevent, the inevitable.

Giroud isn’t ever going to be the World Class striker people want but he plays a very important role in the team and the way it plays. The manager is obviously open to trying something new, as he showed in using Alexis there on Saturday, but that will surely mean a period where the team has to get used to it. The first half against Everton showed we’re a long way from understanding that system and we’re much better in the second half when Giroud came on.

Regular readers will know that I’m not down at all with this blessing in disguise nonsense that people come out with when a player they don’t really like is injured, but if there’s any kind of silver lining to this it’s that the injury has come while we still have a chance to do something about it. The transfer window closes next Monday night at 11pm, and between now and then we ought to be moving heaven and earth to find the best possible striker we can.

Names like Remy and Welbeck have been suggested in the immediate aftermath of this news, but it strikes me they’re just the obvious candidates and easy for the press to put forward. The trouble is, there does appear to be real dearth of genuine and available striking talent out there right now. It was a question posed to us on the Arsecast Extra yesterday: who is the striker we could bring in?

The conclusion we came to is that we’d be much more likely to sign a player who has the potential to be a top forward in a couple of years rather than an established one now. There’s an inherent risk in that because you’re banking on a player fulfilling his potential and much can happen. He might look like the arch-poacher you need and then some wanker in a Birmingham shirt snaps his leg in two and he’s never the same again.

To be fair, that conclusion was reached without the knowledge of how serious Giroud’s injury was, so maybe that will inform the manager’s decision making between now and Monday night. But to my mind, a striker purchase is now an absolute necessity if the three month time spell is confirmed. As for who – well that’s anybody’s guess. Cavani, Falcao? Doubt it. Bony? Could see that, but you just can’t second guess Arsene Wenger in the transfer market. I know we have targets, we might have to really push the boat out to get the one we want, but at this point we’re not in a position to bargain.

The manager will meet the press today ahead of tomorrow night’s Champions League qualifier, so we should get official confirmation one way or the other. With the focus on the game, any moves in the market won’t take place until after Wednesday, and even those might well be affected by how it goes against Besiktas. Win, and the lure of Champions League football will make the recruitment job easier. The alternative isn’t really something I want to contemplate but what was already a difficult task has become even more so with Giroud’s absence.

It’s most certainly not ideal preparation for tomorrow night but all we can do is be thankful that we have the opportunity to react. Nor should it obscure the fact that other signings are needed between now and Monday night too. The defensive situation is still worrying, there’s not enough depth there for an entire season, and even though the Portuguese press say we’re in talks with Sporting over William Carvalho, I’m not entirely convinced that’s an area the manager is prioritising.

The early part of the summer, and our recruitment in that period, went very well and left most people satisfied about the state of the squad at that point. Now, however, it’s impossible not to think that the next six days will be absolutely crucial if we really do want to build a squad that can win the league and challenge in all competitions. Make the right moves and we’re in business. If we don’t, it’s difficult to see us achieving much more than the usual.

Over to you, Arsene and Ivan.