Ramsey on the way back + Arsecast 311

Ramsey on the way back + Arsecast 311

Morning all and welcome to Friday.

It’s unusual for us to get anything like good news when it comes to injuries, so the announcement yesterday that Aaron Ramsey could be back for the trip to Everton was like a bolt from the blue (hopefully one into the blues on Sunday also).

In his team news update on the official site, Arsene Wenger said:

Aaron and Nacho Monreal are back training with the squad, so that is good news. Hopefully they will be available for Sunday.

Not quite the ‘Ramsey is back to save us hurrah our season is safe’ kinda stuff, but still good news all the same. The manager’s caution is obvious and I don’t think there’s any way he’ll be starting on Sunday, but even if he could make a little cameo from the bench to give him some minutes ahead of the FA Cup semi-final that would be a big step forward.

The news is obviously welcome, but tempered by the manager’s comments just last week when he suggested that it could be a ‘few weeks’ before we saw him again. When I heard that I simply prepared myself for the ‘Well, if he gets a good pre-season under his belt he could be fit by August’ reasoning that I would undergo as a coping mechanism, so this is good.

You would like to think that this is because he’s made some real progress and not because we’re desperate to bring him back ahead of schedule. That, surely, must be a lesson we’ve well and truly learned at this point. All the same, you can’t really understate his importance.

With 13 goals to his name, he’s still our second top scorer and he hasn’t played since December 26th. There was some stat going around on Twitter about how, despite that absence, he’d made more tackles than any other Arsenal player, but I did a bit of digging around on WhoScored last night and it turns out that’s not quite true.

He’s third in the successful tackles list with 66 to his name. Kieran Gibbs (67) is second while Mikel Arteta is top with 79. That said, his tackles per game average is still the best (3.7) and only Arteta comes close with 3.2, but it’s not necessarily that part of his game that people will welcome back. What he gives us going forward is crucial too, so fingers crossed he’s fully recovered and can start playing a part again.

The boss also updated us about Mesut Ozil, saying:

The FA Cup will be too soon for him, but he will hopefully be back soon after that.

While Ozil himself provided us with this on his Facebook page:

dear fans,
I can assure you that I’m doing my best to return to the pitch as soon as possible. but in the end, only two things matter: to have confidence in yourself and to be patient! #coyg

Only two things matter, confidence and patience. And stretchy hamstrings. Only three things matter, confidence, patience, and stretchy hamstrings. And Deep Heat. Only four things matter, confidence, patience, stretchy hamstrings and Deep Heat. And a good warm-up. Only … well, you get the idea.

Having Ozil back would be fantastic. I realise that goes without saying really, but when you still have some dimwit hacks claiming he’s nicking a living at Arsenal, blissfully ignorant of the irony of that statement when they’re doing pretty much the same in their own field, it’s worth repeating.

I’m not really counting on Wilshere being able to do much between now and the end of the season, to be perfectly honest, but adding Ramsey and Ozil back into the mix certainly would give us many of the qualities we’ve been missing in recent weeks. Ok, neither of them are going to solve the outright pace issue, but when it comes to purposeful running, end product and creativity, they tick all the required boxes.

No doubt the manager will give more in-depth info about Ramsey at his press conference this morning. The prospect of facing Everton in an early-ish kick off is an interesting one and I do wonder if there’ll be any mention of our preparation for this one in relation to what happened in other big away games this season.

Right, time then for this week’s Arsecast, and I’m joined by Amy Lawrence to discuss the week that was, Man City, strikers, club strategy and more. There’s some Arsene Wenger Hawkins and a bit of Colonel Abrams squeezed in there too.

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 – 28mb MP3.

The Arsecast is also available on our SoundCloud channel, where you can leave comments and such, 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.

News from the press conference and more on Arseblog News throughout the day, back tomorrow as prepare for Goodison.

Until then, have a good one.

Arsecast Extra 10 – 31.03.2014

Arsecast Extra 10 – 31.03.2014

Here’s this week’s Arsecast Extra: I’m joined as always by James from @Gunnerblog.

On this week’s show reaction to the 1-1 draw with Man City at the weekend, the good and the bad of Lukas Podolski, why we need Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott to have a baby together, and your questions about Liverpool, Champions League football and threatening children with physical violence in front a stadium full of people and nobody saying a word about it.

Remember, you can send us questions via which we’ll try and get to each week. Send them to either @arseblog or @Gunnerblog (or both) using the hashtag #arsecastextra. Best to send them Monday morning so they get noticed more easily.

You can subscribe to the Arsecast Extra 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 Extra directly – click here – 29mb MP3.

Arsecast Extra is brought to you by Audible.com – you can get a free audio book download and a 30 day free trial. Click the banner below to sign up or go to audibletrial.com/arsecast

The Arsecast Extra is also available on our SoundCloud channel, where you can leave comments and such, as well as via the SoundCloud app for iPhone and Android. You can 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.

Ramsey, Kallstrom, NYC + Arsecast 310

Ramsey, Kallstrom, NYC + Arsecast 310

Morning all.

Time to start thinking about what lies ahead this weekend and, frankly, it’s a bit scary after all that’s happened. Man City dismantled United on Tuesday night with ease. Whilst recognising this is not something we’ve been able to do, it is ‘candy from baby’ stuff this season, but all the same, City looked pretty good doing it.

There’s no good news in relation to who we have available either. No shining knight in German armour is going to come to our aid, and those of us hoping to see the Welsh Jesus resurrect our season will have to bide our time even further as Arsene Wenger says:

Ramsey is progressing well, but we need to be patient for a few more weeks.

A few more weeks doesn’t sound like he’s going to be back any time soon, and for a guy who was only supposed to be out for a few weeks when he limped off on December 26th you do have to wonder what’s going on. One of the questions that pops up time and time again for the Arsecast Extra, or just generally when we get news like this, is why Arsenal suffer from these injury problems.

Ok, a banjaxed cruciate is one thing, so too a hamstring strain – it can happen to any player at any time without there being an underlying issue. It’s often just bad luck. But situations like this one, with setbacks when the player is on the verge of coming back, do make you wonder if there’s something really wrong with what we do.

Please note the word ‘wonder’. I don’t have the answers. Arsenal employ highly-trained medical staff and have state of the art equipment and facilities, but there’s something wrong somewhere, isn’t there? I do hope that the manager wasn’t just paying lip service to the question asked a couple of weeks ago when he promised a thorough investigation into our injury woes, because while it’s hard to quantify exactly how much we’ve missed a player like Ramsey, you don’t need to be a genius to know it’s quite a lot.

So, the only way we can really change things for tomorrow is by adding a bit of Kim Kallstrom to the mix somewhere. His debut was encouraging, and he’s a bigger chap than I thought he was (or maybe it’s because most of the rest of our team is so small), and he looks like he can ping a ball about quite well.

Whether that’s enough to help us cope with Man City remains to be seen, but the manager was very obviously talking him up yesterday which suggests he’s thinking of using him. He said:

I’m convinced that he can be important for starting or coming on in the games because he has the experience, he has quality and his attitude is fantastic. He has an absolutely fantastic attitude. He’s a credit to the job because of his attitude, his focus and his determination. He works hard, he’s helpful and he’s marvellous.

Let’s face it, we looked leggy and lethargic on Tuesday night. Some of that was the hangover from the Chelsea game, no doubt about it, but I think we’re also suffering from the fact that we haven’t been able to rotate or rest players during a busy period and some of them are close to being knackered.

Kallstrom isn’t going to inject a lot of pace into the team (the sight of him charging back defensively on Tuesday was great – he’s not going to win many races though), but perhaps he’ll have a freshness of body and mind that might just help us step it up a bit in terms of performance. And that’s got to improve on the last two games, by quite a margin, or tomorrow is going to be another disappointing day. Anyway, more on that tomorrow.

Meanwhile, there’s good news for US Gooners as the club have announced a pre-season friendly with New York Red Bulls in July. There’s all the usual waffle from Ivan, Arsene and, indeed, Thierry in the announcement, but having looked to exploit new markets with trips to Asia for the last few years, it’s good to see the club acknowledge a very established part of our fanbase.

I know I’ve gone about it before, but that scene in New York, which I’m sure is replicated in many cities across the states to some degree, was just fantastic to experience. With an American majority shareholder it seems odd that we’ve taken so long to do it, but better late than never.

Right then, onto this week’s Arsecast and after a difficult week on the pitch I’m joined by Philippe Auclair to discuss what happened, the ramifications of it for the players, club and manager, and more besides. There’s some Amaury Bischoff PI, a referee reads from his audiobook and the usual waffle.

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 here37mb MP3.

The Arsecast is also available on our SoundCloud channel, where you can leave comments and such, 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.

Arsecast Extra is brought to you by Audible.com – you can get a free audio book download and a 30 day free trial. Click the banner below to sign up or go to audibletrial.com/arsecast

And that’s about that. News and updates from the manager’s press conference over on Arseblog News throughout the day, more here tomorrow as we look ahead to that crucial clash with Man City.

Arsecast Extra – Episode 9 (with Ian Wright)

Arsecast Extra – Episode 9 (with Ian Wright)

Here’s this week’s Arsecast Extra: I’m joined as always by James from @Gunnerblog.

On this week’s show we discuss the horrible day at Stamford Bridge and try to make some sense of how and why it happened. As usual we answer your questions, this week touching on tactics, team selection for Swansea and more. Also, special guest Ian Wright joins at the end to give his thoughts on the Chelsea game and beyond.

Remember, you can send us questions via which we’ll try and get to each week. Send them to either @arseblog or @Gunnerblog (or both) using the hashtag #arsecastextra. Best to send them Monday morning so they get noticed more easily.

You can subscribe to the Arsecast Extra 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 Extra directly – click here – 34mb MP3.

Arsecast Extra is brought to you by Audible.com – you can get a free audio book download and a 30 day free trial. Click the banner below to sign up or go to audibletrial.com/arsecast

The Arsecast Extra is also available on our SoundCloud channel, where you can leave comments and such, as well as via the SoundCloud app for iPhone and Android. You can 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.

Arsene at 1000 + Arsecast 309 with Jon Ronson

Arsene at 1000 + Arsecast 309 with Jon Ronson

Morning all, time to start looking ahead to the game against Chelsea, but as yet we don’t have much in the way of team news. I’m assuming that everyone who was available against Sp*rs on Sunday is fit and that there’ll be no surprises in terms of an injured player returning to give us a boost.

The focus is still on Arsene Wenger’s 1000th game and I’m sure that’s going to be a theme in this morning’s press conference too. Whatever your view on the manager, you have to say that getting to 1000 games is a remarkable achievement, and what Wenger has done certainly goes beyond a footballing landmark too.

When he arrived Arsenal’s facilities were not what you would consider suitable for any top flight club. As Patrick Vieira remembered, “I’ve been here when we took a bus to training and a bus back to the hotel to have a shower.”

In an interview with the Telegraph today, Peter Hill-Wood says, “The first thing he did was to be absolutely horrified by our training facilities. We built new facilities to his design. I went round the clubs of Europe with him and an architect and surveyor. He was asking all manner of questions and making all sorts of notes.”

Some of that was helped by his transfer market acumen, the story that we built our training ground and purchased a Mr T Henry from Juventus with the money we got from selling Nicolas Anelka is legendary. I suspect Arsene would have preferred to keep Anelka, but knowing that wasn’t possible he ensured we got the best price possible for him.

On top of the training ground, Wenger was also instrumental in the new stadium project, seeing it as crucial for Arsenal to move forward in the long-term. To compete with the best teams in Europe (at a time before clubs were propped up by billionaires to the extent they are now), he knew we had to do something difficult but extraordinary. To leave an iconic home like Highbury is not a decision you can take lightly, but as painful as that is/was, you can’t escape the fact it was the right one, even if the football landscape has changed dramatically since.

There are fans older and wiser than I who might disagree, but Arsene Wenger has given us the most prolonged period of football at the highest level. Nobody has kept us in the top four as consistently; no other manager has given us Champions League football year after year (and I do recognise that’s because the competition itself has changed, but still); no other manager has given us a team as good as the one we had from about 2001-2004, and the successes were so much fun.

The 97-98 double was almost cathartic, a team with the platform of the old Arsenal boosted by Wenger’s deft transfer touch. The 2002 double-winning side was brilliant, as was the one that went unbeaten in 2003-4. When you look back at it now, you’d even say they underachieved, certainly in Europe. The 2003-4 Champions League exit is one of those that still gives me shudders, that team should have lifted the trophy that season.

Having four of the best players in the world in your team at any one time was the preserve of the giants like Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan, Juventus etc. Yet we had them at Arsenal. Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Vieira. We were privileged to see them all play for Arsenal in the same team.

Yet with vision comes sacrifice and over the last few seasons, as the financial restrictions of the new stadium and those sponsorship deals we had to do hit home, it’s been more of a struggle. There’s no doubt he’s made some bad decisions, hasn’t spent the money he did have as well as he could, and, if he could look back, would probably make the transition from experience to youth more subtle.

It was a decent idea, to grow a group of young players together, but it didn’t really work. It failed to take into account human nature, and Wenger’s working methods didn’t suit that. He’s a man who likes his players to work things out for themselves. Experienced, grown men can do that a lot better than callow youth who believed their wage packet was an indicator of their stature in the game. Young men need guidance and there wasn’t enough of that on the pitch.

There have been frustrations at how long it’s taken to put things right, the same mistakes made too often, and seasons that began with promise fell short, while often the league was a pipe-dream after the early months. Yet despite difficulties, we never once missed out on the top four (even finishing third a few times!), while other teams around us spent fortunes to try and achieve our ‘failures’.

Now, with the stadium debt manageable, a good squad of players, new power in the transfer market because the financial restrictions are gone, and the club on sure footing in an era when many are struggling to stay afloat, it’s easier to step back and see what Wenger has brought to Arsenal. Even if he never wins another trophy his legacy is extraordinary.

He’s 64 now, and like it or not, we’re heading towards the end of his era sooner or later. It would fitting if he could bring some silverware to the club this season. If we as fans might feel we ‘deserve’ a trophy after so many years without, it’d be the hardest of hearts that would begrudge the manager success after all the work he’s put in. Whichever side of the fence you’re on, seeing him lift the cup (or the league!) with this group of players would be a fantastic sight.

Congratulations on the 1000, Arsene. I hope the fates play their part and give you, and us, a landmark win against Chelsea this weekend. Not just because it would be great to win but because it would also make Mourinho sick. Hey, I’m a small, petty man, but you know this already.

For more on Arsene’s 1000 – Tim Stillman looks back on his time in his latest column, and we’ll have something up on Arseblog News a bit later too. For ESPN, here’s my favourite Wenger XI – note the word: favourite, not best! For the Mirror, my best XI.

Right then, time for this week’s Arsecast, and it’s a special, bumper two part edition. In part 1 – all the usual football chat and waffle. I’m joined by Jeremy Wilson from the Telegraph to look back at the North London derby, Tomas Rosicky, contracts, Arsene, Bacary Sagna and more. There’s a look ahead to Chelsea, a news bulletin and all the normal guff.

In part 2 I chat with author, journalist and Arsenal fan, Jon Ronson – who was in Dublin yesterday – about all kinds of stuff, including Arsenal (obviously), but also weightlessness, terrifying secret organisations, Robin van Persie and psychopaths, being just as lovely as Lisa Stansfield, and his new short book Frank (which you can get here for just £1.79 on Amazon).

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 57mb MP3).

The Arsecast is also available on our SoundCloud channel, where you can leave comments and such, 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.

Arsecast Extra is brought to you by Audible.com – you can get a free audio book download and a 30 day free trial. Click the banner below to sign up or go to audibletrial.com/arsecast

And that’s yer lot for this morning. All the latest from the press conference over on Arseblog News throughout the day, back here tomorrow as we head to Stamford Bridge for the early kick-off.

ps – The winner of the Oxlade-Chamberlain print competition was Joshua Peterman. I’ll be in touch, and remember you can get your own from Dan’s store!