Arteta’s fit, Sky are daft + Arsecast 303

Arteta’s fit, Sky are daft + Arsecast 303

How is it possible to have a dream so awesome between the 9 minute snoozes that you wake up feeling mournful because you wanted it to go on for ages but instead the stupid phone went off again and then you have to get up and its cold and not at all awesome like the dream?

The sooner somebody invents a Sky+ kinda thing for dreams the better. ‘Oh, gotta get up. Never mind, I’ll come back to this later!’ Come on all you young scientists, make it happen.

As we play early tomorrow the manager’s press conference took place yesterday and there’s not much in the way of team news. Mikel Arteta is fit, which is hugely important, while Jack Wilshere ‘might’ be available. I suspect he’ll probably make the trip but may start on the bench. There’s no word about Thomas Vermaelen who failed to make the squad for Palace, so I’m assuming he’s out. Our lightness at centre-half worries me, it really does.

I didn’t realise that we’d been the only team to stop Suarez and Sturridge scoring in a game they’d started together this season, and we dealt with them very well at the Emirates. The manager says the best way to stop them is to keep the ball away from them and:

To dominate the game and leave them as few balls as possible. That will be one of our targets of course. At Liverpool the task might be a bit more difficult but the philosophy on our side has to be the same – to master the ball and to have the ball and to dominate the game.

He also spoke about the upcoming DEATHRUN1, saying:

Mentally we are prepared and we have shown a great response throughout the season when we had difficulties. Physically we are prepared as well. It depends how many injuries we have because we need to rotate and it’s important that we have as many players available as we can. Big injuries can of course question the end of the season.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that we’re not scuppered by tears, ruptures, sprains, strains, pulls, tweaks, niggles, breaks, twists or anything else. If we can keep everyone fit, we’ve got a good chance.

Also, rather hilariously in his press conference, a good week after the window had closed and a full five months before it opens again, Sky couldn’t help themselves but ask him about potential transfers for the summer. The manager’s reply was diplomatic:

You understand certainly very well that at the moment my focus is on Liverpool and not the transfer market.

But it’s like they can’t help themselves. Arsenal are playing 4 games in the space of 11 days against Liverpool, Manchester United, Liverpool again, then Bayern Munich. And they can’t find enough in that to talk about? They really have to ask about transfers which cannot happen for months and which are probably as far from the manager’s mind as what he’s going to have for dinner on June 19th 2014?

They are relentless. Like Principal Skinner when Bart bunks off school, they just keep on and on. Transfer Terminators. I mean, the guy could be under orders from editors and so on, but they really need to put a lid on it at this point. We’re heading into the most exciting part of the football season with incredible football matches for football fans to watch, and they want to focus on tittle-tattle. Pffff.

Anwyay, we imagined a couple of scenarios here where the manager can’t find peace from being questioned about new players.

Beyond all that it’s surprisingly quiet ahead of what’s going to be a really challenging period. The calm before the storm? I suspect there’ll be plenty to get our teeth into as the week goes on.

So, we might as well get on with this week’s Arsecast. I was supposed to be joined by the Mugsmasher to discuss the Mugsmashers, but just like our arrangement was a most excellent Arsenal mug, he broke it. It wasn’t his fault, in fairness, being stuck in work until past 10pm last night is grim, so with another game against that lot coming up I’ll try get him on next week’s show.

All the same there’s talk of horses, the week that was, Tim from Arse2Mouse pops in, we’ve got vintage news, the winners of last week’s t-shirt competition from Art of Football, 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 here 22mb 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.

Right, that’s yer lot. Back tomorrow with a full preview of the Liverpool game and of course a live blog.

ps – Paddy Power are running a new account special for the game tomorrow, check out the details here if you fancy a flutter.

Arsecast Extra – Episode 2

Arsecast Extra – Episode 2

Here’s this week’s Arsecast Extra: I’m joined by James from @Gunnerblog to discuss the 2-0 win over Crystal Palace, the transfer window, not getting a new striker, the odd Kim Kallstrom signing and we take questions from listeners about Olivier Giroud, Arsene Wenger, playing the big teams, being stranded on a desert island and more.

You can also send us questions via which we’ll try and get to each week. Send them to either @arseblog or @Gunnerblog (or both) and you can also use the hashtag #arsecastextra if you really like.

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 25mb MP3).

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.

Deadline day: will anything happen? + Arsecast 302

Deadline day: will anything happen? + Arsecast 302

You know, I haven’t spoken or interacted with a single Arsenal fan who thinks we couldn’t do with a new face, or two, before the window shuts today.

There’s a genuine feeling that we need something extra in order to compete all the way to May – especially when Chelsea have been active, and Man City are, by all accounts, looking to flex their financial muscles (steroid boosted as they might be) at some point today.

The focus has, for the most part, been on Julian Draxler. A player of incredible potential but one who has only just turned 20. As much as I’d like him, and I really would, I’ve expressed reservations before as to whether he’s the right man to fire Arsenal to the title. He could have an impact like Reyes, providing a real and instant boost; or he could come to a new club after an injury spell, and struggle with fitness, adaptation and, like it or not, the pressure that comes with a £35m+ price tag.

If we pushed the boat out for Ozil it’s because we knew we were getting the finished product. A player who had developed in the Bundesliga and been polished off by three seasons at Real Madrid. If there’s a reluctance to play a massive fee for Draxler now, I do understand it, especially when it might well impact on the budget we have for other things in the summer.

I don’t know what Schalke are looking for exactly. It does seem as if there’s a release clause in the summer, so if I were them now I’d be holding out for a lot more, looking to make hay at another team’s desire to take him before that clause kicks in. Maybe they’re willing to sell but not at the price we know we could get him for in the summer. And although it might sting as others around us go crazy with their bottomless pits of cash, we’re still not a club who can just throw £40-45-50m at a transfer without thinking it all the way through first.

The question now appears to be who we can take in at short notice who might have a significant contribution to make between now and the end of the season. A young striker on loan from abroad? A veteran on the same kind of deal? Or a typically Arsene Wenger out of left field signing? It’s just impossible to know with this club.

Arsene admitted yesterday that we were ‘active’ but not close to signing anyone. Which sounds to me like they’ve made all kinds of enquiries but have yet to make up their minds. Perhaps they were waiting on deals for principal targets to happen or not happen before they pull the emergency chute. Either way, we have to hope that the need to add to the squad is recognised and acted upon, even if we probably won’t get the mega-signing many have been hoping for.

It remains to be seen what will happen between now and 11pm. Obviously I’d like us to bring one or two in. We’ve got deadline day form in years past, so it’s not impossible. Having announced a massive PUMA deal at the start of the week, it would be disappointing to go through the transfer window without adding to a squad that could really benefit from just a bit more depth and quality.

I recognise fully how it’s more difficult to get players in January, and that we might have longer-term plans, but we’re right in the thick of a title fight for the first time in, what, 5 or 6 seasons? There’s a monstrous schedule coming up in February and March, and while I get we have to balance what we do now with what we’ll have to do in the summer, but it would feel a bit like an opportunity missed if we didn’t go for it today.

Anyway, all we can do is wait, bite nails, check Twitter, Sky Sports, under rocks and anywhere else there might be any transfer info. As we here at Arseblog love you dearly and want to ease your pain, we’ll be live blogging the entire day so you don’t have to do all the digging and can just get all the updates in one place:

The Transfer Deadline Day Live Blog.

There you go, it updates automatically when things happen so you don’t need to refresh. Just to qualify this, by the way: we reserve the right to live blog from the pub later because, you know, end of the month, Friday evening, and beer, but we’ll do our best to keep you right up to date until it closes at 11pm tonight.

As I mentioned yesterday, there might well be some activity going out of the club as loan deals are put in place for some players. Already Benik Afobe has gone to Sheffield Wednesday for the rest of the season, while reports from France suggest Ju-Young Park is in discussions with FC Nantes about a loan deal back to Ligue 1.

I’d suggest players like Frimpong, Miyaichi, Eisfeld and others could be part of the action today. Whatever happens, it’ll all be covered on the live blog.

Now though, time for this week’s Arsecast and I’m joined by Tim Stillman to discuss Southampton, transfers and the thorny question of ticket prices (something Tim touches on in this week’s column).

There’s the usual waffle, plus your chance to win a t-shirt from Art of Football (JensThierry and Dennis), so stayed tuned for details on that.

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 27mb 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.

Right, that’s your lot for this morning. Let’s keep fingers crossed for a good outcome to the day, reflections on that and more tomorrow.

Until then.

Arsecast Extra – Episode 1

Arsecast Extra – Episode 1

The first in a new series of podcasts in which I’ll be joined by James from @Gunnerblog every Monday to discuss goings on, weekend events, midweek schedules and much more.

You can also send us questions via which we’ll try and get to each week. Send them either @arseblog or @Gunnerblog (or both) and you can also use the hashtag #arsecastextra if you really like.

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 17mb MP3).

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.

Coventry preview: Friday night lights + Arsecast 301

Coventry preview: Friday night lights + Arsecast 301

The somewhat unusual prospect of FA Cup football on a Friday night looms, and we have Coventry to worry about this evening.

In terms of the team there’s nothing we didn’t already know with Ramsey and Arteta remaining out and the Vermaelen situation a little up in the air. Earlier the boss said he’d probably miss this game, but didn’t list him as one of the casualties yesterday.

If he is missing, we don’t have much in the way of options, so the Mertescielny Axis of Awesome is likely to continue. Jenkinson and Gibbs will probably come in at the full back positions. Rosicky is missing from midfield due to his smashed up conk, and with the aforementioned Ramsey and Arteta out the boss will look to Wilshere and perhaps Flamini. Youngster Isaac Hayden has been training with the first team this week but it’d be a surprise to see him start.

Up front it would be a massive surprise if Lukas Podolski didn’t get a game, most likely on the left hand side, with the recovered Nicklas Bendtner up top. Serge Gnabry ought to play on the right, having done well there in recent weeks, and with this game providing a decent chance to continue his development.

Will the boss play Ozil or Cazorla in the cup, even if we’ve got a relatively nice gap to the Tuesday night trip to Southampton? He spoke about Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who could slot into midfield, saying:

I don’t know if he is completely ready or not, I will have to decide that tomorrow, he is very close. He can play central, it is just always important to find the right balance because around him you need always a more defensive player, but I like his qualities in the middle because he can penetrate and has good power to get out of pressure.

It’d be good to see him get a game and to provide another option in the centre, which is ultimately where the manager sees him playing. In time, the perfect candidate to take over the Rosicky role in the squad. He’s a different kind of player, not as scampery and pressy as the ageless Czech, but in terms of natural progression from within the squad he’s got all the attributes.

The manager was also keen to avoid the disaster the cup provided last season, saying:

Last year was a big disappointment. It was the first time in 16 years that we lost against lower league opposition in the FA Cup. It was a great warning and at the moment it’s just our next game and we want to win it.

Cup football is a strange beast at times. Anything can happen, as we know ourselves, and as we saw illustrated quite hilariously earlier this week at Old Trafford. But, looking at the way we’ve been playing – the seriousness and professionalism of our performances – this is a game we should win tonight.

There’s enough experience in the team, there are players in there who have something to prove to the manager on various levels, and in terms of overall quality this is well within our capability. They won’t underestimate the vistitors, but nor should they fear them.

In other news the manager says a January signing is ‘highly unlikely’ now. Wenger playing his cards to his chest or being brutally honest? My thought is that it’s the latter, and I suspect it’s because the chances of a deal for Julian Draxler – the player he really wants – are slim in this window. As such he won’t compromise and just bring in someone for the sake bringing in someone.

When he talks about doing it if something exceptional comes up, I’m sure he means the young German. What we’re doing to try and make that happen, I just don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine. I’m sure we’re not just sitting by the phone whispering ‘please call, please call‘, waiting for the Schalke chairman to change his mind, but they don’t seem of a mind to let him go, whereas the summer provides a chance for us to trigger a release clause leaving them with no choice.

Obviously I’d like us to do something: in the position we’re in right now, with the best chance of the league in a long time, it’d be fantastic to see us have a real go and use the transfer market to do it. Yet it remains a complicated issue, trying to balance a short-term need with our longer-term plans (assuming we have them). Availability, price, how that impacts on our budget for other requirements come summer, it’s not as simple as it sounds.

Yet the manager can’t be unaware of how January has boosted his squad in the past. He’s used it to contribute to a title winning season, and a season which saw us engaged in a scrap for the top four. I’m sure if the player is there we’ll do it, but it’s just so hard to know. If we fall away January will look like an opportunity lost, regardless of the circumstances; and even a purchase is no guarantee of success, even it it will temper opinion should we not go all the way.

It sounds simple, it’s not, but hopefully in the next seven days, we can find somebody who can give the squad a boost in the closing months.

The life and times of Herbert ChapmanRight then, time for this week’s Arsecast, and I’m joined by journalist and author Patrick Barclay who talks to me about Arsenal’s season thus far, the FA Cup on a Friday night, and his fantastic new book The Life and Times of Herbert Chapman. It’s a fantastic insight into the man himself, but also the world in which he lived and worked in. Football and history woven together beautifully and I highly recommend it.

As well as that there’s the usual waffle about the week that was, a sad, sad song and more besides.

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 34mb 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.

And, let’s not forget that we’ll have full live blog coverage of tonight’s game, so if you can’t see it, or even if you’re sitting at home with a Friday night beer, click in to join the fun. Check back later for a post with all the info, or bookmark our default live blog page. Updates begin automatically.

Have a good one!