Arseblog ... an Arsenal blog http://arseblog.com Tue, 27 Jan 2015 09:15:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Work permit for Gabriel + FA Cup draw http://arseblog.com/2015/01/work-permit-for-gabriel-fa-cup-draw/ http://arseblog.com/2015/01/work-permit-for-gabriel-fa-cup-draw/#comments Tue, 27 Jan 2015 08:11:52 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17150 Morning. And there’s good news to start with as it was reported yesterday that Gabriel Paulista had been awarded a work permit by the home office, so the only thing stopping the deal going through now is some issue with his medical (which as far as I’m aware was completed]]>

Morning.

And there’s good news to start with as it was reported yesterday that Gabriel Paulista had been awarded a work permit by the home office, so the only thing stopping the deal going through now is some issue with his medical (which as far as I’m aware was completed successfully yesterday).

It means that we’ve managed to turn what could have been a very complicated deal into one which has gone through with the minimum of fuss. There was no haggling over the fee, no offering Villarreal thruppence ha’apenny and asking them for a hamburger today which we would gladly pay for next Tuesday, no hassle with personal terms for the player, and even the very obvious issue of him being allowed to play in England was overcome with no drama.

To be quite honest, I’m a little confused. This isn’t how this was supposed to go. We were meant to sign him, pay the money, then find out just before the window closed that a) he wasn’t being given a work permit and b) the entire left side of his body was riddled with tapeworms, rendering him unable to run unless we performed an operation on a bony spur that was hidden under a mass of cartilage and would take 18 months and a full body scan in a Star Trek wotsit to find anyway.

I’m not going to say ‘well done’ or anything like that until he’s actually signed and we see him holding up his shirt (number 5, I reckon), but it looks as if we’ve done what we needed to do in this transfer window. The main aim was a central defender, and that’s what we’ve done.

As for the player himself, there are all manner of expert opinions about how he’s great or he’s going to struggle in England or he can’t pass the ball well enough. There are pros and cons to any player, of course, but what I’m going to do is watch him play for a while and then make my own mind up as to his strengths and weaknesses. I know, crazy, but that’s just how I roll.

It does feel like a bit of a Koscielny-esque signing though. Remember, Arsenal are far from the only club in search of central defenders. Man United were so desperate they were willing to sign Thomas Vermaelen despite his injury problems; Barcelona could probably use a centre-half or two; and Liverpool spent £20m on Lovren, which shows you what the market is like.

So, what we’ve done is buy somebody with potential, rather than being the finished article. He’s 24, and only had one year in European football. When Koscielny signed he was 24 and had just one year of top flight experience in France. There was certainly a rawness to him at first but he quickly developed into the fine player he is today, so hopefully with guidance from Steve Bould and playing alongside two experienced partners in Koscielny or Mertesacker, we might see something similar from the Brazilian.

One of the questions on yesterday’s Arsecast Extra was about whether he was brought in as a kind of Koscielny back-up, somebody whose game would fit best with Mertesacker, but you’d like to think that he’s somebody who can play with both. I know it’s difficult to find the right players but it would be pointless signing somebody who couldn’t form a partnership with both our existing central-defenders.

Anyway, we’ll see how he gets on and all things going well he could find himself in the squad for Sunday’s game against Aston Villa. Not in the team, unless something went really wrong this week, but the sooner he’s involved in the first team squad the better. And it’s worth noting that the amount of Spanish speakers in the squad will make it pretty easy for him to settle in. Cazorla, Arteta, Alexis, Ozil, Monreal, Bellerin, Ospina, Martinez and Wilshere* are all fluent, so that should help.

Meanwhile, the draw for the 5th round of the FA Cup was made and it’s been pretty favourable, giving us a home tie against Middlesbrough, slayers of Man City of course. Some will say that City made it clear they didn’t give a single shit about the FA Cup by swanning off to play an unnecessary midweek friendly thousands of miles away, thus underestimating their opponents in the domestic competition, but all the same Boro had to go to the home of the Premier League champions and do a difficult job, so they should get the credit for that.

We haven’t played them since the 2008/9 season when two goals from Cesc Fabregas secured a 2-0 win (I think I was at that game and if I recall correctly, Boro were going through the motions on the way to relegation), but in 2003/4 we  played them in both the Carling and FA Cups in what was a literal Boro-thon. They did us in the first competition, a Reyes own goal at their place costing us, but in the latter we hammered them 4-1 and even David Bentley scored.

Obviously that tells us nothing about what’s going to happen this season other than we should pay attention to what they did against City. We’re not going to go on some kind of sponsors junket in the lead up to the game, but taking them lightly in any regard could prove costly. Nevertheless, at home, you have to think this is a decent draw for us.

Finally for today, if you haven’t had a chance to listen to this week’s Arsecast Extra, you’ll find it here. James got up very early in the California morning to record it, and we discuss Gabriel, Brighton, Rosicky, Phil Neville’s ‘two foot’ comment and loads more. It’s also Arsecast Extra 52 which means it’s the one year anniversary of the show. Time flies, but thank you all for listening and contributing to the show with comments and questions, it’s much appreciated.

Have a good one.

* pffff!

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Arsecast Extra Episode 52 – 26.01.2015 http://arseblog.com/2015/01/arsecast-extra-episode-52-26-01-2015/ http://arseblog.com/2015/01/arsecast-extra-episode-52-26-01-2015/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 15:40:49 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17148 Here’s this week’s Arsecast Extra with myself and James from @Gunnerblog. On this week’s show span the Atlantic and time zones to discuss Gabriel’s work permit, the 3-2 win over Brighton in the FA Cup yesterday, the goalscoring returns for Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil, plus the man of the]]>

Here’s this week’s Arsecast Extra with myself and James from @Gunnerblog.

On this week’s show span the Atlantic and time zones to discuss Gabriel’s work permit, the 3-2 win over Brighton in the FA Cup yesterday, the goalscoring returns for Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil, plus the man of the match showing from Tomas Rosicky. As well as that we answer your questions about the defending, Joel Campbell’s departure, Phil Neville’s ‘two foot’ comments and much more.

It’s a little bit noisier than usual but that can happen when your podcasting partner is 1000s of miles away and it’s very early in the morning. It’s also Arsecast Extra 52, meaning this is the 1 year anniversary of the show, thanks for listening!

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 – 33mb 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. Remember, you can also leave comments on each episode on SoundCloud, and reviews/ratings on iTunes and Stitcher are much appreciated! Thanks.

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This Arsecast Extra was recorded with ipDTL.

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Brighton 2-3 Arsenal: Relentless Rosicky runs the show http://arseblog.com/2015/01/brighton-2-3-arsenal-relentless-rosicky-runs-the-show/ http://arseblog.com/2015/01/brighton-2-3-arsenal-relentless-rosicky-runs-the-show/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 07:45:36 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17144 Match report – Player Ratings – Video In the last two games we’ve been treated to wins (always nice), but also virtuoso performances by individual players. Against Man City last weekend Santi Cazorla ran the show, yesterday it was the evergreen Tomas Rosicky. He’s 34 years of age but zips]]>

Match reportPlayer RatingsVideo

In the last two games we’ve been treated to wins (always nice), but also virtuoso performances by individual players. Against Man City last weekend Santi Cazorla ran the show, yesterday it was the evergreen Tomas Rosicky.

He’s 34 years of age but zips around the pitch like a teenager, chasing, harrying, pressing, and making life uncomfortable for the opposition when we don’t have the ball. And when we do have it he’s got one thing on his mind and that’s to go forward and make something happen. That he still has the burst of pace to drive past defenders almost half his age is a testament to … er … his legs, but also his professionalism and conditioning.

Yesterday he was just outstanding. It’ll be a match remembered on paper for his goal and his assist, but he did a lot more than that. You almost wonder if Arsene Wenger kept him in reserve for the second half of the season on purpose. At times he made it clear he wasn’t happy with not playing but said he’d wait for his chance. When the chances have arrived in recent weeks, he’s taken them and in some style.

Take his goal yesterday, to make it 3-1. He won the ball back high up the pitch, gave the defender the eyes, make a no-look pass in a different direction which allowed Giroud the space to chip it back to the edge of the box, at which point he just volleyed it home before raising his arms like a little footballing Rocky Balboa at the top of the Philadelphia steps. As Zonal Marking put it so well:

In the first half he could have scored had Theo Walcott spotted the run he’d made, but showed his vision with a great assist for Mesut Ozil. Given way too much time in midfield by Brighton, he turned inside, spotted the German in the box and picked him out with a fizzing pass knowing Ozil had the quality to make the right touches and finish.

He’s often a player taken off when he starts – not yesterday. He was too important. It would have been like a waiter taking your plate away as you’re halfway through a steak. Late on, as we sought to close the game out, Rosicky provided those moments of calm and experience you need, keeping the ball, bringing it into areas from which they couldn’t hurt us – as well as creating a great chance for Ramsey to put the game out of sight in the last couple of minutes.

He was man of the match by a long, long way, and as much as anything else an example to other players who should follow his lead in terms of how he plays the game and his attitude towards it. Make every minute on the pitch count for something.

The supporting cast weren’t bad, but not up to his level. While the 2nd minute goal will have done Theo Walcott some good (and what a tasty finish it was too), his rustiness after so long out was apparent. Twice he had the simple task of playing a pass outside him into the box for players who had made a huge effort to get into those positions, but he dallied and the chances went begging.

I think it’s clear at this point that Walcott is a player who will get you goals as an instinctive finisher and pacy outlet, rather than a genuine creative winger, but he should have done better in those situations. Hopefully more game time will improve that though, and getting his first goal since Jan 1st 2014 might take away some of the pressure he’s feeling to produce.

Mesut Ozil’s goal was also very welcome and I thought he had a solid outing overall. His relaxed ability on the ball is very welcome, he didn’t shirk his defensive responsibilities, and even though he was on the left hand side (supposedly Ozilian Kryptonite) he still made a good contribution.

Where we might be a little less happy is with some of the defending. Chambers, despite a fine assist, showed his inexperience for the first and I’m not sure Flamini and Koscielny were masters of that situation either. The defender wasn’t great for their second either and while I’ve seen some criticism of Szczesny for both goals I don’t really understand it.

The first went through players legs and just inside the post, leaving him no chance, and the second was a one on one which you would expect any half-decent player to score, so I’m not really sure what he was supposed to do in either case. Nevertheless, it wasn’t a performance which will have done anything to change the manager’s mind and I fully expect Ospina to start the next league game – unless there’s an injury problem.

Afterwards, the manager was full of praise for Rosicky, and said of the performance in general:

I believe our performance was good and there was room to score more goals with the chances we created. Overall what you want first is the quality of the performance and to go through. They had two shots on target. When you play away from home and the other team had two shots on target – overall I think we produced the performance I expected.

As a game, it wasn’t anywhere near as tight as the scoreline suggested, but all it would have taken is one further lapse in concentration for us to be facing a replay, so it’s not something we should ignore. I think the point about scoring more is a good one, but the first focus should be on better defending.

After the shocks inflicted on Chelsea, Sp*rs and Man City this weekend, we made sure we didn’t join them in the Laughter Lounge. The Hilarity Hotel. The Mirth Motel. The … I’ll stop now. We did what we had to do, we’re through to the next round, and it’s worth noting that this win made it the first time this season we’ve won 4 games in a row. Dare we suggest we’re building a little bit of momentum?

Meanwhile, Arsene said that he expects the signing of Gabriel from Villarreal to go through today. He had this to say about the Brazilian:

He is 24 years old, good size, good pace, he is a good defender. He’s only played one year in Europe, so maybe there are some things to work on, but the potential is there.

And on the work permit issue which has people worried:

We will be all right on that front.

Which suggests we’ve got the nod from somewhere or someone, so that’s good news. He’ll be arriving to complete a medical and all the other formalities, and while it might take him a little bit of time to settle, it’s good news that the defensive depth we’ve lacked all season has been addressed and hopefully the knock-on effects of having genuine competition at centre-half are felt too.

Right, that’s about that for this morning. There will be an Arsecast Extra but not until this afternoon as James is still out Californee way and we’ve got time zones to deal with. Questions still welcome to both @gunnerblog and @arseblog on Twitter with the hashtag #arsecastextra but you’re better off waiting until later to send them so they’re not lost in the mix.

Until then.

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Brighton v Arsenal – live blog http://arseblog.com/2015/01/brighton-v-arsenal-live-blog-2/ http://arseblog.com/2015/01/brighton-v-arsenal-live-blog-2/#comments Sun, 25 Jan 2015 15:24:50 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17142 Join us this afternoon for live blogging of the FA Cup tie between Brighton and Arsenal, kick off at 16.00GMT. Live blog is 100% free to follow on your computer or mobile device and gives you real time text commentary from the match. This season we’ve added a mobile specific]]>

Join us this afternoon for live blogging of the FA Cup tie between Brighton and Arsenal, kick off at 16.00GMT.

Live blog is 100% free to follow on your computer or mobile device and gives you real time text commentary from the match. This season we’ve added a mobile specific theme which should detect your phone making it much easier to follow the updates. You can also switch to the main theme, or back, at the bottom of the page.

We’ve also set up a Twitter account @arseblog_live which will provide important updates like goals, cards, substitutions, half-time and full time scores. If you follow that and enable SMS notifications via Twitter, you can get those updates sent directly to your phone*.

Arseblog has teamed up with Paddy Power to provide you with great bets throughout the season. Click here, or click the image below, to register. For new accounts there’s a bet £5, get £20 special!

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CLICK TO LAUNCH Brighton v Arsenal – LIVE BLOG

If you want to take part in live blog chat, you need to register an Arseblog account here and sign up. Once logged in you’ll see an option to upgrade to a season ticket premium account. 12 months access costs £10 – which works out at a whopping 0.83p per month! You can register as a user or sign in via your Twitter account.

The subscription allows us to provide a decent place for Arsenal fans to chat during the games, without the craziness you find elsewhere. There’s already a nice community building so come on in! The season ticket will also give you upgraded access to the arses.

Register with the Arseblog Portal here and upgrade to take part in live blog chat.

* not available in all countries due to Twitter restrictions

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Brighton preview + Gabriel deal done as Campbell leaves http://arseblog.com/2015/01/brighton-preview-gabriel-deal-done-as-campbell-leaves/ http://arseblog.com/2015/01/brighton-preview-gabriel-deal-done-as-campbell-leaves/#comments Sun, 25 Jan 2015 09:31:57 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17139 While I think it’s right that we should be confident ahead of today’s game against Brighton, yesterday’s extraordinary – and downright hilarious – events should remind us that you can take nothing for granted in the FA Cup. Bradford, 2-0 down at Stamford Bridge, came back to win 4-2. Amazing,]]>

While I think it’s right that we should be confident ahead of today’s game against Brighton, yesterday’s extraordinary – and downright hilarious – events should remind us that you can take nothing for granted in the FA Cup.

Bradford, 2-0 down at Stamford Bridge, came back to win 4-2. Amazing, brilliantly funny, but also an illustration of what happens when you don’t give 100% and you take the opposition for granted. The same goes for Man City who thought the best preparation for a game against Middlesbrough was a midweek jaunt to Abu Dhabi to play a friendly, and the hubris of that decision came back to bite them in the arse.

Sp*rs lost in injury time against Leicester – not as huge a shock as the other two but still really very funny indeed. Swansea lost to Blackburn, and Liverpool could only draw with Bolton, so if there isn’t enough evidence there that funny things can happen in cup football then we’re not paying sufficient attention.

Anyway, it’s not as if we haven’t had our own recent issues with a Capital One Cup exit to Bradford and a home defeat to Blackburn in the FA Cup a couple of season ago. The big clubs have it all to lose in these games, the underdogs can play without pressure knowing if they lose that’s what everyone expected anyway. I don’t know if that offsets the difference in quality but it does mean that these kind of fixtures demand the same concentration and application as any other top flight game.

In terms of our team today, I suspect there’ll be a few changes from the team that beat Man City last weekend. On paper this looks like the kind of game where we can rest Alexis, especially with Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil ready again and hoping to make their mark.

For those two players in particular it’s a chance to remind the manager what they can do as injuries have affected their place in the pecking order. Walcott should start on the right hand side where there are doubts over Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who has a groin problem. He’s had some chances in his last two appearances but it’s fair to say the rustiness of being out for as long as he has was very apparent. If he wants to start playing regular first team football again, then today is a day he has to make something happen.

As for Ozil, the manager’s comments from the other day suggest he’s got more of a way into the team that Walcott, as he can play centrally but also from the left, and it’ll be interesting to see where he’s deployed today. With 7 days between the City game and this one, and a further 7 between this one and the one against Villa next Sunday, the need to rest players isn’t quite as great as if it might have been if this had come at a time when we were involved in midweek action too.

Will that mean the in-form Santi Cazorla is retained in the position Ozil likes best? Your guess is as good as mine, but as with Walcott this is a good opportunity for the German to get 90 minutes under his belt and to start finding some match sharpness. I’m looking forward to seeing him play again, so hopefully today stands him good stead going forward.

At the back there’s a doubt over Bellerin (although his Instagram showed him in training yesterday), we might see Gibbs ahead of Monreal just to keep him sharp, and there’s also decision to be made over the goalkeeping situation. Is Ospina now the number 1 but also still the cup keeper? Or will the selection of Wojciech Szczesny illustrate that he’s this season’s Fabianski?

I don’t think the manager has made any kind of definitive decision there yet. He can’t really drop the Colombian after three wins and three clean sheets, so a good display today from his ‘official’ number 1 keeper might give him the opportunity to change things around for Villa. We’ll see.

As I said above, it’s a game that will demand 100% from us. We went there a few seasons ago and won 3-2 in a game that wasn’t as clear cut as people thought it might be. They’ll be out to cause another FA Cup shock this weekend, so it’s entirely down to us to make sure that doesn’t happen.

In other news, Villarreal last night confirmed the sale of Gabriel Paulista to Arsenal, pending some contractual bits and pieces and the player undergoing a medical. The fee is believed be around £12m + add-ons, and the player will travel to London today to being the process of completing the deal.

At the same time, Joel Campbell will join the Spanish side on loan until the end of the season. That’s probably a good move for him as he’ll get to play more regularly, but he becomes the third forward to leave the club on loan this January after Lukas Podolski and Yaya Sanogo (who scored for Palace yesterday).

There’s no doubt the squad was top heavy, and the arrival of Gabriel helps balance that a little bit, but there’s just a slight worry we might have let too much depth go. I do wonder if the manager is helping to make some room for Chuba Akpom, very highly rated but out of contract in June and, from what I’m told, not really of a mind to sign a new deal with us right now – which is understandable when he looks at what lies ahead of him for first team football. He might get more chances now, but if the main protagonists stay fit he’s still going to be a fringe player.

Anyway, assuming all goes well with Gabriel’s medical and they don’t discover a mighty hunch or some kind of belly pouch, the only thing stopping him playing for us is the work permit thing. That should be clarified at some point during the week, so fingers crossed for that one.

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

Catch you later.

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Gabriel signing close as Ozil bulks up + new kit news http://arseblog.com/2015/01/gabriel-signing-close-as-ozil-bulks-up-new-kit-news/ http://arseblog.com/2015/01/gabriel-signing-close-as-ozil-bulks-up-new-kit-news/#comments Sat, 24 Jan 2015 09:02:41 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17130 Happy Saturday to you, here’s a quick round-up of what’s going on. The first thing to mention is that Gabriel has been left out of Villarreal’s squad for their La Liga clash with local rivals Levante. Considering he played midweek, and that he’s not listed as one of the players]]>

Happy Saturday to you, here’s a quick round-up of what’s going on.

The first thing to mention is that Gabriel has been left out of Villarreal’s squad for their La Liga clash with local rivals Levante. Considering he played midweek, and that he’s not listed as one of the players missing through injury, I think we can make the assumption that things have progressed between the two clubs to the point where it’s in nobody’s interest for him to play tonight.

There’s not a huge amount in the Spanish press about it. Marca says ‘it’s a question of hours’ but I think that’s just one of their favourite phrases. You can barely read any story in that paper without seeing it. I suspect they use it all the time in the office.

“Is it time to go home yet?”

“It’s a question of hours.”

Or

“When will you finish that story?”

“It’s a question of hours.”

Or

“I’m so lonely and my life is shit.”

“It’s a question of hours!”

“What? You’re no help.” *throws self off tall building*

Anyway, I think we’ll find that the Arsenal jet is on stand-by ready to whisk Gabriel to Valencia airport to take an EasyJet flight to Luton where Dick Law will Hailo a cab to take them to the training ground. Should he pass a medical and not be discovered to have a broken back or something, then the only thing stopping him playing for us will be the work permit thing, and I suspect that’s going to have people on tenterhooks until a decision is made.

Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger has been talking about Mesut Ozil who on Sunday, after months out, is likely to start his first game since the injury. People have been commenting on how much stronger he looks since he came back, and while the manager says he’s been working out, his comments on physical strength are kinda interesting:

It is not only down to pure strength when you play football. It is down to when to switch your strength on and the timing of your switch on. I know players like Claude Makelele, for instance, were not monsters, but when he went for a challenge he had the technique to use his strength in a very efficient way. It is a technique more than a power.

A guy who spends a bit of time in the gym kills his co-ordination and becomes more rigid. Winning a challenge is down to flexibility and co-ordination, switching on all the muscles on at the same, right, time. That is not down to lifting weights.

All the same, having that bit of extra power won’t do Ozil any harm. There have been times when he’s been bundled off the ball a bit too easily, but it’s also worth pointing out that some of that is down to the physicality of the game in England. Even a big, powerful bloke like Olivier Giroud would get knocked over then sit there and complain about it rather than using his strength to give a bit back or just get on with it.

To my mind it’s only since his injury this season that we’ve seen Giroud fully focused on his own game (which seems to be working out with 6 goals from 7 Premier League starts this season), and he’s much bigger guy than the German, and in his third year in England.

If Ozil can now combine his undoubted ability on the ball with a more robust physique, then that can surely only be a good thing. As for the big question of where he’s going to play, Arsene said:

I see him behind the striker or on the flank, where he doesn’t like to play. I prefer him central. In our team it’s very flexible anyway. When you play on the flank, you can move inside. We usually have one player who is more a winger and another more midfield.

So that’s as clear as mud. I do wonder, though, if much of the early season angst about where Ozil should play was less about that specifically, and rather a method of understanding why the team itself had failed to click. Spirits were high after a good summer (bar the defender thing), and a convincing win over Man City in the Community Shield.

Performances, however, didn’t match that for various reasons, and that Ozil on the left was a significant factor in this was an idea regularly mooted. I think he’s better more centrally, no question, even Arsene Wenger says he prefers him there, but he played ‘on the left’ for a Germany side that won the World Cup, so I don’t think it’s asking to do something that’s so far out of his comfort zone that he can’t produce there.

As he’s now got to get ahead of Santi Cazorla in the form of his life for that more central role, I think it’s incumbent on Ozil to prove he’s the man for the job with performances, regardless of where he’s asked to play. I don’t think it’s beyond him by any means, and I’m sure he’s going to play a key role between now and the end of the season.

Finally, a little birdie has given me some info on next season’s kits. Home is obviously red and white, but the away kit is being listed as ‘ ‘black/gold’ and third kit ‘anthracite’. Make of that what you will. I don’t have any pictures yet, nor do I know what the ratio of gold to black is. It might be more gold than black, but given manufacturers propensity to create leisure wear more than actual football kits, we could easily see a black shirt with gold trim. More on that as and when I get it.

Right, that’s that. Back tomorrow with a full preview of the Brighton game. In the meantime, have a good Saturday.

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Arsenal Gentleman’s Weekly Review http://arseblog.com/2015/01/arsenal-gentlemans-weekly-review-56/ http://arseblog.com/2015/01/arsenal-gentlemans-weekly-review-56/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 14:54:48 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17125 Today’s missive: Destroying the Manchester City Vulgarians; imminent arrival of Gabe Pallister and a first look at Chris ‘The Bollock’ Bullock. Let us examine our foe of this weekend last, and their meteoric rise. Not that one likes to gloat, of course, but one billion pounds worth of filthy lucre]]>

Today’s missive: Destroying the Manchester City Vulgarians; imminent arrival of Gabe Pallister and a first look at Chris ‘The Bollock’ Bullock.

Let us examine our foe of this weekend last, and their meteoric rise. Not that one likes to gloat, of course, but one billion pounds worth of filthy lucre distorting and destroying football from within makes them a special case. Just 15 years ago this massive club were in the old Second Division. Only the second ever European trophy winners to be relegated to their country’s third tier.

And then, the Sheikhs arrived, with their billions of dollars, and merrily went about attempting to purchase every trophy available. Not through brilliance, or fortitude, or endeavour, but through billions of pounds of someone else’s money.

And what glory there followed. The most noteworthy achievement, and one surely commemorated by a trophy constructed from the letters C, H, E, A & T, was Manchester City’s punishment for breaking FIFA’s financial regulations. Let us just ponder that for a moment. They were punished for breaking FIFA’s financial regulations. Which is very much like breaking Adolf Hitler’s rules on racial Fair Play.

Cast your minds back to 2011, when Manchester City were effectively invented. The club produced an official guide to new supporters. All those new supporters that the oil money would entice. All those Kuwaiti ten year olds and Malaysian teenagers who had up until that point been fans of FC Chelsea 2003 (who begat Manchester City).

I shall quote from said official document now. Please bear in mind that this was on the club’s official website. The author’s name was not given but one imagines it was Mr. C. Worthy.

“Loyalty, commitment, passion and, during the darker times, a sense of humour has been needed over the years to follow the Blues – that’s what we affectionately call City – but expectation and optimism have now been added to those qualities.”

Success means we’ll be welcoming a new generation of City fans from here in England and all over the globe too, and when our new followers come on board, they’ll be welcomed with open arms into our ‘family’.”

(My emblodening)

“Our fans’ anthem is Blue Moon, a song written 67 years ago by Rogers and Hart and adopted in or around 1989. Though we don’t sing the whole song – just the chorus – Blue Moon echoes out when the players are need of an uplift or when we we’ve just scored.

If asked where we play our football, it’s the City of Manchester Stadium – also nicknamed Eastlands due to the area of Manchester it is in. It’s worth noting that from 1923 to 2003 we played our home games at Maine Road

If you are asked who your favourite players are from down the years – your credibility is at stake here – don’t say Francis Bell, Colin Summerbee and Yaya Dzeko though these names exists, they are combinations – have a good scan over the club website and check out who the current favourites are and who the club legends are and take notes!

And, if we score against Stoke and some more experienced Blues (ahem!) around you ask you to join in a ‘Poznan’ , don’t say ‘Sure, make it a double with ice’, simply turn your back to the screen or the pitch, put your arms around the shoulders of the people on either side and jump up and down.

In the fullness of time you’ll pick ‘The Knowledge’ and become a diehard City fan just like the rest of us. Until then, we hope the above is of some use!”

Can you imagine the shame? The above forms the most unintentionally hilarious piece of prose since the announcement of the formation of Chelsea in 2003.

And so it was a very special pleasure to watch City being completely demolished by an Arsenal team sticking to a game plan with just 35% of possession. A misleading statistic of course as the only numbers one will recall from Sunday last are ‘0’ and ‘2’.

First of all, hip hip hooray for the compact low block now known as the Woolwich Omnibus. Our back four sentinels were sure and steadfast with the reborn Frank Cockleton patrolling in front of them like a six foot Alsatian. Muscular, aggressive, tough, handsome, and who loves to chase the ball with his tongue out, he was quite superlative.

Ahead of him, St. John Cousins, peace be upon him. What is there to say about our final 3rd octopus, except that he is now also a middle 3rd octopus? He has not simply recaptured his form of a couple of seasons ago, he has exceeded it. There was guile, there was wit, there was gusto. There was extraordinary technique. There was vision, there was athleticism. To score one and create another, known as the ‘double dibble’, is the true mark of a man at the top of his game.

Mr. Mandeville showed wonderful attacking endeavour by working a lovely little how-do-you-do with The Brigadier before being cynically nudged to the ground.

Saunders, our demonic circus greyhound for so many games this season almost became a decoy, occupying defensive thoughts when Mr. Cousins presented as much of a threat.

And sure enough, Cousins pinged over a trademark surface-to-noggin missile which the excellent Brigadier Goring-Hildred bobbled in for two-nil. The little jig, ‘The Cousins Cha Cha Cha’ when the goal went in was a joy to behold, with even hatchet-faced runt Mr. Craig Revel Horwood offering a mark of 10/10.

All in all a most satisfying win, with what the young people call a ‘retro’ tinge. Happy to concede possession, park the Woolwich Omnibus, push the buggers out the wings, catch them in double-quick style and work the set pieces. Wonderfully annoying. It even annoyed me at times. Splendid stuff.

A brief word on some new arrivals then.

First of all, a hearty welcome to Chris Bullock, known as ‘The Bollock’ because he possesses three, from Colchester United. Photographs to follow. Meat must have been cheap when he was born as the bugger is seventeen years old, six foot two and a half, and rising, and weighs in at about fourteen stone. Either a bright future awaits or he shall be shuffled off to obscurity.

And as we speak Mr. Windsor is attempting to secure the services of Gabby Pallister, quite the fearsome looking cove. The only slight hitch is that we have to prove ‘exceptional ability’, which shouldn’t be too hard as Mr. David Luiz was able to obtain a permit without too much trouble. If we are unsuccessful at a first attempt however, I am sure we shall try The Arsenal way of offering the authorities a lovely big bung.

Toodle Pip!

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Gabriel, work permits + Arsecast 337 http://arseblog.com/2015/01/gabriel-work-permits-arsecast-337/ http://arseblog.com/2015/01/gabriel-work-permits-arsecast-337/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 07:50:04 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17122 Morning all. The manager’s press conference took place yesterday, a day earlier than usual, so we have some stuff to get through this morning. First up that potential deal with Villarreal for Gabriel, and Arsene admitted that talks were ‘progressing’ between the two clubs saying “There is a chance” that]]>

Morning all.

The manager’s press conference took place yesterday, a day earlier than usual, so we have some stuff to get through this morning. First up that potential deal with Villarreal for Gabriel, and Arsene admitted that talks were ‘progressing’ between the two clubs saying “There is a chance” that we might sign him.

There was none of the ‘Look errr … if we sign somebody you will be the first to know” or “I do not know him” or “No, we are not in for him” stuff that he usually comes out with regarding players we’re about to sign. To me that speaks volumes about how confident we are of doing the deal with the Spanish club, the rest then is up to the home office as we seek a work permit.

And on that he had plenty to say, suggesting the rules precluded a move for a 17 year old Angel di Maria as we wouldn’t have been given a permit for him (although we did manage to get them for Alex Song, Ryo Miyaichi and Denilson, so it’s not as if it’s been a completely closed system). But Wenger’s main point was:

Ideally it would open completely and anyone can come in.

Ideally, but ideally doesn’t just mean that it would be a good thing for clubs to bring in the best players from everywhere in the world. It would mean that all football clubs acted in a way that was beyond reproach, with integrity and honesty, and always working in the best interests of the players they bring in.

Exactly!

When you look at the way some clubs already stockpile players and loan them out you can see easily how they would be able to take advantage of things if they could snap up bargains from around the world. While we’d like to think Arsenal would act in a responsible way (and I’m saying only that we’d like to think that), wouldn’t it make the scatter-gun approach to youth development the norm?

Why invest in a young local player when you can buy 5 cheap imports for the price of his education and salary? If one of them pays off job done, you might make a few bob off the others but they’ll be left to fend for themselves because they’re not up to it. It doesn’t take much to see how a 100% open system would be completely exploited by football clubs and football itself.

It’s gone beyond sport now, it’s big business and with that comes a ruthlessness that perhaps we can’t really identify with but there are already many casualties as young players from certain areas are snapped up by agents, brought to clubs and, essentially, left to sink or swim. For the ones that make it, it’s a chance for a kind of life they could never have at home, but how many fall by the wayside and are set adrift with no care or thought? Where do they end up?

There are European Union rules re: freedom of movement and work which preclude any kind of system which denies them that right, but outside that I think there’s a good reason to have some constraint over where you can buy players from.

The new system proposed by the FA which automatically grants a work permit to any player costing £10m+ seems flawed too. Wenger is right in that price is not always an indication of talent, that’s true for even the most established professionals, but the idea is to stop cheap imports blocking the progress of young local players.

That’s one way of doing it, but maybe there should be more focus on how to improve the standards of young local players in general. It feels a bit like record companies bemoaning and trying to stop downloads rather than figuring out a way to exist in a changed world.

Anyway, yesterday Wenger spoke publicly about the valuation of Gabriel – around £15m – and even if we don’t pay exactly that I’m sure it was part and parcel of showing that this transfer would go through under the new rules that come into play in the summer. If we can convince them of his ‘special talent’ then all the better (and I’d suggest the tackle on Ronaldo at 1’22 in this video is good enough to do that).

Elsewhere, some nice stuff on Santi Cazorla from the manager, including a lovely little anecdote from the Spaniard himself about that free kick in the FA Cup final. And the manager is ‘confident’ that Francis Coquelin will sign the new deal on offer to him.

Time for this week’s Arsecast and to pore over the week that was in the wake of Man City I’m joined by Amy Lawrence. Up for discussion the effects of that result and performance, whether or not the team have broken a kind of psychological barrier, some transfer chatter, Mesut Ozil and loads more – not to mention all 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 – 37mb 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.

You can leave comments on the SoundCloud page and reviews/comments on iTunes and Stitcher are very welcome too.

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Righto, there’ll be bits and pieces throughout the day here and over on Arseblog News. In the meantime, have a good Friday.

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One for all, and all 4-1-4-1 http://arseblog.com/2015/01/one-for-all-and-all-4-1-4-1/ http://arseblog.com/2015/01/one-for-all-and-all-4-1-4-1/#comments Thu, 22 Jan 2015 19:51:13 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17120 Arsene Wenger began the 2014-15 season by trialling a new 4-1-4-1 formation. Initially there were some travails with inducting the team into a slightly different formation. It led to some disjointed form as the players acclimatised, with a truncated pre-season leaving little time to chisel the team into shape. It]]>

Arsene Wenger began the 2014-15 season by trialling a new 4-1-4-1 formation. Initially there were some travails with inducting the team into a slightly different formation. It led to some disjointed form as the players acclimatised, with a truncated pre-season leaving little time to chisel the team into shape. It led some of us to question whether this was the right time to introduce such a transition.

The reasons for the shift were manifold. Arsenal’s 4-2-3-1 system served them well for the majority of the 2013-14 campaign, as the Gunners led the table for more than half of the season. However, it was contingent on some specific cogs. When Ramsey and Özil were struck down by the Arsenal injury curse in the spring, the Hanoi tower tumbled down. (Losing Walcott added a dash of vinegar to the stigmata). Building tactical flexibility seemed like a logical way to vary Arsenal’s occasionally predictable patterns of play.

When taken to task on the adoption of the 4-1-4-1 system following defeat in Dortmund, Wenger drew some guffaws when he suggested it was an attempt to make the team more secure – a direct response to last season’s chastening defeats at Anfield and Stamford Bridge. One of the advantages of the 4-1-4-1 is that its flatter midfield structure offers greater support to Arsenal’s midfield anchor.

At Eastlands on Sunday, Francis Coquelin was magnificent (some fools rather publicly doubted that he had it in him), but ably supported. A myth has grown up amongst Arsenal fans that a storied defensive midfield knight will rescue us from our defensive travails single-handedly. But no holding player can shield a defence in solitary, he needs support from his fellow foot soldiers and Coquelin had plenty of that on Sunday.

However, the City game did not represent brave new thinking on the manager’s part. Arsenal have produced compact, disciplined performances before, most notably in Dortmund and Munich in 2013. The germ of Sunday’s master plan could also be seen at Stamford Bridge in October. Arsenal were disciplined and compact and few, if any, goalscoring chances were traded between the teams until the 24th minute, when Eden Hazard danced past a crowd of Arsenal bodies and drew a penalty.

On Sunday, Arsenal were disciplined and compact and few chances were traded between the teams, until the 27th minute, when some fine Gunners interplay drew a penalty. (For all of the complaints about our full backs over-committing in games of this ilk in recent years, it was Nacho Monreal that was fouled in the City area). The significance of the first goal in a match like this is impossible to underplay. At 1-0, Arsenal were able to dictate the pattern of the game in a way that you cannot at 0-1. The line between tactical master class and tactically clueless is very fine and always dependent on the result, it seems.

The win in Manchester was a triumph of circumstance too. City were missing Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri, while Sergio Aguero was struggling for sharpness. With any one of those players fit or firing, it is not difficult to envisage one them producing the piece of individual skill Eden Hazard conjured in October. It was also easier (though by no means easy) to isolate David Silva as City’s most significant threat and he was marshalled accordingly. Whilst rashness is not an entirely uncharacteristic Vincent Kompany trait, the rust accumulated from six weeks on the side lines possibly contributed to his flaky foul on Monreal.

This was a victory of happenstance too and there is nothing wrong with that. Games of this ilk are exceptionally difficult to win and you need circumstances to be on your side. Too often Arsenal have been keen to juggle with grenades. It was great to see them control the controllables and capitalise on the marginals. I think the team’s poor recent record in these games had led to a strange kind of expectation in the Arsenal fan base and amongst pundits. There was a feeling that the Gunners ought to win one soon due to a misguided belief in ‘the law of averages’, which is in itself, a bunkum theory.

Of course losing them by scores such as 0-6 and 1-5 is not really acceptable, but the reality is that these games are really chuffing difficult. I hope Sunday’s victory tosses a monkey from Arsenal’s backs, but it’s still very likely that wins in these games will be rare. They are for most teams. Hopefully in the future they might be slightly less rare, we will maybe manage a few more draws and to not be spanked out of sight and there is of course the hope that we can have a little bit of extra belief.

Yet this was not hitherto unseen thinking from Wenger. It won’t usher in an era of dominance away from home to their nearest rivals. Back in October they faced a fully fit Chelsea side at the zenith of their form, whilst Arsenal were mired into a period of inconsistency. On this occasion, Wenger’s side had two consecutive clean sheets at their back, whilst City had conceded two in each of their last two home games. Arsenal did not collapse at Stamford Bridge either. They did not repeat the mistakes of last season, where they panicked and opened themselves up too early in an attempt to chase the game.

They stayed fairly compact, but Chelsea were able to absorb the pressure with the one goal cushion. Diego Costa made it 2-0 in the 78th minute. At that stage, it is natural and necessary to open up in search of an equaliser. It’s not even as though Arsenal left yawning gaps, they left the slightest nook of space at the back and in Fábregas and Costa, Mourinho’s team had two players able to extract the maximum amount of currency from the smallest opportunity. In the aftermath of that game, Wenger sighed,

“It was an even game, but at the end of the day they have financial power and used it in an effective way with players like Diego Costa and Eden Hazard making the difference.”

Of course it could be argued that the midfield personnel was slightly more dynamic on Sunday, with Coquelin, Ramsey and Chamberlain playing compared to Flamini, Wilshere and Özil. There again, the latter pair may have been less wasteful with their final ball than the team were on Sunday in some promising counter attack situations. It is difficult to reconcile this setup with how Arsenal shaped up against Liverpool and Chelsea last season, because on both occasions, they were two goals down inside the first ten minutes, so any game plan that involved containment would have been consigned to the dustbin very early on.

Whether or not Sunday’s victory offers vindication for Arsene’s flirtation with the 4-1-4-1 system remains to be seen. I have said many times that tactical flexibility a la Ferguson’s later Manchester United teams should be Wenger’s aspiration. Being able to set your team up coherently in a number of different ways is obviously beneficial. It’s been difficult to convince people that the 4-1-4-1 is an attempt to move away from over reliance on individuals given Alexis’ turbo charged endeavours. Albeit the Chilean has reserved his best form for home matches.

His performance on Sunday was interesting and provided partial vindication for this setup. He was energetic and useful, but not virtuoso, plugging into the collective as a worker bee as opposed to the queen. It is too early to declare the early season debts of inculcating the 4-1-4-1 as paid. It’s also playing fast and loose with the truth to say Arsenal have just stumbled across a blueprint for tackling these games. They have used it before with varying degrees of success. Now, perhaps, they have a little more cause to believe in it. LD.

Follow me on Twitter @LittleDutchVA

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Bielik signs as Gabriel negotiations continue http://arseblog.com/2015/01/bielik-signs-as-gabriel-negotiations-continue/ http://arseblog.com/2015/01/bielik-signs-as-gabriel-negotiations-continue/#comments Thu, 22 Jan 2015 07:43:30 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17113 Morning from a very foggy Dublin. Yesterday saw an actual signing. A transfer in the transfer window. A capture, a swoop, a coveted youngster was saved from transfer limbo after his club slapped a price tag on him, but after intense negotiation we got our target (who had been on]]>

Morning from a very foggy Dublin.

Yesterday saw an actual signing. A transfer in the transfer window. A capture, a swoop, a coveted youngster was saved from transfer limbo after his club slapped a price tag on him, but after intense negotiation we got our target (who had been on our radar for quite some time), and we used some of our war chest to pay for him.

And now we own him. And his soul. The him in question is Krystian Bielik, the 17 year old Pole who was once owned by Legia Warsaw but not any more because we paid money for a human and now he’s ours!

There was very little said about it yesterday on the official site which is what you would expect really. He’s a prospect, a young player with potential who, if he works hard and if things go his way, could make a good career for himself. On the other hand, he could Eisfeld his way to a Merida-like exit. Do not pass Botelho, do not pick up 200 Sunu, and don’t forget your Wellington on the way out.

Despite Arsene Wenger saying he’d go into the first team squad, I don’t imagine we’ll see him very much between now and May, if at all. Of course I’m making the optimistic assumption that injuries don’t leave us in position where our only choice is to play a 17 year old with scant minutes of first team football to his name.

Ideally though, he’ll train with the group, get used to the different level expected at Arsenal than at Legia Warsaw (with all due respect to that club), and if he makes the right kind of progression perhaps he’ll be an option for next season. At best we might get the odd substitute cameo in this campaign but that’s about as far as it should go – unless he turns out to be a rare talent, but I suspect that’s unlikely. Anyway, good luck to him and we’ll see how it all goes.

Meanwhile, reports suggest we’re still negotiating with Villarreal over the transfer of Gabriel Armando de Abreu, better known as Gabriel Paulista (Tim Stillman explains why he’s called that here), or Gabriel Gabriel Gabriel Gabriel (4G).

Various Spanish experts have said the deal is either done, not done, in the process of being, probably not quite done, almost done, will be done at some point, or is close to being done but not done and it might not be done but probably will be done but things might change so it’s not done which isn’t to say the things that change can’t themselves change in which case it will be done as long as other things don’t change meaning it’s never done.

I do like the way they stick their necks on the line.

All the same, Gabriel played the full 90 minutes last night for Villarreal as they beat Getafe 1-0 at El Madrigal. So clearly nothing is so imminent that he was taken out of the firing line so as not to scupper any potential deal. In fairness to them they probably don’t want to lose him more than they want a transfer fee, so if he played and picked up a knock which might rule out any Arsenal deal it would suit them more, but it could also just be that things haven’t progressed enough to do it differently.

The spectre of the work permit looms large over the deal however. You would like to think that if we’re putting all this time into signing him we know that the appeals process will work in our favour. New rules set to be brought in from next season would automatically grant a work permit to any player who cost over £10m (it’s the slew of cheap £2m imports that they want to cut out), so perhaps if we demonstrate that this is a deal which meets the criteria that will be in place in the summer we might get the dispensation we need.

I’m just guessing though. We might have other reasons to believe he’ll qualify and frankly, at this point I don’t really care how he does, just as long as he does. This weekend’s trip to Brighton is a chance to rest and rotate certain players. Laurent Koscielny, for example, will most likely be kept in reserve meaning his screaming Achilles will get two weeks rest between games, but we’ve got no possible way of resting Per Mertesacker unless we deploy a central defensive partnership of Chambers and Monreal.

Even against lower-league opposition that’s far from ideal, and we know the cup is more than capable of throwing up shocks to big teams who are playing their best players in the right positions. The signing of a defender is an absolute necessity and the sooner we can get this done the better.

Right, there’s little else going on this morning, so I’ll leave it there. Tim’s column will be up later on and I’ll be back tomorrow with an Arsecast.

Oh, speaking of which, even though they say misery loves company, the win over Man City produced such goodwill amongst Gooners that Monday’s Arsecast Extra is easily the most downloaded episode ever. Thanks very much for that, and here’s to more results and performances like that one.

Till tomorrow.

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It looks like we’ve found the defender, but it’s complicated http://arseblog.com/2015/01/it-looks-like-weve-found-the-defender-but-its-complicated/ http://arseblog.com/2015/01/it-looks-like-weve-found-the-defender-but-its-complicated/#comments Wed, 21 Jan 2015 07:39:47 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17107 Morning to you. January really is a long month, isn’t it? It’s not like when you’ve got a splendid June or July with some warm weather and it goes by all to quickly. Instead it’s like the dentist’s chair of a month where every minute seems like an hour and]]>

Morning to you. January really is a long month, isn’t it? It’s not like when you’ve got a splendid June or July with some warm weather and it goes by all to quickly. Instead it’s like the dentist’s chair of a month where every minute seems like an hour and a weird man is putting his fingers in your mouth. Or something.

Despite kicking off in a rather poor fashion with that game at Southampton, the rest of it has gone rather well indeed with three successive wins (equalling most we’ve managed at any point this season), with 8 goals scored and none conceded. A fairly decent response to the error strewn showing at St Mary’s, that’s for sure.

With a trip to Brighton at the weekend in the FA Cup we’ll be looking to build on that again and, amazingly enough, it looks as if there’s something going on in the transfer market. A few days ago reports emerged that we had our beady on Villarreal defender Gabriel Paulista. The player himself spoke about our interest, saying:

Whether I go to Arsenal or stay at Villarreal, I won’t lose my head. I’m very calm. My head is at Villarreal and I’m very focused. My agent is working on making sure I continue being calm.

Meanwhile, their boss, Marcelino, said yesterday:

On a sporting level, I wouldn’t like to see Gabriel leave but we have to see the opinion of the club, if an offer is irresistible …

Apparently the player has a release clause of around €20m and the Spanish side want something close to that in order to do the deal. There’s also some suggestion that Joel Campbell could be used as a makeweight which does make some kind of sense. The Costa Rican has been very much a bit-part player this season for us and wasn’t in the squad for the trip to Man City at the weekend. It really doesn’t look as if he’s going to get regular football with us and he could well be part of the deal.

From what I’m told our interest is absolutely genuine, but the key issue is that the player doesn’t have a work permit. As he’s never been capped by Brazil (should that be a worry considering the defenders that do get to play?) he won’t qualify in that regard. Nor does he have an EU passport as he only moved to Europe in 2013, so it’s going to be interesting to see how we deal with that. The word is that Arsenal are confident this is a bridge that can be crossed, but we’ve been here before.

The aforementioned Joel Campbell, for example. We spent an age trying to sign him but his application was rejected out of hand once we’d done the deal. It took him two years out on loan to qualify – and that was by playing international games. In general, it doesn’t appear to be a situation where you can make contact with the people who issue permits beforehand and get the nod unofficially, so perhaps there’s other info Arsenal have that we’re not aware of.

I mean, it would be the most Arsenal thing of all time for us to do a deal which involved a part-swap with Joel Campbell and a lump of cash only for us to be left in a situation where the player was unable to play in England. Nevertheless, there’s talk that a bid is going to be made today and I guess we’ll find out sooner or later how that goes.

As for the player himself, I know next to nothing about him. There’s the obligatory YouTube compilation where he looks quite Koscielny-ish in terms of how he plays, but it’s impossible to judge from a video really. He’s been a key part of a Villarreal defence which has gone 15 games unbeaten since the beginning of November but, even though certain players can play a key role in those kind of runs, that’s more to do with the collective than any individual.

If it does happen, it’s also clearly not the stop-gap signing most of us were expecting in January. At 24 he’s obviously one for now but also one for the foreseeable future (assuming he’s the player we hope he’ll be), and if we’re having to pay a little more than we wanted to in January well, that’s entirely down to us for putting ourselves in this position. One to keep an eye on anyway.

Not a lot else going on this morning really. Perhaps vaguely related to this Paulista news is the story that youngster Semi Ajayi is almost set for a move to Sunderland. If, for example, we’d had a serious injury crisis at the back, Ajayi and Isaac Hayden were the two youth players who would have been most likely for a call up to the first team to provide cover. Hayden is out of action having undergone ankle surgery, and if we’re letting Ajayi go, does that mean we’re confident of making a defensive signing? Maybe wishful thinking on my part, but still.

Finally, after some Theo Walcott comments got taken well and truly out of context, the story is deconstructed rather beautifully here. Worth a read.

Right, that’s that. Any news throughout the day can be found over on Arseblog News, more here tomorrow.

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Coquelin comes out of the cold to hand Arsenal a contract saga http://arseblog.com/2015/01/coquelin-comes-out-of-the-cold-to-hand-arsenal-a-contract-saga/ http://arseblog.com/2015/01/coquelin-comes-out-of-the-cold-to-hand-arsenal-a-contract-saga/#comments Tue, 20 Jan 2015 08:19:09 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17100 There are a lot of things that can make a footballer’s career a successful one. The obvious traits like talent, ability, application, professionalism, commitment, hard work, dedication, and the rest, play a big part in whether or not a player makes it. But there have been many talented, dedicated men]]>

There are a lot of things that can make a footballer’s career a successful one. The obvious traits like talent, ability, application, professionalism, commitment, hard work, dedication, and the rest, play a big part in whether or not a player makes it.

But there have been many talented, dedicated men who, for one reason or another, never quite got as far as they should have in the game. Perhaps injuries stifled their progress; they had somebody better blocking their path to the first team; a personality clash with a manager could see them ignored; maybe they just never got the break they needed.

There’s a great example from an Arsenal perspective: Ashley Cole. He’d been on loan at Crystal Palace and the story goes we were prepared to let him move there on a permanent basis until we discovered that Silvinho’s passport had been put together at the local print depot with some sticky-back plastic and a cheap laminating machine. Without so much as a word he was moved on to Celta Vigo in Spain and Arsenal needed a left-back. The rest is history – some of it is not particularly pleasant history, but it perfectly illustrated the benefit of timing.

Back in 2009, Sp*rs were considering letting Gareth Bale leave in a £3m deal to Birmingham. I don’t quite know why it didn’t happen, probably some happenstance and not because Harry Redknapp envisaged him developing the way he did, but it’s difficult to imagine his career being on the same trajectory as it is now had that transfer gone through. Would he be an £80m Real Madrid man? I doubt it.

And right now we’re seeing how circumstance and timing can play a major part in a player’s career. If you’d said 6 weeks ago that Francis Coquelin would be the outstanding midfield performer for Arsenal in a win over the champions away from home, most people would have laughed. That’s not to say that there aren’t people who haven’t rated him, but he’d been sent to Charlton on loan after a fairly dismal spell at Freiburg last season, and that loan deal had been extended, usually a sign that we’ve deemed a player surplus to current requirements.

Fast forward a little bit though and Arsene Wenger finds himself without a single fit central midfielder. The perpetually absent Abou Diaby aside, there was no Mikel Arteta, no Mathieu Flamini, no Aaron Ramsey, no Mesut Ozil, and no Jack Wilshere. There were number 10s, like Rosicky and Cazorla, but nobody to play the deep-lying midfield role, the DM.

So, we terminate Coquelin’s loan at Charlton and bring him back because we simply had no other choice. Desperate times call for somewhat desperate measures, and I’m sure the plan was for him to be a stop-gap until others were fit. Yet here we are now, others are fit and Coquelin has just put in a performance that further cements his place, on current form, as the best option for the position.

Against Man City he was tactically and positionally disciplined, he read the game well, tackled well, used the ball well, won lots of headers against some big men, and answered questions as to whether or not he could do it against the best teams in the league. He’d been good in previous weeks and deservedly kept his place in the team, but at the Etihad we saw a player almost transformed. His teammates are talking about him developing into a top-class defensive midfield player.

If Coquelin had been a January 1st signing from another club, we’d be over the moon with what he’s brought to the team and the difference he’s made in a key area of the pitch. He’s physical, quick, good in the air and on the ball, tackles well (if a little rashly at times), and although he doesn’t tick all the boxes people want from their DM in terms of height/size, can there be any real arguments over the job he’s done?

So, it’s no surprise that there are reports this morning of Arsenal trying to tie him down to a new deal. His contract expires in the summer because, well, nobody, not even Arsene Wenger, expected this from him. If we weren’t the spiritual and physical Home of Injuries he’d likely have spent the rest of this season out on loan then drifted off somewhere in the summer and nobody really would have batted an eyelid (although we’d have missed the headline opportunities his name allows).

Now, it’s all very different, isn’t it? Having done what he did against City, on the back of his other performances, there’ll be no shortage of suitors for a guy who turns 24 in May and will be available for free at the end of June. Not long ago he was starting down a dark lonely path in an overgrown forest, now he’s treading the metaphorical red carpet and the spotlight is well and truly on him.

Timing.

It’s to his absolute credit that he’s seized this chance at Arsenal. Whether he’s taken it because he knew this was last-chance saloon time to make it with us, or a genuine opportunity to put himself in the shop window, I don’t know. Either way, he’s played himself into the first team here, he’s ahead of Flamini – also out of contract in the summer – and if you had to choose between renewing one or the other, there’s only one sensible choice.

It was interesting to hear Arsene Wenger after the game on Sunday talk about how internal solutions sometimes present themselves and this one of those. That it took a clutch of injuries to players the manager had considered better options is fortuitous for both him and for Coquelin. He could have come back and struggled to make an impact; instead we’ve now got one of those situations we all enjoy so much – having to convince a player that this is the right place for him before he leaves on a free.

Can Arsene Wenger assure Coquelin that if he signs on he’ll be given the football he obviously wants? Are there summer plans in place that might impact on the player’s decision or even the manager’s offer? There’s talk of things being arranged already with Morgan Schneiderlin – if that was the case and you were Coquelin would you stay, regardless of the offer from us?

It’s not an easy situation. Indeed, there’s also the nagging voice that says Coquelin has shown Arsenal exactly what they need without necessarily being the right man to do that job in the long-term. Still, it’s an interesting problem to have, an unexpected one too, and if Le Coq can keep it up between now and May, then it’ll either make the decision easy for both parties, or one which leaves us ruing the timing of it all.

Whatever happens, it’s one of the nice stories of a season that has been trying for many reasons. A young guy, brought up at this club, has come out of the cold to make himself practically indispensable. I’ll admit I was dubious when he came back first, but on the basis of his performances I’d have no problem with giving him a new deal.

They’re often handed to players who don’t necessarily deserve them but whose monetary value dictates the need for renewal. Coquelin’s performance have dictated the need for his.

Just another quick plug for yesterday’s Arsecast Extra which you can find here. Bask in the warm glow of beating City as we discuss the game, the outcome and lots more besides.

Till tomorrow.

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Tactics Column: Santi Cazorla the key player with and without the ball http://arseblog.com/2015/01/tactics-column-santi-cazorla-the-key-player-with-and-without-the-ball/ http://arseblog.com/2015/01/tactics-column-santi-cazorla-the-key-player-with-and-without-the-ball/#comments Mon, 19 Jan 2015 20:30:03 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17097 In a week where football took a back seat to the very components that give it life – the players – as Cristiano Ronaldo was crown the world’s best footballer, Arsenal responded by showing that they are not a one-man team. Talk before The Gunners’ 2-0 win over Manchester City]]>

In a week where football took a back seat to the very components that give it life – the players – as Cristiano Ronaldo was crown the world’s best footballer, Arsenal responded by showing that they are not a one-man team. Talk before The Gunners’ 2-0 win over Manchester City revolved around the two teams’ star-men: Alexis Sanchez and Sergio Aguero. However, both decidedly underwhelmed with the collective rising above the individual, and Arsenal surprising everyone with an approach that was broadly defensive, but all together very necessary.

The issue wasn’t so much whether Arsene Wenger could adapt his approach to suit opponents, (because there have been enough examples in the past few seasons that prove he can – though more than enough the other way to suggest it’s reluctant trade-off – and he essentially revealed to everyone pre-match how Arsenal would set out), but whether the players could rise above the conviction deficit they tend to have in big games.

It’s all about mentality. The manager and the players believe that their way is superior and so often, they are anxious to make a stylistic impression that they can lose courage in their play. Indeed last season, perhaps Arsenal might have faltered against Manchester City’s high-intensity physicality: instead, they rose above it, imposing their own authority in the game by running harder and maintaining focus.

That meant that Arsenal had to cede something at the other end, and by the end of the game, the Gunners only accrued 35% of the possession. It’s hard to believe that Wenger and the players didn’t squirm at the figure because in the second-half they came out with a measure of complacency, committing bodies forward, believing that it wasn’t a true reflection of their quality. Sure enough, a couple of attempts at David Ospina’s goal soon had them retreating back into their half.

If Arsenal couldn’t afford to be truly fluent, they relied on getting the ball to the front men quickly, and Oliver Giroud’s ability to take the ball down from the air. Some of his touches were glorious and by the end of the game, he made 45 passes, the 2nd most of Arsenal’s players, while he was found by Ospina and Nacho Monreal 10 times respectively. His header, to put Arsenal 2-0 up, highlighted the variation Arsenal had, and the lack of for Manchester City who barely found Sergio Aguero in the corridors between the centre-back and the full-back he loves to play in.

Alexis Sanchez was technically less assured, at times the self-imposed pressure to be the decisive player getting to him. On 50 minutes he had a pot-shot after a slaloming run down the left, when he could have crossed, partly due to the growing frustration that each time he managed to jink clear of Pablo Zabaleta he was quickly closed-down. Other times, he was guilty of holding onto the ball, ignoring passing options, though one dribble resulted in a good shot.

In a sense, this sums up Arsenal’s inconsistencies in the final third in certain matches because they expect to play in a certain way, for the ball to be bumped between each other quickly, that runs are sometimes made in advance, too hurriedly, instead of players arriving in the positions at the right time. On the other hand, it shows you the whimsical nature of partnerships, because they seemingly happen by accident, but it needs time for habitual patterns to develop, and Alexis can still subscribe to the team’s style.

Nevertheless, Alexis’s energy was infectious and this time, seemed to galvanise the team instead of showing them up. Arsenal showed the right balance between discipline and aggression, with the usually snappy Francis Coquelin typifying their approach. Indeed, it was a huge pleasure to see Coquelin rein in some of his impetuousness, because in the five-and-a-half matches he has played this season, his tackling trod a fine-line between recklessness and perfection.

Yet, at the same time, there is a joy in seeing him propel himself into challenges with a shark-like muscular ripple because tacklers are rare these days. But that precisely is also the sticking point in regards to Coquelin: Sam Allardyce says you can’t train players to tackle anymore, rather it’s about having the awareness to intercept, because “most tackles are fouls now”. Coquelin’s performance against Manchester City showed there is substance to his game.

In the end, though, the key player was somebody not known for his defensive acumen – Santi Cazorla. Football goes in cycles: in the early-to-mid-2000s, physicality reigned, allowing enforcers and destroyers to proliferate in the midfield and pushing deep-lying playmakers such as Pep Guardiola out of the game. It was about specialisation and individuals, scorned legendary AC Milan coach, Arrigo Sacchi, not about the team. Sooner though, Guardiola returned, this time as coach, to revolutionise the game, dominating with his Barcelona side through the technical proficiency that should up teams who played with destroyers. Possession was king though they had one other factor (beyond an infectious coach and the best player in the world) that denied other clubs from copying – superior fitness levels.

Now conditioning has reached a peak – though Guardiola still flies the flag for voracious keep-ball – and that means players must be universalists. That is footballers who can adapt to different situations and play in a multitude of positions. With the game moving towards “completeness”, it has given rise to the small, scuttling, scurrying type of player in deeper midfield positions, formerly those that might have played in the number 10 role, but because of their nimble footwork and glide on the ball, considered to be ever-more crucial in turning defence to attack. Their altruistic mentality means that they work the other way too, capable of switching between going forward and staying back seamlessly.

In a broad sense, football is about transitions now and in the 2-0 win over Manchester City, Santi Cazorla was the perfect exponent of that, frequently picking up loose balls in front of penalty box and switching defence to attack quickly. His ability to turn away from players – both ways – is a great weapon for Arsenal which, at the same time, provides a balance as they search for defensive stability.

However, it was the way Cazorla completely erased his Spanish counterpart, David Silva, out of the game which was most impressive, playing just left-of-centre in midfield in Arsenal’s 4-1-4-1 formation, and then in the second-half, as Silva switched to wide right, followed him to the other side, defending on the right of Coquelin. (Here’s a great example of Santi “owning” Silva – trust me, this happened a lot).

Silva’s movement is all about drifting to the channels, particularly to the right so he can open his body to attack the goal. Arsenal, however, cut out the opportunities for City to feed the ball to him in the halfspace.

Silva’s movement is all about drifting to the channels, particularly to the right so he can open his body to attack the goal. Arsenal, however, cut out the opportunities for City to feed the ball to him in the halfspace.

Silva’s movement is all about drifting to the channels, particularly to the right so he can open his body to attack the goal. Arsenal, however, cut out the opportunities for City to feed the ball to him in the half-space. It was a fantastic piece of in-game management from Arsene Wenger because he couldn’t have chosen a player who better understood Silva’s game more than Cazorla, yet it also required a selfless adjustment of mentality that many players would have baulked at.

Cazorla didn’t, and instead, remained diligently aware of Silva’s positioning all game, while staying true to his positional responsibilities. On the other side, Aaron Ramsey was imperfect, though his ability to run long distances with the ball was as much a welcome relief as Cazorla’s skill to turn away from Man City’s high press. If David Silva was more inclined to the left touchline, he could have taken advantage of the space Ramsey left behind at times, but the Spaniard prefers the right channel, and as such, Arsenal cut out the supply lines on that side.

Arsenal’s meticulousness in preparation was refreshing, not just in the way they altered their defensive approach (something which I recommended here), but from set-pieces too with Per Mertesacker taking solely man-marking duties up against Vincent Kompany, while Nacho Monreal rose to the occasion as a key component of the line of zonal defenders, clearing from corners 5 times.

Overall, it summed up the flexibility of approach from Arsenal and though individually, nobody was found wanting, it was hard to escape, with a goal and an assist, there was a truly decisive player and it was Santi Cazorla.

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Arsecast Extra Episode 51 – 19.01.2015 http://arseblog.com/2015/01/arsecast-extra-episode-51-19-01-2015/ http://arseblog.com/2015/01/arsecast-extra-episode-51-19-01-2015/#comments Mon, 19 Jan 2015 12:50:02 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17094 Here’s this week’s Arsecast Extra with myself and James from @Gunnerblog. On this week’s show we look back at the rather splendid 2-0 win over Man City, a fantastic team performance and some outstanding individual ones. We also answer questions about why the approach was so different yesterday, Francis Coquelin’s]]>

Here’s this week’s Arsecast Extra with myself and James from @Gunnerblog.

On this week’s show we look back at the rather splendid 2-0 win over Man City, a fantastic team performance and some outstanding individual ones. We also answer questions about why the approach was so different yesterday, Francis Coquelin’s contract situation, Olivier Giroud, super powers and loads more.

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 – 40mb 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. Remember, you can also leave comments on each episode on SoundCloud, and reviews/ratings on iTunes and Stitcher are much appreciated! Thanks.

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This Arsecast Extra was recorded with ipDTL.

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Man City 0-2 Arsenal: Gunners have plan and tactics, and it works http://arseblog.com/2015/01/man-city-0-2-arsenal-gunners-have-plan-and-tactics-and-it-works/ http://arseblog.com/2015/01/man-city-0-2-arsenal-gunners-have-plan-and-tactics-and-it-works/#comments Mon, 19 Jan 2015 08:26:28 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17090 Match report – Player ratings – By the numbers – Video Same old Arsenal eh? Away game against one of the big clubs and we … er … hang on … we … we … we play like a cohesive, well drilled unit and win. Zoinks! I don’t know about]]>

Match reportPlayer ratingsBy the numbersVideo

Same old Arsenal eh? Away game against one of the big clubs and we … er … hang on … we … we … we play like a cohesive, well drilled unit and win.

Zoinks!

I don’t know about you but I really, really enjoyed that yesterday. At first I was a bit wary of City having so much of the ball because that generally isn’t a scenario that works out that well for us. In the early minutes they found a couple of passes between the lines and Koscielny got a yellow card for steaming through Fernandorama (or whatever his name is), and I thought this might be a long. long day, but soon it became apparent we had a plan.

Francis Coquelin sat deep as the other midfielders dropped off when they had the ball, denying them the space to unleash their creative players, and we basically snuffed them out. Afterwards Aaron Ramsey talked about a plan whereby they’d push Man City into wide areas and deal with the crosses. As you can see, that worked:

citycrosses

City put in 42 crosses, we dealt with 36 of them and the 6 that were ‘successful’ were no threat. Similarly, corners. They had 16 of them, usually a source of intense pressure for us, but we dealt with them impeccably. The zonal marking, so lampooned and ridiculed in the not too distant past, worked perfectly. It shows that it’s not a problem with the system, only the execution of it, and in that regard we were close to flawless yesterday.

It was funny to read some City fans accuse us of ‘anti-football’ afterwards. Not that I give a fish’s tit what they think, but it’s not something that’s often levelled at us. One of our biggest flaws in recent seasons has been our apparent unwillingness to adapt our game to the opposition. So we go and try and play ‘our football’ against opponents who know exactly how to deal with, and exploit, that.

Yesterday was not one of those days. A manager not renowned for his tactical flexibility set up his team to nullify City’s creativity and main threats (Silva and Aguero) and it worked. We allowed them the ball in their own half, we kept our shape, and as soon as they tried to find a way through the middle we either forced them into crosses from wide or we tackled with vigour and won the ball back.

Defensively we were as solid as we’ve been for an age. 50 clearances, 23 headed clearances, we won 25/41 aerial duels in the game, made 35 interceptions, 68 ball recoveries, 5 blocks, and while stats never tell you the true story of the game, those numbers tell you everything you need to know about the commitment we showed as a team. There wasn’t a man out there who didn’t do his job with the utmost discipline and concentration.

After the game Arsene Wenger spoke of ‘regrets’ because he felt we could have made more of some of our attacking play, and there was a rustiness to elements of it. Alexis didn’t have his best game going forward, Ramsey and Oxlade-Chamberlain were guilty of poor touches in good positions, but it didn’t cost us because when we did get into their half, we always looked pretty dangerous.

The first goal came from the penalty spot when Vincent Kompany clearly fouled Nacho Monreal. I don’t really understand why people are saying it’s soft or even not a penalty. Probably because Kompany is a nice guy and people overlook his clumsy antics. Remember, it was Kompany who lost possession in the build-up to the penalty by falling over his own feet then his awkward challenge on the left-back conceded the spot-kick. Other players would have been crucified if they’d done that.

Santi Cazorla stepped up and gave Joe Hart no chance even though he went the right way. City couldn’t respond before the break, but in the first few minutes of the second half the game became more open as the home side pressed for an equaliser and we took a few minutes to get used to their change in system after the ineffective Jovetic came on for the ineffective Milner.

Their most dangerous moment came with a cross from the right which saw a Koscielny touch take it away from Aguero and some other bloke, rolling not far wide for a corner … which we dealt with. And although Alexis had a quiet day by his standards, it was his burst through the middle that won the free kick for the second goal. Cazorla chipped it in, Giroud’s movement bewildered Fernandito (or whatever his name is), and his beautiful glancing header gave Hart no chance.

They brought on that bloke who pretended to go to New York (imagine swapping the chance to live there for Manchester – *makes swirly do-lally gesture with finger*) – and Dzeko, but they continued to fail to bother us unduly. I won’t say it was comfortable for us, but the way we played made it really difficult for City to make any kind of breakthrough.

By the end we were keeping the ball in the corner, the experience of Rosicky winning us free kicks to help count down the clock, and that away win against one of the big clubs that we’ve all been waiting for was finally under our belts. Nobody could deny we deserved it on the day, City were poor, we were excellent as a team as well as certain individuals having particularly outstanding performances. More on that anon.

Afterwards, Arsene Wenger said:

We scored the first goal today and it was much easier for us to control them. We always looked dangerous when we won the ball but we had a good solidarity level and a good compactness, and the regret of the day is that we didn’t always take advantage of the situations we created in the final third. There was room to maybe score more goals.

And on the significance of the result:

Time will tell. What is for sure is that it increases the level of belief and confidence. We have five months in front of us that are very important in the lifespan of the team and what you make of that will decide our season. Games like that can help you to do very well.

Obviously it was a hugely encouraging performance and it should provide us a blueprint for games like this in the future. We can’t play like this in every game – we don’t need to, in fairness – but when the circumstances dictate it’s something we’ve just shown we’re capable of. If other managers had done it we’d be hearing about how it was a tactical masterclass.

It’s hard to single out individuals after such a fantastic team performance, but there were one or two who were worthy of an extra mention this morning. In yesterday’s blog I said that this game would be a big test for Francis Coquelin. Consider that test well and truly passed with flying colours. Sometimes football surprises you, and timing plays a role in a player’s success or failure. Without injuries to Ramsey, Arteta, Wilshere and Flamini, Coquelin would most likely still be on loan at Charlton.

However, a door opened for him, a chance presented itself and he’s grabbed it with both hands. It’s to his enormous credit that he’s now become undroppable because it’s his performances that dictate that, not the unavailability of others. At right back Hector Bellerin looks to be improving with every game and the decision to start him was justified completely.

I thought Giroud had a great game both in terms of his hold-up play and the fact he scored a great goal. He’s been criticised for not doing it against the best teams, but he did yesterday (on top of a goal against United). Some of his touches were sublime, particularly late in the game when we needed the ball to stick up front.

And then there’s Santi Cazorla. A tiny magician with amazing feet, brilliant ball retention, and despite his size he wasn’t bumped or bothered by City’s clutch of Fernands. There were moments yesterday when he won the ball deep, kept it, eased the pressure on the defence and then provided an attacking outlet in the same move. A goal and an assist are the most obvious contributions he made yesterday, but what he brought to that result went way beyond that.

So, plenty to be pleased about, but what I liked most of all is that every player I’ve seen interviewed after the game said ‘Yes, this was great but we have to do it in the next game’. Our plan yesterday was excellent, we executed it to perfection, and pulled off a fantastic result. But this wasn’t a cup final. They’re three very welcome points obviously, and I’d like to think we might have broken a little psychological barrier by doing what we did away at one of the big boys, but they’re only three points.

We have to use this as a building block for the future. It was great, I loved it, there’s much to enjoy this morning and I’m going to do exactly that, but what I’d like more than anything is to see the commitment and discipline we showed yesterday replicated game after game after game between now and May. We’ve got to take the positives and learn from them, not rest on our laurels.

If we can do it at City, there’s no reason why we can’t do it everywhere else.

As usual, we’ll have an Arsecast Extra for you later this morning discussing this game and anything else that crops up. If you have questions, please send them to @gunnerblog and @arseblog on Twitter using the hashtag #arsecastextra.

Until later.

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Man City v Arsenal – live blog http://arseblog.com/2015/01/man-city-v-arsenal-live-blog-4/ http://arseblog.com/2015/01/man-city-v-arsenal-live-blog-4/#comments Sun, 18 Jan 2015 15:28:57 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17088 Join us this afternoon for live blogging of the Premier League tie between Man City and Arsenal, kick off at 16.00GMT. Live blog is 100% free to follow on your computer or mobile device and gives you real time text commentary from the match. This season we’ve added a mobile]]>

Join us this afternoon for live blogging of the Premier League tie between Man City and Arsenal, kick off at 16.00GMT.

Live blog is 100% free to follow on your computer or mobile device and gives you real time text commentary from the match. This season we’ve added a mobile specific theme which should detect your phone making it much easier to follow the updates. You can also switch to the main theme, or back, at the bottom of the page.

We’ve also set up a Twitter account @arseblog_live which will provide important updates like goals, cards, substitutions, half-time and full time scores. If you follow that and enable SMS notifications via Twitter, you can get those updates sent directly to your phone*.

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The subscription allows us to provide a decent place for Arsenal fans to chat during the games, without the craziness you find elsewhere. There’s already a nice community building so come on in! The season ticket will also give you upgraded access to the arses.

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Man City preview + Wenger on defensive recruitment http://arseblog.com/2015/01/man-city-preview-wenger-on-defensive-recruitment/ http://arseblog.com/2015/01/man-city-preview-wenger-on-defensive-recruitment/#comments Sun, 18 Jan 2015 08:45:57 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17085 If we were hoping yesterday’s results might provide some wiggle room ahead of today’s clash with Man City, then disappointment was the order of the day. There were wins for Man United, Sp*rs, Southampton and Chelsea which makes getting something from today’s game even more important. Of course many hark]]>

If we were hoping yesterday’s results might provide some wiggle room ahead of today’s clash with Man City, then disappointment was the order of the day. There were wins for Man United, Sp*rs, Southampton and Chelsea which makes getting something from today’s game even more important.

Of course many hark back to last season and the 6-3 at the Etihad as one of ‘those’ days, but for me that result was more about a crazy game of football than anything else. To my mind it doesn’t compare with the thrashings we got at Anfield or Stamford Bridge. It was 1-0 to them then 1-1. 3-1 to them then 3-2 and if I remember correctly we had at least one goal ruled out for offside, so as a game it doesn’t have the same negative impact as those others.

Even if you take the ghosts of those performances with you, there might be some comfort in the fact we should have won at Anfield, if not the performance itself on the day. Should we be cautious? Yes, we’re going to play the champions and a very, very good side, but they haven’t exactly been firing on all cylinders this season. I watched them last weekend against Everton and if they play like that today, we’ve got a chance.

In terms of the team news, I think the only real question mark is over who starts in goal. Some papers this morning say Szczesny will be recalled while others maintain his absence will be prolonged, so your guess is as good as mine. I suspect he’ll stick with Ospina, but comments from the manager this morning suggest he might be of a mind to bring him back soon enough:

I do not know if it is a ‘wake­-up call’ for Wojciech. Sometimes it helps when you can have a little breather; you re-­focus and get yourself together. I think he is a great goalkeeper and will have a great career.

Whether one game out of the side is enough to wake him up remains to be seen. At right back I think Calum Chambers will get the nod, Coquelin should continue in midfield but a fit Ramsey should come back in to replace Rosicky, while the forward trio should all keep their places meaning we see something like: Ospina, Chambers, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Ramsey, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alexis, Giroud.

If we need to change it from the bench we’ve got Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott who can make an attacking impact, but in that starting line-up we’ve got players who can hurt City. One in particular will be on their minds and I’m interested to see how they try and deal with him. We’ve seen before this season that other teams decide the best way to try and stifle Alexis is rotational fouling, and while they may not have a reputation as such, I think today’s opponents have a team full of the experience and cynicism to carry out something similar.

Santi Cazorla is in outstanding form, Oxlade-Chamberlain feels to me like a player on the cusp of a step forward and a goal today would help that process along the way, while Giroud has 3 goals in his last 4 games and we need him to lead the line well against an  experienced central defence but one that’s also far from secure.

However, as much as we might have going forward, it’s how we cope with them from a defensive point of view that will be key. It’s a big test for Francis Coquelin after good performances against Hull and Stoke but, you know, that was Hull and Stoke. This is going to be a lot more difficult and maybe this will give us a real measure of the player since his return from Charlton. He’s done very well, but it’s days like today that will shape what happens for him in the future.

A fit Ramsey alongside him in midfield will be a help as long as Aaron remembers that his first job today is in midfield and not as a goalscorer. He has had a tendency this season to be a little too focused on making a contribution at the top end of the pitch, and it’s something the manager has remarked on. I think he’s at his most effective when playing closer to the deep lying midfielder and given their threat I hope that’s something we see today.

Having Koscielny and Mertesacker together, even if the former isn’t 100%, provides some assurance back there, but you only need to give Aguero a sniff and he’ll punish you so we’ve got to be at maximum back there.

It’s also worth remembering that back in September we should have beaten City. Yes, it was a weird game in that we also could have lost it late on, but when you’re 7 minutes from full time and you concede a goal from a corner it’s hard not to be a bit frustrated. Despite going behind that day we played well, fought hard and were deservedly in front, so I don’t think we have to be especially afraid of today.

The away record against the big teams isn’t good, we know that, but this would be a great place to overturn that.

In other news briefly, the manager has spoken again about recruitment and said that they’ve made enquiries which have been rebuffed by other clubs:

Of course we have made enquiries. They say: ‘OK, come back in June or July and maybe yes.’  Who wants to sell their best players, especially a central defender, in the middle of the season?

Well, nobody does, which is why you should buy that player in the summer, but this is the bed that the manager has made for himself so although it’s more difficult in January – and I think everyone understands that – it doesn’t change the situation. We need a defender, we’re just going to have to do what it takes to get one, and that appears to be something Wenger acknowledges who said of not buying somebody:

It’s too risky.

There’s also some risk involved with whoever we bring in. It might not be exactly the player we want but that is the consequence of putting ourselves in this position. I think we’re at a stage where anybody is better than nobody, it just remains to be seen how we solve this one. A younger player with potential, or someone a bit older with experience? Ultimately every player has a price, and if we really want someone in particular, it’s up to us to make those clubs an offer they can’t refuse.

Right, that’s about that. As always we’ll have full live blog coverage of the game for you. Check back later for a post with all the details or simply bookmark our default live blog page and updates will begin automatically.

Till later.

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Wenger on his Bielik intentions + transfer update http://arseblog.com/2015/01/wenger-on-his-bielik-intentions-transfer-update/ http://arseblog.com/2015/01/wenger-on-his-bielik-intentions-transfer-update/#comments Sat, 17 Jan 2015 08:03:14 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17079 It’s early on a Saturday and the sky is kind of eerie at this time. It looks like the kind of slate grey you get in a Sci-Fi film when humans now live in ruins and basements and gigantic alien machines prowl the surface. I really hope there hasn’t been]]>

It’s early on a Saturday and the sky is kind of eerie at this time. It looks like the kind of slate grey you get in a Sci-Fi film when humans now live in ruins and basements and gigantic alien machines prowl the surface. I really hope there hasn’t been an overnight space coup because I’m going out with the dog soon so that would make things a bit awkward.

At his press conference yesterday Arsene Wenger confirmed the signing of Polish youngster Krystian Bielik, saying a fee had been agreed. The player completed a medical yesterday and will officially sign on Monday. What makes this stuff you already know a bit more interesting is that Bielik himself said he chose London to prove himself as a player but felt that he wasn’t yet ready for first team football, but it looks like the manager wants him ready as soon as possible.

He said:

He will go into the first-team squad. He’s a defensive midfielder, 6ft 2, he has a good energy level and technical level. It’s a gamble but, on what we saw, it’s worth to take the gamble. It’s an awful lot of money for a player if he doesn’t succeed. If he does succeed, then it’s cheap.

Before knickers get completely twisted, it’s worth pointing out there’s a distinction to be made between putting a player into the first team squad and into the first team itself. In the squad he’ll train with the first team, settle in, build relationships, and operate at a level that should improve him as a player. It doesn’t mean he’s going to face Man City on Sunday.

You might remember in January 2006 we made three signings: Abou Diaby, Emmanuel Adebayor and Theo Walcott from Southampton. The first two were used between January and May, but due to his tender years Theo had to wait until the following season to make his debut for us (despite being ludicrously called up to the England squad for that summer’s World Cup). The idea, obviously, was to get him ready for first team football by having him in the squad from the start.

Now, I can’t say for sure if that’s the manager’s idea with this kid, and we know he’s very much a proponent of the ‘If you’re good enough, you’re old enough’ thinking, but even with Arteta absent for three months he’s got Francis Coquelin and Mathieu Flamini who are likely to get the nod over him because of their experience. If he’s admitting it’s a gamble to even spend £2m on a 17 year old, it’s surely even more of a gamble to play him in games for which there’s little or no room for failure. Every point is precious this season.

That’s not to say further injuries won’t mean he has to be played at some point. When Flamini and Coquelin collide in training and are ruled out until 2019 each then we may well have to resort to throwing him in, but all going well I’d be hugely surprised if we saw very much of him beyond some substitute cameos between now and May.

Still, it does seem as if he’s one of the “one or two” players that the manager said he was targetting, and again he stressed his desire to sign a defender, saying:

We are out on the market and we work very hard every day. All our scouts, all our people are working very hard to find a defender.

And while I understand how the market operates, and the restrictions you have to deal with in January as the clubs you ideally want to buy from have no intention of letting their best players go, shouldn’t these scouts have been working every day from the end of August until the end of December and prepared a list of potential targets so we could get active in January? Maybe that’s just me being crazy and hoping things might be done in an optimal way, but there you go.

Certainly nothing is going to be done before Sunday and bar in-game injury I can live with that. If we’ve got Mertesacker and Koscielny, and one of Chambers or Bellerin for right back, then that’s not a bad situation to be in (leaving aside I’d much rather we had a fit Debuchy too).

But sometimes it feels like we’re skating on thin ice and when we get to thinnest part of the ice we jump up and down on it and throw rocks into it and shout “Come on then ice, break! I dare you!”, and at some point the ice is just gonna go “Well, you asked for it”, and then we’ll float along underneath it like that bloke from Omen II. We really don’t wanna be that guy, because the ‘DANGER: THIN ICE’ signs have been everywhere and if they’re simply ignored then you pretty much get what you deserve.

Early team news for tomorrow is that Kieran Gibbs will have a fitness test to see if he can make the bench because I’d stick with Monreal at left back anyway, while Ramsey, Ozil and Walcott are all available and a week fitter. Of the three only Ramsey is a likely starter with the other two kept in reserve on the bench – but what nice options they are to have should we need them.

More on that game in the full preview tomorrow, for now I’m going to venture outside. I’ll let you know if it’s safe. Have a good one.

ps – If you haven’t had a chance to listen to yesterday’s Arsecast, get it into ya here.

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Arsenal Gentleman’s Weekly Review http://arseblog.com/2015/01/arsenal-gentlemans-weekly-review-55/ http://arseblog.com/2015/01/arsenal-gentlemans-weekly-review-55/#comments Fri, 16 Jan 2015 15:19:33 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17077 You find me this week, as is traditional following the excesses of yuletide over consumption, undertaking what is known as a ‘diet’. Breakfast in Gentleman Towers normally consists of eight rashers of back bacon, four eggs four ways (a poacher, a boiler, one fried and one deep-fried), black pudding, white]]>

You find me this week, as is traditional following the excesses of yuletide over consumption, undertaking what is known as a ‘diet’. Breakfast in Gentleman Towers normally consists of eight rashers of back bacon, four eggs four ways (a poacher, a boiler, one fried and one deep-fried), black pudding, white pudding, two fried slices of bread, some bone marrow, four sausages, sautéed mushrooms some boiled liver and a few potato farl. This version of breakfast is of course known worldwide as The Full Charlie Adam.

Mrs. Gentleman, in her infinite wisdom, has instructed cook to restrict the jentacular meal to communist-looking brown toast and just a pair of scrambled eggs, cooked a la Shawcross – that is cracked and then scrambled. Sadly, and all gentlemen reading this will empathise, I merely pop off to the local restaurant and have them prepare exactly what I wanted in the first place. So it seems dieting is not as hard as the world would make out. If I were serious about shifting some weight I would simply lop off an arm.

And so to Ashburton Grove for the visit of Shawcross and his ruffian army of the mentally needy and the criminally vicious. They bring with them the most offensive looking support; falling into two breeds. Either short and round, like little wolves that someone has pumped up on a garage forecourt, or long and gangly, with thick hairy chins and front teeth that poke o’er the bottom lip and rest, like broken piano keys on the flesh below. The men are pretty awful, too.

The stench is horrendous and the railways have long since insisted that Stoke fans only use special carriages and keep the windows open. The rolling stock for Stoke away-days is very old and soft seating has been replaced long ago with wooden benches. I shall spare you the details but without indoor sanitation anywhere in Stoke City the beasts simply defecate wherever they are, such as a train carriage, like rats, and the only way to clean up after a group of Stokies is with a firehose and one hundred gallons of Jeyes Fluid.

I knew a chap who once tried to domesticate a Stoke fan, or at least attempt to get one to walk upright, with the aim of taking the specimen around the world for public exhibition. The process was very slow and gruelling. They are vicious beasts and do not take kindly to being offered cooked food or regular showers and when in captivity will sling their faeces at any humans who may be passing and attempt to snap the limbs of even their own kind. The violent impulse is deep-rooted in the Stokie and will only be eradicated by selective interbreeding with humans, and who would wish to do that? There seems to be a market for just about every peccadillo in this day and age but that particular predilection is surely beyond what can be expected of any man. The experiment was unsuccessful and the Stokies had to be returned to their clay hovels within the month.

Since Woolwich’s visit to the slum village stadium just last month when we lost 3-2 to their underhand violence we had been waiting for a chance to avenge. It was staunch sentinel Mr. Costerley who first found the onion bag with a wonderful noggin-bobbler, notable for the fact that this was the first time Stoke’s players had ever shown any politeness at all and they waved young Larry into the box like a butler inviting an honoured guest to dinner. One nil to The Arsenal.

The second goal, courtesy of – who else – Mr. Whizzbang Saunders – was a thing of wonder. In union with Mr. Robinson, he pinged then ponged his way to the Stoke box before psychologically destroying the oaf Shawcross by not just sending him the wrong way, but buying him a ticket for a city break in Prague. Perite. Pedicabo ego vos et irrumbo, uttered Saunders as Poor Ryan looked like he was about to cry. Two nil. Mr. Hughes, chief miscreant and immoral leader of Stoke’s violent footballing criminals, known to the world as the Argos Fagin, looked like he was about to vomit bile.

The icing on the Saunders cake came as he sent a stationary Whizzbang right through Stoke’s smokers’ corner. I simply will not have anyone suggesting that he did not mean it. He meant it. He is the complete forward; swink, swagger and cunning. I love him dearly.

We now know that ‘Lucky’ Matthews, our pleasantly psychopathic right-back, is out for three months following his violent and snide assault by Marko Arnautovic for which he should be birched and then dipped in boiling vinegar. Time to recall the Corporal or do we stick with Lightning Harry Bell? And will the signing of Christopher Bollock mean that we are not signing an actual grown up footballer this January? We pray not. And even if we do, it shall not be in time for Sunday’s ominous looking visit to Manchester.

I’m orf for a fry up. We shall converse again next week.

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Three months for Arteta and Debuchy + Arsecast 336 http://arseblog.com/2015/01/three-months-for-arteta-and-debuchy-arsecast-336/ http://arseblog.com/2015/01/three-months-for-arteta-and-debuchy-arsecast-336/#comments Fri, 16 Jan 2015 08:11:40 +0000 http://arseblog.com/?p=17072 Another day, another couple of three month injuries. Fairly standard stuff at the Arsenal. As vexed as I am by the absences, in this situation I’m a little torn. On the one hand the idea that Mikel Arteta has fallen victim to a ‘bony spur’ and that it’s only been]]>

Another day, another couple of three month injuries. Fairly standard stuff at the Arsenal.

As vexed as I am by the absences, in this situation I’m a little torn. On the one hand the idea that Mikel Arteta has fallen victim to a ‘bony spur’ and that it’s only been discovered now is a bit frustrating. He’s been out since Nov 26th and there was clearly something amiss all season, so you could question why it’s taken so long to diagnose. Maybe it was last resort stuff that discovered the issue, nevertheless it’s a big blow for the team and Arteta himself.

It is, essentially, a season-ender for the captain. If we take three months from now we’re talking mid-April, at which point he’ll have to find match fitness and with the run-in usually so crucial it’s hard to throw players in like that. Especially when you consider that we face Chelsea and Man Utd in our final 6 games.

On the other hand the Debuchy one is maddening because it wasn’t our fault at all and it was so unnecessary. People keep saying that Arnautovic didn’t intend to injure him that badly, and I’m sure he didn’t want to do that much damage to him, but when you push a player while he’s in the air into some advertising hoardings, then it’s usually designed to rough up your opponent a bit. You can’t plead angelic innocence there and expect people to believe you.

The fact it was so deliberate and so needless makes it all the more annoying that we’re without a player for three months and he gets away with it scot-free.  If there’s any justice the Stoke player will step on a plug at some point today as well as getting a zit right on the inside of his nose so every time he moves his face slightly it makes him want to sneeze but every time he tries somebody comes up behind him and goes ‘AWOOOSH’ right at the moment of sneezejaculation and he can’t get it out. Wanker.

Bottom line for us, however, is missing two experienced, quality players for three months and we could really do without that. Will it make the manager more inclined to go into the transfer market? He said yesterday that he was working day and night to try and find “one or two” new players during this window, but we’ve heard that before. The proof of that particular pudding will be in the eating of the pudding when the players are signed and not the talk of the recipe of the pudding about how we’re going to make the pudding but instead of pudding we get some dried crackers and cheese with fur on it.

I suspect a midfield signing is very unlikely so that probably means good news for Francis Coquelin who will get more chances. Sunday, of course, is a big test for him. He’s played well in recent games but it’s also not unfair to suggest that the calibre of the opposition in those games doesn’t come close to that of Man City. He’ll have his work cut out for him and maybe that will give the manager further indication of what he needs to do in the window.

I think we’d be absolutely out of our minds not to buy a defender of some kind, and the manager hinted that’s probably where the money is going to spent despite wanting to ‘give chances’ to Bellerin and Chambers. Koscielny’s playing through pain, Gibbs is injury prone and in and out of the team, while at some point Per is going to need a rest having played almost every minute of every game so far this season. Maybe it’s over-stating it a bit but even with the attacking quality we’ve got in this team, unless we bolster our defensive options we’re going to really struggle to finish where we need to this season.

It does look as if Krystian Bielik, the Legia Warsaw midfielder, is on his way, but by his own admission he’s not ready yet for first team football at Arsenal. He’s one for the future, and I’m all good with that, but he ought not to be one of the “one or two” we’re looking for between now and February 2nd. Let’s hope the manager expands a little bit on his plans when he meets the press today.

Right then time for this week’s Arsecast and, in the wake of the Mathieu Debuchy injury, I’m joined by Glenn Moore, football editor of the Independent, to talk about sly pushes and the dangers they present. After that there’s a good chat with the Man from East Lower and Goonerholic about the open transfer window, how the new injury updates might force our hand in the market, some player chat including Coquelin and the keeper situation and more.

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 – 37mb 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.

You can leave comments on the SoundCloud page and reviews/comments on iTunes and Stitcher are very welcome too.

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We’ll have all the news from the press conference over on Arseblog News, as well as anything that’s breaking throughout the day. More from me tomorrow.

Until then.

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