Arsenal v Magpies: Great day out and three precious points – rest will come!

Early kick-off in Newcastle. It has been a long wish to watch Arsenal at St James Park and the experience definitely matched expectations. Now that I live in the south of Scotland, I am just two hours away, so this might become a regular occurrence over the next few years. I took the 9.38 Scotrail train from Carlisle to Newcastle, expecting to find a dozen or so Magpies to travel in the same direction….

When I arrived at the station I was amazed to see hundreds of barcoded shirts everywhere. Not a single Gunners shirt around me. The 85 minutes journey to Newcastle had to be done in a ridiculously small train – just three carriages – for at least 400 passengers, and I was lucky to get myself a seat.

The train full to the rafter, off we went to Newcastle. The atmosphere on board was great: Boxes of Budweiser on tables and cheap beer flowing freely almost everywhere, one table with four young lads all looking like a young Gazza – with nr.1 shaved lower heads and lots of hair product in the top bit,  fake tans and full of life – playing cards and sharing a bottle of Buckfast tonic wine, everybody talking and engaging, strangers speaking to each other encouraged by the effect of alcohol on hardly awake stomachs and the prospect of pecking the Gunners to bits today, and all this whilst we are rolling through the gentle, green, timeless slopes of the very north of England, and through fabulously named places like Hexham, Haltwhistle, Wetheral, Haydon Bridge and Prudhoe. I observed it all whilst checking the comments on Bergkampesque and reading the sports sections of BBC and the Guardian and keep schtum as much as possible.

The ‘fear word’ I could hear all the way through the train was…. Giroud. They all expected Ollie to start and to score at some point in the game…

I met up with my mate E and his wife D at the station, and we had a beer and a good chat about life, football, Arsene and you name it in a too posh bar at about five minutes’ walk from the ground. We spoke to a nice, older gentleman there with a brilliant local accent who did his best to speak slowly so we could understand him :) . Lots of mutual respect and we went through some of the greats who donned the Magpies shirt: Keegan, Shearer, (our very own) Supermac, Gazza etc. We also spoke about the true gentleman that is Sir Bobby Robson – how a cancer unit in the hospital is named after him and how we should have a look at his statue on our way up the away section in the stadium.

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That we did and then we walked up the never-ending steps all the way to the top of the stadium. Most of us were panting our heads off whilst laughing hysterically at the ordeal we just went through. In the ground I was so high up I had to check myself not to fall forward whilst watching the game, but the view of the city was brilliant and I was in fine position to study the game.

The game

We started well and played the Magpies off the pitch. They did not like it and started to put heavy tackles in… Mitrovic got rightly sent off and then it was 11 against 10 for 4/5 of the game. It did not help the game but we were not complaining of course. The omission of Ozil and Giroud meant we had a lot of possession but not much bite, resulting in not many well worked chances. However, we had some good opportunities from both fast attacks and hard drives from distance, and on another day Theo would have had a brace.

The second half saw more of the same. Theo was running around the box a lot but the defence dealt well with him and he just cannot offer the hold up play of Giroud. Alexis and the Ox tried to work the wings and get behind the defence but we did not crack the solid looking Barcodes’ parked busses. Without Ozil we struggled to get near and in the box enough to really get into the areas were we could hurt them.

So we started to shoot from distance and in the 52nd minute we pin-balled it in with the final shot by the improving Ox coming off the leg of Coloccini. After that we should have finished it with a second goal but we never looked sharp enough to do so, even with Giroud on the pitch who, just like Theo, wasted some good opportunities. We also seemed to like to keep possession and see the game out, making use of our numerical advantage.

Our defence looked good and the Barcodes were never allowed in to this game. The sending off did not help them of course but we still had to finish them off, which we just about did. The three points are very welcome and we can build on this going forward, especially now that Pool, Chavs and Mancs all dropped three points in their games this weekend.

This team, just like all top teams except the Northern Oilers at the moment, is working hard to find form, which is a combination between playing with urgency, control and composure, and ability to finish off our chances. Once this is there the goals will come and a good run can begin. The next mini-journey starts in two weeks, against Mark Hughes’ Orcs: an excellent game for rediscovering our mojo. Bring it on!

The journey back was uneventful, but travelling with three points in the back made it easy for me, especially with the news coming in that the Chavs – Alan Pardoe we love you! – were losing and Pool were getting hammered.

By TotalArsenal.

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Another Brace for Giroud at Newcastle? Arsenal Seek an August End to the Month

Let the lion hearted (and lion haired) big man eat.  Feed him the ball and he will put it past the Bar Codes!!  Lunchtime kickoff in Newcastle…Nom, nom, nom…

You’ve scored 7 goals against the Toonies, so why not?  Or is time to change things up?  Hmmmm… Get us some goals, leader of the line–if only to mute the deadline day talk about how we’ll never win the league with you up there.  Don’t leave the manager wondering…

Regardless of approach, Arsenal need to see out the first month of the new campaign in better fashion than they began it.  August looked a promising month–no pesky two-legged Champions League Qualifier and a manageable schedule following a very promising pre-season, where our main task was to bed in our new World-Class goalkeeper, Petr Cech, while the rest of the group merely had to keep-on-keeping-on.  We knew our rivals would be pursing every last goofball idea in the transfer market, but, if we could get off to a good start, our cohesion (a word many have since grown to loathe) might be such that we wouldn’t.

Alas, August has, thus far at least, not lived up to its name.  Let’s take a closer look:

Luckily, we’ve got one last chance to make it right.  (Unless, of course, you count the transfer deadline, which would make it two, although, technically, that’s in September…)

The Opponent

Newcastle are a proud club, but one which seems caught in a very difficult cycle.  As much as Arsenal fans sometimes lament our frugality, Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has taken his club down a path of austerity which would (almost) qualify him to run the next Greek government.  Things were so bad last season that Alan Pardew, a man who made his mark by bringing in undervalued French and Francophone players–perhaps in homage to our own manager–left a reasonably successful situation in the Northeast to take over Crystal Palace.  Instead of replacing with a recognized manager, Ashley elected to use an assistant, John Carver and ride him to the bitter end.  Indeed it was bitter but could have been worse.  Despite losing his dressing room–and match after match after match–Carver did enough to avoid relegation.

Which should makes life a little easier for the man who followed, former England manager, Steve McClaren.  His August hasn’t been so august either, but then again, anything would be better than the Newcastle spring and, at least, it does seem to be ending on an uptick.  He has been able to eke out a couple of draws in the league and got his first win in midweek vs Northampton in the Capital One Cup.  In that one, Florian Thauvin, McClaren’s first exciting French transfer, was at the heart of almost all the offense.  Given that the win came off a nil-nil at Old Trafford (with a couple of decent chances to win it on the counter) McClaren has to feel his group is in with a shout against an Arsenal squad which has yet to realize all the promise we felt heading into the new season.  We should beware Thauvin (who might get his first league start of the season) as well as others McClaren has brought in including Aleksander Mitrovic and Georginio Wijnaldum.  Additional threat is presented from holdovers like Demba Pappis Cisse, Ayoze Perez and Gabriel Obertan. Fabricio Coloccini, Steven Taylor and midfielders like Cheik Tiote, Jack Colback and Vernon Anita may lack flair but tend to maintain strong organization ahead of the big Dutch goalkeeper, Tim Krul, a guy who, on his day, can both command his box and pull off the outstanding save.

As such, this feels like a(nother) big one and a(nother) one not to take as a given.  Seven points from twelve wouldn’t be the best return from our first four matches but it would be a manageable total, especially if, as Arsene Wenger says, we are “looking for solutions” but not close to signing anybody as the transfer window closes.  Four (or five) points from twelve would be a good deal less acceptable to most Gooners, especially if league leaders, Manchester City, take care of business on their home pitch against newly promoted Watford.  Woe be unto the Gooner-nation IF we fail to win at Newcastle AND are inactive at the deadline–even if (most probably) the manager doesn’t see the two events connected in any way, shape or form.

How then should Wenger set out the team against Newcastle?  Stay the course or mix things up?  Fitness news suggests our central defensive pairing which missed the Liverpool match might–or might not–be ready for this one.  Should other changes be considered?  A popular narrative is that Ramsey is wasted on the right (even if he seems to be playing in a very free role, almost as a 3rd deeper lying central midfielder).  Others were unimpressed by the usual characters (Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Giroud).  Yet others noted that Alexis Sanchez doesn’t quite seem at full fitness and Wenger could mix things up in a big way if he were to be used as an option from the bench.  Still others suggest that, if Arsenal need full points, playing Francis Coquelin as a dedicated defensively-minded midfielder compromises our attack.

Given the uncertainties in central defense I think it’s premature to drop Coquelin.  I also think Wenger would prefer to continue with as few changes as possible.  Alexis surely wants–and likely needs–game time.  He’s been a bit more, er, watchful, i.e., less of an all action type, but maybe a word in his ear to interchange and fill spaces with the other attackers is all that is necessary.  Whereas we found Giroud (and later Walcott) forced out wide due to too many bodies central in the opener vs West Ham, I believe we’ve found a better balance through Ramsey’s movement from the nominal wide-right starting position.  It hasn’t yielded goals (in droves) as of yet, but that doesn’t mean it can’t.  Here’s my prediction for the first 11, miracle recoveries at CB included.

Bench: Ospina, Gabriel, Gibbs, Debuchy, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott

Obviously, I’m just guessing at this.  What do you guys say?  Predictions for this match?  For the close of the window?  For all things Arsenal?

I like playing our match early (even if we’ve had a bit of a struggle in this time-slot in recent seasons).  Any worries on that front?  Why worry at all?  Enjoy the football and may it all be, well,… August!

:D

by 17highburyterrace

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Arsenal v Liverpool review: Great 0-0 but why did Arsene take Giroud off?

Now that was a game of football – one of the best Harry Potter nose-bicycles I have ever watched live. We did not win and we did not deserve to either, despite a very good goal being cancelled unjustly. However, our second half display was more than good enough to win the game after all, and this gives us plenty of hope for the season ahead.

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We all know how expectations can ruin our enjoyment of the game. The loss against the Hammers has turned us in to grumpy, nervy supporters already with just three games of the season played, as we are treating every game now as a ‘must win’. This is unhealthy and, to be blunt, idiotic. It also does not help the team at all as they are already tense enough to realise their own ambition of going all the way to win the title. Take a chill pill rather than frantically indulging in criticising Wenger or the team; or, by all means, dream yourself champions by adding loads of super expensive players; but whatever you do, stay behind the team and try and enjoy the football on display.

I always feel privileged to watch our team at the home of football: what is better than watching a game live with the real Gunners right in front of you? I sat next to Pete who told me about his mate Simon being unable to come to the game due to him still recovering from a long illness that kept him many months in hospital. It made me realise once again how much we need to appreciate our health and being able to go to the game – one day it might not be possible any more. Get well soon, Simon. The stadium was packed to the rafter and it was a feast of white and red colours everywhere I looked: it promised to become a great game from the start.

When Pete told me the news that both the BFG and Koz would not be playing, I told him he was taking the urine. But soon I realised that we were indeed trying to defend our goal with the untested combo of Gabriel and Chambers…

The first half was for Liverpool. The combination of playing with no concerns – having won the first two games, they were doing well, and nobody expected them to win this difficult away game – and well prepared tactics, gave to Scousers wings. The essence of the first half, as well as the second half (but that is for later) was compactness and numbers where it matters; and this is where the ball happens to be.

Liverpool were a determined six-pack and we were wobbly all over the place in first 45 minutes. We could blame young Chambers for a lot of our trouble but that would be unfair on him to a large extent. Pool boxed us in in our own half and made sure that whoever had the ball had only risky options to release himself from it. We lacked movement (which Pete rightly pointed out several times), especially for springing a counter attack or breaking through the ranks in our own half; and Pool, it has to be said, played with great discipline. And when we had the ball our passing was not sharp enough and our ability to break free from the Pool pressure not strong enough: they constantly outnumbered us in relatively small areas. The result was continuous loss of possession and many good chances against us by the opponent. Coutinho, and the rejuvenated and very impressive Milner, bossed us between our ‘D’ and the half way line. They played some fabulous football at times, occasionally reminiscent of our own team in the early parts of the last decade.

We did manage to create some half-opportunities and were very unlucky with the Rambo goal being disallowed, but Liverpool could have been in-front by two or three in the first half. Luckily, fortune was on our side, as the sound of leather slapping metal poles was heard regularly, and Petr Cech was in world class form. I saw all his saves right below me, and especially the low dive save at close range from Benteke’s effort was out of this world. I knew, I felt, I sensed it in my bones it would go in but somehow the long in the teeth Cech anticipated the next semi-second action earlier than anybody else, including the stunned Belgian, thus keeping out a certain goal. We hung on and the second half could not come soon enough.

Wenger proved once again how much difference he can make during the break…. And without taking players off. The team looked transformed in the second half as we effectively reversed roles from the start. We now kept them in their own half by playing compact and not allowing them out of our collective grip. We matched their numbers, and sometimes outnumbered them, when we attacked Pool and tried to break through their ranks from the left, with Ozil, Alexis, Giroud, Santi, and occasionally Rambo applying constant pressure with intricate passing and penetrative balls. It was great to see this all in front of us, which makes a big difference when watching it on TV, as it looks so much harder to break a defence then most of us imagine.

I was convinced we would score sooner or later, as the Pool defence would surely buckle and our lack of sharpness in front of goal could surely not continue. It reminded me of a typical high-quality chess game, after say 15 moves each: you are attacking a solidly defended corner of the board and are amassing more and more pieces to break through the wall; but the opponent allocates their pieces there as well and the variables of risk and opportunity multiply rapidly… something has to give but who is going to buckle?

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Just as I thought we would definitely score that goal before our time was up, Arsene surprised me with taking off Giroud and putting Theo in. I wanted Theo or Ox to join the ‘chess game’ as we could do with more pressure from the right, or somebody coming into the box to add an attacking variable from there, but not instead of Ollie. Ollie had missed a few good chances, but so did Alexis, and it was clear that they were very close to scoring a few times, and were very keen to make the breakthrough.

Once Giroud was off, the game changed dramatically. By removing OG from the chess game, we were no longer able to play our triangles and break through their ranks as we missed the linchpin. We effectively let them off the hook.

The game became open again and Pool even got a few decent counter opportunities to steal the game from us, which would have been very bitter. We also managed to create a few opportunities, but they were harder ones and the Pool defence and defensive midfielders were well prepared to deal with this. Theo is not super-sub material and, although he tried hard, he did not add much to our attack during his cameo.

I felt it was a missed opportunity and would have loved to ask Arsene why he did not take Coquelin off for Theo rather than OG as his first sub (Coquelin was replaced by the Ox not much later in the game..), and pile on the pressure even more to finally get our goal.

However, the way Wenger and the team turned the game round in the second half and the number of chances we created as a result of this, are very encouraging signs for this Gooner. The team and manager that beat Man City twice, Man United away and the Chavs at Wembley in the last twelve months, will come good this season; I have no doubt about this. Whether we will win the title remains to be seen but we definitely have all the qualities for it and that is all that matters to me.

Every game is a mini-journey, and why should we bother ourselves with worrying whether we can/will win the title at the end of the season? I confidently predict six points out of our next two games and that will put us right there with Citeh. But next up is Newcastle and I for one cannot wait to enjoy the next mini-journey. We are on the road to nowhere, come on inside! :)

By TotalArsenal.

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Wednesday Wishing–What Will Wenger Want in the Window and on the Weekend?

What do Gooners want to see and just how dire is the early season situation at Arsenal?  Are you as frustrated as Aaron Ramsey?

Editor’s Note: We were hoping to have a “man at the match” report from TotalArsenal who attended the Liverpool match.  Unfortunately, He’s a busy fellow and faced with a short week as he will also be traveling to Newcastle for that one.  Hopefully we will get a full report from him about his impressions of BOTH matches over the weekend.  In the meantime, you get this…

Early Season Arsenal Discussion Points:

–4 ponts from 9, 5 points off the leaders and only one player, Petr Cech, in during the transfer window, which now closes in less than one week.  Is Arsene Wenger under pressure to buy due to results?  (Or is he under other pressures, i.e., should he be sacked?  Surely some must be ready for the Steve Bould era…)  Where must he improve the team and which players might he actually bring in?  It’s fine to say “world class striker” but what (who) does that actually mean?  We’re you OK with the transfer activity after the Community Shield and has that opinion changed?

–What is the cause of Arsenal’s early season difficulties, especially on the home pitch.  Are tactics and squad selections correct or are they misguided?  Is there a deeper issue at play given that we have only scored in one of our last 5 league matches played on our home pitch?  Is this Arsenal team likely to be vulnerable on the home pitch all season long?

–What should Wenger be thinking heading to Newcastle this weekend?  The Toonies finally won a match yesterday under new manager Steve McClaren (beating Northampton 4-1 in the Capital One Cup) and they are coming off a nil-nil of their own at Manchester United in league play.  Is this a good time to be making the trip to the Northeast?  Should Wenger ring the changes for this match or stay the course knowing that his best players will have two weeks off due to an International break?

–Speaking of the Capital One Cup…What say Gooners about being drawn against Spurs at their stadium up the Seven Sisters?

–3 matches into the season…Is all hope gone?  What have we learned and what adjustments must be made?  Is it too soon to flush the baby down the drain with all that soiled bathwater?  I understand that fans pay (with their time and energy, some even with the tickets that they buy) and are privileged to live and die with each result.  Still, I (sometimes) hold out hope that those who like to get on the blogs actually try to think more like a manager than in this other way.

Overall, have at it… I’m under the weather (and stressed due to other things) while TA is pushing hard as a working man and traveling Arsenal supporter.  We hope to bring you better coverage and analysis, sooner rather than later, but, in the meantime, we appreciate your intelligence in the comments.

:D

by 17highburyterrace

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Arsenal – Liverpool: Time for Theo or Same 11? Line-Up | Preview

Another Must-Win and a Chance to Win Back the Home Support

Early season at the Emirates is ALWAYS a testy time.  The narratives regarding the transfer window are never done and dusted if it’s August, after all.  Add in a traditional and always difficult opponent–Liverpool–unbeaten and yet to give up a goal, plus the disappointment supporters are feeling after a flat opening day performance, and it all makes for a potentially volatile situation.  All that ‘dry powder’ only needs a spark to set it ablaze.

On the other hand, rekindling the rivalry with one of England’s biggest clubs is perhaps exactly what Arsenal–and our home support–need to galvanize the Gunners–and the Gooners–to give their very best.  “You’ll Never Walk Alone” will be the song of the traveling support and a fine one to make them sing–in defiance–as they absorb a defeat at the hands of our club.

That was certainly the refrain back in April, when this fixture was last contested.  In that one, although Arsenal missed a couple of gilt-edged chances–and allowed one at the other end–once the breakthrough was made, it turned into romp.  Width was the answer, and, once we found it, the floodgates opened.  Aaron Ramsey, roaming freely from a wide-right starting berth, put in his fullback, Hector Bellerin, for the first goal.  Mesut Ozil soon doubled the advantage with a stunning free kick and Alexis Sanchez put the tie out of reach with the third goal of the half.  Liverpool supporters had to walk together just for their half-time refreshments.

Given that we don’t play until Monday night, here’s the long version…

That was a fun day out but it hasn’t always been so easy nor so definitive, of course, and we shouldn’t expect anything less than a true challenge under the Monday night lights.

In fact, it was only 4 short years ago, in another early season showdown, that Liverpool put the hurt to us.  I’m remembering the very desultory nil-2 home loss back in August of 2011, Samir Nasri’s last appearance in an Arsenal shirt, and memorable for Emmanuel Frimpong’s sending off.  Frimpong, like Carl Jenkinson and Ignasi Miquel, who had to come on when Laurent Koscielny hobbled off early in the match, were ALL making league debuts and it was a period of great transition at the club.  Soon it was overshadowed by the 8-2 drubbing at Old Trafford.  Football is a game that is always in flux.  We’ve come a long way as a club in those 4 years, yet the old wounds are never far from the surface.

Give this one a watch if you want to see the other side of the coin. The homemade quality of the vid, I think, adds to the sense of just how badly we were feeling our way through the darkness of those times…

This time around, Liverpool are the team in transition.  With two victories and two clean sheets, however, it’s ‘so far, so good’ for our opponents, making it a great test for BOTH teams.

With that mentality they should be both unpredictable and playing with little to lose.  This time, instead of Nasri off to Man City, the big move in that direction is that of Raheem Sterling.  He was likely the most dangerous player in the April match and took away our clean sheet by winning a penalty against Bellerin.  With the absurd money earned from the Sterling transfer (and saved from the departure of Steven Gerrard and his big contract), manager Brendan Rodgers has bought the big Belgian center-forward Christian Benteke from Aston Villa while also acquiring James Milner from the Northern Oilers on a free.  Those two will be at the center of the new Liverpool attack as will Brazilian Phillipe Coutinho who probably has created Pool’s best moment of the young season, scoring a late winner with a shot from distance in their opener at Stoke City.  As we’ve given up goals from outside the box and at set pieces, testing our still settling central defense and new keeper, Petr Cech, with similar shots will surely be on the cards.  We should also be on the alert for attacks down our left side from young winger Jordan Ibe and/or the fullback behind him, another new signing, Nathan Clyne, picked up from Southampton.

As such, Arsenal might need to keep our own wide players leaning just a hair towards defending our own goal before allowing their attacking instincts to take over.  On the ball, it will be important to keep the pitch spread while working hard so that we can win the battles in the center of the pitch.  This is where Liverpool might be most vulnerable as they attempt to replace the presence of their iconic leader, Gerrard.  New Captain Jordan Henderson has been given that charge but he usually requires a bit of help, often in the form of the very competent (but ever cynical), Brazilian Lucas Leiva.  Both, however, are fitness doubts going into the match, meaning Rodgers might have to re-jig and use players like Emre Can to fill in or, perhaps, Milner or Adam Lallana in a deeper than usual spot.

Given these limitations Rodgers might also opt for 3 central defenders.  Martin Skrtl and Dejan Lovren are solid defenders but could possibly use the help of Mamadou Sakho (who played ahead of our own Laurent Koscielny in France’s World Cup squad) or former Gunner, Kolo Toure.

It makes sense to me, given that our attack had periods of real menace in our 2-1 victory at Crystal Palace.  I believe Arsene Wenger will set out an unchanged 11, but, you never know, and this could be a spot where Theo Walcott gets a chance up front alone or as part of a front 3 with Alexis and Olivier Giroud.  Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, a starter in the opening match, is another option, wide right.  The partnership of Ramsey, starting from that spot but clearly in a free role, though with an eye to combine with Bellerin–and help him at the defensive end–doesn’t fit with many fans more rigid ideas about positions and formations, but, I think, serves our purposes best, especially in these tougher, tighter matches.  Here then is the team I believe Wenger will put out.

Bench = Ospina, Debuchy, Gibbs, Gabriel, Arteta, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain

Of course, Wenger may have some other tricks up his sleeve and he might be keen to try out some other options just to avoid being seen as too predictable too early in the season. Could there be some changes elsewhere in the line-up?  Might Captain Mikel Arteta–who looked a calming force late on at Palace–get a start in place of Coquelin?  Could Wenger change things up in the back line or try something really off the wall?  Your guess is as good as mine, but–even if we’re not quite firing on all cylinders–I believe this line-up, which, except for Cech in as keeper–is the same as we played in April, seems unbroken enough to avoid fixing.

But, that’s just me.  What say the (other) Would-be-Wengers?  Is this a time to keep to a conservative approach (and line-up) or is it early enough in the season to give it a real go and show the players and fans that the opener was just a one-off and that we can take it to a bigger club like Liverpool?  Should the manager stick with tried and true or go younger and deeper (not to mention faster and harder… :) …) from the opening kick?  Have at it… After all, somehow we have to make it through the rest of the weekend and all the way to Monday night before we see the real thing.

by 17highburyterrace

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Time for Gedion Zelalem to enter the stage

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Most of us are hoping for one more quality addition. Let us not make the mistake to think the boss is not looking at who is, or could become, available out there. He likes a bargain and to get one, timing is crucial. The paradox is that the nearer we get to the end of the transfer window the bigger the chance we will end up with a player: a little time left is much better than a lot. It is much easier to catch a mouse when its backside is against the wall. And wouldn’t it be great if the transfer window lasted just 48 hours twice a year?

The club knows which players are available and which clubs need to balance the books, but as long as there is time left in the transfer window, negotiation power is with the seller rather than the buyer; and on the last day this changes dramatically. However, it is not without risk and we could end up with nothing or a second/third choice option.

As per 17HT’s last post, it is crucial to only add a player who fills a gap, or increases the overall quality of the team. Shop therapy is not for Arsene and we can consider ourselves lucky that he has this attitude. It is all about balance and our squad is really good as it is: only something special will improve it.

The one big strength – our USP- we have to offer is ‘growth from within’. Nobody else in the top six comes anywhere near us in this respect. And as we have seen in the past with the likes of Ajax and Barcelona, growing a team based around a strong philosophy and the right mix of talent and experience can be a fantastic formula for positioning a team at the very top for a long period.

Arsene has only been able to keep his best players for a few years now. I don’t think it is a coincidence that we have won a couple of FA cups, and two Charity Shields from our oil-doped rivals, in the same period.

Seeing Coquelin and Bellerin come through to the top team is something that most of us enjoy. Yet, it is something that very few top clubs try out anymore. Arsene now builds his team on the basis of growing the team from within, for which he is prepared to take a bit of risk, and add experience quality when required – the Monreal and Debuchys of recent years – and occasionally the world class that becomes available… Ozil, Alexis, and yes, Cech!

It is great that we will be able to see this new Arsene revolution unfold in front of us and that we support a club that can do this. We can expect to see him build further on a very good core team which is on average young enough to grow further to one or more levels in the next few years.

I am not sure whether we will see any up and coming players come through this season. Having had two progressing last season, it is unlikely to be repeated for a while. And with Arsene letting so many of the youngsters go on loan this season seems to support this.

The one who still has not gone out on loan as far as I know, but was linked with a loan move to Glasgow Rangers this week, and who could be this season’s breakthrough youngster for me, is Zelalem. I don’t think he will have an impact like Coquelin or Bellerin  had last season, but he could definitely add something to our team. I reckon it is time to give him more time in our Arsenal first team. With Wilshere and Rosicky regularly injured and Ozil needing a rest now and again, I reckon the young German-American should get an opportunity to show us what he has got. He might almost be as exciting as a brand new signing… almost! ;)

So my tip to make progress from within our team is Gedion; but what do you think fine fellow Gooners?

Written by: TotalArsenal.

 

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Thinking Through Thursday–Transfers? Tinkering? Tough Talk?–Tell The Truth

PLEASE!!!

“Benzema Transfer Complete!”  “Arsenal bid 50 Million for Star Stiker–not Benzema!”  “Big European Club (or at least the 3rd club in Istanbul…) in for Ozil!”

Again…PLEASE!!!

Where does this stuff come from?  Why is there a market for it?  What the hell is going on here?

What is TRULY going on at Arsenal?  Are we done in the market and set for the season?  Other teams are signing players (and winning their matches), mustn’t we match them?

What is Wenger Thinking?!?

We have to wait until Monday for our next (big, huge, season-defining) match, so maybe it’s a little early to start dissecting that one.  (So, instead, we can–try to–dissect the torture, er, transfer window…)  It will be a big one, of course, as Liverpool are a strong team and will want to take advantage of our wobbly–if not non-existent–home form.  At the same time, as they already sit on 6 points, having eked out a couple of 1-nil victories in their first two matches, it’s one they will probably approach with a nothing-to-lose mentality.  Arsenal, on the other hand, have no such luxury and, must approach it as (another) “Must-Win” match.

Why?  Because of our “inactivity” in the market and our millions of pounds in the bank.  If we’re so good, the logic goes, why aren’t we crushing our (lowly) opponents OR improving the team through the market?

The answer is…wait for it…because…the logic is flawed.

Unfortunately, the team with the better individuals doesn’t always win AND stocking up on even more good players doesn’t always translate to instant success.  (It’s also bad for the game, but maybe that’s another topic entirely…)

The best example might be in our own team!  So far we’ve made one signing, goalkeeper Petr Cech, and what has he done?  Cost us points!  How many more signings (and how many more points dropped) can we afford?

I jest, of course, but I do believe there is some truth in there.  Signings in the transfer window can add quality and competition for places (depth) but they cannot be seen as ends in themselves.  Players are humans, after all, and–no matter how much they cost–they come with human frailties. It should also be noted that players who transfer–at least from the biggest clubs–do so because they’re not having success (or getting enough playing time) at those clubs.

Cech has looked less than fully confident and goals against have been the result.  Talk from the defenders is that they need more time to work together and learn how to play as a unit. The talk in pre-season was that Cech would net us a dozen extra points.  The talk now is that he owes us 15.

Like I say, when you look at it this way, it’s not about all that money in the bank, it’s about dropping points by trying to integrate new players (people, with their proclivities and personalities)… The season has barely started, but, again, how many more signings can we afford?… :D

It’s always tempting to believe a new piece to the puzzle will solve our issues.  But is that really what’s going on here?  What about some of the (other) pieces we’ve retained?

They may be less exciting, but could the contract extensions–or players we’ve kept–be puzzle pieces which might just work a treat?  Theo Walcott was the big one, but his extension was announced alongside one for Santi Cazorla.  Last Spring, Captain Mikel Arteta, despite a campaign mostly lost to injury, also had his contract extended.  My hunch is that all three of these players will play significant roles for Arsenal this season.  (Jack Wilshere, another mooted for a huge money move and Tomas Rosicky, gaining further football years through injury, could also contribute if their fitness issues resolve.)

Already, Santi has looked very good reprising his deeper lying role next to Francis Coquelin at the rear of our midfield, and, when Coquelin looked a worry for a second yellow card at Crystal Palace, bringing in Arteta to play alongside Santi seemed to settle things and allow us to see out the victory.  Walcott has yet to feature as a starter (and didn’t add much as a substitute in the disappointing opener vs West Ham) but the Liverpool match might be his chance.  It’s pretty amazing to think that we’ve got a player who would have commanded a large fee (on top of the large salary he has garnered) biding his time and waiting for his chance.

In other words, it may be boring, but (I believe) this Arsenal team is not far off.  Do I think we could add quality and depth and competition for places by dipping into the market?  Yes, yes I do.  Maybe.  Probably (in a position or two, but perhaps at the cost of squad unity and confidence).   Should we be freaking out just because Chelsea and Man City are completing deals (Pedro Rodriguez and Nicolas Otamendi were just announced–so much for ‘financial fair play” rules) and Manchester United, Liverpool and Spurs are sure to roll the dice again before the window closes?  No, I don’t.  Is change for the sake of change what supporters need?  Is the grass always greener?

In truth, I think it is possible to burn your lawn by adding too much of the rich stuff.  Thank Dennis the deadline day is (finally) in sight.  If we can find value for money for players who will add REAL quality and depth to the squad (and fit into the strong team dynamic) there could be a trigger (or two) to be pulled.  Otherwise, I say it’s time to stand behind the team as it’s already comprised (including new signing Cech and the lads who’ve had their contracts extended) and shun the hit-whoring sites ‘announcing’ (or announcing announcers announcing) about the new mega-signings.

In other words let’s just focus on the football, boring as it may be.  It’s a long season and one which can only be played a match at a time.  As we’ve seen, there will be disappointments and there most certainly are no guarantees.  Transfers are the ultimate distraction and the balm or medicine (or suppository) supporters seem to require these days.  I’m not buying it, and I hope AW isn’t either.  Only 11 days of the Torture, er, Transfer window remain, and I cannot wait for it to close.

But that’s just me.  What say you on this Thursday?  Do we need a torpedo (of a signing–or two, or three) to spice up things–or can we take the torpor?  Is the squad strong enough or must we add to it?  What’s your take on these dog days of August, the window and the season in its nascent stages?  It’s already been a long week and we don’t play again until after the weekend.  Help a Gooner make it through…

Cheers!

by 17highburyterrace

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