How successful do you want Arsenal to be?

Time for Rosa and his smile to return to first team?

 

This will sound a very odd question, but how successful do you want Ársenal to be?  There are millions of supporters in every corner of the globe all craving glory.   Every Arsenal supporter would like our team to win everything in sight, and it would be fantastic to see it.  It would be tremendous if we did it again the following season and a fantastic achievement.  However, if we would do it for a  third season, would it become a little boring?  During the majority of my life Rangers and Celtic won nearly every competition domestically and, frankly, it became very dull.  More power to Motherwell, Stenhousemuir etc.

In my view, in order to get great pleasure out of winning, you need to lose a few along the way.  Now this may sound like blasphemy to most Gooners, but I think many will agree with me.  Take the night Michael Thomas scored the title winning goal at Anfield.  Without doubt, one of the greatest moments in my life.  Incidentally, for anyone who hasn’t seen it, the film Fever Pitch follows an Arsenal supporter during the run in to that glorious season.  I can tell you from experience that the character played by Colin Firth could well have been me.  Now, if we won the league every season it would certainly diminish the magic… Well for me anyway.

I guess where I am going with this, is that football is nowadays determined by money.  I would be very surprised if the top four next season does not consist of Ársenal, Chelsea, United and City (hopefully in that order).  This, I am sure, represents the four richest teams in the country.  I would also be surprised if the second tier didn’t include Spurs, Liverpool and Everton.  The bottom four will no doubt include at least two of the promoted sides.  In short, it has become very predictable.

Now whilst it’s great that my beloved team are in the top tier, I for one would really like to see a fringe club (excluding Spurs of course), such as Everton, win something.

Of course, in order to be successful in Europe, it’s imperative that the current situation is maintained, as no one out of the current top four would have a snowball’s chance in hell ( even if they could qualify).

So I find myself in somewhat of a quandary.  Of course I want Ársenal to win everything, but at the same time would welcome changes to make the domestic game more open.   Under the current scenario, short of mega rich owners buying a team and pumping in many millions, nothing much will change.

Having said all this, it does make you realise what a fantastic job Wenger and the Arsenal management have done in maintaining that top four status for so long.   During that time we have moved to a fantastic stadium, and, in the main, played very attractive football.   When you consider the sums of money that other sides have squandered trying to break into the elite, it makes it all the more impressive.

So, in summary, lots of success to our team, but I would certainly welcome measures to even up the playing field domestically.

By Retsub

Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments

The Three Steps to Become Title Contenders

Alexis and Giroud are of vital importance.... do we have adequate cover, though?

Alexis and Giroud are of vital importance…. do we have adequate cover, though?

So the season is over and we are basking in the glory of another FA cup, a prize won by Arsenal more than any other club. The difference between Arsenal’s victories in the two cup finals could not have been much bigger. The first one was nervy and needed a mighty turnaround, but the last one was very professional, with clear signs that Arsene is getting nearer to his next established top team. We are strong in all areas and we have a squad of players with individual growth potential: so many are likely to make further progress next season. Ozil, Rambo, Jack, Alexis, Theo, Gibbs, Bellerin, Ollie, Coquelin, Ox, Welbeck, Szczesny and a few others: all are likely to become stronger and sharper. But key will be to give them plenty of opportunity to play and not to stifle them with buying too many new top players.

Arsene will have to decide what to do next: allow for intrinsic progress of these talented players, add established top quality players, or a mixture of both. He has money in his pockets and the fans like to spend, spend, spend, so the temptation is there, but is it the best thing to do for the team? The combination of recent successes – FA Cup and straight qualification for CL football – would suggest to opt for building further on what we have. If either Jack, Welbeck or Ox have a Ramboesque breakthrough season, and the rest make a step improvement, we can win the league without having to buy any more players. But of course, this could also backfire; it is not without risk…

BFG, Cech, Koz, Santi, Nacho, Rosa, Flamini and Debuchy can be the experienced players to give us stability and backbone.

For me, three things are key to make further progress:

Firstly, we need more goals from midfield. We need more from Jack, Santi and Mesut and the question is whether we have enough fire power with these three. Rambo, fit and in form, will get goals; Jack has made progress but has been injured too long to make a proper judgement, and Mesut still needs to find a better balance between being an enabler and finisher. With Ollie in the holding striker role, we have been over reliant on Alexis to benefit from his services. We will need a better spread of goals throughout the team.

Secondly, Theo’s long absence has not helped here, but it looks like Arsene does not want to play him on the right anymore. Walcott is not strong enough defensively and looks like the ideal Plan B striker next season. This, in my opinion, is the spot Ox should be claiming, but a mixture of defensive frailties and lack of goals are not helping. I love the guy but am not sure whether he will make it: he really needs to make a step improvement next season.

Thirdly, we need to be able to bounce back straightaway if and when key players, like Giroud, Ozil, Alexis, Coquelin, Cech and Rambo get injured. I reckon we have quality cover in the team for most of these players but especially up front we are vulnerable to injuries to Alexis and Giroud, and many of us will argue that an injury to Coquelin will also leave us exposed.

So, there you go fine fellow Gooners, which three steps do we need to take to make us proper title contenders next season?

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 29 Comments

What to do with Theo Walcott?

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Is it me, or has it been really quiet around Theo recently? As far as I can tell, there have been no more contract talks, or if there have been any, it is all been kept rather quiet. Arsene left Theo on the bench for a lot of games at the end of last season and only played him from the start for a meaningless game and the FA Cup final. He did well in both games and especially the all-important opening goal at Wembley, a few minutes before the end of the first half, was of great value to the team.

It must be make-or-break time for Theo in the coming season. He has plenty of talent albeit it with limitations; but the good thing about Walcott is he works his strength really well and is quietly very self-confident. Having been injured for a whole year has not done his career much good, and how many of us believe he is physically strong enough to last a whole season? I have my doubts and I reckon Arsene might also be pondering whether to keep him or not. Ultimately, consistency and reliability are important; especially if you want convince the manager that the CF role should be yours.

Theo is not an all-round winger, as he relies on launching himself onto through balls and is not a dribbler. His speed is of course a great weapon, especially when there is space and the likes of Ozil, Santi, Jack and Alexis are there to pick him out. But we are often denied space and he struggles with being a focal point in the box. Having said that, he moves well and if and when the ball falls to him there is fearlessness as well as deadliness in him, which reminds me a bit of Prince Poldi. That is his other main strength; directly followed by a very decent first touch.

So his qualities are his speed, cold-bloodedness in front of goal and a decent first touch; but he is injury-prone, does not offer much defensively and lacks some key attributes of a classic CF. If Arsene really wants him to stay at Arsenal for many years to come, I reckon Theo will be signed up with a new contract this summer. And, after being out for so long, I really hope it is not Walcott who is holding back this process by being unreasonable regarding his package.

For years I have defended Theo: his assists and goals per game stats have been, and still are, impressive and he was still young. But I am starting to think it is time to let him go unless he unequivocally commits to Arsenal and works his socks off to really demand a place in the first eleven and help carry the team towards even better silverware.

So over to you fine fellow Gooners: what to do with Theo Walcott?

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 16 Comments

Cech is a Gunner – Welcome to the home of football, Petr!!

Welcome to your new home of football, Petr

Welcome to your new home of football, Petr

Well it was finally confirmed this afternoon. Petr Cech, one of the best goalkeepers ever to have set foot on these fine shores, has joined the mighty red and white. Although I feel a little sorry for Ospina, who has done almost nothing wrong since replacing the Pole between poles, Arsenal have made a very, very good addition with Cech. Not only does he bring tons of experience, including that all important one of having won the title and CL so he knows what to say to his team mates when the nerves hit the roof, he also will have given himself a new lease of life by joining Arsenal; and the club can only benefit from it. I don’t need to tell you how long he has been a Chav, the medals and number of golden glows he has won, and how important a player he has been for club and country: the Czech signing is on a par with getting Ozil and Alexis, as I expect a similar impact on the team and our performances.

There are very few Chavs I would ever consider donning the shirt, but Cech is definitely one of them. His calm and organisational skills, combined with his technical ability make him the ideal goalkeeper for us. It will allow us to replace the BFG more regularly, as Cech can lead the more energetic CBs of Koz and our ‘Brazilian Keown’, Paulista, in front of him. But the combination of Cech-Koz-BFG will also hold a lot of experience and calm – a fine base for the rest of the team to build on. We all know that Per is not the perfect CB as he lacks pace and turns like a Giraffe on ice, but his organisational and positioning skills are of the highest quality. With Cech we finally have cover for the BFG, albeit in a different position.

I am no expert on goalkeepers and it positively has always been the last position I wanted to play in, but Cech is certainly an improvement on both Ospina and Szczesny. The former is also calm and organised but his lack of height is a disadvantage that sooner or later is going to be exposed; the latter has plenty of qualities but his lack of concentration, especially in those games in which he has very little to do but also in the top games, has been a problem for a long time now. Yes, Wojciech is still young and will undoubtedly improve, but he has not pushed on enough to make himself our nr1 GK again any time soon. If we want to move on to the next level, a top quality nr.1 goalkeeper is a must. And with either Wojciech or Ospina we have very good nr.2s, although they might both decide to leave this summer…

I have no doubt that Petr Cech will also make mistakes now and again, as he is definitely not perfect. But what he will add will be considerably more than we have now: calm, organisation, experience and, above all, personality. Not so much the in-your-face personality, but more that of a quiet, ultra-confident giant.

I am sure all our players will welcome him with open arms but have no doubt that Rosicky is the happiest of them all: maybe he realises now why Wenger would not let him go this summer! :)

Welcome to the home of football, Petr; let’s hope you give the ‘Fabianski-curse’ to your former team! ;)

By TotalArsenal.

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A goal/assist every 103 minutes: can we really let LP09 go?

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Lukas Podolski just turned thirty, yet he has played 125 senior games for Germany (48 goals), and 321 club games (114 goals) already. I find it weird to believe that he is only thirty as it feels he has been around forever. Yet, he has a number of good years ahead of him and could still play a vital role at Arsenal.

During his three seasons at Arsenal, Prince Poldi has played 4000 minutes for the mighty red and white and amassed 39 goals (27) and assists (12) for us; that’s a goal or an assist in every 103 minutes on the pitch. I understand why Arsene allowed Lukas to go out on loan to Inter this season: the German wanted to play regular football, which is commendable, and we had Alexis on the left wing playing superbly. Yet, I reckon we missed him, especially in our two games against Monaco when we needed a super-sub to come and get us a goal.

To be successful, we need a super-sub who can come in and do a cold-blooded job in a short period of time. For example, we had Wiltord who scored 44 goals in 173 games between 2000 and 2004, and before that Davor Suker who scored 8 important goals in 22 matches.

I cannot think of a better candidate for this role than our Prince. When the pressure is on to get an equaliser or a winner, time is running out and the next decent chance will need to be converted, we will want it to fall to LP09’s left foot: It’s precise, powerful and deadly. He is also a good passer of the ball which is partly reflected in his impressive assists tally.

Theo was used regularly last season as a late super-sub, but he hardly had an impact on the games. Sanogo and Wellbeck are options but for me they are not efficient/clinical enough to really make a difference. Wenger might be after another quality, more all-round attacker this season: one who can play on the wing as well as in the centre and is better equipped to help out defensively as well. If this is the case, Lukas will likely be let go, as that player might also take on the super-sub role.

Yet, if we can afford it, we should have a proven super-sub on top of Giroud, Alexis and whoever we will get. For me, it is a no brainer to keep Lukas but key is that Wenger re-motivates him to accept the role of super-sub and be part of something big. Maybe the German’s disappointing stint at Inter will have helped him to reassess his options and accept his faith. Both Arsenal and Lukas would benefit tremendously if this were to be the case imo.

But what do our fine fellow blog-Gooners think?

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 25 Comments

Samir Nasri could be our new Freddie Ljungberg

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“Samir is a student of football – he lives for the game. He loves training and watches game after game on TV. He uses things he has seen to help correct mistakes in his own game. When you genuinely love football this is what makes the difference.” Giles Grimandi on Nasri.

Samir Nasri turns 28 today and that is some age to have when you are a footballer. For most players, their 28th, 29th, 30th and 31st years are usually their best ones: their bodies are stronger than ever, their fitness is still at peak level and a lot of experience has been accumulated. Add to these three factors great technical and mental ability, and you have a player at the top of their game.

A few years ago, before the CL final between Bayern and Dortmund, Wenger stated that Bayern would be the likely winners as they had the most 28 and 29 year olds in their team. Luckily, Arsenal have shifted the average squad age upwards in recent years and this is one of the reasons we are now winning trophies again.

But back to the Marseille-born Frenchman of Algerian parents for whom we once had such an energising song. He has been at Citeh for four years now and his career has stalled. Unable to hold on to a first team spot, he has warmed the bench a lot season after season, with on average 28 games per season, of which many as a substitute (last season he averaged 65 minutes per game played). The rival Citeh fans have not warmed much to him either.

In his last season at Arsenal, he scored a PL goal in every three games – 10 in total – but this season he only managed two goals in 21 PL games (but with a respectable six assists). Whereas he managed to score 18 PL goals in 86 games for Arsenal, Nasri has only scored 16 PL goals in 113 games for the Northern Oilers. Instead of making progress, he has performed worse in the city where it always ‘rains’ – an anagram of ‘Nasri’ – and it looks like he is stuck. He now enters the last year of his five-year contract and he appears to be reassessing his football life and next options.

Recently, he has come out with unveiled praise for Arsene Wenger, who he regards as the best manager he worked under. This is what he has been quoted on saying: “I’m close to Arsene Wenger, I’ve always said he is my football father, and I wouldn’t just say that. He did a lot for me. He made me the player I am and is someone who’s been really important for my career”. At Marseille, Nasri had five managers in a relatively short spell at senior level, followed by Arsene, Mancini and Pellegrini, so, given the large number of potential ‘football fathers’, this statement is not without merit.

It almost seems like Nasri is building bridges, which would of course be a clever – or should that be calculated? – move given his need to start planning his future again… for which a good reference is always crucial. Or maybe, he is hoping for a return to the home of football.

Many see him as a mercenary, with a calculated commitment to the clubs he plays for and only interested in earning as much money as possible; and the speed and the way in which he moved to Citeh certainly suggests that moneygrubbing is his main aim in life. But then there are the words of the wise Grimandi, who saw in Nasri someone who lives and breathes football with a genuine love for the beautiful game… which does not sound like the description of a mercenary.

I am a firm believer in giving people chances and that, if we are lucky enough, life offers opportunities to learn from mistakes, to complete phases, and to re-find, to reinvent or re-launch oneself. Successful people need talent, focus, drive and hard work to get to the top, but just as important is room for doubt and humility. The latter two help to make the paradigm jumps and evolve from one phase to another.

I don’t think Nasri is the brightest spark in football and neither is he a likeable character, but I also understand that at 24 years of age he was susceptible to bad advice and prone to making mistakes. There is still a great footballer to come out of him but time is starting to run out.

Would we want him back, though?

We have space for him on the right side where Arsenal have a vacancy. He could be our ‘Freddie Ljungberg’ of this era, with a similar skillset, ability and goal to game ratio. Nasri would also be a good alternative on the left wing and behind the striker. But, as a club we have moved on considerably now and we only have space for top, top quality players going forward. We need somebody next to Ollie and Alexis who can score 12-16 PL goals a season and work his socks off in supporting the right FB and midfield colleagues, as per Arsene’s system of play. This is not Theo and Ox is not ready yet.

Could Nasri be this player now he is reaching his peak years?

I reckon he could but it would require him turning his perceived calculated commitment into a passionate one once again, and play for the team and to be willing to give his all to reach his full potential.

Wenger took back another Marseille youth development product, Flamini, after being left in the lurch by him, so it would not be completely inconceivable for Nasri to return next, or even this, season. Still, it is only a small chance and I would only want it if Nasri really, really wanted it, and Wenger would give the move his blessing.

By Total Arsenal.

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Blast from the Past: 2nd August 1969 – Arsenal v Swindom Town

Some time ago, I buried my large collection of Ársenal programmes in the loft.  All are in very good condition and date back to the late sixties.  I was hopeful that some future grandchild, great grandchild etcetera would value them as much as I did.   So last weekend I decided to look them over, read a few and remind myself of happy days etcetera.

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I found a programme dated 2nd August 1969 for a challenge match against Swindon Town.   No doubt Ársenal were playing a friendly against Swindon to try to purge the memories of being beaten at Wembley by the 3rd division team the previous season.

I have to admit to having no recollection of the match which I almost certainly attended, but I am certainly still damaged by the Wembley defeat.

As we once again prepare for a new season, with expensive transfer deals and great expectation for trophies, I thought it would be worth sharing some information from the Swindon programme, just for a bit of nostalgia.  My oh my, how times have changed!

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Firstly a message from the then Chairman Dennis Hill Wood:

At last I can say [in 1968-1969] that our club has put up its best playing record since 1952 – 1953), I imagine that everyone would agree that the winning of the Championship then was superior to being losing finalists in the League Cup, even though we finished fourth in the Championship table last season!

In the more modern days the means of achieving success are more multifarious than they were in 1953 yet, on the other hand, perhaps the fan is more selective in what he thinks is ‘success’.  Is fourth in the League Table success? Is Runners up in the League Cup success?

We are happy about the progress but, of course we are not satisfied with the ultimate record.  Today it is demanded that the successful club is one which wins something, and let’s face it, we haven’t won a first class trophy since 1953.  Let us hope we do just that in 1970!

I am sure, however, that all our supporters would like to join me and my colleagues on the Board in congratulating the First Team on achieving a place in a European Competition.  This is another standard of success and, although such participation can cause problems in the fixture lists, obviously the players enjoy the continual challenge.

I would also like, particularly, to congratulate the Reserve X11 on winning the championship of the Football Combination last season.  A fine performance.

Welcome back to Highbury, and I hope we all have a happy and successful season.

The other interesting stat was the squad for the new season.  The squad had 26 players covering the following positions.  WF, HB, IF, CF, GK, And Full back.

Of the 26 players, seven were Scots, three were Irish and one Welsh – the remainder English.

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10 were previously apprentices.

Our players back then did not come from all over the world. However, Arsenal did contract players from all over the UK and Ireland, like: Glasgow United,  Coventry City ( Gerry, it was Bobby Gould). Chelsea, Leicester City, Huddersfield town, Bangor, Belfast scouts, Northampton Town, Spurs (Jimmy Robertson) , Dundee, three players came from Possilpark YMCA one from Leslie B C and one was an Arsenal amateur (Bob Wilson)

The programme cost one shilling (5p) and contained details of travel to Leeds for the first away game – second class return ticket to Leeds was £10.50.

How things have changed since then, but great memories for me and hopefully for you too! And if you have any, please share your memories from that time with us.

Written by Retsub.

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