Arsenal Transfers: A Protest against the ‘Everything was Bad under Wenger’ PoV

Arsenal: Transfer woes to transfer wow

Recently, I wrote a comment on how this transfer window was being celebrated in contrast to TWs past, by writing an alternate world where Wenger was manager and we made the same transfers in the same time frame, saying it would be viewed very differently.

Many seemed to like the post even as they disagreed that Wenger being in charge would have changed their perception of it. That might be true, but I am certain the overall narrative would not be as positive.

As far as I’m concerned, our transfer woes were always overplayed, and our achievements underplayed. This was true of the football and results as well.

Some people went back to as far as 10 years ago for how they were frustrated by obvious needs not being filled. The overall context of where we were as a club seems forgotten, or at least not as important.

Just to reiterate what it was, we had to make money from the transfer market. Everyone knows this, even if they choose to ignore it. But I think one aspect that is forgotten is how difficult it was to replace players.

We tried to buy players who were clearly better and would have taken us up a notch. We matched Hazard’s transfer price. Likewise with Gotze and Phil Jones.  We saw something in these players that would have taken us up a level and were willing to pay a huge (at the time) fee for them. But we couldn’t match the offer on wages, and we were less attractive as a club than the likes of Chelsea, ManU and Bayern.

This willingness to spend was drowned out by the shouts of spend some money mob (egged on by the media) calling Wenger and the club misers.

But another aspect which is, to my mind, less acknowledged, is that we also went for players a rung below. Players like Kevin Mirallas, Phil Jagielka and Jan Vertonghen. These guys filled a need for us and we represented a step up for them in terms of money and prestige. But they chose to not join us because they felt we were too good for them to be able to play regularly, and not enough of a step up to justify being backup. Or they just didn’t want to move.

In this situation we would often decide not to buy anyone. (Wenger’s top top top quality comments which seemed to infuriate people) unless it was absolutely essential (Like when we bought Gervinho) Why?

The answer comes 2013 onwards. The summer of Ozil. We could buy the best playmaker in the world because:

  1. We signed a new major sponsorship deal as the old one expired
  2. We hadn’t wasted our money on very tiny marginal gains by players who would not have elevated us from top 4 to top 2 or champions

(and if anyone says Ozil wasn’t needed they weren’t paying attention)

Hence those needs not being fulfilled was not a disaster, but a combination of necessity and wise planning.

Since then, we’ve had some great signings like Alexis and Xhaka. And some shrewd pickups like Chambers, Welbeck, Cech, Elneny , Holding and I would argue, Debuchy. Moving on from the likes of Djourou, Vermaelen, Fabianski, Chamakh, Gervinho, Podolski and an aging Sagna.

By most measures, we were being constantly upgraded. With one exception. The summer window of 2015/16. The summer of Cech. It was very obviously a gamble to not add a midfielder and a striker. I think there were rumours of our interest in Lacazette even then. Maybe he wasn’t ready to move at this stage, but I was surprised and disappointed that we didn’t buy anyone else. I think Wenger looked at his squad vs the rest and believed we were good enough to win. And you know what, he wasn’t wrong. We were good enough. We finished above the major powerhouses, and despite Leicester’s unexpected performance, we really should have won the league. Except our finishing was just terrible. Ozil was well on his way to easily surpassing the assist record but, somewhere along the way, we just couldn’t find the goals. Also, despite beating Leicester with a last minute Welbz header to get within 2 points of them, we then couldn’t keep pace.

I think that was the beginning of the end for Wenger. The team fell apart. Alexis started to play Alexis-ball instead of Wengerball or Arsenalball. Elneny, Xhaka, Mustafi represented a new direction which would take time to develop and this was incompatible with an Alexis dominated team, who was seemingly incompatible with Giroud and had issues with Ramsey too. Our play suffered, and we no longer looked slick. We also ended up missing out on the top 4 two years in a row. Maybe if we had managed to sell Alexis and buy Lemar last season, we would have done better.

I don’t mean to blame Alexis. (Maybe a little). He was clearly a hugely talented player. But for whatever reason, we were no longer a good fit and we suffered for it. And so, a new transfer team were brought in and halfway through the season we decided on a new rebuild, starting from the attack. This summer we’ve completed the job. And fans are happy. Which is good.

I like that we operate with a GM/DoF type model now. I am happy that we are buying the sort of players we have bought. I hope we will still see young players coming through and given chances, and it seems we will. The reason I brought up the parallel universe was to protest against this ‘everything was bad’ implication, because I believe that nothing has fundamentally changed at Arsenal in terms of our transfer philosophy. These are exactly the sort of signings we would have expected under Wenger too. So, if and when it doesn’t all go swimmingly, I would hope fans don’t turn on Emery or the club in a way that they did on Wenger. We need to keep the positivity going.

By Shard

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The Auba-Laca Goal Machine is Ready to Rock: but Who to Sacrifice in Midfield?

UNAI AND THE DEADLY PAIR OF AUBA AND LACA.

The signing of Auba in the winter window left us wondering about Lacazette’s fate. Top strikers both, we wondered if they would be played together or singly or if the arrival of Auba was the end of Laca as an Arsenal player. The latter fear has somewhat subsided, but how they are going to be used remains uncertain. Meanwhile the two have struck up a great relationship off-field dousing any worries that they are going to hate each other’s guts. Certainly, Emery would never have to be invited to decide who between them takes the penalty kicks should they be played together.

Who, really, are these two friends?

AUBAMEYANG (the extrovert) is a goal poacher extraordinaire. Bet on him to be at the right place, right time. To behold his game at its best is to watch his movement without the ball and to see how they (him and the ball) repeatedly rendezvous in goal scoring prime positions. Nobody scores more goals from the six yard box. Each time, it looks a happenstance. His ability to do it over and over again tells us it’s genius.

LACAZETTE (the introvert) loves a clean strike, the type that gets the net rippling. But he is much more than that. He is a team player. A hard worker. An angry man on the pitch. Emery will love him.

While Auba seeks spaces, Laca seeks the ball. Auba is cunning, is stealth, is able to vanish from the opposition radar. Laca is fiery, likes to tangle, to get in the faces of opponents. Auba hovers, never far away from the shoulders of the defenders. He is patient. He knows one moment is enough and that it will come. Laca on the other hand is hungry. If the mountain wouldn’t come to him, he would go to it. A little lull and Laca has dropped deep.

Their styles are different but are as complementary as the yin and yang. That’s good news to us and to Emery who prefers a 5-4 triumph to a 1-0 win. A credential that helped land Emery his new job. Mind you, he has recruited Leno, Lichsteiner, Papastathopoulus, Torreira and the young defensive midfielder Guendouzi. Yes, he loves his team scoring plenty of goals but he is working hard that they don’t ship in goals. There isn’t going to be us conceding four goals in a many-goal thriller. 8-0 sounds more like it.

Auba-cum-Laca is like talking about goals galore even though Emery does not intend to use the 4:4:2 formation except in special situations. The few times the two goal merchants played together under Wenger, Auba was moved out wide on the left. Steve Bould on the other hand is convinced that Laca would fit well into the #10 role or out wide with Auba up top. All are viable options but remember that whenever the two play together, a midfielder is displaced. One of say Ozil or Mkhi would have to drop off; otherwise, by its ripple effect, it would be a midfielder down the offensive chain, like a Ramsey or a Xhaka.

The pros and cons of playing Auba and Laca in the same team at the expense of one regular midfielder is for Emery to determine. As a protagonist who loves his team dominating and scoring goals, expect him to play the two together more often than not. We have seen goals from them with Laca top and Auba wide left. Reverse their roles and bet on the goals to keep flowing.

Emery’s typical 1st eleven with the two in the team wouldn’t be far from this:-

4:14:1 FORMATION  (Xhaka dropped). Emery has hinted on this formation as suitable for his pressing needs.

Leno.

Bel.   Papa.  Musti.   Nacho.

Torreira.

Mkhi.   Ozil.  Ramsey.   Laca.

Auba.
_________________________________

4:2:3:1 FORMATION (Ramsey dropped). Emery used this formation at Sevilla.

Leno.

Bel.   Papa.   Musti.   Nacho.

Torreira.    Xhaka.

Mkhi.    Ozil.    Auba.

Laca.
_________________________________

4:3:3 FORMATION (Mkhi or Ozil dropped). Emery used this formation at PSG.

Leno.

Bel.   Papa.   Musti.   Nacho.

Xhaka.   Torreira.  Ramsey.

Ozil/Mkhi. Laca.   Auba.
_________________________________

That’s Auba-cum-Laca for you. Nothing to fault about it. Also, nothing to fault in an occasional tweak that omits one of them for a player from our midfield chain to slot in. We are ready for the high stakes. And remember that Auba-cum-Laca is not an eclipse of our rising star Eddie Nketiah. There are games aplenty.

Can’t wait for ’18/19 season to begin.

By PE.

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Will Ramsey do a Mesut, Alexis or Wilshere on Arsenal?

Three Questions.

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All transfer-in business is done, it seems. Emery says he is happy with the additions to the squad and is now working hard to get the players fit, his ideas for the team to work in practice and to be battle-ready when the season starts in just four weeks from now.

He did say, though, that if a great opportunity comes their way to sign a special player, the club might still add further to the squad. If you ask me, this could be interpreted as anticipating a possible departure of a top player who would have to be replaced with an equally good player. Alternatively, this could mean that there is money in the bank for a one off opportunity to add a top quality player (who wants to come to Arsenal and who would really add something special to the squad). It is a good position to be in with just a month to go till the start of the season.

In terms of the squad, as per Kev’s excellent post yesterday, there are three big question that need to be answered:

  1. Who will leave the club before the end of the transfer window?
  2. Who will be the CB pairing – especially, is Mustafi a first-team player?
  3. The big one: Will Ramsey do a Mesut, Alexis or a Wilshere?

Over to you, fellow bloggers!

My views:

  1. I don’t care that much as I expect this to be fringe players. Welbeck may be sold but I don’t think it will be this summer (January, when clubs often get desperate to get a goal scorer in the team, could be a different kettle of fish). Ospina or Cech. It would not totally surprise me if Bellerin will be sold with AMN and Lichtsteiner filling the R(W)B position. I don’t want this to happen, but it could happen.
  2. I am assuming that Sokratis will be the sure starter in most of our games. Emery wanted to bring in experience and that is what Sokratis offers. We have been yearning for a CB who leads the defence, oozes calm to the rest of the team and is comfortable in the aerial battles (without having to leap like a salmon at full stretch each and every time). But who will be his CB partner? I reckon it will be Mustafi but it would not totally surprise me if Emery will put Holding or Chambers, who just got a new contract, next to the Greek God. Naturally, when Koz returns it will likely be Sok-Koz, but this may take many more months to materialize. My feeling is that Mustafi is a good, Keown-like, very intense defender who needs a calm leader next to him. Sokratis-Mustafi is my guess for the CB-pairing.
  3. Will Rambo sign a new contract now or in the next few months, like Ozil did? Or will he leave this summer or in January like Alexis did? Or will he do a Jack and see his contract out and then leave? It’s hard to say. In terms of character he is more like Ozil, who waited for the right moment and the best deal on the table and then signed the thing. But I am still not sure. I guess it does not really matter too much, as the club will have his services for at least a year if Emery feels he is crucial to the team. But for stability in the squad, it would be good to get this settled sooner rather than later. Whether that will happen depends for a large part on Ramsey.

By TotalArsenal.

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It’s All Change at Arsenal; Unai We Love You Already

Unai’s Brave New World!

This is the first summer since 1996 that Arsene Wenger has not been involved in Arsenal’s transfer business and that takes a bit of getting your head around, because many fans only know Arsenal under Arsene.

No Arsene Wenger this time and as it stands it’s early July and the club has got all or most of it’s business done, not another deadline day shambles, post David Dein,  for us to endure this summer!

On the surface Leno, Sokratis, Lichtsteiner, Torrieira and Guendouzi look very good value for money, but we’ll only know for sure as the season progresses.
With Mertesaker, Cazorla and Wilshere no longer on the clubs books, that finance can be diverted elsewhere, Emery hasn’t sat on his ‘war-chest’; he’s spent as much as he can for as much as he can get, and that’s all we’ve wanted to see for such a long time.

Under Arsene it was so predictable, maybe one deal done early in the summer window and then came the long wait, days became weeks, weeks became months as July slipped away, with nothing on the transfer front despite obvious gaps in the squad.
A contract drama or two to distract us, as players were allowed to run down contracts because important decisions had not been made earlier.

Constant links to players, most of them fiction, but not all of them, as the summer dragged by endlessly until the said players linked to Arsenal  joined other clubs.
Then Arsene would compound his inertia by admitting that he had in fact been interested in said players, increasing the fans’ frustrations. It was a saga played out almost every season after Dein was removed.

Finally, with the season started and those obvious gaps exposed, we had either another fretful deadline day, as Arsene desperately tried to make up for another wasted summer, or he’d splash out for a panic buy, usually on the back of a poor start to the season.

For me, this season has been a breeze, the clubs transfer business being concluded with a sense of urgency, direction and with those obvious gaps attended to.
I’ve found it noticeable that all the signings this summer have been of a more defensive nature: a goalkeeper, two defenders and two defensive midfielders – big personalities with an edge, no more nicey-nicey tiki-taka midfielders.

Everything is currently low profile despite the press scrum. A few training videos to wet the appetite; but mainly it’s serious business at the Arsenal Training Centre.

The summer transfer window closes on August 9th this year and it’ll be the first time in over 10 years that it will pass me by. I won’t give it more than a passing thought save maybe for the odd Arsenal player going out on loan or being sold. Happy days.

By Allezkev

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Emery Just Can’t Stop Buying, but There Is a Plan!

“Hey farmer! When you gonna fix that leakin’ roof?
Ah stranger, when it’s a rainin’ it’s too wet to fix it and when it’s dry it’s just as good as any mans house.” Michelle Shocked

Unai Emery is a man with a plan. With Lacazette, Aubameyang and Mkhi, Arsenal had added high profile, quality players in the previous season, but this summer it has been all about purchases of less-known players. The conclusion must have been that Arsenal is a fine house with all the mod-cons but the roof is leakin’ if and when it rains, and Emery has used this wonderfully hot and dry summer to fix it before the rain and wind return.

Lichtsteiner will fix the hole in the roof over the garage on the right side. Bellerin needed back up and competition, so Emery went for an experienced Swiss ‘rock’ who will provide the perfect cover (if not more).

The back of the house has been leaking goals like no tomorrow last season, so we should not be surprised that Emery added both an experienced CB and a very keen keeper who will want to be our nr.1. Leno will provide direct competition for Cech and is likely to start more games than veteran Cech; Sokratis will add his wisdom and experienced to our porous back four and is likely to start in most of our games. These are great additions and let’s hope they will stop the goal-leaking at the back.

With Wilshere and Cazorla gone and a collective belief that we needed to strengthen the defensive side of our midfield anyway, Emery went for a defensive midfielder with discipline, great ball winning and interception skills, as to plug the holes in our DM-pivot. I am pretty sure that Torre11ra will be paired with Xhaka in a deep-DM-two-midfield in front of the defence. For Uruguay, Lucas played a very disciplined, defensive role but there is more to him: he can go forward and put in through balls and long balls ala Cazorla. I expect him and Xhaka to form a formidable partnership in which either of them can go forward or stay behind. Together they will keep it watertight in midfield.

We also bought a young and promising midfielder from Lorient, Matteo Guendouzi, who may get some PL starts this season if we are to believe Emery. So more competition and cover in midfield for the likes of Xhaka and Elneny (and of course Maitland-Niles), which is of course great news. The key to success for Arsenal is sorting the DM midfield position(s) out and it looks like Emery has just done that.

The key question for me is what is going to happen with Aaron Ramsey? Will he still be playing in the B2B role, and therefore be a competitor for the deep-DM positions, or will he be moved into the hole position? I reckon it is the latter but we need to wait and see what will happen during pre-season and beyond (when Torreira returns from his summer break).

I reckon our first team will look something like this:

submit football lineup

In all areas we will have quality players pushing the 11/13 players above, and that is a good thing. Kola, Chambers, Holding and Koz (when fully fit again) will do that at the back; Elneny, AMN and Guendouzi in the double DM pivot; Iwobi and Guendouzi (?) for the pivotal attacking midfielder in the hole position, and; Perez, Welbeck and Eddie for the attacking positions. Add a couple of youngsters to the mix, as per Kev’s excellent post, and we are ready, baby!

Bring on the new season; the roof has been fixed!

By TotalArsenal.

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New Signings New Combinations: this German-Swiss Combo will Improve Arsenal

With no more Gunners in Russia except the peripheral Danny-boy, Emery will soon have all his players back at the home of club football. There are a number of new combinations I cannot wait to see in action, such as:

  1. Xhaka-Torreira (if indeed the signing of the Uruguayan gets completed);
  2. Sokratis-Mustafi (or will Chambers or Holding get the nod?)
  3. Leno-Sokratis/Mustafi (if indeed Leno gets the nod ahead of Cech)
  4. Nacho-Auba/Mkhi on LW (not strictly a new combination but one that should develop further under Emery)
  5. Lichtsteiner-Ozil.

Licthsteiner-Ozil combo

As the regulars on this blog know I am a great fan of Granit Xhaka. I rate highly his technical/strategic leadership and ability to give shape/structure to a team. I love these sorts of players: Fabregas had a similar shaping influence on previous Arsenal teams, as did the one and only Pirlo for his previous teams.

Xhaka, who is still only 25, was the anchor of the Swiss team as he controlled the game from deep-midfield. Unfortunately, he was less effective against the Swedes, and this was not so much due to the Scandinavians denying him space and time to operate in, as some analysers suggested, but the injury to his new fellow Arsenal mate, Lichtsteiner.

For Xhaka to be as effective as possible from an attacking sense, a team needs very effective wing-players, whether they are traditional wingers (a dying trade) or gazelle-like wing-backs. The Swiss had really strong wing-backs during this WC, and would they have had a quality CF they could have gone very far this time round. The Milan-based Ricardo Rodriguez really impressed on the left (would love him at Arsenal), but it was at the right where Lichtsteiner and the rejuvenated Orc, Xhardan Shaqiri, formed a formidable attacking duo; and from that area most of the Swiss’ quality attacks were instigated.

It is relatively easy to eliminate one dangerous element of a team but it becomes a lot harder if there are two or more elements a defence has to deal with if these are grouped together. Shaqiri and Lichtsteiner had a great understanding of each other and offered something different from the right wing all game long; it was hard for defences to deal with them and they paid for it time and again.

But Stephan Lichtsteiner was suspended for the last-16 game v Sweden and Shaqiri looked a bit tired too. As a result, the Swiss right flank was far less effective, even though the ball ended up there a lot – and this had an impact on Xhaka’s game. Stephan’s replacement, Lang, did not have a good game and weakened the Swiss’ attacking threat considerably.

This made me think about Arsenal’s situation on the right flank. I have been critical of Bellerin’s final ball and general lack of attacking intensity last season, even though he did improve quite a bit in the latter part. The partnership with Ozil was okay but nothing more than that.

Bellerin remains a work in progress and I do believe in him, but I am also very, very happy that we signed a master of a wing-player in Lichtsteiner. Both defensively and in attack Stephan played very strongly for Switzerland, and for one or two years he will be able to strengthen our wing-play and help us get Hector up to the required level,

And having watched the Lichtsteiner-Shaqiri combo being so effective, I am really looking forward to the German and Swiss combining on the right-wing and forming a continuous potent threat from our right wing. We have missed this, even though the ball, not entirely a surprise to me, ended up a hell of a lot of time in that area last season. A lethal thread from both wings will be required to be successful next season, and I am very hopeful that Lichtsteiner and Ozil will turn our right wing in one big assist (and goal) machine.

By TotalArsenal.

 

 

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Amaechi, Saka, Burton, Ballard, Smith-Rowe: 5 Young Gunners to Watch Closely

It’s not often these days that I get the chance to see the Arsenal youth team, or reserves for that matter; life just gets in the way and as most games are played at the training ground or Borehamwood, it’s just not convenient. Popping into Highbury pre-Wenger, to see a Combination game or a Southern Junior Floodlit Cup tie was always a pleasure, for those who worked in London it was simple as well. That was followed up  by being a pre-Internet kind of ITK as you could then tell all your Arsenal mates at work the following day that we’ve got, say, a promising centre half in a 17 year old Martin Keown or an interesting fullback in Gus Ceasar- I didn’t always get it right….

So it was interesting and very enjoyable to watch the FA Youth Cup final between Arsenal and Chelsea and the England games in the Euro U17’s on TV recently, despite Arsenal and England falling at the final hurdle in both competitions.
I came away from both events very encouraged by the 17/18 age group at Arsenal and the prospect of possibly 3 or 4 of them developing into genuine 1st team quality players for the Gunners.

I’ve seen possibly three generations of youngsters coming into the Arsenal 1st team squad en masse, all of them playing significant parts in successful Arsenal teams.
There was the George, Kelly, Rice group who played a central role in Arsenal winning its first league title in 17 years when they took the Double in 1970-71, the Original Double Team no less.

Almost a decade later I saw the O’Leary, Rix, Stapleton and Brady bunch gradually being fed into the 1st team. Those lads had to contend with a dominant Liverpool at the time or I’m sure that they could have won at least one league title. But they were instrumental in 4 major cup finals during 3 seasons in the 1978/80 period.

Move on around another decade and we saw the Rocastle, Adams, Thomas generation who eventually succeeded in knocking Liverpool off of their perch; it was the Arsenal that did it, with two league titles in 3 years, not Man Utd as is the popular folklore.

And so we move on again to today, a gap of time that took in the birth of the Premier League, a more monetarist organisation, wall to wall football on television and online, Arsene Wenger, foreign players, foreign owners, a worldwide and knowledgeable audience of fans, but a steep decline in young player development, until now.

A top German coach (whose name escapes me) when asked, claimed that the best young players in the world are currently English, which the recent results of the England youth teams seem to bear out.

So has the advent of St George’s Park, the English Clairfontane, better quality coaches, the Academy system and good old financial prudence brought about this improvement and where do Arsenal stand in it?

One youngster who caught my eye was Bukaya Saka (17), I saw him perform admirably in both the right-wing and left-back positions. He has excellent close control, a high level of technique and is very fast as well as being versatile, the perfect example of the young, modern footballer no less. He has a great attitude and a top work ethic, yep I liked him.

Xavier Amaechi (17) has a silky smooth style and I love players who glide over the pitch. He has a fantastic technique, an excellent turn of speed, can go outside or inside defenders with equal comfort and has a rasping shot. A lot of development can happen between the ages of 16/17 to 20/21 but if he doesn’t make the grade then I’ll be amazed.

Robbie Burton (18), is a tenacious midfield pit bull without the ball and an intelligent midfield prompter with the ball, I can’t recall him wasting a pass in the two games against a rampant Chelsea. He has a high level of technical ability and plays the box to box role with alacrity whilst also doing an excellent def/mid job. These type of players sometimes pass under the radar as the Smith-Rowe’s and Amaechi’s get all the attention, but every team needs a water carrier or two and he fits the bill.

Northern Irishman Daniel Ballard (18), has had a mixed career at Arsenal. Twice it seemed that he was going to be released only for him to be retained and he eventually ended up as the Youth team captain, echos of Pat Rice perhaps?
He has a great attitude and personality, leads very much in the mould of a Tony Adams, those are attributes that Arsene Wenger recently admitted that he found impossible to replace after Adams and Vieira left. Ballard isn’t just a big lump, he is a proper defender with a lot of ability, skilful on the floor and powerful in the air.
The fact that he overcame the threat of being released twice and remained to still develop his career at Arsenal shows he is a young man of impressive character.
I liked him a lot.

Emile Smith-Rowe is quality, I don’t need to add anything as I think 2018/19 will be his breakthrough season and you can all see for yourself.

I was impressed by others, notably Olayinka (17), M.Smith (17), Daley-Campbell (18) and Thompson (18). Add all those to N’ketiah, Nelson (if he stays?), Osei-Tutu, Dasilva and Willock and the future definitely is a youthful red n white…

By Allezkev

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