Let the season truly begin!!

Even though the season has begun long back and teams have played 3/4 matches each, the real season cannot begin till the transfer window closes and the shape of the teams becomes crystallized. This especially goes for the teams like Portsmouth who bought around 13 players in the window and sold around 11. So after major or minor overhauls in teams across the premier league and the transfer window finally shut on Tuesday we can now concentrate on football rather than the transfer gossip surrounding the game.

I will be commenting on the dealings in the transfer market of all the major teams and am beginning with the layout for Arsenal.

Arsenal sold its leading goal scorer for the last couple of years to Man City but did not go into the transfer market for any replacement. They also sold Kolo Toure and bought Thomas Vermaleen (who by the way is looking like a really good buy by Wenger) as his replacement.

Arsenal could definitely have done with some more good defensive cover both in the centre midfield and centre half positions and a better keeper should have been secured. I know finding good keepers is not that easy but that cant possibly be an excuse. But you know Wenger, and you should know that he will never agree that the existing squad is not good enough or big enough in spite of selling more players than that come in for the last few seasons at least.

I am not worried about the quality of the team we have. They are all good young players who have great futures ahead of them. What troubles me more is the fact that every year we have a few bad injuries to our players and that’s when we are faced with the apparent question of our squad not being big enough and lacking the depth to compete with our Premier league rivals. Why cant we factor in a few injuries and invest in the squad accordingly before hand?

I remember last season too, in January Fabregas was out and we really missed him bad and the team went on to draw a number of matches in a row  till Wenger eventually bought Arshavin on the last day of the transfer window and given some time he was settled he proved to be a very good signing for us. What I never understood then or even now is why Wenger has to wait till the last day of the transfer window to buy a player of Arshavin’s caliber? What is he waiting for? To get a cut price deal or what? I think that’s a big risk and should not be taken when dealing in the market for players of such high class. You never know when a rival might come in and scupper the deal for you.

Frankly speaking If Arshavin had come to Arsenal at the beginning of January, who knows how that bad run of draws might have turned out and we might even have had a chance at the title. Haggling over a million dollars cost Arsenal scores of points and in the broad scheme of things I really wonder if it was all worth it. I am glad that at least this year Wenger had his eyes on Vermaleen and closed the deal much earlier which gave the new joinee time to mingle with the team and helped his integration in the team to a great deal. The result of which is apparent in his performances from the first match itself.

I remember last summer we were trying to get Xabi Alonso from Liverpool who in turn were trying to buy Gareth Barry. Wenger went in with an offer on the last day of the transfer window which was around a million short of what Liverpool wanted. Around 12- 15 million pounds was the amount speculated then. For a player of Alonso’s class couldn’t we have bought him for what it took? For all you know it would have been us selling him to Madrid this year for more than twice the amount we bought him for. And Last season’s results could have been much different with the Spanish partnership of Alonso and Fabregas in the middle. Anyways, what’s happened has happened. We cannot change that but sometimes it pains me to see Wenger haggle over players of the class of Arshavin, Alonso or Nasri. He is too adamant and sometimes his haggling tactics backfire (like in the case of Xabi Alonso) and the negative impact of the same is very difficult to even calculate. Xabi Alonso was a smaller case to point out. Wenger’s policy has cost us many a good players in the past which includes the likes of Ronaldo (Fergie outbid Arsenal), Eto’o (Was offered by Barca in a swap deal for Henry), Wilson Palcacios who had a trial at Arsenal and we suggested him to Birmingham where he flourished and was snapped up by Wigan only to be sold a year later to spurs for a magnanimous profit.

So for all the shrewd deals Wenger has done over the years, he sure has missed quite a few too. Imagine Ronaldo having come to Arsenal instead of going to Manchester united. The last 3 years the title wouldn’t have been at old Trafford. Henry might not have left Arsenal for Barca and what not. But again we should let bygones be bygones and learn to move on.

One good piece of business Wenger has done in the past couple of years is snatching away Aaron Ramsey from under Fergie’s nose a couple of years ago. Ramsey shows so many glimpses of Fabregas when he was that age. I already think its Wenger’s plan to train young Rambo on the lines of Fabregas and groom him to take over the centre of Arsenal’s midfield before we sell Fabregas to one of the Spanish giants for a record breaking amount in a couple of years.

Arsenal teams looks to have good balance this time of the year especially with not many people out with long term injuries. We could have done with a better keeper I am sure, but Wenger decided to continue with his faith in Almunia. Almunia isn’t bad but he is prone to one off errors which can cost us some valuable points.

Defensively I think we are very well covered especially since Senderos could not be offloaded to any team. I still feel Arsenal should’ve stolen Everton’s deal for Johnny Heitinga and brought him to the Emirates and in the process offloaded Senderos to Everton (who were in dire needs of a defender to cover for Lescott’s departure to Manchester City). I rate Heitinga among the very best defenders available in the market today and he would have been a good backup for Gallas and Vermaleen. Anyways we still have Djourou, Silvestre and Senderos as backup for the centre half position. For Right back we have Eboue as a back up to Sagna and for Left back we have Armand Traore and Kieran Gibbs as backup to Gael Clichy. More than enough coverage I guess. Though the quality drop for the backup compared to the first team is immense at some places.

Given Arsenal’s new 4-3-3 formation. I’d prefer Alexandre Song over Denilson as Defensive midfielder simply because Denilson gives away the ball too easily at times. And I continue to say that Song is fast emerging into a great Defensive midfielder for Arsenal. Arsenal recently tied Bendtnar and Denilson to long term contracts and I hear one with revised terms is on the cards for Song too. Denilson can play in this position as a backup in case Song gets injured etc.

In front of Song I would like Fabregas and Nasri to play. Once Nasri is back from injury I would like to see him flourish playing his favored central midfielder role alongside Captain fabulous. Diaby, Denilson, Ramsey and Merida can play as back up for these positions in the absence of Nasri or Fabregas. Merida looked good when he came on as a substitute in one of the matches and he too recently signed a long term contract with Arsenal. Merida sure has potential and just needs to keep working hard in training to impress the manager for more minutes this season.

For the three forwards I would like Van Persie to play through the centre for the sheer reason of his height. Eduardo/Arshavin can play down the left and Arshavin/Walcott can play down the right. Obviously the front 3 formation is very fluid and they will all keep changing positions so as to make runs into the penalty box. As back up to the wide men we have Rosicky returning from injury, Walcott returning from injury soon, young Jack Wilshere with that sensational left foot of his, Carlos Vela, Fran Merida, Diaby, and Armand Traore etc. As a back up at the centre we have Nikolas Bendtnar who scored some crucial goals for the team last season. Then there are Vela and Eduardo who are natural strikers.

I think the squad has a good depth to it when you isolate each position individually. The problems for Arsenal have been when a couple of players face long lay-offs due to injury and there is not enough quality to fill the gaps.

In spite of all that I still think if Arsenals first team players can remain fit for most of the season and especially the crunch matches then we will have a really good season ahead of us and who knows a much awaited trophy might come our way.

Preferred line up: –

 

                                                        Almunia

 

Sagna                        Gallas                        Vermaleen                  Clichy

 

                                                  Alexandre Song

 

                                     Fabregas                         Nasri

 

 Arshavin/Walcott                                                        Eduardo/Arshavin

                                          Robin Van Persie / Bendtnar

 Subs: – Fabianski, Eboue, Djourou, Kieran Gibbs, Walcott/Eduardo, Bendtnar/RVP, Diaby/Denilson/Vela/Rosicky/Wilshere/Ramsey

All in all I can’t say we need to replace some one in the first team (except the goalie) unless it’s with an established world class player. But the bench sure could have been strengthened to a great extent. But still if this Arsenal team cannot put up a good fight for the title as well in the FA cup and Champions league I am sure to be surprised.

 Go gunners go!!!

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Liverpool 4 Arsenal 4

What a game there was at display. 7 second half goals and yet not a winner…

Arsenal took the lead from a delightful team move following a error by Mascherano. Nasri took the ball and played a measured pass to Fabregas who then set it up for Arshavin to slot it in the middle for the opening goal of the game.

That was the only goal of the first half. Liverpool dominated the half but Arsenal got the lead.

Liverpool came all guns blazing in the second half and scored 2 goals in the first 10 minutes of the second half through some more defensive errors via a Torres header and a scrappy little finish by Benayoun.

Arsenal got the lead again after Arshavin completed his hat-trick by scoring a quick double, the first of which was a stunning finish to blast the ball across Reina’s goal and past him.

Then Arshavin scored a late goal at the stroke of 90 minutes for Arsenal his 4th of the game and the game was all but won by Arsene Wengers team.

But the Arsenal defense which at times has seemed liked one of the worst defenses in the premier league shattered again to allow Benayoun to score the equalizer in injury time.

Arsenal defense including the young keeper Fabianski looked completely below average throughout the game.

I dont understand what Wenger saw in Fabianski and why he has not gone and bought a decent keeper in the summer or at least the January window.

I sincerely hope Wenger buys a good first team keeper in the summer and also a couple of good defenders.

Arsenal might be cursing themselves to have given away 2 points as they gave away the lead three times after leading at 1-0, 3-2 and 4-3.

Well all said and done the amazing run of games for Arsenal in the premiership continues as they are now unbeaten in 19 consecutive league games.

Bendtnar for me was the weak link as he hardly managed to touch the ball all evening. If there is a player who is lazier than Berbatov it will have to be Bendtnar. He just tries to put on a show of moving around but somehow managed to hardly get a decent possesion of the ball even once…

I am not such a big fan of Adebayor and dont regard him all that highly, but after seeing Bendtnar today i have started to realize why Arsenal fans around the globe regard Adebayor as such a great player.

Wenger, please sell Bendtnar, Denilson and Fabianski in the Summer and buy at least 1 good defender and a good Keeper. Another versatile defender might not be so bad i guess…

Arshavin annouces arrival

Arsenal 4 Blackburn 0. Such a scoreline is a rare reading these days for Arsenal fans but thanks to Arshavin’s dazzling performance the same was made possible on saturday against Blackburn.

Arsenal began in such style that i thought this would be one of those matches where Arsenal would score 4/5 goals. Arshavin scored in the 2nd minute itself from a Walcott cross. Walcott’s pace is sure something which was being missed by the side. Though the goal seemed to have come off a Blackburn defender, Arshavin seemed to have claimed it desperately wanting to break his duck for his new team.
Arshavin needn’t have done that though as he would have eventually scored a stunning individual goal to open his real account for Arsenal.

Arshavin scoring a stunning goal for Arsenal
Arshavin scoring a stunning goal for Arsenal

Walcott also sparkled the performance with his livewire pace. He was causing a havoc for warnock on the right side of the Arsenal attack through out the match.
Bendtnar missed a ton of chances as he couldnt get his first touch right most of the time. He contributed well for the first goal though.
Eboue was lucky to have 2 goals against his name. For the first he has to thank Arshavin whose shot rebounded off robinson for Eboue to tap in. For the second goal he has to thank Vela for getting the penalty.
I half expected Arshavin to take the penalty to go on to score his hattrick. But then Eboue stepped up and did a fine job if i may say so. Eboue indeed has been putting in some good performances off late and there seems to be a sense of urgency about him when he is on the pitch. I am in no way saying he is a good player and someone Arsenal should retain. But he is growing and needs to develop a lot more to come up to the Arsenal standard.

Eboue scored a rare brace for Arsenal
Eboue scored a rare brace for Arsenal

Song also has been putting in some good performances off late and deserves a pat on the back. I like Song more in the holding midfield position over Denilson. Lets hope Song continues the good performances and turns into a somewhat Obi Mikel type player for us.

With Aston Villa losing to Tottenham we are now back in the 4th place and in contention for the Champions league spot. We have to thank our bitter rivals spurs for the honor though…:)

We have some really tough last few fixtures of the season, so I say lets finish the challenge of Villa off by winning the next few matches in a row and distancing ourselves off Villa to a comfortable distance.

One last thing. Robin Van Persie did not feature in the match and Arsenal won comfortably. Wonder how he is feeling? He has been the best performer for Arsenal this season and the one match Arsenal leave him out and they are back scoring goals;)
Lets not read too much into it and just hope that he was getting a bit rusty after having a long run of matches without any injuries and this rest will do him good and he comes back with some goals in the next match.
Go Arsenal Go…

Will Arsenal regret not closing the Arshavin deal after dropping points against Everton?

The Arshavin deal has been the most dragged deal of this January transfer window…

A bemused Arshavin! Laughing at Arsenal?

A bemused Arshavin! Teasing Arsenal?

Arsene Wenger knew of his depleted squad much before the transfer window opened. But he waited till it was open and then decided to go ahead with the pursuit of Arshavin. Now the transfer has hit a lot of road blocks, some because the two clubs could not agree on a transfer fee for the player and later it appears coz Arsenal could not afford the wage demands of Arshavin.
Arshavin is a good player, he may not be the best but he sure is a decent lad to have in ones squad to provide the much needed creativity that the current team seems to be lacking in the absence of playmakers like Fabregas and Rosicky.
Form what I have seen of the guy on you tube and in Euro-2008, I was impressed by the mans goal-scoring ability as well as his dribbling ability.
Now if I had the choice I wouldn’t have wasted time haggling over a few millions with Zenith or a few thousand pounds with the player himself, but would have liked to get in the reinforcement as soon as possible.
Arsenal was a club in crisis just before the January window opened and Wenger should’ve addressed the squad’s depleting condition to the earnest. He decided to be his usual adamant self and maybe, maybe cost Arsenal the Champions league place. The fact that Arsenal lost 2 points at such a crucial time when they were behind Aston Villa by 6 as it is and needed to win every match to be able to catch them.
Now as usual Arsenal will keep waiting for Aston Villa and Manchester united to drop points in their pursuit of the EPL title or even the Champions League place.
Its quite sad to see Arsenal trail behind the leaders each season and hope for them to lose or drop points to eventually be able to win the league.
As an ardent Arsenal fan I would love for once to see the other top teams chasing Arsenal and this should happen nearing the end of the season rather than after the first few matches of the season.
I think Arsenal have made a big mistake in letting the Arshavin deal hanging in the air till so late in the transfer window. Maybe Arshavin could have been the difference between a lack-luster Arsenal side which lost 2 points and a creative Arsenal side which could’ve won all 3 points.
Let’s hope they don’t lose any more points and the signing of Arshavin finally goes through before the closing hours of the Transfer window.

I also heard that Man-City has made a bid of 12 million and Micah Richards for Kolo Toure. I say take it Arsene and we can sign a better defender in the summer or even buy a good defensive midfielder like Miguel Veloso or the likes. 12 million after all is a lot of money for a Manager like Arsene Wenger. I also see no point keeping a player like Kolo Toure who is clearly unsettled at Arsenal and who has not been able to deliver his best all season.

Eternal Arsenal Excuse

Been a long time since I posted anything. Had been busy with work et al. But the current Arsenal situation has made it rather irresistible for me to share my thoughts as an Arsenal fan and put out my perspective there.

 

Arsenal have always had issues going into the second half of the season and this time even much earlier and be reduced to chasing the leaders… Has been happening for the last few seasons and without adding numbers to the squad and quality along-with quantity at that, the same will continue for the next few years…

 

Every year you hear Arsene Wenger telling his squad and fans that we will chase and that the other teams that are above them in the table will drop points etc. What I have never understood is that why does Arsenal have to rely each year on the teams above them to drop points, why cant the other teams be the ones chasing Arsenal instead of it being the other way round??? For once I would love to see the other so called big 4 members chasing Arsenal for the top spot in the BPL going into the last few weeks of the season.

 

The reasons and excuses have also been quite repetitive if you ask me. Injuries…

 

What I seriously fail to understand is that can Arsene not for once understand that injuries are part and parcel of football. Any manager would have to factor the same in when planning for a new season ahead and periodically re-assess the situation through the course of the season. Manchester united manages to win Matches and keep clean sheets in spite of Ferdinand being out injured… Why??? Coz they have good replacements in Wes Brown (though currently injured was phenomenal in Manchester United’s double last season), John Oshea and young but extremely promising Johnny Evans. Chelsea can manage to win matches when either Ricardo Carvalho is injured or Terry suspended coz of the quality Alex brings in or the promise displayed by Brainslav Ivanovic. Can we say the same about Arsenal? I sincerely doubt it. First and foremost we need reinforcements and good ones at that so that they can make the likes of Eboue, Denilson, Diaby and Alex song work harder in training so that they earn their place. Arsenal knew before hand that Eduardo and Rosicky are out injured long term and we had lost Hleb, Flamini, Gilberto, Senderos and Flamini in the summer. Don’t you think it was necessary to bring in suitable reinforcements to the squad indeed he just brought Nasri and young Ramsey who has a long way to go but sure shows sign of a great future of Arsenal along with the likes of young sensations Vela and More prominently 17 year old Wilshere. What ensued with such a thin and young squad was not unexpected. To be honest I am not at all surprised to see Arsenal out of the top 4 and heavily depending on other teams to drop points so Arsenal and climb up the table. Teams like Chelsea and Man United can sustain injuries (which are unavoidable) and have still been able to win the league these last few years because of the strength in depth.

 

Well invariably we have first team players injured at crucial points of time which leads us dropping points against newly promoted sides who a team of Arsenal’s stature and quality should be thrashing for goals a plenty left right and center. But yet, we lose points to Hull, Stoke city and company at home which has failed to become the fortress it once was. Yes we have gone to Chelsea and defeated them and managed to comprehensively beat Manchester united at home. But at the end of the day they were just 3 points right? We did lose the same 3 points against Aston Villa, Manchester City, Liverpool and Middlesbrough. All in all we have had 5 losses and 5 draws this season of the 22 matches we have played. Mostly against teams who are languishing in the bottom half of the table. Now the fans have to keep wishing and praying for teams like Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester united to drop points so that we can win the league. It aches to see even Aston Villa above us and we keep hoping they will tumble each week. But what if they do not??? Or what if Arsenal drops some more points??? It’s quite possible if you have Eboue in your starting 11 and no central defender to back up the starting pair of Djourou & Kolo Toure. What if either of the 2 gets injured, who will replace them with both Gallas and Silvestre out for the next few weeks. Alex Song??? I don’t think so. He may have played a few matches last season at centre half and may have excelled too but he has predominantly playing in the centre of the field this season and am not so sure of his ability to go straight and fit in front of Almunia. Silvestre has been one hell of a cheeky buy from Arsene this season and has more than once come to the rescue when either Toure or Gallas has been out injured. But with Arsenal players being so injury prone and adding to that the example as stated above, we do need a tall centre half as a back-up if not to link up as a first teamer to Toure or Gallas.

 

Arsenal is in dire need of a couple of wide players if you ask me. Nasri has done exceedingly well playing at the left of midfield. But he is not a naturally wide player; we could benefit more from his play more as a central Attacking midfielder. Walcott has also done pretty well on the right of midfield but still has a long way to go. He loses possession of the ball much more than he should and his crosses could definitely improve. I know he has huge potential. No doubting that, but he is just 19 years old and has a long way to develop and grow as a player. He can only get better. But since he has sustained a long term injury we have been struggling at the right side of midfield with either Denilson or Diaby or Eboue each trying their lucks and failing barring a few moments of brilliance by some of them (Diaby against Aston Villa where he picked the ball in our own half dribbled through the right passed to another player and ran to the center to receive the ball again an finish majestically well). But overall we have been miserable on the right since the departure of Walcott due to the injury. Arshavin will come and fit in well there is my guess. But what’s startling is that Arsenal are haggling for a few millions and delaying the purchase of any reinforcements. See if you like the player and think he can make a difference, go ahead and take a risk and pay a few Millions more than you think he is worth, those few Million bucks will prove invaluable if the player helps prevent any more loss of points etc. But if you so strongly feel against it, you might as well withdraw negotiations and look for alternatives. No point wasting time on unrealistic targets that might or might not come, rather aim realistic ones. Another perturbing fact is that we knew Walcott and Fabregas were injured long term much before the January transfer window was supposed to open. Still we had to wait till after the window opens to start negotiations for Arshavin. If we had started checking with his agents and club much earlier we might be realistically looking at alternatives right now knowing Arshavin was out of our price range. Look at Real Madrid for that matter. I appreciate there policy here. They had bought both Huntelaar and Diarra much before the start of the January transfer window. Thus the players had time to gel with the team and be available right from the start of January. Now if the Arshavin deal falls through and we cannot sign an alternative, I am sure we would be in a pickle again. Vela should then be used on the left and Nasri shifted to right of the midfield. But this would again be a make-shift strategy and we wouldn’t be able to derive the best of either of the players. Vela has impressed one and all in whatever opportunities the youngster has had in Arsene’s playing 11. Arsene should maybe look to get players like Ibrahim Afellay from PSV who has scored lot of goals while playing wide right of the midfield before there popularity and price goes through the roof and they go out of Arsenal’s buying range. Another alternative and French at that would be Hatem Ben Arfa who has been impressive for Marseille this season after moving from Lyon. Both these players are just over 20 years and would be available for much lesser than the 20 million pounds Zenith want for Arshavin.

 

Now we come to Almunia, who is good no doubt. But is he of the class to be playing first team for a team like Arsenal who aims at winning all the competitions it enters into. I’d like to say no and most would agree. He is a great back-up keeper, but not deserving of a regular First team place in a team of Arsenal’s quality. We need a much better keeper and immediately at that. Someone like the Russian Akinfeev or the German Manuel Neuer should be good and young and should go to serve Arsenal a long way. Another thing to notice here is the fact that Manchester united would soon be out to find a replacement for the aging Van der Sar. So rather than missing out on a target later to our top rival its better we act fast and get the Goalkeeper we want ASAP.

 

These immediate reinforcements apart, I would love to see a couple of really world-class players at Arsenal like the Werder Bremen’s creative midfielder Ribas Diego, or their promising center half Per Mertesacker, or the Barcelona teen sensation Bojan Krkic etc. But I know all these are for wishful thinking. If Arsene does enough to increase the Quantity of the squad along-with Quality, I will be more than happy.

 

More updates later, let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope that at the least the Arshavin deal goes through. Long live Arsenal…