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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EPL weekend Preview 04th October 2008

This is going to be a crucial weekend for a lot of EPL teams more so for Arsenal and Manchester United who are trailing behind in the league of Big four than Liverpool and Chelsea who are sitting comfortably at the top of the table.

Chelsea though face an injury crisis before the tie agaisnt their so called bogie team Aston Villa. Nikolas anelka who already has 10 assists this season and was in a good goalscoring form now was supposed to lead the attack in the abscence of Didier Drogba who is out due to a Knee damage in the midweek Champions league match against FC Cluj. Looks like Kalou will lead the attack with teenage wonderkid Franco di santo getting a chance on the bench. Lets not forget that chelsea also has the promising English youngster Scott Sinclair in their ranks too. Apart from Anelka and Drogba absent in Scolari’s squad, Deco, Ricardo Carvalho and Michael Essien are also out and four other first-team players are carrying knocks.

Liverpool will have a good chance to take a lead in the race of the big 4 but will have to cross the hurdle of defeating Manchester City to do so. Man city have been in a very incosistent form since the arrival of the brazilian superstar Robinho.

Arsenal face Sunderland whose performance agaisnt the big four has been horrid to say the least. But Roy Keane has invested in a lot of good quality players this summer at Sunderland and they can be the surprise club this season.But Arsenal have plenty to prove following their loss to hull city last weekend. Nasri will come in and eboue will make way for the youngster on the left. Walcott should play on the right and keep up his good run of form. Adebayor and Van Persie will continue their great partnership up front for Arsenal with Fabregas leading the centre of Midfield..

Manchester United visit Ewood park to face a Blackburn Rovers side that has failed only thrice to score against Man united at home. Man united too have gone 29 games without scoring but will be without Rooney and Niville who are both carrying knocks. Scoring should not be problem still for United with a side boasting the likes of Ronaldo, Berbatov and Tevez. I want to see Ronaldo return to his free scoring form like last season and ManU to become the indomitable team that it looked like last season.

We might have to wait to see how the big 4 clubs of Barclays premier league fair this weekend. But looks like none of them will have a straight forward and easy victory. But the ones that really show the effort on the field will not be denied fruits is what i feel. Hope we have a great weekend of football ahead of us..Enjoy it..I know i will…