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Sunday, 31 July 2011

Wake up-Arsene-

Another week, and still no firm evidence of any changes to last year's starting 11, excepting Gervinho-worrying considering August is just around the corner. Our lack of spending, as of yet, has been painfully emphasised as we watch teams around us buying players left right and centre. Affordable players who in my view would strengthen the squad are being snapped up by others who are acting faster in the transfer market. Two that stood out in particular were Shay Given, 35, and Maarten Stekelenburg, 29, both goalkeepers. Given, someone who I've admired for years and should have been signed long ago (he was available at one point when Joe Hart took his place at City), went to Villa for a snippet at £3.5 m, and Stekelenburg, was signed by Roma from Ajax for a fee of just €6 million-a bargain for the Dutch World Cup finalist.    

Stekelenburg in action during World Cup final
These are two highly experienced, proven goalkeepers. Now, are you telling me that our team would not be improved had we signed either one? Age is not an issue here-Brad Friedel has shown that  keepers can perform at the highest level until 40 ish, so Given, 35, would have been perfect: someone Szczesny could learn and improve from as a result tough competition, whilst adding real quality to the team. At the moment, we only have Flapianski Fabianski as competition as Almunia's departure seems imminent, and as we saw last season, we need to have good back-up.

Another player who would have been a very good addition to the current squad is Axel Witsel, the Belgian international recently signed by Benfica for €8m from Standard Liege. This is a player with huge potential and would certainly fit into this Arsenal side. He is a central midfielder and has many defensive qualities; he is robust, tenacious and doesn't duck out of challenges-perhaps taken too far when 2 years ago his horror tackle sidelined an opponent for 9 months with a broken leg-however he would certainly add something to Arsenal's often fragile midfield. Despite his defensive attributes, he is also technically gifted, and chips in with a fair few goals; 10 last season with 4 assists, and a total 41 goals in 179 appearances for Standard-not bad for a central midfielder. Witsel would definitely have added depth to the squad and given Song some perhaps needed competition-which unfortunately Diaby cannot do as a result of constant injuries.
Axel Witsel-a missed opportunity

I am also dreading the ever-growing reality that Clichy will not be replaced. There is absolutely no way we can rely on the highly injury-prone and as of yet unconvincing Gibbs to be a sufficient replacement, let alone Traore, who somehow is still an Arsenal player after one loan move after another. Letting go of Clichy at the time did not seem to be such a big loss, particularly as many were comparing losing him with losing Cesc. Yet as the season draws ever-closer, and the fact there has been no news of any concrete offers for Baines or any other left-backs, his move feels dangerously significant. Some suggest Barca should add Eric Abidal to the Cesc deal, however that is unlikely. Baines, proven and vastly experienced, would be the ideal replacement. Having said that, as long as we buy a left back who would be an improvement from Gibbs, I'm not too bothered. A player apart from Baines that stands out is Benoit Tremoulinas at Bordeaux; an attacking left back with good defensive attributes- a great replacement for Gael. Anyway, time will tell. 

Benoit Tremoulinas in action for Bordeaux

Moving on to the Cesc/Nasri situation; a matter subject to plenty of debate of which I have seen many contrasting opinions from. In my eyes, Cesc will go for €35-40m, and that's that-thankyou and goodbye- however Na$ri will stay, for one more year, yet I do not see how either party will benefit from this; The player will not be 100% committed to the cause as his unprofessional behaviour this summer suggests, and the fans, who sung his name passionately last year, will put him under scrutiny after every average performance-affecting his morale.

In contrast, Cesc has shown no disrespect at all to the supporters or the club ever since the Barca saga arose two years or so ago-he has put 100% into every performance. However the general consensus regarding Nasri is that he won't do the same, which is why I feel very strongly that we should sell him this summer.

'We can't lose Cesc and Nasri!' I hear you cry! But what would you rather; keep a player whose had half a good season with us and watch him leave on a free next summer, or get rid of him, take the £20m, and invest in some top talent elsewhere, such as Juan Mata from Valencia, who, as the papers suggest, is on the verge of joining us regardless. Just think-we would miss out on potentially £25million for Nasri for one more season with us. Do me a favour. For all we know he could be out injured for 6 months.
So with that, and the likelihood he won't be totally committed next year, one could deem it absurd for us not to sell him and invest the money received on a replacement-or two.

Transfers take time, and you can't ignore how successful Mr Wenger has been over the years in scouting young talent, however at the moment, one can't help but feel frustrated and worried by the club's lack of activity in the transfer market, and by the amount of players leaving. Clichy, Bendther, Cesc, Almunia, Eboue, Denilson and maybe Nasri out. Gervinho and Carl Jenkinson, maybe Mata, in. 
I wonder how Arsene sleeps at night-or on second thoughts, maybe he doesn't, and is busy scouring Africa's third division for the next wonderkid...      

Thursday, 7 July 2011

In Arsene we trust?

The collapse of last season epitomized the frailties of this Arsenal side which you and I have painfully witnessed develop over these difficult past 6 years. Our weaknesses are clear for all to see, however the solution is not yet apparent. Something is fundamentally wrong, and it needs fixing, or the team we adore may lose its place in the 'Big 4', my main concern for next season. The squad needs to be drastically improved. But it's easy for you and I to say 'sign Cahill' or 'sign a decent keeper'. The fact of the matter is we are simply not financially strong enough to sign established players with the likes of Manchester City and Chelski as competition. My view is we either remain Arsenal FC, preserving our dignity and class, but at the expense of losing players and trophies, or become Arsenal PLC, and use Usmanov or Kroenke's investments to buy our success-and become something we hate.

*Something is fundamentally wrong*
Since our move to The Grove, Wenger has carried too much of a burden. It's not his responsibility to ensure the club is a stable business. His job is to win things, and in my opinion, he has prioritized the club's financial stability over the club's success in terms of trophies. Don't get me wrong, i am a firm believer in Wenger, however i can understand the critics. When he first took over, his training methods were miles ahead of others, using statistics and technology to improve the team, who eventually became the 'Invincibles'. Now, other teams have caught up, but Wenger's methods are still the same. New ideas need to come in. Simple. Maybe a new assistant manager would do the trick. I get the feeling Pat Rice is all a bit too familiar and friendly with the players. A change in backroom staff is needed. It may provide the current squad with a 'kiss of life'.

6 years is a long time, but look at it perspectively-it really isn't the end of the world. Look at the great Liverpool side of the 80s. How many League titles have they won since then? Exactly. Now I'm not saying we won't win the League for 20 years, but trophy droughts happen to the best.

This summer is pivotal if Arsenal are to be successful this coming season. Players need to come in, and players need to go out, but more importantly, players need to stay put. There is no way we can lose Cesc AND Nasri. If God forbid that does happen, a wise man gave me a very shrewd suggestion; let Barca buy Fabregas, but only if they loan him back to us for this season, allowing Xavi to play his final season. This would be beneficial for all parties; Cesc would be happy to be a Barca player (on paper), Barca would be happy to have finally wrapped him up, and we would have £35 million in the bank + a world class player for another season!

There is no hiding the fact that Wenger's stubbornness in the transfer market can be infuriating. Remember when Xabi Alonso was available. We bid £14 million, they wanted £16 million. Wenger refused. i mean, that extra £2 million would have really damaged the club. Imagine a Fabregas and Alonso midfield partnership. Oh what could have been..

I don't know whether or not we will win a trophy next year, but the fact more players are going out than coming in is certainly worrying. There is a thin line between success and failure, and one has to ask, In Arsene we rust?