Friday, 27 May 2016

11 Arsenal Players Who Could Be On The Move

The transfer window hasn't even opened yet and Arsenal have already signed the first of what will be quite a few new players. The arrival of Granit Xhaka looks to be a good move for the club and it's great to have managed it so early in the summer. It looks like he won't be the last arrival either with a few places in the squad to be filled.

For a start Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta have reached the end of their contracts and it looks like both of them will retire from playing. Arteta will definitely retire and Risicky might continue if he can find a club willing to take a risk on an injury prone player after Euro 2016. 

The other player to reach the end of his contract is Mathieu Flamini and I can only imagine he will be on his way too. I can't see him retiring just yet, but the arrivals of Xhaka yesterday and Mohamed Elneny last January mean he is surplus to requirements. For me he was never quite good enough for the level Arsenal want to play at, but he always gave his all and who can forget his two goals against Spurs in the Capital One Cup last season.

I'd be surprised if Mathieu Debuchey stayed too considering the fact that he went out on loan in January looking for first team football. He lost his place when Hector Bellerin took his chance with both hands as Debuchey was out injured. A player at his stage of his career doesn't want to sit on the bench and I cannot see him being an Arsenal player next season.

Kieran Gibbs was used sparingly last season and he missed out on a chance of going to Euro 2016 as a result. Nacho Monreal has made the left back slot his own and it would come as no surprise if Gibbs was to consider his future with Arsenal. He would have no problem getting into most Premier League teams and the prospect of sitting on the bench at Arsenal can hardly be too appealing to him.

Calum Chambers was signed from Southampton a few years ago at a high price, but he hasn't really been given much of a chance to strut his stuff at Arsenal. It's not clear what position suits him best and he needs a lot more game time if he is going to improve. As it stands it doesn't look like he will get that game time at Arsenal and the club could be tempted to get back at least some of the money they shelled out for him or he might even consider a move himself to further his career.

Carl Jenkinson has spent the last two seasons on loan at West Ham and it's hard to see where he fits in at Arsenal. Maybe he will stay with the club next season as an understudy to Bellerin, but I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't. With plenty of rebuilding to do this summer the club could be tempted to cash in on a player they got for a small fee or again Jenkinson might feel his career might flourish elsewhere.

Joel Campbell did well when he got the chance to play last season, but he was usually the first to be discarded when others were available. It looks to me like the boss isn't convinced by him and I wouldn't be surprised if he was offered to other clubs this summer. Despite how well he performed at times last season I don't think he's quite good enough to make it with Arsenal and a move might be the best thing for all parties.

Theo Walcott has been an Arsenal player for 10 years now, but he's never really reached the heights we hoped he would reach. Last season was not good for him at all and he has quite obviously fallen out of favour with the boss. It's hard to see where he goes from here considering how much he is paid, but he might need to move if he wants to play more often. If Arsenal get the chance to bring in a wide player who can take take defenders on and beat them as well as scoring a few goals I wouldn't be shocked to see Walcott on his way.

Wojciech Szczesny has spent the season on loan at Roma and it's difficult to know if there's a place for him at Arsenal. If he does come back he would be third choice behind Petr Cech and David Ospina unless Ospina decides he wants first team football elsewhere. There have been suggestions his move to Roma will be made permanent and it wouldn't surprise if he did leave. It wouldn't be too easy for him to come back as second or third choice at Arsenal considering how long he spent as first choice and that he was first choice for Roma too.

Lastly there's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who was another player to have a season to forget. He started well but things quickly deteriorated for him and yet again he wasn't helped by injuries. There have been rumours the club might be prepared to sell him due to his lack of improvement, but I would be surprised if they did so. He's still young enough to improve if he can overcome his persistent injuries and he certainly has lots of natural ability. 

All in all that's 11 players who could be on their way which is almost half a squad and it would be far more change than would be considered healthy for any squad. I have no doubt some of those players have played their last game for Arsenal, but it's a matter of how many the club decide to dispose of and how many choose to leave. It certainly promises to be a busy summer with those who leave having to be replaced and plenty of money in the bank to do so.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Six Players Arsenal Could Sign As Granit Xhaka Arrives

Arsenal's need to strengthen the team and the squad this summer goes without saying. With that in mind I'm going to have a look at a few of the players who could be coming our way and what they might offer to the club.

The transfer of Granit Xhaka has been done and dusted with the club confirming it officially today. He should certainly add some steel and an excellent range of passing to the midfield and he looks like exactly the type of player we we're crying out for.  

After Xhaka there is still plenty of work to be done and I think we need a top class striker, a central defender and maybe even a wide player too. All of those players are needed if no more players leave, but additional exits will also mean we need to bring more players in. I would be surprised if a few of the fringe players or those who have fallen out of favour decided not to stay and this could easily be a summer of considerable change.

In the striker stakes the player we constantly hear about is Alvaro Morata, but his situation is complicated to say the least. He's with Juventus at the moment and Real Madrid have an option to buy him back at a very good price which they are predicted to do before selling him on for a healthy profit. Where Arsenal fit in is another thing, but it looks like we would have to break our transfer record to sign him and he could even become the top earner at the club too.

I don't claim to have seen him in action too often, but his goals return so far is hardly one to set the world on fire. He would probably get an awful lot of chances in an Arsenal team containing Mesut Ozil and it's a matter of whether he could put enough of those chances away. I'm no expert, but I would see him as a risky buy considering his goal return and I would imagine Arsenal would hardly want to take a risk with a record signing.

Medhi Benatia is another player heavily linked to Arsenal at the moment with the need for another central defender is pressing. He's at Bayern Munich at the moment and while he gets some game time he's hardly a first team regular. He's 29 years old and he can't exactly be seen as an outstanding prospect for the future at his age.

Central defenders aren't easy to come by though and Arsenal need at least one with Per Mertesacker most probably nearing the end of his career and the boss showing little faith in Calum Chambers. Whether Benatia is the right player for Arsenal or not is another question though and again I'm not sure he's what we're looking for. There's still plenty of time to go in this transfer window and hopefully time to find a central defender who might fit the bill a little more.

At the other end of the scale of central defenders is Bolton's Rob Holding who looks set to leave them after their relegation to League One. He's only 20 years old and has barely more than a handful of games under his collar, but he looks like a genuine prospect for the future. He's exactly the type of player the boss is so fond of signing, but maybe the team need a little more experience than Holding has to offer.

The centre of the defence has been a problem, but it's not the only position in the team that needs addressing. Laurent Koscielny is the first choice in the centre of the defence and it's not quite clear who the best partner for him is at the moment. Mertesacker has been the first choice for a few years, but he has seen better days and Gabriel Paulista seems less convincing with each passing game. The team clearly needs another central defender and if Holding does come in he will probably be one for the future.

With the possibility of Kieran Gibbs moving on in search of first team football this summer and Mathieu Debuchey almost certainly on his way there is certainly a need for at least one full back in the squad. Djibril Sibide would fit the mould as he can play as either a right back or a left back and he looks like he might have what it takes to play at a high level. He's still only 23 years old and his price wouldn't be so high that it might put Arsenal off buying him.

If the reports are to be believed the club have shown an interest in him and I wouldn't be at all surprised if they made a move for him. He fits the bill of a typical Arsene Wenger signing and he would certainly fill a place in the squad which looks like it might be empty very soon. It could be a case of waiting until either Gibbs or Debuchey or even both of them leave and then maybe we might just make a move for him.

Riyad Mahrez has had an exceptional season for Leicester and he was one of the main reasons they won the Premier League title. He was voted as the PFA player of the season and he has to be on the radar of so many clubs at the moment. He can join any club he chooses and if he decides to go Leicester will command a very high fee for him too.

He would be an excellent addition to the Arsenal team as his ability to take players on and beat them would be an asset to any team. He also scores more than his fair share of goals and creates plenty of chances for others too. He's had two seasons in the Premier League and he wouldn't have to adjust to it like some others might.

Mahrez looks like he would be an ideal signing for Arsenal and age is still on his side as he's only 25. They won't be the only club after him though and it won't be easy to get him away from a team who won't want to sell any of the players who won them the title. If Arsenal are going to challenge for the title next season he could be just the player they need to make a difference.

Sadio Mane is another player who's had a good season and has been heavily linked with Arsenal. He's shown the ability to take defenders on and beat them just like Mahrez and he can score with either foot. He creates his fair share of chances too and he also has a lot to offer Arsenal.

Given a choice I would prefer Mahrez over Mane, but either player would add something to the team and the squad. Mane nearly left Southampton in the January transfer window and I have no doubt he could be tempted by the right offer this summer too. Southampton have sold quite a few players over the last couple of years and they have managed to get a very good price for those players. 

Those six players all give us something to at least think about, but there's no real way of knowing what Arsenal's intentions are in the transfer market this summer. The squad needs some real quality added to it and some of those players fit the bill without doubt. The anouncement of Xhaka's arrival is a great start and hopefully a few others will follow him very quickly. 

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Arsenal Season Review

That was the season that was and what a very strange season it turned out to be. Arsenal finished in the top four as always although they did somehow manage to sneak into second place in hilarious circumstances on the final day. That was the cause for celebrations as it was so unexpected and it meant they finished ahead of Spurs for the 20th season in a row under Arsene Wenger.

On the face of it second place isn't a bad thing and it's something I probably would have settled for once the transfer window closed at the start of the season. Arsenal brought Petr Cech in early on to finally add a top class keeper to the team and we all waited for the other players the team needed to arrive. I'm still not sure why it didn't happen, but Arsenal were the only team in the Premier League not to buy an outfield player last summer. 

The team had clinched the FA Cup for the second season in a row the previous May and had finished their league campaign very strongly too. It was the perfect time to strengthen the squad and build for the future, but the chance was passed up. The transfer window had barely closed when we were told Damny Welbeck had suffered a setback and would be out until the new year and the folly of our inaction looked set to haunt us right away.

Despite losing at home to West Ham on the opening day Arsenal still managed to start the season quite well and keep pace with the early leaders. As the league season progressed the other so called big teams started falling by the wayside and the way was seemingly clear for Arsenal to win their first title in 12 years. At the turn of the year they were right up there and they just had to keep their nerve to win the league or so it seemed.

I hoped that some of the injured players would return to strengthen the squad at that point and that the club could do some business in the January transfer window too. Despite their great league position they hadn't being playing well and they were finding goals hard to come by. Olivier Giroud was getting his fair share of goals at that stage of the season, but the team was crying out for a better striker to finish the chances Mesut Ozil was making game after game. Ozil was on course to break the record for the most Premier League assists in a season at that point too, but he was creating far more chances than his team mates were putting away. 

The poor performances were the norm in the league, but the points at least kept coming in. It was a different matter when it came to the Champions League with a loss in Belgrade and at home to Olympiacos to start the group and the team only scraping through after managing a 3-0 win away to Olympiacos in the last group game. They did win at home to Bayern Munich of course, but the 5-1 defeat in the return game was hardly inspiring. It was always going to be hard to win a group with Bayern in it and Arsenal's reward for coming second in the group was a last 16 tie with Barcelona. 

The team were still well in the hunt in the league when Alexis Sanchez returned from injury, but his form when he came back wasn't his best to say the least. At the same time more or less the goals dried up for Giroud and suddenly the points were a lot harder to come by. As Leucester put together a run of victories Arsenal struggled in virtually every game they played.

Arsenal had a very good record away from home before the turn of the year, but their away games in the new year were an awful lot tougher. After winning away to Villa in mid December they only won two of their next 10 away games and only took 12 points in those games. It's no coincidence that their away games in the second half of the season were much tougher than those in the first half.

Arsenal had a great record against the rest of the top four by the time the season ended with 12 points from six games against Leicester, Spurs and City. Winning that mini league stands for nothing though if you can't beat the rest of the teams in the top half of the table. Arsenal's record against the rest of the top 10 was nothing short of abysmal though and that was where their real problem lay for me.

In those 12 games they managed only 11 points and that's simply not enough for any team to win the league. They didn't manage a win against Southampton, West Ham, Liverpool or Chelsea and they failed to score in seven of those 12 games. The question for me is if they could be so good against the rest of the top four then why could they not perform against the rest of the top 10.

Was it a question of not taking the opposition seriously enough in those games while giving their all against the rest of the top four. Did the manager prepare the team properly for those games and send them out there ready for the challenges those games posed. It's impossible to tell what went wrong, but I have no doubt those games were a major factor in Arsenal not winning the league.

If I had to put my finger on what I think was the biggest factor of all was I would say it was the failure to sign a striker last summer. With the rest of the big clubs all struggling this season Arsenal could have overcome the deficiencies in their squad by signing the striker the team needed last summer. I have no doubt an extra 10 or 15 goals would have been enough to win the league and with the chances Arsenal created that would have been possible with the right striker.

The team might have gone through the last 10 games of the season unbeaten, but it wasn't enough to catch Leicester. The damage done before those games might have been undone if they won all 10 games, but even then they would have only matched Leicester's 81 point tally. The real positive to that end to the season was overtaking Spurs to finish second and celebrating St. Totteringham's Day yet again.

In the cold light of day that's not enough though and it's impossible to believe Arsenal didn't blow their best chance to win the league in 12 years. For me the blame lays squarely with the manager, but he won't pay the price as the club seem more than happy with him. He's going to be in charge next season and we just have to hope he can not only bring in the players the squad needs, but also inspire those players to play well enough to compete at the top next season.

Of course Arsenal have no right to win the league and many other fans would be more than happy to see their team do as well as Arsenal. Maybe it's all a matter of perspective, but the way I see it Arsenal should have won the league and the reasons for them not doing so were all self inflicted. Leicester were certainly worthy winners of the league, but from the position Arsenal were in they should have amassed more than the 81 points which were enough to see Leicester win with 10 points to spare.

The signs for next season are encouraging with Granit Xhaka already looking like he's on the way and others set to follow too. The team will have to do an awful lot better if they're going to challenge next season though with United, City, Chelsea and Liverpool all looking to improve vastly on their poor seasons too. I can see next season being very tight and five or six clubs genuinely challenging for the title and I hope Arsenal will be one of them.

It won't be easy going into it as runners up in the league though when you consider we finished above all of the so called big clubs. To have finally managed to have finished above all of them and still missed out on the league is incredibly frustrating from a fan's perspective. It will be much harder to keep them all behind us again next season and it's impossible to see the season just gone as anything other than a failure as a result.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Arsenal Finish Second As Spurs Crumble

Who would have guessed Lasagne was on the menu again for Spurs when they travelled to Newcastle yesterday. All they had to do was avoid defeat to finish above Arsenal for the first time in 20 seasons, but they succombed to a 5-1 defeat instead. Arsenal's failings this season have been vast to say the least, but you have to give yourself the freedom to wallow in the absolute failure of Spurs just when they looked to be ready to step up.

While everybody has admired their football and knocked our team's lack of bottle and fight we somehow managed to finish above them as we always do under Arsene Wenger. It's a great feeling to celebrate St. Totteringham's Day this season when I have to say I had given up all hope of Arsenal finishing above them. It's Arsenal's highest league finish since 2005 when we were runners up to Chelsea and it looks an awful lot better in the record books than finishing third.

The day panned out very well for Arsenal in the end, but there were times when I have to admit I was very nervous. When Spurs got back to 2-1 down and Mitrovic was sent off for Newcastle I feared the worst, but Newcastle put another three goals past them with only 10 men. Arsenal might have taken an early lead against Villa, but they left it a little too late for comfort to add to the lead and a goal from Villa would have put the cat among the pigeons.

It all worked out perfectly in the end though and Arsenal took their rightful place above Spurs. They have had their best season since time immemorial and they still couldn't finish ahead of us. Second place isn't a trophy, but considering everything else it's an awful lot better than the alternative before yesterday's game.

I know we could and should have won the league and second place is scant consolation, but that's something to discuss another day. For the moment we can celebrate our win and the absolute joy it brought combined with the despair for Spurs. They so desperately want to finish ahead of us and they must be devestated to have finished third and the circumstances which led to it only make it even more hilarious.

In my preview I hoped for an early goal and predicted Olivier Giroud might have a good day and so it was. His three goals don't make him world class overnight though and we still need a striker upgrade this summer. I had hoped for a Spurs defeat in that preview too, but I didn't really believe it would happen and thankfully I got that completely wrong.

Things got a little emotional at the end with Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky saying their goodbyes to the fans. I loved them both as players and it's sad to see them go, but it is time for it and their exits leave a couple of places in the squad to be filled. Arteta got to play late on and he was so close to scoring, but the final goal will go down as an own goal to the Villa keeper. 

All we can hope for now is some really positive additions to the squad this summer and for the team to be given the chance to go one better next season. It won't be easy with all of the other top clubs surely strengthening this summer too, but as a fan you have to believe it is possible.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.