Friday, 14 July 2017

Play Fantasy Premier League & Win €50

It's that time of the season again when Fantasy Football rears it's head above the parapet and we get to delve into the world of Fantasy Premier League. The game for the new season was finally launched on Wednesday after a few days of teasers on the official site. There are a few changes this season with the removal of the "All Out Attack" chip and the arrival of the "Free Hit Chip".

From what I can see the new chip means you can replace your whole squad for a single gameweek with the squad reverting back to what it was the week after. It's certainly an interesting one to ponder when it comes to FA Cup quarter final week and a lot of the big teams aren't playing. I found the All Out Attack chip to be of little use and this new chip definitely looks like it should be far better.

As usual my "Ever Arsenal" league is up and running and there's €50 to the winner from my pocket unless a generous sponsor wants to step in and offer prizes galore. There's been well over a thousand teams in my league for the last few seasons and judging by the early uptake there will be again this season. If you haven't played before you can sign up here and join my league after you have set your team up using the league code 57957-16522. For those who have been in the league before you will automatically rejoin once you set your team up and you can also find an auto link on my Twitter feed.

I'll be previewing every single Premier League game this season as always and predicting the outcomes as well as giving tips on players I think could do well for fantasy managers. With 380 games to play it's no easy task, but I've being doing it for so long now I couldn't imagine life without it. The way things are shaping up in the transfer market it certainly looks like there will be plenty to ponder ahead of the big kick off in four weeks time.

As well as the usual game there will also be a draft version available this season and that promises to give some added interest to those who aren't possibly so fond of the standard set up. Once the details are announced I'll have to see what I can do about setting up a league, but you can only really accommodate a maximum of about eight players in a draft league as no two managers can own the same player. It will bring a lot of interest to groups of friends and it certainly will bring a more personal touch to the game.

I can't wait for it all to start four weeks from now when Arsenal host Leicester, but meanwhile I'll spend an awful lot of time tinkering with my team until I get what looks like the perfect squad.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Arsenal Get Their Man

Transfers are rarely a thing of speed when Arsenal are involved and so it was with Alexandre Lacazette, but the announcement came on Wednesday evening and we welcomed our record purchase to the club. It looks like we finally managed to land the striker we have being missing since Robin van Persie done a bunk five years ago. Despite scoring so many goals last season Arsenal could have done so much more with the right man up front.

As good as Olivier Giroud might be I think Lacazette is a step up from him despite Giroud keeping him out of the French national team. To be fair to Lacazette it's actually Antoine Griezmann who is keeping him out of the French team as Giroud fulfills a different role for his country to the one Lacazette would attempt to fill. As good as Lacazette is I have no doubt we would have been even happier if Griezmann was on his way to us, but we have at least managed to get Lacazette as a result of Griezmann staying put at Atletico Madrid.

The story goes that they had lined Lacazette up to replace Griezmann if he left, but their transfer embargo meant they weren't prepared to let Griezmann go and we got Lacazette. Atletico's record in buying strikers has been pretty good and hopefully their judgement on Lacazette was spot on and Arsenal can reap the benefits. We haven't had a striker capable of netting 30 league goals in a season in five years, but we most certainly have one now.

The fee was somewhere north of the 40 something million we spent on Mesut Ozil and if the rumours are true we haven't finished yet. It looks like we're intent on increasing our attacking options, but it's difficult to know if that will work out with the futures of Ozil and Alexis Sanchez still up in the air. Hopefully the arrival of Lacazette will encourage Alexis to stay even if it's only to see out the final year of his contract.

It would be a huge mistake to sell Alexis to Manchester City, but there doesn't seem to be too many other clubs willing to meet our asking price or pay the wages he's looking to get. The reaction to selling our best player to a rival would be extremely negative and it would get the new season off on a note which could be difficult for the manager and the players to cope with. I know Alexis could go for nothing next summer, but that sounds more acceptable to me right now than selling him to City. I don't want him to go at all, but if it does happen it has to be to a club outside the Premier League.

I would like to see a team with both Alexis and Lacazette in it next season and see how they can combine to terrorise opposition defences. With Ozil behind them to pull the strings it should hopefully be a thing of beauty if it comes to pass. I would like to see Giroud stick around too as he proved to be pretty effective off the bench last season and he offers us a different way to play if things need changing. The arrival of Lacazette could see his exit though as he will be anxious to play as much as possible this season with the World Cup on the horizon.

We have certainly spent an awful lot of money in the last year and it might be time to recoup a little of that by selling some of the players who are surplus to requirements and getting their wages off the books too. The squad and team still need strengthening considering we finished a deserved fifth last season and it's time to invest some of what we have left in more defensive aspects of the team. The arrival of Sead Kolasinac on a free transfer was certainly a boost to our defensive options, but we still looks a little fragile at the back and in midfield to me.

Hopefully we can keep both Hector Bellerin and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but a reserve right back could be needed as well as possibly another central defender and midfielder. We let in too many goals last season and even though the switch to five at the back improved things we still need to strengthen. I would love to see Wojciech Szczesny come back into the fold too as I think he's our next best option to Petr Cech if not even better than him. He looks like he might have matured a little in two years in Italy and he has certainly played well in that time.

At least we have brought two players who will improve the team in and in plenty of time too with the players just back for pre-season this week. How we fare next season will depend on how much more can be done with the squad between now and our season opener at home to Leicester on Friday August 11th. That's only five weeks from tomorrow and you will be amazed how quickly those five weeks will pass.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Arsenal Transfer Latest

It's been far too long since I wrote anything about Arsenal, but it's not an easy thing to do when you're travelling from coast to coast of the U.S.A. and you end up sick on your return home. Just getting out of bed and going to work for the past week since my return has been a chore and I found it difficult to socialise with a few drinks on Saturday night, but trooper that I am I managed. Life goes on though and no doubt I will be right as rain before too long.

The season finished on a high with the FA Cup win despite the disappointment of the fifth place Premier League finish and missing out on Champions League football for the first time in the lives of many Arsenal fans. Of course we have gone through far worse times in the past and during my 47 years of supporting the club. However, having said that our current situation is not a good one for a club with our supposed value and the assets available to us.

The news of Arsene Wenger renewing his contract can hardly have come as a surprise, but it was still a blow to a lot of fans who think we need to change the man in charge to move forward. It is what it is though and we have to get behind him and hope he can move the team forward despite the evidence of far too many seasons now. There's an awful lot of work to do with the squad this summer and his chances of making us genuine challengers again will depend on the work he does this summer.

We've already seen the arrival of Sead Kolasinac on a free transfer from Schalke 04 and he looks like a good addition to the team/squad on the left side of the defence. His arrival will surely mean a departure for Kieran Gibbs, but as of yet it seems we haven't found a buyer and our fee combined with his wages could be a stumbling block. I expect Kolasinac to challenge Nacho Monreal fairly early on and he looks like he will fit nicely into a flat back four or five at the back.

Other than that though the only movement has been the inospicious exit of Yaya Sanogo who never lived up to the hype and spent most of his time at the club injured. He was another gamble that didn't pay off and it's hard to see why we signed him in the first place. He left for nothing and he won't be the first player to do so this summer.

It all feels like the transfer merry go round hasn't really started yet and it's difficult to know where Arsenal stand at the moment. The conundrum comes down to Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil really with neither of their futures secure going into the last year of their contracts. Are we looking to replace them or add to them and are we trying to attract other players without knowing the futures of our two star players. If they both leave it's going to be incredibly difficult to replace them, but our need will be all the more pressing.

We are linked with so many attacking players at the moment with Kylian Mbappe, Alexandre Lacazette, Arda Turan, Riyad Mahrez, Thomas Lemar and Anthony Martial among others rumoured to be on their way to Arsenal. Most of them would be very welcome additions or replacements right now, but the chances of getting any of them vary wildly. Who we might need from them is another matter though.

Mbappe is obviously the name who stands out the most, but I cannot see Arsenal breaking the world transfer record and paying the wages to go with that for an 18 year old who is a huge prospect, but is still far from the finished article. Don't get me wrong, I would love to see him at Arsenal, but I would be utterly shocked to see him join us. If we did sign him though it would surely be a signal of intent and it would make it a lot more difficult for Alexis or Ozil to leave.

It does seem we might be closer to signing Lacazette and he might just be the striker we're looking for, but the money Lyon are looking for might well put us off. We do need a top class striker though and we have needed one for a long time now. If we don't sign the striker we need I fear we won't be up to the task again next season despite scoring the third most goals in any season in the history of the club last season.

Olivier Giroud still thinks he can be that man, but I just think his lack of pace has shown he can't be even if he is a very good option at other times. I don't think we should sell him as he proved to be quite valuable last season in the limited game time he got and he could well do so again this season. Our problem could be his desire to hold down his place in the French team with the World Cup coming up next year.

There have been rumours of plenty of other departures too and some of them should probably be allowed to go while we should do our best to keep others. I hope we can hold on to Hector Bellerin, Wojciech Szczesny and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but it might be best for us and the players themselves if David Ospina, Mathieu Debuchy and a few others headed for the hills as soon as possible. It will be difficult to keep Barcelona's grubby hands off Bellerin while it appears Szczesny is considered surplus to requirements and it's difficult to know where we stand on Chamberlain.

We've been here too often before though and ended up trawling through the bargain basement on deadline day. This summer needs to be different and it's difficult to believe it will be considering what has gone on for too many seasons now though. I hope I'm wrong, but I remain to be convinced.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Stay Strong London

Good morning/afternoon/evening/night or whatever time of the day it might be in whatever part of the world you are in. I'm writing this after cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and planning my trip to Alcatraz tomorrow before heading off to Las Vegas the day after. I cannot believe how lucky I am to be on what can only be described as the holiday of a lifetime with Chicago and New York still to follow.

The events of Saturday night in London have only made me feel even luckier and my heart goes out to the victims of such mindless violence. This is not a political forum and I'm not going to discuss my views on politics on it ever as it's about football and that should be an escape from not only the humdrum, but also the more serious aspects of our lives. The fact it happened in London made it all the more relevant and closer to home for me as I travel there every season to see my beloved Arsenal play.

It is never right or justified to kill innocent people in the name of any so called cause and I cannot believe any religion condones it. The horrors of Saturday night won't be easily forgotten for those who were caught up in them and I cannot imagine what all of those people had to go through on what should have been a normal night out. A good friend of mine had gone there for the weekend with his wife and I know how worried I was as I searched social media for news on the two of them.

Thankfully they were a good distance away from what happened, but they were still very scared and I was glad to hear they were safe. Those who carried out the attack want to scare us, but I will not let it stop me from going to see Arsenal as soon as I can next season and I have no doubt I will meet the same mix of people from every race, creed and persuasion that I always meet at Arsenal games. London is a fantastic city and one I have visited as often as I can for over 30 years now through good times and bad and that will not change.

I had hoped to write this post about all the latest transfer rumours surrounding Arsenal players and what I thought our chances were of signing any or all of them. With the transfer silly season here again there is plenty to report on, but it doesn't seem appropriate at the moment and maybe I'll get back to it in a few days. For the moment I'm going to leave it there and just reiterate how sad all of this has made me feel and how my thoughts are with all the people and their families who suffered so awfully on Saturday night.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.