Thursday, 16 June 2016

Arsenal Face Liverpool First Next Season

The Premier League fixtures for next season were announced yesterday and Arsenal get the ball rolling at home to Liverpool on Saturday August 13. Of course that date could change for TV and a high profile game between Arsenal and Liverpoll it's very likely to do so. With league games being broadcast from Friday through to Monday it's anyone's guess when the game or any game for that matter will be played.

It's certainly a challenging start for Arsenal and the challenge continues the next weekend when they make the trip to Leicester to play the reigning champions. Leicester were highly unlikely league winners last season and they will do very well to keep some of their better players who helped them to that title. Arsenal were the only team to do the double over them last season and more of the same would do very nicely.

With World Cup qualifiers to play there aren't too many league games at the start of the season. There are only 13 league games from the start of the season until the end of November, but then it really picks up with six games in December.

The only really notable game in September is the game at home to Chelsea late in the month. October passes by without any of the big clubs showing their faces, but of the three games in November there's a home game against Spurs (not really a big club, but a local derby at least) and a trip to United too. Of the six games in December the trip to City is the big one and the turn of the year brings us to the halfway point of the season.

FA Cup action returns in January which limits the league games to four despite the lack of international games. None of those games exactly set the pulse racing and the trip to Chelsea in early February is the only noteworthy game that month. There are only three games in March, but they do include a trip to Liverpool and the return game at home to the champions.

April has six games and it starts with a home game against City and finishes with a trip to Spurs. A week later May starts with a home game against United while the season ends two weeks later at hone to Everton. It's only 58 days to the first game, but an awful lot can happen in that time.

Euro 2016 is progressing nicely and I have to say I have been impressed by new boy Granit Xhaka so far. Switzerland are looking good for a spot in the last 16 and Xhaka has been "man of the match" in both of their games so far. He's the only Arsenal arrival so far this summer, but hopes are high that he will be followed by others very soon.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Arsenal Players And Their Euro 2016 Schedules

With Euro 2016 only two days away it's time to take a look at the games from an Arsenal perspective. It's not always easy to have an interest in a game unless your own country is playing, but it certainly helps if there is at least some Arsenal interest.

Group A has three Arsenal players in it as I write this, but there is a strong possibility of that changing to four. Both Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud look like being mainstays of the hosts France while new boy Granit Xhaka should play each game for Switzerland. If the rumours are to be believed Roberto Rodriguez of Borussia Dortmund and Switzerland could be an Arsenal player very soon too.

France start the tournament off this Friday night with a game against Romania while Switzerland kick off against the group outsiders Albania the next afternoon. The following Wednesday Switzerland play Romania in the evening game while France take on Albania that night. The group finishes on Sunday June 19th when France and Switzerland play each other while the other two teams play at the same time. 

On the face of it France and Switzerland should both be looking to progress to the  knockout stages with France the most likely team to win the group. Romania and Albania will be no pushovers though and I expect this group could end up very close with three teams possibly progressing. From an Arsenal perspective we should have an interest in five of the six games which is no bad thing.

Group B has two Arsenal players on show with England's Jack Wilshere and Wales's Aaron Ramsey. While Ramsey should be an ever present for Wales, Wilshere is less likely to start for England unless things are going awry and they need to shake them up. The other two teams in the group are Russia and Slovakia and it promises to be a pretty tough group for England and Wales. There's always the possibility of a second Arsenal player in the England squad with Jamie Vardy mulling over a transfer to us and his signature would give Arsenal fans an added interest in the England games at least.

Wales kick off on Saturday evening when they play Slovakia and England play Russia that night. England play Wales on Thursday afternoon with Russia and Slovakia playing the afternoon before that. The group comes to a conclusion on the night of Monday June 20th with England playing Slovakia while Wales play Russia at the same time.

Despite my misgivings about England I think they should progress from the group, but Wales won't find it so easy. They did well to qualify for the finals, but they are very reliant on Gareth Bale and could struggle if he can be contained. With up to three teams going through there's every chance of both of them progressing, but Wales in particular will have to be at their very best to do so. As with Group A there is an Arsenal interest in five of the games which should at least make it worth watching for us Arsenal fans.

Group C gives us the chance to see Mesut Ozil strut his stuff for Germany while Wojciech Szczesny should start in goal for Poland. Germany are the reigning World Champions and one of the favourites to lift the trophy even if they weren't the greatest in qualifying. Szczesny looks like he could be about to depart the fold at Arsenal after his season long loan at Roma, but we will at least get to see what we are missing out on when he goes. The rest of the group is made up of Ukraine and Northern Ireland and it promises to be another close run group.

The games start on Sunday evening when Poland play Northern Ireland with Germany playing Ukraine that night. The following Thursdsy evening Ukraine play Northern Ireland with Germany playing Poland that night. Things come to a conclusion on the evening of Tuesday June 21st with Germany playing Northern Ireland and Poland playing Ukraine.

It would be a huge shock if Germany didn't come out on top of the group while Poland will be pretty hopeful of making the last 16 too. Ukraine are seen as the major threat to both of them, but Northern Ireland should not be underestimated. They won their group to get to the finals and their total is far better than the sum of it's parts. Yet again we will get to see Arsenal players in five of the six games and it's always a pleasure to watch Ozil play.

Group D is the final group with an Arsenal interest with Petr Cech and Tomas Rosicky in the Czech Republic squad and Hector Bellerin in the Spanish squad.  Again both teams will fancy their chances of making the knockout stages and Spain will be looking to keep the trophy they have won twice in a row. Croatia and Turkey make up the numbers in the group and it looks like it could be a very open group.

The group kicks off on Sunday afternoon with the game between Croatia and Tukey while Spain play the Czech Republic the next afternoon. The following Friday evening we see the Czech's play Croatia with Spain playing Turkey that night. The final group games are on the night of Tuesday June 21st when Croatia play Spain and the Czech Republic play Turkey.

On the face of it Turkey look the least likely to succeed in this group, but they won't be an easy opponent for any of the other three teams. Spain are among the favourites to win the tournament, but Bellerin might not get a starting berth in their team while both Arsenal players look likely to play for the Czech team. This could be Rosicky's swan song if things work out for him and it would be fantastic to see him have a great tournament. Yet again we could get to see Arsenal players in five of the games and it all helps to pass the time as we wait for the real football to return in August.

As it stands there are 10 Arsenal players in the first four groups and none in the final two, but that could rise to 12 quite soon depending on how our transfer dealings progress. Even if the two players most likely to join do so before the tournament starts there will still be no Arsenal interest in groups E and F. With only two days to go the tension is building and I can't wait for things to get going.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Arsenal Transfer Latest As Four More Players Are Linked

With Granit Xhaka already secured and plenty of squad rebuilding to do it looks like it's going to be a very busy summer for Arsenal. Euro 2016 gets underway next week and it's not going to be easy to secure the services of any of the players who are playing in the tournament when it's still on. With that in mind there's every chance Arsenal could add another player before it starts on Friday week.

Ricardo Rodriguez is the player most heavily linked with Arsenal at the moment. He's a left back who plays for Wolfsburg and the Swiss national team and he certainly looks the part. If Arsenal are interested in him it would surely mean the end of the road for Kieran Gibbs at the club and it would put pressure on Nacho Monreal's place in the team too.

Left back isn't the most pressing position in need of strengthening at the moment, but the departure of Gibbs would change that. Rodriguez looks like he could really have something to offer to Arsenal and he's seven yeas younger than Monreal. I wouldn't be surprised to see him arrive and for the club to recoup his near £20 million expected fee by selling a couple of players including Gibbs.

Pierre-Emirick Aubemeyang has been linked with Arsenal quite a few times in the past and the Dortmund striker is apparently a target yet again. He's had a very good season in Germany with 25 league goals and he can probably choose whatever club he wants to join this summer if he decides to leave Dortmund. He turns 27 in a couple of weeks and he's just coming into the prime years of his career.

He would suit Arsenal's game perfectly and he could be just the striker the team is crying out for. The price could be an issue though and even if Arsenal could match the price other teams might offer it might not be possible to persuade him to join us. We've been down this road with Aubameyang before and I have a feeling it will be more of the same and we won't be seeing him in an Arsenal shirt any time soon.

Yannick Ferreira Carrasco is another player who's name keeps cropping up when Arsenal are mentioned. He's only 22 years old and Arsenal are in need of a wide player to add some flair to the team. I'm not so sure if he's the player to fill that role though and even if he is I'm not so sure Arsenal could snag him.

He only joined Atletico Madrid last summer and I imagine he has a pretty high buy out clause in his contract too. Maybe his goal in last week's Champions League final is why he is being mentioned so often and I'm not so sure the club have a genuine interest in him. Atletico have been a selling club though and for the right price they could be tempted to part with most of their players if Arsenal genuinely are interested.

Jeison Murillo is another player who won't seem to go away at the moment. He's a 24 year old central defender who plays with Inter Milan and Colombia and he looks like he could make a name for himself at Arsenal. He has all the attributes you would want in a central defender and it's a position in which Arsenal need to make improvements.

He only joined Inter last summer though and it might not be too easy to get them to part with him. If they can be tempted I think he might finally be the central defender the team is looking for to partner Laurent Koscielny. Whether they can get him or not is another thing though and I just can't see it happening.

If I had to choose one of those players Aubameyang would be my first choice, but Rodriguez seems the most likely at the moment. The transfer window only officially opened yesterday and there's still three months to go, but it looks like Arsenal will do some serious business this summer. It's just a matter of who and when the arrivals will be and maybe how many of them there will be too.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Arsenal Players: Their Hopes And Chances At Euro 2016

With Euro 2016 starting next week it's time to take a look at which Arsenal players will be at the tournament and how they might fare. I'll look into their individual chances and the chances their countries might have of glory too.

First up there's England and the only Arsenal player in their squad is Jack Wilshere. Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs have missed out because they simply haven't played enough for Arsenal in recent months and when Walcott in particular has played he's not been up to scratch. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Danny Welbeck probably would have hoped to have been included too, but injuries have ruled them both out of proceedings.

Wilshere hardly kicked a ball all season for Arsenal due to his own injury problems and he's been included because of how well he was playing for England before that injury. It's a risk taking him and from an Arsenal perspective I'm not so sure it's the best thing for him or us. His game time could be limited as he hasn't had a chance to regain any form with so few minutes under his belt and there's a real prospect of him just making up the numbers.

England are in Group B along with Russia, Slovakia and Wales and they should be more than capable of at least emerging from their group to the knockout stages. There isn't too much to be feared from those three teams, but being England in tournament football you never know what might or probably will go wrong. If it comes to the crunch a team which could be packed with Spurs players can be relied on to bottle it as is their way. If they win their group or even come second in it the quarter finals are about as far as I think they might go, but qualifying in third place would probably see them go out straight away in the knock out stages.

Arsenal's joint largest contingent at Euro 2016 is in the French squad with both Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud playing for the hosts. Both of them look like they will be intrical parts of a French team who haven't done much on the international stage in quite a while. As hosts they have a chance though and they have a pretty strong looking squad too.

They have what looks like a fairly easy group with Switzerland, Romania and Albania to contend with. They should emerge from that group to the knockout stages and given the right draw they could go all the way. I'm not so sure though and I have a feeling they won't go any further than the semi finals at best.

Germany are the current World champions and go into this tournament as one of the favourites to win it. Mesut Ozil had more assists than any other player in the top five leagues in Eurooe last season and he was also Germany's player of the year yet again. He will have a large part to play as Germany attempt to add the European title to the World title they won two years ago.

They are in a group containing Poland, Ukraine and Northern Ireland and they will be strong favourites to win that group. The talent available to Germany is vast and they are more than capable of winning the tournament if they can get the balance right. I wouldn't be surprised to see them in the final, but if they don't make it they will probably go out to a team who hit them on the break.

The Czech Republic have both Petr Cech and Tomas Rosicky in their squad and Rosicky is technically still an Arsenal player I think. Cech is sure to be in their team and Rosicky will probably play too if he can stay fit. Cech won the golden glove in the Premier League in his first season at Arsenal, but injuries yet again robbed us of Rosicky. 

The Czech's are in a strong group with Spain, Croatia and Turkey, but they are more than capable of making it through to the next stage. They can mix it with the best teams and won't be easy for any team to beat. I don't think they have enough to win the tournament, but a trip to the semi finals is certainly not beyond them.

Arsenal new boy Granit Xhaka will be playing for Switzerland and we should get to see what you can buy with £25 million these days. They're in group A along with France, Romania and Albania. From what I've seen of Switzerland I haven't been overly impressed and they're by no means certain to make the knockout stages even with 16 of the 24 teams qualifying.

If they do get out of their group they will need a favourable draw to make it to the last eight and would surely be the very best they could hope for. Even if Switzerland don't progress from their group we will at least get to see Xhaka strut his stuff in those games. There's a lot of hopes and expectations for him at Arsenal next season and we might just get the chance to see him live up to them for his country.

Wojciech Szczesny is another Arsenal player who's just about still at the club and he could easily be on his way this summer after spending the season on loan at Roma. He'll be in the Polish squad for the tournament and it will probably be a straight choice between him and former Arsenal keeper Lukasz Fabianski for the keeper's shirt. Poland beat Germany in the qualifiers and will be hopeful of putting in a strong performance in the finals.

They're in a tough group with Germany, Ukraine and Northern Ireland and getting out of the group will be no tough task. They can give any team a good game in the knockout stages if they get there and I wouldn't be surprised to see them make the last eight. Maybe Szczesny can have a good tournament and add a little to his value before he ends up at another club when the tournament is over.

Wales haven't played at an international tournament since who knows when and they were overjoyed to reach Euro 2016. It will be far from easy for them in a group containing England, Russia and Slovakia, but they will still be hopeful of making it to the last 16 at least. Aaron Ramsey is a very important player for them with only Gareth Bale ahead of him in terms of his importance to the team.

If they're going to progress from their group they will have to defend in depth and use Bale's ability on the break. That formula got them to the finals, but it might not be enough to help them go any further. Third place in the group might be enough to make the last 16 if they can win one group game, but it won't be an easy task.

I thought that would have been it for Arsenal players at Euro 2016, but Hector Bellerin has got a late call up to the Spanish squad after one of their defenders was injured in the Champions League final last Saturday night. He's had a great season for Arsenal and is a very good attacking full back even if he still has some work to do on his defending. The chances are he won't get to play too much, but the experience certainly shouldn't do him any harm.

Spain will be hopeful of retaining the title they have won on the last two occasions and they still have a very strong squad even if they did fail miserably at the World Cup two years ago. They will be fancied to win a group which contains Croatia, the Czech Republic and Turkey, but it won't be easy for them. Once they make it to the knockout stages they are more than capable of winning the tournament just like a few other teams and they have to be considered to be among the favourites.

There's a total of 10 Arsenal players on show at Euro 2016 and watching them play for their countries should at least help to pass the time as we wait for the real football to return next season. Quite a few of those players have a genuine chance of going very far in the tournament and we might even get to see one of them lift the trophy next month. Of course the further any players go into the tournament the less likely they are to return in time for the start of the new season, but every other team has to deal with those problems too. For the moment we will have to watch and hope that we get all of our players back in one piece and raring to go for the new season.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.