Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Arsenal Complete Their Transfers With Five Signings

With the World Cup over and football most certainly not coming home it’s time to look at Arsenal’s transfer dealings so far. Unai Emery has been quick to assess his squad and he has already brought in five players who he hopes will strengthen the team defensively. Given our defensive problems for a number of seasons now it’s an issue which had to be addressed and we can only hope he has brought in the personnel we so badly need.

Of course it’s going to take more than a few new players to change a team that conceded more goals from errors than any other Premier League team last season. We need a new mindset and determination from the players and that’s something the new manager has to get through to them from day one. We need the players to defend better as individuals and as a team too and that’s something that has to come from tactical nous and hard work on the training ground.

So far we have seen the arrivals of a goalkeeper, a right back, a central defender and two defensive midfielders. All of those arrivals are very promising, but I’m still not sure we have the actual quality needed in defence. It’s going to take an awful lot of work on the training ground to turn those players into a well marshalled unit, but it can be done.

The arrival of Bernd Leno must mean either Petr Cech or David Ospina will be on their way and there are rumours of Cech even heading back to Chelsea. Personally I think we can do better than both of them and I wasn’t impressed with either of them last season although it can’t be easy to play behind that Arsenal defence. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Leno claim the goalkeeper’s shirt for himself and maybe we might even sign another keeper if both Cech and Ospina decide to go elsewhere.

With Laurent Koscielny more than likely going to miss most of the season and Shkodran Mustafi possibly on his way out after some dreadful performances last season it’s the centre of our defence which needs the most work done on it. Neither Calum Chambers or Rob Holding are proven at the top level yet while both Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Konstantinos Mavropanos have little more than one Premier League game between them, but Sokratis is an experienced player at least.

Stephan Lichsteiner has been signed as cover for Hector Bellerin and he’s a defender with a great pedigree and he’s most definitely a winner. He’s exactly the sort of player we could do with in the squad and I’m looking forward to seeing him join up with the rest of the squad once he gets his much needed rest after his World Cup exploits with Switzerland. I can’t admit to having followed his career too closely, but I wonder if there’s any chance he might just be able to play as a central defender.

The right hand side of the defence looks strong with Lichsteiner and Bellerin to call on while the left hand side doesn’t look too weak either with both Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac vying for a place. There has been some talk of Monreal going back to play in Spain, but Emery appears unwilling to let our best defender from last season go.

The most impressive work in the transfer window so far seems to have been in the defensive role in midfield with both Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi added to the squad. Torreira looks like he’ll step straight into the team and he looks like a very good addition while Guendouzi looks like he’s one for the future, but he will get to show us what he can do on occasions this season. 

We might not have added any attacking players to the squad yet and we might not add any at all, but the work we did in January will be very hard to beat. I can’t wait to see Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang playing from day one and I think he’s going to score an awful lot of goals for us. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is another player who really excites me and I think he gives us options in midfield and attack which we didn’t have before his arrival. 

The most important business for us this summer could be tying Aaron Ramsey down to a new contract and Emery seems confident he can do so. A fully fit Ramsey is a very important player for Arsenal and I hope he can be persuaded to extend his contract as soon as possible. If not I can only imagine he will have to be sold this summer and we will have to look to spend big to replace him. 

I still think we will add another attacking player and I hope it’s a wide player because we are lacking some genuine width in the squad. Reiss Nelson might get the chance on occasions to show what he can do, but he still has a lot to learn and we need someone who can give us that something we are currently missing on a regular basis. 

Pre season started off encouragingly with an 8-0 win against Boreham Wood last Saturday and it will continue over the next week or so in Singapore with games against Atletico Madrid and PSG before we play Chelsea in Dublin on the first of August. It’s a game I’m lucky enough to be going to as it’s only about 12 stops away from me on the train. I haven’t seen Arsenal play in Ireland since the early days of George Graham’s reign in the 80s and I’m really looking forward to seeing them play and I’m hoping for a very strong team with the season starting only nine days later.

That’s it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Arsenal Update As The World Cup Gets Real

When the World Cup started Arsenal were represented by nine of their players at the tournament and now with half of the 32 teams on their way home that figure has been cut to five players. The four players on their way home all managed to see some action with varying degrees of success, but at least they will be available to play for Arsenal sooner than the players still caught up in the tournament.

The big surprise among the players on their way home is Mesut Ozil as the reigning champions exited at the group stages for the third World Cup in a row. Germany picked Ozil from the start against South Korea and he created enough chances to win the game for them, but their 2-0 defeat saw them finish last in their group. As usual the Ozil haters were out in force blaming him for the failure of his country and just about anything else you care to think of. For me I think their demise was probably down to a little bit of over confidence and the lack of a striker to put away all the chances they (and Ozil in particular) made.

Joel Campbell will join Ozil on a beach somewhere no doubt and he managed to get his first start of the World Cup as Costa Rica managed their first point in a 2-2 draw with Switzerland. He actually had a very good game from what I saw and he had s huge part to play in both of their goals. He probably won’t be an Arsenal player next season, but his performance against Switzerland should at least mean sone interest is shown in him by other clubs.

Both Mohamed Elneny and Alex Iwobi are on their respective ways home too as their countries bowed out at the group stages. Egypt lost all three of their games with Elneny playing all of those games, but it’s probably a tournament they would prefer to forget. Nigeria lost two of their three games, but it took a very late winner from Argentina to see them off on their merry way. Iwobi didn’t see an awful lot of game time after starting their first game and failing to impress.

We still have the Swiss pair of Granit Xhaka and Stephan Lichsteiner involved as their country face Sweden in the last 16 on Tuesday, but they will have to do so without Lichsteiner as he got his second yellow in that game against Costa Rica and has to serve a one game suspension. He set up their first goal in that game and Xhaka played quite well too. Lichsteiner will be hoping the team can progress to the quarter finals so he can come in again and share in some of the glory.

David Ospina gets the thrill of playing against an England team which will see Danny Welbeck on the bench once more although he did manage a few minutes off the bench in their last group game. The defeat against Belgium sees England in the supposed easier half of the draw, but they will have to get past a Colombian team who have won their last two games without conceding a goal and only lost their opening game because they had to play for 87 minutes with 10 men. I’m not saying Colombia are favourites, but England could underestimate them at their peril.

As Arsenal fans we all know Ospina’s weaknesses and England would do well to try to exploit them. They have been very good at set pieces so far and I expect the ball to be put right in on top of Ospina at every chance. I also expect to see him go down injured on at least three occasions and who knows he might actually be injured on one of those occasions.

The final Arsenal player is Nacho Monreal who looks highly unlikely to get a game at all unless someone else is injured or suspended. As I write this Spain have just gone out on penalties in their round of 16 game with Russia and yet again Nacho is on the bench watching.

It does look like we will have a few players in  the quarter finals, but maybe only because England are playing  Colombia and we are guaranteed at least one player in the last eight.

That’s it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Latest Arsenal World Cup Update

The World Cup continues apace and the Arsenal players at it are continuing to make very little impact. Of the nine players who are there to represent their countries only four started in the second round of games after five of them had started in the first round.

The first Arsenal player to make a real impact was Granit Xhaka when he scored a fantastic equaliser to get Switzerland back into the game against Serbia. A late Xherdan Shaqiri goal gave them the three points and they will qualify for the knockout stages once they don’t lose to Costa Rica. They could even win the group if they can outdo Brazil’s result against Serbia, but I’m sure they’ll be happy enough once they progress. Xhaka nearly got himself in trouble with FIFA for his goal celebration, but they decided not to press charges for him, Shaqiri and Stephan Lichsteiner.

Xhaka was joined in that Swiss team by Lichsteiner for that game and the more I see him the more I like him. He looks like he has the mentality we seem to be lacking and hopefully some of that can rub off on his new team mates next season. 

David Ospina kept a clean sheet for Colombia as they bounced back from their defeat against Japan with a convincing 3-0 win against Poland. He played his part in that victory with some good saves and he even managed to go down injured three times during the game as per usual. Colombia will have to beat Senegal in their final group game to progress, but they have every chance of doing so if they play like they did against Poland.

The last Arsenal player to get a game from the start was Mohamed Elneny and he has played his third game as I write this. Unfortunately Egypt lost all three games to finish last in their group and the tournament is over for them despite having Mohamed Salah among their ranks. On the plus side from an Arsenal perspective at least Elneny will have some down time before he’s back to pre season training.

The tale of the rest of the players doesn’t play too well with Nacho Monreal and Danny Welbeck still to kick a ball for Spain and England respectively even though both of their countries have progressed to the next round. 

Mesut Ozil didn’t play for Germany as they managed to bring themselves back from the brink of elimination with a 2-1 win against Sweden and a victory over South Korea should be enough to make the last 16 for them. It doesn’t look like it was injury which kept Ozil out, but you can’t be sure and I would be very surprised if we don’t see him back in the German team before too long.

Alex Iwobi came off the bench very late on as Nigeria beat Iceland 2-1 to boost their chances of progression. They should make the last 16 if they don’t lose to underperforming Argentina, but that still won’t be an easy task. Iwobi will find it hard to get into the team if they continue to perform like they did against Iceland, but he might still have a part to play too.

Finally Joel Campbell didn’t see any action as Costa Rica went down very late on to Brazil. They’re out of the tournament and they won’t find it easy to get anything from a Switzerland team looking for a result to make the last 16. With their tournament over they might just be tempted to give Campbell a chance to play from the start in that final game.

That’s it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Arsenal Say Hello To Bernd Leno And Wave Goodbye To Jack Wilshere

It’s been an eventful few days for Arsenal with comings and goings at the club as we signed a goalkeeper and lost a midfielder. Bernd Leno joined from Bayer Leverkusen just a few hours before we heard the news from Jack Wilshere that he will be playing his football elsewhere next season.

Leno looks like a pretty decent keeper to me and his arrival will surely see the exit of either Petr Cech or David Ospina or maybe even both of them. I think we needed a new keeper as neither Cech nor Ospina have been impressive and we need a keeper who the defenders can depend upon. I’m looking forward to seeing him at least compete for thr first choice keeper’s role with either Cech or Ospina and I hope he is good enough to make it his own.  

Wilshere has been in negotiations with the club about a new contract for quite a while now, but it appears those discussions have come to an end. He said he was prepared to take a pay cut, but following discussions with Unai Emery he made the decision the best thing for him was to move when his contract ends at the end of this month. I can understand why Emery might want to bring in his own players, but I will also be sad to see Wilshere leave.

For me he was a player with huge potential who never really got to live up to that potential mainly due to injuries. He has missed an awful lot of time due to a series of injuries which all seemed to stem from an ankle injury a good few years ago. That’s not to say he hasn’t had his good moments at the club, but it has been a few years since we have seen the best of him.

He played plenty of games last season, but his return in terms of goals and assists was minimal to say the least. He was loaned out to Bournemouth the previous season after appearing unwilling to fight for a place at Arsenal having missed all of the previous season through injury. There’s no doubting his love for the club and I’m sure leaving us will hurt him, but there’s little room for sentiment in football.

I wish him well wherever he goes except when he plays against us of course and I hope he can overcome his injury problems and do really well for the rest of his career. His exit opens up a place in the squad you would imagine and we look like we could be lining his replacement up already. If the rumours are to be believed Lucas Torreira will join us from Sampdoria quite soon. I won’t be counting any chickens until he signs on the dotted line though.

With Wilshere on the way out it was interesting to see Granit Xhaka extend his contract and you can only assume he has done so as Unai Emery wants him at the club. He’s a player that divides opinion, but I think the right manager and the right coaching could make him a very important player for us. I’m looking forward to seeing how Emery can influence him next season and I’m hoping we’ll see a lot more consistency and defensive stability from him.

That’s it for today.

See you tomorrow.