Saturday, 23 July 2016

Arsenal Draw With Lens And Transfer Latest

Pre season got underway last night when Arsenal drew 1-1 away to Lens. As usual there's not an awful lot to be learned from these games and they're not much more than an exercise in fitness. With Lens so much further into their preparations than Arsenal it was never going to be a spectacle for Arsenal fans.

With so many players unavailable after playing for their countries in various summer tournaments it was a bit of a makeshift team. As usual at this time of year it was a mixture of youth and those who didn't play during the summer. As the season draws closer the strength of the team will improve and hopefully they will arrive at the opening game in tip top condition.

The only Arsenal goal was a deft finish from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain late on which secured the draw and he's a player who really needs to impress before the season starts. At the other end a poor header from Calum Chambers led to the Lens goal and again he's a player who needs to impress before the season starts. The next two games are on the far side of the States and there's a lot of travel to do before the season starts.

Before the game even started we learned that Arsenal had signed young central defender Rob Holding from Bolton. He looks like yet another one for the future and I'd be surprised to see him make an impression in the first team this season. The real transfer work needs to be done in the first team and it needs to be done quickly too.

Arsene Wenger spoke after the game about Arsenal being prepared to spend big if the right players are available and they have already spent big with the arrival of Granit Xhaka. He brings some much needed strength to the midfield and there are still up to three other positions which need addressing. For me a striker is the player needed most of all followed by a wide attacking player and a central defender.

While the rumours about strikers continue by the day it still looks like nothing concrete is in the offing just yet. It has emerged today that Arsenal might just be very close to signing Riyad Mahrez though and he's certainly a player who would fill that wide attacking role better than most. He had an exceptional season for Leicester and he will cost a pretty penny I'm sure if he is to come our way.

As always these rumours have to be taken with a grain of salt, but I would be more than happy to see Mahrez come to Arsenal. His goals and assists last season were a huge factor in Leicester winning the Premier League and we need more goals and assists from the wide positions in the team. He might well be on his way to Arsenal or somewhere else or he might just be angling for the best deal possible from Leicester. One thing is for sure and that is we can't count any chickens or welcome any players until we get official confirmation from the club and that's something which rarely comes quickly.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Arsenal Get Pre Season Underway Against Lens

The new season is only just over three weeks away and Arsenal get their pre season games underway tonight when they play Lens in Lens. There's isn't an awful lot to be learned from pre season games to be honest, but they help the players as they try to build towards match fitness. Arsenal's invincibles didn't have an impressive pre season in the summer of 2003, but they went on to complete the season unbeaten in the league which gives us a good indication of the true meaning of the outcome of these games.

Last summer Arsenal looked good and finished their build up by beating Chelsea in the Community Shield which led us to believe they were raring to go from day one. It wasn't to be though as they lost their opening league game at home to West Ham the next week, but they improved quickly enough after that. It's hard to believe the squad will arrive in tip top shape for the first game at home to Liverpool on August 14th after so many players were active in the later stages of Euro 2016 in particular.

We most certainly won't see Mesut Ozil, Laurent Koscielny, Olivier Giroud, Aaron Ramsey or Alexis Sanchez tonight and we probably won't see all, or at least most of them, in that opening game. In a squad already short of options in the attacking positions it's worrying to think we could start the season without those five players. The lack of Giroud will mean we will be desperately short up front and it's impossible to believe Arsenal won't sign a striker before the season starts.

At the moment it just doesn't look like it's going to happen, but not to sign one would be nothing short of a dereliction of duty from Arsene Wenger. Regular readers will know my views on Giroud, but he is by far our best option at centre forward despite all of his shortcomings. In my opinion Arsenal need to sign a striker who is better than Giroud and one who has real pace and they need to do it now.

The transfer window doesn't close until the end of August, but Arsenal will already have played three league games by then and they cannot wait until the last minute to sort out a problem which has been ongoing for far too long. It's not the only position that needs attention in the transfer market with the need for a wide attacking player and a central defender pressing too, but centre forward has to be the number one priority at the moment. There is no doubt the club have the money for the players that are needed, but getting their clubs to part with them and then convincing them to join us are no easy task either.

We should still get to see quite a few of the first team squad playing tonight along with some of the younger players who are training with them at the moment. There are another four games over the next two weeks with two of them in the States and the other two in Scandanavia before the squad come back home for the final week of pre season prior to the Liverpool game. Whatever the outcome of tonight's game it at least has to be good to see Arsenal back in action.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Arsenal's Search For A Striker Continues In Vain

Arsenal had their problems in front of goal last season, but they somehow managed to sneak into second place on the final day of the season. On the face of it second place was their best finish in the Premier League since 2005, but it's impossible not to believe they blew a great chance to win their first title in 12 years. With all of the other big clubs falling by the wayside the route to the title was laid out in front of them, but they weren't up to the task when the chips were down.

Next season will surely see the likes of United, Chelsea, City and Liverpool making a better challenge for the title and Arsenal will have to improve just to try to keep pace. The team and squad certainly need strengthening and the most pressing position to fill is that of a striker. 

At the moment we have Olivier Giroud who has just lost the final of Euro 2016 with France and has a holiday to take before he can even think of the new season which begins in 31 days. After Giroud the options disappear very quickly with Danny Welbeck injured until the new year at least and Theo Walcott clearly not a genuine option. After that we're looking at players like Yaya Sanogo and Chuba Akpom, but they can't be real alternatives for a starting position against Liverpool on August 14.

With all of that in mind there is a pressing need for a striker and it's a need which has to be addressed very quickly. It looked like Jamie Vardy was going to be the easy option for Arsenal when they activated the release clause in his contract, but he chose to stay with Leicester City. His rejection was certainly a blow and the club need to target the player they need and do their business as quickly as possible.

There has been plenty of speculation and the list of names seems to grow by the day. Whether any of those players will end up at the club or not is another thing, but one thing is certain and that is a striker is an absolute necessity if Arsenal are going to challenge next season. It's not going to be easy to find the right player and there seems to be a real lack of quality strikers available at anything approaching a reasonable price. Arsenal are probably going to have to pay over the odds for any striker they buy and Arsene Wenger is not exactly known for paying over the odds.

First up there's Gonzalo Higuain who is apparently available for a fee in the region of £60 million, but that fee increases with each day as Sterling decreases in value. Higuain broke goalscoring records in Italy last season and he could be just the striker we need, but it's an awful lot of money for a player who will have no resale value when his contract is up. At 28 he's at his prime though and he would surely be an improvement on the current options. There has been some mention of Giroud going in the other direction as a makeweight in the deal, but surely Arsenal need to keep him too.

After Higuain the next option seems to be Alexandre Lacazette and he would probably cost half of what Napoli want for Higuain. The question is whether Lacazette would be an improvement on the current options and it's not easy to imagine he would be. He didn't make the French squad for the Euros though and Giroud had a pretty good tournament. At 25 he is approaching his prime and if we could get the best out of him he might just be the best option of those that are being mooted.

Next up is Alvaro Morato and he's another player who's name just won't seem to go away. He's only 23 years old, but I can't say I have been overly impressed with his goalscoring record to date. Real Madrid brought him back from Juventus just to sell him on it seems and it looks like they will auction him off to the highest bidder. For me I think Arsenal should steer clear, but the chances are they won't be making a move for him anyway at the price currently being mentioned.

Romelu Lukaku is another player who won't seem to go away and he has an impressive goalscoring record so far. He's still got time on his side, but I can't say he looks an awful lot better than Giroud although he does have more pace. Again I can't see Arsenal paying the money which Everton are reportedly looking for and I'm not sure he's the striker we need either.

Finally there's Maurco Icardi whose wife has apparently spilled the beans on an impending move from Inter. With Arsenal in need of a striker it's easy to put two and two together and say we're in for Icardi, but I don't think there's too much to these rumours. Like Lukaku and Lacazette he has time on his side and his club goalscoring record is quite good, but Arsenal need the finished article and he's certainly not that just yet.

It's impossible to know which (if any) of these players will join Arsenal, but the rumours will continue with the need so pressing. Hopefully the right player will arrive and very soon and just maybe it will be a player none of us have even considered so far. The boss has brought in a few surprise signings over the years and some of them have worked out and I wouldn't be surprised to see him do it again.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Ever Arsenal Returns And Latest Arsenal News

It's been a while since I wrote anything about Arsenal, but such is the way of things in the summer. Usually I would write on my journey to and from work, but I've been driving recently and trying to enjoy what passes for a summer in Ireland in the evenings. I will get to spend a couple of weeks in Ibiza latter in the summer, but it just so happens my holiday coincides with the first interlull of the new season.

From an Arsenal perspective not an awful lot has happened since I last wrote about Arsenal with no additional high profile signings to the early arrival of Granit Xhaka. It's been interesting watching Euro 2016 and I have to say I was impressed with his performances for Switzerland. He looks like a perfect addition to the Arsenal squad for me and I think he will be well suited to life in the Premier League.

Of course there was the protracted negotiations with Jamie Vardy who ultimately decided to remain at Leicester City. I was more than a little surprised when Vardy turned Arsenal down and I can't help thinking it's a decision he might come to regret. You have to admire his loyalty to Leicester, but his chances of adding to the Premier League trophy he won last season would surely be better in the right end of North London.

With the demise of the Vardy deal Arsenal are a little lost in their search for a new striker and it's a position they clearly need to add at least one player in. The goal return last season simply wasn't good enough and we are wasting the talents of Mesut Ozil by not providing him with the class of striker he deserves. As good as Olivier Giroud might be he does not possess the pace to be considered a top class striker for me.

With Danny Welbeck out for at least another seven months and Theo Walcott showing he's just not a striker the options up front for Arsenal are severely limited unless we sign someone very soon. Giroud won't be back from his Euro 2016 adventure with France for a fair few weeks yet, but the new season kicks off in just over five weeks when we play Liverpool. Some of the Arsenal players are already back in pre season training even as Euro 2016 comes to a conclusion for Giroud and Laurent Koscielny on Sunday.

We did of course sign Takuma Asano, but he's one for the future and he'll be playing at the Olympics for Japan in a few weeks which will rule him out of our squad for a while. Even if he was available the chances are he won't get a work permit and will have to be loaned out for a season or two. Imagine the confusion in English football if the anti immigrant voters get their wish and work visas will be needed by all non UK players in a few years.

The rumours linking us to strikers continue unabated as our need grows greater. Antoine Greizmann showed last night exactly what he has to offer, but like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang I can't see Arsenal matching the asking price if either player was available. Plenty of other names have been mentioned, but it's hard to see who we can get who might make a real difference and at a price Arsenal would be willing to pay too.

There's a very real possibility of the season starting without Giroud, Koscielny and Mesut Ozil while Alexis Sanchez continues to recover from the ankle injury he picked when winning the Copa America with Chile. The prospect of starting the season without those four players is a worrying one and hopefully it won't come to that.

Besides the need for a striker the team/squad needs a central defender, a full back and a wide player too. I don't pretend to be in the know or have inside information from anyone at the club, but I do know there needs to be some serious business done and it needs to be done quickly. The transfer window only officially opened last week and doesn't close until the end of August, but the sooner any business is done the better. All new arrivals need time to settle in and the few weeks of pre season training with the rest of the team is the best way for them to do just that. 

Plenty of Arsenal players have impressed with their countries at Euro 2016 with Aaron Ramsey, Giroud, Koscielny, Ozil and Xhaka looking the part. Jack Wilshere didn't get too much of a chance with England, but hopefully we will finally get to see the real player next season with no injuries affecting him. There's plenty to look forward to in the upcoming season and just maybe a fit Wilshere could be the highlight of the season.

With the new season we will also see the return of Fantasy Premier League and my Predictions League too. The predictions league went well for me last season and I have continued that form in a Euro 2016 predictions competition in my local pub with a very real chance of winning it or at least claiming one of the four cash prizes with only the final game to play. Hopefully I can improve on an abysmal season for my fantasy team which led to my worst ever finish in the 10 years I've being playing the game in it's current format. I look forward to running my league again and of course offering a €50 cash prize to the winner too. I'll post the details as soon as the game is up and running for the new season.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.