Arsenal 2014-15

We have the new season upon us and so far there has been only good news for Arsenal fans. Although we may have lost Bacary Sagna and Thomas Vermaelen, we have learnt from past mistakes and swooped early to sign Alexis Sanchez, Mathieu Debuchy and David Ospina to cover up our gaps. Barring another mid-season breakdown, this would be the season to watch. The Germans won the World Cup, and will soon be back in training to give us a massive boost in the games later in the month.

Our match against Manchester City in the Charity Shield allowed the fans to have a good view of the quality amongst Arsenal’s ranks. There are still shouts of getting another defensive midfielder to complement Arteta and also a good defensive cover for both Koscielny and Mertesacker.

This would be the breakthrough season for Jack Wilshere to finally live up to his billing as boy wonder for England. Aaron Ramsey made it his last season and has continued that with a goal in the game against City.

If you’re an Arsenal fan, send in your opinions. Come on you Gunners!

Arsenal and Puma partnership

Arsenal and Puma partnership

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Robin van Persie & Season Preview

It has come down to this, Arsenal’s talismanic striker for last season, Robin van Persie has finally decided to join our perennial arch rivals Manchester United for a sum of £24 million. This was a shrewd piece of business by Sir Alex Ferguson, not only did he signed the best player of last season, he even bought it from another title challenger! Arsenal’s voodoo jinx of handing the captain’s armband to the player most likely to leave continues, although I have to say, Vermaelen would most probably be the one who breaks the jinx come next season.

After the transfer fiasco of losing Nasri and Fabregas last season, Arsene Wenger has wizened up this time around, signing 3 quality players before van Persie left. Although in reality he has already ‘left’ us since making that announcement in July. Unfortunately for him, United were the only suitors, no thanks to his ridiculous wage demands. If I am not mistaken, he doubled his salary by joining United. With Cazorla, Giroud and Podolski in the team for this season’s challenge, I am pretty sure we will be challenging for honours this season, domestically and continentally.

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Arsenal Season Review 2011-12

One word sums up the feeling for this roller-coaster season — relief. Relieved at qualification for the Champions League spot, the only ‘silverware’ that we have been winning for the past 7 seasons. Relieved that we some how manage to make a straightforward game all that much difficult against WBA, who had nothing to play for except to provide a good sending off for the new England manager. Relieved that St Totteringham Day was celebrated again, for the 17th straight year. Relieved that we still hold the bragging rights for the best London team, although Chelsea could still spoil it this weekend.

I would have preferred to use another word but that word is a bit harsh, negative and uninspiring. Going through the Arsenal-related blogs, the general feeling was mutual. Everyone felt that we had a bad start, came back strongly in the latter half of 2011, then decided to shoot ourselves in the foot with a disastrous January, followed by 9 wins out of 10. Just when we thought 3rd place was pretty much secured, the team decided to give themselves a challenge by losing to Wigan and QPR, then embark on 3 consecutive draws, before giving all the loyal fans a scare during the game against WBA. In case you were wondering, the word I was referring to — inconsistency. Hardly surprising.

The win at WBA gave us 3rd place and automatic qualification to the Champions League. For our 15th season in a row. Everyone is talking about the windfall of qualification but at a team like Arsenal, the money earned was not immediately seen. At the start of the season, we allowed ourselves to be drawn out by the transfer sagas of Fabregas and Nasri, leaving us with insufficient time to find proper replacements. Then we had that match against Manchester United which revealed our frailties. A glut of signings followed that and somehow, Arsene managed to steer us through the choppy waters. But the signs were there that this was going to be a tough season, 4 defeats in the first 7 games put paid to the silverware that was probably our best bet (in my opinion).

In my previous Arsenal post, I was talking about allowing Benayoun to leave, looking back, his experience and presence in the run up to 3rd spot was invaluable. However, with Wilshere recovering from his injury next season, I doubt Arsene would make the deal permanent. Arteta was definitely the buy of the season, his midfield displays always coincided with us winning. If he was in the team against WBA, I think we would have sealed up 3rd place in the first half itself, no offence to any WBA fans reading this.

If defending is an art then we are the 3-year-old with fingerpaints – Lady Arse

As always, our defensive frailties was the cause of most of our woes. Much have been mentioned and discussed across the blogs/forums/tweets that I have lost count on who’s to blame. That we had to play with no recognized fullbacks at one point in the season was also a major factor.

Enough about the bad. Van Persie going a full season without injuries and pretty much carried the team along was the highlight of this season. I hope I did not just put a curse on him. It was also him that delivered the only silverware this season, the Golden Boot. Too bad he did not manage to break the record of goals scored in a season and also the one which Shearer held (Most goals in a calendar year). His performances justified the awards that he picked up.

The fact that we were able to string together a number of wins in a row after that amazing comeback against Spurs showed the true class that the team have in themselves. Now for Arsene to put that to good use in the long run. It is time we showed the naysayers and the so-called football pundits that we can win something playing the Arsenal way. And as always, I still feel that the Premier League title is the only true silverware worth winning and bragging about. Even if you steal it at the very last minute of injury time.

Last but not least, this season tested my belief in Arsene Wenger and his tactical nous. Never before had I felt that, ever since his first season in charge, when everyone went “Arsene who?” There were a couple of times that I could not bear to read the match report or to go through the blogs. Hearing the vitriol being spewed by armchair enthusiasts and pundits alike. I can just imagine how Wenger must have felt. And it was quite clear to all and sundry, as he hugged Pat Rice when the whistle blew at the Hawthorns.

Hopes For Next Season

The swift signing of Lukas Podolski, 18 goals in 28 games for a relegated team, mind you, was shrewd piece of business. Hopefully, there are a couple more of those deals up Arsene’s sleeves. The healthy return of Sagna and Wilshere (Diaby anyone?) will be hailed as if we had ‘a new signing’ by fans all around. Van Persie to sign a 5-year contract and keep scoring goals. Oxlade-Chamberlain to come good and stake a claim for a first team spot.

Defensive woes settled by Bould’s presence. The team to finally play football the Arsenal way and win the Arsenal way. Consistency becomes a by-word for the club. Spurs to get relegated while we end the Manchester hegemony with a Premier League title, followed with the Champions League. A man can dream, can’t he?

Arsenal’s Summer Transfers

This has been a roller coaster season for Arsenal, to say the least. Losing Fabregas and Nasri early in the season without finding able replacements, seeing the team get beaten horrendously against Manchester United, but equally, beating both Chelsea and Tottenham plus climbing up to 3rd place in the English Premier League, have more than make up for the early disappointments. As a fellow armchair manager, I was guilty of turning to Football Manager (game) whenever results did not go our way in real life.

In the game, I could do no wrong as manager of Arsenal. But then again, it is just a game. So with about 8 games left to go in the current season, and with Arsenal just fighting for the Champions League spot, I hope that for next season, we could be in a better position to finally break the duck after 7 barren seasons.

Arsenal has never been big spenders under Arsene Wenger in general, although there were a few exceptions along the way. But for next season to be a success he would have to spend big but it is not all that gloomy for Arsenal, as I hope he has plans to discard some of the underperforming players at the club, and recouping some fair amount of transfer fees. Among those who are deemed surplus would be Arshavin, Vela, Chamakh, Park, Almunia, Squillaci and Benayoun.

Ideally, the club would require a back up goalkeeper for Szczesny, another defender, a midfielder and a backup striker for van Persie. Here are my best bets for next season and for the Gunners to finally breakthrough and win something for a change.

GOALKEEPER

With Szczesny being a huge influence at the back, I doubt there will be anyone replacing him anytime soon. So what Wenger need would be to find a capable second string keeper, seeing that Almunia will no longer be with the club, Fabianski would need some challenge for his spot to keep him on his toes. My recommendation would be Paul Robinson. He might not be performing well for Blackburn and based on statistics for this season, probably the worst keeper in the league in terms of saves per shot. But his experience would prove to be a good cover when needed.

A surprise would be to get Michael Vorm of Swansea, who is on the other end of the scale as compared to Paul Robinson. This unknown Dutchman has saved around 70-75% of the shots on target he has faced so far. But would he be willing to be number 2? Or would Arsene place him as number one? Knowing Wenger, I think he will just skip this part and stick with the status quo.

DEFENCE

As any fervent Arsenal fan would tell you, this has been the team’s weakest spot for the best part of the last 7 years. And we have seen countless of players been brought it but none have been able to plug the gaps. Not to mention our fragilities at set pieces. This season the back four has seen numerous changes due to the amount of niggling injuries the players have suffered. And I doubt it will be any different come next season. Vermaelen and Koscielny have developed a good understanding to be our starting centre backs with Sagna and Gibbs supporting from the flanks. Mertesacker, despite the odd mistakes here and there is a good enough cover. But I still think we need one more defender as cover, perhaps, someone with the versatility to play anywhere among the back four.

We have been linked with Jan Vertonghen of Ajax, but like Le Professeur (Wenger), I prefer to buy unknowns and cheap players. Aldo Angoula of French outfit Evian has proven to be a bargain for his current team, and he is also the reason why they aren’t the relegation fodder as people thought they would be. Averaging 2 tackles, interceptions and aerial duels won per game, these statistics would add steel to the current Arsenal back four. Although Arsene has not been known to go for players older than 30 due to the club policy, maybe he could make an exception for Hugo Campagnaro. This 31-year-old Argentinean, who plays for Napoli, might just fit the bill. Averaging around 3 tackles per game for the last 3 seasons and was just called up to the national squad; he would be an experienced cover for our injury-prone centre backs.

MIDFIELD

This is the only position where Arsenal has an abundance of players. Even without the forever injured Abou Diaby, we still have Arteta, Song, Ramsey, Wilshere, Rosicky, Walcott, Gervinho, Oxlade-Chamberlain to choose from. With that said, injury is still the major obstacle facing the team’s midfield engine season in season out. For that matter, I would propose the name of Etienne Capoue from Toulouse. Standing at 6’2” he does seem to tick all the boxes. He is young, averaging 3 interceptions per game and with a pass accuracy of 75%, just what we need.

If we have the cash, another name from the French Ligue that has been linked with us for a number of seasons would be a good buy – Eden Hazard of Lille. He has been a phenomenon in France and it is about time he showed that trickery in the Premier League. Rosicky has hit a purple patch in the latter half of this season but age is not on his side and we need someone, a fouriclasse — a talent capable of unpicking a stubborn defence. Ever since Fabregas left (not too long ago), I have been waiting for someone to fill his boots, especially in the first half of this season and I think Hazard has it in him.

On another note, if we needed some older heads to make up the numbers, 2 players from the Premier League playing for some really unexpected sides would, statistically, be good enough for Arsenal. Put your hands together for Alejandro Faurlin (QPR) and Leon Britton (Swansea). Both of them have quite high accuracy for passes; with the latter being number one throughout Europe and the former will be adding some ball-winning ability to the team. The prospect of playing in Europe might just be enough to get them to sign for Arsenal.

ATTACK

Rumour has it that Lukas Podolski would be signing for Arsenal come next season, I think he will be a good foil for van Persie who has been putting a one-man show for Arsenal in the attacking department this season. If you noticed my ‘to sell’ list, we will be short for cover here. But as we all know, strikers are hard to come by and the best ones are usually the priciest. And with van Persie being first choice, I doubt there would be that many who are willing to play second fiddle. Podolski is a bit different; he can play on the left like he did for Germany, which makes him a good replacement for the oft-misfiring Gervinho.

CONCLUSION

These are just my opinion based on zero experience in real life but 8 years of experience in game life as manager of Arsenal. Hopefully, Arsene Wenger will finally break his own rule of not spending big next season and bring about some changes to the team. We have a good team currently, what we need is something extra to bring Arsenal to the next level and finally put our hands on some silverware!