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Wenger: No signings imminent + Thoughts on another great night in Italy

Woah!!! That was some game!

With our backs against the wall, we got the result we really needed to kick start our season. And for all their talk since the L’pool game, what away to respond to our critics.

I won’t bore you with a match report, just a summary of the things I learned from last night’s game.

First and foremost, we now have a top goalkeeper between the posts! Sz13 was absolutely phenomenal last night, he practically gave us our pass into the UCL group stages.

We conceded a penalty that shouldn’t have been, just after our equalizer. Oh that! Beautiful footwork from Gervinho left RVP to finish with aplomb. Back to Sz13, he kept out a well-taken penalty by Di Natale, and that definitely shattered the home side.

They lost their belief whilst ours was reinforced. We went on to score the winner few minutes after. Szczesny is dominant everywhere, he is “uber-confident”, plus he’s only 21! He can be our number 1 for the next 2 decades!

And Gervinho will be a memorable signing! Whilst he hasn’t particularly set the Emirates on fire with his performances, the talent is there for all to see. He beat his man time and again yesterday and should have had 2 assists, had Walcott not fluffed his lines.

Gervinho can be likened to raw gold at the moment…when refined, he’ll be scarily good! Let’s hope he won’t leave Arsenal when that time comes.

Sagna was another beast! He played at LB and did a great job. He even got an assist, and a quality one at that. Song also did very well in the second half, and Rosicky was an inspired sub.

All in all, the lads did a good job. We can at least go to Old Trafford with a bit of positivity. Gervinho, Song and Frimpong will sit that game out through suspension though.

While we’ll definitely miss them, a couple of signings before then will absolutely minimize the effects of their absence.

Arsene’s post-match interview gave us a somewhat clear indication of the club’s position in this transfer window. Said He:

“We work very hard on signings but if you look at the players we had tonight they were top class. [Does that mean you won’t make any signings?] There may be signings but I cannot lie and say we will sign someone tomorrow because it is not true. We try.”

This will definitely not go down too well with a lot of gooners, including myself. We’ve qualified for the UCL now, let’s bring in new players as soon as possible. It’s less than 7 days till the window closes.

In yesterday’s post, I said the day was about getting behind the team irrespective of what had happened. Well, we did just that and our team won.

“Normal activity” has resumed and we can start complaining about whatever and demand signings again.

L’Equipe claimed yesterday that Arsenal have made a bid of €25 million for Rennes’ midfielder Yann M’Vila, but I know better than to believe mere paper talk.

Who do you think Arsene should/will sign on or before 31st August?

Let us know in the comments!

Cahill on his way this time?|Wilshere out for a month|J Campbell on life in England

Morning gooners! I know it’s really hard to find anything good about this morning on the Arsenal front. But what can we do, except hope, and wait for our fortunes to turn around for the better.

As if we had not been dealt enough blows with player departures, our best midfielder won’t be available for the crunch tie in Italy tonight.

Wilshere suffered a setback on an ankle injury he sustained in preseason and looks certain to be out for around a month.

“He had a setback. It’s a hotspot on the bone of his ankle that if you continue to play, it can lead to a stress fracture…He’s in a boot again, so that means he will at least be out for two or three weeks.”

Even though Arsene was quoted as saying he thinks Jack will only be out for a further two to three weeks, we know the way these things are with Arsenal. So barring any miracle, expect him back in the squad late next month.

One player who is ready to play for us is new signing Joel Campbell. The Costa Rican striker is fully aware of the physical aspect of English football but is ready to work hard and learn from his team mates.

“[English football? I know] it is a physical kind of football, it is very difficult to win the title but I am here to be a good player and give my contribution. [A loan spell?] Everything depends on my work rate and if it happens, I hope one day I will play for Arsenal. [My hopes and dreams?] I want to earn a place here at Arsenal and score many goals for such an important Club of the Premier League.”

So we play Udinese tonight in a game which has the potential to decide what direction the pendulum swings for us this season. We succeeded in persuading UEFA to delay Wenger’s suspension, and as such he’ll be in charge for tonight.

Predicted Starting line up: Sz53; Sagna, TV5, Djourou, Traore; Song, Rosicky, Ramsey; Walcott, RVP, Gervinho.

Reports making rounds indicate that a couple of players we are linked to want to be sure we’ll go through before signing.

It makes logical sense to me and I don’t see how we’ll be able to attract the calibre of players we need if we miss out on the UCL.

Players leaving and injuries have left us with a much smaller squad to choose from and we are particularly short at the back. The fact that Bolton got Man City’s Boyata on loan has even led us to think they might be ready to part ways with Gary Cahill.

Having said that, sadly I DO NOT expect Arsenal to sign a defender on or before August 31st. Judging from Arsene’s comments yesterday, he seems concerned about only the midfield. Said he:

“We brought in [Alex Oxlade-] Chamberlain – you will see that he will be a great player… We are short in midfield at the moment and that is where we want to strengthen.”

No matter what he’s said, now is not the time to determine if Wenger is a drunk, a blind man or a just flawed genius.

Now is the time to get behind our team (Wenger included). The team needs us now more than ever. Once we’ve completed our Italian job, we can come back to complain about whatever!

C’mon You Gunners! Put a smile on our faces…we are due one.

P.S: No mention of Nasri? Yeah, he’s dead to me now!

Any thoughts/predictions? Do share them below.

Champions League: An Early Italian Job for the Gunners

Arsenal’s 2011/12 European sojourn begins tonight, albeit a bit earlier than we Gooners would have wanted, when Italian side Udinese visit the Emirates for the first leg of their UEFA Champions League final qualifying round match with a place in the lucrative group stages at stake.

Both sides will have several key players missing through injury, suspension and Barcelona with Arsenal set to be without Robin van Persie and Samir Nasri through suspension. Jack Wilshere remains a doubt after sitting out Saturday’s fiery goalless draw at Newcastle United and Cesc Fàbregas has finally completed his protracted move to Barcelona just as Gaël Clichy has moved on to Manchester City.

Ivorian forward Gervinho looks set to get his European debut following a rough welcome to Premier League football at St. James’ Park while Theo Walcott’s bubbly substitute appearance there puts him in good contention for a starting shirt tonight coupled with van Persie being suspended and Marouane Chamakh in poor form.

Udinese on their part have lost Chilean playmaker Alexis Sanchez to the Catalan giants as well while their Swiss midfielder Gokhan Inler has swapped their black-white stripes for the navy blue strip of Napoli. Imposing Colombian defender Cristian Zapata has joined Spanish outfit Villarreal and the transfer of Denis away from the club is just about completed.

Still available for the Italians in their quest for the group stage though are Maurisio Isla, assured goalkeeper Samir Hamdanovic and forward Antonio di Natale who has finished top of the goalscoring chart for the last two seasons along with Antonio Floro Flores who joins from Genoa where he netted ten times in eighteen games last season.

Despite the absence of van Persie and Nasri, the Gunners go into the encounter slight favourites based primarily on the healthy record against Italian opposition with both Milan clubs and AS Roma the most notable Italian sides overcome by the Gunners in recent years.

Arsenal also hold the slight advantage of match fitness on the back of pre-season matches and one league game while the Serie A; in the event players threat to strike falls through, will only kick-off at the end of August. There also is the record of Arsenal reaching the Champions League group phase for the 14th consecutive season that Udinese have up against them.

Hopefully, Saturday’s lethargic performance will have the lads see the need to raise their game a few notches ahead of the 19:45 kick-off.

Seventh Year


It has been quite a summer for Arsenal with the Gunners without doubt being the champions of transfer speculations all through. Can Arsène Wenger and his charges end a run of seasons without a competitive trophy at the seventh attempt?

An answer to that largely depends on the club’s mental approach going into matches and this is in two aspects. Firstly, we must kill games when leading and in the inability to do so, be able to hold onto such advantage till after the final whistle as evident from both legs of last season’s north London derby and home matches against Liverpool, Aston Villa, Newcastle United and West Bromwich-Albion as well as the infamous implosion at Newcastle where we ironically open this season’s campaign.

The other aspect of our mental approach to games is how we fare in the months of February and March, months that have proved the Achilles Heel in the leap towards a trophy in the last four seasons.

Last season’s episode proved the most painful, we suffered defeat to Birmingham City (now of the Championship) in the League Cup final on the last day of February, before enduring a mediocre run of form in March that pretty much ended all other title ambitions on other fronts.

And there’s the additional mental jabs dealt the team now no thanks to speculations surrounding the future of Samir Nasri & Fabregas who has reportedly agreed to a deal to return to his boyhood club. Which means a new era is about to start, one without the club’s best player. But no one man or player is greater than the club.

Meanwhile the latter is once more reportedly close to completing a £22m move to oil rich Manchester City, some reports even suggesting he may do so before the protracted tug for Fàbregas finally ends.

Arsenal’s hopes of ending the trophy drought will now rest on 20 year old Jack Wilshere(albeit not solely) as it was the English international who flourished – when Fàbregas was mostly half fit or out injured last season – with consistent and assured performances. While possessing admirable mental and physical strength, the rest of the team will determine just how much impact Wilshere will have this season.

With Laurent Koscielny apparently being the notable addition to the team last season, the Gunners actually did well until those dreaded months. This term, Ivorian forward Gervinho has joined and impressed so far with his quick feet and good composure.

Other than him, Wenger has (annoyingly) kept to his policy with a roll call of highly rated youngsters such as Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain and Ryo Miyaichi. The transfer window however is still over a fortnight from closing so some much needed experienced players may yet arrive at the Emirates.

While awaiting those, Gooners will be banking on Robin van Persie to pick up from the fiery form of the second half of last season that saw the Dutchman finally show us his potential with a high return on goals per game. Having him fit for a whole season on such form leaves the heights attainable by the team optimistically imagined.

In the event of him being out injured as he is sadly prone to, Theo Walcott gets my nod to spearhead the front ahead of the overly disappointing Marouane Chamakh and the England international has publicly stated his desire to play upfront rather than on the wings.

Last season, he posed a real threat to defences with his raw speed that was, unlike previous seasons, complemented with much technique. This sort of form gives promise of this season being perhaps a breakthrough season for the 21 year old.

Those other than the above players that could contribute to a successful league campaign, and perhaps success in any of the other competitions, are Thomas Vermaelen, Andrei Arshavin, Koscielny and goalkeepers Lukasz Fabianski and Woijcech Sczeszny just as I’m personally looking forward to how Aaron Ramsey fares with Abou Diaby’s injury presenting the Welsh midfielder a chance to impress.

Vermaelen on his part was out virtually all of last season injured and Squillaci failed woefully as partner to Koscielny. Consequently, the efficiency of our physios this season actually comes in just behind the team’s mental maturity as deciding factors on how this season will pan out.

Arsenal’s campaign begins at St. James’ Park in Saturday’s evening kick-off having survived getting postponed due to the violent scenes that besieged streets in London and Birmingham.

That match is then followed in quick sequence by games against title rivals Liverpool and Manchester United, with the Champions League qualifier against Italian side Udinese buttered between those red encounters.

In all honesty, Arsenal are strong contenders for the title and hopefully we avoid burning out at those times aforementioned!

That said, enjoy the season ahead, it’s great to finally be getting underway!

C’mon You Smokin’ Gunners!!!

Thoughts on a tricky UCL tie + A “Different” Members Day

It was Members Day yesterday and fans got an opportunity see the players train. It is usually a relaxed and enjoyable event, but this year’s edition had a different atmosphere to it.

Apart from the weather which almost crippled the entire event, there was some tension in the air. With rumours rife that the club were set to take two pictures, one with Cesc and one without him, the rain denied fans what they really wanted to see.

A number of “rituals” were also avoided for reasons best known to the organizers. Normally, the players would be introduced to the fans and they’d come out one by one to a rapturous applause. Yesterday however, they all came out at once.

The best guess is the club tried to avoid a controversy due to the uncertainty surrounding the future of some key players. That being said, it was great to see Cesc and other want-away stars train with no qualms.

Apparently, we rejected another bid of around £29m from Barcelona today. The drama continues and we can expect it to last until August 31st…if he has not left before then.

Meanwhile, the Champions League Draws for the qualifying phase were made today. We get to play Udinese over two legs for a place in the Group stages.

Given our options, we could have drawn a much easier team, but we didn’t and we’ve got to deal with that. Even though Udinese sold 3 of their best players this summer, they still have some really good players, Antonio Di Natale, Kwadwo Asamoah, Pablo Armero, Mauricio Isla et al.

Also, the fact that we play the first leg at home makes me a bit worried. Our home form hasn’t been the best, and we need to kill this tie at home. Anything less than a 2-goal lead is not good enough. Having said that, we have been taught that even a 4-goal lead does not assure us of an Arsenal win.

August will be a very decisive month for us, we play Newcastle away, Liverpool at home, Udinese at home, Man United away and Udinese away. Yet we are still a couple of players short and we do not have as much time as we think.

Should results go against us, we may have lost ground in the race for the EPL title and not qualify for the UCL, even before the transfer window closes. But even though we cannot rule out the possibility of such a disaster, I very much doubt things will get that bad.

I’ve watched us go to Milan twice, Turin and Roma, and we came out victorious on each of those occasions. It’s only a matter of adding Udinese to that list.

Any thoughts? Please share them below.