According to goal.com and BBC Radio Manchester (among other sources), Benik Afobe looks set to join Bolton on a season-long loan following some strong pre-season performances. It is known that there have been ongoing talks between Arsenal and Bolton about a loan-move for Afobe, and while the news has not yet been confirmed on the Arsenal website the 19-year-old could join the Trotters as early as tomorrow (in time for Bolton’s friendly against Portsmouth).
Afobe has already had loan spells at Huddersfield Town and Reading, and I was particularly impressed with him during Arsenal’s pre-season tour of Asia. However, the fact remains that there are a number of very talented players ahead of him in the Arsenal squad and that he would probably have found that his first-team opportunities were limited this season had he stayed.
He is apparently yet to make a competitive senior appearance Arsenal, although I do have him down as somebody with a lot of potential who could be a useful squad player in the future. Whether or not he has what it takes to play week-in, week-out in the Premier League remains to be seen. Afobe has struggled in the last year with a groin injury, so the fact that Wenger wants to send him out on loan to have some game-time and gain more experience is understandable.
Bolton have a good track record with Arsenal players in recent years; Jack Wilshere and Ryo Miyaichi both gained invaluable experience while playing under Owen Coyle, and I am sure that Coyle will get the best out of Afobe despite Bolton being relegated to the Championship on the final day of last season.
I will also have news on the transfers of Santi Cazorla and Nuri Sahin later this evening or tomorrow. The Cazorla deal looks to be completed, so we are just waiting for confirmation from the respective clubs. Sahin has been given permission to leave by Mourinho, which could signify a bit step towards him playing in the Premier League.
Speaking to SkySports, Arsène Wenger has ruled out a move for Bolton’s Gary Cahill in January.
The Cahill to Arsenal transfer saga was one of the longest-running transfer stories of the summer, with the eventual outcome being that Owen Coyle rejected a bid from Arsenal that was labeled ”derisory”.
Cahill is out of contract in the summer, but Wenger insists that we already have 5 strong centre-backs (he has included Sebastian Squillaci…) and it does not look like he will enter into further negotiations with Coyle in January, even for a lower price.
“Cahill is good enough to play Champions League, but he is not someone I would be interested in.
“I have got five central defenders - Koscielny, Squillaci, Mertesacker, Vermaelen and Djourou. Of this five, four are international players.
“We were in the market in the summer, but at that time they [Bolton] were greedy.”
On top of the 5 centre-backs that Wenger has mentioned, we have the emerging Ignasi Miquel and the potential for Alex Song to fill-in when necessary (which will hopefully not be required). Provided that we have fit left/right-backs (rather than having to play Koscielny or Djourou at right-back or Vermaelen at left-back), then we have the option to rotate the centre-backs if/when Wenger feels it would be beneficial.
Arsène Wenger changed the entire side from the team that beat Stoke on the weekend, but our “reserve” team made sure that we made it through to the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup for the 9th successive season.
The team had a mixture of experienced players (Arshavin, Benayoun and Vermaelen all started) and younger players who were given the opportunity to show why they deserve a place in the first-team.
Fabianski 6 – Made some good saves to keep us in the game and deny Bolton a late equaliser, but still looks slightly uncomfortable when dealing with long-range shots (for example the shot from Chris Eagles).
Nicholas Yennaris – 6/6.5 A decent performance from our 18-year-old debutant, who seems to be very capable of holding his own at right-back. Yennaris proved not only strong in defence, but also made some nice runs down the flank.
Thomas Vermaelen – 7 Vermaelen looked very strong considering how long he has been our with his ankle injury. He dealt with Klasnic with ease, and almost scored from a long-range free-kick in the first half. Wenger will be hoping the the calf injury which forced him off with only 5 minutes left is not too serious.
Sebastian Squillaci – 6 Didn’t make any big mistakes, but did seem to be rather slow and was beaten to the ball on a few occasions. I honestly didn’t think that we were going to see Squillaci in an Arsenal shirt again, but Wenger decided to rest Koscielny, Mertesacker and Djourou ahead of Chelsea on Sunday.
Ignasi Miquel – 5.5 Not as strong a performance as we are used to from the reserve team captain. Miquel was beaten on several occasions by Gaël Kakuta and did not have a particularly brilliant game.
Coquelin – 6 Did not seem to have very much time on the ball. His positioning was good, but he didn’t get particularly involved in the game.
Frimpong – 5.5 Kept getting caught in possession too easily, including giving the ball before Muamba’s goal, and was suitably replaced by Ozyakup for the last 15 minutes.
Oxlade-Chamberlain – 6.5 Started the game very brightly, and should have scored early on in the first half but was forced to run towards the byline instead of turning to take the shot.
AOC started the move that led to Arshavin’s goal and looked very strong as per usual, being replaced by Miyaichi with 20 minutes left.
Arshavin – 7.5 MOTM Andrei seems to be on the verge of a return to his old form, providing a constant threat throughout. The Russian grabbed a fantastic equaliser only minutes after Bolton had scored, and then held up the ball and set up Park for the second.
Benayoun – 7 Held the team together in the midfield and looked very strong going forward. He grabbed an assist for Arshavin’s goal, but was unlucky not to score in the first half after a fantastic bit of skill past Steinnson opened up space for a curling shot to the far post.
Park – 7 Parked showed that he is more than capable of dealing with the physical demands of English football. He is not afraid to take some long-shots from the edge of the area, and linked well with Arshavin. He made a good run (dropping back from an offside position) and then curled a shot round Bogdan with a cool and composed finish for the winner.
Ozyakup – 6 Replaced Frimpong, but did not seem to have such a huge impact during the small amount of time that he was on the pitch.
Boateng – n/a Replaced the injured Thomas Vermaelen with only a few minutes left, so does not merit a rating.
Miyaichi – 6.5 Looked extremely lively during his 20 minutes on the pitch, and made a fantastic block to deny Gary Cahill a very late equaliser.
Arsenal.com have released the 18-man squad for our Carling Cup 4th round match against Bolton:
Ju Young Park
Wenger seems to have gone with some experience (Arshavin, Benayoun, Vermaelen), but you can also expect a few players from the reserves to make their Arsenal debuts. Also note that Maroune Chamakh is not included in the squad, and neither is Johan Djourou.
We have rested pretty much the entire first-team ahead of Sunday’s trip to Stamford Bridge, which I find slightly worrying because Bolton are a physically demanding team and could give us a good game; It does not seem to me like Wenger is fully prepared for a tough game (depending, of course on who starts). Wenger says that he is yet to choose who is starting, but he seems to have faith in the whole squad:
“We want to win so there is no perfect game [to bring a player back] but Thomas has worked very hard physically so he should be ready.
“I have not decided who will start yet but we will try to find a good mixture. Vermaelen might play, Squillaci might play and of course Fabianski too. We will have an experienced team out there but of course some young players.”
Thomas Vermaelen has taken part in his first full training session following surgery on his right achilles tendon. Vermaelen has been on the sidelines for two months, but could feature in our Carling Cup game against Bolton tomorrow.
Having been limited to just 5 appearances through the whole of last season, the Belgian international will no doubt be desperate to get a few minutes of first-team football tomorrow evening. With Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker likely to be rested ahead of Sunday’s trip to Stamford Bridge, I think that the Carling Cup represents a good opportunity to ease Thomas back into first-team action.
Thomas was clearly excited to be back in full training, with the following message to his Twitter followers:
The big question is whether or not Thomas really is fit enough to play against Bolton. He has only just resumed training, so Wenger may decide not to risk him in such a physically demanding game. The other issue is whether (if he is fit) risks putting him in the starting line-up.
Johan Djourou will most probably start against Bolton, but could be partnered with either Vermaelen, Ignasi Miquel or (dare I say it) Sebastian Squillaci. Should Vermaelen play without any significant issues, I see no reason why he wouldn’t at least be included in the squad that travels to Chelsea. He might not start against the Blues, but he would be a fantastic player to have on the bench.
According to numerous reports, Arsène Wenger remains hopeful that Theo Walcott will pass a fitness test ahead of our Champions League game against Olympiakos on Wednesday evening. Walcott pulled up towards the end of our win over Bolton on Saturday and it was initially thought that he had suffered a hamstring problem which would keep him out for several weeks. However, a club spokesman revealed yesterday that it is only a “minor” knee problem.
Walcott was hugely important in our win over Bolton, grabbing an assist for Robin van Persie’s second goal and making a fantastic run which led to David Wheater being sent off.
Photo by Ronmac on Flickr
Although his finishing still needs work (he missed a 1 on 1 with Jaaskelainen), Theo combines well with Robin van Persie and provides a constant attacking threat. He scored 13 goals in all competitions last season and has already notched 3 in this campaign, most importantly in both the home and away legs of our Champions League qualifier against Udinese.
Even if Walcott is not fit to face the Greek Champions in midweek, he should at least be included (through may not start) in the squad that travels to White Heart Lane on Sunday. I would not rush him back for the Champions League if we don’t have to. We have both Gervinho and Arshavin to play in the front three, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is more than deserving of a place on the bench.
Straight Talking Gooners will continue to keep you up to date on Walcott’s injury. The club should release an official statement on the injury within the next few days (possibly during Wenger’s pre-match conference on Wednesday morning).
I expect Santos to start after Gibbs played against Shrewsbury, so the major choices are whether Ramsey or Rosicky will start alongside Arteta, and whether Arshavin will start ahead of Walcott.
For me, Arshavin has performed better than Walcott this season, despite Theo netting three goals in all competitions. I have put the Russian in the starting line up, but it is a tough call.
Ramsey performed very well last week with Arteta and Song, so I reckon he will start ahead of Rosicky.
Arsenal 2-1 Bolton Both teams have under-performed so far this season, and I highly doubt Arsenal will keep a clean sheet against a side that likes to play fast football. This could be a very open match, and a game in which the goalkeepers are likely to have a lot to do.
Arsenal will face Bolton at the Emirates at 3pm (GMT) on Saturday, in a bottom of the table clash.
In April this year, Bolton defeated the Gunners at the Reebok stadium. It was part of our end of the season rot, which culminated in Wenger’s team finishing fourth, needing to qualify for the Champions League against Udinese.
However, since that game, both teams have suffered with very poor Premier League form. Bolton have lost 9 out of 10 games and Arsenal have won just 2 in 9 matches.
Both sides will be hoping to turn a corner in tomorrow’s game after winning in midweek in the Carling Cup. Arsenal’s young guns managed to beat Shrewsbury after falling behind against the League Two side and Bolton won 0-2 at Villa Park.
Form (Premier League)
Arsenal: D L L W L
Bolton: W L L L L
Bolton won 4-0 against new boys QPR on the first day of the season but have since lost four on the trot. However, it’s important to note the opposition that Bolton has had to face. First there was Man City, and Bolton only lost by one goal in a 2-3 defeat at home. Then Owen Coyle’s men faced Liverpool, and were soundly beaten 3-0. Then Man Utd visited the Reebok and thrashed them 5-0.
Realistically, Coyle couldn’t have expected to take many points off those three sides, but he will be disappointed with last week’s home loss against Norwich.
Arsenal’s win against Shrewsbury probably hasn’t lifted the spirits as much as we could have hoped. The defensive frailties shone through, even against such poor opposition.
This match against Bolton is now a must-win, as Arsenal has experienced a rubbish start to the campaign – it’s worst in 58 years.
Gazidis has backed Wenger this week, but our manager will have to get some points on the board in order to avoid more pressure from the media and the fans. And, if our poor form continues, the board will have to think about making some changes, despite Wenger’s fantastic record for Arsenal.
“He is not going to walk out. There is absolutely no issue about Arsene leaving the club or the club pushing him out. He did not suddenly become a bad manager or somebody who became out of touch with the game. It is complete nonsense.”
Gazidis is a very good talker – he could debate his way out of most situations. However, his comments are correct. Arsene has not ‘lost it’, he is going through a bad patch but the blame must fall on the players as well. That isn’t to say our manager has always made the right decisions – his tactics, formations and substitutions often don’t seem to be logical.
Against Blackburn, Arsenal’s attack was very smooth, especially in the first half. Our midfield trio of Arteta, Ramsey and Song kept the ball very well and Gervinho and Arshavin looked dangerous. I am not worried about scoring goals tomorrow, the worry is the defence. For that reason, as I have mentioned before, I urge Wenger to switch to a 4-4-2 in order to have more protection for the defence. In our current formation, the three midfielders seem to hope that one of the others will do the defending, and this state of mind leaves our defence wide open. We play a high back line, and the full backs push even higher. This leaves us very vulnerable. In a 4-4-2, the onus will be on the two central midfielders to stay back.
Wenger used a 4-4-2 against Shrewsbury. Here, he explains the reason for this choice:
“Just to suit the characteristics of the players I played, because Chamakh and Park are centre forwards, so I came back to a traditional 4-4-2. I had as well on the wings, players who could absorb the work of a midfielder, that’s not always the case. That’s why I went for it. I chose a shape to suit the players we had on the pitch.”
Furthermore, Walcott has reiterated his desire to play as a central striker:
“I had a meeting with the boss and explained my point of view. He knew the conversation would come up and was very happy to talk about it. He says he’ll give me a chance there at the right time, and I’m dying for it to happen – but he knows exactly what he is doing and obviously I trust him.
“I believe I can give so much more to the team playing up front, with the runs I can make off the ball, and I just love hitting the back of the net as well.
“At times I feel a bit, if not wasted, then in and out of games on the right. I just want it more and more, having scored a few last season – I’m not a winger and I think plenty of people know that. I’ve done OK out there but I’d love to play down the middle.”
So many signs are pointing to Wenger reverting to a 4-4-2 in the near future. I’m sure he will make that switch if he feels the players will suit that formation, but it does seem obvious to me that our first team players would thrive in those positions.
Arsenal are set to renew their interest in Gary Cahill with added vigour during the January transfer window.
Sources close to the club have told some of the authors of Straight Talking Gooners that Arsenal will try again to sign the English defender.
In addition, Bolton manager Owen Coyle has said the following:
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they [Arsenal] came back [with another bid].
“Arsene has always said he is an admirer of Gary Cahill. But the clubs never agreed a fee.
“Gary has nothing to prove. He is a top performer, who is set for a glittering career.”
In the summer, Coyle described Arsenal’s bid as “derisory” and reports emerged that Arsenal bid £6 million for the player. Wenger later announced that these rumours were false. He implied that the offer was higher and that the club had deemed it the correct amount for a player of Cahill’s skill and given that he had just one year left on his Bolton contract.
What surprises me is that Arsenal would want to buy a player that could come on a free only a few months later. Sure, we have defensive frailties, and Cahill could help rectify that problem. But is it worth splashing the cash in January when we can have him for nothing in June?
If Arsenal wanted to buy him, he should have been purchased in the summer that has just passed.
I reckon that Cahill would still sign for Arsenal next summer, even though he may have many clubs vying for his talents, given that his contract runs out. From what I’ve heard, Gary really wants to play for Arsenal – it’s not necessarily all about money for him.
Cahill has previously mentioned that he wants to play at the top level:
“As a professional footballer in general you want to strive and be the best you can and try to get to the highest level you can.”
He went on to state that European football is the top level that he wants to be at. However, should Arsenal fail to qualify for the Champions League next season, this could prove to be a stumbling block in negotiations.