Almunia made 14 appearances this season (photo from Timsnell on Flickr)
Despite speculation that he would be sold last summer, Manuel Almunia started the 2010/11 season as our first-choice goalkeeper. However, Almunia picked up an injury in the game against West Bromwich Albion on September 25th and was subsequently kept out of goal for most of the season by Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski. Almunia joined the club from Celta Vigo in 2004, and will be forever remembered as the player that replaced Robert Pires in the 18th minute of the Champions League Final against Barcelona after Jens Lehmann was red-carded. He will not be fondly remembered for allowing both of Barcelona’s goals to beat him at the near post during that Final in Paris.
During the West Brom game, Almunia conceded a penalty (which he subsequently saved and which led to his injury), let in a shot at his near post and was caught out of position for the third goal. His error prone performances led to much speculation that he would be sold in Januray, but a move to Atlético Madrid never materialised.
Lehmann returned to the club on a short-term contract (photo from Ronnie Macdonald on Flickr)
Due to injuries to our back-up goalkeepers, Arsène Wenger negotiated a deal in which Jens Lehmann came out of retirement and joined the club on a short-term contract until the end of the season. The veteran goalkeeper, who signed for the club on 17th March, was not expected to play for the first-team, but would remain on the bench in case of emergency.
Following the Barcelona game (and injuries to Szczesny and Fabianski) Almunia retained his place in goal for several games until he too picked up a knee injury while warming up in the game against Blackpool. Almunia’s injury meant that Lehmann came off the bench and grabbed his only appearance of the season – his first appearance for the Gunners since he left for Stuttgart in June 2008 and his 200th overall appearance for the club. Lehmann also became the oldest player to play for Arsenal in the Premier League. However, Jack Rutherford remains the oldest player to play for the club in all competitions.
While Almunia did not have the greatest season, he made 14 appearances for the club despite losing out to the two young Poles. In my opinion he was never a strong enough replacement for Lehmann, and I am quite surprised that he lasted as first-choice goalkeeper for as long as he did. Lehmann will forever remain engrained in the memory of Arsenal fans for his fantastic performances for the club from 2003-2008. Although he will not necessarily be noted for his one appearance this season, I was delighted to have him at the club for this short period.
With the emergence of Szczesny and the improved Fabianski, Almunia has found it hard to make the first team this season. It is true that with Manuel between the sticks there is an uneasy feel about the team. With Szczesny, however, the defence seems more confident in their keeper and overall looks less likely to concede a goal. With high profile errors constantly shadowing his Arsenal career, he has never been able to become a fan favourite. He is a good keeper. But he is not a good enough keeper for a team like Arsenal. At the age of 33, it is unlikely that he will make a major improvement. However, goalkeepers are known to be like a good wine; they seem to get better with age. A perfect example of this is the departing Manchester United no.1, Edwin van der Sar. Furthermore, as previously stated, with the likes of Szczesny having come through the youth system, it is unlikely that Almunia will be given many more opportunities to impress. It is important to note that amidst the comedy of errors, Almunia has put in some stellar performances in the Arsenal jersey. One only needs to think back to the first half of the 2010 home game against Barcelona, where he pretty much, single handedly kept us in the tie. However, being a keeper is more that just putting in one outstanding performance. Consistency is key. He is a good shot stopper, but his decision making at times is diabolical. The 2-2 West Brom away game highlights this point. For the second goal, most Gooners were in disbelief as they saw Almunia chasing a ball that Squillaci had under control. In classic Almunia style, not only did he miss the ball, but he also managed to take the ball from Squillaci, leaving Odemwingie with an open goal. Here at Straight Talking Gooners, we believe that he would be better suited to an average La Liga team, such as Malaga (a team that Almunia was linked with in December 2010.)
In January, the daily star linked Almunia with the Turkish side Galatasaray:
“Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia has told friends that his future lies away from the Emirates and Turkish side Galatasaray look to be favourites to sign him.”
There have been a few rumours floating around this week that Almunia’s bags will be packed and he will be off in the coming week.
Firstly, I would like to apologise for the lack of recent updates on Straight Talking Gooners. The team was dumped out of the FA Cup, Carling Cup and Champions League in quick succession, and then had a 2 week international break. As a result Arsenal news has significantly dried up in the last few weeks, not to mention that the STG editorial team has been extremely busy with University/A level work. Home for the holidays, I have now set myself the challenge of making 10 posts in 10 days as I look to feed your hunger for information on “by far the greatest team the world has ever seen.”
Today I start with a small rant about the lack of experience of some members of the squad. There are definitely a few players who do not possess the qualities necessary to play week-in week-out for a club like Arsenal. Today I will talk about 5 players that Wenger should consider offloading during the summer.
Manuel Almunia – Need I elaborate? Since Jens Lehmann left the club, Wenger has not really had a goalkeeper who has looked completely comfortable between the sticks. Szczesny and Fabianski have both had their occasional weak moments, but Almunia’s blunders put him at the top of my list. Almunia has the strange ability to be outstanding for one game (such as when he replaced Sczcesny within the first 15 minutes of the Barcelona game), but has cost us several games with ridiculous mistakes.
Squillaci – Sebastian was never supposed to play this many games. He was bought as defensive cover, a 4th choice centre-back who would only play when we have injury problems. Laurent Koscielny looked set to compete with Johan Djourou for a place to partner Thomas Vermaelen. However, a long-term injury to Vermaelen means that Squillaci has now made 29 appearances. The Frenchman has put in some dismal performances, rarely showing the pace or composure that is necessary in the Premier League.
Denilson – I have never really rated our young Brazillian as a holding midfielder (which is where Wenger normally plays him) because he does not possess the most important qualities needed to play in this position. He is unable to hold the ball. He gives possession away with unnecessary passes and is caught in possession on too many occasions. Simply put, he would be a decent midfielder for other Premier League clubs, but not for a club challenging for the title.
Diaby – This choice may surprise Arsenal fans, as Diaby has put in some strong performances for the starting eleven. However, it seems to me that he is prone to injury and, like Denilson, gives the ball away on too many opportunities. He doesn’t score enough goals as his finishing is awful, and he doesn’t seem to have a position in which he is entirely comfortable.
Rosicky – Since returning from a long-term hamstring injury, Tomas has looked a shadow of his former self. A once fantastic attacking midfielder, his performances have lacked the spark and attacking flair that we have seen in previous seasons.
A superb goal from Arshavin got the Gunners back into the game
Since a flat performance against Stoke in the league, Arsenal have won once in six games. The solitary victory came against league one opponents Leyton Orient. For a team challenging for the title, two draws in a row must be viewed as four points dropped.
Arsenal now sit five points off the top, but with that vital game in hand that Gooners are clinging on to. Current form suggests that Arsenal will fail to take advantage of that game in hand, which arrives when we travel to White Heart Lane. Man Utd won their league match against Bolton, with Berbatov grabbing the late winner after the leaders had gone down to ten men. That seems like real mental strength to me, but we cannot deny that Arsenal’s performance against West Brom showed a lot of determination.
Unfortunately, the determination was only shown after going two goals down. As to the way in which the second goal was conceded… well, despite Almunia‘s howlers in the past, it was unexpected. After a superb match against Barcelona, Almunia was back to his old ways. I was watching the match on a dodgy online stream, so I thought that the group of pixels that sprinted out of our goal was just due to the poor quality of my internet. You can imagine my disdain when I realised that it was our crazy Spanish keeper who had got bored of staying in goal. To be fair to him, it had been over 50 minutes since he conceded, and West Brom hadn’t really worked him particularly hard. I guess he just wanted to get involved.
In two matches against West Brom, Almunia conceded 5 goals from only 7 shots. In four matches against the newly-promoted Newcastle and West Brom, Arsenal have managed a mere two points. Arsenal are supposed to improve in the league now that we have no more distractions. There was little passion and concentration yesterday. The first goal arrived after just three minutes, when a throw in lobbed Sagna, and Odemwingie won a corner. I don’t know what Sagna was doing, but defenders need to be on the ball at all times. It is all very well that he can bomb up the wing and create chances, but we need DEFENDERS to DEFEND. The following corner was defended pretty poorly. The centre backs were split at either post, leaving Denilson and Ramsey marking the players in the centre of the box. Both players are under six foot, and neither are renowned for their heading abilities. Ramsey was out-jumped as Reid planted a header above Almunia. Another goal conceded from a set piece, like the majority of the goals against Arsenal this season.
Arshavin’s goal (and his involvement in the second) showed his class. The problem is consistency, he needs to be able to replicate this form in every game. In addition, he can produce these moments of magic, but then he doesn’t get involved in the game. He now has 11 assists to his name in the league this year and 10 goals in all competitions. The stats show his worth, but fans need to see some commitment on the pitch. RVP now has 19 goals in his last 19 starts, but he wasn’t at his best yesterday. Despite that, he scored the equaliser and hit the post with an exquisite header. I think that the Dutchman needs Cesc to be around in order for him to play at his peak.
With Chelsea winning today against Man City, the Blues are back in contention for the title. They sit only four points behind Arsenal, and nine off the leaders, with a game in hand. If Chelsea and Arsenal take points off Man Utd, the title race could become a lot more interesting.
With a few weeks of international football to come, there may be fewer posts on the blog for a while. We will keep up to date with Arsenal news, and possibly make the odd post on the Euro qualifiers.
For any lovers of great football, check out this link. The second goal may remind you of Messi’s against Arsenal at the Nou Camp, but there are some truly wonderful goals in those compilations.
The club went unbeaten in the league in Lehmann's first season
It was inevitable that our extremely promising start to the season would fall to pieces within just 14 days, as Arsenal was eliminated from three cup competitions. Arsenal’s seasons often go awry in a short spell of time, and 2010/11 has been no exception. However, the team is still fighting to reach the top of the Premier League despite some untimely injuries – especially in defence.
The club is currently without any backup keeper for Manuel Almunia as we go into the last 10 (and arguably the most important) games of the season. Our first choice goalkeeper, Wojceich Szczesny, is sidelined for 6 weeks with a finger injury that forced him off the pitch during the game at the Nou Camp. Polish compatriot Lukasz Fabianski is out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury.
Following the injury to Szczesny, Wenger looked to recall our highly-rated keeper Vito Mannone – who is currently on loan at Hull- but the young Italian also picked up an injury last week. This left Wenger with no choice but to bring in another keeper until the end of the season. Jens Lehmann is currently without a club having retired from professional football over a year ago, but it looks like a deal to secure his services will be concluded within the next few hours.
“Arsenal have a goalkeeping crisis and I jumped at the chance to help them.”
Lehmann made 194 appearances for Arsenal from 2003-2008, and played every game in our “Unbeatable” season. For all that, he will forever be remembered for being aggressive and also as he was the first player to be sent off in a Champions League final. Personally, I am delighted to have “Mad Jens” back at the club, as I do not feel that the club has had a particularly strong goalkeeper since he left. He will also be studying for his goalkeeper training badges, with the possibility of becoming Arsenal’s goalkeeper coach next season.
Johan Djourou has been ruled out for the rest of the season after he was stretchered off at Old Trafford with a dislocated shoulder. Djourou joins Thomas Vermaelen, who has not featured since August, on the injury list. Squillaci and Koscielny have proven to be a relatively poor defensive partnership, so it is possible that Ignasi Miquel will make a few more appearances towards the end of the season.
Alex Song has not played since the match against Birmingham due a knee injury, and will not feature on Saturday against West Brom. Cesc Fabregas has had “a recurrence of his hamstring problem,” and may also be out for a few games. Theo Walcott continues his rehabilitation following an ankle injury, and is expected to be back in training next week.
Despite what people say, I don’t believe that we have a particularly easy run-in. We still have to play Stoke and Spurs away, and Liverpool and Manchester United at home. I reckon that we can only afford to lose 1 of the last 10 games if we want to win the league. Chelsea still have the potential to mount a title challenge, but this is quite unlikely.
Only a month ago, the media was questioning whether United could go the whole season unbeaten, despite some poor performances. After 3 defeats in their last 5 league games, the gap at the top of the table has been reduced to just 3 points (and Arsenal have a crucial game in hand).
In my opinion, United look a fraction of the team they were 3 years ago. The fact that such a weak team sits top of the league clearly shows just how poor their title challengers have been this season, and futher illustrates that the gap between the lower positioned teams and teams fighting for the title is closing. There are no easy fixtures anymore. Chelsea lost to Sunderland 3-0 at Stamford Bridge, Arsenal lost to West Brom at the Emirates, and United’s unbeaten run was ended by Wolves.
We go into the title run-in in particularly good league form. The team is unbeaten in our last 11 Premiership games (since we lost at Old Trafford at the beginning of December), and has turned the Emirates back into the fortress it needs to be if we want to bring home some silverware. The title could go anywhere, but we will be hoping that 2011 does not represent yet another trophy-less campaign for the Gunners.
Last night, Arsenal were completely outclassed by one of the best teams ever. The 3-1 scoreline honestly doesn’t do Barcelona any justice. Gooners often see Arsenal control a game for 90 minutes, with slick passing and loads of great chances. The 2-0 victory against Wolves was one such match. Although we get the three points, Wenger sometimes rues the missed opportunities, as the scoreline could have shown the true difference between the sides.
Against Barcelona, the scoreline could have been record-breaking. Arsenal were stunned, pegged back in their own half for the majority of the game. Granted, many Arsenal players had poor performances. Mix that with Wenger’s lack of tactical nous, and the fact that Barcelona had a very good game, and you end up with an incredibly one-sided affair.
Barcelona deserved to go through, no doubt. They were the better team on the night and, despite our great performance at the Emirates, the team couldn’t match up to the Spaniards in their own back yard. At Ashburton Grove, Barcelona still controlled possession, although we had more shots in that game. Overall, there should be no complaints. We lost to a fantastic side.
How are they so good?
The pundits were waxing lyrical about how ‘everyone speaks of Barcelona’s attacking prowess, but never the defensive side of their game.’ What a load of rubbish. Since Guardiola came in, the Spanish outfit have been well-known to press high up the field with great intensity. But last night was particularly impressive. Whenever an Arsenal player had it in his own half, two or three Barcelona players would be swarming round him like bees within a few seconds. They must have great tactical awareness to achieve this synchronised pressing. Most managers would say that it would leave gaps behind them, or tire them out. This brings me to my next point.
Apart from the last 5/10 minutes of the game, Barcelona never stopped this crazy pressing. Even then, they continued to press, just at a reduced level of ferocity. I don’t know how they did it, but not only did they have great pace on the attack, but great endurance in defence (although we didn’t really force them to defend very much). I guess the Barca players must take turns in pressing, but it was still a remarkable feat.
Xavi has talked about the ‘fear factor’ since the game. I think he is 100% correct. Everyone knows that Barcelona are dangerous away, but almost perfect at home. They destroyed Mourinho’s Real Madrid 5-0. Ronaldo barely touched the ball that game. Barca have a knack of stopping their opponents playing. Part of this is due to their style of play. But a lack of confidence and belief, due to fear, must have a big impact.
Fans – awful at Emirates, unbelievable at Nou Camp
In London, the Barca fans were pretty quiet. Even when they scored, they seemed quieter than most away fans this season. Perhaps they are used to playing big teams, so they get so excited. Anyway, their fans were very loud last night. Forget that RVP complained that he couldn’t hear the whistle, we could hear the fans through the TV. And they booed when Arsenal had the ball. Which wasn’t very often. But this must have made it difficult for Wenger’s men to stay focussed.
Quite simply, they have the best players in the world. They play football in the most effective way. They are cocky, but have a right to be. They CAN be beaten, but not at their own game. Man Utd, Chelsea and perhaps even Spurs could get past them in the Champions League. It would be difficult, and would take a lot of luck (like Arsenal had – otherwise it wouldn’t have ended only 4-3 on aggregate!). But what exactly would it take to beat them? What did Wenger fail to do?
How to beat them…perhaps…if you’re lucky
It’s no secret that Barcelona lack height. It doesn’t really matter, because they don’t lose the ball too often, except for goal kicks and kick offs, after having scored. But Bendtner showed us that a bit of aerial presence can cause problems for the Catalans. Had Wenger started with Chamakh and Bendtner (because RVP was clearly unfit), or subbed on the two tall guys a bit earlier, then we would have had a better chance.
This isn’t just aimed at Fabregas, although he managed to ruin all our good defensive work in the first half. He was trying to create space for a counter attack with a clever back heel, but he ended up setting up the first Barca goal. The fact remains that Arsenal were very cautious when it came to clearing the ball. If you hit the ball high and far, it will force Barcelona to run backwards in order to collect it. If they don’t all move back as a pack, it could stretch them. Either way, it can’t be bad. Arsenal’s clearances were far too short, which didn’t give us time to regroup.
Pin back their full-backs
Barcelona are great at playing down the centre, as we saw for the second goal, and on many other occasions. However, their pacey full-backs have an incredible impact on the game. When they push up, they stretch the opponent’s defence. This allows Messi, Xavi and Iniesta to work their magic in the centre of the field. If Wenger had played a 4-3-3, or a 4-5-1 with faster wingers (e.g. Eboue, Arshavin), then this could have been prevented. Rosicky offered little attacking threat, and was poor in defence. As a side point, Wenger should have put Nasri on the right, Barcelona are weaker there. Alves forced Samir to keep tracking back, in a way that Adriano wouldn’t have done as much.
Be bold, stick a few up front
This relates to the point on height, but it could have also helped Arsenal’s fitness. If Wenger had played with two or even three up front, Arsenal’s midfielders would have been much more comfortable. Diaby, Fabregas and Wilshere kept bombing up and down the pitch. This must have tired them, which surely affected their performance in the second half. With more strikers up front, Arsenal could have held up the ball from clearances, and we could have pressed them more successfully when they passed it along the back line.
Yet, we came so close
At 1-1, with Arsenal having snatched a goal from a corner, the game was neatly poised. Barcelona were playing much better football, but Arsenal were hanging on. The first half saw fantastic performances from Djourou, Wilshere and Koscielny. The defence stood strong and reduced Barcelona to few chances, despite their advantage in possession. Then, the ref lost the plot and sent of RVP. It’s important to note that the Dutchman was having a poor game, but great players can change matches in an instant. If he had stayed on, anything could have happened, but we wouldn’t have deserved it.
Even at 3-1, Arsenal simply needed one goal to go through, on the away goal rule. Bendtner had a brilliant chance to score that goal, but took a poor touch when a first-time shot could have gone in. But we can’t dwell on that, Barcelona missed plenty of good opportunities. Almunia was fantastic, and he helped prevent Barca finishing the tie.
Poor refereeing over both legs
“How could I hear with 95,000 [people] screaming? It was a total joke, it had a big influence on the outcome of the match. I could understand it if I shot six or seven seconds after his whistle but it was one second. The referee was bad all evening.”
Robin Van Persie made this comment after the game. He was right, the referee was bad. But we have to be fair, he was bad for both sides. Barca could have got a penalty in the first half. The referee should have given more cards, because both teams made challenges that merited such a punishment. Abidal probably should have received a yellow, or maybe even a red, during the brawl in the first half, when he grabbed Van Persie’s neck. Now that would have changed the game.
In the first leg, Barcelona could have been given a penalty and another goal. Djourou handled the ball in the box at the Emirates, and Messi’s goal COULD have been given (although I reckon, with video replays, the ref would have given offside).
What can we take from this? That referees need help. They are only human, and video replays are now a must. For example, the two points we dropped against Sunderland could have been avoided if Arshavin’s legitimate goal had stood. Wolves scored four against Spurs on the weekend, but one of them was incorrectly disallowed. Rooney should have had a straight red card for his elbow a few weeks ago. Newcastle’s superb comeback was courtesy of a few poor refereeing decisions. Chelsea’s Luiz should have seen red against Utd. We could go on and on. They say that decisions even themselves out over the course of the season. This is such a subjective comment, there is no proof that it’s true. If the FA want football to be a modern, fair sport, then video replays will provide an even playing field to all teams.
The media response – Wenger’s excuse?
The media have immediately hit out at Wenger. They claim that the manager, and most Arsenal fans are bitter about the red card. Well, I think Wenger, the players and the fans know that we didn’t deserve to go through. We are angry that such an appalling decision was made, and given that football is such a crazy game, anything could have happened if it was a match of 11 vs 11 for 90 minutes. But let’s not dwell on that – we have Man Utd on Saturday, and it’s an incredibly important match for confidence, for the possibility of a trophy and it could dent Fergie’s title hopes if they lose three in a row.
A few days after THAT mix-up gifted Birmingham the trophy, Arsene has urged the players and the fans to move on. Some Gooners have made jokes similar to that in the title, but they are hiding behind a facade of hubris. The Carling Cup may be the least important cup, but it all counts. We all felt that disappointment after the defeat, but our search for a cup must continue. And it continues against opposition which we cannot take too lightly, something which I believe we did against Birmingham.
As injuries and fatigue begin to hit our squad, a campaign that once looked to be prosperous could fall apart within a matter of a few days. If they wish for this season to be different to previous years, it is important that the team holds together and continues to get results we so desperately need.
This is the last game before a series of season defining games. After this FA Cup battle, we host 8th placed Sunderland in a difficult, must-win game. We have to put the Wembley defeat behind us and not collapse in the following two games, which could shape our season. First up, we have a game which, lest we forget, we go into with a lead. After a remarkable performance against the best team in the world, we have given ourselves a wonderful opportunity when almost everyone had written us off. We cannot just throw this tie away because the players are distraught. Koscielny and Szczesny, in particular, will be low on confidence, but after some strong performances by both of them this season, they will need to show that they can bounce back in the next few weeks.
Arsenal were robbed of a victory at Leyton Orient just over a week ago. The Gunners weren’t fabulous, but a relatively composed performance ended with some shoddy defending, especially from the one and only Manuel Almunia. This left Orient celebrating one of the best results in their history.
Despite the fact that we probably would have rested players in this game, it is now a chance for players to recover from injuries after our hectic schedule.
Fabregas picked up a hamstring problem last Wednesday and is a possibility for Barcelona, but he I doubt he would have featured in this match anyway. Robin van Persie injured himself whilst scoring a goal which turned out to be superfluous (although this probably isn’t the case, the game would have been very different without it!), so he is out for three weeks. Walcott and Vermaelen are also still out and Song is a doubt, as is our defensive stalwart, Laurent Koscielny. As previously mentioned, this is the worst time to lose our best players to injury, although we could have managed without our mercurial French defender in recent days…
Aaron Ramsey has returned from his loan spell at Cardiff, having had pretty decent reviews from his performances in the Championship. Gooners have been waiting for Ramsey’s return for several weeks, but Wenger is bringing him back slowly. As a fan favourite, his horrific injury only served to increase his support and popularity. If Aaron starts tomorrow, the Emirates will give him a brilliant reception.
5-0 victory to Arsenal. A rout like this would help us to move on from the disappointment. With Utd waiting for us in the next round, there is an extra incentive to win.
Despite the possibility of lifting the Carling Cup, this is the trophy that all Gooners would like to see back in the trophy cabinet
Tonight we play Everton at home in the Premier League. We currently sit 2nd in the league, 5 points off Manchester United, who face Aston Villa tonight. By contrast, the Toffees sit 14th in the table, but will be high on morale after a hard-fought draw against Chelsea in the FA Cup. They are on a decent run of form, having lost only once since November.
Hopefully, Wenger will field a strong team and Arsenal will put pressure on United at the top of the table. Bearing in mind the defensive injuries and problems that Arsenal have had, it is surprising that we are the only Premier League team to not have conceded a goal in 2011. Lets hope that the team can keep it up!
Wenger will probably start with our best 11, minus Samir Nasri (who is out for several weeks with a hamstring injury picked up in the FA Cup match against Huddersfield). Andrey Arshavin, who has suffered from very poor form this season, will probably come into the team to replace him. Maybe a regular place in the starting line-up will give Andrey the necessary confidence boost to improve his performances
Szczesny should keep his place between the sticks despite Almunia‘s recovery from injury. Djourou will play alongside Koscielny, as Squillaci is suspended.
Predicted Score 4-1 victory to Arsenal (20/1 with Paddy Power)
Both team looks very strong at the moment, but Arsenal rested several key players at the weekend, so I am sure that they will be more than capable of breaking down the Everton defence. I wouldn’t be surprised if Everton scored a goal – our defensive record in 2011 can’t last forever, and Everton boast some physically strong attacking players, who will put huge amounts of pressure on our two centre-backs.
There has not much news for Arsenal in the January transfer window so far. The only completed transfers have seen 18 year old Ryo Miyaichi join the London club from his school in Japan, and Havard Nordtveit join Borussia Mönchengladbach for a fee of around £800,000. In addition, a few loan deals for reserve team and academy players have also gone through.
Arsenal are looking to beat off competition from Manchester United and Liverpool to sign Southampton youngster Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Although Arsenal are said to be ready to offer £5 million for the 17 year old, it seems that Southampton are holding out for a deal worth around £8-10 million (slightly more than we paid for Theo Walcott a few years ago). The club are also hoping that, should a deal be done, he will remain on loan at St Mary’s until the end of the season.
Oxlade-Chamberlains father, former Portsmouth and England international Mark Chamberlain, claims that his son is “better than Walcott,” adding: “I’ve worked with both. As an all-round technical player Alex has more to offer.”
Speaking in an Arsenal press-conference, Wenger denied that any deal had already been done saying: “I cannot speak about that. If we go any further with any player, we will inform you.”
Likeliness Rating 3.5/5
Arsène Wenger could be tempted by a move which would re-unite Thomas Vermaelen with former team-mate (and best friend) Jan Vertonghen.
Vertonghen is valued at around £15 million, which could be a little bit more than Wenger is willing to spend. However, I think that he would be the ideal defensive partner for Thomas Vermaelen when our superb centre back returns from injury. With more than 150 first team appearances for Ajax, Vertonghen possesses the quality and experience that our team requires so desperately. Reports suggested that Wenger was interested in signing him in the summer, and with Squillaci and Vermaelen both injured for the foreseeable future, the club is in desperate need of some decent cover in central defence.
Likeliness Rating 3/5
Manuel Almunia is considering a move to Galatasaray, after interest from Athletico Madrid has faded.
It seems that it is only a matter of time before Almunia is sold to another club.
Almunia featured for over 70 mintues of the Champions League final against Barcelona in 2006, after Jens Lehmann got sent off, and slowly worked his way towards becoming a first-team regular. However, his name has recently been at the top of the list of players who were likely to leave during the January transfer window. He has fallen out of favour with Wenger and has barely featured for the first-team this season, falling down the pecking order behind Lukasz Fabianski and Wojciech Szczesny.
Likeliness Rating 4/5
Andrei Arshavin could move to Juventus after fans questioned his performances and motivation.
Arshavin’s agent, Dennis Lachter, has suggested that they could be pushing for a move to Italy, telling the press, “There’s a possibility of Andrei’s move to Juventus, but two things can prevent this deal – first, Arsenal can win the Premier League this year, which is a dream of any footballer, and second is the financial power of Juve. Arsenal are demanding no less than £20million to release Arshavin.”
At the moment, I believe that Arshavin is simply experiencing a lack of form. He is frustrated at being put on the bench so often this season, but I expect him to work his way back into the starting eleven.
After making a brief comeback against Chelsea as a substitute, Abou Diaby was given the chance to start against Wigan. Unfortunately, his return was short-lived. After just 27 minutes, he was forced off the pitch with another injury.
This is how the Arsenal website describes his new injury:
Abou is set to be out for “some weeks” after picking up a calf strain in the 2-2 draw at Wigan on Wednesday night. The midfielder hobbled off during the first half at the DW Stadium and was replaced by Jack Wilshere. Afterwards, Arsène Wenger confirmed the bad news. “It is a calf strain,” said the manager. “He is out for a while now. Some weeks I think.”
Is this just bad luck, or are we beginning to see a pattern with Diaby?
Undoubtedly, Diaby has the potential to be a very good player. However, he has been plagued with injuries during his time at Ashburton Grove. He is still a young player and we hope he can put this phase behind him.
Wenger seems happy with the progress of Emmanuel Frimopong, who was unfortunate to suffer from a cruciate knee ligament injury. Wenger said that he is “coming along well for a guy with a cruciate injury.” He also said that for such an injury “you count nine months and it is now nearly six. He is close to running and in one month he should start to play in training.” This is good news as he looked to be a very promising young talent.
Thomas Vermaelen seems to be nearing a return to the first team after 4 months out. Wenger said that he “would rather say late January” about the possible return of our star centre back. However, Wenger admitted that he has to be careful because he has “been hit so many times with backlash that I am very cautious.”
Keiran Gibbs and Manuel Almunia should be available early in the new year.