The message from Wednesday night is very clear. Nobody is untouchable. Although I was surprised that both Vermaelen and Szczesny were left out of the team to play Bayern Munich (indeed, Szczesny was left out of the squad all together), it was a bold decision by Wenger that ultimately paid off.
The decision to leave Szczesny and the Verminator out has lead to all sorts of media speculation that they are leaving the club in the summer. However, I am pretty sure that Wenger just did it to prove a point and teach them a lesson.
Thomas Vermaelen needs to be reminded that being captain doesn’t mean that he gets picked week-in, week-out regardless of form. Koscielny & Mertesacker proved to be a good defensive partnership against Bayern Munich as they looked to show why they should be our first-choice centre-backs for the rest of the season. Vermaelen has made a lot if mistakes in recent weeks and is nowhere near the fantastic form he showed in his first season at Arsenal. I am not saying that he needs to be dropped altogether, but a few games out won’t do him too much harm. I also think that Wenger needs to seriously reconsider the captaincy next season, because the Belgian doesn’t do it for me. He is not vocal enough and is somewhat lacking the passion that we have seen in previous years.
In my opinion, Szczesny was never supposed to be the clear No.1. Despite the number on the back of his shirt, Wenger’s comments after the game (that he has seen “a complete mental transformation in Lukasz’s attitude”) would suggest that Fabianski could get a run of games. Also remember that Vito Mannone played 13 games at the beginning of the season when the others were injured. The problem is that we have 3 good (but definitely not world class!) keepers of roughly similar ages. All three have potential but also a lot to learn. However, there is nobody older/more experienced to learn from. Maybe Wenger should consider buying an older, experienced keeper who will retire in a few years to teach the ones we already have. He will probably have to let one of the three go though.
My predicted starting XI only features one change from the team that won against Bayern on Wednesday, with Nacho Monreal in for Kieran Gibbs. Other than that I think that the players on Wednesday proved their worth and should be given another chance to put in a great performance at the Liberty stadium. Also, I thought that it worked really well with 2 defensive midfielders. The change in tactics made a big difference to our game and meant that we really restricted Bayern’s play going forward.
This article is essentially a short summary of some the biggest Arsenal transfer stories of the day (- or the last few days). There are 5 big, and more importantly credible, stories that seem to be doing the rounds at the moment. There are a few transfers in that didn’t happen and some players who look to be on their way out of the Emirates.
“We’ve struck a deal with Arsenal, I’m glad to say but unfortunately our registration went through too late and they’ve refused to allow him to be available for selection tomorrow (against Manchester United).
“I think that will be it in terms of strikers. We’re due to get Andy Carroll back (to fitness) so we should be okay.”
Johan Djourou & Sebastian Squillaci Speaking in his Swansea pre-match press conference, Arsene Wenger confirmed that Johan Djourou and Sebastian Squillaci could be on their way out of the Emirates during the transfer window. Djourou has made only 2 appearances this season and Squillaci has played once. With Vermaelen, Koscielny and Mertesacker all showing good form, Djourou is unlikely to get any game time unless there was a serious injury. Squillaci hasn’t been in the team for a long time.
“Squillaci, if he finds a club, he will certainly go. Djourou might go somewhere as well, that will be decided in the next 48 to 72 hours.”
“We are interested in the services of Johan Djourou, we are also in detailed talks with the player and his club,
“Johan Djourou has told us during those talks he is willing to just accept a deal to bring him over to our club.”
Players in Missed opportunities:
Demba Ba Chelsea have completed the signing of Demba Ba from Newcastle on a three-and-a-half-year contract. Ba had been heavily linked with a move to Arsenal, but contract negotiations with Chelsea began earlier this week and the signing was confirmed on the club website this morning.
Speaking to Arsenal.com, Arsene Wenger confirmed that there was interest in signing Ba, but that he had to choose between Ba and Giroud over the summer because they are similar types of players:
“I like Demba Ba personally, he is a similar type to Giroud who we just bought. It was one or the other one.”
Lewis Holtby Earlier this afternoon, Sky Sports News was quoting Wenger as saying that Arsenal are monitoring FC Schalke attacking midfielder Lewis Holtby. Spurs were also registering their interest Holtby, but Schalke were denying any contact with Premier League clubs and insisting that Holtby would still be a member of their squad at the end of the season.
“We have looked at Holtby, and have played against him.
“Our scouts are kept on alert and the quality of the scouting is linked with that.”
Just over an hour ago it was confirmed that Spurs have signed Holtby on a pre-contract for a Bosman free transfer. Holtby’s contract with Schalke is up at the end of the season and he was free to negotiate with other clubs if he didn’t move from Germany in the winter window. He will join up with Spurs in July.
The news from the transfer window so far seems to be mixed. On the plus side, we are slowly getting rid of some of the under-used players and balancing the wage bill, giving us the potential to bring in replacement players later in the month. On the downside, our rivals seem to be strengthening with players that we have been linked with. Demba Ba could have been a good addition at the Emirates and Lewis Holtby is a good player, although we have an abundance of creative midfielders already. There are also reports that Manchester United are set to beat us to the signing of Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha. There is not much news on the potential signing of 17-year-old Southampton left-back Luke Shaw, but we will keep you informed if there are any changes.
1) Theo Walcott’s hattrick underlines why we really need him to sign a new contract. Walcott played well through the middle, with Giroud starting on the bench again. Wenger is obviously giving Theo what he wants in order to convince him to stay and I have a feeling that it is working. He is on 14 goals for the season, which already makes this his most prolific season so far, and is contributing plenty of assists too. He wouldn’t get this much game-time at Chelsea.
“He has done very well and it just typifies what I think he can do. He can play through the middle, I am convinced of that, and he can only get stronger in there. Overall I am pleased with his performance.
“You know, the intensity of my desire [to extend his contract] is exactly the same as it was before the game. My desire is to extend his contract, he belongs here and hopefully we can do it.”
2) Olivier Giroud deserved a hattrick too. Giroud’s cameo appearance will take somewhat of a back seat because of Theo’s outstanding performance, but the Frenchman scored 2 good goals after he came on for the last 15 minutes and also hit the crossbar late into added time. I think that he was on for a perfect hattrick. Left foot, right foot, header.
“Yes, he came on very sharp. He looked dangerous on crosses, he looked mobile, technically sound. He had as well an impact when he came on.”
3) Bacary Sagna and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain need to work on their communication. Both offensively and defensively Sagna and The Ox were not working well together. Sagna didn’t continue his forward runs and there were a lot of sloppy passes between the two. Defensively they were also very poor. Gabriel Obertan, who is not exactly the best player in the world, made it look way too easy for Newcastle’s 2nd goal. Oxlade-Chamberlain didn’t close down (in fact, he wasn’t there at all) and Sagna was forced to follow to the by-line. Obviously, AOC scored a great goal, but he needs to work on his defensive duties.
4) Kieran Gibbs was also poor defensively. Although he did work well with Lukas Podolski going forward, Kieran Gibbs was not switched on defensively. Marveaux was completely unmarked for Newcastle’s 2nd goal, as was Demba Ba for the 3rd. He seemed to glance at Ba before the cross came in, but then failed to track the run.
5) Lukas Podolski had a great game. Podolski seems to have picked up boundless energy. He was closing down well, his movement was good and he was almost definitely our best player in the first half. He grabbed a great assist for the first goal, linked well with Gibbs in the second half, and nodded in a goal after Wilshere’s fantastic run.
6) Demba Ba could be an Arsenal player in January. Earlier in the week, Arsene Wenger moved to distance himself from rumours that we are in for Demba Ba, but in a post-match interview he was quick to mention Ba’s excellent game. He did also talk about Marveaux and Tiote, so maybe I am reading too much into this, but I am still sure that Ba is near the top of Arsene’s list.
“Yes, because we were three times in front and three times they came back, but they are a team that is good going forward. I was impressed today by Ba, he had an excellent game. The midfield as well, I felt that Marveaux had a very good game. Tiote as well, they were strong. They are a strong team.”
Arsene Wenger has given the latest Arsenal team news for the Newcastle game and after our 1-0 win over Wigan at the weekend. It is all pretty much good news. Giroud & Rosicky are back in the squad after short illnesses and Abou Diaby is nearing a return.
The Newcastle game is the late kick-off on Saturday afternoon. By then we will know whether Spurs have dropped points away to Sunderland in the early kick-off and how West Brom have fared at Old Trafford. Everton host Chelsea on Sunday, which should be an interesting game.
Squad news after the Wigan game:
“We should not have any new injuries from our last game. Giroud and Rosicky should be available again. They were sick at Wigan.”
Abou Diaby & Andre Santos
“They should be coming back into training with the squad next week.”
On Fabianski being our only injury:
“It is unusual, especially at this period of the season. It is down to the continuing good work we are doing behind the scenes at the Club. We hope that it continues because it is important to go into January with a full squad and we will be losingGervinho to the Africa Cup of Nations.”
Like many other Arsenal fans, I was slightly frustrated that Arsenal did not play on Boxing Day because of the strikes on the London Underground. The Premier League table is now distorted (we dropped from 3rd to 7th because we didn’t play), the tradition of always playing Boxing Day was lost and we have to play an extra game in January. Apart from that minor frustration, Christmas was the same as usual.
Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta cannot possibly be expected to play the full 90 minutes in every game this season, so we definitely need to bulk up the squad to allow for a bit of rotation.
The good thing to come out of last night’s loss was that Tomas Rosicky was outstanding on his return from injury. However, Francis Coquelin did not really stand out and Aaron Ramsey was Aaron Ramsey.
“I feel you discover the young players in these kind of competitions [and games like the one] we had tonight. They have the quality. If everybody is fit we have a strong squad but in certain areas, of course when you have players like Diaby and Rosicky not fit, we are a bit short because we cannot rotate. We’ll see where we stand on January 1 and see what we do.”
Rosicky’s return is a timely boost and will put us in good stead for the busy Christmas period, but we have to remember that he is 32-years-old and very injury prone. As far as I am concerned we can write Abou Diaby off all together. There are just some players who will never properly recover from niggling injuries, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t play again this season.
In my opinion, what Arsenal desperately need is a new defensive midfielder. There is no doubt that Mikel Arteta’s creative instincts are slightly suppressed to allow for a more defensive role this season, which is a real shame because the Spaniard is a very talented attacking midfielder. I am well aware that Arteta’s passing is second-to-none, and I do think that he has been one of Arsenal’s best players this season, but playing him as a defensive midfielder doesn’t suit him or the team. When he is isolated he cannot influence Arsenal’s game and he does not have the right build or defensive awareness for a defensive player.
Buying a new defensive mid would ensure that our back four are properly protected, and would allow Arteta to have a more advanced role in the team. Only a few weeks ago Arteta said that he was happy to adapt to his new defensive role because that is what the team requires, but I think that he would relish the opportunity to take on a more attacking role.
It is at this point that the name Alex Song comes to mind. Did Wenger make a mistake by letting him go last summer? I would argue the mistake was not letting Song go to Barcelona, but not replacing him with somebody like Yann M’Vila. Over the years, Song became a more creative midfielder who was often guilty of bombing forward and somewhat ignoring his defensive duties. We could all see that Arsenal were lacking a proper defensive mid last season, so selling our most defensive midfielder and not realising that we don’t have a natural replacement within the squad was a huge miscalculation on Wenger’s part.
We have also published a very interesting guest blog postin which a fellow Gooner questions whether Wenger is the right man to lead us forward and suggests that the Frenchman should step down at the end of the season with his head held high.
Arsene Wenger has given the latest Arsenal team news following our 1-1 draw at Goodison Park, and ahead of our match against Swansea at the Emirates this weekend. As far as we are aware, Laurent Koscielny is out with a thigh injury and Bacary Sagna is a major doubt with a foot problem. Lukas Podolski will return to the squad after missing the Everton game because he was feeling “under the weather”.
“From Wednesday night there are lots of bumps and bruises as you might expect but one serious doubt is Bacary Sagna with his foot. “He got a knock at the start of the game when he cleared a ball. It is inflamed and he is a big doubt. Everyone else should recover”
“It is a muscular problem, a thigh problem. That is normally three weeks.”
Per Mertesacker has been in fine form this season, and Tomas Vermaelen finally looks as if he is gaining some confidence. Hopefully, we should not have a problem coping without Koscielny for the next few weeks. Losing Sagna is a big blow, but Carl Jenkinson has proved to be more than capable of stepping up when required. Jenko was fantastic at the beginning of the season when Sagna was still recovering from a broken leg.
No sooner had I published an article saying that Arsenal hadn’t give us much team news than Arsenal.com release a very short article with news on Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey.
We reported earlier that Aaron Ramsey has been forced to withdraw from the squad with a groin injury picked up in training. The only other news is that Theo Walcott is suffering from a stomach bug and may or may not be available.
“Ramsey (groin) is left at home and Djourou replaces him in the squad.
“[Theo] has been sick overnight [and] didn’t practice today so we have to see how he is on Tuesday morning.”
Asked to comment in his pre-match press conference on why Theo has not started a Premier League or Champions League game since August (does it have anything to do with his contract situation?), Wenger said: “He was sick and then injured against San Marino so he has not been available.” Well that answers that question.
With no Walcott, no Gervinho and no Oxlade-Chamberlain in the squad Arsenal really are lacking pace up front. Looking at the attacking players that we have taken with us, I would be very surprised if Andrey Arshavin did not start. Wenger will not opt to play a 4-4-2 with Giroud and Chamakh, leaving only Podolski and Arshavin to play alongside Giroud in the front 3. There is the possibility to play Santi Cazorla on the wing, but we only brought 4 midfielders so that is unlikely. Cazorla does play on the wing for the Spanish national team, so it is not beyond the realm of possibility.
I am not sure how we go about replacing Walcott if he is unavailable. Are there extra players who travelled out with the squad? If so, who will be added to the team? I guess that all will be revealed tomorrow evening.
1) There is no denying it. Arsenal’s attack was much better when we had Robin van Persie. Olivier Giroud was on the bench (why???), and Arsene Wenger decided to start with Gervinho up front and Aaron Ramsey on the right wing. Gervinho was all over the place. He has pace, but when he get through on goal I am never sure that he will finish. There was nobody who I really felt would step-up in front of goal in the way that RvP did. The most natural finisher is probably Lukas Podolski, but he always starts on the left wing. Ramsey did ok, but we would have been a lot more effective with a bit of pace from The Ox or Walcott had they been fit.
2) You can’t afford to gift Klaas Jan Huntelaar so many chances; he missed the first two, but he was bound to score at some point. Unfortunately, Arsenal’s dodgy defending (especially Andre Santos on the left-hand-side) meant that Schalke were hitting us on the counter-attack and getting lots of balls into the box. There was too much time and too much space because Santos was always out of position. Either he was too far back and playing people onside, or he was at the wrong end of the pitch all-together. With 10 minutes left Steve Bould took Jenkinson off and replaced him with Serge Gnabry. 3 at the back against the pace of Schalke was always asking for trouble, and we duly conceded the second goal. Kieran Gibbs is still out for the time being, which is pretty worrying – I don’t want Santos to play against Rooney and Rvp!!
3) Arsenal are no longer in the driving seat in their Champions League group. The next Champions League game in 2 weeks time is Schalke away, which now has added importance. If we lose to them again then we will be 4 points off the top of the group with 2 games left. That said, although finishing second in the group is never ideal, last season we finished top in the group and got drawn against AC Milan. It’s as much luck-based as anything.
4) Despite the poor team performance, some of the younger players did pretty well. I thought that Carl Jenkinson had a good game, although there is a limit to how much you can do without the help of your teammates. Jenko kept Afellay relatively quiet, with most of Schalkes chances coming on the side that Santos was supposed to be dealing with. He also worked the ball forward really well; it’s not his fault that Gervinho was having a bit of an off-game. Coquelin also played well alongside Arteta and Cazorla, but I was most impressed with Serge Gnabry, who came on as a substitute. He made some good runs down the right-hand-side, used a bit of skill, and had arguably Arsenal’s best shot of the game. A pretty good cameo performance on his Champions League debut.
5) There needs to be a serious response this weekend against QPR. If we lose (or even draw) on Saturday then we have no hope at Old Trafford a week later. That would be more points dropped and even less of a chance that we will make next season’s Champions League.
1) As I stated in my post-match article, the international break and a few injuries are not an excuse for losing to Norwich. Chelsea, City and United all managed wins and they had an equal number of players on international duty.
2) This was not a one-off loss; these sorts of losses have not been uncommon in the past few years. Inconsistency has cost us for the last 7 seasons. What was different and most frustrating on Saturday, however, was the clear lack of effort and interest from many of the players. The performance was as far from the second-half performance vs West Ham as you could possibly imagine. In my opinion, it is 50/50 as to which Arsenal side turn up. Either we trot out a 4- or 5-1 win (we always seem to concede…), or we struggle from the beginning because nobody shows up.
3) This was the 4th consecutive league game where we have gone behind and the 8th consecutive game where we haven’t kept a clean sheet. We are still very susceptible to set-pieces and zonal-marking from corners is an absolute disaster. The 3 clean sheets at the beginning of the season (vs Sunderland, Stoke and Liverpool) are a distant memory.
4) Arsenal can’t rely on Santi Cazorla as the get-out-of-jail-free card. As fantastic as Cazorla is, no player can put in MOTM performances every week. If Cazorla isn’t on song (not that he was bad against Norwich) then somebody else needs to step up. The same can be said of Mikel Arteta, who actually won the MOTM accolade on Arsenal.com
5) Gervinho’s wing-play is extremely one-dimensional and very frustrating. He may have scored a few goals playing in the middle, but he looks completely lost in the wide position. Every time there was an opportunity to create something for Giroud, Gervinho would try to run past everybody and inevitably give the ball away. He also apparently doesn’t know how to stay onside. Lukas Podolski is also much more effective in the middle, although not nearly as frustrating as Gervinho on the wing.
6) Olivier Giroud can’t create chances out of thin air. I actually can’t blame Giroud for not taking many shots – he barely touched the ball. Gervinho was refusing to pass and when crosses did make it into the box they were normally quite poor. Maybe it’s time that we revert to a 4-4-2 formation? I think that Giroud would be infinitely more effective if he had a strike partner (enter Lukas Podolski).
7) Vito Mannone only had a handful of saves to make, but he made everything much more difficult than it needed to be. Norwich’s goal could have been avoided if Vito had palmed the shot to either side instead of straight back into the middle of the box. I know that Alexander Tettey’s shot was quite powerful, but still… Mannone also did an Almunia impression when he chased the ball to the edge of the box. I was waiting to concede our second.
8) Alex Tettey’s long-range shot led to a goal. Why didn’t Arsenal try that? The only time that I saw any Arsenal player attempt a shot from outside the box was Mikel Arteta right at the end, and it was probably our best opportunity of the game. All you have to do is get the shot on target – if it’s hard enough then the keeper might fumble it or it will fall kindly to one of your players. Norwich showed us how this is done. Arteta and Cazorla do normally try a few long-shots, but I would like to see them more often.
9) This loss leaves us in 9th place after 8 games and 10 points behind Chelsea – that’s hardly the fantastic start to the season that we needed! Arsenal can’t rely on hanging in there based on consistent Champions League & Wenger’s previous successes. If we don’t finish in the top four then it becomes increasingly difficult to claw our way back to the top. It’s a vicious cycle – you only have to look at Liverpool as evidence.
10) Arsene Wenger has confirmed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is out of Wednesday night’s game against Schalke. AOC only played for less than ten minutes against Norwich before he became a substituted substitute. There is also bad news for Walcott and Gibbs:
“It was a kick on his hip. It is not long-term but he will be out for Wednesday.
“I don’t see anyone new being [back] for Wednesday night. The closest will be Gibbs but he will not be ready. Walcott will not be ready [either].”
We will have the latest injury news after Wenger’s pre-match press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
11) The game was “too intense” for Jack Wilshere’s comeback after 14 months. Jack will have to wait for another week, as I doubt that he will play against Schalke either. However, he did play the full 90 minutes for the U21′s against Everton on Monday afternoon, grabbing an assist for Tomas Eisfeld’s second goal.
“We have to be conscious he has not played for 14 months. I would have brought him on if the game had allowed it today but it was too intense.”
Yesterday’s performance was as poor as I have seen from Arsenal since we lost at Old Trafford last season, and one of the most embarrassing and frustrating games that I have ever had the displeasure of watching.
The argument that the international break was to blame for our dreadful performance simply does not hold up; why would the international break affect Arsenal so much more than Chelsea or the two clubs in Manchester? Chelsea won 4-2 away at Spurs, and United and City overcame deficits against Stoke and West Brom respectively. It’s not as though horrible refereeing decisions were to blame either, while blaming the performance on injuries is quite pathetic when you compare the squads.
In my opinion, one of the ESPN commentators (I can’t remember if it was Jon Champion or Chris Waddle) summed it up pretty nicely; Arsenal lost to a team whose Director of Football (Delia Smith) is more famous than many of their first-team players. Regardless of the team that Arsenal were forced to field due to injuries (which was actually quite a strong team!!), we were still playing against Norwich – a team that was in 19th place in the league, having conceded 9 goals in their previous two games. Anything less than a win would be embarrassing.
These sort of poor performances have been going on at Arsenal for a long time. This was not just a one-off bad performance – I can think of plenty of abismal games from last season. Away losses to Blackburn (4-3), Swansea (3-2) and Fulham (2-1) come to mind, as well as a 2-1 home loss to Wigan and, of course, the 8-2 to United. Losses to smaller teams are a little easier to take if you know that Arsenal hit the post a few times, had some goals disallowed or were particularly hard-done-by. However, this game sticks out in particular because there was a lack of interest, lack of effort, and very little to suggest that any of the Arsenal players (apart from Cazorla and Arteta) have any hunger or desire to even challenge for the Premier League. If anything, the scoreline was rather flattering; if not for some poor finishing from Grant Holt, Norwich could have had a few more.
The fact of the matter is that we are only 8 games into the season and already 10 points behind Chelsea. Based on this performance, I am not overly confident ahead of QPR and there was very little about today’s performance to make me think that we stand even the smallest chance at Old Trafford in two weeks time. The second-half performance against West Ham seems a long way away and only further highlights Arsenal’s incredible level of inconsistency.
When asked in one of his post-match interviews whether injuries and fatigue following the international break had an effect on the Arsenal performance, Wenger replied:
“It is not an excuse. We have to deal with that. You could say we have better players but there is only one way to show that – on the football pitch.”
I expect to see a much improved performance against Schalke in midweek. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been ruled out with a hip injury and Walcott is also missing, but this is the season where Wenger swears that we have the squad to cope with a few injuries. Well I think it’s about time that he proves it. If playing Gervinho on the wing again is the answer then I really do despair! The last thing that we want is to end up finishing second in our Champions League group.