4 Jun

“He’s too old”, “He’s too slow”, “He’s lost his legs”, “He passes sideways”.

These are the regular criticisms thrown at our 32-year-old, resident defensive-midfielder, Mikel Arteta. I have criticised him many times this season, and in particular after big games such as Liverpool (away), Chelsea (away) and Everton (away). Against top class opposition and away from home it is easier for Arteta’s lack of top, top quality to be exposed, especially when lining-up without his legs, Aaron Ramsey. There is absolutely no doubt, that the Arteta-Ramsey axis provides the best blend in the engine room.


I don’t think Arteta is a top-class player at all and I think many Arsenal fans will agree but he is certainly a consistent and reliable performer for Arsenal. He brings a stability to the team and is a big reason why the attitude within our team/squad has changed. The professionalism he exudes is vital and while, I would say, Alex Song was better suited to the role (individually) because of his physical power, Arteta’s discipline, tactical knowledge and maturity make him a key element in our overall attitude as a team.




This improvement is reflected in our amazing consistency throughout the season. A big part of that has been to finally address our main defensive issues i.e screening our defence and being more organised from set-pieces, but in trying to execute what has been practised, we must have the will to get it right. Arteta always maintains the right attitude – him not being so cavalier benefits the team as he takes the responsibility to keep the defensive balance in midfield and while not being the tough-tackling powerhouse midfielder that the fans crave, he has the leadership qualities which help to bring the best out of other players. Wenger says, ““He is very influential and he’s a leader – one of the leaders of the team.”




We do need a top-class defensive-midfielder in the mould of Javi Martinez or Luiz Gustavo to compete against the elite squads but for 85% of the League games, Arteta does the job. Arsenal conceded 41 goals this season but this is a misleading statistic as 22 goals were conceded against the top five teams. This is Wenger’s worst record against the top-five, in a season where we conceded 19 goals against the remaining Premier League clubs, which shows a very strong defensive improvement with the exception of the big games. The consistency is there for all to see which is always down to leadership and direction of the team and whether we rate him or not, Mikel Arteta is a huge part of this. Wenger says, “I like Mikel Arteta because of his quality, his focus, his commitment and his winner’s attitude. I have big respect for what he has achieved this season. He is very conscientious, very professional and he has a couple of years left [at the top].



8 Mar

As Arsenal approach the final run-in of games, we take a look at the factors that can fire them towards their main objectives.

When I think back to this precise point last season, there was absolute anarchy in the media. We had just been been dumped out of the FA Cup by Blackburn at The Emirates, totally outclassed by Bayern at The Emirates and lost the biggest North London derby in years. Broken cannons were all over the place. Wenger was being questioned to the near point of disrespect which forced him to have arguably, his fiercest press conference to date in the build-up to the Bayern game, which we won 2-0.

At this stage of the season, the Club came under a hostile level of pressure but the Bayern victory, despite still being knocked out of the Champions League, was followed up by a superb points haul of 26 points from an available 30. This was an incredible turn of events which came about after a masterful re-shuffling of the pack from the manager.

It is with very interesting timing that Arsenal have decided to announce that Per Mertsacker and Tomas Rosicky will be renewing their deals with the Club. With Mertesacker showing his commitment, as one of the core leaders at the Club, it was very important for Arsenal to not only avoid a public, seasonal contract wrangling but to also provide the Club with a boost for the League and Cup run-ins.

Season after season, we are always looking at our senior players, questioning their commitment to our great Club and quite often, we have been incapable of satisfying players’ needs, whether it be financially or on the pitch. There are countless examples of this – Toure, Adebayor, Clichy, Nasri, Fabregas and Song but I would say, since Theo Walcott signed a new deal last January, we have shown our desire to keep our most important players at the Club and I tip my hat to Ivan Gazidis.

Arsenal fans have really come to appreciate what a big player Mertesacker is to the Club in all ways and he has now become a huge favourite with the fans and the players after producing quality defensive performances. A lot of players mention our great team spirit and Mertesacker, as a leader, is very important to this and even as a defender, we shouldn’t sleep on the significance of this deal.

Rosicky is another huge part of our squad spirit. I don’t think he has been particularly consistent but he personifies what our game should be about. He understands the Club and while I think the Club has been extremely loyal towards him, despite his many injuries, I have never got the impression he wanted to be anywhere else in all of his 8 years here. He plays with full commitment but always has the urgency in his game to play the technical football our philosophy is based on. In the words of Wenger, he likes to “accelerate the game”, which is key at the highest level of football and is not an easy quality to find.

The manager has also suggested, that Ramsey and Cazorla are also very close to signing new deals, which will give the Club another huge lift. Not only this but Ramsey, who has been out for over 2 months, should be back in contention for the North London derby next weekend. Ramsey had been a huge player for Arsenal up until his injury and definitely an early shout for Player of the Season. At this stage of the season, when weary-legs start setting in, it is very important to welcome back key players at key times. In terms of player/squad morale, there can’t be many better feelings for the players than to have their futures secured. It truly does create a certainty and assuredness in the workplace.

Last year, we done well to salvage a top-four finish but Wenger has recently been quoted as saying, “We fight the whole season to be in these kind of positions. You want the opportunity to show your strengths – we have that now.” This quote represents the managers’ belief that we are set to make the next step this season, as we are in a better position this year at the same point. We are 12 points better off in the League, 4 points off the top and in the quarter-final of the FA Cup and key contract renewals could see us given a lift, equivalent to last year. 

If Arsenal manage to get 26 points from the last 30 again this year, that will give Arsenal a total of 85 points which would be a great achievement but it remains to be seen if that would even be enough to win the League. Furthermore, it would be brilliant to see us win the FA Cup for the 5th time under Wenger and with all the good news I can see Arsenal finishing strongly again this season.


26 Feb

Arsenal have the biggest monkey jumping all over their big, red back at the moment – a trophy drought, which is now heading towards it’s 9th year. This is the big sticking point used to discredit our Club and make our manager an easy target for ridicule, despite the amazing work off-field, which will allow us to excel drastically over the next 10 years while setting us up for the next 100 years.

There have been a few tell-tale signs throughout this season, that Arsenal’s long and tortuous financial battle, has taken a turn for the better, starting with the record-breaking signing of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid. Wenger and Gazidis have mentioned a new strength in competing for top-players and this has been highlighted by the commercial deals that have been negotiated with Emirates and PUMA, which will see their commercial revenue increase by approximately £70m a year. If you factor in, that Arsenal did not lose one key player in the Summer (which was an annual occurrence) and have been at the top of the League for most of the season, while still being in the FA Cup and Champions League, this symbolises a change in direction for the Club.

This leads me to the conclusion that Arsenal need to now focus on getting the monkey of their back… by finally winning a trophy. After going so long without winning a trophy, Arsenal are now perceived to be a Club that are tough participants but rarely deliver winners’ medals’. I find this to be a harsh assessment of Arsenal’s credentials, especially given the circumstances Arsenal have been competing under. I would personally argue that Arsenal over-achieved during the last 8 years but that phase is over now and Arsenal now have a great opportunity to bring the first piece of silverware to The Emirates.

There is an overwhelming amount of pressure looming over Arsenal despite their main competitors having much more expensively assembled squads and this can be detrimental to players who are not used to delivering under pressure. Wenger will always be defiant and suggest his players are equipped to handle pressure, as that is his nature and he never has played down his teams’ hopes in the trophyless 8 years.

WIth Arsenal being one point off the top in the Premier League, in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and in the second-round of the Champions League, my belief is, Arsenal need to put things into perspective and start prioritising. Arsenal have set themselves for a great end to the season and now must go all out for the FA Cup.

There are 3 games left to win the FA Cup and that represents a brilliant opportunity to create history, get the media to quieten down, give the fans the trophy they crave and initiate the beginning of a winning culture at Arsenal. The financial gain behind winning the FA Cup is £1.8m, which is quite a small figure in comparison to finishing 4th place in the League, which is worth approximately £12.8m plus an additional estimate of £30m+ in Champions League qualification money. However, as long as Arsenal challenge for the title, a Champions League place is a certainty, so in theory the financial aspect is covered but still requires a strong final push.

I would be happy if Arsenal put up a strong fight for the title as I would say that met my expectation more so than actually winning the title. For me the Champions League is a good opportunity to test yourselves against the best but the realist in me knows that Arsenal’s squad is not deep enough to go for three trophies. With Arsenal 2-0 down to Bayern Munich and yet to go to The Allianz for the away leg, it would be dangerous to prioritise this over the FA Cup which has been a huge part of Wenger’s Arsenal legacy. The nightmare scenario would see us attempting to win the Champions League competing against Europe’s elite, fall behind in the League and get knocked out of the FA Cup. Horrid. Even George Graham suggested, “One of the questions facing Arsene is whether they play their best team and try to win the tie, which is near impossible, or concentrate on the league.”

I think a huge part of developing winning teams is to take babystep’s by getting the taste for trophies. Arsenal must first overcome the first hurdle of winning a trophy without jeopardising the long-term future of the Club and the FA Cup is their best opportunity of achieving this. Arsenal have done very well to get themselves to this point in the FA Cup, beating Coventry, Tottenham and Liverpool on the way. They now have a huge tie against Everton at The Emirates, which will be tough but if they treat it like a cup final, they can win, which will leave them two games at Wembley from a trophy. This is in a competition where Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham have already been knocked out with the main competitors probably being Arsenal’s next opponents, Everton and none other than Manchester City.

Once this group of players prove they can win a trophy, they can take it to the next level up, from being outsiders for the title or the Champions League by genuinely competing for both and possibly putting the FA Cup on the backburner. I think Arsenal can finish the season strongly as they have done in the past two seasons and now with the emergence of Sanogo, the return to fitness for Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ramsey two-weeks from first-team training, Arsenal could get the boost for required for their Premier League and FA Cup aspirations.



Liverpool vs Arsenal preview: How should the midfield shape up?

7 Feb

Arsenal are going into this game a bit light in midfield – Aaron Ramsey is still at least a month away from the first-team, Mathieu Flamini is suspended and Jack Wilshere is 50/50. The only certainties to be present in the squad are Mikel Arteta, Tomas Rosicky and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Arteta is a nailed on starter for the defensive-midfield role and the remaining question is: Who should partner him at Anfield? I am fully aware that we have an Oxlade-Chamberlain that is raring to go in a central-midfield role, after bagging a brace against Crystal Palace, but my preference would be for Rosicky to line-up alongside Arteta.




My reasoning for this is, the ability of Rosicky in getting the game moving at a high-tempo. Rosicky will serve our short-passing game a lot better than Oxlade-Chamberlain and help us to retain possession. With his experience and knowhow I would see no problems in letting Rosicky pull the strings. The intensity and urgency he will bring into midfield will be key at Anfield. His understanding of when to press will also be essential.Another benefit of playing Rosicky will also be, to allow Oxlade-Chamberlain to play in the three that play off the striker (Cazorla-Ozil-Oxlade-Chamberlain).




This will give us a much needed fluidity and flexibility during the game which will allow us to adapt to the situations that will arise. The Ox has a versatility that will make him a big player at Arsenal and in this sort of game I could see him swapping positions with Mesut Ozil to fill in centrally just behind Giroud. With Gerrard being deployed in a deep-lying midfield role, Wenger could instruct The Ox to do a tactical job (ala Weimann) and buzz around Gerrard using his energy and power to disrupt Liverpool’s key passers’ game. The Ox has the technical ability to play there, can get forward in support of our striker and has shown he can score goals. Rosicky can also do this, as he did against Liverpool at The Emirates, but we would lose that much-needed passing ability in midfield.


That unpredictability in our formation could cause Liverpool endless problems as they suffer from a weakened defence (Johnson, Agger, Sakho and Enrique all injured) and a weakened midfield (Lucas injured). With Gerrard not being a natural holding-midfielder and Liverpool likely to have a two-man midfield, Liverpool could struggle tactically in keeping Ozil, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Rosicky quiet as they come in off the flanks.

Is Julian Draxler the answer to our left-side “problem”?

27 Jan


Throughout Wenger’s reign as Arsenal manager we have always been used to an attacking-midfielder/inverted winger playing as our left-winger. The likes of Overmars, Pires, Rosicky, Nasri, Arshavin, have all filled in at this position, in order to help us keep the ball a lot better – overload in midfield and use our (usually very attacking) left-backs as wingers in attack.


However, these players also needed to be capable of scoring goals or being very creative and racking up the assists – a lot of responsibility is given to these players in Arsenal’s team. They must have the ability to produce moments of magic and literally be our attacking-midfielder and left-winger all-in-one.

More recently, we have had a mixture of Lukas Podolski, Gervinho and Santi Cazorla filling in the role on the left-hand side. At times Tomas Rosicky, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere have also attempted to. This has confirmed to me that we do have a genuine need to get in a player that will command that berth.


Wenger doesn’t have the belief in Podolski to effectively play in this role for Arsenal as he is not in the traditional mould for an Arsenal “left-winger”. Being on the left-hand side, Podolski struggles to make the passes our type of play commands as he is such a left-sided player. Wilshere playing on the left brings the same issue, despite him being more of an attacking-midfielder, it is difficult for him to come inside and make the angled-passes that we need when dominating possession.



At times, Rosicky can play the role but won’t be going down the outside of the full-backs, holding the width and stretching the game as he is very right-sided. Rosicky is excellent coming inside and making different angles with his passes as he also is the expert in using the outside of his boot.

Oxlade-Chamberlain is a young and gifted football-player with such versatility in his game. He is a brilliant winger with trickery and speed. He also has lovely technical ability which is apparent in his crossing and even more so in his passing but for this reason Wenger sees him as a long-term central-midfielder. I like him as a winger, he is great in the one-on-one situation but I think he is a better right-winger more than a left-winger/attacking-midfielder. Gervinho was a great runner, had decent off-the-ball movement but wasn’t clinical technically which meant our overall game-play suffered.


Currently Arsenal’s resident “left-winger” is Santi Cazorla. The maestro that had a blinding first season at Arsenal scoring 12 League goals while playing in the attacking-midfield role, has had his position taken from him by Mesut Ozil and as a result of his flexibility and versatility he has been moved to play on the left. This season has been a stop-start season for Cazorla as he has had to adjust to a new role in the team and has scored only 3 League goals.



We all know Cazorla possesses outstanding quality but could we do better in this particular position? In my opinion, yes. Cazorla has physical limits in terms of being able to “do the full-back”. Cazorla is short, stocky and is not blessed with acceleration to beat full-backs. While he is majestic in his use of the ball he should be never be expected to “skin the full-back” or get to the byline ala Robert Pires despite possibly being the most two-footed player in the League. He is currently a great No.10 “doing a job” for the team and while it works because of our style of short-passing style of football, I am convinced we need a new player there that will be a hybrid winger/attacking-midfielder.


For Arsenal to pursue the signing of Julian Draxler would be ideal in terms of the physical and technical blend of the player. He has great dribbling ability and his close control is equally effective on both feet, making him capable of going down the outside of defenders, stretching the game and holding the width. Couple this with his speed and power while dribbling, makes him a tough player to second-guess in the one-on-one situation.



The player is also very creative, especially as a No.10 and to a degree, this is the bad news. The player has had an outburst as recent as last month, where he stated, “I have now resigned myself to the fact that I am not welcome in the number 10 position here at Schalke. I am still convinced to be as dangerous just outside the centre. Even though I perhaps am the only one who thinks this.”

This highlights Draxler’s desire to play as a No.10 but there is practically no room for Draxler to become our fixed No.10. At the age of 20 and with a reported release-clause of £35m, there is the possibility that Arsenal could splash the cash in order to capture one of the best, young players in world football, who would undoubtedly claim our “left-winger” slot as his own for at least the next 8 years.

“Spend Some Fucking Money!”

18 Aug

It is amazing how one game can change the whole mood. Arsenal fan’s have gone from a state of optimism into a mood of outright anger. “Spend some fucking money” was the chant ringing around the North Bank, as Arsenal conceded the third goal in a 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa. Laudrup, Klopp, Bould, Garde are names that have been mentioned in light of the weekend from Hell. These names are being bandied around in the “hope”, for some fans, that Wenger will resign and hand over the reigns to a younger, hungrier and more ambitious manager. 


For Arsenal fans to turn on Wenger in such huge numbers, is indicative of the total disappointment, we as fans, have been made to feel during this debacle of a transfer window. We have let go of SEVENTEEN players (quite rightly) but have signed ONE player. Wenger is a fine economist who should be able to see, that will leave any squad extremely light. I am personally prepared to wait until the end of the transfer window before I judge Wenger, Gazidis and Co. but what must be made clear by the fans is, this is not a sudden, knee-jerk reaction. There are plenty of fans who have been very patient, myself included, but I am being tipped over the edge. Many fans will feel the same as me especially after 8 years of waiting.  





Let’s not mention the fact that we are now under an unprecedented amount of pressure to beat Fenerbahce in our Champions League qualifier. After celebrating top-four, I assumed we needed that finish to be able to kick-on and finally break up the monopoly of Man. United, Man. City and Chelsea. As the days pass it is beginning to seem like they celebrated not falling any further behind the big boys. The reason we should be celebrating top-four is the excitement of the players we should now be signing after securing Champions League football, instead all we are doing is stopping Spurs from over-taking us, which any team will struggle to recover from (ask Liverpool).




Gazidis has made it pretty obvious we have good money to spend, so I don’t want to hear excuses suggesting “there are no players available” blah, blah, blah. That is insulting and suggests fans don’t pay attention to football and cannot see the transfers that are happening around us. I am laying the blame at Wenger’s door thus far. I don’t blame him for pulling the plug on the Higuain deal in order to pursue Suarez, as it definitely shows a stronger ambition, however, please don’t make a bid of £40m + £1 in order to activate a non-existent transfer-clause. That is pathetic on our behalf and the big organisation that we are shouldn’t be allowing these grave errors of judgement to bite us in the arse so readily.




We are in danger of becoming a laughing stock, as our great ability in making profit on players and increasing revenue is not translated into doing great transfer business to make our main “customer” (the fans) happy. The fans are the ones paying the most money in the land for a poxy ticket to 4th placed League finishes, they surely deserve to be served a better product? 

I’m not a reactionary type of fan. I’ve been patient for 8 years, watching us lose all of our legendary assets one-by-one, to then seeing many teams come and fail to bring the trophies we crave. We are within touching distance of finally being exposed for the “money-making-only” machine that we are and not the colossal club competing for honours that we were promised to become




It is well-known within sport, what a well-run BUSINESS Arsenal FOOTBALL club are. It is also known that we now have plenty money, so Wenger, if you decide you want a player and that’s the player you well & truly want, make sure you pay whatever it takes to get that player. We are no longer in the position where we can pretend we don’t have money to get a player on the cheap. We now have to pay top dollar since we are one of the clubs with the most money in football. 

We shouldn’t be shirking transfer dealings on the basis of principles and our own “player valuation”. Instead we should be bullying teams into selling us the players that we want, showing a relentless, ruthless streak, needed to get the best players – regardless of the price. That’s the price of new-found wealth.



I will put my hands up and say, Wenger has this transfer window to save his reputation from being totally destroyed. He MUST make the signings necessary for us to compete for trophies. If he truly has this £100m+ budget he must spend every single penny. If he doesn’t, he should be held accountable and must not be offered an extension on a contract which expires at the end of the season. Then we should be making plans for a new manager to take charge from next season onwards.


31 Jul

Here we have Jack Wilshere, arguably the goldenboy and the future of English football.

A big performer for the big stage with a big personality. This has been demonstrated on a few occasions, most memorably against a legendary Barcelona team at The Emirates.

The main problem that seems to have hindered Wilshere’s incredible progress, is undoubtedly his injuries which kept him sidelined for the whole of the 2011-12 season, the season after his breakthrough into the Arsenal first eleven. In the 2010-11 season he won the PFA Young Player of The Year Award and also made the PFA Team of The Year. He accomplished a lot in his first year as a regular member of the team.

This is a player who has made his League debut at the age of 16 and is the youngest league debutant in Arsenal’s history but he has missed out on crucial stages of his development.

However, the big question for many Arsenal fans is, what position will Wilshere conquer? He has a bit of everything in his locker. A player who, I would say is a hybrid of Paul Scholes and Joe Cole. He can glide past players elegantly in midfield, provoke, prod and commit the opposition but he also has a lovely left-peg which he uses to stroke the ball around from deep.

He has been seen by many as a No.10. As evidenced by Arsene Wenger, who upon selling Robin van Persie, decided to reward Wilshere with the famous playmaker number, also worn by Dennis Bergkamp. This shirt number is usually a signal of intent from the manager and would suggest that, if at least long-term, Wilshere will be the resident creative midfielder.

I haven’t been convinced that this is Wilshere’s long-term role in the side and although I think he has got a good level of flair, I don’t think he has the creativity or goal-scoring potential of, as an example, Cesc Fabregas. In my eyes, Wilshere will not be able to match the creative exploits of Santi Cazorla, who is a superb creative influence on the team. However, he does have a degree of dynamism, that will be a huge virtue in a more central position to the team. In an outstanding all-round performance against Barcelona, Wilshere made a superb attacking contribution in the final third with a pass completion of 91%.

This suggests that Wilshere can make a quality contribution in attack but, for me a quality No.10 scores at least 12 league goals per season. Wilshere currently has 1 league goal in his career for Arsenal.

I’m not saying that he isn’t an outstanding player, as I believe he is one of the best player’s at under-21 level in world football but as a No.10 he will definitely have to increase his goal-scoring record drastically.

Fabregas was in a similar position where his profligacy led to a few doubters but Fabregas always seemed to have the potential to blossom into a goal-scoring midfielder. When Wenger watched him at the u-17’s World Cup in 2003, Fabregas won the Golden Boot. When Fabregas begun to score regularly for Arsenal, Wenger said, ‘I believe he is more relaxed, there is less tension in his finishing. You feel that before he wanted to force the chance and now he is more relaxed. Also he has gained more physical power. You can see he resists much more the runs of his opponents and he is more powerful in his runs. These two ingredients make a big difference.’ In Wilshere’s case, I wouldn’t say he has this problem, he just doesn’t have the instinct of a goal-scoring midfielder.

I would also say, football is changing. You need great passers at the base of your attack, who help you to keep the ball well, change the tempo of your game and start of your attacks. Jack Wilshere is in this mould but also has the bite in his game which will allow him to cope well in the battle. Think of Arteta who has a tidy, short-range passing-game with the tactical nous to screen his back four without being quick, strong or particularly aggressive. Jack Wilshere can be this player but will have to strongly develop his tactical understanding of the game. He has the tenacity to succeed and also has a much better passing-range. Also with Steve Bould, a defensive coach who has a great understanding in the defensive aspect of the game, Jack Wilshere can blossom alongside the correct clientele.

Wenger’s use of him correlates with this idea also. When Wilshere was used alongside Alex Song in midfield, Song would advance forward and Wilshere had to sit and screen his back-four, like the under-rated Claude Makelele. With all this in mind it is fair to say his schooling in this position has already begun.

Not to mention what the legendary Fabio Capello had planned for him as England manager. Capello compared Wilshere to Makelele.

Capello said: “Wilshere will play in front of the back four. It is not the position he prefers – he wants to go forward. But one of the midfielders has to stay back.

“Makelele was faster and could play with both feet, but Wilshere is really intelligent on the pitch. His movement, with or without the ball, has improved a lot. For me, Wilshere is better.

“In some games at Arsenal he has played forward. In other games he has played in front of the back four.

“He has improved a lot with short passes and winning back the ball. He is playing with confidence now.”

This gives us an indication of how Wilshere and his career can progress. For me he will have to take the advice of ex-England captain Bryan Robson, who said on Wilshere, “I look at him and think what kind of player does Jack want to be? Is he going to be an offensive player? If he is, he needs to score more goals. If he is going to be defensive, he has to work that little bit harder on the defensive side of his game.”

I am of the opinion Wilshere really should consider trying to establish himself as the heir to Mikel Arteta rather than the next Dennis Bergkamp. He should challenge himself, to live up to Capello’s huge billing of being better than Makelele.