Archive for the ‘Arsenal’ Category

Optimism: hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something. Now, please do not mistake this for ‘delusions of grandeur’, which, when ‘defined’ into Google, reads ‘Liverpool Football Club’.

Being an optimistic fan is often counter attacked by a sarcastic comment (or simply “#deluded”) and since the signings of Lukas Podolski, Olivier ‘everyone’s man-crush’ Giroud and Santi CaTHorla (I doubt Paul Merson will ever pronounce our diminutive playmaker’s name right), I, Daniel Tregoning Blazer have become something of an optimist.

It has been a while since I can honestly say I have been an optimistic Arsenal fan, rather than deluded, bordering on neurotic, one. Every fan has suffered from this grandeur and every season since Patrick Vieira smashed home that penalty against Manchester United to win the FA Cup in 2005 I have, without hesitation, stood by my opinion/delusion that this year will be Arsenal’s…so what’s changed?

Well, this isn’t ‘Arsenal’s year’. BUT next season IS.

Robin van Persie HAS been replaced (sorry to burst the Sun’s ‘Arsenal will cease to exist’ bubble). No, I know we haven’t signed Athletic Bilbao’s Fernando Llorente or Napoli’s Edinson Cavani or re-re-signed Jeremie Aliadiere (we haven’t have we?!) but Arsene has shared the workload. Lukas Podolski, Oliver Giroud and Theo Walcott are capable of 12-15 goals each; Santi Cazorla, Gervinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere and the rest of the midfield will easily score 6-10 goals each; according to my Mathematics that makes…a hell of a lot more than 30. So front-line, goals- SORTED.

The midfield (with Nuri Sahin finally signing) is complete. Many sections of the Emirates would argue we need that Claude Makelele defensive midfielder and I definitely wouldn’t say no to a Yann M’Vila or Etienne Capoue signing but it is a luxury a self sustaining business model like AFC doesn’t need right now; I would even argue Mikel ‘future Brylcreem ambassador’ Arteta is our DM? The wealth of options in the midfield is something that even Manchester ‘lets buy every flavour of the month’ City don’t have.

Now, to two words that usually send shudders down even the most positive of Gunners, ‘Arsenal’s defence’. This is an area that definitely is a weakness but not in the proportions that pundits would care for you to believe.

Laurent Koscielny was the 2nd best Premier League defender last season (behind Vincent Kompany) although I’m still waiting for the upper echelons of the media to realise this?!

Now for my optimism to become reality in the Premier League season of 2013/14, Le Profeseur needs to shift Thomas Vermaelen out to left back (*goes into hibernation through fear of backlash at this suggestion*) and here is why; ignoring the fact that the newest resident of Cell Block H, Andre Santos can’t defend and Kieran Gibbs is probably overrated and from the same gene pool as Amaury Bischoff, TV5’s understanding of when to ‘stay’ and when to ‘go’ is, frankly, criminal; for every heroic winner against Newcastle United, there are three or four occasions when our new captain misjudges situations and gets caught out of position but Koscielny ‘mops up’.

So, with Verm out on the left and obviously Bacary Sagna at right back, who to partner Koscielny at the heart of the defence? Phillipe Mexes? Sakho? Why not Per Mertesacker? Okay, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks (or pace) but he is an option I love AFC being able to have. So for me, CB is an issue and the final piece of the jigsaw that will see us back in amongst the trophies.

Arsene Wenger nearly didn’t make it, had to drag several thousand of us ‘kicking and screaming’ to the new era of Arsenal Football Club and admittedly come the end of the current campaign it will have taken seven seasons to get ‘there’ but, boy will it be worth it. You can quote me on that!

Think I’m deluded? Or just want to tell me what your perfect Sunday would be? Then find me on Twitter @DanielTBlazer

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You know those pages on Facebook that clog up your news feeds? Annoying aren’t they. Usually pointless advertising and spamming of my own personal social media space (an oxymoron if ever there was one), however in amongst the adverts making me feel inadequate about my manhood (why these are on a Fifa banter page, god only knows) but one fan asked a question that got me thinking, ‘Who is the best left back in the Premier League?’

Firstly let me say, Ashley Cole is not going to be considered because my twenty year plan to make Cheryl Cole/Tweedy my wife will be ruined if she reads this article about what a wonderful left back he is/was.

Jose Enrique appears to be one of the bargains of the season so far at £6 million, with the Spaniard being key in Liverpool only conceding 18 Premier League goals this season, which is only bettered by Manchester City (16). The former Newcastle United player has defended with maturity and attacked with force, encompassing everything the modern day full back is about, however Enrique is yet to make his international debut which is surprising given his form and Spain’s supposed shortage at left back.

Leighton Baines, arguably the most consistent left back over the last two years or so which has started to earn the defender recognition at international level. The former Wigan Athletic man has an attribute that hasn’t been seen in a left back since Roberto Carlos and that is his ability from dead ball situations, which has proved invaluable to Everton with the likes of Louis Saha making Emile Heskey look prolific.

Neil Taylor has been one of several positives from the Premier League new boys Swansea this year, the Welsh outfit have been a great addition to the world’s best league. The Wales international has it all, the pace, the calmness when under pressure and the attacking tendencies; admittedly at 22 the former Wrexham defender isn’t the complete package but given a season or two at the top level and rumours such as the ones linking him with Arsenal will, no doubt be a common occurrence.

Admittedly I started this article thinking there were going to be five or six decent left backs but clearly I’m mistaken.

Overall, you can’t overlook consistency and Baines has been a solid performer for two seasons now. Although the Englishman may not have the Spanish flair or the ability to reach the levels Neil Taylor can, at the moment you can’t look past the Everton man.

Let me know who you think is the best or just give me advice on how to make Cheryl Cole mine on Twitter @DanielTBlazer

Like most 90s kids there are several reunions I’d love to see S Club 7, Ash Ketchum and Pikachu and Vanilla flavouring with Coca Cola (remember that?) but unlike most Arsenal fans one reunion I’m not in favour of, is the return of our all time goalscorer and legend, Thierry Henry.

Arsene Wenger for all his success and attributes, has to be the most frustrating manager, no correction, the most frustrating man on the planet. The Frenchman continually refuses to buy, much to the annoyance of everyone associated with the Gunners and instead scans the globe for a cheap short term alternative which usually results in such signings as Sebastian Squilacci. Le Professeur should be looking not to cover Gervinho and Chamakh while at the African Cup of Nation but to be replacing the Moroccan and offering the Ivorian some strong competition for his place.

The era of Henry & Co. was a great time to be a Gooner and probably something that will never be eclipsed by Arsenal or any other team. The current Arsenal team is different in every way from the time of Pires, Bergkamp and Henry and for that reason it is time for the likes of Song, Vermalean and RVP to make this Arsenal team their own and successful in their own way. Bringing back Henry would undermine the current Arsenal squad, especially with the incessant media coverage that will continually highlight what Henry achieved in his time in North London compared to the success or rather, lack of, since he has left.

For once I’d love Arsenal to be linked with the players that the likes of Manchester City and Barcelona are chasing, I know we couldn’t compete financially but wouldn’t it be nice for Neymar to spotted at the Emirates having talks with the Gunners hierachy? Rather than talking loan deals for a player that left Arsenal for bigger and better things (a lot of people forget this, I mean if you loved us so much Thierry, why leave?).

You also have to look at Henry as a player, at 34 years of age will he still be able to run from box to box leaving an entire Spurs team for dead? Because that’s what we would all expect from the former Juventus winger, we all vividly remember the Henry that lobbed Barthez with his back to goal, could he still give us that va-va voom? It is true you don’t lose your natural talent but the former Barcelona player will have definitely lost a yard or two and despite having scored 15 goals in 29 games for the New York Red Bulls, which is an impressive record that Arsenal could do with ; you have to remember that Juan Pablo Angel was deemed prolific out in the States.

Think I’m being too harsh on our former skipper? Let me know on Twitter @DanielTBlazer

Everyone regained their breath? What a Super Sunday that was, with arguably the best game of the day being saved till last. Manchester City narrowly edged out a valiant Arsenal attempt to take at least a point away from the Etihad Stadium, but what did we learn from that enthralling ninety minutes?

Arsenal are involved in the best games of the season – They’ve lost 8-2, won 5-3 at Stamford Bridge and lost 2-1 in a very entertaining North London derby. The Gunners inability to defend but ability to attack have allowed neutrals to enjoy some of the best Premier League games ever and this campaign isn’t even half a season old.

Wenger never ceases to amaze – In the Frenchman’s post match interview he concluded that “We are now out of the title race” Err sorry Arsene, but were you ever in it?

RVP’s record affected his game – No one even knew such a record existed but a few weeks ago the media went crazy as the Dutchman closed in on Alan Shearer’s 36 Premier League goals in a calender year. Yesterday for the first time, I saw Van Persie seem fixated on this possible achievement and several occasions take the selfish option instead of sliding in one of his team mates much to the frustration of them and no doubt, the fans.

Micah Richards is a shocking defender – *and jump * Sorry, that was me getting off the ‘Micah Richards for England’ bandwagon. The Manchester City right back was terrible yesterday, I mean we’ve always known he was clumsy (probably should have been a penalty against Ramsey) but the Englishman took his inability to defend to all new levels. If Arsenal had utilised the left wing at all they would have found copious amounts of space for Gervinho, Walcott and Arshavin, on so many occasions Richards was tucked inside Vincent Kompany or Kolo Toure highlighting his lack of positioning and tactical understanding. This performance comes after a terrific attacking and defending performance from Glen Johnson earlier in the afternoon.

The Arsenal Utopia is over – For many years Arsene Wenger’s side have been deemed the second greatest passing team on the planet behind Barcelona, however at the Etihad yesterday that myth died. The Gunners passing was far from slick and in the opening twenty minutes it was nothing short of suicidal far from the crisp passing days of Pires, Bergkamp and even more recent such as Hleb and Fabregas, if anything City played the ‘Arsenal way’.

Mancini can’t help but revert to type – This season the Man City manager seemed to cave in and gave the media and the fans what they wanted, free flowing attacking football with all of their striking superstars on the pitch at once. However yesterday the ice cool Mancini went back to his old stereotypical Italian ways; with the score at 1-0 and the game far from won the Italian took off Mario Balotelli and replaced him the versatile but defensive James Milner. The substitution surprised many but worked as Mancini’s side grounded at an Italian scoreline of 1-0.

Gary Neville is a terrible pundit – Oh wait we already knew that.

 

Loan signings are cheating.  I mean how can Emmanuel Adebayor transform Tottenham Hotspur’s season and perhaps in the long run cost his parent club Manchester City the Premier League title?

For all of the praise the Premier League receives for being the best league in the world, it is fundamentally flawed in that it allows loan deals internally within the same league.

Jamie O’Hara last season joined Wolverhampton Wanderers on loan from Spurs and was a major influence in keeping Wolves in the Premier League. When the tenacious centre midfielder joined Mick McCarthy’s side were languishing in 19th position and eventually avoided relegation by one place and one point. Although you can’t say single handedly that the Englishman pulled Wolves from the brink but you could definitely argue that would have David Edwards and Karl Henry impacted as much in the middle of the park as O’Hara did?

Birmingham City were the team to take the unwanted final place back in the Championship but not because Wolves squad was better than theirs it was because Tottenham Hotspur’s reserves were. How can Spurs influence both ends of the table?

If you can’t loan out players between one Premiership team and another, then league’s such as the Championship are the next best option. The benefits of sending the likes of Adebayor, Jamie O’Hara and Yossi Benayoun out on loan to the lower leagues of English football are huge. Players of clubs such as Cardiff, Bristol City and Watford would learn and gain so much from having players who have Champions League, Premier League and World Cup experience within their team.

At a time where the gulf between Premier League and the Championship is currently criticised as being too big of a step up, surely an influx of experienced international footballer’s within the lesser ranks of English football will help bridge that ever increasing gap?

If we ban in the Premier League surely you’d have to prevent loan deals to teams with the same tournaments too? Adebayor couldn’t join Real Madrid, Quaresma couldn’t join Chelsea and Tevez couldn’t join AC Milan on loan (If the rumours are true). However we would expect Andy Carroll to score for Liverpool before we see a swift decision made by the footballing bodies.

The conflict of interests between loan deals is massive and yet in an era that has seen Serie A basically closed down due to match fixing, the most obvious form of ‘influencing’ games is a legitimate rule within football.

Overall if the rules were to change and internal loans were banned, the team that would benefit the most is Sunderland…as they’d get to send Nicklas Bendtner back.

In recent weeks, Arsenal have been described as ‘a one man team’ and of course this refers to goal machine and captain Robin Van Persie’s influence; so the signs were ominous when Wenger decided to leave the Dutchman on the bench for the weekend’s game against Stoke City. Admittedly, the Gunners didn’t replace the goal scoring threat the former Feyenoord striker brings however, have they have found a ‘Captain Fantastic’ replacement should the obvious happen and RVP and vice captain Thomas Vermaelen get injured?

A very proud Alex Song deputised in the absence of Van Persie and The Verminator. Song described the chance to lead out ‘Arsene Wenger’s red and white army’ as a great way to “show the boss that I am one of the leaders in the team”. Despite an assured performance from the combative midfielder, is Song really the leader Arsenal have lacked since the days of Patrick Vieira?

Like all great arguments there are two sides but drawing up a list of ‘pro’s’ and ‘con’s, well lets face it, is just boring. How about I put Song in different scenarios and see if he is captain material?

If Arsenal (god forbid) suffered the same fate as Chelsea on Sunday and were down to nine men by half time would Song have picked up a deflated side and dominated the second half like Chelsea did? It’s hard to see it. For all his power and steely determination, Song like the majority of the current crop of players, let their heads drop when the team falls behind and don’t dig deep.

Next situation. Cast your minds back to the now infamous ‘Gallas meltdown’ against Birmingham. Ok, it’s not hard to be a better captain then the Frenchman was on that day, but when Arsenal’s season was at a pivotal moment after Gael Clichy conceded a penalty, would Song have composed the team? Can anyone really compose ten ‘headless chickens’?

Although such scenarios make or break captain’s, a real captain will be there for his teammates for the duration of a season. At the moment we don’t have that in Van Persie, let alone Song. However, despite what I’ve said, I’ve always beaten the drum for Song for captain and if the Cameroonian sorts out his lack of discipline with regards to formation as well as cards, then who knows Wenger may just start singing a new song.

In football, the line between success and failure is littered with ‘ifs, ‘buts’ and ‘maybes’. However, what is now crystal clear is that Arsenal’s youth set up has definitely failed.

We assume every season that Arsene Wenger will let loose another batch of the next best things onto the League Cup, and every season we throw the usual clichés around about the next Pélé. The fact is that every season it is another eleven players from all corners of the globe we are talking about and suddenly we forget about the previous season’s Carling Cup entertainers. The false pretence in the media among fans and the world of football that Arsenal are only second to Barcelona when it comes to the best youth set-ups is, quite frankly, laughable- especially when you compare it to arch rivals Manchester United.

Sir Alex Ferguson, on a yearly basis, jettisons a boat full of young players that are deemed surplus to requirements at Old Trafford. These players then surface to do the job for other top football clubs.

Phillip Bardsley, Fraizer Campbell, Kieran Richardson and John O’Shea all ply their trade with some distinction at Sunderland. Guiseppe Rossi is one of the most sought after strikers in this transfer window after years of consistently dominating the scoring charts for Villareal; another former United youngster excelling in La Liga is Gerard Pique, three times winner of the Champions League at only 24 years of age. Consider this host of names, then think about the ones I have not yet mentioned, having barely scratched the surface of United academy graduates enjoying fruitful careers around the globe. The likes of Jonathan Greening, Robbie Savage, Sylvain Ebanks-Blake and Ryan Shawcross, and that’s just counting the players who failed to make the grade at United. What about our beloved David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes; the list seems never ending. With Arsenal, the standout names are David Bentley, Ashley Cole and Steve Sidwell; I suppose you can also consider Fabrice Muamba and Jermaine Pennant, who is finally starting to show his worth. Nonetheless, could not Spurs, West Ham, Chelsea and even Fulham boast half a dozen decent youth players? The lavish praise that the Gooner’s youth set-up receives is not warranted when one considers the number of players who have excelled in life after the Emirates. Yet outside that iconic picture of Butt, Scholes, Beckham, Giggs and Neville as trainees, the Old Trafford youth system doesn’t earn as much credit as it quite deserves.

United’s loan deals speak volumes, with Danny Welbeck a huge success at Sunderland and Federico Macheda deemed accomplished enough for a loan move to Serie A outfit Sampdoria. While in North London, Arsenal loaned out Henri Lansbury and Aaron Ramsey to Championship sides Norwich City and Nottingham Forest respectively, and Kyle Bartley to Rangers.

It would be foolish to continue without a mention of Jack Wilshere, one shining example of a player who has thrived under the Wenger way and come out the other side triumphant. Wilshere began his training as a nine year old and is now on the verge of something special, but one shining star doesn’t allow you to forget the Sanchez Watt’s, the Quincy Owusu-Abeyie’s and the Justin (or even Gavin) Hoyte’s of the footballing world; the success of players after their respective spells at Arsenal and Manchester United speaks for itself.

There is clearly something wrong with the Wenger method with regards to youth development. The Frenchman arrived at an Arsenal that had produced David Rocastle, Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Paul Merson, Michael Thomas and Kevin Campbell. All the aforementioned players became established first team regulars for the Gunners, having come through Arsenal’s youth system. Yet if you compare this to the starting line up of the Gunners’ final Premier League fixture of the 2010/11 season against Fulham, only Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere can claim to have gone through the Arsenal youth system for a substantial period.

The praise Arsenal receive for such players as Cesc Fabregas is excessive. Wenger and his team do deserve credit for seeing something in the 16 year old Barcelona academy graduate, but Wenger merely polished a rough diamond. Fabregas was already a great prospect after the Spaniard’s training at La Masia. The crux of this debate is clearly very straightforward, unlike Man United, who produce players tirelessly and see them go on to find success; Arsenal merely take players, young players, who have had their footballing education and give them a platform to showcase their talents- Robin Van Persie comes to mind.

Football is a game graded on success, and since Arsene Wenger’s appointment in 1996, Arsenal’s Youth and Reserve teams have won a total of nine honours combined, whereas Manchester United have won 33 titles and various other accolades. These numbers tell the same story as at senior level. Arsenal play attractive football, but have a fairly empty trophy cabinet; perhaps the opposite could be said of the Red Devils, as they continue to defy the critics and win football’s major trophies. The bedrock of the teaching at Man United seems to instil a winning mentality, something Wenger just doesn’t understand how to do with his approach.

I may have been too harsh on Arsenal’s most successful manager, I mean, ultimately the players are in control of their own success on the pitch, whether they be up-and-coming stars or experienced footballers. At Manchester United, the influence of the experienced footballers upon the youngsters who have come through over the years has been huge, and why wouldn’t it be? Fraizer Campbell, Kieran Richardson et al would have grown up watching Ryan Giggs and co, true professionals playing at the highest level of football for their whole careers; who do Arsenal have? The Thierry Henrys, Patrick Vieiras and Tony Adams have come and gone, and since those Arsenal ‘legends’ have departed, the Gunners have lacked experience, they appear to be crying out for a talisman, someone who lives and breathes Arsenal in the same way John Terry does for Chelsea, Steven Gerrard does for Liverpool and Rio Ferdinand does for Man United. Ryo Miyaichi, Emmanuel Frimpong, Henri Lansbury and so many of the youngsters, who are coming through the ranks and hoping to break into Wenger’s first eleven won’t have that calm and assured head to ease the transition, instead they have fellow young professionals who are still finding their own way in the beautiful game.

Youth policy shapes an attitude, mentality and even a perception of a club, and the ultimate irony is that the football world’s ‘Young Guns’ perception of Arsenal is so clearly wide of the mark. What Arsenal actually need is some ‘Old Cannons’.