Posts Tagged ‘Arsene Wenger’

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


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.


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’.

In a recent interview on SkySports, former Arsenal defender Kenny Samson stated that if Arsenal don’t make drastic changes soon and fast, they could very well find themselves out of the Champions League qualification places for the first time in more than a decade; is this really how bad it has got for Wenger over at the Emirates?

You can’t ignore that Arsenal seem to be a team in reverse; as Ian Wright recently put it, “Arsenal have become Manchester City’s feeder club”. A slight over exaggeration, if ever there were one, however the reason Gael Clichy gave for moving to Eastlands is one that is beginning to gain momentum with the footballing neutrals: “Year after year I have seen this club getting stronger. They have new players in and the names in the team are amazing”. Man City are currently doing what every Arsenal fan has been crying out for Wenger to do for at least three years: spend, maybe not to Roberto Mancini’s extremes, but a signal of intent from Le Professeur wouldn’t go amiss.

Man City aren’t the only team who are very capable of overhauling Arsenal’s ‘top four status’. Liverpool are building a very exciting squad, even if it does mean paying over the odds for players; Tottenham Hotspur have a lot to do this summer but a few of the right transfers could see them back in and around the Champions League spots, and that’s before we even consider the signings Manchester United have made and that Chelsea no doubt will make.

In order to achieve things, you have to be open to a change in mentality. Spurs were when Redknapp took over, Chelsea were when Abramovich started bankrolling the London club and Liverpool are nearing the end of their mentality change under Fenway Sports Group; although Wenger has realised and stated he has to spend to appease fans, you can see the Frenchman’s awkwardness and unease in every press conference at doing this. Despite saying what all Gunners’ fans want to hear, it is clear deep down that Wenger’s philosophies remain intact and are controlling Arsenal’s transfer policy, a policy that could cost them Champions League football. Carl Jenkinson cost £1 million from Charlton Athletic, Gervinho isn’t proven and is hardly formidable and the constant rumours surrounding Southampton’s Alex Oxlaide Chamberlain, although a decent player, is not going to make a massive impact anytime soon. If Wenger were serious about making changes, he should be looking at experience and not another one for the future.

For a good five years or so, the media, pundits and even the Gunners’ own faithful have questioned whether Arsene Wenger’s red and white army will be in the top four come the final Premier League game of each season, yet every time so far Arsenal have proved their critics wrong, even if it has been very close on several occasions. The Gunners’ squad has proven time and time again they have the experience and skill to, at the very least, give Arsenal Champions League football; the problem is that that is a minimum requirement and not viewed as a success by the fans. With every season, that qualification for Europe’s greatest club tournament is becoming harder and harder for Arsenal, so this year, more than the previous, perhaps the critics will be right.

Arsenal: a team in decline, or just in need of some tweaks?

The top four over the last few seasons has come under intense pressure from the ‘lesser’ teams; firstly there was Aston Villa attempting to ruin the party, then eventually Tottenham Hotspur ousted Liverpool and got a taste of Champions League football and this season the Lilywhites missed out to Manchester City. Already, speculation has begun on who will be next season’s top four, especially as Arsenal appear to be getting weaker with each season that passes. This season, I think the Gunners became the first team ever to finish fourth in a two horse race! Liverpool’s new found resurgence saw them very nearly break back into the top four, after a horrendous beginning to this season under Roy Hodgson. Everything is in place at Anfield for a very successful 2011/12 season, starting with reclaiming their Champions League berth from Arsenal, and this is why (in this humble writer’s opinion).

Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri want to leave, and both players are exceptional talents, with Nasri taking the Spaniard’s mantle as Arsenal’s main star whilst the Spaniard sent flirty text messages to Pique from the treatment room. Both players’ decisions to openly state that they would happily leave Arsenal shows how little faith they have in the Gunners ability to challenge for the major honours; losing two influential players will rock Arsenal and no wonder kid signing from France can help fill the void or maintain their Champions League status.

Phil Jones, Jordan Henderson and, erm, Carl Jenkinson: not hard to work out who Arsenal signed is it? As Liverpool continue splashing the cash despite spending nearly £60 million on two signings in January, Arsene Wenger maintains his usual transfer policy despite all his promises that Arsenal will spend big in the transfer market. With very little happening at the Emirates and everything happening on Merseyside, Liverpool are very much a team preparing for Champions League qualification next season.

Belief is a huge part of achieving success in football and no matter what Liverpool and their fans have always believed, their club can achieve greatness and reclaim the glory days of the ’80s. Nothing has changed this season, and next season the belief will no doubt get stronger. It’s a different story over in North London; with players clearly displaying lack of belief on the pitch, the fans are quite rightly loathing their team’s performances and now many are questioning Arsene Wenger, Le Professeur, himself. Arsenal are a team heading for turmoil if they aren’t careful; missing out on Champions League football could be the least of their worries.

Arsenal shareholder Stan Kroenke has recently improved his stake in the club and has announced he intends to invest in the club, yet the Gunners’ board over the past few seasons has yet to show any signs of following this kind of ethos, and the fans will of course be reluctant to naïvely swallow this up. Liverpool’s owners Fenway Sports Group, on the other hand, have already invested heavily in the squad and the club set-up. But this is not all about financial investment, the American group has had great success with their innovation in sports management and was recently named one of the top 10 most innovative companies in sports by Fast Company, a renowned American journalism group.

Everyone is predicting the usual Arsene Wenger transfer activity, making promises that there will be changes but come the final minute of deadline day, Le Professeur will either sign an unknown and lets face it pointless squad player or no-one at all. Like so many transfer windows before, there are potential signings that are ideal for Arsenal and staring Wenger in the face, with fans, ex-players and pundits all calling for the Frenchman to open up the cheque book, but in his usual stubborn way Wenger refuses and Premier League rivals snap up the perfect signing for the Gunners instead. Here are the five players I think the Frenchman should sign, to which he will reply “I did not see them”.

Scott Parker

The West Ham midfielder has stated his desire to return to the Premier League following the Hammers relegation and will face no shortage of admirers, including Tottenham Hotspur. Surely the pleasure of getting one over your fiercest rivals in the transfer market is incentive enough, before you even consider the positives Parker would bring. The former Chelsea midfielder would add all the attributes this current Arsenal squad has been criticised for not having: experience, passion and strength in the middle of the park.

Gonzalo Higuain

Reportedly available for £15 million as Mourinho looks to fund his own transfer spree, Higuain is the perfect striking partner for Robin Van Persie. The Argentinian has an impressive goal scoring record for Real Madrid and has all the attributes of a world class finisher, something Nicklas Bendtner and Marouane Chamakh seriously lack. The forward would happily share the goal scoring burden that has rested solely on Van Persie in the second half of the season.

Maarten Stekelenberg

Many believe Wojciech Szczesny is the man for Arsenal between the sticks for many years to come, but for me I’m undecided. Making a move for current Ajax goalkeeper Martin Stekelenberg would give Arsenal that world class keeper that have tried to find since Seaman. All the keepers since the Englishman have hardly been household names, Arsenal fans are crying out for a Iker Casillas or Gigi Buffon, someone who has pedigree behind their name, and the Dutchman can offer them that.

Yoann Gourcuff

With Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri widely expected to leave this summer, the Lyon midfielder could step in to become that playmaker Arsenal will need. The Frenchman has earnt comparisions to Zinedine Zidane for his passing style and all round ability, with David Ginola claiming that Gourcuff is the best French player of his generation. The former AC Milan player can play in the attacking midfielder role but also as a withdrawn striker, something Arsenal could find very useful with regards to finding the ideal striking partner for Robin Van Persie.

Miguel Veloso

Although Arsenal have Alex Song as their strong defensive midfielder, more than one occasion this season the Cameroonian has gone missing. Veloso would bring consistency with regards to crucial interceptions and forceful tackles, as well as that leadership quality Arsenal have lacked for several seasons. Another bonus of signing the Portugese international is, rather surprisingly, he is a very accomplished left back, so should Gael Clichy leave this summer, the former Benfica player could be a candidate to replace the Frenchman.

Who do you think Wenger should sign