Son of a Gun!

Musings on Arsenal Football Club by a Singaporean Gooner (Gooner since 1988)

Emirates Cup: Arshavin magic wins the game August 2, 2009

Filed under: Andrey Arshavin,Jack Wilshere,Philippe Senderos,Pre-season — Son of a Gunner @ 9:24 pm

Arsenal 2 – 1 Atletico Madrid

Before we go to the match, some depressing news: Philippe Senderos has apparently signed for Everton, according to Arseblog. I’ve mentioned many times in my blog that I feel Senderos should stay as he has the raw qualities of a brilliant centreback and at his age, he is still at the beginning of a long centreback’s career. With Toure having left, it is imperative fo us to keep the defenders we currently have at the club. Without Senderos, we would be left with only Djourou and Silvestre as experienced backup to the first choice pairing of Gallas and Vermaelen. And I’m not sure I’ll even pick Silvestre for my Sunday team.

To the game:

It is such a relief to finally see Arsenal in red, at Emirates Stadium. Such a sight really brought my spirits up as it is a sure sign of just how close the new season is upon us. It has been a dull summer but the opening of the Emirates Cup marks the beginning of a new season.

4-3-3 is once again used with Tomas Rosicky back in the line-up. Although we are without a few key players in the starting line-up as Wenger had to mix and match certain first-teamers to suit the two-day tournament, we still started with a pretty strong line-up. Cesc, Clichy, Arshavin and Eduardo were on the bench, while Alumnia and Vermaelen were out of the squad altogether.

Traore shook out his minor knock sustained against Hannover 96 to start with Sagna on the opposite flank, while Gallas and Djourou started in the centre of defence. The midfield trio was Rosicky, Denilson and the ever-improving Ramsey. The three up front are Van Persie as the target man flanked by Bendtner and Eboue. Let us go into the interesting parts of the game:

1 – Aaron Ramsey started again.
I’ve mentioned that Ramsey has been the one player who had impressed me the most in pre-season and he continued his fine form last night against a top opposition. I’ve always wondered why he seemed to play well against poor opposition but freeze up during a big occasion. I’m glad he started and played really well until he was subsitituted in the 66th minute. He showed a willingness to go into 50-50 challenges and in shoulder-to-shoulder challenges, he often comes off the better. I’m really looking forward to seeing him play more often in the coming season. And can you believe he is still only 18?

2 – Djourou looks the real deal.
In my very first post on this blog, I’ve mentioned that Djourou has everything a top defender need – speed, aerial ability, timely and hard tackling, strength and height. Everything except experience and that bit of defensive cunning that comes along with it. He came back from Birmingham looking a bit rusty incentral defence due to first of all his different positioning in Birmingham, where he played as a holding midfielder. Secondly, he was playing in a team of graft and having come back into a team like Arsenal, he needs time to re-adapt to the speedy game that Arsenal deploys. But he seem to be back to his best now. I still think he should be ahead of Gallas in partnering Vermaelen and they look to complement each other. But I will have no complaints if Gallas plays, as long as all three of them stays fit throughout the season we would be fine. But I maintain, if Senderos really leave, then we are a bit short here.

3 – Arsenal looks compact in the centre of the pitch.
Never thought you would ever read this about Arsenal? Well, I’m surprised too but it seemed like the new 4-3-3 formation really utilises the strengths of the players we currently have. Whenever we loses the ball, Atletico has a lot of problems going past the midfield without using long direct passes. The form of Ramsey certainly helps.

4 – Rosicky doesn’t look like he has been away.
Rosicky had a brilliant game yesterday. As Wenger mentioned in the post-match conference, we still have to be cautious about playing him but he doesn’t look like he is at all rusty. His famous twists and turns are back and his excellent finishing was evident when he scored a fabulou goal, only to be ruled out for offside. If it had counted, imagine what a lift it would be for his confidence as well as the squad’s. I’m confident he will be playing a large role this season, let’s hope he stays fit. Remember, we still haven’t seen Arshavin and Rosicky play in the same team, and that is a mouth-watering prospect! MMMMM MMMM!

5 – Bendtner to be a target man?
Bendtner has played most of pre-season as one of the attacking flankmen, mostly on the right. Last night he played on the left of the attacking trio and did well. However, I feel maybe we can get more out of him if he plays at the focal point of the attacking trio. He has a huge leap and can hold the ball the best out of our existing strikers. He can then lay it off for one of the flankmen to have a crack. I would like to see Wenger experiement with that in a real game with van Persie on the leftof the attacking trio, maybe we can see more goals that way.

6 – Fran Merida is surprisingly good.
I’ve only seen Merida a few times but last night was the finest performance I’ve seen him in. He was confident, composed, and passes well even when he was under pressure. He also seem to be rather strong with his shoulders. We might see him start the League Cup games this coming season.

7 – Clichy is back.
The media has been reporting that he might miss the beginning of the season but it is far from the truth. Clichy is back and he is looking as quick and strong as ever. Barring any mishaps (cross fingers), we should have our first-choice defence at the start of the season and that is essential considering we are having quite a big opening month with some big clashes.

8 – Vito Mannone impressed but almost conceded an embarrassing goal.
I thought Mannone had a good game overrall. Fabianski has still not been seen and I wonder if that is because of his ‘minor knock’ or if Wenger is seriously looking at promoting Mannone. I have a feeling we might be seeing Mannone at or League Cup games this season, rotating with Fabianski. He almost conceded an embarrassing goal when he palmed a Maxi Rodriguez shot up in the air and the ball dropped rght next to the left hand post. As for the goal, he could have done better to close Pacheco down. But overrall, his performance is encouraging to see.

9 – Arshavin = Magician
Andrey Arshavin will forever be in Arsenal folklore having scored an amazing 4 goals against Liverpool at Anfield. Last night, he was once again in sizzling form. His left-footed smash from Fabregas’ cross was assured and crisp. And after we conceded the equaliser, he went out and got us a goal out of nowhere. After watching the replay several times, I’m still trying to figure out just how he managed to hook the ball into the far corner of the net from an impossible angle. There is only one Arshavin, and he is magic. And he did all this in 24 minutes of play being a substitue, imagine what more he could have done had he started. Arshavin + van Persie + Rosicky = GOALS GALORE

10 – Arsenal deserved to win.
Although we conceded a goal, we must look at it as a lesson learnt instead of a weakness in defence. No matter how much of a Gooner you are, you have to admit the Atletico goal was a well worked goal. The pass that split the defence was inch-perfect, and the run by German Pacheco was timed to perfection. I thought Mannone should have done better with the goal by pressuring him more but such things will come wit experience. For example, I think Almunia might have forced Pacheco into a mistake in the one-on-one. However, the way we controlled the game means we deserved to win. And to do so against a top Spanish side is comforting. We looked to have a complete squad on the basis of this preformance but we must not get carried away.

11 – Wilshere was Man-of-the-Match.
Jack Wilshere burst onto the scene at last year’s Emirates Cup where he made Míchel Salgado look slow and poor and scored a brilliant goal against Lehmann’s VfB Stuggart. He seemed to like this tourament as he produced another fantastic performance. He seemed to be free of certain chains that looked to be on him in earlier pre-season games as he looked more concerned about keeping the ball. But in this game, he looked so much more at ease and produced the kind of trickery that we know of him. He gave Atletico Madrid all sorts of trouble and was stretching their defence inside out. He also looks to be quicker than before. Wenger mentioned in the post-match conference of our 17-year-old prodigy:

“He has matured, and compared to one year ago he has more power to take people on. That shows there is big potential there and makes him much more dangerous, he has gained a fraction of power that makes him much more dangerous. When he starts to go past people in the final 20 yards, you can always say there is something special there.

“At that age, unfortunately patience is not the first quality, but he is at a big club and has a chance to compete at the top level. We have to manage that well, the desire and the opportunity to play. The potential is there.”

12 – Sergio Aguero is as good as his reputation.
I’ve heard so much about this young Argentina international and I was hugely impressed with him. He always looked dangerous and he is a very stocky player who can handle physical challenges very well. To me, he looks like a more skillful Tevez. Maybe we can snap him up, he looks like he suits out system. And he’s only 21. Hmmmm… Definitely one to watch out for, I bet in a few years all the big clubs will be fighting for his signature.

Right, with that encouraging win, we are on course to retain the Emirates Cup. I think if we play our game, we should be able to sweep Rangers aside. Although Scottish sides always raise their game against English sides, based from what I saw from their game against PSG, we should be able to defeat them comfortably.

Come on, Gunners! Make sure the cup stays at the Emirates!

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Melo deal is dead, let’s look to alternatives July 12, 2009

Filed under: Philippe Senderos,Transfer Rumours — Son of a Gunner @ 10:58 pm

Top Arsenal stories the past few days during my ‘down-time’:

Philippe Senderos, who was earlier linked to Fiorentina, Aston Villa and Hertha Berlin, is now rumoured to be targeted by Sunderland. Of all the rumours so far, this to me seems most likely due to Steve Bruce’s relationship with Wenger. Djourou was loaned to Birmingham when he was boss and he also signed Wilson Palacios after recommendation by Wenger. How this will turn out remains to be seen though. The longer Senderos remains at Arsenal, the more likely he will see out his contract with us. And that could mean a second chance which I’m clamouring for.

Knowing Flamini in this situation make me laugh but feel sad at the same time. Soon I will be running a series of weekly posts on Arsenal players who have made mistakes leaving the club and no prizes for guessing who will be among these posts.

As we know, Melo is very close to signing for Juventus and should be officially unveiled as early as Monday. This is a disappointment but at the same time, if a player wishes to sign for a Juventus team in decline and not choose an Arsenal team in which he knows he is assured of playing also shows his own ambition. Since this deal is dead, I think we Gooners should just look forward to other options.

Lorik Cana, as I have mentioned extensively in my previous posts, is not technically gifted enough in my opinion to make an impact at Arsenal. Blaise Matuidi is a player I have not seen in action but he plays for St Etienne, a team whose striker Bafétimbi Gomis is the most famous player, and who ended the Ligue 1 seasonin 17th position. I am definitely not impressed with his credentials. If he is the only option then I think we can look internally for options. Inler is still being linked but I seriously feel he has lost the chnce to join Arsenal since he decided to stay at Udinese the last time we tried signing him. Wenger admitted to approaching him but he decided to stay till the end of the season and I think Wenger has already looked elsewhere and so we can forget about this one too.

Life was looking great a week ago with Melo seemingly a real possibility. I just hope Wenger can pull off a surprise somewhere. This is one position in which we cannot afford not to strengthen and I believe Wenger knows and understands that more than anyone. We will be observing the transfer news closely during this pre-season.

From tomorrow till end July, I will be writing about each position in the first team (including the bench) and who I think should be playing and how they can contribute to the team on the pitch. Please check back for more.

 

Pre-season begins! July 8, 2009

Finally, the moment we football fans have been waiting for all summer: the commencement of the pre-season.

Before I continue, the Arsenal snippets of the day: Robin van Persie has signed a contract extension, something that was expected since the end of last season but we Gooners were still feeling jumpy before the official announcement. Robin is undoubtedly one of the most talented players in the world, he just need to stay fit. Much has been said of how injury-prone he is but I feel that isn’t a fair comment as he only really had one full season filled with injuries and he was pretty much in the clear for most of last season. I feel his best years are yet to come and I am thrilled as a Gooner to know that we can continue to witness some more Dutch magic in the foreseeable future. I would like to end this piece of news by saying that I really enjoyed his free-kick goal against Wigan in the 2006 League Cup semi-final 2nd leg during my first trip to Highbury. That was the first goal I’ve witnessed at the Highbury stadium and it was truly memorable. Following that goal the entire stadium went “Robin… van Persie!” *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* “Robin… van Persie!” *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* … Awesome.

Next, I mentioned in my previous post that it seems like no one has taken notice of the way Arsenal is producing and keeping young British talent and England manager Fabio Capello had said
“I’m very lucky, because I’ve had the opportunity to look at Arsenal’s academy where the England team train and their work is incredibly good. It’s a very important example for the other English academies.”

There are a couple of old, circulating untrue transfer rumours surrounding Cesc Fabregas and Andrey Arshavin but not worth paying any attention to.

And so, pre-season is upon us! Some of the interesting pictures are:

Almunia seemed to have forgotten his shorts

Almunia seemed to have forgotten his shorts

The most interesting picture released by Arsenal’s official website, you can see that everyone training has a number on their training jerseys and shorts. Notice the only one without a number above? That’s right, Philippe Senderos. I have been calling for his return in my very first post here and I was actually deighted to see him back in Arsenal colours, until I saw his missing number. Officially, he is still number 6 as listed in the official website and new signing Vermaelen is without a number as yet. But it won’t surprise me that Senderos may still leave before the transfer window closes and his number might be given to Vermaelen.

Gallas' presence is significant, and he looks to be giving his all

Gallas' presence is significant, and he looks to be giving his all

Rosicky is back in training!  A sight most cynics never thought they might see again

Rosicky is back in training! A sight most cynics never thought would they see again

Eduardo is back too!  Let's hope he stays fit.

Eduardo is back too! Let's hope he stays fit.

New signing Thomas Vermaelen shows the stare he will be givng opposing strikers next season

New signing Thomas Vermaelen shows the stare he will be givng opposing strikers next season

Even Le Boss is training in the rain, we should never doubt his commitment!

Even Le Boss is training in the rain, we should never doubt his commitment!

I know Fabregas, Walcott and Gibbs are given extra time off and some other first teamers like Sagna and Clichy are also missing from the pictures but I was looking out for Diaby who supposedly put on some bulk over the summer. He was nowhere to be found. Maybe he’s training hard in the gym? I certainly hope so but the smart guess is he’s out with a niggling injury, or something.

Finally before I end today’s post, I would like to commend on the excellent work Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis has done since he came aboard in the middle of last season. He has swiftly brought Arshavin to Arsenal in a (on hindsight) absolute bargain, he has secured the long-term contracts of 3 of our best young talents as well as the world-class van Persie and he has handled his PR obligations so well that he is liked by both the Board as well as the fans. I think he is absolutely excellent for us and we hope he can continue to assist Wenger in things outside of football. Arseblog has an exclusive interview with Gazidis and he also had an interview done with the official website.

And lastly, the topic that will lead to today’s poll. The official website has dubbed this week to be Arshavin week as the Russian has been voted second for the Arsenal Player of the Season poll. There are more than one website or blog that has proclaimed Arshavin as the best Arsenal player of last season and undestandably so. 6 goals in 12 league appearances for Arsenal is no shabby record, especially for a player who has never played football outside ofhis native country. Who can forget his deft turn of his waist that floored a defender on his way to scoing his first goal for Arsenal? Or his 4 goals against Liverpool? Or the way he made a Hull player fall on his buttocks with his out-of-this-world ball skills? No doubt he has had an impactful second half of the season but right here, I cannot agree that Arshavin is our player of the season. This is because of one simple reason, he was not here for an entire season.

To me, to be the best player of the season, the player has got to be playing most of the season and have had a relatively injury-free one. The Arsenal website will be revealing the winner of the poll next week. Who do you think will be the Arsenal Player of the Season?

Candidates to me are:

Robin van Persie – Largely injury-free and has had an amazing January when he scored or created every single Arsenal goal. It was also the time when Arsenal got out of its poor run of form and began an undefeated run. His goal against Chelsea that won us the game in the first half of the season is still the background of the wallpaper on my laptop.

Denilson – Criticised by many, Denilson is still the Arsenal player who has played the most games last season. Even more so than Almunia. He looks jaded towards the end of the season but that is understandable as he is only 20. Early on, he also created a significant number of goals.

Manuel Almunia – Incredibly consistent the whole of last season. He cannot be faulted for most of the many goals we have conceded and is showing the world just what Wenger saw in him all those years ago. Even long-time adversary Jens Lehmann praised Almunia as ‘world-class’.

Basically the rest of the squad has had mixed season and to me, the obvious choice would be the man who just signed a new contract today – Robin van Persie.

What is your opinion? Let me know in the poll!

 

Cana Lorik be the answer? July 2, 2009

Filed under: Aaron Ramsey,Arsenal rejects,Arsene Wenger,Philippe Senderos,Transfer Rumours — Son of a Gunner @ 10:07 am

Again before we move on to the topic proper, let us first run through quite a bit of Arsenal news that surfaced yesterday (except for the horrible 3rd white kit that I’ve already reported on yesterday).

First, Arsene Wenger explained why he decided to stay at Arsenal instead of opting to manage a galatico-led Real Madrid team.  To be honest, I’ve never doubted Wenger’s commitment to the club and I really cannot see him willing to give up the amount of control he enjoys at Arsenal for a top-management led club like Madrid.

Next we have the infamous Amaury Bischoff, undoubtedly Wenger’s most mysterious signing (and by this I mean taking even Silvestre’s signing into consideration), has revealed the reason why he didn’t sign a contract extension with Arsenal. Seriously, if he were any good, I might have felt upset that this was how he treated us for us taking him in when he was injured and was a huge gamble. The key words being “any good”. I’ve watched him in the reserve games and he was quite simply crap. I’m not even sure he will get into my Sunday team. Seriously, Amuary, don’t bother demanding regular first team football. Not at Arsenal, not at anywhere else too.

Philippe Senderos, whom I recommended to be recalled in my earlier posts, is apparently being wooed by Hertha Berlin and Aston Villa according to ‘reports’ that doesn’t have any quotes from unnamed sources. Does that make it any more realistic? I think not, but I do think Senderos’ future with Arsenal is really over.

To better news, our young Welsh star Aaron Ramsey has signed a new contract. Ramsey is 18, has a great built and a great engine and although he has only seemingly shined against lesser opposition, I have no doubt he has a bright future in the game so this has got to be great news for us. Although of course, once he becomes good we’ll be looking at “Spanish club looking to prise unhappy Arsenal star away” headlines.

Finally, the topic of the day. Since news broke of Felipe Melo signing a new contract at Fiorentina, there are at least 4 other Arsenal blogs and 2 news sites reporting that Arsenal is back in the frame for Lorik Cana. Can it be real?

I’ve mentioned in my earlier post that Lorik Cana is a beast of a midfielder. He has a determined ball-winning mentality and basically gives everything in a challenge. He takes the word ‘battle’ quite literally. However, before you you-tubers think he is the answer to our midfield problems, I need to raise the following points.

I have seen him in action for Albania, and for Marseille in matches. And I think that is a better avenue to judge a player’s ability than an edited video. Case in point is I remember I once saw a very impressive video of Alessandro Pistone, the former Newcastle defender and look at how that one turned out.

Lorik has some weaknesses that had to be ironed out before he should join Arsenal. His postional sense isn’t the best I’ve seen. True, it seemed like he still wins a lot of balls in midfield anyway but that is more due to his huge engine in running all over the place much like a young Steven Gerrard. If he is to play the same way in the Premier League, I fear he will not have as much impact.

Secondly, he is not technically gifted. To look at whether a player has proper technique, you just need to see how he strike a ball with his foot when he passes and when he shoots. He doesn’t pass very well and that may be a disruption to Arsenal’s flowing style of football.

One good thing he does have other than winning the ball (and most of the time the men with it), is his ability to hold onto the ball. But if you are expecting him to be a player that can launch instant counter attacks once he wins the ball then you’re wrong.

Can he fit in at Arsenal? I say we hold our horses even if we do get him in. A player must fit the club and at this point in time, I can’t see it happening. Will he improve when he join Arsenal? At 25, he still has time so I can’t rule that out. But to expect him to have an instant impact would be too much.

Certainly, I won’t mind him joining Arsenal but I’m not into the hype in him now as with a lot of people at present.

What is your feel?

 

Thomas Vermaelen signs June 20, 2009

Good day everyone, I have been blogging about Arsenal on my personal blog since 2005 and since that period of time has seen the emergence of several Arsenal blogs, the personal favorite of mine being Arseblog followed closely by Gunnerblog and Goodplaya and A Cultured Left Foot. Unfortunately, outside of these 4 prominent ones I’m afraid there are many insensititve and poorly written blogs. As I have been blogging about Arsenal anyway, I’ve decided the time has come for me to consolidate all my Arsenal postings in one place instead of on my personal blog.

So on to the first post here.

Thomas Vermaelen has officially signed for Arsenal today.

For many of us Gooners who were crying out for a defensive signing, be it in central defence or in central midfield, this has got to be good news. For all the talk about Brede Hangeland or Sébastien Bassong being the targets, Arsenal went on to sign a player completely out of the media’s attention, which is typical Wenger (See Eduardo). If he turn out to have the same kind of impact as Eduardo did, then I’d be pleased.

All the talk about Arsenal needing height in the centre of defence is very much subjective. Personally, I think there i some truth in it but this tend to be overrated. Let’s put things in perspective: The season before the recently concluded one – our first choice central defensive pairing were Gallas and Toure, and the first choice defensive midfielder was Flamini. All 3 of whom are hardly giants in a league as tough as the Premier League.

But that didn’t stop Arsenal from being a genuine title contender for most of that season, until that game at Birmingham.

What I’m trying to say is, the concerns most Gooners have about Vermaelen’s height is overstated and should for now be left ignored. Let the Belgian show us what he can do defensively. There are world class defenders who are challenged vertically but has superb leap, much like Fabio Cannovaro. I have not noticed Vermaelen that much but I do know he can head the ball well, so let us continue our trust in Wenger on this one.

The biggest question now is, who is best to partner Vermaelen for next season? Let us take a look at the contenders:

William Gallas – For all the criticism leveled on the France international, let us not forget on his day he is a very good defender. Many have said that he is half the defender the used to be when he was at Chelsea. But personally I feel that he should never have been made captain and that has got to be one of Wenger’s few mistakes. Although this is a statement made in hindsight, as when we were leading the table, who were saying it was the wrong choice? It is people’s habit of saying ‘I told you so’ when things go wrong. I feel Gallas still have a lot of offer as his performances after the captaincy was stripped off him was the best he had in an Arsenal shirt. He has the experience too, something which we often complain we lack, so why sell him? But my concern is whether his heart is still with the club.

Kolo Toure – He is one of my all-time favorite players. He always wears his heart on his sleeve and works his socks off for the team. One can never doubt his commitment whenever he plays, even when he is having an off-day he never stop running, never stop trying. Therefore, to hear of his possible move to Manchester City is saddening. However, since his return from the last ACN and after contracting malaria, his pace (which is a big part of his defensive game) is no longer the same. This has affected his consistency against faster, world-class attackers. Will he regain his pace and consistency? At 28, time seem to be on his side but I have a bad feeling we have already seen the best of Toure. I sincerely hope he will prove me wrong.

Johan Djourou – Tall, strong, fast, technically sound. What more do you need of a defender? Experience and consistency of course. This will come with time, and playing opportunities which I feeel should be granted to him, given the current situation. His loan at Birmingham has in fact set him back as he was playing in central midfield for a technically poor side, thus he was quite apparently still adjusting to the pace of Arsenal’s passing when he returned last season. However, there is no doubt in my mind that he will become a top class defender one day. Will that day be sometime next season?

Philippe Senderos – Despite the harsh criticism leveled on him by Gooners all around the world, I actually think he has the qualities to be a top class defender. Most of the criticism began after he was out-muscled and outplayed by Didier Drogba. But tell me honestly, how many defenders in the world can keep Drogba quiet? For all his exprience in top flight football, Senderos is still only 23. Do anyone remember John Terry at 23? He was obviously talented but is prone to mistakes every game. Ditto Rio Ferdinand at 23. Look at the two of them now, best defenders in the Premier League, perhaps in Europe or the world. I say we take Senderos back, and give him another chance and be patient. He will blossom given the time and opportunity and I’d be gutted if I see him succeed elsewhere. The problem is I fear his opportunity is gone the moment Wenger released him on loan to Milan.

Mikael Silverstre – Multiple-title winning defender. That is the best I can say about him, but everyone can see his best years were at Manchester United. His inability to play at the top flight is made so obvious by Torres in that thrilling 4-4 draw last season it’s embarassing. He is not good enough for Arsenal, end of.

After listing the above, who would be your personal choice?

For me, it has to be Djourou followed by Gallas to partner Vermaelen. Toure can be our multi-functional defensive cover, if he stays.

Our next signing (hopefully there will be another one at least) should be a tough tackling, no-nonsense ball-winner. Again height should not be an issue. With that, we should be ready for next season.

In my next post, I will talk about this position, and the targets mentioned by the creative world media so far, as well as my personal choice.

Till then, sons of a Gun!