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Rotation, Jack And Silly Twits .

If The Arsenal make it through the Champions League qualifying matches they are guaranteed to play 48 matches of competitive football this season. Reasonable form and a bit of luck with Cup draws would see that up to about 54 games. That’s a lot of football – and when every game matters and is keenly contested it puts a lot of pressure on the squad.

At times matches come thick and fast: August alone is pretty congested.

Charity Shield against City.

Crystal Palace (h).

CL Qualifier.

Everton (A).

CL Qualifier.

Leicester (A).

Six games in three weeks, all of them important and one involving a trip overseas.

There will be time enough to analyse each of those games, but for now  I think it’s fair to suggest it’s unlikely the same players will feature each time, as tactical requirements, injuries, possible suspensions and simple rotation will all play their part in selection, as indeed will be the current form of each player. Substitutions, both tactical and forced will also come into play, so as we are constantly reminded (when pundits want to put us down) squad depth is as important as the starting XI if realistic title challenges are to be considered.  If you were setting the spread on the amount of players who’d kick a ball in anger in those August matches you’d probably set it 15 to 17 -and I think I’d be a buyer in that market.

Which is why all the talk about who’ll make the best XI, while a great topic over a couple of pints, ever so slightly misses the point.

There is more than a hint of hypocrisy in the air too, as many who spent last season saying that Arsenal had no chance of winning the title because of lack of depth and the unwillingness of the manager to rotate are now only too ready to consign Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla to the scrap heap.

Jack interests me because his situation can be used both ways by the Arsenal haters outside the club and the Arsene haters among the fan base. This is how it goes: “when we sign (let’s say Khedira for argument’s sake) Jack won’t make the team, and this proves he isn’t really top quality and this is because he was over-rated by AW, or not developed by AW, or AW has caused him to have so many injuries.” Or, alternatively, “when we sign Khedira Jack won’t make the team and this is a classic example of a foreign manager acting against the interests of the national side.” Either way, it is Arsenal and Arsene’s fault and the disappointing  thing to me is that I don’t hear this comment: “When we sign Khedira, it will be excellent because at various times during the season (and perhaps even at various times during the same match) Khedira will play alongside Jack, and he will play alongside Ramsey, and this will take the pressure of all three of them and they will benefit and learn from each other. “  How many games is it realistic to hope a player starts in – 30, 35, 40? Not much more than that I think, and there will be plenty of opportunity for Jack and Aaron whoever else is signed.

The role of the substitute in the modern game is also interesting, and is worth a brief mention. I am guessing that statistics suggest that the optimum time for a tactical substitution is around 65 minutes on the basis that there is less time for injuries across the field to occur  (at least one player needs to be kept for emergency)  but enough time for the substitution to have an effect on the course of the game. If used efficiently it can either give a sense of the cavalry coming to relieve a beleaguered situation or of a coup de grace being delivered when the opposition has been softened up and just needs to be dispatched with a killer blow. Both of these scenarios were in evidence in the recent Cup Final, and it almost felt like bullying when Jack and Tomas injected match-winning pace in the closing stages.

I am not suggesting players be only used as substitutes because few would be happy with just that role, but do feel that any talk of squad composition should bear substitutions in mind. A clever manager will make his players very aware of why they are on the bench and will have rehearsed the various scenarios when they might be called upon to make a contribution.  I like the thought of a fully fit Podolski coming on with 20 minutes to go, scoring a goal, starting the next match and then perhaps making way for Campbell after 65 minutes.  It is never as simple as that of course but it illustrates a general point.

 

There was dismay among the Twitter ranks yesterday as various speculations became hard fact among the doubters.

First of all came the news that Thomas Eisfeld had left the club to join Fulham, and this was seen by many as an act of gross stupidity on behalf of the club. Despite not many having seen him play that much, he had become a something of a fan’s favourite, and he did have a magnificent match against Reading in the astonishing game two seasons ago. But he was older than many thought (21) and was increasingly unlikely to make a breakthrough into our first team. I suspect it will be a good move for him and for Fulham and I hope it works out.

Hot on the heels came an article by John Cross in which he speculated that both Wilshere and Diaby could play a holding role and that therefore the search for another midfielder was not absolutely essential. Of course any mention of Diaby is likely to get certain supporters incensed (I always see him as human litmus paper, there to reveal a fan’s true allegiance – the acid test, if you like), but I was a little disappointed to see so many come out so strongly against Jack, especially as some had been railing against the decision to transfer Eisfeld only hours earlier. And so mischievously I thought of the following scenario, which while unlikely has some logic behind it, and wondered what the reaction would be.

Liverpool are in the process of building a new side, and under Brendan Rodgers are very much a work in progress. It is no doubt heresy to say this on an Arsenal blog, but I think he is a good manager and it amuses me that my local club, Reading FC,  let him go because they simply didn’t understand what he was trying to do. Rodgers knows he will  need to replace Gerrard soon (and England need to replace him immediately). Fuelled by paper talk and awareness of fan disaffection expressed through social media he senses that Wilshere would be willing to leave Arsenal and take over that holding role at Anfield. And if that were to happen, would the Arsenal fans still be saying that Wilshere couldn’t play anymore, or that he needed to do this or that if he were ever to play the deeper role, or would they realise that they had yet again contributed to a great player deciding to leave The Emirates behind ?

You see, Jack is good enough to play in a variety of midfield roles, just as all of our players are: of course he could be a DM, or a B2B, or an AM, or a WM, or a faux 9, because he regularly takes up all of those positions, and several more besides that as yet haven’t been given names, in most of the games he plays. It is The Arsenal way for players to switch positions, and that is one of the joys of following the team.

So with regard to transfers I think we are in the privileged position of not needing to sign anyone new (apart from a reserve GK), because with even average luck with injuries we have enough players to rotate successfully throughout the whole 54 game season. But we also have the money (quite a lot of money, actually) to be able to add to that highly-talented squad should the right top quality players become available. And if we do add a Pogba or a Cavani, then who knows we might just be looking at a 60 game season, which would see all of our very best players more than happily occupied, and perhaps even bring a smile to those fans who apparently have already forgotten we have signed Alexis Sanchez.

 

 

Today’s piece was by @foreverheady .Thanks Tim.

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Arsenal Transfer Thoughts

Some thoughts from @foreverheady.

 

 

All this transfer speculation is interesting. Find it hard to think what might happen. Feel that the forwards are all done for this year because of Sanchez and Campbell adding to what we already had. As ever, much will depend on Walcott and Oxlade returning fully fit, but if they do then I think we have all we need there. I can’t see Balotelli adding to what we have as feel he is too needy. Not having an encyclopaedic knowledge of world forwards I don’t know if there is anyone available who is better than Giroud. I suspect there isn’t, which is why we have bought Sanchez. He might be very good indeed so let’s hope he scores lots of goals.

Don’t know about Khedira but sense he has the look of someone who thought he would be joining us but has now been told that won’t be the case. Suspect his injury just before the world Cup final put AW off as there were already slight doubts about his injury record maybe. I think that Schneiderlin would be a very useful player, but again sense that we could have already made a decisive and successful move for him had we really wanted him.

I can understand why there might have been interest shown in Carvalho, who I understand prefers to be known as William. Just William. That will sound funny, especially against Chelsea. He is certainly the sort of player that the fans think we need, and I guess we just wait and see if AW thinks that way too. They will say he is the new Vieria if he does well, the new Diaby should he ever get injured. I haven’t seen him play so can’t comment.

I keep coming back to Pogba, and the reason I do is because AW is probably putting his final side together and I can’t imagine that he isn’t on the wish list and that he hasn’t been in serious contact with him. Actually, all that means is that he is on my wish list, but it is good to dream.

And I guess that the Vermaelen situation needs sorting, and it is a racing certainty that whatever happens there the manager will be blamed, either for not upgrading or for selling to a rival – or both those things come to think of it.

I think that we will have a very good season and will play some scintillating stuff at times. I do worry about our defence though, and will be interested to see how that is organised this year.

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Searching for Cezanne: Heroes and villains Part 3.

Originally posted on GunnersoreArse:

Welcome to the GunnersoreArse blog. Being blogged 918.74 kilometers (in a straight line) from the Emirates Stadium.

If you have not read them already, to understand the full context of this post, it may be good to read parts 1 and 2 here:       

Part 1  http://wp.me/p4FeF9-8g

Part 2  http://wp.me/p4FeF9-aa

Life journeys can be funny things, what fate brings can alter the future forever. The same could be said of football, a little twist of fate will change the future outcome. Take Arsenal last season, fate intervened with injuries in the team which could be said, stopped us winning the league and Cup double. But we’ll never know for sure, because once a path is taken due to the intervention of fate, the alternative will be lost forever. It is one of the wonders of life, organic and continually changing….. you can never really know what lies…

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Jack Wilshere End Of Beginning Or Beginning Of The End ?

So what is going on with Jack?

His halo has slipped somewhat, in fact its fallen off and has been replaced by some little red horns. Well it has if you listen to many experts in the media and our own less than tolerant fickle fans.

He has been caught smoking, drinking and worse of all, keeping company with players from other clubs. The little scoundrel that he is.

He has gone from being

To ………….well , that’s the problem, where has he gone?

He was the darling of Arsenal fans in 2011. Being hailed “world class” by all and sundry, and the future of English football.

When he got injured people were moaning like drains , saying stuff like  “he’s our second best player” . It was a tragedy to his adoring fans.. I wonder where he would rate now in order of bestness?  Mid teens if would hazard a guess at.

Now, here is the thing. He was never that good. He was very good, but world class? Never even close.

People make mad statements like “he dominated  Barca when we beat then 2-1 at home” Well, he didn’t. He played very well that night and was as good as any of our players or indeed theirs. But dominate he didn’t. In fact, as I recall, for the most part our midfield was the  one being dominated.

Somehow during his unfortunate extended absence he managed to take on a sort of cult status. People seemed to remember him as being a lot better than he had actually been.

Personally I always though Aaron was a cut above him. I always thought we were expecting too much from him. But that’s just me.

The hope is that he can take a Ramsey like leap when he finally has a run of being full fit. His long term injury is blamed for his lack of progress (and rightly so ). But his injury doesn’t make his run into a pack of opponents with no chance of not losing the ball. It doesn’t  stop him from completing the simplest of passes. It doesn’t make him smoke, drink and behave like a bit of a yob. And it doesn’t give him a suspect temperament and make him think he can be a hard man enforcer like Roy Keane or Joey Barton.

He is at a crossroad and I’m just not sure he is smart enough to choose the right road to go down.

However, he has tremendous potential still

He is only twenty two and a half years old.

He loves Arsenal.

Arsene loves him. He gave him the number 10 shirt and told him he believes in him.

And look at this 44 seconds in, Andrey Ashavin has a little something to say about his ability and spirit.

 

My advise to Jack is - Ignore idiots like me, and listen to Arsene and Andrey.

 

148 Comments

Aaron Ramsey, A Welsh Rare-bit Of Talent

The third in our series on Aaron Ramsey is penned by James “Raul” Stokes. James is a regular blogger of delicious post and this is a particularly succulent titbit .You can , and should, find James at ” The Armchair Gooner” and on twitter @JamesRaulStokes
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Meteoric rises aren’t uncommon place in football. Every so often, a player leaps majestically from the waters of obscurity like a glorious salmon to land smack-bang into our collective consciousness. It usually only takes a mere moment of brilliance to catapult a young man into the throes of superstardom. Some reside there for years, others only enjoy the success fleetingly. Few can claim to have gone through the entire gamut of emotions before bursting through as Aaron Ramsey can.
Potential
 
When Aaron arrived from Cardiff City in 2008 for the seemingly paltry sum of £5m, I knew little or nothing about him, only that it was well documented he was one to watch for the future. Having beaten off the grubby advances of Sir Alex Ferguson and his assembled minions to secure the deal, Arsene Wenger was delighted to have gotten his man. Whilst appearances were few and far between, reserved usually for cup ties against so-called ‘lesser opponents’, there were immediate signs of Aaron’s potential and ability; he had a good touch, determination and an engine to rival that of a Ford Mustang.
Now, as with any blathery piece of writing pertaining to Aaron Ramsey, we all know what follows the initial parts of his Arsenal career. One moment the young Welshman was dancing through the midfield exchanging passes with Cesc Fabregas, the next his leg broken in two thanks to the neolithic contribution of one of football’s greatest morons. It shouldn’t be underestimated how much impact, both physical and mental, that Shawcross challenge had. Imagine a similar situation befalling yourself; the world is your oyster, only for that bright future to be taken away and replaced by the very real prospect of your career being completely in tatters. Personally I can’t relate to it, and I sincerely hope I’ll never have to.
Maligned
The road to recovery was one wrought with peril and apoplexy. From this point, I should be honest and admit that I am one of the people who doubted Aaron’s ability to succeed at Arsenal. Not because I believed he lacked the ability or desire, but because of that injury. Past occurrences of a similar nature have seen both Abou Diaby and Eduardo have promising tenures cut drastically short. A compelling case can be presented for both players having never fully recovered from their respective injuries. I feared Aaron would very much go the same route.
For a long period, his performances, whilst some distance from woeful, fell short of the high standards we would expect from him.  I see no issue with saying that. I’m sure most Arsenal fans, and Aaron himself, would admit it. What he was subjected to from a certain element, however, was truly appalling. Questioning a player’s ability to progress after such a harrowing event is normal, as is pointing out poor performances. What is loathsome to me is scapegoating a single player in a team sport and unleashing despicable bile across the internet at a young man simply because there’s a deep-seated hatred within you.
Every football team has its supporters and every football team has supporters to be ashamed of. Arsenal are no different. Whilst, mercifully, the anger and viciousness of some of the remarks directed at Aaron came from a select, idiotic few, it was almost impossible to ignore. Some followed the startlingly opposite stance and defended his every move with a similar opprobrium to the aforementioned detractors. My Mum always used to say to me, “James, you take the two frothing-at-the-mouth extremes and look somewhere in the middle to find the truth” and that’s the best way to look at the situation.
Realisation
 
To his immeasurable credit, Aaron never gave up, he never went missing on the pitch and always maintained a high level of professionalism. Even on the days nothing went right for him on the pitch and the cacophony of dissenting voices echoed throughout the stadium his head never dropped and he kept trying to make things happen. When you consider the emotional turmoil heaped upon a boy of his meagre years, I find that to be truly remarkable.
And it has paid off in spades. Slowly but surely he began to show us what he was truly capable off, his performances began to catch the eye and those voices of hatred became less apparent. In the past 18-20 months, Aaron Ramsey has rightfully established himself as one of the finest midfielders in Europe, the previous season being the breakthrough his perseverance warranted. There was a time I would have struggled to see a place for him in the starting 11, now it’s inconceivable to selected our best side without him in it.
I didn’t think he’d come back from that injury. I was wholly, breathtakingly, unabashedly wrong and I have no qualms admitting that. Aaron deserves each and every plaudit, each fantastic moment on the pitch and all the numerous, glorious moments I am sure will follow. I think the best way to end this conglomeration of words is with a brief moment of cogitation. Picture Aaron wheeling away, glee etched across his face, as he scored the winning goal in an FA Cup final and ponder wether you’d have believed it likely as little as two years ago. I didn’t, but I’d wager Arsene Wenger did. That’s why I’m sat behind a computer desk and he’s managing a football team at the highest level.

 

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The Making Of A Welsh Messiah!

Part 2  of our Aaron Ramsey series is by @kaltume_b

Throughout History, and especially during Arsene Wenger’s tenure, Arsenal has built a reputation as a club that offers nascent talent a chance to have a shot at the big stage.  Amongst the many, there appeared Aaron Ramsey.

At the tender age of 17, the Welshman was seen as one of the most talented British Midfielders. A keen athlete and avid rugby player as a young school boy he eventually chose football as his main passion.  Starting at the Caerphilly RFC Youth Development Program, Ramsey then went on to join the youth academy at Cardiff City.

After working his way through the youth ranks he eventually got his first team debut against Hull City in the last game of the 2006/2007 championship season, becoming the youngest ever player to play for Cardiff City at the age of 16years and 124 days. Aaron enjoyed a breakout season in 2007 that saw him make 22 appearances and play in the 2-0 FA Cup final defeat to Portsmouth.

So bright was the potential of his talent in midfield that during the season he was constantly being watched and monitored by scouts from the top teams in the premier league. “If I keep my feet on the ground, 2008 could be a big year for me “said Aaron in one of his interviews. And indeed it was, as the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson made inquiries and spoke to then Cardiff Boss Dave Jones about his possible transfer. Shortly after, Arsenal and Everton joined in the race for his coveted signature.
It was a race that would see the Gunners emerge victorious after Ramsey and his family was flown to Switzerland to meet with Arsene Wenger who was working as a French television pundit at the time, he described Aaron as “a player with a fantastic engine, good build, good technique and vision”. On 13th June 2008 Arsenal officially signed the Welsh midfielder from Cardiff City for a transfer fee of £5 Million.

The manager’s detailed promise of how he could help Aaron improve as a player, plus how he had been able to bring up, nurture and give opportunities to other young talented players were words enough to sway the Welsh midfielder to make the move to Arsenal. Ramsey felt that Arsenal wanted him more than the other clubs -yes eat your heart out Fergie-, “they had a plan set out for me and knew how exactly to improve me”.

So began Rambo’s journey in Arsenal and like every journey there are few unexpected twists and turns along the way and his has been no exception.

He started out brightly making his debut for the first team in the Champions League third round qualifying match against FC Twente in August 2008, the league in September providing an assist for Adebayor. Such was the belief and faith in his talent and potential that the manager was willing to give him a chance so early in the start of his Arsenal career.

He was making steady progress that was brought to a shocking untimely halt at the Britannia Stadium in 2010 when a tackle by Stoke City defender Ryan Shawcross left him with a double fracture of the tibia and fibula of his right leg; that began the long journey of recovery that would see him out for about 8 months and see him go out on loan to Nottingham Forest and his old club Cardiff City.

It was during his recovery that Arsene Wenger again showed unwavering belief in Aaron by extending his tenure, signing him to a new long term contract with the club.

Before his ascent to the very top last season Aaron had a flip flop and sometimes torrid time regarding his performances on the pitch. He came into a lot of heavy and unfair criticism from fans, which -in my opinion- was to an extent down to difficulty created by the solid and great season Jack Wilshere was having in the team. Aaron looked a shadow of himself the times he did get his chance to play. His problem wasn’t physical anymore, it was -in my humble opinion- more of a psychological handbrake and he can be forgiven after the trauma he went through. That was the ugly duckling phase for him for surely from 2012/2013 season he was maturing and growing into his own till in 2013/2014 season he blossomed into a swan (yes I know a male swan is called a cob).

The buildup to Aaron having a fantastic 2013/2014 started slowly but steadily from the 2012/2013 season where he made a total 21 starts and scored only once in the league. Looking at this stat one may think that he really didn’t do that much and so many people were disillusioned by his performances especially as Wenger was still picking him game after game. During his campaign he suffer from lapses in concentration in games but the critiques were over the top. People failed to notice that Aaron passes the ball extremely well (87%), makes key tackles, has great interception rates, creates  goal scoring opportunities therefore has qualities of a great box to box player. For me personally what I found and still find refreshing about Aaron is his willingness to take shots on goal as sometimes Arsenal are a bit obsessed with creating the perfect walk in goal.

As part of building the club with “British Core” Aaron together with Carl Jenkinson, Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all signed new long term contracts in December 2012.  I think that the new contract further galvanized Rambo and gave him the confidence boost he badly needed. The rest of his season became success and he was like a new player.

Before the start of the 2013/2014 season very few people gave Arsenal a chance as usual the critiques believed our campaign was in ruins before it began with the botched attempt to sign Luiz Suarez from Liverpool and the lack of any top class signing at the time. Ramsey was to re-write the script and provide a championship assault performance for the Gunners.

After a promising pre-season he just flexed his muscles and kept moving through the gears without looking back. The deadline day signing of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid brought a wave of excitement and optimism that had been lacking for a while, but it was Rambo that would take the spotlight and produce one of his finest performances in an Arsenal shirt.

August to December 2013 saw Aaron provide performances for the highlight reel he became the heartbeat and most influential player for the Gunners providing assists, breaking up play and scoring some memorable goals. He was the darling of the moment everything he did was magic, he was proving the doubters wrong and Gooners all around the globe even the most pessimistic were falling in love all over again with Arsenal’s new talisman.

 Once Rambo started scoring he didn’t know how to stop by November he had amassed 13 goals in all competitions overhauling his career 11 goal tally in his previous 4 seasons at the club and it was not even January.

It wasn’t just his goal scoring record that was impressive Aaron was the consummate team player providing assists for his team mates and generally elevating the spirits within the team. His positioning on the field has been one of the key areas that has assisted in his success. This saw him win the Arsenal Player of the month 4 consecutive times and the Barclays player of the month in September. He was without a doubt the best midfielder in the league and he is one of the top young midfielders in Europe. “We bought Ramsey for £5 million and I wouldn’t sell him for £50 million” said Arsene after another fine performance against Cardiff City. 

The injury Gods would once again deal a blow to Aaron’s flying form; he would sustain a thigh injury against West Ham that would see him out for over three months. His absence would see the Gunners run take a nose dive that will see the team go from top of the pile to battling for the 4th Champions League place with Everton.

 During the 2013/2014 campaign he scored some incredible goals the 25 yard belter against Liverpool, the goals against Norwich, Dortmund, and Stoke but surely the crowning glory has to be the goal in the FA Cup final.

He ensured the team closed out the season with a bang and returned that championship winning feeling that a lot of us fans have forgotten. I missed the opening stages of the FA Cup final and my phone was dead, as soon as I got home and turned on the TV I couldn’t believe we were 2-0 down. I kept praying please don’t bottle this Arsenal, my United supporting brother said “you need some Aaron magic” little did he know how prophetic his words would be. He was not having his best match but he was everywhere on the pitch tackling, passing and yes shooting. He and the team would dig in and claw their way out to emerge victorious in the Wembley sunshine and end the 9 year trophy drought.

Aaron has come a long way from the teenage prodigy to delivering on the promise of being one of the best young midfielders in Europe. He has established himself as a dominant player in the Arsenal team with aggressive offensiveness and consistent defensive qualities. He was written off time and time again by critics and fans but like a phoenix he has risen again even more determined and has proved he can hold his own among the elites of football, not too bad for a boy from a rugby town.

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To be quite frank Frank, just sing us a song you ol’ gooner crooner! A tale of Heroes & Villains part 2.

Originally posted on GunnersoreArse:

Welcome to the GunnersoreArse Blog, being blogged 918.74 kilometers (in a straight line) from the Emirates Stadium.

This article is a continuation from my last post, so perhaps to understand the context, it may be best to read that first here:

http://wp.me/p4FeF9-8g

In the mid 70′s, Arsenal had declined somewhat from the glory days of the early 70′s. The lowest point being a 17th place position in the league in 1975/76. Most of the double winning team of 1970/71 were moving to other teams and Bertie Mee had been replaced by Terry Neill as manager, Charlie George had gone, Ray Kennedy had gone to Liverpool and made a very successful change from Striker to Midfielder. George Graham had buggered off to Man Utd in 1972 and Frank McClintock had moved across London to Queens Park Rangers, increasing his weekly wage by nearly 100%, does that ring any bells relating to…

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