We Are Back Again!

Mesut, Pires and Mustafi in training yesterday.

Happy new year everyone! It’s my first post this year. It’s been an eventful but somewhat unfortunate December for Arsenal. We played 6 games across all competition which saw us produce all manner of performances: from perfect and clinical  (against West ham and at Basel) to poor and abysmal (Everton and Man city). Won 4 and lost 2. On paper it looked somewhat of a good return, but considering we lost 6 points in a very tight looking table, it was a big lose of momentum.

January met us with a hard fought 2 nil win at home to Palace (Not forgetting Giroud’s spectacular scorpion kick goal), then a near disastrous 3 all at Bournemouth, which would have been a demoralizing factor for the team, but the boys put the heat on the Cherries during the last 20 minutes to salvage a draw. A trip to Preston North End lived up to its hype with all the cup drama at play. Here we are today with a tricky trip to Wales to face Swansea. 3pm (GMT)

Cohen Bramall, 20, signs for Arsenal.

In other news, Arsène potentially unearthed a gem from non league division, Cohen Bramall. His story is that of hope and hard work. I wish him all the best and hope he will keep his head on his shoulders and work his way into that first team. Toral was recalled from his loan spell at Granada because they would not give him game time. He was subsequently sent out again on loan to Rangers in the Scottish premier league. I wish him all the best as I have high regards for him. Dan Crowley also left for Holland in the Dutch  Eredivisie for Go Ahead Eagles. Another bright prospect that needs game time. 

Giroud, Koscielny and Coquelin all signed long term contracts with the club a few days ago. Papers claimed Alexis Sanchez is the more likely person  to sign a contract extension between him and Özil. The later came out the other day to rebuff Thierry Henry’s remarks about him, saying that his influence for joining Arsenal was Arsène and would want assurance about the future of the manager. It makes real sense then if that is truly the situation. So what Arsenal need to do is give Arsène a longer contract and the two contract rebels (Özil and Sanchez) would sign on the dotted lines. He returns today to the squad to face Swansea after missing 2 weeks due to some “mystery illness”.

“The club knows that I am here most of all because of Arsène Wenger. He is the one who signed me and he is the one whose trust I have.”

                       -Mesut Özil

Suddenly things have almost fallen in place. The team is building up good momentum again, there are no much injuries, the contract situation of most of the senior players are resolved or being resolved; suddenly we are back in business! We need to win big today to keep the pressure on the top four and go on a winning run again..it’s about time! Let’s hope for better days. Let’s hope that 2017 becomes that year we break the jinx of not lifting the EPL title. I see the potentials this team has got. It’s our year! COYG!!

-Fair Play Gooner

What Next For Arsenal?

It was a one week to forget for Arsenal as they failed to pick up a single point in two games. First was at Goodison park where a host of school boys error changed what would have been a routine win for Arsenal. Much has been written on that match. Next was the clash with Manchester City at the Etihad stadium on Sunday. Again, lack of urgency and seriousness cost Arsenal what would have been a routine win if they had maintained focus.

However, one denominator was consistent with both games; Arsène Wenger crying foul about the officiating of both matches. At Everton it was the manner in which the toffees made the game physical while the ref failed to control the game accordingly, gifting very crucial decisions in Everton’s favour and denying Arsenal of very clear calls. Koeman was not having that and accused Wenger of being a “sore loser”. The game at Etihad picked up from where the previous one stopped at, gifting city two goals which were clear offside. Truth be told, Arsenal were piss-poor on the day, but does not make Martin Atkinson right in leaving those two goals to stand. Arsène, rightly, was less than impressed by those unfortunate outcome, as he voiced his frustration:

“The two goals are two offside goals and in a game of that stature I feel enough is enough for us. We got some bad decisions for the whole season and today I looked at the goals and both are offside.

“The second one is five yards offside. The first one is still offside. But what can I do? We have to live with that. We have to look at ourselves and analyse why we lost the game.”

Sanè scored Man city’s first goal. It clearly was offside.

Here is a detailed piece on refereeing in England as written by Untold Arsenal.

Recently, Alexis and Özil contract situation have made headlines in the media. Apparently, their agents are looking to milk Arsenal as much as they can, given their clients form or lack of it. Personally, I think they went too far with their demands. A club from China offered Alexis £400k/wk which his camp is using as leverage to demand a king’s ransom from Arsenal. Özil, in spite of his bad form in recent weeks, is demanding in excess of £300k/wk from Arsenal. It must be recalled that the said player was a passenger on sunday at Etihad stadium. So much that this meme was made by Arsenal fans in that respect: 

Gary Neville couldn’t put his situation more nicely:

You talk about Sanchez and Ozil as though Arsenal Football Club is going to end if they leave. Arsenal have had far better players than them over the last 20 years. I wouldn’t worry too much about them holding the club to ransom. Make them an offer and if they don’t stay let them go. Arsenal Football Club will still be here in a 100 years’ time.

Souness had this to say on the matter:

They are asking for money that is only given to players who have won the big trophies. And they haven’t won any big trophies.

Henry speaking on the matter said:

At the moment they are holding the club hostage. They are amazing but if they are on that amount of money, I want a hat-trick every week – and also when there’s no game! You need to be in a situation where you’ve won something already for the club to ask for that amount of money.

Sanchez at the Etihad stadium. Is he being affected by the contract situation?

I agree with these legends. They won it all, played for so long on the big stage, but never held their clubs hostage as this two are trying to do with Arsenal. I am all for giving them a new contract, but not on those terms. Özil will have to earn it. Sanchez is working his ass off in every game, but £400k/wk? Way too much.

So what next for Arsenal? First, the gunners must rediscover the form that took them almost 20 games without defeat across all competition. They must hope that Mustafi returns, at the worst, on schedule. They must handle these contract negotiations in such a way that it does not interfere with the productivity on the pitch. Lastly, Arsène must strengthen the squad this January; increase competition in the squad by getting one or two players in. Payet and Draxler will not be bad.

Let’s hope that Arsenal’s form will start to improve starting with the next game at home against the Baggies on boxing day fixtures. COYG!!

-Fair Play Gooner 

Wenger’s Blueprint For Man City Game.

The boys were hard at training yesterday at the London Colney training base before jetting out to Manchester. Looking at them, it was evident that the disappointment of our midweek game against Everton has been banished. The Arsenal players were all smiles and went about their business with zip and zest. We lost ground but we lost no one to injury in a game where, as usual, the referee had a poor game. 

Now Arsenal have a chance to remain within healthy distance from the top team if they can pull off a remarkable display and nick the whole three points at stake in Manchester. The team is well rested and must have been drilled about what’s at stake this evening. Win and the deficit is 6 points, lose and a chasm is opening up for real. The gunners face a Manchester team who are not at their best. They have their two best players (Aguero and Fernandinho)suspended and another member of their starting eleven (Gündolan) lost to injury. Hence there won’t be any better time to play Manchester City.

Arsène had this to say in his press conference;

The key to big games against City is to defend well together and not be timid every time you get the ball,” said Wenger.

“We have to have a go and try to attack, because that’s part of our philosophy. Overall that’s what you have to do but you have not to forget as well that City’s team is very strong going forward, maybe even more now with Pep Guardiola, so we certainly have to focus on defending well.

“I don’t know [why they’ve been inconsistent],” said Wenger. “Honestly, it’s not my main subject and preoccupation at the moment.

“I believe that in the Premier League every game is difficult and every game has its own difficulties and uncertainties and every game is a fight.

“The teams who are exposed in the Champions League, like they are, like we are, are a bit more exposed during this period because they played in midweek, we played in midweek as well at Basel.

“We’ve had three away games out of four. And I believe we paid a little bit the price at Everton like City must do sometimes when they go to a Premier League game, because everyone physically is at his top.

“[I expected] that Pep would bring his philosophy through and you have to accept that he tries to do that,” added the boss. “I respect the fact that he firstly has the philosophy and wants to play football that I respect. You expect him to put that print into his team.”

In reality, I agree with Wenger on that approach. Looking at how Manchester city like to play the high pressing game with a bunch of players not so suited to that style, and Pep’s insistence on his philosophy could all play into Arsène’s hands. First of all, it would be an insult for Pep to play a back 3 against Arsenal today. I expect him to do Just that. Secondly, it is very naive of Pep to try to play from the back with a goalie like Bravo and a defenders like John Stone. Letting go of Hart for a clown like Bravo was a colossal mistake. That will also play into Arsenal’s hands. Thirdly, in recent matches, they have struggled with creating clear cut chances which I expect to continue today, given that their main attacking threat is serving his suspension.

My last word on this match is that I expect Arsenal to win. It will be difficult, but if the boys can defend as a unit and break out on counters with intent to score, then Manchester City would not stand a chance this evening. 

Here is to a win for Arsenal at the Etihad stadium. Let’s hope that the boys will turn up in style and turn the heat on Pep’s charges. COYG!!

-Fair Play Gooner