26 Goals, 14 Assists, £121 Million Quoted: Is Mbappe Arsenal’s Man?

At 18 years of age, most prodigious talents are still at the cusp of breakthrough, but not for this young French stalwart. 1.78m height does not strike fear into the heart of defenders, but his blistering pace with unreal close control, unpredictability and ice-cold predatory movement inside and outside the box surely does. This guy is the player of the future. Any club willing to take the risk with the big sum of money touted; who can keep him grounded, working with a world class coach; is set for his world class performances in the striking department  (barring injuries) for the next 12 years at least.

The Bondy(France) born player scored an incredible 26 goals and created a further 14 goals for his team mates in his debut season as a professional player, winning the Ligue 1 and going as far as the Champions league semi-final with Monaco. It comes as no surprise that he was included in the UCL 18 man squad of the year. So it’s safe to say that he is among the 18 elite players in Europe at the moment..not so bad for an 18 year old.

L’Equipe reported that Arsène Wenger and Gazidis were spotted in Nice of France, and the rumoured deal was Mbappè’s. It should come as no surprise for a man who once said (back in 2010)that a player who is worth £30m should be able to score hat-tricks in every match, but then went out of his way to sign Mesùt Özil from Real Madrid for £42.5m in 2013/2014. So it’s safe to assume that his outlook on big money transfers has changed considerably at the turn of the present decade.

This young lad is the sort of striker Arsenal need to mount a sustained title challenge for years to come. If Arsène can prize him away from Monaco, then his coming to the Emirates stadium will not only complete our attack, but will inspire our academy players to make the final strides of breaking through to the first team; that they can hit the roof yet so young. 

I use to be anti-mega transfers, especially to Arsenal, especially for very young players, but this Mbappè guy is worth every penny being quoted for him. I hope he will heed the wisdom of the sages who have advised him to sign for a team where he will be given the chance to develop and reach his full potentials. Arsenal is such place. A look at Anthony Martial and his ordeals at Manchester United should be enough to persuade him to. 

“Where do you think he might finish? Somewhere where he is sure to play. That is why Deschamps made that statement.

He thinks he needs to play, but I’d say the boy has made enough of an  impression to be sure that a club who spends £100m for you gives you the red carpet treatment.

You have the generation of  players now between 24 and 28 years old who should come in next for the Ballon d’Or.

You have Neymar in there certainly, maybe Griezmann can come in, you have Mbappè”      

-Arsène Wenger.

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 

What Now After Cazorla’s Injury Relapse?

Another person who have been on the treatment table and whose comeback was on the lips of all Arsenal faithful was Santiago Cazorla. The Spaniard maestro was injured during our home game against ludogoret with the very last kick of his in that match. Arsenal won 6-0 at Emirates stadium. His return would have been a breath of fresh air into our midfield which has been lacklustre in his absence. So much has been written about his immense input in the team that saying he makes us tick would be an understatement. He’s always at the heart of every thing good about Arsenal style of play in recent seasons, hence news about his being back to fitness would have lifted the spirit of the team and fans alike. However, the BOMBSHELL of a news that hit the goonersphere yesterday was that he is expected to undergo a surgery to repair his Achilles, which should set his recovery date back by at least 3 months.

‘Santi himself wants to get out of that vicious circle of going out and coming in again. He just wants to cure it’ -Arsène Wenger 

Well, what now after this devastating news? How will Arsenal team fare in his much prolonged absence, seeing that no other player currently in the team is capable of lacing his boots? In my opinion, Arsène has 3 options;

  • Buy a replacement in the January transfer window. But seeing that most players available in the January transfer window are hardly of the quality that will improve any top team, it’s understandable why Arsène is no fan of that period. Teams do not sell their top players in January. 
  • Make do with the players at his disposal until summer or Cazorla returns. No other player in the team brings out the best of Arsenal like Santi does. If Arsène will make do with these players, he might want to tweak the system of Arsenal’s play a bit. Otherwise I don’t see anyone at the moment who can offer half of what Cazorla brings to the team.
  • Recall our players on loan. This for me is the most realistic option. Jack Wilshere would have done a good job in Santi’s absence if he was fit and rearing to go. But he’s not and at Bournemouth he’s getting the needed playing time to return to the level we expect of him, hence he’s not the best choice. Another player who I think can fill that void left by Cazorla is his fellow Spanish prodigy Jon Toral who is on loan at Granada in the Spanish La Liga. Not much have been said or heard of him, but this lad-in my opinion-is Cazorla’s natural heir. He knows when to move forward or drop deep, pops up at any part of the pitch to diffuse pressure with ease. His guile and movement off the ball is second to none. He is an excellent passer of the ball, and will always provide the attacking outlet. He also has a good eye for goal. His work rate is also very impressive. These are just some of the important qualities Santi brings to this Arsenal side. Toral was the best player for Birmingham last 2 seasons when he played on loan for them in the championship. He repeated the same feat at Brentford last season where he made a total of 34 appearances. It’s little wonder Arsenal snapped him up from Barcelona academy setup along with Hector Bellerin a few years ago.

These are some of the options available to Arsenal as we wait for our little Spaniard, who is such a joy to watch, to undergo his surgery and rehab.  Here is to Santi’s successful operation and a quick recovery. COYG!

-Fair Play Gooner.

      Road To Wembley.

      We return tonight at the EFL in a quarter final home match with the Saints. It’s been an eventful 4 days for the gunners as they broke a run of 3 successive draws with a 3-1 home win over Bournemouth to stay within 3 points off the top of the PL table. Puel’s men are also coming from a 1-0 home win over Everton which lifted them into 10th position on the table with 17 points.

      Arsenal: Debuchy (hamstring), Giroud (groin), Bellerin (ankle), Cazorla (Achilles), Akpom (back), Mertesacker, Welbeck (both knee)

      Southampton: Boufal, Davis (both illness), Tadic (nose), McCarthy, Target (both hamstring), Pied (knee)

      It’s a shame we lost Debuchy and Giroud to injuries at the weekend but I expect Arsène to name a team with the right mixture of youth and experience. I will expect Carl Jenkinson to start at RB though Arsène might give youth player Maitland Niles a nod in place of Jenko. Gibbs is set to wear the captain armband against the Saints and feature at LB. In the central Defence, I expect a Gabriel/Holding partnership. A recall for Coquelin to partner Xhaka at the middle of the park is highly likely. I expect the attackers to be Chamberlain, Adelaide, Iwobi and Lucas Perez as the Centre forward. Emiliano to start in goal. This line-up should be good enough for this tie. 
      I won’t speculate on the players to start for Southampton because they are a massive farmhouse for premier league clubs as Arsène Wenger noted. They are the most successful at producing young talents in England since the last 15 years. Such names as Theo Walcott, Oxlade Chamberlain, Chambers, Adam lallana, Luke Shaw and Gareth bale should come to mind. Not to forget their excellent scouting network that scouted Fonte, Cedric, Mane just to name a few. So they are a massive club with massive potentials.

      I believe that Arsenal playing at home in this round should provide an added incentive to the Gunners. The home support and the splendid Emirates stadium turf. However, Southampton should not be underestimated as we did in 2014 and were undone at home in this very competition at the third round. Arsène Wenger’s men must play with heart and passion, accuracy and commitment to ensure that Arsenal get to the semi-final stage and play at Wembley stadium. 

      Hull city beat Newcastle and luverpool beat Leeds United to book a place in the semis. Manchester United will play West Ham later tonight to decide who gets the nod. Let’s hope that the boys turn out tonight at 7:45 p.m. GMT and give a performance that will ensure the road to Wembley is cleared.  COYG!! To a win!!

      -Fair Play Gooner

      Shkodran Mustafi; The Defender Arsenal Lacked?

                         #MustafiSigns 30/08/16

      I must confess, I was not a fan of the German ever. I actually heard his name for the first time when his transfer rumours broke during the summer break. A quick dash to Google revealed that he was an Everton reject, played for a club in Seria A before moving to Valencia. My heart sank. I expected a player that’s at least 6 feet tall, with a better pedigree and not so expensive. Instead we were linked to a Mustafi that have not played for a top club, I mean top top club; isn’t even remotely imposing-height wise- and Valencia were demanding an arm.

      Why Arsène was forced to dip into his transfer war chest was because of Gabriel’s injury during the last matches of pre-season. Per Mertesacker, who until his injury last season was a regular in the Arsenal team, also had an injury during the pre-season. Hence the Central defence position was very short. I expected Arsène not to buy a new player if Gabriel didn’t get injured, especially after pulling off a coup with Rob Holding from Bolton wanderers for £2m. For me that represented a very intelligent deal.

      For over 10 years, after the Invincible, Arsenal never replaced the CB position with a fast, strong, tall, ball playing CB who is not injury prone and isn’t afraid to get stuck. I dare say Sol Campbell was the last central defender of that mould that Arsenal had. William Gallas was a good centre back but could not put in a straight 10 matches without pulling a hamstring, and then was the very big problem of pace. He couldn’t run to stay alive. Squillaci was a disaster. Djourou couldn’t cut it out and Vermalaene was undone by injuries. Per was the closest we ever came to a complete defender, save for his snail pace which teams had capitalised in the past to punish Arsenal time and time again.

      At £35m, Mustafi had a hefty price tag on himself moving to North London. He is the most expensive defender Arsenal ever bought. At 24 years of age and with the crazy amount of money being thrown around by clubs in Europe, I would say he was a bargain; considering John stone went for £50m. Since his arrival, he’s lived up to the hype and has justified the heavy price we paid for him by producing stellar performances every week since the opening day of this campaign to silence and win over his critics. He is yet to lose in 15 matches.

      • Played 15 
      • Won 10
      • Drew 5

      It represents a very good return from a player who didn’t have a chance for a mid table club in England 4 years ago. He is good on the ball, aggressive and has pace to chase down strikers. He also doesn’t shy away from aeriel duel even though he’s not a six footer. Shkodran represents the complete defender Arsenal have missed for many years. He’s made the difference unlike conceding silly goals like we did at white Hart lane last season when Per Mertesacker was out ran by Harry Kane to score from a low pressure routine cross. With Mustafi at the back with his partner in crime Koscielny, we are really hard to beat these days. 

      I hope that his unbeaten run and fine performance at the heart of our defence will continue for the remainder of this season. Safe to say that at this rate, we are genuine title contenders this season. Here is to great things to come from Shkodran Mustafi. #Comeonyougooners.

      -Fair Play Gooner

      Arsène Failed To Sign Adequate Cover For Santi’s Position? 

      Cazorla’s MOtM performance at Etihad stadium 2014/2015.

      During the Arsenal vs Bournemouth press conference yesterday, Arsène discussed Cazorla. What he brings to the team, what we have missed since he got sidelined and if we have an adequate cover for him. Arsène was modest in his assessment and praise of the little maestro and assured the men of press that he has enough cover for Cazorla. In fairness, the Arsenal manager had cover for that deep lying role, but none as half effective as the Spaniard. Modesty demands that he is frugal with praises, and that one player is not singled out over the others but reality is that Cazorla has no replacement at the moment in this Arsenal team.

      The Spaniard is a modern day metronome. He makes his side tick. From a deep lying position, providing the platform  for Özil and co to flourish. Those nutmegs,  brisk turn, change of play from right to left of the pitch, making himself available at the end of the pitch, deft  touches with both his feet, ability to pop up at any point of the pitch and dispel pressure with unimaginable ease, moving the ball faster into the final third of the pitch, genuine long range shooting threats; these were qualities we have missed since the ambidextrous Spaniard got sidelined with injury, effectively altering ARSENAL’S once fluid and high pressing style of play that had yielded so much success this season.

      “He’s important to our technical stability in the team, to the quality of our decision-making and to our build-up from deep midfield to the high midfield,” said the boss. “That’s an important stage because it gets the ball out from the defenders” -Arsène Wenger  

      We have played 7 matches in Santi’s absence and drew 4 of them. Chances created during this spell has drastically reduced. At old Trafford we had only one chance on target. Let that sink in.

      There are several players who can be called upon to fill the void left by Cazorla;

      • El neny is a player who is comfortable in possession. He can knock the ball around when there is not much pressure, but do not provide much to the team going forward.The Egyptian international  is not exactly a deep lying playmaker in cazorla’s mould, as can be remonstrated by his side way passes when the team needed inspirations to break down an organised Spurs in the NLD and at old Trafford. He’s always not at the right place at the right time or available and effective in tight areas which had come to be cazorla’s trademark.
      • Granit Xhaka is a defensive minded player who is not even remotely a playmaker. He is still in his budding stage in English football and would not be burdened with the most sensitive spot in the team.
      • Aaron Ramsey is more of a box to box player than a deep lying playmaker. He can get on the end of things when in form and can chip in with the odd goals, but do not offer the same options Cazorla did offer to the team.
      • Jack Wilshere would have been the closest we can get to Santi if he was on for; but he is inconsistent now, hence his loan move to our weekend’s opponent for him to build up his fitness and get regular playing time. 

      Who then is cazorla’s cover? Your guess is as good as mine. This is the one area where the club should invest on come January or during the summer transfer. At 31 he is no more a young player, so a suitable replacement should have been in place and budding by now. We need a player with guile and class that can distract defenders while our more advanced front men make dangerous runs behind opponents in the final third. We need a player who is comfortable using both his two feet with quick thinking. We need a player who can initiate a quick transition of the team from defence to attack. We need a deep lying playmaker in Cazorla’s mould to add dynamism to a side so blessed with pace and creativity. 

      One thing is certain; Arsène and Arsenal failed to provide a like for like cover for the midfield dynamo. For the time being, we shall rely on the players we have, hope that Cazorla return in set date and stay injury free for the rest of the season.

      -Fair Play Gooner