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 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.

      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

      Hector Bellerin Signs Long Term Contract With Arsenal.

                               Source : Arsenal.com 

      The Spanish RB put pen to paper today on what some papers are claiming to be a 6 years contract worth £100k/wk. This is a victory for Arsène and Arsenal in so many ways.

      It’s a statement of intent to other European superpowers that we are no more a selling club who serve as their academy. Before now, FC Barcelona have been tapping him up just like they did Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song. Manchester city were also interested and would have offered him tonnes of money to sway his mind, but Arsène maintained that his long term future was at Arsenal.

      “So we try to extend, certainly, his contract. For me, his long term future is here” 

      -Arsène Wenger

      Secondly, it’s a victory for Arsenal because our ideals are still relevant even in an era where buying, as opposed to developing youngsters is the order of the day for most European super powers. Rewind back four years ago, no one cared about a young teenager from Barcelona’s academy who arrived at London with zero reputation. Fast forward four years, he’s the best Right back in England  and arguably the best in Europe. 

      He’s still only 21 years of age, hence his best years are ahead of him. Hector’s stats speaks for him; directly involved in 9 goals in 44 appearances across all competitions last term. It’s a world class performance for a right back. His pace, his positional sense, his fighting spirit, his skills, quick thinking and competitiveness set him apart as one of a kind. 

      Here’s to Hector, here is to another 6 years of scintillating Right back displays for Arsenal, here is to stamping your name as the best Right back of your generation. Congratulations!