29th June 2015: You sign Cesc, we’ll take Cech

What a difference a year can make.

Last June, Arsenal’s fans had to endure the horrible sight of former fan favourite and club captain Cesc Fabregas, being paraded in the blue of Chelsea. Fast forward to 2015 and the tables were well and truly turned today, as we announced the signing of Petr Cech.

We all saw this coming of course, with his medical reported to have taken place last Friday. Yet for me, and I’m sure many others, there was always that lingering, nagging feeling that somehow, the deal would fall through. No more doubt now though. Cech is a Gunner.

Petr Cech, Arsenal goalkeeper.

In a statement on Arsenal.com, Arsene Wenger had this to say on his latest high-profile capture:

Petr Cech is a player that I have admired for a long time and I am very pleased that he has decided to join us. He has proven over many seasons that he is one of the outstanding keepers in the world and he will add great strength to our squad.

Whilst the ‘keeper himself made it clear he means business:

I’m really excited about joining Arsenal Football Club and can’t wait to join up for pre-season. I have the same commitment to football, the same motivation and the same hunger for success as I had at the beginning of my career, and I love the challenges brought by the top quality players you face while playing in the Premier League. When Arsène Wenger spoke to me about his ambitions for this club, and how he saw me as part of this team, the decision was clear.

Cech has also given his first interview as an Arsenal player, to er, Arsenal Player. In it, as Arsenal.com editor Chris Harris poses the questions, Cech discusses his ambitions with his new club and reveals how he is reinvigorated by being a reserve last season.

But the most pleasing part for me, which echoed Mesut Ozil’s words when he joined in 2013, was him telling us how Wenger assured him Arsenal had great aspirations moving forward.

He said:

I had a good chat with him and it was the first time after the club approached me that I could speak to him in private for such a long time. He made me believe that this was the right step and that this is the club with a lot of ambition.

I have a lot of personal motivation and ambition and the club definitely matches it. It is an exciting time for me, it is a project where Arsenal fans and the club have been waiting for the Premier League title and this is a chance for me to bring my experience and my little extra to the team and we can possibly achieve that.

After so many debt-ridden years, constrained by the shackles of building a spanking new stadium unaided by the wealth of some altruistic Abramovich-esque figure, we’ve ridden the storm and we’re sailing with the sun rising and the promised land in sight.

To top it off, for those fond of a spot of Chelsea-baiting, their manager wanted to keep Cech. Ours said ‘no thanks Cesc.’

Till Tuesday.

28th June 2015: Views on Vidal as Ljungberg gives his seal of approval

Afternoon all. I want to touch on the Arturo Vidal links today, seeing as they continue to pin-ball off media publications and twitter feeds, like precise passes off Santi Cazorla’s ambidextrous in-steps.

The transfer-rumour-untangling masters over at Sport Witness, had this to say on the matter of the Chilean’s alleged move to the Gunners back in May and revisited the story yesterday morning. Both are well worth a read and clinically decipher the drivel from the dubious.

Their first post suggests a common case of chinese whispers and when considered alongside Arsene Wenger’s words after our FA Cup Final win last month, when he said: “We have good midfielders, and at the moment we are not looking at Arturo Vidal”, there seems little chance of a move materialising.

Yet the caveat in that quote is clearly ‘at the moment’ and the question was only posed to him following reports of the presence of Vidal’s agent at Wembley that day. Sport Witness’ latest offering reads far more hopeful for those wishing for the Juventus man’s signing. Their main issue with regards to validity, is the likelyhood of Wenger spending around £20 million on a player who turned 28 in May.

Incidentally, that has been my view all along – it would be very unlike the manager to spend relatively extravagantly on someone of that age. Particularly when, as he said himself, we are so well-stocked in central midfield.

But that aside, we have seen a tangible change in tact from the club in the last two years and dare I say it, a refreshingly ruthless streak when making room to reinforce the squad. David Ospina will, in all probability, make way for Petr Cech and it would not be surprising to see one or both of Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini being moved on to accommodate Vidal.

“Arsenal really want me?”

I think it’s fair to suggest that Vidal, irrespective of being a ‘different type’ of player to either of those two, would be a huge upgrade quality-wise. His belligerent, non-stop play, combined with a downright nasty streak, reminds me a little of Gennaro Gattuso – only with more goals.

The fact he’s currently a ‘number 8’ or a ‘box-to-box’ midfielder does not mean he cannot be successful in a deeper, destroying role at Arsenal. After all, Arsene deploys Arteta in a Xabi Alonso-esque position despite him being stationed further up the pitch while at Everton. Whatever your views of his talents and off-field controversies though, he usually tends to ‘bust his balls’ for the collective cause – as Sanchez recently demanded he do for Chile.

Anyway, I’m getting a little carried away here, what with there being nothing else to talk about Arsenal-wise today. It’s probably all nonsense. Yet that hasn’t stopped Harry Kane’s favourite player and Arsenal legend Freddie Ljungberg from revealing his views on Vidal when he spoke to Sport360.com recently.

He said:

There were some rumours about Vidal, a great player, and he gets fuming if he loses the ball, so I like that. That kind of player would be great for the club. Look at Sanchez. After the World Cup in South Africa I said I wanted us to buy him, when he was at Udinese. He is quality but he also works hard as well. He has speed. When he loses the ball he still fights for it and that’s what I like to see.

Freddie then went on to big up Arsenal’s title hopes. You can read the full quotes from his interview here.

Right. That’s that for today. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday. Hopefully a certain Czech will pop up on Arsenal.com adorned in red and white tomorrow, to give us all a boost at the start of another working week.

See you then.

27th June 2015: OOOOOOOOOSPINA!

Happy Saturday all. If you’re in London, log off now and go outside. The weather’s lovely. Plus I really don’t have an awful lot for you.

Petr Cech’s transfer in reportedly set to be announced on Monday. In the increasingly unlikely event it is not, we can at least console ourselves with the superb performance of David Ospina in the Copa America early this morning.

Columbia eventually went out on penalties to Argentina after a goalless draw and only made it that far, thanks to inspired ‘keeping from the man who ended last season’s league campaign as Arsenal’s number one.

In front of a really raucious set of Columbia fans, who adopted our Oooooooospina! chant throughout the contest, the 26 year old produced a jaw-dropping double save in the first half, to first deny Sergio Aguero and then Lionel Messi from point-blank range. Truly astonishing stuff.

“Honestly, it was nothing”

And although he had a couple of heart-in-mouth moments with the ball at his feet, he also produced another great save in the second period, diving sharply down to his left to deflect a low, driven effort onto the post. Again, top notch net guarding indeed. And as so often for us last season, for the most part the former Nice man exuded a welcome sense of calm in his defence, amidst a Messi-inspired Argentine onslaught.

Standing at just over six feet, Ospina admittedly doesn’t ‘fill’ a goal like many would like from their goalkeeper but from what I’ve seen from him these last twelve months, he doesn’t do a lot wrong. If the Fenerbache move does materialise, as looks likely, it will be weird seeing him depart so soon. That said, Cech is by all accounts an upgrade, so sentiments aside, moving him on is clearly the right thing for Arsenal to do if Ospina refuses to resume the role of number two.

But back to the game and naturally, I was hoping for more of the same from our ‘keeper in the shootout because his performance was deserving of him being on the winning side. But it wasn’t to be and Carlos Tevez eventually scored the decisive spot kick to take Argentina into the last four.

Lastly, there are some quotes from Chelsea ‘keepers coach Christophe Lollichon floating around, which suggest Chelsea may not allow him to follow Cech to Arsenal.

He told L’Equipe:

For now, it does not matter. No contact has been made. I do not know if this has been discussed between the two clubs, but I do not think Chelsea will be favourable.

Meh.

See you tommorow.

26th June 2015: Cech medical as Wilshere goes down memory lane

So Petr Cech is reportedly undergoing his medical ahead of a £10.9 million move from Chelsea.

Right about now, he’ll be partaking in some gentle knee flexion and extension drills, as club doctors and physios frantically race to give him the once over before Roman Abramovich changes his mind.

My sources reliably inform me that Cech passed ECG and isokinetic tests with distinction this morning, and now has just one final – albeit crucial – round of testing to go. It involves him being delicately induced into a state of hypnosis, before being repeatedly asked what he thinks of Tottenham. He’ll be questioned one hundred times in total and if he can manage a score of ninety or more shits, he’s good to go. (Jack scored 408 during his testing)

So the transfer crawls ever closer but still remains incomplete. I would say it’s getting boring but it gives me something to write about in these barren footballing months, so I can’t complain. Something I haven’t seen written much about, or indeed have brought up myself until now, is the kind of qualities Cech will bring aside from his goalkeeping.

Bob Wilson pointed out how Wojciech Szczesny will benefit from working alongside such a world-class ‘keeper but of more, immediate significance I think, is the winning mentality and vocal on and off-pitch leadership Cech will bring to this Arsenal side.

Cech refusing to leave Emirates Stadium

Qualities such as these can never be over-woven into the fabric of a trophy-winning team. Perhaps it was in large part due to the age of the sides we built and rebuilt between 2004 and now, but we’ve lacked that all-important winning mindset for far too long. The talent has always been there, but to be brutally honest, we’ve lacked balls.

With the signing of Alexis Sanchez, the revival of Francis Coquelin’s career and the development of Jack Wilshere in particular, we’ve remedied that emphatically. In fact, taking a look around the squad, you’ll struggle to find many who don’t look up for the fight these days. Even Theo Walcott, arguably the most timid player I’ve ever seen, has the bit between his teeth when he takes the field now.

Back to ‘news’ and Wilshere is the latest to speak with Arsenal Player. Jack talks pre-season preparations and recalls the moment he knew he’s arrived as a first-team Arsenal player.

He said:

We used to go to Austria after training at London Colney for two weeks. There was always loads of young players training for the first couple of weeks and then if you made the Austria trip you thought, ‘Okay, this is where it really starts’. I was only 16 so I didn’t expect to make it. There were 18 year olds around me but I got on the trip.

It went from there really. We played a couple of games, I scored a couple of goals, and then we came back and I was involved in the Emirates Cup. I was thinking, ‘Oh my God I’m going to play at the Emirates in front of 60,000’. I started the first game – I didn’t expect to play any part in it – and then after that it was club day and I remember the boss asking me which number I would like, 18 or 19. That’s when I knew I was going to be involved in the squad.

I have to say I love Jack. He’s a little over-zealous at times and he needs to keep fit obviously, and I’m still not really sure where he fits into the team at the moment, but as I alluded to in a previous post recently, he’s got the talent and the personality to captain this club in the not too distant future.

Right, a quick check of Arsenal.com shows no confirmation of Cech yet. They’ll no doubt be bringing him round and tallying up his answers any minute now.

See you on Sat.

25th June 2015: Real not-so-discreetly courting Koscielny

Evening all. The weather’s warming up nicely here in London and with the official opening of this summer’s transfer window on Wednesday, I’m fully expecting the market to do likewise.

Several deals have already been announced by various clubs of course, with Liverpool in particular, striving to sign every professional footballer they’ve ever heard of.

Arsenal on the other hand, have been linked with every professional footballer you’ve ever heard of. It’s quite nice in a way, after so many summers of other clubs (I’m looking at you Barcelona) casting their beady eyes over our own, most prized possessions, to be confident of keeping our best players.

Well it was anyway, until France-based football writer Matt Spiro brought to our attention a report from France Football, in which it’s claimed Real Madrid are making eyes at the Gunners’ hybrid of Franz Beckenbauer and Bart Simpson – Laurent ‘never lost a tackle’ Koscielny. Or in the words of the report itself, ‘continue to move forward on the issue discreetly’. Which is a bid odd, considering they also mention Mundo Deportivo linked Madrid with the player earlier this month.

“Honestly, thanks for thinking of me, but i’m happy where I am Florentino”

Anyway, I’m dismissing the link as bullshit, based purely on Sergio Ramos’ on-going contractual posturing with the Spanish side. But If there does turn out to be any real substance to the story, I would hope Arsene will tell Madrid where to go. Selling our best defender simply should not be an option at this stage of our development. In fact, at any stage, if we are truly serious about winning the biggest prizes.

Onto potential signings, and as reported defensive midfield targets dwindle like Cesc Fabregas assists after Christmas, one man still standing, is Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin. The France international caused quite a stir last summer with his desire to leave St Mary’s, and having also been linked with Tottenham and Man United, has now revealed he hopes to determine his future ‘in the coming days‘. This comes just as bookies cut the odds on him becoming a Gunner. Make of that what you will.

In other, actual football news, AleXis Sanchez played the full ninety as hosts Chile beat Uruguay 1-0 to progress to the semi finals of the Copa America in the early hours of this morning. A bad-tempered affair, in which Chile enjoyed a mammoth 80 percent of the possession, saw both Edinson Cavani and Jorge Fucile sent off for Uruguay and was settled by a goal from Mauricio Isla after 81 minutes. Chile will now play either Peru or Bolivia in the last four on Monday. I saw the whole game and by his standards, Sanchez was very quiet for the most part. Saving himself for Arsenal, obviously.

And finally for today, Carl Jenkinson, rumoured to be close to securing a second, successive, season-long loan deal with West Ham, played the whole game as England Under 21s crashed out of the Euros with a 3-1 loss to Italy. Calum Chambers was an unused sub for the third game in a row.

Back tomorrow.

24th June 2015: Cech fee agreed and thoughts on Welbeck

Afternoon all. There is next to nothing going on from an Arsenal perspective and the sun is shining invitingly outside the TremendArse newsroom, so I’m going to keep this brief and go get me some vitamin D.

Arsenal have agreed a fee of £10.9 million with Chelsea for Petr Cech according to Sky Sports News HQ sources. The Blues were reportedly angling for the full 11 million but the Gunners’ chief negotiator Dick Law managed to get a discount by promising that Arsene Wenger would never push Jose Mourinho around in public again.

What his west London counterparts didn’t notice however, was that Dick had his fingers crossed behind his back. Word has it that Arsene is planning to power slam Jose, right onto his spineless, shit-stirring back, when the two teams next meet.

Insiders claim, the boss will then haul him to his feet by his hair, unleash a flurry of blows to his mid-riff, before applying the full nelson hold, until the Chelsea boss is forced to apologise to all of football, for a decade of his incessant gob-shiterry. Arsene then plans to dust himself off before nonchalantly walking back to his dug-out. On the way, the fourth official will approach and ask him what on earth had just happened, to which he will receive the following response:

Honestly, I did not see it. It’s difficult to tell was it a red card or not. But most of the time it’s the guy who reacts who gets punished, not the the provocateur.

Yes, I’ve read this recently.

Moving on and Danny Welbeck has been speaking to Arsenal Player about his admiration of Arsenal’s all-time leading goalscorer Thierry Henry. He said:

It was hard because I was a United fan and we were playing against Arsenal, but it’s hard not to like Thierry Henry. That’s what was so special about him – fans from other teams had to love him because he was that good. At the time all the kids around my area liked Thierry Henry.

When I was watching the Premier League on TV I was seeing what Thierry Henry was doing and it’s just something that you can’t look away from. From then on, I enjoyed watching the way he played. I just loved the way he played, the way he scored goals, the way he played with the team.

Following Theo Walcott’s fine end to the last campaign, which saw him score four goals in the final two games from his favoured central striking position, and widespread calls for Arsenal to sign a a new ‘world class’ striker, it’s easy to overlook the possibility that at 24 years of age, Welbeck could potentially develop into the deadly, title-winning predator we would all like.

From Gonzalo Higuain to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal have been linked with virtually every allegedly top-draw forward realistically within our reach. And I wouldn’t necessarily be against a signing of that ilk – providing it was a genuine upgrade on what we already have.

Arsene’s track record in turning promising young strikers into consistent goalscorers is pretty damn good – provided the raw talent is there. And in Welbeck, it’s difficult to see an attribute he really lacks. Awareness, pace, presence, strength, touch, work-ethic, team-play, aerial ability – for me he has it all, albeit in varying degrees of refinement. His finishing is often criticized but that can improve drastically in a player and I’m not sure it’s as wayward as some would have you believe. His shooting technique looks great to me, perhaps its his accuracy and consistency or, consistency of accuracy even, that needs work. But that only comes with regular games.

Welbeck’s great in the air

I remember Arsene saying something along the lines of ‘give me some time’ when asked if he could help to transform Welbeck into a truly top-class forward. I wouldn’t bet against the former Man United man following in the footsteps of the likes of Anelka, Henry, Adebayor and Van Persie in becoming one of the world’s best strikers.

High hopes yes, but not at all outlandish in my opinion. And then of course, similar could be said of Theo, who does not possess as many attributes as Welbeck admittedly, but whose pace and movement, and probably now his finishing too, are a notch or two above his team-mate’s. Anyway, something to consider should we not sign a ready-made, Neymar-esque galactico.

In other news, the Daily Mail are reporting we’ve signed a Romanian 16 year-old called Vladimir Dragomir, who likens his own playing style to that of Toni Kroos – the only man in football to be a world champion three times in a calender year. The report comes complete with pictures of the young man appearing to sign his contract, flanked by Arsenal’s Law and either a family member or his agent I’m guessing.

I’m fully expecting the teenager’s management company to release a statement in the next few hours, denying the deal and informing us the player will announce any transfer news as soon as there is any.

And finally for today, reports from France suggest Lille want Yaya Sanogo on a season-long loan deal. Makes sense for all concerned to me.

Not as brief as I planned in the end. See, you never know what can happen.

Till tomorrow peeps.

23rd June 2015: Daily Mail jump the gun

Hello again loyal readers – all three of you. Thanks for dropping by. If you’re expecting a well-written, informative and generally entertaining entry, full of interesting snippets of speculation, witty word-play, puns and put-downs, all neatly wrapped within the captivating context of Arsenal’s news, you’ve come to the wrong place.

What I do have for you is a pretty drab offering, for which I make no apology. I’m about to bring you the latest on the Petr Cech palaver, some warm words from one of our own legendary ‘keepers of yesteryear on his potential purchase, plus a couple of other bits and pieces. So strap in.

No sooner had I pressed ‘publish’ on yesterday’s post than the internet went into full meltdown mode, as news broke that Arsenal had completed Cech’s signing. All the reports were being sourced from the Daily Mail and as it turned out, they were the only ones confirming the deal, with everyone else scratching their heads and sticking with the ‘close but not quite’ line.

With neither club confirming the deal, the Mail clearly jumped the gun on this one and looking at their back page headline this morning, they’ve continued to run with it.

The Daily Mail get their timing all wrong

Not long after last night’s Mail article came tweeted denials from Cech’s management company Sports PR, who stated no signing was yet complete, and this morning one of their representatives told The Sport Review:

We aren’t making any comment on speculation. As we said yesterday, when there is any transfer news regarding Petr Cech, he will confirm it.

Sky Sports News HQ have a further minor update today, reporting that their sources expect the deal to be confirmed within the next 48 hours. The wait goes on.

But that hasn’t stopped former Arsenal ‘keeper and ‘keepers coach Bob Wilson from talking about Cech, explaining that he thinks the 33-year-old still has plenty to offer and that his signing would take the Gunners a step closer to winning the title.

Bob told BBC Radio 5 Live:

I think it’s an amazing signing. People will look at the two who are there, Wojciech Szczesny and David Ospina, and the the point really, is that if you can improve your team in any way you’d be fools not to do it.

He’s 33 now, he still has five or six seasons of greatness in him and he’s going to give Arsenal that assurance at the back that they really need.When a side wins the league, it starts with the man at the back and usually when a side wins the league the goalkeeper usually has an amazing season. I’m not saying he’s the best keeper in the world as of this moment but for him it’s a marvellous move.

I was goalkeeping coach at Arsenal for 28 years. I had Pat Jennings and David Seaman as two amazing goalkeepers I was able to coach, I would have loved to have got my hands on Petr Cech.

It’s another step towards the title. Arsenal are very close to having a squad that almost matches Chelsea, almost matches Manchester City. I think everybody knows Arsenal are minimum two, maybe three, good signings (away).

Encouraging sentiments indeed, although I’m not so sure our squad isn’t already as strong as Man City and Chelsea as things stand. In hindsight, what denied us the title last season was not realising Francis Coquelin’s potential as the answer to our defensive midfield need until mid-season and a lack of central defensive cover, since remedied by the purchase of Gabriel Paulista in January.

Anyway, Bob also took time out to speak to SSNHQ, outlining Cech’s value to the defence as a unit, explaining that he wouldn’t have considered a swap deal involving Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Theo Walcott, his admiration for Chelsea for doing a deal with a rival and that Wojciech Szczesny should be pleased by the prospect of working with and learning from a goalkeeping great of the modern era:

He said:

It’s an amazing possibility for Arsenal and I wish this was an absolute definite. You have to look at the impact a ‘keeper like Cech has on those guys in front of him. He has been there since 2004 and he is a Chelsea legend because of the authority he has and the presence he gives.

I am delighted there is no talk about there being a deal involving Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Theo Walcott. I would hate that to happen and would rather say ‘no thanks, Petr Cech’s great but I am sticking with these young players I have got.

I admire Chelsea and if this deal goes through, and I assume it must because of Roman Abramovich, although I don’t see (Jose) Mourinho really backing this up or wanting this to happen.

David Seaman won nine major trophies and Ray Clemence at Liverpool and Spurs won nine major trophies, Peter Schmeichel likewise. I think Petr Cech’s total at this moment is something like 13, which is quite extraordinary.

David Ospina did really well at the end of the season but he is at an age where he will want to play, like Petr Cech. With Wojciech Szczesny at 24 years of age, I would hope he would look on this as a real possibility of learning more from one of the great goalkeepers of the game.

Little to disagree with in Wilson’s words there, apart from the fact I wouldn’t admire Chelsea in any way, for anything, ever.

Onto Calum Chambers then, who is currently away with the England Under 21 team at the Euros. The former Southampton man spoke – at some point before he left I’m assuming – to Arsenal Player about his first season at the club, how he has exceeded his own expectations and his thoughts on Arsene Wenger. You can read the quotes and if you’re a subscriber, see the video of his interview on the official site here.

Finally for today, Arsenal have announced two fixtures for an Arsenal XI side to be comprised of a mixture of players from the club’s Under 18 and Under 21 teams.

See you on Wednesday.