21st May 2016: Xhaka resplendent in red and white + Bellerin’s loving London

Saturday greetings. It’s FA Cup Final day today of course and I’m sure I’m not the only Arsenal fan to be thinking that it should have been us taking to the Wembley field against Manchester United later rather than Crystal Palace.

A win over Watford in the quarter-finals would have set up a semi against Palace of course but as we all know, we f*cked it up big-style, like Jose Mourinho in his third season at a club. Anyway, good luck to the Eagles because as much as I dislike Alan Pardew, I do have a bit of a soft spot for the club who sold us Ian Wright.

But back to Arsenal and after the BBC yesterday reported a deal to bring Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka to Arsenal was close, today pictures emerged online seeming to show the player at London Colney wearing an Arsenal shirt.

Now normally, I’d say: “I’ll believe it when I see it” when it comes to transfer speculation linking us with new recruits, but we’ve seen it now, so: “I’ll believe it when it’s confirmed”, which if reports are accurate, should be imminently.

Xhaka’s signing does make you wonder what our first-choice line-up in central midfield will look like next season, seeing as Francis Coquelin, Mohamed Elneny, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey are all candidates, not to mention a youngster like Gedion Zelalem, who may stake his claim in pre-season after this season’s loan spell at Rangers.

Then there’s Alex Iwobi, who has also shown he can play there, so we’re certainly okay for numbers. That said, I still think we’re short an understudy for Cazorla, who’s passing and vision from deep we sorely missed after he was injured in late 2015.

In terms of potential departures, and I’ll admit I’d be surprised if we did because Arsene Wenger seems to rate him very highly and he’s also versatile enough to play wider and further forward, I’d give serious consideration to selling Ramsey this summer. More so than Theo Walcott even, because the latter appears willing, if not content, to play a squad role, and for all his obvious deficiencies as a footballer, is still a good option from the bench when we’re chasing a goal.

Ideally I’d like us to keep the Welshman and also sign a Cazorla-type, but if it’s one or the other, I’d much rather we cut Aaron loose and brought in a central midfielder who’s as good on the ball as Santi and who can orchestrate our play with the same quality of passing  as the Spaniard. That’s easier said than done but I’m sure we can find one if we looked hard enough. I’d start in Spain and Italy …

One player who definitely won’t be leaving Arsenal anytime soon though is Hector Bellerin, after the former Barcelona youth player explained why he doesn’t see himself in any other club’s colours. He said:

I say every year that England is my home now. I’ve lived there for many years; my family and my girlfriend are there. I’m very happy there so I don’t see myself anywhere other than Arsenal.

Excellent news. Bellerin has clearly seen a certain other Catalan leave Arsenal for Barcelona in the fairly recent past and decided that’s not a road he wants to follow and who can blame him? Nobody wants to be turfed out by their home-town club and end up turning out at a bus-stop in Fulham.

But Hector did admit it was once his dream to represent Barcelona and described how it felt to play at the Nou Camp, having faced his former employers in the Champions League with Arsenal earlier this year. He said:

How did it feel to play against Barca? For me, Barca was where I grew up since I was tiny, from eight years old. My dream when I was at Barca was to play at Camp Nou and I did – just not wearing the shirt I’d expected when I was little. It was something very special and beautiful.

Not as special and beautiful as playing at Emirates stadium though hey Bellers?

See you on Sunday.

20th May 2016: Xhaxa deal inches closer

Happy Friday everyone. Some very encouraging, if a little expected, news to begin with tonight because following months of speculation linking Granit Xhaka with a move to Arsenal, the BBC this evening report a deal is very close to completion.

The Swiss midfielder is 23, left-footed, and one of the Bundesliga’s finest defensive/box-box midfielders according to those who watch him regularly. The fact Borussia Monchengladbach made him captain at the start of the season just ended, suggests he’s quite the personality in the dressing room too, which if I’m honest, pleases me just as much as his quality passing, tackling and ball control did on my recent YouTube scouting mission.

That said, having two combustible characters in Xhaka and Jack Wilshere both playing in the same midfield won’t do much for our fair play rankings so it’s just as well I doubt they’ll be paired together in front of our defence too often. But speaking of Jack, that’s who I think Xhaka most resembles in our current squad as a player.

The latter’s definitely the more defensively-minded of the two, but the way they both drop their shoulder and drag the ball past opponents, pass accurately and can play the short-ball game brilliantly, makes them seem, at first glance anyway, very comparable midfielders to me.

Anyway, with Mesut Ozil a shoe-in again or the most advanced role of our midfield three next season, Xhaka’s capture would mean we could, in theory, play with three left-footers in the middle of the park at some stage – which would be the first time I can ever remember a team doing that. Just saying.

Moving on now and onto some words from Arsene Wenger, who in an interview with Arsenal Magazine published in May’s edition, discussed what he was like as a young man and manager. He said:

Look, I believe when I was young if I had one quality, it was that I could listen to people. I always tried to listen when people who were much older talked to me. All the people liked to be with me at the time, maybe because I had a certain respect. I always tried to think to myself ‘is this guy intelligent? He looks very intelligent. He’s 30 years older than I am, that means he has gone through things I will go through, so what can I learn from him?’ I had that kind of attitude 30 years ago. Usually when you are very young you are tempted to see older people as has-beens, but then afterwards you realise what he told you is true. So I tried to learn all the time. If I look back at the young coach I was, I would say to myself ‘are you sure that you want to go through all this again? Are you ready to suffer so much again, because it is the sacrifice of your life.’ I started when I was 33 years old, now I’m 66 so that’s 33 years of uninterrupted competitive football. That’s the only thing I would ask to this little boy, full of ambition and desire.

It really is an interesting read as the manager touches on the influence of the late Dutch great Johan Cruyff, French athletics, and the possibility of him one day sharing his managerial secrets in a book, so go take a look here if you haven’t already.

Right, that’ll do for tonight.

Until tomorrow.

19th May 2016: Seaman on Wenger + Cech on Rosicky

Evening all. A very quick Thursday evening round-up for you and in tonight’s post we have a trio Arsenal players past and present discussing a variety of topics from life in London to life after Arsene Wenger.

First up it’s our legendary ex-goalkeeper David Seaman, who has revealed his admiration for his former manager Wenger but also suggested the club need to spend big in the transfer market this summer to appease unhappy fans. He said:

Arsenal had a good season. It wasn’t brilliant because we didn’t win anything, but to finish second is a great achievement. But there are still doubts – doubts over the manager and the team and whether it can push on. For me, Arsene is the best. I love the guy and I certainly don’t want to see him leave. I’ve worked with him and know how good he is. More and more fans are getting on the Wenger Out bandwagon and I’m just desperate for him to win the league again just to shut everybody up. I think the only way you would be able to stop the fan backlash is by signing top quality players. We need the finished article, not the young, up-and-coming guys. But what frightens me is that if the club don’t go out and buy these players in the summer, and Arsene does leave, where does that leave Arsenal? A lot of fans think the base that Arsene has set is the standard, but it won’t be. It will fall below that if we get a new manager in.

Meanwhile, Arsenal’s current number one Petr Cech, has been discussing the qualities of compatriot Tomas Rosicky and explaining why the midfielder will go down as one of the Czech Republic’s best-ever footballers. He told Arsenal Player:

He is one of the best-ever Czech players, and we have had so many great players. He is right among them. Every time you see him playing, you see what a brilliant player he is. Unfortunately for him, when he was on top of his form an injury always came. I have to say that is a credit to him because when he had a difficult time with injury he always managed to come back and every time he came back he was as good as he was before. It’s been a great journey for him personally in the national team, at Dortmund and at Arsenal. It’s just a shame that Arsenal couldn’t have him on the pitch more often because he is a really talented player. He is one of those players who is great to watch but also great to play with. Every time you give him the ball, something happens. He moves the game forward and never slows it down. He always creates something. He creates opportunities for everyone else and that is one of his main strengths. As soon as you give him the ball you know something is happening.

And finally, we have Mohamed Elneny, who in a wide-ranging  interview with Arsenal Magazine, has been talking about his home life in London and what he likes to do in his spare time. He said:

I’m delighted to be here in London. It’s a great city, despite the weather conditions that may not be perfect as they change all the time! But overall I’m very comfortable here and happy that my family have joined me now too. I enjoy staying home and spending time with my family. My son loves football so I am teaching him to become a footballer because he’s passionate about the game. If the weather is good, we like to go out for walks and explore the city.

That’s right, I have no thoughts on any of the above and yes, the three parts have no real link. It’s a round-up. Plus I’m too tired to think, so there.

See you on Friday folks.

18th May 2016: Au revoir again Mathieu

Welcome back. Although there’s been plenty said and written about the departures of Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky in recent days, Mathieu Flamini’s exit from the club has been noticeably low-key in comparison.

Unlike for the former duo, there are no interviews or commemorative compilations on the official site for the Frenchman for instance. But no matter, because TremendArse has a few farewell words for the two-time Gunner. Only a few mind, because it’s getting late and besides, I’m sure the billions Mathieu’s due to pocket from mass-producing levulinic acid will help him to get over the apparent dearth of public appreciation.

Probably the least naturally-gifted with a ball at his feet of our departing trio, Flamini made up for his relative lack of footballing ability through his extraordinary stamina levels, aggressive ball-winning and overall defensive doggedness – mainly in his first spell at the club between 2004 and 2008, admittedly.

In fact, in the 2007-2008 campaign, Flamini was a midfield force to be reckoned with, complimenting Cesc Fabregas’ game-controlling passing to brilliant effect as we led the Premier League table for most of the season and enjoyed a run to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, knocking out reigning champions AC Milan along the way.

Thinking back, only a cynical scythe by Steven Gerrard, which ended Flamini’s involvement in the second-leg of the quarter final at Anfield, stopped us from progressing to the semis, after a mesmeric opening 20-minute spell of football by Arsenal was built on the brilliant ball-nicking of the Frenchman. He was everywhere and Liverpool couldn’t handle him, until Gerrard cottoned on and decided to consciously injure a fellow pro. Still, I’ve moved on …

But back to Flamini and perhaps his muted farewell can, in part, be put down to his insistence on leaving the club in 2008 for Milan, after running down his contract having reportedly indicated he would extend his stay. That was seen by many as an unforgivable abandonment and it’s difficult to get away from the feeling his decision was driven by money rather than football. But then he did leave to join one of Europe’s traditional giants and being half-Italian himself must also have been a major motivator for his move to Milan.

Then came the comeback, in the summer of 2013, when most fans had expected a big-money defensive midfield signing to fill the hole left by Alexandre Song’s move to Barcelona, but instead we got Flamini, offered a contract having initially only been granted access to club facilities to work on his fitness after he left Italy as a free agent.

His second debut for Arsenal was memorable for the fact it came against Tottenham at Emirates stadium, and having entered the action as a substitute, he quickly made his presence known in typically robust style, barking orders, cajoling team-mates helping us to see out a narrow win.

Just like in his previous season as an Arsenal player six years earlier, we led the Premier League for long stretches of the season in 2013-14 and Flamini played a bigger part than many expected, diligently deputising for Mikel Arteta in partnering Aaron Ramsey and doing it pretty well in fairness. His goal at Cardiff that season certainly sticks out for me for example.

Then there was the bromance with Mesut Ozil and if nothing else, helping our record signing to settle in London is enough for me to view Flamini’s second spell as worth the wages. His two goals against Tottenham in the league cup this term will probably go down as the highlight of his second spell at the club but his penalty concession against Barcelona having just come on as sub earlier this year must have been the moment any chance of a contract extension disappeared for good.

So Flamini becomes the third experienced pro to part ways with the club this summer and although I think it will be pretty easy to replace their footballing qualities, we might find it a lot trickier to compensate for their character. Let’s hope not.

Until tomorrow.

17th May 2016: Farewell Tomas Rosicky

Evening all. Having discussed Mikel Arteta in yesterday’s post, I’d like to focus today on another of our three departing players, Tomas Rosicky.

Signed in the summer of 2006 as a replacement for Villarreal-bound Robert Pires, the Czech’s capture was seen as quite a coup for the club at the time, particularly with Chelsea also being heavily linked with the player.

I’d first seen him in action playing against us for Sparta Prague at Highbury in 2000, when he capped a fine individual performance by scoring a brilliant solo goal, slaloming through our defence and burying a low shot past David Seaman. Impressed, I kept a eye on his career as he moved to Germany with Borussia Dortmund before we eventually made him a Gunner.

A decade on though, sadly his career with the club will be best remembered for his recurring and lengthy injury lay-offs more than his performances, but that’s not to say Tomas didn’t have some sublime moments in an Arsenal shirt.

I was still coming round from the anesthetic following a leg op when I got home and tuned in to see Rosicky score a screamer from about 3o yards against Hamburg in the 2006 Champions League, very early on in his Gunners’ career.

Having seen him produce a similar effort playing for his country in the World Cup a few weeks earlier, I remember thinking that I hadn’t quite appreciated how good his shooting from distance was until then – I’d always had him down as primarily a pass-and-mover and a dribbler.

Then there was a double at Anfield in an FA Cup game – the same one in which Thierry Henry destroyed Jamie Carragher if I remember right. In more recent years there’s been a few stunning strikes against Tottenham and in between I’m sure countless other bits of brilliance I’ve forgotten.

All of which is to say that even though I’m left feeling like I never saw nearly enough of Tomas in a Arsenal shirt these last ten years, and so can only imagine what he might have helped us achieve as a club had his body allowed him to play more often, I’m still thankful for the goals and guts (despite having a slight frame) he brought to the team over the years.

It’s hard for many fans to see him leave no doubt, and the midfielder has been discussing why he’ll find it just as difficult to wave goodbye to Arsenal. He said:

It was an amazing [reception from the fans] – if you spend 10 years somewhere it is really difficult as you are so attached to the club. It is unbelievable. It is very difficult to say goodbye after 10 years when you know everyone at the club. All the young English guys when I came here grew up alongside me, I have seen them since they were 16 years old basically – Jack, Theo, the Ox, Aaron and Kieran Gibbs, so many. I have seen them grow from little lads to the big players they are now and this makes me proud that I had an influence on their growth and education. That is why it is really difficult to leave.

I would say it’s time for that quintet to now really step up and show exactly how much they learned from an experienced pro like Rosicky, but I’m not sure how many of them will still be at the club by the start of next season, given Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gibbs have been linked with moves away from Arsenal over the last couple of months.

But back to Tomas and unlike Arteta, I think the Czech may well have more football still in him. Whether that’s in England, back at his first club Sparta Prague or elsewhere remains to be seen, but one things for sure, if his new employers can help him to stay fit for any prelonged period of time, they’ll have a hell of a player at their disposal. Even at the age of 35.

Hodně štěstí Tomas !

Until tomorrow.

16th May 2016: Arteta bows out in familiar fashion

Welcome to a brand new week on TremendArse. Amidst the Sp*rs-inspired amusement last night, I completely forgot to expand on Mikel Arteta’s strike against Aston Villa, so apologies. In my defence though, how often do events like yesterday’s at Emirates stadium and St James’ Park align so side-splittingly brilliantly? Exactly.

Anyway, despite the fact it will undoubtedly go down as an own goal after our departing Spaniard’s effort struck the crossbar before rebounding in off the back of the Villa keeper, I couldn’t help but immediately think back to Dennis Bergkamp Day at Highbury back in April 2006. Bear with me.

I was there that day and witnessed the Dutchman crown a fixture named in his honour by stepping off the substitute’s bench and producing a trademark curler to put us 3-1 up against West Brom, sealing three vital points in the process as we battled (successfully in the end) to pip Tottenham to fourth place that season.

Of course, Arteta won’t be held in nearly the esteem Bergkamp is by Arsenal fans because he wasn’t as good a player, didn’t win as many trophies with the club as Dennis did and was an Arsenal player for less than half the time the Dutchman was.

Yet when he wheeled away to celebrate our fourth having arrived late into the box to powerfully side-foot the ball goal-wards from an Alexis Sanchez pick-out, the feeling of fate being at play was palpable – just like that orange-tinged day at Highbury a decade ago.

Arteta may have divided opinion amongst Arsenal fans over the level of his footballing ability (and for me he was an effective antidote to the stinging loss of Cesc Fabregas from our midfield in the summer of 2011, but also a symbol of regression in terms of our team’s collective quality), but his character, professionalism and popularity amongst team-mates and staff at the club has never been in question. There were clearly some very good reasons he was chosen to captain the club and he’s been nothing short of an exemplary in his leadership.

There were some memorable goals along the way; long-range free-kicks and a winner against Manchester City, as well as a formidable partnership forged with Aaron Ramsey a few seasons ago as we led the Premier League table for most of the season.

But if last season suggested his time was up as a starter at Arsenal, this season rammed that fact home with few first-team appearances forthcoming for the midfielder and fewer still when he looked like the Arteta of old. Injuries clearly took their toll in the end but we should be thankful to the Spaniard for steadying our side with his natural authority and calm passing in our time of need some six years ago. So thank you Mikel.

And Arteta himself expressed his gratitude at having been an Arsenal player when he gave an emotional interview to Arsenal Player following yesterday’s game, saying:

It’s a day I will never forget, I can only thank everyone for how you have all behaved with me and my family in those magnificent five years. When you leave the club is when you see what you mean to people and how you feel about the club. My emotions and the way I feel about the people cannot be any better. I was very scared about this day because 99 per cent, that was my last game as a professional footballer. I can’t even talk. I feel very honoured to play for this club and captain this place. This club is class and once you are here you never forget it. It’s going to be hard for me to move on, but I really enjoyed today.

So did we Senor, so did we.

All that remains to be said I suppose is good luck with the coaching at City next season and if you really love Arsenal, tap up Sergio Aguero for us when you get there. Tell him all about the wonders of London Colney and life as a Gunner –  you’d go from loved to legendary in an instant …

Back tomorrow.

15th May 2016: Arsenal secure second as season ends in hilariously Sp*rsy style

So against the odds, Arsenal finished the Premier League season as runners’ up after they beat Aston Villa 4-0 at Emirates stadium today and Tottenham got battered 5-1 up in Newcastle by ten men. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

All they needed was a draw against an already-relegated side to finish above us for the first time in decades but instead, they collapsed and in truth, having kept an eye on their match via Setanta Sports while watching a stream of ours, it could have been a much wider win-margin for the Geordies.

In the last portion of the game Newcastle, despite their numerical disadvantage, counter-attacked Tottenham relentlessly, wasting at least three or four very presentable chances. But I’ll take just the five goals, along with second place and the bragging rights over our neighbours for yet another season. Power shift my Ar*e.

As for our own match, the game at St James’ Park gave Emirates stadium a bit of a pantomime feel as every goal the Magpies put past Sp*rs was cheered wildly by the Arsenal fans, giving their own team a visible boost to their play in the process. Add sunshine and what was, in the end, a comfortable 4-0 win for the Gunners and what we had was a surprisingly uplifting end to an otherwise disappointing  season.

But it wasn’t all plain sailing despite Olivier Giroud heading us in front from Nacho Monreal’s cross after just five minutes. We allowed Villa to establish a foothold in the contest and fan irritation at our failure to extend our lead was audibly high. Especially when the visitors looked threatening and news filtered through that Tottenham had halved their two-goal, half-time deficit with half-an-hour still to play in both games.

But 13 minutes later, Newcastle scored again and with our crowd suddenly as loud and vociferous in urging the team on as I’ve heard all season, we grabbed a nerve-calming second goal five minutes after that. Mesut Ozil, as so often this season, was the architect, playing a brilliant one-two on the left before servicing Giroud’s near-post dart with a low cross. The Frenchman made it three goals in his last two games, expertly elevating the ball in finishing first-time, high into the far corner.

It was three and a hat-trick for Giroud just two minutes later when Hector Bellerin’s quite brilliant through-ball/cross was gleefully guided home by the striker. Meanwhile, things got better and better for us and Newcastle at St James’ Park. First Rolando Aarons volleyed home emphatically from a tight angle, before Daryl Janmaat (who I wouldn’t mind us signing as a back-up for Bellerin by the way) raced forward and rolled the ball past Hugo Lloris with effortless ease as the goalkeeper got his angles horribly wrong.

Our fans sang “it’s happened again”, Newcastle’s roared “Rafa Benitez, we want you to stay” and normal order in north London was restored. So as the dust settles, we can reflect on the second successive, final game of our season in which we’ve beaten Aston Villa 4-0 in London after last May’s FA Cup final success, and also the fact we’e ended the league campaign as runners’ up for the first time since the 2004/05 campaign when we were defending champions of course.

If nothing else, that’s tangible progress in Premier League terms and when you consider Manchester City ended the season in fourth (barring a cricket score in the Manchester United game against Bournemouth which will be rescheduled after being abandoned today), United in fifth, Liverpool down in eighth  and Chelsea a further two places behind that, I can’t help but feel criticism of the manager and players has again been a little premature and overblown in recent weeks.

But there’s plenty of time to have that debate over the next couple of months because for tonight at least, we can all laugh at Tottenham and at least try to savour the fact we’ve salvaged second from a season that at one stage threatened to see us drop out of the Champions League places altogether.

We’ve taken second and silver. With a little luck and the right signings this summer, hopefully we’ll be taking gold this time next year, by winning the league at what would be a lucky 13th attempt since our last crown.

See you next week.

14th May 2016: Victory over Villa still vital as our campaign comes to a close

Saturday greetings. It feels a bit weird not having any Premier League football to look forward to today, but at least Real Madrid and Barcelona are both on the box later as La Liga is decided so there’s the aperitif for tomorrow’s final-day feast.

Speaking of which, far from being an end-of-season dead rubber, our final fixture still has plenty riding on it of course. A win against Aston Villa would not only ensure we finish the season in third, negating the need for a Champions League playoff early next season, we could also pip Tottenham to the runners-up spot behind champions Leicester if Sp*rs somehow lose at already-relegated Newcastle.

And Arsene Wenger discussed the importance of our game against the league’s bottom side when he spoke to Arsenal Player earlier this week, saying:

There’s a big job to do because there’s a difference between finishing third and fourth. We are guaranteed to be in the top four and part of that is because of the job we did at Manchester City. Now we can still finish second, we can still strengthen our position in third, and that definitely gives us a good potential in the Champions League. We want to achieve that and we want to finish well at home as well in front of our crowd. There is not a big difference between second and third, apart from prestige, but that counts as well. We finished third last year so [if Arsenal finish second] we would have moved one place forward. It’s minor but no matter what it is, we want to do as well as we can.

Given Newcastle have nothing to play for and Tottenham players have been making noises this week about their determination to finish the campaign above Arsenal for the first time since the mid-nineties, it’s hard to see a home win. That said, Tottenham are sh*t, so who knows?

In terms of team selection I’d imagine there’ll be a few changes to our starting line-up from last weekend’s draw at Manchester City with Mesut Ozil fit again and Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere having had another week’s training as they build up match-sharpness following lengthy injuries.

Ozil will come into the side for the injured Danny Welbeck of course but I think Alex Iwobi may make way too, with Jack Wilshere brought in on the right and Alexis Sanchez resuming his role on the left. After that, whether Santi starts or Francis Coquelin regains his place is anyone’s guess because Aaron Ramsey and Mohamed Elneny played in the middle last week and didn’t do much wrong in fairness.

Longer term I’d prefer the former pair to be our primary partnership (at least until I’ve taken a closer look at Granit Xhaka) but perhaps Arsene will opt to go with the players in possession of the shirt. We’ll see. Elsewhere though – in goal, defence and upfront – it’ll surely be the usual suspects barring any last-minutes knocks.

So for one last time this season, a debut one for TremendArse no less, COME ON ARSENAL!

Catch you on Sunday after the game.

13th May 2016: Ozil back + Wenger on departing trio and his own future

Happy Friday. Arsene Wenger held his final pre-match press conference of the season this morning as we build-up to the game against Aston Villa on Sunday, and the big news is that Mesut Ozil is back in training after missing last weekend’s draw at Manchester City with a hip injury.

Here’s what the boss said:

Mesut Ozil is back in training. No (nobody else is a doubt). Oxlade-Chamberlain is not back. From Sunday, I think everybody else should be available.

With Mikel Arteta, Tomas Rosicky and Mathieu Flamini all out of contract and leaving the club this summer, the Villa game offers the trio a last opportunity to don the red and white of Arsenal, if selected. But the boss said he was unsure if any of them would play some part against the Premier League’s bottom side as he discussed their departure. He said:

Mikel Arteta is the captain of the club and has been a great leader. Tomas Rosicky has been with us for 10 years and I think everybody loves him as well. Mathieu Flamini has been an extremely strong leader on the pitch and off the pitch. We lose three big personalities. All of these players will have to decide if they go on in their careers as a football player or a coach. I don’t know yet (if they will be involved against Aston Villa).

Ideally, you’d hope we’re eight-nil up against Villa by half-time and we can sub the three of them on for a final 45 minutes of action in Arsenal colours, but given our third place finish is still not certain and there’s also a slim chance of securing second, any sentimental gestures will have to be carefully timed.

I mean, as much as I’m thankful for Arteta’s overall influence at the club these last five years or so, when he came on against West Brom at the Hawthorns earlier in the season, he looked like a player horribly out of his depth and was largely to blame for our defeat that day I felt. We can all do without a repeat of that situation, last game or not.

Anyway, good luck to the three of them in their future endeavours, whether that’s coaching at Manchester City, ruling over a billion-dollar business, or returning to the club and country where it all began for them.

Arsene’s own future is up in the air of course, with just one more year remaining on his contract. Recent reports have suggested the boss has been offered a new deal by the club, but he was quick to deny the story and insisted he has no definitive plans set in stone yet. He said:

I think about the next game. At my stage you want to do well. I’m committed with integrity and commitment, full commitment to the club as long as I’m under contract, but at the moment that’s all. No (I haven’t decided my future). What I focus on is respecting my contract and then envisage what I will do afterwards. I can understand people are interested in that, but that is not the most important thing. I extended my contract in a period that was vital for the club and after that i will see where I am personally and where the club stands at the end of my contract.

Which is the sensible stance to take of course. Even if he has a new contract on offer, now is certainly not the time to announce it, what with fan-unrest so apparent as the club bring yet another campaign to a close in which we flattered to deceive and saw somebody else lift the Premier League crown.

A bit short this evening I’m afraid but that’s your lot.

See you on Saturday.

12th May 2016: Wenger and Ramsey on Welbeck woe

Evening all. The shock of Danny Welbeck’s latest long-term injury is still seeping into Arsenal systems and his manager Arsene Wenger today discussed his striker’s misfortune when he spoke to Arsenal Player.

Blaming the incident on pure bad luck, Arsene explained how he’d been cautious in fielding the former Manchester United man after he made a dramatic comeback from his previous ten-month spell on the sidelines by heading home a last-gasp winner against Leicester City in February. Arsene said:

We’re all devastated, and Danny even more so. We can only feel sad and support Danny now in order to get him back. It was basically from an anonymous tackle. The difference between the tackle and the severity of the injury is baffling. We don’t understand that but we have to accept the verdict and we have to live with it. Danny has to deal with it unfortunately. We just have to give him the maximum support we can and show him that we trust he can come back. He scored goals and when he came on he had an impact. I pushed him in and out of the team because I knew he’d been out for a year. Sometimes for the big games I kept him out to recover from the efforts he has made. Sometimes people accused me of being too cautious but I knew that he did not play for a year and the intensity of the Premier League is so exceptional that you have to be cautious. The injury was accidental. I don’t think there’s anyone to blame, not our opponents or medical staff. It was completely an accident.

Meanwhile, Welbeck’s Arsenal team-mate Aaron Ramsey – no stranger himself to serious injury of course after Ryan ‘not a malicious bone in his body’ Shawcross broke his leg with a horror ‘tackle’ in 2010 – said he’s ‘gutted’ for Danny and wished him a speedy comeback when he spoke to Sky Sports. He said:

I have spoken to him and obviously he is very disappointed and gutted. He was in good shape, good form and he had a great opportunity to show what he could do for England in the summer. I’m gutted for him as well but I am sure he will back from it stronger and I hope he has a speedy recovery.

Needless to say I hope Welbz makes a miraculously fast recovery and is back banging ’em in for us just as we’ve established a 25-point lead over Pep Guardiola’s second-placed Manchester City in February 2017 …

Moving on now and Petr Cech has been discussing Arsenal’s ‘strange season’ and explaining why he hopes the club can build on it by going from ‘good’ to ‘great’ next term. He said:

It was a very strange season in a way. If you look at the number of injuries we had, it is not a big number compared to previous years or compared to other clubs. It’s not a big difference but unfortunately for us, every time we’ve had an injury, it’s been long-term. We had a great squad at the start of the season. Danny was coming back, Jack was coming back, and it was a very strong group. Unfortunately Jack got injured right before the start of the campaign, Danny had the same problem, Tomas had the same problem, and these were all long-term injuries. Santi and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain became long-term injuries too. If you have so many important players out with long-term injuries, it does give a chance to everybody else, but it can hurt you at certain times. If you have seven games in 21 days and your opponent has had six days off to prepare, you don’t have the advantage of rotating players. I thought we did so well most of the time to be able to cope with that, but unfortunately in the end we lacked a bit of energy in February and March when we dropped points. This is where the difference was made. Overall, it’s been a good season, not one you would look back on and call a brilliant season, but there were a lot of positives and things to build on. Hopefully we can step up and have a great season next year.

Let’s hope the big man’s right.

See you on Friday.