28th May 2016: Ricardo Rodriguez and Duvan Zapata linked

Saturday salutations. Another day, another couple of players linked with moves to Arsenal this summer.

This time it’s the turn of Wolfsburg left-back Ricardo Rodriguez, and Napoli’s Columbian striker Duvan Zapata. My initial thoughts on the two reports, leaving aside their accuracy for a second, are ‘do it’ for the former and ‘I’ll pass’ for the latter – not that I’ve seen an awful lot of either player.

As always with players I’ve seen little of live, my views are based on YouTube compilations, but whilst Rodriguez is a player who I think would not only replace Kieran Gibbs in our squad, given the England international’s been linked with a move away in recent months, he’d probably dislodge Nacho Monreal from our starting selection sooner rather than later.

With Zapata on the other hand, I’m undecided, but leaning towards labeling him a south American Christian Benteke. I think we can, and should be doing, a lot better with our striker budget. If we’re looking to raid Naples for a forward, Gonzalo Higuain or at a stretch, Lorenzo Insigne and Manolo Gabbiadini are the players Arsenal surely ought to be setting their sights on.

Moving on and Sir Alex Ferguson has been praising his former rival Arsene Wenger, calling the Frenchman “fantastic”. The Scot said:

(Wenger) has been fantastic. Now he gets a lot of criticism, but I admire that you’re not going to bend to the will of the critics. He stays with what he believes in. And I think people who do that are outstanding coaches. When you talk about consistency, Arsene’s never changed the way that his side has played. I think he inherited a team when he first came to Arsenal with Steve Bould and Martin Keown and Tony Adams – fantastic warriors – but his team evolved when they started getting players like Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Emmanuel Petit and Sylvain Wiltord. There was a change in the culture of the team. They became a magnificent team. Arsene has never changed in the type of player he wants or the sort of play he wants. It’s always about penetration from runners off the ball, good passes into angles for the strikers.

Hmmm. I’m not quite so sure Arsene hasn’t changed in terms of the style of play of his teams and his prototype player. I mean for a start, we were always set up in a 4-4-2 formation in Arsene’s early years and have been some variant of 4-3-3 for years now.

What I would say is he’s always strived to set his teams up to play in a pass-and-move manner, but the reality has far-too-often been very different at times. It’s a widely-discussed point that Arsenal aren’t nearly as physically-imposing a team as we once were but then from a purest vantage-point, some of the best football we’ve played under Arsene wasn’t, in my opinion, played by the team of Henry, Vieira and co.

Our 1-0 win at San Siro in the 2007-2008 for instance, was a lesson in good football, handed out to the then reigning European champions on their own pitch. It’s a balance we need obviously, between the beautiful and the beastly. Hopefully this summer’s transfer market will be where we rediscover that elusive equilibrium.

Until tomorrow.

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.

10th May 2016: Welbeck worry + Giroud on getting back among the goals

Evening all. Some worrying news to begin with this evening as the Guardian have reported that the knee injury Danny Welbeck sustained against Manchester City on Sunday may need surgery and the striker is facing ‘months out of the game’.

A proper prognosis is expected tomorrow but Welbeck’s dreams of playing for England in this summer’s European Championships certainly appear over and he’s already in a race to be fit for the start of next season.

I’m not sure what to say other than our injury curse would be funny if it wasn’t so soul-destroyingly depressing. We’ve improved our medical department significantly in recent seasons yet remain extraordinarily prone to picking up long-term injuries as a club.

Wearing my Arsenal hat I suppose the best thing we can say about Danny’s latest knock is that it’s probably come at the best time it possibly could for us (other than ‘never’ obviously), with the season having just one more game to run.

But that of course is absolutely no consolation for the player himself, who’s not long been back from ten months out of the game with a different knee injury, and who I’m sure was relishing the prospect of representing his country at a major tournament in just a few weeks’ time.

I read somewhere that his ‘type’ of meniscus-related problem isn’t as bad as certain others and that he should make a complete recovery within around four months but when you then add match-practice etc, it may be closer to six.

Hopefully we’ll get good news tomorrow and the time-frame isn’t quite as long as that but for now all we can do is wish Danny a speedy recovery and hope he returns from injury in the same goal-scoring fashion as he did against Leicester in February.

Elsewhere, Welbeck’s fellow Arsenal front-man Olivier Giroud has been speaking to Arsenal Player about ending his goal-scoring drought after he headed home our first against City last weekend. He said:

The goal meant a lot because it has been a tough time for me on the pitch as I have missed a bit of efficiency, a bit of luck and a lot of things. Things haven’t gone my way to [allow me to] finish, but I kept the faith and knew that it would come back. It is always nice for a striker to score, even more with an assist for Alexis’ second goal which was important. We now have our own destiny in our hands to finish third or maybe second. These last few weeks I tried to set up goals. [Alexis’ goal] was my sixth assist but I’m happy to score too and help the team to reach our target and qualify for the Champions League. That is a great present. We are a team and a group that makes the difference. We try to help each other do the job. We fight for each other and we have a good understanding.

Meanwhile, his manager Arsene Wenger hailed Giroud’s performance at Etihad stadium, as well has praising his team’s ability to twice fight back from a goal down to secure a point. He said:

Olivier Giroud was questioned recently and I’m happy I kept confidence in him because I thought he had a top-level performance. He was fighting, he had control of the ball, he was finishing and he gave an assist. We showed a lot of character and the intensity of the game was very high. We dealt well with what was thrown at us and Manchester City looked like they were doing absolutely everything to win the game. They are difficult to beat and we have shown again that we can get results against top teams. The fact we came back twice each time we were down, we looked like we had the response to score. I think we could have won the game in the end. Overall, it is a positive result.

Given Welbeck’s injury, the onus will very much be on Giroud to continue his goalscoring against Aston Villa on the final day of the season, as we look to secure at least a third-placed finish.

Hopefully the striker can do just that and then we can head into the summer and reshape our squad in what promises to be a very busy transfer market.

Back tomorrow.

5th May 2016: City team news + Lauren loves south Americans

Welcome back peeps. So City went out of the Champions League with a whimper in the end last night, as Real Madrid comfortably held onto their early lead to set up the second all-Madrid final in three years. Here’s hoping they’re just as lethargic and unadventurous when they host us on Sunday.

And as we build up to our penultimate game of the campaign, Arsene Wenger has revealed the latest team news in his usual Thursday update on the official site. He said:

From the squad that played against Norwich last Saturday, we have lost Per Mertesacker. Per is out for the remaining two matches with a hamstring injury. Everyone else from last week’s squad is fit and available for selection.

As expected then. I’m sure we’ll get more details on the selection front for the City game when Arsene speaks to the press tomorrow morning, but for now, some words from former Arsenal Invincible Lauren Bisan Etame Mayer, on where his favourite strikers tend to hail from and what he thinks Arsenal need to do to improve their chances of success. The Cameroonian said:

Sometimes a charismatic figure in the team can affect the rest of the players. I like South American strikers – Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain – players that always give full commitment. (Luis) Suarez, too. He scores goals, he comes back to defend, he’s got ambition and hunger – the player has to be charismatic so that the players in the dressing room look up to him like he’s an icon. We have to mix up technical quality with physical presence in some departments. I’ve watched many Arsenal games, I’ve been to the Emirates Stadium many times. We have to change the style of players in certain positions – centre-back, in the middle – we need more balance between physical and technical players. In the last few years we haven’t done that and it would be something that could improve the team. We need to buy a striker – I’m not saying that Giroud isn’t good enough – he’s done a good job, but sometimes you need a charismatic figure.

I for one wouldn’t argue with a word of that (not that I’d argue with Lauren about anything!). Our former right-back’s spot on with his assessment that we could do with a bit of charisma, class, brilliance – whatever you want to call it – at the tip of our attack and I share his like of south American strikers. The only trouble is, if you go through the top ones – Neymar, Edinson Cavani, Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala, Luis Suarez etc – they’re either unavailable or about to pass their prime.

Finally for tonight, Mohamed Elneny has been talking to the Arsenal Magazine about the family feeling at the club and how improving his English has helped him to settle in London. He said:

I feel like I have joined a big family rather than a football club. Everyone has been so welcoming, friendly and helpful ever since my arrival, and this has made my life a lot easier and has helped me adapt quickly to life at this club. The members of the family complete each other, from Arsène Wenger to the ground-staff. Even the club’s chairman is part of this family. I like to speak and joke with everyone and they all treat me the same. I consider them all as brothers and I am really happy about life here at Arsenal. Everybody around me speaks English and this helps me to improve my language skills. It’s completely different from Switzerland where they tend to speak German most of the time and only a few spoke English. I think people around me began to notice that I’m improving day after day. To be honest improving my English helped me a lot to settle in.

Two player of the month awards in succession offer an indication of how well Elneny’s been playing recently and given he’s still new to Arsenal and England, that’s not bad going from the Egyptian.

Remarkably, he already seems to have usurped Francis Coquelin as a first pick but with major reinforcement of the central midfield position expected over the summer, whether Elneny remains a starter longer-term is still far from certain. So far though, the former Basel man’s barely put a foot wrong and long may that continue.

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