23rd May 2016: New kit ‘unveiled’ + Wenger on Rosicky

Welcome to a brand new week on TremendArse. Arsenal belatedly unveiled their new home kit this morning and my first impression was, well, not my first impression, obviously.

The leaked snaps over the weekend of soon-to-be Gunner Granit Xhaka sporting next season’s jersey at his medical/photoshoot had ensured any semblance of surprise was left in smithereens.

But still, we got a much closer look at the kit today and although it’s not hugely different from it’s predecessor, I still like the latest iteration with it’s vertical stripe a lot. Anyway, if you haven’t done so already, head over to the official site and take a gander.

Moving swiftly on and Arsene Wenger has been speaking about Tomas Rosicky, who of course has just left the club after a decade in north London. Speaking to Arsenal Player, the boss said:

It will always be a frustration [he didn’t play more games] because first of all Tomas was an exceptional talent. I personally, like we all do here, love the player. The standing ovation he gets every time he walks out there tells you a lot. We love the man as well, and his attitude, and his exceptional class and qualities. It’s sad [that he’s leaving] but I must say, for me it was a privilege to manage him. He makes it look very easy when he’s playing. He has a quality – when the ball comes to him the game suddenly becomes a bit quicker, more incisive, more mobile. He had all the football qualities to play the game we love to play here, and I would say Tomas Rosicky was the perfect player for Arsenal Football Club.

That’s high praise indeed and as I mentioned in my Rosicky-dedicated post last week, Tomas falls firmly into the ‘what-if’ category alongside Abou Diaby in the sense that injury deprived us of his talents more often than not in his time at the club.

All we can do is imagine what Arsenal as a team may have achieved with him available more often and as such, as much as I rate him very highly as a footballer, if I’m honest, I don’t have nearly the same attachment to the Czech as other fans seem to and Arsene clearly shows he has above.

Just a micro-post this evening but what can I say? It’s the start of the summer, news and I’m sure interest in it, is waning a little so there’s little point waffling on for the sake of it.

Back tomorrow.

22nd May 2016: Same old England + Stade Arsene Wenger

Evening all. I tuned into the England v Turkey game earlier on hoping the Three Lions would produce a performance similar to their encouraging win over Germany at the end of March. Instead, despite emerging victorious, Roy Hodgson’s men looked much more like the disjointed, dithering, defensively suspect national side that have disappointed for most of my living memory.

Put simply, Turkey have better natural footballers. They passed and moved like Spain in their pomp at times and our football by comparison was embarrassingly archaic. No discernible pattern of play, Harry Kane in grotesquely greedy mood, Jack Wilshere looking like a player who’s missed a whole season through injury and Jamie Vardy’s performance suggesting those taking his Premier League feats the season just past as proof he’s world class, may just be horribly misguided.

He’s a very effective Premier League striker but so was Darren Bent. Against Europe’s finest in international football, you’ll have to forgive me if I reserve judgement of Vardy’s quality, because despite scoring the winner against Turkey, his limitations with the ball at his feet were all too apparent. Thankfully he’s very quick, and that undoubtedly, along with his usually explosive finishing, makes him a threat to any defence – just not from a wide left starting block perhaps.

And a little like Arsenal have been at times in recent seasons, England looked like a team not sure if they want to be a possession-hogging side, or a contain and counter outfit. I just hope we realise we simply don’t have the players to be the former and adopt a Leicester-esque game-plan at the Euros in France – cede the ball, defend doggedly in a compact shape and break with pace and conviction when the opportunity presents itself.

If we do that I think we could do well and go far. If not, my money’s on an all-too-familiar exit. Obviously I hope I’m wrong but watching England chasing shadows as the opposition nimbly knock it around with effortless ease is just as depressing as it’s always been.

Moving on and with midfielder Granit Xhaka all but signed, sealed and delivered, Arsenal have reportedly turned their attention to the defence, with reports today suggesting we are interested in signing Bayern Munich’s Medhi Benatia.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t paid much attention to the Moroccan’s performance on the few occasions I’ve seen him play but what I would say is that if Pep Guardiola rated him enough to bring him to Bavaria, he must be a very decent player.

At 29 years of age though, he’s a little old for an Arsene Wenger signing, so I guess it’s either a tenuous link, or the manager’s looking to make the most of what could be his final season as manager by changing tack and considering shorter term solutions.

Finally for this evening, Arsene has had a stadium named after him a few miles away from his birthplace in Duttlenheim. Some would suggest Emirates stadium ought to be named in his honour given the role he played in it’s building and as far as I’m concerned, they’d be right. For now though, he’ll have to make do with this instead.

See you next week.

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.