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.

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.

6th May 2016: Ox ruled out of Euros + Arsene on Arteta

Evening all. Some bad news to begin with tonight unfortunately because Arsene Wenger this morning revealed that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain picked up an injury in training this week and has been ruled out of action until next season.

Having recovered from the knock he picked up against Barcelona in February, the Ox’s latest injury cruelly comes just as he was on the cusp of a first-team comeback. Here’s what the boss said:

We have lost Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain during the week because he got a knee injury. He has injured his medial ligament in his right knee and will be out for six to eight weeks I think. Alex was back in full training when he picked up this new injury, which is not linked to his previous knee injuries. After that, Santi Cazorla came through well in a game for the under-21s. Everyone else should be available. We lost Per Mertesacker, the season is over for him because of his hamstring. That means Gabriel will come in for him. It is very sad. He was physically ready and looking sharp. He had one week’s training last week, but he planned to play on Tuesday night but got injured on Monday morning.

And on the player’s hopes of going to the European Championships with England, Arsene said:

There’s no chance. I had a little conversation with Alex and with our medical team. They told me yesterday that he will be back at the beginning of July. It’s bad news. Alex was out for a while and he was not overloaded with games. You want a guy of 22 years of age to go to the European Championship. It’s very bad. He’s an impact player as well so he could have had a great contribution to England’s success. England had quite a few problems up front so I think it’s bad news.

Bad news indeed, but for the player and England more so than Arsenal given we have just two games of the campaign to go. Hopefully a proper break over the summer will help the Ox to come back fully fit and focused so he can enjoy a better season than he did this time around.

With his contract situation still unresolved and recurring rumours of a move away, perhaps committing himself to the club long-term and removing that uncertainty over his future would also be beneficial for his game. Anyway, get well soon Alex!

Elsewhere the boss had some warm words for Mikel Arteta, whose contract at the club expires at the end of the season with reports recently of interest from Manchester City in securing his services as a coach for next season. He said:

It is true that he is out of contract here and when his contract finishes it is a good opportunity for me to thank him for his contribution, not only as a player but also as a great leader. What kind of orientation will he give now to his career? I heard about [coaching] as a possibility, but he could inform you much better than I can. He is free to decide to do what he wants, he will certainly need some time to reflect on whether he continues to play. I still think he can play, in the last months he has come back to a very good physical level and he is a position today where he can continue to play and he would be a very good player everywhere.

And on the possibility of offering Arteta a coaching role at Arsenal:

You want your former players to be at the club but you also need the positions to fill. You cannot create artificial positions at the club. If you have coaches in the under-16s, under-15s and under-14s who are very good, you will not kick them out to make room for players who want to coach. If we have positions available, we always give a good chance to the players who played here. Let’s not forget I’ve given the opportunity to many, many players to obtain their licence here, to educate them. After that maybe there will be someone else. We always open the door to give them an opportunity to be educated. After that we need the positions available to give them the job. We don’t know what will happen with the coaches’ movement.

It’s hard to argue with that in fairness. As popular and professional as Arteta is, if there’s no opening available he’ll have to look elsewhere. Perhaps one day he might return to be our very own Pep. Or not. Who knows?

See you on Saturday.

7th January 2016: Sanchez still sidelined but Arteta available for FA Cup clash

Welcome back. As Arsenal prepare to welcome Sunderland to Emirates stadium on Saturday and begin our defence of the FA Cup, Arsène Wenger today revealed the latest team news ahead of the game.

The big news is that Alexis Sanchez won’t be risked as he recovers from his hamstring injury but club captain Mikel Arteta is back in contention for a starting berth following his own injury lay-off.

Discussing the latest prognosis for several of his troops, Arsène said:

The team news is that, from last week, we have no big injuries, and the squad will be similar to the squad who played the last game against Newcastle. Will a young player or two start? I haven’t decided yet. The bad news of the week is that Alexis is not quite ready. It is a precaution because of his hamstring, and it takes a few more days. He’s not bad but he’s not ready. Nothing’s changed [from the original timescale] with Santi. It could be a bit shorter with him because he’s often quicker [to recover] than you expect him to be. Cazorla and Coquelin are doing well. Tomas Rosicky is not far, he’s back in full training next week, so should be available soon. Mikel (Arteta) is available.

So Sanchez shouldn’t be far off, Rosicky’s nearing a first appearance of the season, Arteta’s back and Cazorla and Coquelin are making good progress from knee injuries – but there’s no word on Jack Wilshere or Danny Welbeck. That’s obviously a big concern because whilst Arteta and Rosicky offer depth and cover, the England duo are genuine contenders for first-choice selection, if they could just get fit!

Mohamed Elneny still hasn’t signed, so with the above updates in mind and considering we’ve heard noises about significant rotation; with Mesut Ozil, for instance, being given the weekend off so he can rest up for our trip to Liverpool next midweek, and perhaps a first competitive start for Jeff Reine-Adelaide after his two-goal showing for the under 21s earlier this week, I’m guessing we could line-up a little like this against the Black Cats:


Chambers Gabriel Koscielny Gibbs

Arteta Ramsey

Campbell Reine-Adelaide Oxlade-Chamberlain


My reasoning behind the selection is that Olivier Giroud and Per Mertesacker haven’t had a rest recently, whereas Laurent Koscielny sat out our win over Bournemouth. Also, Mathieu Flamini is our only truly defensive midfielder in the absence of Coquelin and I wouldn’t want to risk losing him to injury ahead of our game at Anfield.

Giving Ozil the weekend off completely, makes sense, seeing as he’s our best player, I can’t remember the last time he was rested, and we’re royally f*cked if he picks up a knock. And who doesn’t want to see Jeff play? Let him loose I say. A start for Alex Iwobi is another possibility and it was interesting to read last month that he’d been deployed as a central midfielder for our development teams. Yet if Iwobi does start, I’m guessing it’ll be on one of the flanks.

Elsewhere, rotating both fullbacks is a given, I’d have thought, and I would have selected Mathieu Debuchy at right-back, shifted Calum Chambers infield and rested Koscielny too, but seeing as Debuchy didn’t make the squad for our win over Newcastle as his future at the club remains uncertain, I’m not sure he’ll play against Sunderland.

If he does, then great, and we can rest our entire back four, but after Tony Pulis ruled out interest in taking Debuchy to West Brom recently, Aston Villa manager and former Gunner Remi Garde has revealed he’s spoken to Arsene about the fullback. Garde said:

I had a conversation with Arsène a few days ago about some of the players and Mathieu Debuchy was among these players. It’s too early and it won’t help me or anyone to go forward in this style to make too many more comments.

If we do allow Debuchy to leave, surely it should be at the end of the window, which would let us rest Hector Bellerin for the Sunderland game and the fourth round of the FA Cup – scheduled for January 30th – should we progress.

We’d be keeping an experienced squad option for at least the rest of the month and Debuchy would then have the remainder of the campaign to play his way into the France squad for Euro 2016 at another club – something he clearly values above helping Arsenal to trophies.

That’s about it from me for another day.

See you tomorrow.

21st November 2015: Beaten by the Baggies

So we’ve gone from joint-first to fourth in the space of a few hours after we lost 2-1 at West Brom today, but the biggest blow of the afternoon isn’t the three points we surrendered in my opinion, it’s the injury to Francis Coquelin, if it turns out to be a serious one.

The fact Manchester City were outclassed 4-1 at home by Liverpool means we didn’t lose ground on the team I think remain favourites for the title, but since the summer, my stance has been that to have any chance of winning the league this season, we’d need to keep Coquelin fit, because we simply do not have another player in the squad capable of doing the job he does for the team.

Hopefully we’ll get some good news regarding his knee soon, but looking at the tackle that caused it, the extension of his leg and the jarring impact, it could quite easily be ligament damage. Please don’t let it be as bad as that …

The game itself was one we could have won, but in the end, marginally lost after the hosts responded to Oliver Giroud’s Mesut Ozil-assisted opener after 28 minutes, by scoring twice before the interval to turn the game on it’s head.

In yesterday’s post I wondered if Kieran Gibbs’ goal against Tottenham just before the international break may tempt Arsene Wenger into handing the left-back a starting spot at the expense of Joel Campbell, with Alexis Sanchez swapping wings to the right and Gibbs lining up ahead of Nacho Monreal, but concluded it was unlikely. Yet the boss did just that and to be fair, it worked okay.

Our problems were more defensively on the day, and as much as I appreciate what Mikel Arteta has brought to the club in his time with us, he’s simply not good enough anymore judging by his performances. I think it is telling that he admitted he’d thought long and hard about signing a contract extension because he wasn’t sure he was up to the level required. In the end, he clearly felt he could still offer something but unfortunately for us, that ‘something’ is being a liability.

Although he was unlucky to concede the free-kick that led to the Baggies first goal, getting a toe to the ball as he did, his part in defending the delivery was poor. Giroud was furiously berating his own team-mates as their players wheeled off celebrating and I’m fairly certain Mikel was the target of his anger.

As for West Brom’s second goal, Arteta was in the wrong place at the wrong time, trying to defend the near post but succeeding only in impeding Petr Cech from doing his job and deflecting the ball past his own keeper. That he instinctively tried to stop the ball with his hand was symbolic of a player who’s not just slow of foot, but also of mind, at the moment.

I realise that may sound harsh but when you’re talking title challenges, you’re speaking about fine margins and to be fielding a player so fragrantly not up to the task, both physically and mentally, is madness. Sentiment should have absolutely no place in competition. Hindsight’s 20-20 as they say, but Mathieu Flamini should have replaced Coquelin when he hobbled off after 11 minutes, not Mikel. In all honesty, Flamini’s far from an adequate understudy for Coquelin in my opinion, but he’s infinitely a better bet than the player Arteta is these days.

Santi Cazorla may have salvaged a point for us but did a John Terry and slipped as he tried to convert a late penalty. But we can’t really blame the little Spaniard as it was bad luck, combined with a little unsporting behaviour in trying to put Santi off his spot-kick by the West Brom players, that led to his miss I felt.

Other points to make about the loss include Per Mertesacker’s worrying recent habit of not attempting blocks. I mean, he just stands there at times, refusing to even attempt to close down a shot, assuming, i’m guessing, that he thinks opponents won’t hit the target or that Cech’s better off having a clear sight of of the strike.

Ross Barkley’s deflected effort off of Gabriel’s attempted block at Emirates stadium recently perhaps justifies Per’s reluctance to attempt blocks but I’d prefer we tried to stop shots at source whenever possible. The way Per was manhandled by one of their players for their equaliser was also annoying to see and overall our defending as a unit was poor on the day.

Hector Bellerin looked like a player who’d just returned from injury and wasn’t yet up to match speed and even Laurent Koscielny, our best defender, didn’t play at his best.

Given this was an away match at a difficult ground against organised, resilient opponents straight after an international break and with us still deprived or several players through injury, our performance and the result doesn’t worry me too much.

As I’ve said, it’s the potential long-term absence of Coquelin and if our worst fears are confirmed I think a January signing in that position becomes an absolute must. Identify the player, pay the price and if that means the likes of Arteta, or anyone else for that matter, is pushed down the pecking order to the extent they fail to make match-day squads, then tough luck. We’re trying to win the league, not running a retirement home.

More on Sunday. Til then.

17th September 2015: Giroud sees red, Art easily by-passed and Ox’s form flummoxing

Evening all. We all foresaw Arsene Wenger rotating his squad for last night’s game against Dinamo Zagreb, what with Hector Bellerin and Aaron Ramsey being left in London, but few would have envisaged us losing our opening group stage game in this season’s Champions League.

Yet that’s exactly what transpired after a wretched first-half display saw us concede a goal, have a man sent off and play with all the coherence of a concussed piss-head. Before the game yesterday, I wrote the following:

… when you make changes to a winning team, as we will tonight, there is always an increased possibility of the side not functioning at it’s best, so the players who come in, will need to be at their best to ensure we don’t look disjointed and play like a pack of complete strangers. It’s happened before, although with the overall quality of our squad vastly improved from seasons past, it’s less of a worry these days. For instance, Hector Bellerin has not made the trip and we can call upon an experienced French international like Mathieu Debuchy to cover for him.

So I was half right. We were a side far from functioning at its best and did look disjointed, going forward at least, particularly in the first half. But I was wrong in suggesting this squad has the requisite depth to deal with rotation, because in one key position, an area of the pitch a lot of people have highlighted for a while as needing bolstering, and I have repeatedly moaned about myself all summer – defensive midfield – was, I felt, a major problem last night.

In short, Mikel Arteta, brought in to deputise for the rested Francis Coquelin, showed he isn’t capable of being an adequate back-up for the Frenchman and frankly, this scares me sh*tless, with a long season ahead and a good few months until the earliest opportunity to address the problem arises.

Many observers have pointed out that most of our starting eleven struggled to find form last night but I’m not sure I agree with that analysis. I think we missed Coquelin’s energy against pacy opponents who broke efficiently in attack and although I personally lay the blame for their opening goal at the feet of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (not so much for deflecting the ball into his own net, but for not tracking their player’s run properly in the first instance, with Mathieu Debuchy shifted infield), I thought Arteta’s attempts to defend the area in front of our defence were pitiful.

He was sluggish in his movement, and clumsy in the challenge and sometimes it takes just one player to not play his role well enough to severely impact the whole team as a unit. I think that was the case last night. When Coquelin was eventually introduced in place of the Spaniard in a triple substitution around the hour mark, we began looking like a team for the first time in the match.

Kieran Gibbs and Debuchy have taken a lot of flak, along with the rest of the team but alongside Arteta, I felt the Ox and Olivier Giroud were the biggest culprits in our defeat. Giroud for his petulant posturing with the referee which led to an early red card for two bookings, and the Ox for playing just as poorly as he did at Newcastle.

Even if you can understand, if not accept, Giroud’s lack of focus right now because of his booing on international duty with France and his struggles in front of goal, the Ox’s lacklustre performances of late leave me wondering what the hell happened to the player who produced such scintillating showings in pre-season and scored a stunner to win us the Community Shield at the start of last month.

At St James’ Park and again last night, he looked as though he couldn’t be arsed. Either he’s struggling with some kind of nagging injury or he’s got off-field issues affecting his focus because otherwise, somebody needs to show him a few clips of what he’s capable of producing on a pitch as he’s clearly forgotten how to play football.

If I look for positives from the game, Theo Walcott’s finish, Gabriel’s continuing growth into a gritty, accomplished central defender and the team’s second-half display with ten men would be the picks. Yet with a double header against Bayern Munich as well as a trip to Greece still to come in this group, we’ve made a dreadful start to the competition.

That said, if we can get back to winning ways at Stamford Bridge on Saturday with those rested returning to reinvigorate our side to success, perhaps we’ll all feel the rotation was worth the opening-night Champions League heartache in the end.

Til Friday.

9th September 2015: Mikel’s getting his mojo back

Welcome to Wednesday on TremendArse. The internationals are all done and dusted and with with a bit of luck, we’ll hear from Arsene Wenger tomorrow as he usually provides the official site with the latest injury news on a Thursday.

Having had a quick look around, I can’t see any obvious injury concerns being reported for those who’ve been away with their countries. And of course, Jack Wilshere is due back any time now, so we’ll have one more option available for us to freshen up a side which has been struggling to spark in to life so far this season.

Whether Jack’s ready for this weekend is doubtful but with Danny Welbeck and Tomas Rosicky our only other long-term absentees, we can at least be thankful of a squad in pretty good health overall.

One man who hasn’t been away and is just glad to be fully fit after an injury-plagued campaign last time around is club captain Mikel Arteta. The Spaniard has been speaking to Arsenal Player and expressing his joy at being back among his colleagues, saying:

I really missed it [when I was out]. I had a really tough period last year after my last game in November and I went through some really difficult moments with my surgery. For me it is the frustration [that is the hardest thing] because there is always pain and you are trying to get back everyday and you spend a lot of time doing rehabilitation. When the players go outside for a training session, you feel wasted. They come back, they travel, they have different times to you and you don’t spend much time with them. Personally I don’t feel productive. I’m here because I want to play games, make this team more successful and be a part of it. When I’m not able to do that I still have to contribute, be positive, be good around the other players, give advice and try to help my team-mates. But it is not the same. But I worked really hard and tried to stay positive, do my best and here I am again now, earning my place in the squad and ready to help the team.

And the former Everton man also explained how he’s used his time on the sidelines to analyse games in greater depth, and said his focus now is on being in the best possible shape to aid the team’s cause when called upon:

I just watch the game and things come to my head naturally – things that I believe we can do better or things we are having trouble with, weaknesses of the other team or if we are having a few problems. You are excited but nervous as you don’t know when you are going to get thrown in. When you get thrown in you want to be ready for it with a good warm-up and ready to make an impact to help the team achieve the win.

Although no longer first-choice when everyone is fit, Arteta is clearly a great influence around the squad. He speaks well, by all accounts in a model professional and as he’s shown in cameos this season, can add another layer of protection for the defence when we need to close games out.

What I would point out, is that we also have Mathieu Flamini for that role and I don’t think we need both in all honesty. Arteta is clearly the more cultured in possession of the two but I really think at least one of them should have made way for a younger, better model this summer.

That’s not to say both can’t do a job because I think they can. But sentimentality can be costly and if I’m being blunt, shouldn’t be influential in top level sport decision-making. It’s sport after all, and regardless of how much you’ve done for a club or how long you’ve been there, if there’s somebody out there better and available, I’m afraid that’s tough luck.

Luckily for the likes of Arteta and Flamini, they have a boss who isn’t as ruthless and cold as many others but then perhaps that is one of Arsene’s great weaknesses. It can be a fine line between belief in your players, and blindness to their limitations.

It goes without saying that I hope they both prove me wrong over the course of this campaign, and we don’t rue the refusal, or failure, to bring in another defensively-minded central midfielder before the deadline passed last week.

Til Thursday.

19th August 2015: Ramsey says reponsibility breeds confidence

Thanks for dropping by. It’s a little quiet in terms of Arsenal news out there, what with our next fixture not until Monday night and the transfer market being as inert as Wayne Rooney’s influence on the Man United attack these days.

Luckily however, Aaron Ramsey has been speaking with the official site about giving 100 percent in training and in games, and also how  a sense of responsibility on the pitch boosts his confidence. He said:

It’s pretty much like flicking a switch in my head. I give everything when I’m on the pitch or on the training pitch. When I’m at the training ground and working in the gym or whatever, I always give everything that I’ve got. As soon as you feel as though you have a responsibility in the team, you’re confident, you want to be out there expressing yourself and I’m in that place. In this team I feel comfortable enough to feel as though I can play my best football. I’m really happy on the pitch at the moment.

Which is great to hear from the Welshman, especially considering he’s not likely to be playing in his favoured central midfield position anytime soon, with Santi Cazorla in such fine form.

And despite enjoying a superb breakthrough campaign with Arsenal a couple of seasons ago in a more central position, I actually really like what he offers playing from the right hand side, particularly away from home.

Despite having the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck even, when he returns from injury, vying for a place in the team, Ramsey would probably be my preferred pick on the right – certainly for the biggest games at least.

Mainly because I like the defensive cover he provides our fullback through his outstanding stamina levels, as well as his goal threat and ever-improving understanding with Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez from an attacking point of view.

Anyway, Ramsey also revealed he’s not one who eats, sleeps and breathes football 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and instead uses his down time, especially after a defeat, to clear his head by spending time with family and indulging his love of golf:

You’re disappointed with the result but there’s nothing you can do with that now so it’s important to put that to the back of your mind, learn from what went wrong there and focus on the next game. You have to prove what you can do and that you can get back to winning ways. I’m not one of those people who goes home and has to put football on the TV straight away or has to watch Sky Sports News. It’s important to take your mind off football otherwise you become too obsessed and you look into things too much. You could have problems when you do that, when you then go onto the pitch and play, so it’s important to take your mind off it. When you’re there and playing it’s important to focus 100 per cent on what you’re doing. I play golf to take my mind off [football]. I have a family who are very important in my life as well and they help me to take my mind away from it. When you are playing football you have to give everything and focus 100 per cent on trying to do your best but it’s important to have the right balance.

Elsewhere, captain Mikel Arteta, speaking to the Arsenal Weekly Podcast, says he feels the current Arsenal squad is the best in terms of strength and depth for quite a while and has been galvanised by sharing ‘difficult moments’. He said:

This is the best group of players in terms of numbers and quality that we have had for many, many years. The unity we have is really good as a group. The cohesion we have around the club and with the fans is probably the closest it has been because we had periods when we had difficult times and things weren’t breaking down between anyone. When you go through difficult moments together, that really helps to get where you want to get to afterwards. We haven’t broken in difficult moments and that is very important. I am really confident in this group – if we maintain it and start adding little things in the next few years then we have a very strong team and club.

I have to say I’m not too sure about the ‘in the next few years’ bit. I mean, I think we’re almost there now in terms of really challenging for the top honours, providing we address the need, ironically, of a better option than Mikel as cover for Francis Coquelin, and also do our best to sign any ‘world class’ forward we have even the slightest chance of securing this summer.

Back on Thursday.

27th July 2015: Sleepy Head Day and Arsenal stuff

Hei ja tervetuloa. It’s the brilliantly-named National Sleepy Head Day in Finland today, so bad luck to any of our Fennoscandian friends who were the last of their household to wake up this morning – I hope the water wasn’t too cold!

I have to admit, if the UK adopted the tradition, I’d be in as much trouble as the Olympique Lyonnais defence found themselves in on Saturday afternoon. Because I love a Lyon-in.

I’ll get my mac…

And speaking of the Emirates Cup, Arsene Wenger has been highlighting the positives from the weekend’s tournament, which saw Arsenal score seven, concede none, play with shape, pass with zip, and showcase a couple of our most promising young players in Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Alex Iwobi.

He said:

 First of all our defensive stability was very good. After that our game is well structured, we can create chances and our technical level is good. Physically we are already not far from a very good level and some young players have done extremely well. We could give them a chance and that’s very pleasing for our fans to see that as well. We had two different teams, two good games, everybody played well, we have no injuries and we had clean sheets. The young players who played were convincing as well so you could see that it’s a photo of the present and of the future as well. The team spirit is very good as well so everything is positive. It smells like we can score goals. That is something that is very positive. Around the box our passing looks incisive, dangerous, creative, and our finishing has not always been at the level that we want it to be in the last two days but we cannot complain.

No, we certainly cannot. But we might make a few observations. Like Mikel Arteta, to me anyway, looked a little shorn of confidence and a bit sluggish shall we say, on Sunday, which is far from unexpected, given how much football he missed through injury last year.

Arteta is replaced by Aaron Ramsey in our 3-0 win over Burnley last season

Arteta also admitted earlier this summer that the reason for the delay in him signing a new contract at the club was because he wanted to be sure in himself that he could still cut it at this level. An ambivalent yet refreshingly honest admission from the Spaniard, but one which again raises question marks over our lack of defensive midfield cover, should Francis Coquelin be unavailable for any reason.

I’ve said it before but even more than a top striker, I really think we need another high class alternative to Coquelin before I’d be really confident about our title chances this season. Because as the weekend showed, we’ve got plenty of goals, from plenty of places, in this squad, but we don’t have another out-and-out defensive midfielder of Coquelin’s calibre.

There’s still over a month of the window remaining so plenty of time to sign one, unless of course, there’s another surprise package waiting to be unwrapped, already at the club. Isaac Haydon for instance? That suggestion is based on nothing but the belief Arsene knows what his squad still lacks, if anything, in his eyes.

So if he has someone earmarked for the role within the club, someone who most fans haven’t considered, then great. Just so long as we’re not relying on Coquelin to play every game this term, or expecting Arteta to be a like for like alternative. Because he’s a very different player as far as I’m concerned, one who against the better teams, can’t provide anything like the energy and defensive dynamism the Frenchman brings to the side.

Something Arteta undeniably does still bring to our squad however, is experience and leadership, and he’s been speaking to Arsenal Player about the belief in the squad ahead of the new campaign.

He said:

We have been together a while now and we have this belief now that we are capable of achieving something important. It took some time to build this cohesion, this momentum. I think the crowd is feeling much closer to the team at the moment and together we can make it. I think pre-season has been good. The tour in Singapore was great as well, probably the best we have had. Here, the opponents were tough but we managed to play well and win both games.

And finally for today, Arsenal are reported to have added 16-year-old Ajax striker Donyell Malen to their list of summer recruits for our academy sides, beating off competition from Barcelona to secure his services.

If true, I wonder how much of a factor Yaya Sanogo’s loan to the Dutch club was in the deal. Because we seem to quite like getting a promising talent in return when we agree to let one of our players move on – we’re said to have negotiated the signings of Hector Bellerin and Jon Toral in the transfer of Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona back in 2011.

Or maybe Dennis Bergkamp and Marc Overmars just told the lad that the best club in the world is undoubtedly Arsenal. Yeah, I’ll go for that one.

Till Tuesday.