4th January 2016: Giroud has confidence in team-mates

With the January transfer window open for business and Arsenal inevitably being linked with new names everyday, Olivier Giroud has suggested our squad is strong enough to win the title as it stands.

Speaking after the win over Newcastle on Saturday, and reportedly in response to Alan Shearer’s opinion that we need a new central defender, defensive midfielder and striker, Giroud said:

Tell me where (Arsenal need strengthening)! Just tell me where! I will explain the opposite judgement. We have very good players as well on the bench, young players waiting to come in. They are very talented. I am not worried about it. Danny Welbeck will come back in a month and a half. Theo Walcott can play up front, Joel Campbell is doing well with his national team up front. If I am less good or get injured, we still have a solution.

Whilst it’s great to hear the big striker being so complimentary about his team-mates, I think if the opportunity to buy a Luis Suarez, a Robert Lewandowski or a Gonzalo Higuain presented itself, we’d be all over it.

Perhaps it was the Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang-to-Arsenal rumours doing the rounds on Saturday that played a part in Giroud being so adamant that we’re sufficiently-stocked up front, seeing as he’d likely lose his place in the starting line-up to such a big-money arrival, but I’m not sure I agree with Oli to be honest.

It was nice of him to provide a time-frame for Danny Welbeck’s return, but as he says, that’s six weeks away and given how long he’ll have been out, it’s unlikely we’ll see the best of him until next season. Theo Walcott has shown he can play upfront this season but Joel Campbell is unproven in that position for us, even if he does play there for his country.

All of which means if Giroud or Walcott pick up an injury, we’re a little bit f*cked up front. So if we can snare an Aubamayang mid-season, we should definitely be looking to do it in my opinion. Giroud also admitted Arsenal would be signing a new player – “an Egyptian one” – referring of course to Mohamed Elneny’s imminent arrival from Basel.

And our number 12 then spoke about the experience in this Arsenal squad, including his own of winning a league title in France, and suggested we have the right blend age-wise. He said:

To be a champion, I know [what it takes] because I was a champion with Montpellier. You need a bit of luck and sometimes you cannot play a fantastic game [but you need to win] and even more so because Manchester City are doing well. If I can advise the young players I will do it. We have a couple of experienced players like Mathieu Flamini, Petr Cech and people like that. We have a good mixture of experienced players and young players and the older ones bring confidence to the youngest and lead them. That is what I try to do sometimes – always encourage and in a nice way show them the best solution. It is very important in a group to say things to carry on with what we have. We are really pleased with the [Newcastle] win and it shows we have that mental strength and character.

Nothing to disagree with in that at all and again, it’s great to hear that the older pros in our squad are seemingly relishing the role of guiding along their younger team-mates.

Something so many of our squads have lacked since we moved to Emirates stadium is the right level of maturity and it’s widely considered the single biggest factor in our relative lack of success in that time. We’ve always had the talent, just not the ‘know-how’. Our performances so far this season, most of them anyway, suggest we’ve finally found the right mix. But we still have to prove it …

And on that note, I’ll leave it there.

See you on Tuesday.

19th July 2015: Asia Trophy reaction and Aubameyang

Sunday greetings. With little else in terms of Arsenal chat today, I’m going to dive straight into yesterday’s post-match reaction like Ashley Young at the peak of his hornswoggling, penalty-area powers.

Steam in like Ryan Shawcross at his ‘committed’, ‘not a malicious bone in his body’, ‘not that type of player’, ‘I’m the real victim here’, Franco Baresi-esque best. Cut to the chase like Louis van Gaal telling Robin van Persie his new role at Man United. Get to the point like Raheem Sterling’s agent in contract negotiations with Liverpool…

And I’ll start with manager Arsene Wenger who speaking to Arsenal Player after the game, permeated his pleasure in seeing his players tune into the pass-and-move wavelength that defines his footballing philosophy, and putting that into practice, both individually and collectively, in beating Everton to lift the Premier League Asia Trophy. The boss again also took time to praise the tournament’s host nation and revealed his relief at rounding off the tour without picking up any injuries.

He said:

What you want to do in preparation is to find the quality of your team play back as quickly as possible, and I think that tonight for long periods we played with real quality. It’s very satisfying and it looks like everybody shares the way we see the game. We created many chances and the individual performances over the last two games were all good. [The Singapore trip has been] perfect for us because we came here with 27 players and we go home without any injuries. We won our games in a convincing way and I must say that the facilities, the welcome from people, the huge support we have here was all perfect.

Next up is Jack Wilshere, who enthused over the players’ conditioning in what he felt was a tough game against Premier League opposition, explained the team’s desire to dominate possession and talked tailored training plans. He told Arsenal Player:

I thought we looked really fit today, as we did against the Singapore Select XI. It was a different test – Everton started well. They liked to keep the ball, so we didn’t really want to give the ball away and, if we did, we wanted to win it back straight away. We did that brilliantly. They started to tire in the second half and our fitness levels really showed through. I’m feeling good. I’ve been back in training for two weeks now. I’ve played two games and there are another two games coming up next weekend after another tough week of training, so I’m feeling good. I think you feel better day by day. The fitness staff here are really good. They make the sessions individualised, so they know what you need in your position. Each session gets harder and harder. I’m feeling better and better and hopefully that can continue.

Meanwhile Petr Cech reflected on a memorable first outing in Arsenal colours, expressed his delight at a ‘trophy-winning’ start to his career at the club, pointed out that the main goal of the tour was to improve fitness and tellingly, provided an insight into the winning mindset he brings to our squad by highlighting the need for victories even when not at 100 percent physically.

He told Arsenal Player:

It’s great to win a game. The main importance was to get fit and to play well, to get ready for the Premier League and the early competitions. It was the first game for me and the first game for some other lads, but I really enjoyed the team effort we put in and in the end we had a very good game. I’m very pleased because the first game is very important and I obviously wanted to have a successful debut. I’m happy – my first game and my first trophy. If it can continue like this I will be delighted. It’s been a great week because we’ve been working hard. We had two very positive games, and we can go back home to London happy and glad with what we achieved here. The main target was to get fit and it’s important that even when you are tired you win games. Everything has been great but [the most memorable moment was] probably my debut. When you play your first game, everybody has a big expectation and you win a game, [so] it is something to always remember.

And finally for today, Borussia Dortmund’s CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke (no relation to Julian) has gone on record to say striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who was their top-scorer last season with 25 goals in all competitions, including 16 in 33 Bundesliga games, is not for sale. He told German publication Bild:

Aubameyang stays with us this season. He’s not for sale.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is all about the pace

Which sounds pretty adamant, although this comes after RevierSport reported that the player himself wouldn’t be against a move to either Arsenal or Paris St. Germain just a few days ago. My take is that if there is any genuine interest on our part in the player, it’s only as a contingency in the event we can’t agree a new contract for Theo Walcott because the Gabon international is a similar player – very quick and efficient in front of goal.

Even then though, I’d be skeptical, a bit like I am with the Alexandre Lacazette rumours, as I’m not convinced they’re better players than we already have. Gonzalo Higuain, Karim Benzema, Edinson Cavani or a re-positioned Julian Draxler on the other hand…

Back tomorrow.