30th May 2016: A Bank Holiday round-up

Evening all. A very brief Bank Holiday round-up for you and I’ll begin with Granit Xhaka, who’s been discussing the confirmation of his move to Arsenal with Sky Sports.

He said:

I feel good, now I’m happy to be a Gunner. It’s been a big week for me but now it’s official and I’m very happy. Arsenal is a big club. I’ve seen the pitch, it’s unbelievable. It was a dream for me and I’m happy now.

He’s happy, we’re happy – everyone’s happy. Except Borussia Mönchengladbach fans obviously, and possibly Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny too, who’ll no doubt now find it much harder to get a start in midfield next season.

Elsewhere, The Daily Mirror report Arsenal have rejected an approach from Barcelona for Hector Bellerin, whilst the player himself says he’s happy to forego his holidays to represent Spain at the upcoming European Championships in France. He said:

Firstly, I want Carvajal to recover well and quickly. He’s a teammate and that’s most important. As for me, I’m here until the Coach tells me otherwise. I’m available for whatever the Coach needs from me. I’m delighted for the experience. I had planned a holiday with my family but I’m happy to cancel it for the call of the national team.

Finally for tonight, some words from Calum Chambers after he helped England under 21s win the Toulon Tournament for the first time since 1994. He said:

We’ve said in the meetings after games and throughout the tournament that we felt that the way we played and controlled the game, we were really confident. I can’t really think of a time in any of the games where we felt out of control and thought we were in trouble. We controlled the games, played the way we want to play, adapted to conditions and things as well and I thought we did really well out there. This is a really close group. The energy and atmosphere here is exciting. I think everyone looks forward to coming away and obviously over this trip especially we’ve just bonded together so much. They are memories that we can all have together and share.

And amidst rumours suggesting Arsenal are happy to loan the defender out this summer, casting doubt over his long-term future at the club, Calum said:

For me, I just want to play games, so, yeah, that’s it for me. But at the moment I am not thinking too much about next season, I just want to go and enjoy my summer. Then we’ll get back at it soon.

Unfortunately for the former Southampton man, given he was bought initially as a back-up right-back, Hector Bellerin’s rise to first-team prominence has seen him relegated to reserve reserve, with everyone fit.

As harsh as it sounds, I’m not sure he’ll ever be good enough for Arsenal from what I’ve seen. In my opinion, he’s performed best for us as a centre-half and will eventually settle in that position because he’s definitely not a defensive midfielder , despite Arsene Wenger talking up his suitability for that role last season.

Either way, good luck to him if he does depart on loan and the confidence boost gained from lifting a trophy with the England under 21s should stand him in good stead heading into next season.

Back tomorrow.

10th February 2016: Some chat from Chambers

Welcome to Wednesday on TremendArse. The pre-Leicester lull in Arsenal-related news is beginning to grate now because unlike most fans, who simply occupy themselves with life between games, I choose to write a daily blog about the club, so the dearth of stuff to discuss really is quite a pain in the Arse.

I know what you’re thinking: why write one then you ****? The answer is: I’m not sure. I like writing, and I love Arsenal, so it kind of makes sense to combine the two. It certainly beats going to the gym after work. I mean, if it’s typing or working on my triceps, there’s only going to be one winner. And who needs guns when you’ve got a cannon …

Sooooooooo, Calum Chambers has been speaking with Arsenal Player, discussing how he feels he’s progressed as a player and also picking his standout team-mate – and moment – of the year 2015. The former Southampton man said:

I have not played as much as I did the year before but I think it has been good for me as I have been able to take a step back and learn from the players in my positions and in training really focus on my role. [I have been] learning from the more experienced players and watching them in games. I think [Mesut Ozil] has been unbelievable. He is a world class player and it is a privilege to train with him so he has been my standout player of 2015. My favourite moment of the year would have to be the FA Cup final. That was an amazing experience and a really enjoyable moment.

After playing quite regularly as both centre-back and right-back at the start of last season, Chambers has indeed enjoyed far less game-time this term, but I think that may well change in the final few months of the season.

Following Chambers’ arrival in the summer of 2014, Hector Bellerin emerged as first-choice right-back from virtually nowhere and Gabriel was bought just over a year ago so competition for a place in the back four increased considerably.

But now that Mathieu Debuchy has left on loan, Chambers is Bellerin’s understudy, albeit he’s still fourth-choice for a game at centre-half and probably also now just as far away from an outing as a defensive midfielder behind Francis Coquelin, Mathieu Flamini and Mohamed Elneny.

What will certainly aid his cause is having the right attitude when not playing, something Debuchy evidently lacked but Calum himself has highlighted as paramount when speaking with the official site:

You’ve got to have a good attitude. I think that is one of the most important things for me growing up at Southampton. It is all about attitude and the willingness to learn and learn off others. You have to try to go into every session wanting to learn more and try to improve. You can either coast through it or give it the mindset that you want to learn and improve in that session. Stepping into a professional environment and playing first-team football, I think the most important thing I learnt is that you have to be confident enough to express yourself on the pitch in front of a big crowd. You always have to enjoy training, enjoying playing. That is one of the most important things for me. You don’t go through games perfectly. You can watch it back and there will be things you have done wrong. I think you can learn from every game, every decision and every touch – just analysing yourself. I have to keep striving to want more, wanting to improve. The level of the games now means you have to keep at your game every week. My mindset is on improving massively. You have to want to be a better player so I think from a young age you have to have a good attitude and want to learn and improve. You could say that separates the greats from the ordinary – that willingness to go the extra step. I’m sure all the best players want to learn and get the best information from people as possible. I think that is very important.

After a great education in the famed Southampton academy, Calum’s certainly under the tutelage of the right manager as he strives to develop his game. A little similar to another former Saints’ starlet, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, I think he, and we, are yet to learn what his best long-term position will be.

Some will say playing in different roles isn’t helping his development but I think many more experienced footballers can be shown up as examples of how operating in different areas of the pitch proved beneficial in the long-run.

Personally I think Calum may be best at centre-back but if he can learn to cope with pacier opponents and continue contributing in the attacking third like he did with that exquisitely-taken goal in the FA Cup against Burnley recently, then perhaps right-back is where his future lies.

As for defensive midfield, I would say that’s the least likely of the three positions he’s been tried in so far. Either way, it’s good to know we have yet another intelligent and talented young player working hard to improve and impress at the club.

Until tomorrow.

3rd January 2016: Debuchy to depart as Elneny nears arrival

Welcome back. I missed this yesterday, but according to Arseblog News, Mathieu Debuchy is close to completing a loan move to West Brom.

It’s far from unexpected, given the defender’s been very vocal about his desire for regular first team football ahead of Euro 2016, but it does mean our squad is weakened depth-wise. So it’ll be interesting to see if Arsene Wenger has a new signing lined up, or will instead trust an internal option to be Hector Bellerin’s deputy between now and the end of the season.

Calum Chamber’s is the obvious candidate but to be honest, I think the former Southampton man is best at centre half and I worry about his lack of pace at right-back, especially after what Swansea’s Jefferson Montero did to him last season. So if we can’t recall Carl Jenkinson from his loan at West Ham, I’d prefer a new signing. Torino’s Brazilian Bruno Peres for instance, if you really want a name.

Anyway, while one player heads for the exit door at London Colney, another should soon be arriving at Arsenal, as Mohamed Elneny’s move from Basel edges closer. Sky Sports reported this afternoon that we’re ‘on the verge’ of sealing his signature, so perhaps they’ve learned that his work permit application has been successful and he’ll pop up in a picture special on the official site as early as tomorrow. We’ll see.

But back to yesterday’s win over Newcastle now and a few words from our match-winner Laurent Koscielny, who spoke to the media after the win. The defender discussed the game and his goal, saying:

It was a tough game. Newcastle were playing very well, especially on the right-hand side with their right back and Sissoko as well. It was difficult but in the end we won and that is the most important thing for us. We started the game well in the first 10 to 15 minutes. We had good movement with good passes. After that we were a little bit tired and at this moment we knew we needed to be stronger at the back to keep a clean sheet. After that we knew we would have the opportunities to score the goal. During the game this was the case and then I scored from a corner to help us win 1-0. Sometimes we need to win like this. I’ve scored against them (Newcastle) before but the most important thing is that the team wins and I am happy with the goal. We need to stay top. I was given the opportunity to score on the second ball and I did it so I was happy. It was important to start the New Year with a win.

Meanwhile, his central defensive partner Per Mertesacker gave his take on the victory, telling Arsenal Player:

We put in everything and we had to because Newcastle were good on the break and could have taken the lead as well. When you dig in and fight for your team-mates you get your reward. We never lost our lost our focus or our passion, and neither did the fans. We believe we can be a good team if we put the effort in. That is what it is all about. That is what I kept saying to the lads. To keep a clean sheet as long as possible and we did it all the way through. We are a threat offensively and could have scored more in the end. We need to share the ball better at times in front of the goal. We are pretty delighted with the performance where we did well and now we are looking forward to 2016 and having a successful season.

I’m not sure about the performance, but I was ‘pretty delighted’ about the three points. In all seriousness though, it’s great to hear both Koscielny and Mertesacker talk about being aware of the importance of keeping a clean sheet. Too often over the last decade or so, Arsenal teams have lacked maturity and attacked with little focus on keeping it tight at the back.

By contrast, our current crop stay compact and keep their shape throughout the 90 minutes and show far more patience when they fail to score early. There’s no mindless, over commitment of numbers in attack and it’s made us a far better balanced team. That said, we haven’t looked quite as secure defensively since Francis Coquelin’s injury so hopefully Elneny, if and when he signs, can be as effective a safeguard for our rearguard, as the Frenchman.

See you next week.

24th November 2015: Do or die time as we face Dinamo

Welcome back. Tonight we’ll find out if we have any chance of progressing to the knockout stages of the Champions League this season as we entertain Dinamo Zagreb at Emirates stadium.

Of course, a win for us wouldn’t necessarily be enough to keep our hopes alive heading into the final fixture, we also need Bayern Munich to beat Olympiacos at the Allianz Arena this evening.

We go into the game having failed to win both our previous two games but Arsene Wenger doesn’t sound too concerned, saying:

In the last two games we have dropped points. We know as well that before that we won five games on the trot and you can go through a spell like that – it is how you respond to that and that is what makes your season. That is why it is a good test for us. It is true that we need a positive result from Bayern, but that only has an impact if we win, so let’s focus on what we can do. I believe that when everybody is back we have a squad to compete in both [the Premier League and Champions League]. If we go through now in the Champions League we can be very dangerous for everybody.

In terms of how we might line-up tonight, my guess would be that Mathieu Flamini will come in to replace Francis Coquelin and Aaron Ramsey will return to the right of midfield with Alexis Sanchez being restored to the left and Kieran Gibbs making do with a place on the bench.

I suppose the alternative would be to play Ramsey alongside Santi Cazorla, but that would mean either Gibbs or Joel Campbell playing on one of the flanks and I’m not sure we can risk that in such a crucial game.

Similarly, I don’t think tonight’s the time to give Calum Chambers a go in the defensive midfield role, despite Arsene talking up the former Southampton man’s talents and potential in the position. He said:

Calum Chambers has been educated as a central midfielder. He has a big stature, good technique, good vision as well. He has played in defensive positions so I think he can develop in the future in a position like defensive midfield. It is very important to balance our team, so the defensive role and the efficiency in this position is very important, because we are a team who like to go forward. All teams needs a strong, reliable player in every defensive aspect.

I have to say I like Chambers as a defender but I’m not sure I share the boss’s optimism when it comes to Calum playing in midfield. Time will tell but my view is that he isn’t nimble enough to play in that position. I think he’s good on the ball and in the air, is fairly quick, has decent passing, can tackle  obviously, and offer a physical presence, but is he quick-witted enough to play alongside Cazorla and Ozil through the middle and make it work? Not for me.

In games when we’re resigned to having far less possession than our opponents, like against Bayern or Barcelona say, I think Calum could be useful in midfield. But those games are few and far between and for the majority of our fixtures, when we’ll be the ones bossing the play, I don’t think Chambers in midfield would work.

It goes without saying that I’d love to be proved wrong, and usually I’m a big fan of trying players in new positions, but only when I think the player has attributes suited to a role.

Anyway, kick-off is fast approaching and I need to get my pre-match meal in. I can never eat while watching Arsenal. Must be the nerves.

Back tomorrow.


25th August 2015: Shambolic at the back, misfiring in attack

So that’s three games in, five points dropped and we’re yet to register a goal at home this season. It could be worse I suppose, given our defensive ‘display’ in the first half against Liverpool last night, but Arsene Wenger solemnly summed up our faltering start to the season in his post match press conference when he said:

We have started very averagely, I must concede, because we have four points after two home games.

But statistics aside, what’s far more worrying than our déjà vu-inducing, early-season points deficit for me, is the fact we’re simply not playing very well, both individually and hence, collectively. As a team, we look a little weary which is ridiculous really, considering the campaign’s as young as it is.

We should be fresh and focused and firing on all cylinders after a perfect pre-season and the capture of Petr Cech, but instead, we seem completely devoid of any spark. Our passing, bar a spell at Selhurst Park, has been woeful by our standards so far this campaign.

And Alexis Sanchez just isn’t fit. I think it’s safe to suggest Arsene will privately be regretting his decision to reintroduce the Chilean back into the fold so soon after his delayed summer break following the Copa America.

The fact that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, arguably our best performer in the opening day defeat to West Ham, enjoyed such a stellar pre-season, culminating in him scoring a stunning winner in the Community Shield against Chelsea, has been dropped to make way for an off-the-pace Sanchez, makes the boss’ selections look even more misguided.

Anyway, for all our issues going forward, the clear worry when the teams were announced yesterday was the centre of our defence, where both Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker were absent through injury and illness respectively.

That meant a first competitive combination of Calum Chambers and Gabriel at the heart of our defence and the former endured an absolute nightmare first 45, repeatedly giving the ball away and being caught out of position time and again. One close up shot of the ex-Southampton man’s face by the Sky cameras perfectly captured his dismay as he struggled to put a foot right.

At half-time, I wondered if leaving Chambers on would do more harm to his confidence than taking him off and tweeted that perhaps we should consider replacing him with Mathieu Debuchy, or move Nacho Monreal to the middle and bring on Gibbs at left back, because both of those players played centrally with success at stages last season. And afterwards Arsene revealed he’d considered a change at the break, but was pleased with the Englishman’s improved display in the second half:

He responded well. It was important for him. You sit there and you wonder how far he can go without losing competitive confidence. In the second half he did well. He’s a good footballer and he will come out of that stronger, with the belief that when he had difficult moments he can come out of it stronger.

Yet despite Liverpool being on top for most of the first half, we did manage to score a perfectly legitimate goal through Aaron Ramsey, only to see it ruled out by a flag for offside. Sanchez also placed a header over the bar when he seemed certain to score in the opening period, which admittedly, had begun with Philippe Coutinho rattling the woodwork for the visitors.

The second half was a very different affair, as we dominated the ball and Liverpool sat back to contain and counter. But for all our possession, we struggled to find the net despite creating chances. Most notably, Oxlade-Chamberlain produced a great cross from the right towards a well-positioned Theo Walcott in the middle, only to see Martin Skrtel stretch out a leg and divert the ball narrowly wide of his own net.

And I emphasise ‘well positioned’, because although Theo doesn’t offer anything in the way of hold-up play, he does have intelligent movement in the box, something the man he replaced last night, Olivier Giroud, sorely lacks the vast majority of the time. The Frenchman has many good attributes to his game and I’m a fan but generally speaking, he’s a step or two behind his team-mates in his thinking, and that means more often than not, he’s in the wrong place at the right time to capitalize on service.

That said, I’d have kept him on through the middle and replaced Sanchez with Walcott and brought on the Ox for Cazorla, who despite playing the pass of the game for Ramsey’s disallowed goal, struggled to find his form. In contrast, I thought Ramsey worked well in both directions from our right flank and could have moved in alongside Coquelin.

And it was telling I felt, that their left-back Joe Gomez had such a good night down that side because Ramsey rarely stayed out wide when attacking. The Ox would have kept Gomez far more occupied and neutered the fullback’s attacking forays.

But I suppose that’s hindsight for you and we now need to focus on what’s in front of us, which is St James’ Park and Newcastle at lunchtime on Saturday. Who we pick to start in the front six will be interesting as always, because I think we may just need a freshening up from last night’s lineup.

Yet I don’t think we as fans, or more importantly Arsene as manager, truly know what our first choice selection looks like, because we have various players who can play multiple roles in our formation. It’s all a bit confused but the manager will have to work out the right mix to get us going, and quick, or we’ll find ourselves out of this title race sooner than we were the last.

Till tomorrow.

28th July 2015: Wenger and Mourinho singing from the same hymn sheet – ish

Evening all. I think it’s probably fair to say that Jose Mourinho and the man he’d secretly love to be, our very own Arsene Wenger, don’t see eye to eye – and not just because the Portuguese manager is comfortably smaller in stature.

The pair harbour a rivalry not borne so much of on-pitch battle royales, tied by a mutual, albeit grudging, respect for one another, as Arsene shared for so long with Sir Alex Ferguson, and not least because Mourinho’s Chelsea have never lost to Wenger’s Arsenal.

But more one rooted in political and ideological differences which have often descended, thanks mainly entirely to the Blues’ boss, into distasteful and juvenile name-calling contests, and on one memorable occasion, into physical, touch-line jostling.

Arsene promising the ref that he’ll stop pushing Jose around

Yet as their respective sides prepare to face off once more on Sunday for the Community Shield at Wembley, both have focused on the importance of improvement in their existing playing staff, as being vital in what is currently an ultra-competitive and cash rich top portion of the Premier League.

Forget for a minute the duplicitous drivel spouted by Mourinho yesterday regarding Arsenal’s recent transfer net spend in comparison with his own side, and his calculator quote, because it is, frankly, embarrassingly easy to expose as bullshit, and instead look at what Mourinho said over a week ago about his own squad:

It’s a big challenge. To be better with the same people, the players have to be better individually than they were last year. So when they think: ‘Oh last season I did great’, this season it is not enough.

Which is the same message in essence, that Arsene often conveys when talking to the press – that developing and improving players internally, can sometimes be as good as, or better even, than external recruitment. Speaking at his pre Community Shield press conference today, he said:

We want to improve. We know we will be better and we work very hard to be better. It’s difficult to know how much better our opponents will be. Everybody tries to be better. We want to do well and we enjoy to play together. I think what you want is not to listen too much to what people say, because sometimes in the same week I get two different reproaches: one I don’t spend enough and one too much. I believe if you want to create success, which we want desperately, is to focus on inside and try to do as well as we can, believe in the football we want to play, play it as well as we can and let other people talk.

The main difference between the two though, is that you sense Mourinho is playing the poverty card nice and early because he’s unaccustomed to not being the dominant force in the transfer market, whereas not only has Wenger worked for years with severe financial restrictions, I’m sure he actually gets as much satisfaction from developing a Francis Coquelin as he does by landing a world star like Mesut Ozil. Maybe more so even.

Mourinho on the hand, might talk of blooding say, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, but has seldom selected unproven, but promising and experience-hungry talent, anywhere he’s been. Mainly because youth development inevitably entails a learning curve which is often costly in terms of points and competitions.

And for a short-term specialist, as he’s been throughout his career so far, he’s had no real need or desire to develop players. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how he gets on on that front, if Roman Abramovich can stand him for more than a few years this time, and he gets his wish of a truly long-term stay at a club like Arsene and Sir Alex have managed.

Right, moving on from route-one bus drivers and focusing solely on a specialist in winning trophies, developing players and elevating an entire club to the upper echelons of the European club game organically, the boss explained today how new signing Petr Cech can still improve, even at 33 years of age.

He said:

Petr Cech was already at the top but I believe that you can never deny that you can improve. He’s at the stage of his career, between 33 and 37, where a goalkeeper can be at his peak and he has the desire. As long as you have the right attitude you can always improve in life. I don’t think it’s down to different training methods, it’s just down to him to keep at the top physically and with his experience he will always improve.

Arsene also denied reports of a bid from Southampton to take their former player Calum Chambers back to St Mary’s on loan next season, saying:

They [Southampton] didn’t try to get him back on loan and I will not consider it. Not at the moment. I want to develop [Chambers] as a centre back and at the moment we have just the right number. He will get games here.

And responded to questions regarding the likelihood of Arsenal dipping back into the transfer market before the end of the transfer window, saying:

I don’t rule it out and I don’t promise it. As I said recently in the press conferences, if we can still strengthen, we will do it. We spend when we think we have to spend and do not listen too much to what people think or say. We just try to make the right decisions.

Finally, the boss provided the following update in terms of team news ahead of Sunday’s traditional season curtain-raiser at Wembley:

Ospina has just come back to training today. Alexis is coming back next weekend. Everybody else should be available apart from Welbeck.

And that’s your lot for today folks.

Back tomorrow.