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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back Friday

4th May 2016: Champions League thoughts + Santi on comeback

Evening all. Sergio Ramos has just seen a goal disallowed for offside as I start to write tonight’s post, but his Real Madrid side already lead 1-0 at the Bernabeu against Manchester City in the second leg of the second Champions League semi-final thanks to a goal by Gareth Bale.

A single goal in response will suffice for City to progress as things stand but from an perspective, although the game will now definitely be decided in 90 minutes, so no fatiguing extra time, Vincent Kompany picked up an early hamstring strain tonight so looks sure to miss the game against us on Sunday. Mixed so far then, as far as we’re concerned.

The first last-four fixture was decided last night of course, as Atletico Madrid secured their place in the final for the second time in three seasons on the away goals rule despite losing the second leg 2-1 to Bayern Munich. Personally, I hope City make it through so we get to witness a final we haven’t seen before but also because I just don’t like Ronaldo very much. Yes he’s an alright footballer I suppose and scores the odd goal I’ve heard but the Brazilian version was the first and infinitely more gifted as far as I’m concerned.

On to Arsenal now and the big news is Mohamed Elneny has won his second successive player of the month award on the official site. Go Mo! Actually, the real big news is that Santi Cazorla has taken another huge step towards a first-team appearance after playing for the under 21s last night and grabbing an assist. The Spaniard spoke to Arsenal Player after the game and revealed his delight at being back on the pitch. He said:

I’m very happy to be back. It is a great feeling after five months. I need to keep up the hard work with my team-mates in the first team and I want to play the last two games. I would like to help the first team at the weekend against Manchester City. [Arsène Wenger] has the decision, but I will try to play at the weekend. We need to win the last two games as we want to finish in the top four. We need to fight until the end to try to get second place. If we win the last two games, we can do that. I want to help my team-mates.

After such a long spell out out injured I’d be surprised if Santi’s deemed match-fit enough by the boss to start at the weekend but then who knows? Maybe he’ll play from the off and reproduce that sensational performance he came up with in this fixture at the start of 2015.

It’s still 1-0 in Spain. Gael, Bacary and co need a goal and soon.

See you tomorrow.

19th April 2016: Elneny on settling, Per on Ozil and Iwobi on Kanu

Welcome back. Arsenal Wenger holds his pre-West Brom press conference in the morning so we’ll get the all-important, crucial, title-impacting team news then.

He’ll also no doubt have to respond to reports in this morning papers that some of his players and staff are growing concerned about certain managerial descision he’s made of late, so at least we have some drama to look forward to because on the pitch we’re nothing short of depressing at the moment.

But for today, I’ll focus on three of our players who have been speaking to Arsenal Player about various things. First Up it’s Mohamed Elneny who reckons he knew it would only take him three weeks to adapt to English football. That seems a bit precise to me, but whatever, here’s what he said:

I was [able to settle] because God helped give me the strength to adapt to my situation. I know it is not easy but God gave me the strength to adapt quickly. Some said I would find it hard to adapt to the physicality of the Premier League but I thought otherwise. I even told my agent to give me three weeks to show him how well I could adapt. I know I can adapt to all kinds of people and every league I play in. The Premier League is the best and strongest league in the world because there are so many surprising results. It is difficult to compare it to the Swiss and Egyptian leagues because everyone knows that the Premier League is the best. It is amazing. Everything is wonderful, from the fans to the style of play. I enjoy playing for Arsenal so much. It’s a different kind of football, it’s faster and first class.

Splendid stuff. Elsewhere, Per Mertesacker has been waxing lyrical about compatriot Mesut Ozil, saying:

I felt that when he was fit, he would be at his best – that was my prediction. I hoped that he would stay fit so we would get the best out of him, that was just my simple idea. You could feel he would help us win games. He is [progressing], especially in the final third. We try to give him the ball to make the final decision or make the final ball because we know that is where he is at his best. When he fulfils his potential, he has 20-plus assists in him and has even got the ability of scoring 10-plus goals. When he can be difference between 30-plus points, it is vital for the team. I think he realises he can now grow here, even in a foreign country. He gets the respect now and it is going to be even tougher for him. Everyone tries to block his left foot because he is so dangerous with it. Now he needs to find different spots and positions where he can find solutions but I’m convinced he can take this challenge to be at his best and the player we need him to be.

Wonderful words. And finally, Alex Iwobi has been speaking about fellow Nigerian and ex Arsenal star Kanu. He said:

As a kid, especially playing at Arsenal, I did look up to him. He was just a classy player and I have spoken to him a few times as well. We have had conversations about Nigeria, about myself and what I need to do. [He says] to just be relaxed and he congratulated me and told me I was doing well. To hear that [praise] from such a player like him is crazy and I just have to prove him right. I don’t feel pressure, it is just a privilege to hear that.

Excellent eulogising.

And that’s where I’ll leave it. Brace yourselves for the presser. Arsene’s either going to come out swinging or take the fifth. Either way it’ll be more interesting than the remainder of our season I’d wager.

Back tomorrow.

14th April 2016: Injury update + Per on defensive discipline

Evening all and welcome back. For those interested in a spot of skiving off work first thing in the morning, Arsene Wenger’s press conference will be streamed live on the official from 9am UK time tomorrow. But the boss did provide his customary Thursday update on injury news to Arsenal.com earlier today.

Thankfully, we have everybody fit from last weekend’s squad who drew at West Ham, whilst the prognoses for our injured quartet of Santi Cazorla, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky sound promising. Here’s what Arsene said:

Next week they (Oxlade-Chamberlain and Cazorla) will be back maybe, they are not back in full training yet. Jack and Tomas are playing today for the under-21s. They have had no reaction from last Friday’s game and they look alright. From last Saturday’s game against West Ham, we should have everyone available who was in the squad.

Whilst it’s obviously great to hear we’re nearing full fitness as a squad, with so little of the season left to play it’s unlikely any of those four players will have any significant role to play this season. Clearly, I hope I’m wrong, and Wilshere plays it to Cazorla who finds Rosicky to tee up the Ox for a title-clinching goal on the last day of the season, but you know…

Which means the onus to perform will firmly be on those who have helped us to impressive wins at Everton and at home to Watford, as well as that draw with the Hammers in recent weeks – which I’m quite happy with if I’m honest.

Despite the Andy Carroll-caused defensive shenanigans for ten minutes either side of half time at Upton Park, we’ve looked a fluent, dangerous side recently and I’d back them to win our remaining games, with the possible exception of Manchester City away, although they of course will hopefully be preoccupied by their European run.

Moving on now though and Per Metesacker and Laurent Koscielny have both been speaking to Arsenal Player. The former discussed the importance of defensive discipline between now and the end of the season, saying:

[We need] discipline. We lacked a bit of that desperation, even when 2-0 up at West Ham, to defend and get everyone behind the ball. To come back to that level is absolutely important in the Premier League, and if you don’t you will get punished. These details are very important to us and everyone can see it, it is obvious. We want to win every single match now, to put the teams in front of us under pressure. We have got the belief we can win every single one and that is the task from now on: to concentrate on the next one. When something is going against us in a game, we have to focus on ourselves and not get distracted by anything else. The focus and the mindset is really important. There are fast changes, even in a single game and also throughout the stretch of the season. We have to be ready and concentrate on ourselves and our games – anything can happen in football. We need to be there, when there is space and teams are dropping points. But that is not our business, we are just talking about ourselves and trying to win every single game.

Whilst Koscielny praised January signing Mohamed Elneny’s impact on the team. He said:

When he signed I could see he was a good player with the ball and how he could make good passes. He is not a player who takes the ball and goes from box to box with it, but he can help the team go higher up the pitch and keep the ball, which is very important. He doesn’t lose many balls during a game, he has scored and he has played well. He signed three months ago so his adaption to our philosophy at Arsenal and [to life] in England… I am very impressed with it.

As are we Laurent. Although Aaron Ramsey, and other central midfielders on Arsenal’s books, may just be sh*ting themselves a little bit whilst wondering how exactly they force their way back into the team. And if they’re not, they should be such has been the Egyptian’s start to life at the club. Keep it up Mo!

See you on Friday folks.

10th April 2016: Arsenal make work seem appealing + West Ham reaction

Sunday greetings. Dropping points at Upton Park was bad enough, but seeing Leicester and Tottenham both win comfortably today means it’s been a weekend to forget.

The irony that a new working week will now provide a timely distraction from football is pretty galling, but at the moment that’s the truth of the situation. So thanks Arsene, nice one Arsenal, good job Sunderland and cheers Manchester United – I’ve never looked forward to a nine-to-five more. I hope you’re proud of yourselves …

I suppose I ought to take a little look at the reaction from the West Ham game however, even if I’d rather do anything but. First up it’s Arsene Wenger, who gave his take on the game to Arsenal Player, saying:

We were [in control]. There are always a lot of positives. Overall, you can say it is not a bad result to draw here, but in the context of the league, where we are and what we want to achieve, it is a very bad result for us. I wanted to win the game. In the end we had the opportunities to score a fourth goal, but we were not calm enough. I think we rushed our game in the box and that is disappointing. One or two times on the counter-attack the pass didn’t come quickly enough out of the feet and that is why we missed.

A decent appraisal I suppose but about as comforting as a smack in the mouth. A few of our players also had their say on the match, with Laurent Koscielny bemoaning his side’s frailty in one-on-one duels and explaining how they should have defended the threat of Andy Carroll in hindsight. He said:

We are disappointed. When you are 2-0 up and they come back, it is difficult. We have played well in the game but lost some important duels. They played on the counter-attack to cross the ball to Carroll who is good in the air. We conceded the same amount of goals [as them] today and it is difficult to come away with one point when we wanted more. He is quality when it comes to heading the ball. If you want to win the duel, you need to be stronger and arrive early on the cross. You can’t let them get a cross in easy because they have some good players on the wings. It is a job for everyone, not just the defender.s The guys on the flanks need to help their team-mates with defending. We will fight (for the title). We are professional players and we want to win. They [Leicester] have some important games. We will fight to the end. Mathematically, it is not finished so we will try.

Mohamed Elneny also insisted the team would continue to give it their all in the hope that somehow, Leicester and Tottenham collapse in the last few games of the season. He said:

We will fight until the end, until the last game in the league, to achieve what we want. Let’s see the final outcome then. Today we wanted to snatch the win even though we were playing against a strong team. Maybe the final result is not this much in our favour, however we are doing our best in each game. We conceded two goals at a very hard time. We should have ended the first half 2-1 up but the equalising goal came at a very crucial moment. At the start of the second half we started organising our team to win the game and step up our performance, however we conceded a third goal so we tried and pushed to get an equaliser. We finally did that but we couldn’t snatch the win in the end. We are fighting for the league title, this is why we had to play in an offensive mode to win the game, but thanks God for the final result. The best is yet to come.

You have to admire the optimism of our Egyptian enforcer, even if it’s very, very unlikely to see it vindicated. Danny Welbeck was more sombre in his appraisal, saying all we can do now is focus on ourselves:

I said before the game that we wanted to win the game, so it is points dropped. With the circumstances, going two up and then a goal behind, to get the equaliser was good. It was disappointing [not to win]. Stuff happens in football that is hard to explain. It is just one of those things. We tried to. It was difficult and they were threatening on the break as well. It was a difficult game for us. We just need to focus on ourselves and play the game that we want to. There is no point in us looking at other teams because we can’t affect them.

No we can’t, sadly. I guess we should start looking over our shoulders at those just behind us in the league as much as we set are sights on overhauling Tottenham into second place, because even if we can still very feasibly finish ahead of our north London rivals, we also need to be wary of the two Manchester teams in the race to secure a top four finish.

As such, the one big positive from this weekend’s results then, must be that we now have a six point lead over fifth-placed United with just six games to go.

Have yourselves a wonderful, football-free Monday everyone.

Back tomorrow.

6th April 2016: Alexis on injury fears, ambition and Ozil

Welcome to Wednesday on TremendArse. I’ll start this evening with an admittance from our south American superstar Alexis Sanchez that fear of sustaining another injury has hampered his performances since he returned from a two-month spell on the side-lines earlier in the campaign.

The Chilean tore his hamstring in our draw at Norwich at the end of November, and went on to miss 10 games in all competitions before making his comeback from the bench against Chelsea in late Janaury. Since then, Sanchez has struggled for goals and form by the lofty standards he set in his debut campaign.

There are mitigating circumstances of course, in that he failed to have a pre-season with Arsenal after helping Chile to win the Copa America last summer, before being rushed back to action by Arsene Wemger a lot sooner than most people had anticipated. Anyway, here’s what Sanchez had to say:

Before my injury I was 100 per cent fit. I was feeling well. After the injury I wanted to get back but it was hard. I had a setback and when I played a match, I was scared I would get injured again because the thing I like most in the world is playing football and when I can’t play, I feel sad. Football is my passion, my life and I always want to win. If I lose, I always go home sad, I can’t sleep and that upsets me. When I win, my team-mates are happy and enjoy their families the next day. Football is my life. I think I have adapted well to the club but I am never satisfied with what I do. I want to win the Premier League, the Champions League. I always want to win everything.

Despite having returned from injury over two months ago now, I think it’s fair to say Sanchez is still searching for his top gear. But with the Arsenal team a lot more settled and fluent in recent games, his own personal performances also seem to have improved, partly also perhaps because of a switch to the right flank. He’s notched up two assists and a goal in our last three games against Barcelona, Everton and Watford, so the signs are that he’s approaching something close to his best form again.

Arguably his best performance for us this season, aside from his hat-trick at Leicester in September, came in our mauling of Manchester United in October, when Sanchez scored twice in that ruthless opening 20 minutes in which we scored three times at Emirates stadium. And the forward suggested that game must be the blueprint for Arsenal, as well as lauding the quality of Mesut Ozil:

Before that match, we all had hunger and desire to win — you could see that in the eyes of the players before we went on to the pitch. When all the players have that look of hunger of wanting to win things, it’s difficult for another team to beat us. Ozil is a fantastic player. When I’m on top form, 100 per cent fit, because he has such quality, he can give me the ball with ease and that sets me up for scoring.

Needless to say our two most expensive-ever buys are also our two most influential attack-minded players, so hopefully we can keep them fit for the remaining eight games of the season and then tie them down to new contracts because there just aren’t many of their quality available in the market right now.

Finally for today, after promising there was more to come from him in yesterday’s post, Mohamed Elneny has revealed his joy at grabbing his first goal for the club having netted against Barcelona at Camp Nou last month, and also suggested the Premier League title is still within Arsenal’s reach this term. He told Arsenal Player:

I was very happy with it. However, I wasn’t happy with the result of the game as we didn’t qualify for the next round. It is something that you can’t describe afterwards – but I was very happy to score against Barcelona in the Nou Camp – it was a very beautiful feeling. Also, selecting it as Goal of the Month was very good. I hope to score more goals in the future, hopefully to help the team to win the league title this year.

Let’s hope so Mo. In fact, I can picture it now, Elneny smashes home the title-winning goal on the last day of the season against relegated Aston Villa, as Chelsea beat Leicester at Stamford Bridge, with Tottenham having dropped out of the picture entirely after going on a six-game losing streak.

It’s still on. I’m tellin’ ya …

Back tomorrow.