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

13th November 2015: International involvement and remembering Lauren

Good evening. It’s Friday the 13th today of course and we all know what that means don’t we? Absolutely nothing.

Last night saw the first Arsenal involvement in the internationals as Alexis Sanchez and David Ospina both played the full 90 minutes when their respective nations, Chile and Columbia, played out a 1-1 draw. I didn’t see the match, Sanchez didn’t score, but I’m assuming he ran non-stop all game and then did a few hundred laps of the pitch afterwards just for fun.

There were also two more Gunners in action yesterday evening as Calum Chambers played the full 90 and Chuba Akpom the first 70, for England Under 21’s as they drew 0-0 with their Bosnian counterparts. I’m told it was a fascinating watch.

So on to tonight and Olivier Giroud scored the opener for France as they beat World Cup winners Germany 2-0. He was then taken off after 69 minutes but Laurent Koscielny played the whole game, so thanks Didier Deschamps, really appreciate it.

Elsewhere, Santi Cazorla came on a substitute for Thiago Alcantara just before the 30 minute mark and scored Spain’s second with a clinically taken effort as they beat England 2-0, for whom Kieran Gibbs was an unused sub. There were a few other Arsenal players in action tonight too, so for a comprehensive round-up take a look at the the official site here.

The international break can be a great time to take a look back and Arsene Wenger has been doing just that in discussing one of the lesser-celebrated members of our Invincibles team, Lauren.

My personal anecdotes about the Cameroonian include reading the name Lauren Bisan Etame Mayer on CEEFAX when we confirmed his capture and having no idea who he was but being excited nontheless as I always am by an Arsenal signing I know nothing about. Sure, they could turn out to be Stefan Malz but equally there’s always the chance they’ll be another Patrick Vieira.

After watching him a few times though, I labelled him ‘a right-footed Edgar Davids’ and I think he scored in that win over Liverpool at Highbury when Vieira was sent off for the second, consecutive Premier League game of the season and had to be talked out of leaving England. But more importantly, and I kid you not, I tipped him to replace the aging Lee Dixon as our next right-back before Arsene eventually played him there for the first time. In fairness, I also said I could see Emmanuel Eboue as a brilliant left winger, so …

Anyway, here’s what Arsene said:

He was, for me, one of the best full backs in the world. Not only because of his quality but he was a character, a real character. He was scared of nobody and when you needed the nerves you could count on Lauren. When he arrived here I had many discussions with him as I needed to convince him that he can become a right back and an outstanding right back. For a while, because he was a strong character, he didn’t accept it. Suddenly he understood that and I think that in Lauren and Ashley Cole, we had the best two full backs in the world.

My favourite memory of Lauren, aside from him bullying Ruud van Horse-face, was his FA Cup goal at Stamford Bridge as he ran down the right, cut infield onto his weaker left foot and found the bottom corner at the near post. What a goal.

I think in Hector Bellerin, we finally have a player capable of similar attacking feats from right-back now, which I think we’ve missed sorely through the Bacary Sagna years. Yes the Bac was a great defender, but he was a little clumsy on the ball for me and didn’t add much going forward the way Lauren did and Bellerin does now.

It’s an important point too, having fullbacks who are great on the ball, because in our style of play, with our wide midfielders/attackers often drifting infield, our fullbacks see a lot of the ball and so them being comfortable in possession is a massive plus, if not a must, in my opinion.

See you on Saturday.