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.

29th May 2016: Musings on all-Madrid final + Djourou on Pirlo-esque Xhaka

Sunday greetings. So Real Madrid were crowned European champions for a record 11th time last night after beating Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid on penalties.

Cristiano Ronaldo was the man to hog the limelight after scoring the winning penalty in the shoot-out, despite stinking out the San Siro with his ‘performance’ in the 120 minutes of action. Best player of all-time? Pffffff, do me a favour, he’s not even the best player to have played in England – Thierry takes that tag by a distance.

Anyway, some brief thoughts on a few more of the players in action last night; the Atletico keeper was fantastic I thought, and given that club have scouted and signed David de Gea and Thiabaut Courtois in the past, perhaps we ought to be paying close attention the next time they identify a new keeper signing and get there first.

Antoine Griezmann was impressive, despite missing a penalty in the second half and if there’s any chance whatsoever of enticing him from Spain to north London, I’d urge us to explore the possibility. Saul Niguez played like a more athletic Jon Toral and it’s easy to understand why he’s reportedly attracting strong interest from the Premier League.

As for Real, Casimiro was great in midfield, Benzema’s performance suggested we dodged a bullet last summer and for me, their best attacking player is Gareth Bale. He was good in spurts last night but saw nowhere near enough of the ball as far as I’m concerned, with team-mates often declining to pass him the ball and opting to look for Ronaldo instead. It was counter-productive for them to say the least and if I were Madrid, I’d get as much money for Ronaldo as a PSG or a Manchester City would be stupid enough to pay and make Bale their attacking fulcrum.

Moving on and there’s very little to move on to. Former Gunner Johan Djourou has likened new Arsenal signing Granit Xhaka to Andrea Pirlo, saying:

He’s got this ability to play very long balls, very precise balls, and I always say he reminds me a bit of Pirlo, the way he plays. He’s got the ability to play the Arsenal way. He’s got this aggressiveness about him that will help him in the Premier League, and he’s a great ball player and ball winner as well. He asked me a lot of things about London, the club, and I could only say great things about it because I had a great experience there. I think that the people at the club are just amazing, and those who run the club as well. I think he’s going to have a great time.

As I said in a previous post recently, Xhaka reminds me more of a left-footed Xabi Alonso than anyone else I can think of off the top of my head but I can see where Johan’s coming from.

Right, that’ll do for tonight.

See you next week.

26th May 2016: Xhaka did his homework + number changes confirmed

Good evening. Some more from our brand spanking new Gunner Granit Xhaka to begin with tonight, after the midfielder revealed he’d spoken to a trio of former Arsenal stars about the club before signing.

He said:

I spoke with (Havard Nordtveit) about Arsenal and he told me it’s a big club, a family club and it’s very important for me to come here. Philippe (Senderos) played here and I play with him in the national team. Johan (Djourou) and Philippe have only told me positive things. Arsenal is Arsenal. It’s not a small club, it’s a very big club and it’s like a family. It’s very good for me because I love my family and to have another family here is very good.

Nice to see some OGs (Old Gunners ©) praising their former employers and helping us to secure new signings. Whatever your views on Arsene Wenger and the culture at the club, one thing’s for sure – players like being at Arsenal and not just for the pay-packet.

Sure, players have agitated for a move in the past and I’m sure more will in the future, but how many would jump at the chance of a return having found out the hard way that the grass is far from greener elsewhere? Away from the pristine carpet at Emirates stadium, it’s often long, unloved and littered with dog sh*t – just ask Cesc, Samir or Robin, as they turn out at a bus-stop in west London, warm the bench or take to the field in Turkey.

Elsewhere, Arsenal have been readjusting shirt numbers following the departures of Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta. Aaron Ramsey has taken the latter’s number 8 while Alexis Sanchez is our new number 7. The Chilean’s old number 17 goes to Alex Iwobi and Granit Xhaka will wear Ramsey’s old number 16.

The one I’m most looking forward to being allocated though, is the number nine. I just hope it goes to a world-class, big-money new signing and not to Chuba Akpom or Yaya Sanogo, all due respect to the youngsters.

It’d suit Robert Lewandowski rather well if you ask me, although rumours of interest in Alvaro Morata refuse to die down, especially after Juventus’ manager  Massimiliano Allegri suggested the Italian club are preparing for life without the Spanish striker. He said:

The club are working on the transfer market and monitoring possible alternatives. We have a lot of forwards with players who are all in national teams and many young guys. I’ve already given Morata some advice: he needs to stay at Juventus… What did he say? He nodded. I hope he understands, I’m saying this for his own good.

No you’re not Massimiliano, you’re saying it for your own good. Morata’s a quality striker and would be difficult to replace so you want him to stay. Which is fine by me providing you let us have Paulo Dybala – I’m easy either way.

Of the pair, Morata’s probably more suited to the Premier League given his build, but Dybala’s the more naturally gifted as far as I’m concerned and has that hard-to-describe certain south American quality about him. That unpredictable, cut-above-the-rest-of-the-world brilliance.

Interestingly, if reports at the time were accurate, they’re both players we tried hard to sign before they opted to join Juventus. Sometimes, long-held interest by a club and manager can help to secure a deal at the second attempt, a bit like with Mesut Ozil, so hopefully that might be the case again with one of these two this summer.

Back Friday.

25th May 2016: Granit Xhaka’s a Gunner

Welcome back. So Granit Xhaka is officially a Gunner after Arsenal confirmed the midfielder’s signing from Borussia Monchengladbach this morning.

The Swiss international is 23, left-footed and reminds me of a more mobile Xabi Alonso, spaying passes long and short from a deep lying  central midfield position as he does, as well as being aggressive and proactive in winning the ball and also getting forward to pose a threat in the final third.

There’s hints of Thomas Vermaelen and Jack Wilshere in him too, and not just because he’s left-footed; the trio share a combative nature and all love to spank an effort goal-wards given half a chance.

As I’ve said before though, as much as I’m excited by Xhaka’s arrival and rate him highly having completed my customary YouTube scouting stint, who partners him in midfield next season remains a mystery at the moment.

Yet with Francis Coquelin, Santi Cazorla and Mohamed Elneny all candidates (if we ignore Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey as options centrally), I’m actually quite happy with any combination of two from that quartet.

I’d say Xhaxa-Cazorla would be my first-choice on paper, but until they play together there’ll always be doubts about their compatibility. Time will tell I guess. Anyway, here’s what Xhaka had to say about his move to Arsenal:

I am very happy to be here. It’s a dream come true and I’m happy. I remember I was young and the first game I watched was in the Premier League. It’s a big dream for me and now that I’m here I am very, very happy. I like so much (about Arsenal). I like the style of football [in the Premier League]. It’s aggressive and I like the way Arsenal play football. It’s not like other countries but it’s very, very nice here. I like that but Arsenal can also play football and that’s very good. I don’t think it’s the same (the Premier League compared to the Bundesliga). In Germany you can play aggressively but the referee will always blow his whistle, but in England that’s not the case. That’s better for me. I like to play football. I’m an aggressive player and also a leader. I’m only 23 but I captained a good team in Germany.

And on being compared to Bastian Schweinsteiger, as well as his own leadership qualities, he said:

If Ottmar Hitzfeld says that then it’s a big compliment. Ottmar is a big coach and a good gentleman. I don’t know if I’m a young Schweinsteiger, I’m another player. I am Granit Xhaka. When I was younger, even though I had a big brother, my parents would give me the house key every day. It’s in my head that I am a leader and captaining Monchengladbach was very good for me.

So Arsenal get Granit to reinforce their midfield and nominative determinism strikes again.

Now all we need is to wrap up deals for striker Clinical Hernandez and defender Impervious Boateng and we’re set.

See you tomorrow.

21st May 2016: Xhaka resplendent in red and white + Bellerin’s loving London

Saturday greetings. It’s FA Cup Final day today of course and I’m sure I’m not the only Arsenal fan to be thinking that it should have been us taking to the Wembley field against Manchester United later rather than Crystal Palace.

A win over Watford in the quarter-finals would have set up a semi against Palace of course but as we all know, we f*cked it up big-style, like Jose Mourinho in his third season at a club. Anyway, good luck to the Eagles because as much as I dislike Alan Pardew, I do have a bit of a soft spot for the club who sold us Ian Wright.

But back to Arsenal and after the BBC yesterday reported a deal to bring Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka to Arsenal was close, today pictures emerged online seeming to show the player at London Colney wearing an Arsenal shirt.

Now normally, I’d say: “I’ll believe it when I see it” when it comes to transfer speculation linking us with new recruits, but we’ve seen it now, so: “I’ll believe it when it’s confirmed”, which if reports are accurate, should be imminently.

Xhaka’s signing does make you wonder what our first-choice line-up in central midfield will look like next season, seeing as Francis Coquelin, Mohamed Elneny, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey are all candidates, not to mention a youngster like Gedion Zelalem, who may stake his claim in pre-season after this season’s loan spell at Rangers.

Then there’s Alex Iwobi, who has also shown he can play there, so we’re certainly okay for numbers. That said, I still think we’re short an understudy for Cazorla, who’s passing and vision from deep we sorely missed after he was injured in late 2015.

In terms of potential departures, and I’ll admit I’d be surprised if we did because Arsene Wenger seems to rate him very highly and he’s also versatile enough to play wider and further forward, I’d give serious consideration to selling Ramsey this summer. More so than Theo Walcott even, because the latter appears willing, if not content, to play a squad role, and for all his obvious deficiencies as a footballer, is still a good option from the bench when we’re chasing a goal.

Ideally I’d like us to keep the Welshman and also sign a Cazorla-type, but if it’s one or the other, I’d much rather we cut Aaron loose and brought in a central midfielder who’s as good on the ball as Santi and who can orchestrate our play with the same quality of passing  as the Spaniard. That’s easier said than done but I’m sure we can find one if we looked hard enough. I’d start in Spain and Italy …

One player who definitely won’t be leaving Arsenal anytime soon though is Hector Bellerin, after the former Barcelona youth player explained why he doesn’t see himself in any other club’s colours. He said:

I say every year that England is my home now. I’ve lived there for many years; my family and my girlfriend are there. I’m very happy there so I don’t see myself anywhere other than Arsenal.

Excellent news. Bellerin has clearly seen a certain other Catalan leave Arsenal for Barcelona in the fairly recent past and decided that’s not a road he wants to follow and who can blame him? Nobody wants to be turfed out by their home-town club and end up turning out at a bus-stop in Fulham.

But Hector did admit it was once his dream to represent Barcelona and described how it felt to play at the Nou Camp, having faced his former employers in the Champions League with Arsenal earlier this year. He said:

How did it feel to play against Barca? For me, Barca was where I grew up since I was tiny, from eight years old. My dream when I was at Barca was to play at Camp Nou and I did – just not wearing the shirt I’d expected when I was little. It was something very special and beautiful.

Not as special and beautiful as playing at Emirates stadium though hey Bellers?

See you on Sunday.

20th May 2016: Xhaxa deal inches closer

Happy Friday everyone. Some very encouraging, if a little expected, news to begin with tonight because following months of speculation linking Granit Xhaka with a move to Arsenal, the BBC this evening report a deal is very close to completion.

The Swiss midfielder is 23, left-footed, and one of the Bundesliga’s finest defensive/box-box midfielders according to those who watch him regularly. The fact Borussia Monchengladbach made him captain at the start of the season just ended, suggests he’s quite the personality in the dressing room too, which if I’m honest, pleases me just as much as his quality passing, tackling and ball control did on my recent YouTube scouting mission.

That said, having two combustible characters in Xhaka and Jack Wilshere both playing in the same midfield won’t do much for our fair play rankings so it’s just as well I doubt they’ll be paired together in front of our defence too often. But speaking of Jack, that’s who I think Xhaka most resembles in our current squad as a player.

The latter’s definitely the more defensively-minded of the two, but the way they both drop their shoulder and drag the ball past opponents, pass accurately and can play the short-ball game brilliantly, makes them seem, at first glance anyway, very comparable midfielders to me.

Anyway, with Mesut Ozil a shoe-in again or the most advanced role of our midfield three next season, Xhaka’s capture would mean we could, in theory, play with three left-footers in the middle of the park at some stage – which would be the first time I can ever remember a team doing that. Just saying.

Moving on now and onto some words from Arsene Wenger, who in an interview with Arsenal Magazine published in May’s edition, discussed what he was like as a young man and manager. He said:

Look, I believe when I was young if I had one quality, it was that I could listen to people. I always tried to listen when people who were much older talked to me. All the people liked to be with me at the time, maybe because I had a certain respect. I always tried to think to myself ‘is this guy intelligent? He looks very intelligent. He’s 30 years older than I am, that means he has gone through things I will go through, so what can I learn from him?’ I had that kind of attitude 30 years ago. Usually when you are very young you are tempted to see older people as has-beens, but then afterwards you realise what he told you is true. So I tried to learn all the time. If I look back at the young coach I was, I would say to myself ‘are you sure that you want to go through all this again? Are you ready to suffer so much again, because it is the sacrifice of your life.’ I started when I was 33 years old, now I’m 66 so that’s 33 years of uninterrupted competitive football. That’s the only thing I would ask to this little boy, full of ambition and desire.

It really is an interesting read as the manager touches on the influence of the late Dutch great Johan Cruyff, French athletics, and the possibility of him one day sharing his managerial secrets in a book, so go take a look here if you haven’t already.

Right, that’ll do for tonight.

Until tomorrow.

11th May 2016: Welbeck ruled out for nine months + Xhaka deal reportedly close

Welcome to Wednesday on TremendArse. Arsenal have confirmed Danny Welbeck will undergo surgery on the knee injury he sustained at Manchester City last Sunday, and will be side-lined for ‘approximately nine months’.

After yesterday’s report in the Guardian, we were all fearing the worst yet hoping for the best. The reality now is that Danny faces having almost another full season written off when you factor in regaining match-sharpness after his recovery, and that’s assuming his rehabilitation goes smoothly. Here’s what the club said in a statement on the official site:

Specialists determined surgery was required after scans and tests revealed significant cartilage damage. The 25-year-old was injured during Sunday’s match at Manchester City. Danny will miss the Euro 2016 Championship in the summer and his full recovery is expected to take approximately nine months. Since returning to action in February after injuring his left knee in May last year, Welbeck’s impact has been telling – scoring five times, including the recent winner against Norwich City at Emirates Stadium. Everyone at Arsenal will be working hard with Danny throughout his recovery and look forward to seeing him back on the pitch as soon as possible.

It’s devastating news both for player and club obviously and for an insight into just how highly regarded Welbeck is as a player and person, just take a look at some of the Twitter messages of support that have flooded in since the news was announced earlier today.

Regular readers will know much I rate the striker – which is a lot more than most fans, pundits and rival supporters seem to from experience. I was ecstatic when we signed him in the summer of 2014 and couldn’t quite believe Manchester United had let him go. Had he stayed injury-free since signing for us I think we may well have seen him develop to the extent that we’d already have the world class forward we all crave. Laugh if you like.

We’ll never know of course, but I was confidently expecting him to flourish in our style of play and given I think he has all the raw attributes, expected Arsene Wenger to maximise Welbeck’s potential just as the manager has with so many forwards in the past. Fortunately, Danny doesn’t turn 26 until Novemeber so time is still on his side – enough to reach the level I think he’s capable of. Get well soon Welbz!

Onto more positive news and reports suggest Granit Xhaka will soon be a Gunner. As happy as I am we’re signing a very highly-rated central midfielder, I’m still struggling to work out what the manager’s starting selection in the middle of the park will look like come the start of next season. Time will tell of course but getting a big deal done so early augurs very well for the rest of our summer in the transfer market.

A very brief post this evening I’m afraid but that’s where I’ll leave it.

Until tomorrow.

11th April 2016: Xhaka, Marquinhos and two others linked as silly season starts early

Evening all. Just a very quick round-up for you tonight because we’ve covered the reaction from Saturday’s disappointing draw at West Ham already and with our next game not until Sunday when we host Crystal Palace, it’s very quiet in terms of Arsenal news at the moment.

As is often the case when on-pitch talking points are scarce for the Gunners, transfer links to players supposedly on our shopping list begin to burgeon like Wayne Rooney’s waistline at Christmas. Granit Xhaka appears a very legitimate rumour, with Sky Germany having reported our interest a couple of weeks ago and barely a day passed since without a regurgitation of the story.

Today was no different, with the Evening Standard’s James Olley writing that we’re “confident of making” the Swiss international our first major summer signing. The player reportedly has a 25 million euros buyout clause in his contract but it doesn’t come into effect until the summer of 2017 and the German club are said to be holding out for £35 million for his services in this year’s window.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see but Arsene Wenger refused to rule out his interest in the player when asked about it in his last press conference so my money’s firmly on Granit becoming a Gunner sooner rather than later. Don’t argue with the logic.

Two fresher names being linked with Arsenal are that of 18-year-old Boca Juniors midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur and Marseille’s 22-year-old Mario Lemina, also a midfielder, and currently on loan at Juventus. I know very little about both but from the briefest of YouTube scouting missions, I can reveal the former’s a typically skillful south American ball player, whilst the latter seems far more defensively minded and boasts a sturdier, more athletic build.

With Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini and Tomas Rosicky all expected to vacate our midfield and the club this summer, the chances are we’ll sign at least two central midfielders, so a less proven, younger talent being brought in alongside an established star like Xhaka would make sense.

My choice would be N’Golo Kante (I know he’s not that young – I just want us to sign him), particularly as he already seems to be agitating for a move away from the shock champions-elect Leicester. But then ball distribution is probably one of Kante’s lesser-polished skill-sets and if we’ve missed one quality in our midfield area too often this season in Santi Cazorla’s injury-enforced absence and before Mohamed Elneny arrived from Basel in January, it’s passing.

The last name on the list is PSG’s Brazilian defender Marquinhos, who is reportedly unhappy at his continued role as understudy to compatriots David Luiz and Thiago Silva and is eager to move on this summer. French publication L’Equipe mentioned us as possible suitors in today’s edition but with half of Europe said to be interested were he to become available, it’s difficult to see that one happening.

So just the four names doing the rounds today and that’s with me only taking a half-arsed look around. I’m sure there’s lots more and they’ll continue to grow both in number and frequency as the summer approaches and then unfolds.

With next season being the last of Arsene Wenger’s current contract and the pressure on him to deliver big at levels never seen before, a busy close-season of transfer activity at Arsenal is anticipated. A major overhaul of the squad is in the offing and I for one am pretty excited about that prospect, especially if it involves first team integration for a player already on Arsenal’s books – a certain Wellington Silva.

See you on Tuesday.

26th March 2016: Arsenal to strengthen midfield by signing Granit?

Welcome back. Having been linked with a move to Arsenal for a while now, Sky Sports report this evening that we’re in talks to sign Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Granit Xhaka.

In all honesty I don’t know much about the player and can’t remember seeing him play, or noticing him if I did, but having done a spot of YouTube scouting just now, I hereby grant my approval for Granit becoming a Gunner. Good on the ball? Check. Good passer? Check. Can beat a man? Check. Can defend? Check. Mobile? Mobile enough.

We do have previous for getting deals done very early having signed Lukas Podolski way before the summer window opened back in 2012 and the fact German journalist Raphael Honigstein also thinks a deal could be on certainly adds credence to the story as  far as I’m concerned.

With Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta very likely to leave at the end of the season, Jack Wilshere plagued by injuries, and Aaron Ramsey’s performances in central midfield this season strongly suggesting he’s unsuitable in that role, we clearly need to strengthen in the middle of the park so Xhaka’s signing would make a lot of sense.

Finally for today a few words from Chuba Akpom who is of course on-loan this season at Hull City. The striker says he “buzzing” for Alex Iwobi after the latter became a regular first-teamer at Arsenal this season and is determined to give it his all this coming close season so he can follow in the Nigeria international’s footsteps. He said:

It’s always good to see young British talent shining in the Premier League. Alex, I grew up with. He’s like a brother to me so I’m buzzing for him and buzzing for his progress. I just tell him that hopefully next season it’s me and him playing together. This summer I’m going to work as hard as I can and pre-season do the best that I can. It’s been a long time [at Arsenal]. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. Arsenal is a good club and I’ve always wanted to play in the first team so I’m looking forward to going back at the end of the season.

With Danny Welbeck, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott our current options for the sole striker’s role on offer, not to mention a possible new signing in the summer, Akpom has it all to do to convince Arsene Wenger he deserves even a squad place never mind a starting spot but nonetheless it’s great to hear he’s ambitious and intends to work hard.

Right. That’s me for another day.

Catch you on Sunday.