Dortmund are an exciting prospect | Our £24million man… | AST Meeting tonight, what’s on the cards?

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Goooood morning Grover-teers. Today it really does feel like winter is coming. No more home games in the sunshine. We have the Champions League Group stage creeping up on us and a winter scheduled packed full of big games. Exciting times if this team can gel.

We have German Champions Borousia Dortmund up tomorrow night at their place. There has been a bit of a resurrection for the ex-European Champions over the past few years, culminating in them winning back the Bundasliga last year in quite stunning fashion. Jurgen Kloop has proved that good coaching still exists, taking the trophy despite having a wage bill well under half of Bayern’s (£120m —-> £48m).

He’s basically tried to pull off a model not too dissimilar to the one Arsene Wenger has been trying to adopt. He’s bought in top youth talent but perhaps blended it with better experience. He’s one of the most passionate coaches in the league, so no slouching on his watch. The jewel in the Dortmund crown in Mario Gotze. He’s 6 months younger than Jack Wilshere and so far, he’s pretty much out performed him in all areas of his career (goals, caps, assists and trophies won). That doesn’t mean to say Jack wont catch up, it just goes to show that the boy is pure talent.

Tomorrow night is going to see a very tough challenge. They have players like Sven Bender, Marcel Schmelzer and the much linked centre back Neven Subotic. They also have Kagawa and Blaszczykowski keeping things exciting. They’re a technical powerhouse of a team… though on the upswing, they’re not in the best of form. That said, nor are we. Point neutralised!

Arsenal will have a much fuller team to choose from tomorrow night. We’ll have Mertesacker and Koscielny starting at the back, a partnership that looked fairly solid and complimentary against Swanseas, I’d imagine that Santos might get a run out if he’s fit enough, big question marks still hang over Gibbs and his positional sense. Sagna will play out right. In the middle, there are concerns over Ramsey. He’s packed in some severe minutes since the season started, so I’d imagine our midfield will contain Yossi, Arteta and Song. Leaving us hopefully with a 3 prong attack of Theo (If fit), Gervinho and Robin.

That should be more than enough to take on any side. Hopefully with all the top players back a bit of urgency can seep back into our game. Arsenal fans need to understand that although a win would be grand, a point will be no shame. We’re playing the Champions of Germany, we’re the 4th best team in the UK, this should be a 3 pointer for them, not the other way round.

German Engineering…

Buying a drink at half time when you’re not picking one up for free in club level is an unbelievably painful experience. If you leave when the whistle blows, you’re looking at 15 minutes minimum. The staff can’t count and have a similar lack of urgency to the players.

A solution on offer in Germany and more recently implemented in Brighton is that of the touch pay system. Similar to the Oyster Card, you load up a prepaid beer card and instead of messing around with change at the till, you tap and move on. We have the technology built into our season tickets and we have the same tilling system Bayern Munich have. If the club want to keep people in their seats for longer, a good place to start would be improving the efficiency in the bar area. It takes 3 minutes max to get a drink at Brighton… there’s not reason we shouldn’t be matching that.

AST Meeting…

So it’s getting to that time of the year when we start decorating that open top bus for the release of our financials. Only this year we’re not going to be too celebratory. Any profit we make will be off the back of players sales again and I’m imagining quite a bleak picture is going to be painted.

Arsenal have more than likely slipped to the 5th most expensive wage bill in the Premiership this summer. That should technically mean that if we finish higher than 5th, we’ve out performed our wage bill. If we win the league, it’ll mean we’ve performed a miracle.

Sure we can shift out some of that expensive deadwood and make some efficiency savings. We’ll be able to take £12million off the wage bill and bring in at least £4million cash for Diaby, Almunia and Squillaci alone. However, that still doesn’t give you a clue about how to take on the big 4. Still, it’s possible. If Dortmund can do it in Germany, why can’t we? Surely being a great manager is about outperforming the given standards of football. If can reduce the size of our squad drastically, bring in a better quality of players and develop those players to the levels we did with Thierry and Patrick all those years ago, there’s not reason we can’t compete to a higher standard than we have been doing.

There will be talk of why Arteta had to take a pay cut. Clubs have to include wages into any transfer deal. The cost of Arteta over 4 years will be £24million. A big price to pay for a player who will be worth nothing at the end of that time period. Spurs pay Modric £12k a week less than Diaby. That’s why citing Spurs spending over the years as higher than ours is laughable. We spend £50mill more year than them on salaries straight off the bat. That’s a huge head start.

I’d imagine their will be some conversations about the Directors bonus schemes tonight. What will Gazidis be taking home this year in his pay packet? I’d also imagine there will be question over how United have stormed ahead even further on the commercial revenue side of things and we’re still lagging. There will also be question over the shocking summer we had and why we had to sell Cesc for a pittance.

Lots of big questions to be answered and I’ll be there, tweeting the answers, so make sure you follow me and get involved!

P.S. Le Grove have gone all arty and signed up for an Instagram account, you can find us… we’re called, LeGrove. Also a big well done to Lansbury, West Ham fans have been praising his hard work and solid impact for their first team in centre midfield.

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Winning is winning, but Arsenal will struggle this year…

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Highlights

So I’m imagining there are going to be two camps out there today. You’ll have the camp that will be over the moon that we’ve responded with a victory after a massive defeat, with a bunch of new players. Then you’ll have the the camp that will say that yesterday was a major struggle and on the face of it, the new players didn’t look like they’d kicked us on a level.

I’m sitting somewhere in-between. Though I could see the benefits of having experienced players in the side, we still lacked that sense of urgency that haunted our game most of last season. There are lots of interesting cogs in the Arsenal machine this season, I’m just not sure the system Wenger is putting them into is going to work that well.

The first major chance of the game fell to us after Arteta picked up the ball centrally and fed  Ramsey through the middle, the Welshman some how managed fire it higher than you’d need to for a Rugby World Cup drop goal.

Down our end, Mertesacker had recieved rapturous applause for his first two passes, feeling selfish, he decided to give Chezzer the chance to garner some of his own. The German latched onto a Swansea cross, guided it towards our goal, some how the Pole kept it out with an instant save. I was sitting very close to that and it was a sight to behold!

We were very sloppy in the middle of the park. This wasn’t helped by Frimpong whose passing was wildly off kilter. Like I said a few weeks ago, people are very quick to jump on youth as the solution to an experience problem, thing is, you have to remember he’s only 18 years old. Passion and drive rarely converts into an accomplished teenage midfielder.

We were struggling to get shots on target. Theo broke through from an Arshavin slide rule pass, his effort was bundled off the line with some spectacular last ditch defending from Swansea.

Down the other end, Mertesacker made a double tackle to keep Dyer away from our goal. A few minutes later, Frimpong showed his naivety again by unnecessarily grappling a Swansea player to the ground outside our box. Our players were quite often guilty of watching the player, not the ball yesterday.

Our opening was a bizarre one. The Swansea keeper Vorm made a total hash of rolling the ball out to his full back, he dropped it on his ankles, Arshavin saw, turned and first time slotted the ball from a Kanu-Esque angle into the net. A top piece of finishing from a player I refuse not to love.

Ouch...

The second half opened with a bit of action. The giant pole waver clumped a female photographer over the head when she wasn’t looking. Maybe she forgot to get him a beer at half time? Who knows… it took 9 stewards about 20 minutes to remove her, I’m pretty sure she was ok. Some of the crowd cruelly sang, ‘Are you Diaby in disguise’ and ‘You’re staying down for compo!’. Not me… I find singing at the ground appalling.

Robin opened the half with a thumping hit of the post. Swansea retaliated after by clipping the bar with a Scott Sinclair freekick. The rest of the half kind of panned out without too much to talk about.

We slipped into panic stations after 70minutes, pretty much a standard with Arsenal sides of late. Even with the added experience, we couldn’t avoid that. We also showed a total lack of urgency or will to kill off the game. We should have capitalised on their morale dip after the goal and we should have looked to improve our lack lustre goal difference. It’s no good saying that Swansea are a good team, so are Bolton, United didn’t settle for one, they absolutely destroyed them.

I guess the toughest question we have to ask ourselves at the moment is where are the goals going to come from this year?

Robin Van Persie looked incredibly isolated up front on his own. I’m not sure this whole loan striker option is going to work without a Cesc or a Nasri in the side. He needs support up top. At the same time, the team needs to take more responsibility for creating decent chances for him.

There were some positives that came out of the game, no doubt about that. For starters, having a player of thee size and stature of Per Mertesacker in your back four is pretty incredible. He towers over everyone. He boasts so much height that when he high fived the Gunnersaurus he was nearly at eye level with him.

He’s a thoughtful defender who defends cleanly. He was a nuisance for corners down there end. I think his presence will be a calming one and he’ll certainly give us a big advantage against long ball merchants. My one concern for him will be against the pacey tricky players. Will his slow turning ability cause him problems? Or can he rely on whoever partners him to deal with that side of the game?

Arteta had quite a disappointing first start. His integration into the side was seamless. He has great technique, he’s not afraid to stick his boot in but his overall impact wasn’t amazing. I thought he was quite slow on the ball yesterday and I was hoping to see him take more of a lead against weak opposition. Still, it’ll take him time like everyone else to settle into his new role. You can’t expect to replace one of the best talents on the planet, you instead have to adapt and work out a new way of playing.

I also found Theo a bit of a struggle, poor finishing an poor crossing dogged his game. If he can iron out those issues, his pace will put him in plenty of great positions this year.

My MOTM performance was to Chezzer. He made a couple of crucial saves, however, it was his absolute domination of the box that impressed me the most. He caught nearly every cross, his distribution was solid and he’s looking more and more like he could become our next in line for the ‘world class’ throne. I wasn’t too sure about Cruyff turning a Swansea player. Keep it simple, don’t let your arrogance get the better of you…

I know it’s only one game into our new season, but my overriding feeling from yesterday is that we’re going to really struggle this year. 4th place isn’t going to be straight forward, it’s going to be a battle. We’re in yet another transitional year but at least we have experienced heads to fall back on. The team won’t have much time to practice together. It’s off to Germany to face a very, very good Dortmund side on Tuesday. An exciting match with some very exciting players on show.

We’ll have all the suspended mob back and ready to play. Song and Gervinho will be like new signings, hopefully we’ll find a bit more of a creative edge by then!

P.S. Not sure why everyone who wasn’t at the game kept saying the atmosphere was poor yesterday, I thought it was ok?

Ratings:

  • Chezzer 7
  • Gibbs 6
  • Mertesacker 6.5
  • Koscielny 6.5
  • Sagna 6.5
  • Rambo 6.5
  • Frimpong 5
  • Arteta 6.5
  • Walcott 5.5
  • Robin 6
  • Andrey 7

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Will Park start? | Mertesacker wouldn’t have signed if Vermaelen had stayed fit

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So after what feels like 16 weeks without football, we’re out the other end gearing up for a what I’m hoping will be a thrilling return to football. Swansea head on over, brimming with naive new team enthusiasm, whilst our squad turn up hoping to banish the demons of the Manchester United spanking they were served up a few weeks ago.

This is a big game for us. We need to show there is form without Cesc and Nasri. We need to pull ourselves together, gel quickly and get this season back on the road.

On the injury front, Rosicky is a doubt with a knee injury. We’re missing, Wilshere, Diaby, Ryo, Vermaelen, Squillaci, Song, Gervinho, and Jenkinson.

So, that gives me the task of picking out a side I have, in the main, never seen before!

Chezzer

Sagna Mertesacker Koscielny Gibbs

Frimpong Arteta Benayoun

Arshavin Robin Theo

It really is too tough to call.I’m not sure where I see him playing Benayoun. From memory, he plays very well just in the hole. Will he elect for Arshavin when he’s in such dire form, or will he slip Park in there (he must be available if he’s not listed as otherwise on the site)? I’m not even sure he’ll play the same system he has been. From the stats, we know Arteta creates plenty of chances, but enough to replace Cesc’s vision? I’m not so sure. Either way it’s going to be interesting!

I think I’m most excited to see how Mertesacker slots into the side. How dominant can he be in the penalty box? How quickly will he take control of what we’re doing at the back? I think he’ll compliment the pace and attacking style of Koscielny, but he really does need to make sure he leads on marking and organising. We’ve got 3 players in that back line who have an aversion to talking to each other.

In the middle, I have no worries about Frimpong getting sent off today. The game isn’t intense enough. This is a good chance for him to get his positioning in order. Robin and Theo could have a field day out there. I’m sure we’ll see plenty of the Englishman cutting inside and using his pace to burn Swansea’s green back 4.

Wenger…

The coach was in a chatty mood yesterday, he reckons he could write a book about the summer he’s just had and he says it was more difficult than we imagine. From what I gather, he’s referring to the fact that we were hardballed by both City and Barcelona. They forced the transfers to take as long as they did by not offering what we wanted by a long shot from the start. Now, I can understand us waiting it out for Samir as that was an important deal to force through. I still don’t understand why we were in a situation where we couldn’t have taken more control with Barcelona.

‘It’s like in a company. When you’re half-in and half-out, it’s not as good as if you’re complete in. That happened at the start of the season.’

A very true statement. I’m not sure I’d want to be going into the season with a massively unhappy captain, we’ve seen first hand what that’s done for Spurs. At the same time though, I’m not happy Barcelona are telling the world they landed a great deal. It’s a touch embarrassing that we were out haggled when the power resided with us.

I find Wenger’s insistence that he couldn’t sign players before the last 24 hours a bit strained as well. Hardly any of the reasons made sense. He claims that he could only move late on Park and Santos when he knew Traore and Nik B were leaving. Why? Neither signing raised any sort of substantial revenue. He knew both were going all summer. Why couldn’t Park and Santos have been picked up early in the season? The most interesting part was what I told you the other day about the Vermaelen injury…

‘I knew as well that Vermaelen would have surgery the week before Manchester United so we needed to buy a centre-back.’

It’s unbelievable that Wenger would have gone into the next three months without a new centre back if TV hadn’t picked up a new injury. We were all sitting there wondering if Wenger would rue the mistake not to sign Cahill, instead he sits there and tells us Mertesacker was the response to the problem! Unbelievable really. He had no intention of improving the defence this summer.

‘Of course I’m not the only one who controls things [in this situation]. It’s the clubs who buy, the players as well, the determination of the players, because they change sometimes their mind as well.’

The above point was also interesting. One would assume our constant dithering on salaries and fees is the coaches reference point. As far as I’m aware, Alvarez and Mata were down to our cock ups and as we’ve reported before, flapping around in January is what cost us Phil Jones. I was also party to a very amusing story about another one of our transfer ‘nearly’ cock ups for a certain young player that I’ll tell you if ever join me for a pre-match beer.

Lessons need to be learnt this summer. A review of what went wrong and why it went wrong needs to be conducted so the board don’t make the same mistakes next season. It doesn’t happen at other clubs in the main and it shouldn’t be happening at ours. We also need to review how these contract problems keep happening to us. How many more players are we going to allow into their last year before we start tackling it? Remember, Theo, Robin, Song and Vermaelen could all find themselves in Nasri’s situation next summer. 60% of our outfield starting line up could be gone in a year. Not good.

Comments section…

The season is well underway now, the excitement of the window is behind us, so I’d like to take a few sentences to remind people that the comments section of Le Grove is probably one of most read in the Arsenal blogosphere, generally because the views that are expressed back and forth are interesting and well thought out.

I meet people out who tell me they watch the comments all day. The Grover’s who post are of huge importance to the ongoing success as a blog, some of you have been dropping regular comments for the full four years. Now, some of the comments have been getting out of hand lately, the comments section is not a free for all. Please remember you are in a public arena and think about what you post. Have an opinion by all means, just don’t lower the tone. It’s a football forum, keep it about Arsenal, save you slurs for the opposition. I see you all as friends, the last thing I want to do is stop people enjoying themselves on the site…

Support today…

First game of September is today, I’m excited, you’re excited, the new players will be nervous. Lets put on a great show and a massive two fingers up to Samir Nasri… let’s tear the roof off the ground and forget the past 3 months. There’s a real sense of renewed hope. We’ve got experience, we’ve got some class in and for me, the only way is forward!

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