The £50million pound gamble… + the duo we’re battling it out for.

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So, the summer transfer window is proving to be as frustrating as finding a closed pistachio nut in your nut bowl. For once, I think most of the Gooner faithful appear united in what we need… a centre midfielder of beast like proportions and a centre back who has good defending at the top of his C.V…

The subject of my ramblings today is strengthening through weakening. Are Arsenal banking on a weaker top 4 to compete next year?

So far this summer we’ve watched Chelsea grow another year older without really recruiting anybody that special. I’ve read about the white Ronaldinho… Jerk-off… and to be honest, I reckon he is overrated. Arshavin is the only Russian who is allowed to set the Premiership alight this season and that is a fact… Pirlo is too old to be trying his luck in the Premiership. His signing reminds me of the Deco signing last summer. Fat Frank is single and ripping up the club scene and Drogba is very injury prone these days. Having a coach without Premiership experience can be as much of a gamble as having a player without it.

Manchester United have lost a winger who they could bank on scoring 40 goals and grabbing ten assists… they’ve replaced him with players of poor calibre if you ask me. Sure, Owen could score a few… I don’t think his signing was as poor as many people made out… Obertan would get me about as excited as a day pass to the library and Valencia has never impressed me.

Liverpool have just lost a superb player in Alonso and Mascharano is making all the right noises if you are a fan of the other top four clubs. Replacing him with an injury prone Aquiliani doesn’t really impress me. Stevie G and Fernando Torres are superb players, but keeping them fit is a harder task than breaking into that pistachio nut I was talking about earlier.

Then we have Arsenal… we’ve let Adebayor, Toure, Senderos (Nice to see Arsenal.com first to let us know as usual) and possibly Eboue move all in one summer. That’s 132 starting appearances disappearing off our books in a month, if that isn’t a shock to the system I don’t know what is. My problem with the sale of the said players isn’t so much to do with them leaving, more to do with a comment Wenger made about Real Madrid,

‘In my opinion, to recruit more than three players in a transfer window, as Real plan, is taking a technical risk.’

If recruiting 3 players is a technical risk, surely selling 3 players who all put more than 30 overall appearances is an even bigger risk. Especially if you don’t replace them…

This leads me to believe that perhaps Arsene has looked at the other top 4 teams, seen that they’ve been weakened and decided that the odds on his gamble will be a little better this year? It’s not the strong getting stronger for once… it’s the weak. Will this mean that the Premiership sees the most unpredictable campaign in its short history? Quite possibly. Does it make the thought of us not signing any more players that little bit more irksome… most definitely.

This summer shouldn’t be the time for taking another massive gamble on a season in the hope it all comes good… this should be the summer we strike while our enemies are wounded, build on our weaknesses and train harder on our strengths. If we do that, this could be our season… our chance to assert dominance on the Premiership and maybe Europe… our chance to wrestle the mantle of prettiest footballing side away from Barcelona… our chance to put Arsenal FC back on the map!

I think our season rests on the decisions the coach is going to make this week. He’s got £50million to gamble with… here’s hoping he’s going to twist… not stick.

Update: Since writing this last night, the rumour that we’re after Kalou has reemerged. Whilst the obvious thing for me to do would be to curse him as a poor player… I wont. He’s not a world beater, but I’ve got a few Chav mates who rate him and I think he’d definitely offer us something with regards to flexibility, skill and workrate. Chamakh looks the more talented of the two… I can’t help but think maybe we’re moving for Kalou to force the French club into selling… I still find it odd that we’re chasing a right sided attacker with the options we have… but I suppose if Eboue is off, it makes sense experience wise.

So… plenty to mull over today Grovers!

See you in the comments!


The Jacky Wilshere show / Pleasant surprises / Transfer gossip

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So after what proved to be a slightly dull and drab first game of the Emirates Cup… most were hoping for an exciting, slightly more ambitious finish. You know, the type of performance that would get us all singing the praises of the team… backing the club for global domination this season.

Did Arsene deliver? Oh yes he did. He put out what can only be described as an eclectic combination of attacking style, mixed with some more attacking flair mixed with… er… lots of attacking stuff.

Bar Silvestre at the back, I had no real complaints. As much as I don’t favour Eboue in right midfield… I can stomach him at right back. Song surely had to do better than the dire Denilson… and the additions of Cesc, Wilshere, Arshavin and Eduardo to the starting line up were more than enough to get my pre-season juices flowing… oh… and Wenger cheekily threw the unknown… yet exciting Fran Merida into the starting 11. Fran is a bit enigma… we all saw his Barca youth vids… got hugely excited, but never really saw enough of him to start calling for him name… it would be good to see what he could do today.

Almunia

Eboue Gallas Silvestre Clichy

Cesc Song

Wilshere Merida Arshavin

Eduardo

So the game kicked off like most do, two centre forwards passing to one another… Rangers came at us but we absorbed their early pressure. Arshavin picked up play, passed the a ball into Jack who dummied, Cesc gathered the ball, turned… dinked it through 3 Rangers players to Arshavin who flicked it back to Wilshere… who buried it low into the right hand corner. A superb bit of build up play from the boys… and a clinical finish to boot from Mr Wilshere. 1-0 up before the second minute… good times in the Emirates.

Arsenal continued to toy with Rangers for the next ten minutes… Silvestre even tried to latch onto a through ball… then Cesc picked up the ball from deep within our half, fired the type of 40 yard Hollywood ball Denilson was having a go at yesterday, Arshavin padded the header backwards into the path of the oncoming Merida who angled a peach diagonal ball into Eduardo who found himself one on one… there was only going to be one winner… Eduardo buried the ball low and hard in off the far post. What a superb goal.

May I once again tell everyone that we do not need a new striker… especially one as limited as Huntelaar. Oh, and stop talking about Eduardo getting injured… any of our players could get injured this season, it doesn’t mean we need to sign a £20million back up in case. Chamakh is supposedly on the cards, but he’s not coming into the first team… and remember, we have an in form Vela to return. At the end of the day, you wouldn’t expect Oxfam to spend your £2 a month pitching up a well in Islington… so don’t expect Wenger to splash his oh so precious cash bolstering the most over subscribed position in the team.

On 25 minutes Eboue played a hopless ball down the line to Songs imaginery friend… the amusing things was Jack turned back and bollocked him. Loved it. Mind you… I thought Eboue was having a storming game in his favoured position.

Minutes later, my new great white hope, Fran Merida spanked a 30 yard rasper. He is an impressive performer… he looks well built, he is tidy and has an eye for an extravagent pass… he plays like a more mobile Cesc.

It was interesting to see Senderos on the sidelines again… maybe he hasn’t made enough friends at Everton to hang out with them on a Sunday? Or perhaps he hasn’t moved to Everton at all? Who knows…

At this point, I think it is key to mention that Song was having a good game. He wasn’t wasting passes, he was positioning himself well and he was trying hard.

Our problem from corners reared it’s ugly, season on season, repetitive, ugly, season on season ugly face again. A tame corner was fired in pretty low… Almunia made a hash by slapping it away 6 yards and Rangers nearly found themselves back in the game.

It’s really disappointing that we can’t buy a player who is capable of sorting out the defence… or a coach that will allot even 2 minutes of time to defending set pieces. I keep reading people telling me that Hangeland is not better than Senderos… well… number one, that tells me you’ve never seen him play… number two, you’ve forgotten how bad Phil Senderos was… number three… that you haven’t watched Fulhams rise from relegation fodder, to Europa cup entrants in the space of the 18 months he’s been there.

Put that in your ‘Big Phil is great’ pipe and smoke it.

It amazes me how anti-any-player-who-isn’t-a-brand-name we are. Huntelaar has a great record in the Dutch league who have produced such goal scoring greats as Dirk Kuyt, Mateja Kezman and Alfonso Alves… Yet Chamakh, who Makelele reckons is the best striker in French football, who Blanc insists wont let him go to a rubbish club… is binned off as useless despite helping his club wrestle the French Championship from Lyons grasp for the first time in forever (7 seasons to be precise). Give me a striker out of France any day of the week… they produce far better quality.

There were a couple more exciting moments before the half finished, the first was watching Jack jink past two Rangers defenders and attempt an outrageous chip from 20 yards that nearly beat the keeper. A couple of minutes later, Eboue attempted a first time shot from the edge of the box and he shanked it 60 yards the wrong way… I liked it because Eboue laughed about it when he ran back… that lad has a good sense of humour… I wish he read Le Grove… oh wait… he does!

The final bit of magic came when Arshavin played a first touch pass with an outside of the boot flick into the path of Eddie… sublime.

The second half began with some changes. Denilson and traore replaced Gallas and Clichy

Arsenal started to look more suspect… it didn’t have anything to do with Denilson in the middle if the park, and Song looked absolutely world class in at Centre back. I honestly hope Vermaelen and Gallas get injured so I can see more of Song at centre back. The way he slid in for a pass he was always going to miss which very nearly led to a Rangers goal filled me with confidence.

Snoop Dog came on late on… looking all raptastic… seriously though, I think he looks classy and bulked… he started the move for the third by chasing a lost cause, cutting it back to Rambo, who picked out Jack at the back post… who cooly buried it. Bravo Jack… player of the tournament!

Ratings:

Almunia: Having a pretty woeful preseason if you ask me. He’s had bugger all to do and I’ve seen him pass to an oppostion striker and slap a cross. It doesn’t look good does it? Must do better this year because Fabianski will be chomping at the bit to get a start… and I think he could be rather good. 6

Eboue: I thought he did much better in at right back… he looks more assured going forward than he does from midfield which is strange. Anyway, he’ll be off soon… 6.5

Gallas: Looked like he pulled up with a hamstring injury… I just love how one defender picks up an injury… they all feel the need… like girls going to the toilet. Wenger needs to go out an make sure we have a suitbable back up purchased because I have little confidence in Song, Silvestre and JD keeping us in the league should Gallas and Vermaelen (<- Who I have to assume is amazing right?). 6

Silvestre: I don’t really have much to say about him… he should be ok as a back up, but invariably he isn’t… he helped us keep a clean sheet today, even with the inexperienced Song next to him.

Clichy: Nice to see our number one left back where he belongs today. One of my favourite players in an Arsenal shirt… I’m looking forward to him returning to form this year and proving he is the best in the business. 7

Song: I thought he had a very good first half. He got in the way, didn’t get out muscled… kept up with play. I guess that’s why he was dropped into centre back in the second half… Wenger couldn’t have someone taking the limelight off love child Denilson. He did a good job as well… Song made a severe hash of a through ball early in the second half and nearly cost us a goal. Against Man United… that’s a goal. Those are the margins we are dealing with… Its amazing that just as Song started to look average… we change his position. 6.5

Cesc: Starting to look like a real man… yeah, those tattoos are scary… the beard even scarier. ‘Big scary Cesc’ they’ll be calling him now Ade and Toure have left. He put in a good performance, playing nice and deep where he thrives. Now he has decent target men, I think we’ll see a happier Spaniard. Looking forward to seeing what he can offer this year! 7

Wilshere: He played a blinder in this tournament last year… then disappeared from the scene for a season. I don’t know whether it’s worth getting excited this year about him? Hopefully we’ll see some more games from him… Madrid and Rangers might not be the best teams in Europe… but they’re no mugs and he made mince meat of them. I think he has the full respect of his peers aswell… I don’t really need to talk about his talent… all I will say is don’t put too much pressure on him. Patience is a virtue with the kids, I am wary how much pressure we put on Theo… Jack is a different kettle of fish because he’s a natural, but lets not expect Messi like contributions from him this year, he is 5 years younger than him. 8.5

Merida: Now here is the surprise package of the preseason. Who’d have thunk it? Captain Quiet… Fran Merida! He is powerful, creative, a good dribbler and prone to the odd shot. Could he be a serious first team contender this year? Could he be the reason why Wenger doesn’t have a problem shifting on Eboue? Well… I hope so! I really like the look of him and I reckon he could be one of the break through players this year. 7.5

Arshavin: The guy is sheer class. He is going to be so important to us this year… he is going to signal the rebirth of Arsenal this season. Well, if he is given the right players to play with. His intelligence on the pitch is fantastic, his audacity is breath taking and I think he is going to give us some magical moments. If he can earn Le Champ inside six months, imagine what he can do in a year? 7.5

Eduardo: He thundered into a challenge early on which told me he is totally over that leg break thing a few years back. He also finished off his first chance with his usual clinical swagger. This is the man that stops us having nightmares about 52 chances, 0 goals. This is the man that boosts Cesc’s assist tally by 10… this is the man who can give our fancy dan football some end product. 7.5

Conclusion:

Despite playing a couple of bobby average teams, I’m pretty confident that we don’t need anything attacking wise. I still think we’ll struggle with Song/Denilson in the middle for a whole season. I’d like someone with pace, aggression and aerial ability in the middle… and I still think we need an organiser and a aerial beast in defence. Hopefully at least one of those positions will be addressed this week… because whatever Wenger says… the 18 points we lacked last year wasn’t down to a 5% character problem… it was down to a 20% defensive frailty problem. Paddy V can’t solve that from the touchlines. Attacking players of greatness wont allow us to forget that… right Grovers? Stay strong… don’t be thrown of the scent of what our demise was last year.

Geoff is offline for a bit this week… he’s touring round Spain promoting Le Grove for some outrageous fee… however, his web connection is a bit dodgy, so I’ll be keeping you entertained most of this week!

See you in the comments Grovers!



The good, the bad… and the usual. Match Report

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Mannone

Sagna  Gallas  Djourou  Traore

Eboue  Denilson  Ramsey  Rosicky

RVP Bendtner

So, the second game of the afternoon saw Arsenal take on an exciting Athletico Madrid side. We lined up with quite a strong team, Denilson sitting in just behind Rambo, Rosicky making his long awaited return with RvP and Bendtner up top. I was surprised to see Eboue in the team… but then again, we did see Kolo in the team just before he flew the nest. I’m more irritated by the fact that the best we can do in right midfield appears to be him again…

Wenger is still giving little away as to what his starting line up will be this season… you’d have to imagine he still doesn’t have a clue! Diaby is injured again, Verma out, Senderos supposedly gone… and I reckon he has at least 2 signings up his sleeve.

It was interesting listening to Ray Parlour (Who was in my local on Friday) talking about what he thought we needed… he said he’d like to see a centre back, a world class holding midfielder and a top class striker. He also said he thought PV04 would be a disaster signing… reckons he wont have the legs… we shall see!

Keeping a clean sheet against this lot was going to be tough. Forlan and Aguerro are hot strikers… Madrid are like the Spanish Newcastle of old!

The first incident of the game came from a Madrid corner that was whipped in front post, a player got in front of JD, flicked it on… Aguerro nipped in at the back and hit the post. It was reassuring that we’re still dealing with corners in the same fashion as we were last year.

Our first chance came when Rambo picked the ball up twenty yards out, dragged it back, rolled Rosicky in, who looked up and curled one into the top corner. It was rightly called offside… a real shame but hopefully a sign of things to come.

The next chance came when Eboue slid a pass into Rocky, who nearly latched onto it. He won a corner… from which he shanked a shot wide. Little Mozart was looking very good.

Denilson was making his fair share of gaffs… perhaps he’d been reading the crab comments, because he was trying to play hollywood balls all over the park in the first half to little effect.

Our next chance came when Sagna drilled a 40 yard cross field pass to Ramsey, who knocked it in front of him, crossed to Robin who weakly volleyed into the ground and wide.

I wasn’t surprised to see the stadium emptier than last year… Selling 35,000 tickets at £30 might rake in more money at the gates… but getting 60,000 in paying a tenner surely benefits the tills inside the ground… not to mention giving lots of people who can’t normally go the chance to see their team. Greedy, Greedy Arsenal.

I’ve never watched £4million disappear so quickly in the space of 45minutes… but every time Eboue tried something with the ball… I felt I was watching another quarter mill disappear… then he’d dive… another million… then he’d roll about on the floor like he’d just stepped on a land mine… it really was car crash football from avid Le Grove reader, Emanuel Eboue.

Sagna started the first move of the second half playing a good one two with Jack Wilshere… he cut it back to Robin, who tried a clever flick that was cleared off the line. Soon after Nik pulled down a cross and half volleyed over from ten yards.

JD continued to look solid at the back making some important interceptions. The introduction of Clichy, Wilshere, Merida really spiced things up. Merida looked very creative and quite bulky… I’m looking forward to seeing more involvement from the Spaniard this year.

Madrid made a substitute… the well moutstached Madrid coach stroked the neck of the youthful Madrid striker in a slightly disturbing manner.

Jack was the architect of our next chance… his clever footwork allowed him the chance to cut the ball back to Rambo who gave the keeper an easy save.

Soon after Forlan broke through our defence, but JD was once again equal to him and nullified the danger with a great slide tackle.

Fab, Arshavin and Eduardo made their way onto the pitch to some electric applause.

Jack chipped Merida in,  who narrowly missed connection with the ball… Jacks intelligence is astounding.

Robin Van Persie is to freekicks what Michael Jordan was to baseball… what happened Robin? 3 piss poor attempts continued his fruitless year of freekicking.

Jack wilshere continued to dazzle the half empty Emirates with his trickery and guile.  He became the focal point of the Arsenal attack. People don’t mind going with youth when it’s at the standard of him! I thought it was quite sad when the stadium started doing mexican waves… it looks a bit stupid when only half the venue is full.

Athletico perked up in the final ten… Mannone nearly spilled a bread and better shot into his net, they missed two one on ones… then came the goal.

The ball was played into the box by Fabregas who picked out Arshavin at the back post… the Russian casually watched the ball down and side footed the half volley home for the first.

I do have to say that certain sections of the crowd were irritating me with their constant shouts of ‘Shoot’ late on. It’s preseason… we don’t need to start with all that this early on.

5 minutes later, we were brutally exposed at the back when Madrid threaded a ball through the middle of the centre backs… Gallas looked for offside… Prosecco slid the ball past Mannone for the equaliser. Embarrassing.

However, it wasn’t over. Arshavin chased a back pass… noodded it on… took it past the keeper and slotted home from an almost impossible angle. That is what money buys you Arsene… quality. Now couldn’t you repeat the trick in defence and centre midfield? Arshavin makes the game look easy… he put minimal effort into the game yesterday and still produced… keeping him fit this year is of utmost importance.

We are top of the league is all I need to say on the game. Like Geoff has said so many time before, we are only a couple of players away from domination… but those players are in key positions. Denilson didn’t have to pace to catch up with the play maker who played Prosecco in… and the defence weren’t sharp enough to deal with the mistake. On the plus… Rosicky looked fantastic, I forgot how tenacious he was… Jack Wilshere looked at ease and got everyone of their seats… I thought Rambo played well considering his age… and Fran Merida looked like he could give us an extra option this season.

We just need to sort out those positions and we’ll be cooking on gas…

P.S. Jack… what a star… roll on Rangers… I’ll bring back player ratings for tomorrows report! Keep ‘em crossed for a busy week on the transfer front!

Have a rip roaring Sunday!