Category Archives: Arsenal Mania

Wojicech Szczesny – Were We Right To Sell?

Posted originally on Arsenal Mania

Wojicech Szczesny spent 11 years at Arsenal. In that time, and growing as a player through the Gunners ranks, his attachment to the club unsurprisingly grew. Over a decade at the club he supported as a boy, the bond the Pole had with Arsenal only became stronger.


So it was with an undoubtedly heavy heart that he bade farewell to North London recently, when he was offered the chance to play for Juventus and work alongside Gianluigi Buffon – the keeper that most consider to be this generation’s finest exponent between the sticks.


The prospect for his career was simply too good to turn down, but was it the right decision for Arsenal?












With last season’s miasma of horrors still so hard to erase from our mind’s eye, many of us fans looked to Szczesny’s efforts on loan at Roma, and with Petr Cech letting his high standards slip – it appeared as though we had the perfect remedy to clam up our porous team.


There are many other facets to this transfer though, that have not risen to the surface as prominently as the above though.


Szczesny performed way above expectation in Serie A last campaign, but the level of competition between the two league’s is still different. A perfect example of this is Gervinho – the Ivorian was an abject failure in an Arsenal shirt, but when playing for Roma only a few seasons ago, he looked like an accomplished professional. It is especially easier to grab clean sheets in the attritional playing styles of Italy too.


True, it looked as if the Polish keeper with a penchant for selfies at White Hart Lane had indeed acquired the one thing that stopped him being a great keeper at Arsenal – consistency. We can give him the benefit of the doubt, but can we forget?


Twice, the Number1 shirt was in his grasp in his time in London, and twice, continued erratic displays meant that Wenger had no choice but to drop him – once for Lukasz Fabainski and once for David Ospina. Five seasons was spent trying to establish himself and firmly rebuff all other goalkeeping competitors, but he never quite managed it. Whether it be silly mistakes on the pitch, like when he fouled Gabby Agbonlahor in the 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa, or when he was caught smoking in the showers, Szczesny couldn’t quite leave the doubts behind.


Now, after two excellent seasons in Rome, he was given an opportunity to work at Juventus. It would have been impossible to turn down, but what really rankles is that, why did Arsenal not hold out for more money?


Considering the experience that Szczesny has, and his still relatively young age, his transfer worth must have been higher than the reported meagre fee that we have received. When a young English keeper plays one season of top-flight football, gets relegated and then commands a £30m fee – that should have correlated into a higher fee for Wojicech too.


The fanbase, when poring over tweets and posts on social media, seems to be undecided on whether Wojicech Szczesny was the long-term answer in goal for our club, but we can all agree that he is worth far more than Juventus are scantily paying us. 

​The Unearthing of Rob Holding

Published on Arsenal Mania

That £5 note you find in your old jeans. Getting to work and remembering that tomorrow is the start of a Bank Holiday Weekend. After a long day at work and finding out you’ve got a roast dinner waiting for you.

Finding good stuff really puts a brightener on your day. It doesn’t happen often enough for the regularity to dull it, and when it does occur, your whole mood changes. Maybe for five minutes, maybe the whole complexion of your day is uplifted.

One of the few things that can match that high is a bargain. One of those buys that you’re sure the shop has placed the wrong price sticker on. It is so cheap you’re worried until you’ve left the store. It is such a steal you feel like a shoplifter.

So just imagine how Arsene Wenger felt when he first saw Rob Holding in action on the training field.

The £2m outlay we splashed on the 21yr old last summer didn’t initially raise any eyebrows. It seemed as if the purchase for this young defender was one for the future, one to keep our eyes on in the next few seasons to see if he would make the grade or if he – like so many others of his age – would fade into obscurity with a series of loans and an inevitable slide down the leagues.

18 appearances later, and we are singing his name in the stands.

The normal parameters have not applied to this starlet so far in what is his first taste of the top flight. Players usually require a long run in the side to guarantee rhythm and the honing of their talents so we can see the keenest edge of their play. Rob Holding – you know – has been in and out of the team and yet has been an immovable force in terms of stifling attacking opponents. He hasn’t needed the run of games, he has just given it everything he has got.

It is since we have switched to three central defenders though, that we have had to squint our eyes as the brightness has burned into our retina’s. Holding has taken to his task with gusto and taking every obstacle that he has faced this season into consideration – he hasn’t looked out of place alongside his more illustrious and experienced defensive partners.

This is his first season in the Premier League. Prior to this, he played 30 games for Bolton Wanderers in the Championship in a season which saw the Trotters relegated. His displays despite the poor results showed a boy who had the instincts and defensive nous which could be sculpted. He marshalled the Bolton backline in what was his first full season as a pro. That screams leadership. It bellows nerves of steel and an unwillingness to yield.

This season we are seeing what a player this young man could become. He will have his wobbles next season as the second season syndrome kicks in – all youngsters who blaze a trail in their first season will always find a sticky patch in their next campaign, much like Alex Iwobi – but we need to remember the player he can become.

Mistakes are what players need to learn. It means his howlers will take place on the biggest of stages, but he needs the scars to lure out the player that he can become. This is how these youngsters improve.

His first season shows he promises much. If he carries on his current trajectory, there is no telling what he can achieve. What a player we have found, and we have every right to be excited.

Who knows what levels he can reach. Cannavaro, watch out.

Arsenal and tottenham Combined XI

Published on Arsenal Mania

There is always a fair amount of hype in the build-up to a much-anticipated fixture. The majority of it is to ride the crest of the wave as fans look forward to the game, but some is simply filler designed only to ruffle feathers and guarantee a reaction.


The North London Derby is no different, but the parameters for this last bout have changed. For over twenty years, Arsenal have governed this constituency, but this game saw tottenham in the ascendency. They were favourites – and for good reason.


So much so, that a recent Combined XI from respective club legends Ledley King and Thierry Henry recently for Sky Sports, saw just one Arsenal player in this amalgamated team.

Just one.


Is this fair?


Here is a more balanced version of an eleven made up from spurs and Gunners players. What do you think?











Petr Cech or Hugo Lloris?

Verdict – Hugo Lloris

Petr Cech has been a bastion of excellence and reliability ever since he came to the Premier League, but this season has seen a slip below his usual standards. Facts are facts, and he has 14 clean sheets to Cech’s 9, and has conceded 13 goals less. Hugo Lloris has maintained his performances, and his athleticism racing from his line sees him take the gloves for this team.


Hector Bellerin or Kyle Walker?

Verdict – Hector Bellerin

Kyle Walker seems to have the England spot nailed down, and his rapier speed has long been his trademark. Walker’s control has been his weakness, but he has really shaped up this season. Does it see him rise above Bellerin? Walker has more assists this season, but Hector’s passing percentage is higher. It really is closer than it was a couple of seasons ago. Hector’s haircut seemed to coincide with a drop in form, but he is faster than Walker, and his control is good enough to see him make the Spain squad. Bellerin for the win.


Toby Alderweireld or Shkodran Mustafi?

Verdict – Toby Alderweireld

The Belgian defender is a threat in the air on set pieces, and has strength and positional awareness in stock. Mustafi had a great start to his Arsenal career, but a drop in confidence for the whole team saw the German start to make errors. In spite of this, this is closer than most would give Mustafi credit for. He has more goals than Alderweireld, and has more aerial success than the Belgian. It is defensive stats that Alderweireld edges the German though. More clearances, more blocks and he makes less fouls. It is close, but in short, Mustafi is often shrugged off the ball, but how often have you seen Alderweireld suffer the same fate? Toby grabs the shirt.


Laurent Koscielny or Jan Vertonghen?

Verdict – Koscielny

Koscielny is viewed as a mandatory name in the side, and in the last few seasons, he has elevated himself and his displays so much that it wouldn’t be unfair to class him amongst the best in his position in Europe. Vertonghen is consistent, he is tough and when he is not in the spurs side, they look a little lost. But who should play? Koscielny scores more goals, and is a big-game player. He has a superior tackling percentage, makes less fouls and has played more minutes. Vertonghen makes more clearances and blocks, but he is blocked out of this eleven.


Nacho or Danny Rose?

Verdict – Danny Rose

Once the figure of ridicule, Rose has really improved. Up and down the left flank tirelessly, Rose is perhaps the most improved player in the spurs team. Nacho has been recalled into the Spain squad, and his attacking prowess is a real asset for Arsenal. Despite this, Rose has more goals in the League, and more clearances and blocks, as well as a superior tackling percentage. Rose has more than double the amount of bookings, but this Rose is planted into the eleven.


Eric Dier or Granit Xhaka?

Verdict – Eric Dier

The Swiss star is still adapting to the League, and his tackling style is continuing to get him unwanted attention from match officials. Eric Dier is adaptable, playing all across the backline and in defensive midfield, and the England man is strong aerially too. He has the edge in the defensive side of the game, with more clearances, blocks and less fouls. In terms of passing though, Xhaka obliterates his rival. Long balls, crosses, key passes are all in favour of Arsenal’s man. So who takes the shirt? Seeing as it is a defensive role, Dier edges it.


Santi Cazorla or Moussa Dembele?

Verdict – Santi Cazorla

Of course, the Spaniard is injured and has missed half of the season, but we are comparing teams, and Santi is undeniably part of this Arsenal side. Cazorla has played far less than his counterpart, and yet still has more goals and assists, as well as key passes. Dembele takes the defensive side of the duel, but Santi isn’t far behind, despite giving away so much in terms of physicality. Santi would benefit any team, this is a no-brainer. If it wasn’t for injury, this wouldn’t be a contest.


Theo Walcott or Heung-Min Son?

Verdict – Son

This is a toughie. The South Korean has more goals and assists than Walcott, but Theo better dribbling percentages, is dispossessed less, and has a higher match rating. Son is super-efficient in terms of chances though, and Son just gets the nod.


Christian Eriksen or Mesut Ozil?

Verdict – Eriksen

This is an oft-debated issue. Mesut Ozil has a fine pedigree, and his reputation precedes him. Eriksen’s star is still rising, and although last season he was eclipsed by Ozil, this season is a different story. The all-important assist totals is a one-sided battle, with Eriksen registering 12 to Ozil’s 6. Ozil has a better passing percentage, but Eriksen has more goals. The Dane has played six more games than the German, but this season has seen him become more dangerous, where Ozil has had to change his role with Cazorla missing. In terms of talent, Ozil bests Eriksen, but this season, Eriksen is in the eleven.


Dele Alli or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain?

Verdict – Alli

This is a toughie. Arsenal’s left side is often changed, with no one really holding down the spot.
So, we go with the player who has played most from all the candidates, and that is The Ox. Here is a surprising stat; The Ox has the same amount of assists as Alli, even though he has made far less appearances. He also has a better passing percentage too. He has improved so much this season, but Alli has been talismanic. For such a young player, his threat in front of goal is huge. Alli must go into the team, but The Ox has pushed him hard.


Harry Kane or Alexis?

Verdict – Alexis

Both players are their teams leading goal-getters, and Kane is top of the charts when it comes to goals. In terms of assists though, Alexis leads the way with 9 so far. The Chilean also has better passing, key passes and shots per game. Although Kane has more goals, Alexis offers more than just goals. How can you leave out Alexis?

So, to surmise, here is the current combined XI –

Lloris

Bellerin

Alderweireld

Koscielny

Rose

Dier

Santi

Son

Eriksen

Alli

Alexis


This is viewed by some as the tipping point for North London. This season has finally seen tottenham emerge from Arsenal’s shadow. This is their best ever Premier League season, and they fully deserve to be where they are. Will this mean that from here, tottenham are the bigger team?

No. They may kick off a few seasons of superiority or they may not. Much depends on transfer activity and how spurs play at Wembley. For them to usurp Arsenal’s dominance in North London though they must first win the title, then win it at The Emirates twice, win more FA Cups and continue to be a presence in the Champions League.

Enjoy this season spurs, but this is not over. 

Spotlight on Ozil Brighter than Most

Published on Arsenal Mania.

Football has changed inexorably in the last decade. It has made the sport far more popular as access to every singular movement of a player is now accessible with a solitary click. Social networks provide ample platform for opinions, ideas and highlights to get an airing – rightly or wrongly. 

Along with the opportunity for every fan to have their say and for everything that occurs on the pitch to be viewed from a plethora of angles, the money involved in the sport has also transformed football as we knew it. 

The Premier League now attracts the finest exponents of football, be that players or managers. They come to these shores lured by the lucre and as a result, the heat of competition rises notch by notch. Every single game now carries more significance than before, as final standings mean more money, and better performances by the players also means more moolah. It’s a cash-fest.

Money unfortunately makes the world go round, and football is no different. Just look at the Chinese Super League in the last year for the purest of proof.Arsenal have not escaped this all-enncompassing money-malaise, and the club is a tightly run business with revenue streams rising to prominence alongside results on the pitch.

With the rude health Arsenal are in, it has allowed the Gunners to flash the cash a little. Granit Xhaka, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil have all arrived at the club in recent years, and their transfer fees – whilst not record-breaking in the face of flagrant spending by others – still means that these flagship signings are expected to illuminate the stadium with their excellence. 

A judge of their worth is often made within a few games, such is the fickle nature of some. Pundits often court controversy which only serves to exacerbate readers and listeners and also greases the wheels of their own brand. It is self-serving, but it is where football is right now. 

Mesut Ozil is one who has seen his every languid move scrutinised by all and sundry. The German World Cup winner seemed to deal with the intense attention on his performances for the majority of his Arsenal career, but this season has seen a dip in his displays, and the concentration of eyes on Ozil has now become a maelstrom of ridicule, doubt and fierce judgment.

Does Ozil warrant this? He is still Arsenal’s record purchase and has been touted as one of the worlds best playmakers. When he has been on song, he has exhibited the deftest of touches and vision only matched by the Hubble Telescope. His high’s are so lofty that any fall will contrast starkly.

Ozil is also suffering from a loss of form. He isn’t merely on a plateau, he is well below what he is expected to do. This is undeniable, but does Ozil cop it a little worse than others?

Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva have at times this season gone missing. Silva especially, for games at a time, can produce no end product in terms of goals and assists. Yet, do they dominate back pages? Do their sub-par performances earn hours of talk on radio and TV?

Eden Hazard is a prime example. Last season he was a passenger for 35 games of Chelsea’s mediocre season – and the backlash from him giving Chelsea precious little bang for their buck pales into comparison when placed alongside the weekly reaction regarding our German enabler.

The one decisive factor regarding Ozil’s dip, is the loss of Santi Cazorla. When the Spaniard was fit and in the team, Ozil was firing away goals and laying chances on a plate with high frequency. Since Cazorla has been injured however, Ozil has had to shift his role to get the amount of ball he needs. Mesut Ozil and his assets of mass destruction can nulify any team – just look at his performances against Bayern last season and Chelsea this season – but he needs Santi there to transition defence to attack.

Ozil is the surgery knife, but Santi is the handle. Without him, Ozil is severely hampered.

Ozil’s class is undeniable, but we should be able to criticise when he is off of his game. There is a line in the sand though, where constructive criticism becomes lambasting to keep in with the rest. It’s peer pressure amongst pundits. 

A retrospective look at what has been written and said by ‘experts’ would help, so they could see that it really has become a witch-hunt. Especially when you consider his positional brethren who escape the flak on a regular basis.

Ozil deserves both sides of what the spotlight brings, but who could blame him if he departs? 

Summer Clearout? Or Second Chance?

Published in Arsenal Mania.

At the start of this season, the majority lauded what we perceived to be the finished article. Finally, after what had seemed an age, our squad had the necessary tools to compete with the very best in our league.

Year after year of putting up with strict budgets and excuses from the Board and Arsene Wenger had begun to take its toll on our patience. Promises made and subsequently broken regarding our competitiveness only served to push our tolerance levels to their highest.

It was time, and like a Hollywood script, we finally rode into the screen in the nick of time with the winning formula.

Granit Xhaka had performed admirably for Switzerland in Euro2016, and his displays in the Bundesliga for Borussia Monchengladbach had the experts purring about his talent. Our midfield had been crying out for a potent mixture of pugilist and transitional master, and Xhaka from deep had shown he was adept at both.

We had all been painfully aware of our defensive shortcomings, with Mertesacker getting no younger and Gabriel yet to prove his worth. When we finally met the asking price Valencia were asking for German international Shkodran Mustafi, it appeared excellent business.

Mustafi was in La Liga’s team of the year in his time with Valencia. He was a regular in Joachim Low’s Germany squad. In his first months as a Gunner, he did not taste defeat.

It appeared as though we had finally found the secret recipe. Our patience had been rewarded. 

The cherry on the cake was Lucas Perez. 

The striker from Deportivo La Corun had an impressive goal return, and his clever touches in and around the box looked like we had the perfect attacker to complement our style of play.

Fast forward to the present day, and a large percentage of our fans think our players are suddenly not good enough.

What has changed, aside from results? 

Results are the currency on which football lives on. When we are not achieving results, then everything is open for discussion. 

Our level of talent in the squad has not changed, so why do a large percentage of our fans now think we need a clearout?

It is down to mentality.

When the chips are down, it is the competitiveness, the desire for victory that picks up players from their haunches and ensures they carry on. Well, an unacceptable run of results from January through April cost us dearly and have left this season as the worst under Wenger, but nearly every player has at times appeared to be downtrodden and lacking the spirit to fight their way out of this problem.

And it is exactly this that we need. That Arsene Wenger needs in order for our team to start crawling back up the league. As the players seem unable to reverse the fortunes on the pitch and sometimes don’t appear as if they want to – does the blame for this fall at the manager’s or the players feet?

Both. The players we have at our disposal are far better than results suggest, and it is quite obvious the current regimen does not fit well for our players. They have seemed ill at ease. Our players don’t look like they want to put in the effort.

Whether that is because they are assured of their place and have lost their edge, or it is down to tactics is unanswerable. The only people who know the root cause of our apparent demise are the ones who are in our dressing room every week.

A clearout of our players may be a bit hasty though. Early in the season, they were good enough in all of our eyes, as results were of a sufficient standard to see us near where we perceive them to be. Now the results have dried up, but these are the same players as before.

A different manager may just be the exact ingredient needed to summon the best from the players who are not doing the business for us right now. It may need someone in the squad to finally step up and give them the tongue-lashing they sorely need. 

It may require this group to wake up and realise they are doing our club and our badge a great disservice, and they MUST do better.

Either way, we have seen they are capable of doing better than they are right now. Have we all become unable to discern what is simply bad form and what is a lack of skill?

Some players have worn out their ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card, and some deserve the benefit of the doubt. A lot will happen in the summer and pre-season, and it will tell us if these men have the fire in their bellies that we need, or if the fire has been put out. 

A Spoonful of Winning Helps the Medicine Go Down.

Posted originally on Arsenal Mania

Screwed up faces. Clenched fists. Shirts ripped off in pure ecstacy and frustration. The many visages of Phil Jones.

There are many manifestations of footballer’s mentality on show. It happens in every game that rolls out in front of hordes of cameras, and millions can pore over each and every second, which means that the minutiae of players movements can be open to every single interpretation conceivable.

With such huge rewards on offer, and the spotlight only growing larger, it means that winning will become more fundamental that ever before. Efforts to obtain success and a lasting legacy will also grow with it.

Cause and effect. Motivation should not be an issue, but players ignite the fire in their bellies in different ways. Some have trophies on a pedestal, but some simply have an allergic reaction to losing. It is not in their nature to take a loss in any other way than with disgust and a grimace.

Like the medicine you were forced to take as a youngster, some things are difficult to swallow without a tangible showing of abhorrence. 

Alexis Sanchez is one of these players. 

There has been a shift in the apparent mood of the Chilean this season, and it has coincided with his team suffering a run of form which has rendered any hope of League success moot. As the results have turned sour, so has Alexis and his actions on the pitch.

His angry gesticulations, his frustrations at poor passes and the regular breaking down of attacks. He has been unable to quell the feelings of dismay he has, and it has burned to the fore. 

The fact that there are no other players in the team who exhibit the same symptoms of sore losing only serves to exacerbate what some interpret as an unhappy player.

They would be correct of course. Sanchez is certainly not on cloud nine at the moment. It isn’t because he wants to leave the club though. It is only because he cannot abide losing.

In a recent match for Chile versus Argentina, Alexis displayed the same signs of exasperation that have been on show when wearing an Arsenal jersey. This time though, it was the red shirt of Chile he was chomping down on rather than in Arsenal colours. It was a prime example of his indignance at how the game was being played out. 

You won’t like him when he’s losing….
His hunger for the ball and drive when in possession are admirable traits, but in their purest forms they are just another symptom of his fierce desire to win. Just like when he stretches out his shorts and screams to the heavens when another chance goes begging. 

Have we all become so sensitive that we must hold these examples up and declare them examples of a player who is either spoiled and wants things his own way, or as a man who is actively looking to jump a sinking ship?

If another player were to act in the manner that Alexis does, would this also be used as an example of an unhappy player looking at greener grass?

In teams of the past, we have had men who shared the same ferocious mentality. When things were not going well, their go-to reactions were anger and vexation. Vieira, Keown, even Thierry Henry – they all looked like miserable gits on the pitch. Were they chastised or pilloried for their long faces and wild showings of emotion?

Alexis and his desire should be rubbing off on his teammates, rather than segregating them. We could do with a few more who would run themselves into the ground in order to stave of disappointment. 

Alexis and Ozil – What Happens Next?

Published in Arsenal Mania. 

In any walk of life, retaining your prized assets ranks pretty high in terms of importance. Those things that are treasured above all else and clasped to our chests tightly in order to stave off leering suitors.


They are ours, they are our precious……


Apologies for the lame ‘Lord of the Rings’ reference, but the image of Smeagol and his ugly visage contorted with vicious desire does lend itself handily to this subject matter.  The more we want something, the more things get very ugly.


We may have plenty of treasures and things of value in our possession, but there are always a select few that take pride of place. This can be down to monetary value or even just sentimental value, but these choice items lord it above all else.


The players in our football team have all performed numerous times and in crunch fixtures. Some have gone above and beyond the normal levels and are synonymous with certain golden-hued moments in our memory. The majority all have our respect (at varying times anyway) but there are some men that stand on a different plain.


Step forward Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil.























These two marked the watershed moment, transitioning from ugly duckling football club with a cash deficiency, into powerhouse club who sign established world class superstars. Money was no object, we just made it rain.


Mesut Ozil is still our record purchase. The fact that REAL MADRID and CRISTIANO RONALDO lamented his departure only made the fact we had him at Arsenal oh so sweeter. His record amount of assists last season, his touch like an Estate Agent’s promise. Ozil is refined like the escorts who don’t need to place cards in a phone box.


Alexis Sanchez is pure fire. Goals, explosive trickery, unadulterated danger. The Chilean is victory embodied in a tanned, diminutive South American. He is also directly responsible for nearly half of all the goals we have scored this season, either via scoring it himself or setting it up. His dismay when situations on the pitch go awry is tantamount to a toddler tantrum, but dependant on your standpoint, it is also evidence we actually have a winner in our team.


Now, we stand on the precipice of failure. Not only do our perennial shadow-dwelling neighbours tottenham look to have built a team that will finally break the hold we have had over them for over two decades – we also appear to have slipped sufficiently that our normally reserved place at the top table in Europe is in danger of being taken.


Of course, many snort derisively when a place in the Top4 is mentioned. We may have had this on lockdown for a while, but it should not be made a target. This is completely correct, but it is at least worthy of our radar. It needs to be our basic requirement from every season. Such is the importance the top players place on the Champions League, if we abstain involuntarily from the competition, our chances of continuing to recruit the cream of the crop will be hampered significantly.


As well as keeping hold of what we have.


We are fully aware of the ticking down of Alexis’s and Mesut’s contracts. Next season will be the last year which they are contractually obliged to play for us, but this summer is when both will be looking at potential new clubs and weighing up their options.


Alexis looks increasingly likely to depart. He will have no shortage of takers as well, and tying him up to another contract looks like an impossible task.


Mesut could well stay or go. In truth, we have no idea what will happen as we are not lucky enough to be able to peer behind the veil, but there is a large chance we could be without both when we line up for the 2017/18 season.


We would increase our odds if we could promise them Champions League football, but even if we miraculously won that golden ticket for another year, would our top talent agree to stay?


If both decide to opt for pastures new, then we would be bereft of some incredible talent. Skills that would be at home in the best sides in the world. We would of course be stronger with them in our side.


We will still carry on though. We will still have a football club that we will still adore.


We have been a selling club before. The difference between this and now is that we needed to sell our shiniest baubles to stay afloat. Now we are selling merely because the players in question want to leave. We do not need to sell, but what is worse;


Needing to sell or being unable to keep top players?


Ozil and Alexis are not bigger than the club. We have had players who produce far more than they do on their best day, and we will again.


What we need are players willing to work hard for the club. We want players who want to be at the club.


If they want to leave – especially when we need them the most – then we shouldn’t shed a tear over them. It just means they were never true Gunners, they were mere mercenaries.   

Arsenal’s Summer Rebuilding

Published in Arsenal Mania.

There are many uncertainties surrounding Arsenal Football Club at this present moment. For a club that prides itself on its stability in the shifting tides of the game, Arsenal normally stand as the last bastion of routine and conviction.

As of right now though, the ever-moving cogs of the rumour mill are geared toward the management at Arsenal, and Arsene Wenger’s long-standing tenure.

Over two decades of Wenger and his particular brand have led to respectability and an elevated expectation, but staleness seems to have set into the club. No one can honestly say for sure whether Wenger will choose to take the offer of an extension already extended to him – or whether he will decide enough is enough and cut the ties which hold him so tightly.

Underneath the broiling waters though, a threat just as alarming is developing – and it threatens to undermine any plans a new or existing manager may hatch.

Arsenal’s midfield has been bereft of the wonderfully talented Santi Cazorla for the majority of the season, and it has recently been announced the Spanish midfielder will miss the rest of the campaign through his long-standing injury. This is not the first time Cazorla has been on the treatment table, and each time he has been missing from the side – Arsenal have suffered greatly.

Santi Cazorla remains the only player in the Gunners ranks who can transform defensive pressure into positive possession. His low centre of gravity and tight turning circle means he is a nightmare to dispossess – and his true two-footedness is a trait incredibly rare to find and/or cultivate.

Arsene has had to cope with this huge gap in his teams repertoire since October, and with his squad being stronger than in recent memory, he has had the bodies needed to try and rectify the situation.

The trouble is, the remaining central midfielders do not fit the bill – or are simply not good enough.

Aaron Ramsey has a wealth of talent, but his own injury problems and a certain weakness on the defensive side of his game mean he is not well balanced to be the barometer of the side.

Francis Coquelin’s hunger for possession is greater than the rest, and his tackling ability is up there with the best of the defensive midfielders in the PL. His increasingly erratic positioning are starting to overshadow his strengths however, and his inability to pass effectively is a shortcoming that cannot sit well with Wenger’s passing ethics.

Then there is Mohamed Elneny. The Egyptian has performed well when called upon, but he has cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines for the most part. Even when he has enjoyed a rare run in the team, Elneny has been solid – but unspectacular. He is clearly not the answer to the missing Spaniard. Elneny is a squad player.

What of new recruit Granit Xhaka? The Bundesliga-seasoned midfielder was supposed to be the all-round weapon and toughnut that soft-centred Arsenal needed. Instead, his tendency to lunge in with ill-timed tackles has cost his side dearly, and his mobility has been somewhat less than rapid. 

With Jack Wilshere on loan and seeking assurances on his future – this means that Arsenal’s centre of their team is light in number – and deficient in the top quality needed to push the team forward.

The summer will need a complete focus on the Gunners midfield. If whoever takes charge next season goes into the new campaign with the current midfield ranks – then the Top 4 may be a distant dream. 

The Ox Looking for New Pastures?

Originally published on Arsenal Mania

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been at Arsenal now for over six years. In that time, the man known as ‘The Ox’ by fans, has accrued 122 appearances in the Premiership.

He has also earned international recognition during his time at the club. From the raw but exciting winger the Gunners purchased all those seasons ago, The Ox has firmly established himself and has been reaping the rewards of a higher echelon player.


Oxlade-Chamberlain has also suffered a raft of injuries in his time at The Emirates, disrupting his progress and hampering his opportunities in the first team. Looking back at his career sees a series of peaks and troughs, where he injures himself, has a lengthy layoff and then has sporadic gametime in an effort to reestablish himself on Arsene Wenger’s plans.


That is not to say the versatile midfielder hasn’t been given adequate chances however. There have been ample opportunities dished out to the England man, but until this season, The Ox had a severe case of butterfingers, as chance after chance fell through his grasp thanks to his weaknesses on the field.


Poor decision making, a tendency to hold the ball for too long, gifting possession to the opposition repeatedly. The Ox has been exciting to watch, but careless. It is his ability to successfully take on his markers though, that has affirmed his status as a fan favourite amongst a large percentage of Gooners. His fearlessness, especially when the chips are down, means he raises bums from seats. He raises the emotional level of the fans in the stands when he is on the ball.


Although the source is unconfirmed, there has been smoke billowing around the player’s future. Stories of The Ox looking to pastures new where so plentiful recently, that it was presented to Arsene Wenger in a recent Press conference. Of course Wenger reaffirmed his wish for the Ox to stay, and with so much faith and time invested in the young man, this is certainly no surprise to hear.


The whole thing smacks of the dark arts engineered by an agent keen to up his client’s market value so a new contract will be as juicy and lucrative as possible. A wanted commodity is always a more valuable commodity after all. If some transfer furore can be whipped up and Arsenal can be reminded of what they could lose, then they will be keener to tie up The Ox to a long-term deal.


If there is substance to the story though, then The Ox is showing his true colours.


Much like Robin Van Persie, Oxlade-Chamberlain has suffered many injuries, and has also received a ludicrous amount of faith placed in them by a manager who chooses to see the promise in a player above their flaws. Wenger believed they would come good and he resisted all overtures to drop them from the team when fit.


Now, if the rumours are to be believed, The Ox is looking to betray that faith by leaving the club, after finally fulfilling that promise he has always failed to deliver. This campaign has seen The Ox rise to the fore in a central role, getting the all-important numbers in the goals and assists column and showing everyone just what he can do.


Wenger always knew this was the player he signed, but if The Ox wants to go, then he should be allowed to. We cannot want a player who is willing to sever ties with our club so easily. Apparently he believes that he has been taken for granted. All this sounds like is a player who has been given much and is not willing to return the favour with loyalty.


We shan’t miss him. We have had far better than him and coped just fine. More than likely, The Ox is just angling for an extension, but if there is the slightest hint of truth, then we should leave the gate open for The Ox to depart from his comfortable pen.


I am more than sure he will find that wherever he goes, he won’t find circumstances so forgiving anywhere else. 

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – Will A Loan Be the Answer?

Originally posted on Arsenal Mania.

At the time of writing, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has made a century of Premier League appearances. That is an average of twenty appearances per season. More than enough, you could argue, for a burgeoning talent to show a hint of progression.

The Ox however, has plateaued.

In those 100 showings for his club, he has garnered seven goals and eleven assists. Hardly the fruits of a world-class youngster. Of course, he has been beset by injuries, but there have been long spells of play between these ailments and what has become abundantly clear, is that the 22year old Englishman has fallen behind his own projection chart.

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