Tag Archives: barca

Suarez Is A Gooner

We had no funds. We were told that signings would be difficult.

So to add a player from Barcelona in this window – and one of real pedigree – is no mean feat.

Our loan signing of Denis Suarez is a bit of a steal really, and some shrewd business by our backroom team. The loan deal until the end of the season means we get a decent window to gauge if Suarez is Arsenal material or not – with an option to buy should he impress. Barca protected their interests too, by persuading Suarez to sign an extension before he departed for London.

And impress he should. Suarez has been sworn in as a replacement for the outbound Aaron Ramsey, and Suarez can fill the void left by the Welshman – although goalscoring is not his strongest suite.

What are Suarez’s strengths though? His technical ability – unsurprising coming from the Nou Camp – is his main asset. A great first touch and a decent pass on him means he can be used in the same positions that Ramsey normally occupies.

It is well documented that the Premier League requires a higher level of physicality than the other top European leagues, and Suarez may find the going tough at first. Fear not though, for suarez is familiar with the rigours of English football after hsi spell at Manchester City back in 2011-13. He didn’t exactly force himself onto first team plans, but his two years with City means he will be more familiar with the language – often a deal breaker with new signings – and it means he may require less acclimatising than others.

Unai Emery has often spoken of Suarez, despite the move not being confirmed – and Suarez has played under Emery at Sevilla for a season, where he played 31 matches for the now Arsenal boss. That indicates that Emery was convinced of Suarez’s qualities, which bodes well for us.

Since that loan spell, Suarez has played for both Villareal and Barca, but in the last season, he has found it a little tough to impose himself on the first eleven, being used primarily as a squad player.

denis_suarez_arsenal_transfer_news_premier_league_gettyimages-959245432

 

He will enjoy far more games with us, especially since Emery has hinted that Suarez is due to be used mostly out wide, where we are in dire need of bodies. Iwobi aside, we are sorely lacking men who have white paint on their boots. With Mkhitaryan injured currently, Suarez could find himself in the first team quicker than he would have imagined.

Make no mistake, Suarez has what it takes to make an impact in our side, and physicality aside, we have a man that can damage opponents with his passing and his touch, which is covered in velvet.

At 25, Suarez is approaching his best years, and hopefully they can be with us. With the Europa League becoming of critical importance in our season with our exit in the FA Cup, Suarez is another body we can rely on when the fixtures come thick and fast.

Emery wants him at the club – and that is a rubber stamp of his credentials.

Welcome to Arsenal, Denis Suarez!

Reiss Nelson Has A Decision To Make

As a youngster breaking through into a Premier League first team squad, the odds are stacked.

Reiss Nelson is amongst a few Gunners kids who’ve made the transition from successful Under-23 prodigy to useful squad member for the first team – but now Nelson has a decision to make, with his current contract entering its final throes.

And it’s one that will decide how his career pans out – the skeletal remains of previous blossoming talents serve as the most potent reminders.

Reiss Nelson has seen plenty of action in the Europa League so far, and has made his bow in the Premier League and domestic cup competitions this season. His exciting displays and swashbuckling style have drawn admiration from fans, who mostly believe him to have a glittering future ahead of him.

Will it be in an Arsenal shirt though?

If he continues his current trajectory, then he will become an increasingly relevant player in our side. It’s a big if, but on what we’ve seen, he definitely has a place in first team plans in years to come.

With youth comes impatience however, and there are some glaring pieces of evidence that the grass may well be greener elsewhere – in the form of Marcus McGuane and Chris Willock.

McGuane became the first Englishman to play for Barcelona’s first team in recent years, with his substitute appearance in the Catalan’s Supercopa de Catalunya final. McGuane actually made his first team debut for Arsenal ironically as a sub for Reiss Nelson in our 4-2 win over BATE Borisov, but McGuane was drawn to the potential of a big move, and is doing well for Barca’s B side.

Then there is Chris Willock, brother of our midfielder Jo. The gifted winger opted for Benfica rather than bide his time at Arsenal. His first season in Portugal has been strictly for Benfica’s B side, and options to move back to England on loan were turned down.

Could the lure of early stardom bring about an end to Nelson’s tenure at Arsenal?

So many kids have come and gone through the revolving door at our club, but not many have had the talent that Reiss does. His star is a rising one, but a move to a club that stunts his development with a lack of playing time would shrink hsi potential, setting a well-worn path that many youngsters tread – that of a journeyman swilling around the lower reaches of professional football.

Nelson also needs to have assurances from our club that his first team chances are as healthy as ever, and he will get windows of opportunity. He also needs to play more than he did this season.

So, Nelson is at a crossroads. He can look at Ainslie Maitland-Niles, Alex Iwobi and Jack Wilshere to see what could happen for his career, should he continue to knuckle down and concentrate on his football.

Or he could opt for sunnier climes, but with a far steeper incline for success. The light at the end of the tunnel may well be brighter, but in the dark it’s hard to tell whether the tunnel is longer or not.

Reiss Nelson has a decision to make.

What would you do?

Farewell, Jon Toral

We never quite got to know the REAL Jon Toral.

Precisely zero appearances for the first team smacks of a player that never quite made the grade at our club, but there is a tinge of sadness with the Spaniard signing a permanent deal at Hull City.

Toral, still only 22, seemed destined for the biggest stage when he signed with us back in 2014. His showings for the Reserves were impressive, and loan spells soon followed for the youngster to truly test the midfielder and see whether he could convert his bags of potential into that sprinkling of magic that all top players have.

Brentford and Birmingham City were his first ports of call, both season-long loans designed to check his progress. Both times he left the clubs with glowing references. At Birmingham especially, he returned to Arsenal with the Goal of the Season and the Players and Supporters Player of the Year awards safely tucked in his belt.

His showings smacked of a clever player with composure, who could work openings. The Spaniard had been hewn from La Masia stock, and his touch and passing reeked of Catalonia. He looked to be the real deal.

Injuries had hampered the youngster a tad, but crucially he did not take long to get back to speed after a layoff. An injury in a loan spell is usually the death knell to any opportunity, so in cahoots with his talent, he also had a mental resolve that was required too.

The next season though, was when Toral hit a hurdle or two. 

Another loan spell beckoned, and it was a step up from his spells in the Championship. Granada in LaLiga was the destination, and it started so well, but his loan was cut short halfway through the season after only six appearances. 

Keen to keep his place on the progress chart, he chose to spend the second half of last season on loan at Rangers. He managed 15 showings and 3 goals, but he couldn’t quite manage the sparkle he managed in the previous season.

Injuries did play a part, but what was hindering him most is that at Granada and Rangers, he couldn’t hold down a regular spot.

It meant that the jury was still out on Toral back at Arsenal, so this summer, it was either another loan spell, stay at the club and hope his performances for the Reserves would attract Wenger’s attention – or leave.

Hull City and Leonid Slutsky came calling, and we cannot blame Toral for his decision. He is eager to progress and play regularly, and at the KC Stadium he will have that opportunity. Could we have been a little premature on the decision?

It has left many questions regarding Toral, and a feeling that he could well flourish and come back to haunt us in the future. 

A buyback clause would have been ideal – let Toral grow and then bring him back into the fold when he is ready. 

Unfortunately, yet another young player with bags of talent has left the club. None of us will know if Toral would have cut it at Arsenal, but it would have been great to give him that chance. He seemed the archetypal Arsenal player, but when hunger for gametime kicks in, no one can begrudge a youngster the chance to make hay whilst the sun shines. 

Good luck Jon Toral, Gooners everywhere wish for you nothing but the best – aside from when you play us!

Champions League Failure On Loop

It was back in 2013 that Arsenal Football Club officially made it through the debilitating fog of strict budgets, and could compete with the cream of the Premiership and the rest of Europe. 

Years of auctioning off our prized assets to raise funds like a desperate priest organising raffles to pay for a new Church roof were over. Us Gooners could finally envision a season where the best players we had could actually appear in our shirt again. We could now realise the dream which was behind the building of The Emirates, which was to compete on an even footing with the very best.

A quote from our Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis, given at the tail-end of the 2012-13 season, highlights this very truth. Arsenal were geared towards moving up a level, to transform the promises made into something tangible. 

Ivan Gazidis – We’re very confident with the new deals we’ve got coming through, although we can’t talk about that in any detail. That’s showing really positive progression. We should be able to compete at a level like a club such as Bayern Munich.
“I’m not saying we are there by any means, we have a way to go before we can put ourselves on that level. But this whole journey over the past ten years really has been with that goal in mind which is why I say that this is an extraordinarily ambitious club.


“We get beaten up along the way but I think we are an extraordinarily ambitious club. This has been about putting us up with the best in the world and now the question is turning that platform now into on-field success.”

Since this was said by Gazidis, we have indeed won some silverware – three FA Cups have filled gaps in the trophy cabinet – but in terms of matching the success of Bayern Munich, Arsenal have failed to not only keep up, but it hasn’t even been a race.

It is unfair to compare domestic results between the two clubs, as the Bundesliga represents a far easier challenge for Munich than the Premier League does for Arsenal. It is the results in the Champions League which represents the fairest barometer to judge whether Arsenal have failed to deliver on not only their aims, but what us fans were promised.

Bayern Munich, since 2013, have been crowned winners once, and reached the Semi-Final stage in the last three years. 

By stark contrast, Arsenal have been halted at the Last16 stage four times. 

Ivan Gazidis was correct in one element of his projections, as Arsenal have indeed flexed their newly found financial muscles thanks to the shackles of debt being loosened somewhat. Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi have totalled an outlay of nearly £150million. 

In terms of results on the pitch however, a stagnation has occurred. In the Champions League, Arsenal have flattered to deceive. 

To progress in Europe’s top competition, there are many requirements, and luck is certainly one of them. Luck to garner a plum draw is just one reason why clubs need to broker a deal with a leprechaun in order to have the best chance to proceed to the latter stages.

In that facet, the Gunners have not been dealt the greatest of hands. 

Barcelona twice, AC Milan once and Bayern Munich three times have given Arsenal the most imposing of tasks to break the Last16 hoodoo. The only real chance the Gunners have had in seven years to get to the Quarter-Final has been Monaco, but we failed to capitalise on it. We fell at the same hurdle.

So, we can say the draw has been most unkind, but referring back to what Ivan Gazidis said yet again, the Chief Executive said that we could look forward to being on an even keel with the likes of Bayern – and currently, we look further away from achieivng this than ever.

The recent 10-2 aggregate defeat to Bayern Munich has highlighted just how much distance is between Arsenal and the very top of the game. The annual money lists see our club where it has projected itself to be, but in terms of results on the pitch, it has not matched the financial power we now boast of.

It means that Arsenal have failed. The Premier League may be an obtainable prizxe within the next few years, but the Champions League looks to be a mirage on the horizon that we can look on lustfully. 

Arsenal for the last seven years have been felled at the Last16 stage, but it was this years incarnation of Groundhog Day that really spelled out how far we are away from realising the words of Gazidis and the wishes of fans. 

A 10-2 aggregate deficit at the hands of Bayern is not acceptable for any self-respecting ambitious club. 

Arsenal are now not only treading water, but there is a distinct threat of sinking. The proud, ever-present record of Champions League qualification since Wenger has taken charge means a sound financial footing, but what good is a presence in a competition if there is no actual chance of winning it? 

Are we now just making up the numbers? The reaction from Bayern players when drawn against us speaks volumes. 

A club who fail to make good on their promises need to be held to account. Something needs to give. 

Next season gives us a new platform to concentrate our efforts on. No Champions League means we can look to the title first and work our way up. 

Should we Bring Back Cesc?

Originally posted on Goonersphere

Returning to the site of a former glory is never advised. 

Upon leaving after making your mark, the temptation looms large to attempt to recreate the halcyon days of the past.

The thing is though, that it rarely goes according to plan. The circumstances change and when you return, it is never how you remember. The very fibre of the place feels different somehow, even though visually things have stood in place from how you recall.

It is very much the case for football players. With the transfer windows orchestrating a crazed merry-go-round of sorts, it sees players often look to their former clubs for employment. With clubs involved in either the push for promotion or the desparate escape from the relegation trap door, managers often seek out the fillip that will aid their cause.

What a boost it would be too. The fans always enjoy a hero returning home, and memories of the heroics they had performed rise to prominence. There is no risk involved, surely?

When there is a legacy involved, tarnishing its lustre is often unavoidable. Can they return to the heights of the past?

Cesc Fabregas had forged a bond with Arsenal before he unceremoniously left in 2011 to return to his homeland. From his debut in 2003/04, to filling the gargantuan aperture left by Patrick Vieira in 2005/06, Cesc Fabregas embodied everything Arsenal attempted to do on the pitch.

Stylish, inventive and with a penchant for swift, ruthless attacks – Cesc was the tangible element of Arsene Wenger’s musings. As each year progressed, the Spaniards importance grew. From playmaker, to enforcer to captain – Cesc was the lynchpin of the club for the best part of five years.

To see a youngster evolve in front of your eyes is something to behold – and it endeared Cesc to the Arsenal faithful. His never say die attitude and fierce competitive edge, allied with the skills of a razor-sharp fencer, was everything Gooners wanted.

Which made his departure that little more accrid on the tongue.

It was understandable that he wanted to go back home to Barcelona. After winning the World Cup in 2010 with Spain, he was even forced to wear the Barcelona shirt by a teammate, such was the clamour for this wonderkid to come back to his roots.

So it happened, and Arsenal were left rudderless. The entire team had been built around Cesc, and Arsene had to adjust his plans quickly. Cesc soon found out though, that the grass is not always greener when  he signed for the Catalans.

His three years at the Camp Nou were mixed. The entrenched genius of Xavi and Iniesta saw his favoured position taken, which meant the new boy had to adapt.

Cesc played in a few positions, mostly in the forward line, but that impacted upon what he was capable of. He never truly showed his worth.

To add to Arsenal’s woes, Cesc left Barcelona for London rivals Chelsea in 2014. Some say that Cesc was offered back to Arsene before he went to Stamford Bridge, but Wenger opted for Mesut Ozil. Regardless, Cesc now plays for the Blues – and aside from his first season has never nailed down a spot in the team.

Now approaching thirty, Cesc is not playing regularly. This is the age when they should be playing as many games as possible as the peak for footballers is short-lived. Instead, he is seen as a change in approach mid-game for manager Antonio Conte.

During this time, Arsenal seem to be in a rut of sorts. Mesut Ozil is clearly not firing on all cylinders – and his protracted contract negotiations may be taking their toll on his effectiveness. Is he sure that he wants to stay? Is his mind made up? 

The perfect contingency plan is available if Ozil decides to depart from London. The player to come in speaks lovingly every year about his time at Arsenal – and even credits the club for everything he has achieved. Cesc is the man who may just be able to come back and actually enhance his reputation within the fans.

With Santi Cazorla increasingly injury-prone and coming close to his twilight years as a player, Cesc could slot into a setup he is already familiar with and with regular games he could really light up the team. Is this a possibility though?

If Jose Moutinho was still at Chelsea – the answer would be an emphatic no. Antonio Conte may just let Cesc leave though. It is clear that Fabregas is not part of his immediate plans, and would Cesc sign for us? I have no doubts he would.

Could a player return to a place of former glory and buck the trend? Could Cesc come back and boost our side? Most definitely. He has made twenty appearances at the time of writing. These appearances have not allowed for any rhythm whatsoever as they have been broken up. He has still amassed four goals and seven assists in those games. 

Just imagine what he would do with a constant stream of games.

When looking for players to prove that theory, just ask Thierry Henry about his loan spell back at Arsenal.

Bellerin To Leave In Summer?

When a player makes the grade and comes through the youth ranks at the club, the ties which bind them to the club are stronger.

The fanbase especially, share an affinity with this talented youngster. They see them as one of them. This starlet has fought through all the barriers and long odds which face any fresh-faced hopeful, and every time they pull on the shirt, it is a victory and something to cherish for the adoring support in the stands.

Hector Bellerin is one of those who the fans adore. From his baptism of fire in a Champions League match against Borussia Dortmund in 2014 through to the present day, the floppy-haired defender has risen to every challenge he has faced.

His beginnings in the first team were borne from necessity. Our squad had been ravaged thanks to an annual injury crisis which Arsenal Football Club seem to have inflicted upon them without remorse. Hector had been pulling up trees for the reserves, and his sporadic appearances on the Arsenal bench were a signal that the Spaniard was on the cusp of a breakthrough.

The match that marked his debut was one to forget, as Dortmund’s intricate teamplay and movement were a living nightmare for every Gunner on the pitch. It ended in a well-deserved defeat for Arsenal, and Bellerin was mercilessly handed a reminder of the significant step up from what he had been doing, to what he actually required.

The transformation from this bamboozled youngster into the player we have on our hands now is startling. His rise has seen off established international rivals for his spot. His rapier runs forward have allowed his team a lifesaving pressure valve. His pace has been the inflatable ring that has been chucked into choppy waters when all around him are floundering.

In short, Bellerin has shown his impressive talents in all aspects of his role. He is a modern day full-back that is improving with every season. His full-bodied flavour has not risen to the palatte yet, but thanks to his age, we have many years to wait before his full potential is realised. 

Or do we? 

Revista De La Liga and their newspaper column at the end of the show report that Bellerin is interesting his home club, and that the Catalans refuse to rule out a move for our man. Guillame Balague, the Spanish presenter and self-proclaimed expert of Spanish football, went as far as to confirm that talks had taken place between the two clubs, although these were only tentative enquiries.

Tentative they may be, but as Arsenal fans, we are painfully aware of how this goes when Barca come sniffing around our key personnel. We have seen this horror movie countless times and the ending is depressingly familiar. Could Bellerin ignore the best advice and actually depart from Arsenal?

Hector has only recently signed a long-term contract extension, but all this means in today’s money-tarnished footballing world is that the transfer fee would be further inflated. We as Gooners can at least find comfort in the fact that, in his own brand of Spanglish twangs, Bellerin has reaffirmed his intention to stay at the club.

It isn’t just Barcelona who wish to lure Bellerin away from Arsenal. Man City are also rumoured to be in the hunt, with former Gunner Mikel Arteta pivotal in their supposed plans to snatch our Spaniard from under our noses.

He did confirm his wishes to stay before the uncertainty and fall down the table enveloped the club however. Has his position changed? If Bellerin left, it would smart nearly as much as when Cesc left – also for Barcelona.

It is all conjecture of course, but any rumours surrounding our best players are bound to make us all nervous. We have all seen the countless bilge circulating around Alexis and Ozil, and it certainly appears that the Chilean at least is set for pastures new. 

But Bellerin  has Arsenal DNA. Never mind that his roots are firmly entrenched in La Masia ground. He has come through the ranks at Arsenal, and we have made him the player which is so coveted by those at the Camp Nou. 

So much depends on our where we finish this season. Champions League qualification may be scoffed at by some – especially when we are not close to winning the competition – but it means that our best players are dining a the top table where they belong. It means so much for us to stay competitive. 

We have made him who he is. We have given him everything. Let us hope that Bellerin repays that faith. 

Barcelona 3-1 Arsenal – Missed Chances Make The Difference – Champions League Report

Barcelona progressed after this second leg victory, in an almost carbon copy of the first leg as valiant Arsenal created enough chances to make a fist of it, but ultimately the gulf in class up front swung it for the reigning European Champions.

image

What a difference in display from the Gunners though – a complete departure from recent matches.

Continue reading Barcelona 3-1 Arsenal – Missed Chances Make The Difference – Champions League Report

Barcelona Vs Arsenal – Mission Improbable – Match Preview

Before today’s match and in the aftermath of the Gunners FA Cup exit at the hands of Watford, under fire Arsenal Boss Arsene Wenger stated that he wanted his team to ‘make the impossible possible’ at the Camp Nou in this Champions League Last 16 2nd Leg.

To summarise, Arsenal lost the first leg at home 2-0, and face the European Cup holders who are in sumptuous form – conceding just two, and scoring nineteen in their last five fixtures – winning them all.

Arsenal go into this game in the worst run of form for years, just three wins in the last eleven fixtures and producing some displays which have been the polar opposite of the swashbuckling football which the Arsenal name is synonymous with.

image

Continue reading Barcelona Vs Arsenal – Mission Improbable – Match Preview

Arsenal Vs Barcelona – Champions League Match Preview

Mission Improbable is now upon Arsenal as holders Barcelona visit The Emirates in the first knockout round of the Champions League.

Arsene Wenger is now tasked with keeping quiet the most potent strike force in European football – Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar Jr.

image

Continue reading Arsenal Vs Barcelona – Champions League Match Preview