Tag Archives: extension

Head Over Heart

Every day, every part of the routine, didn’t feel monotonous like the daily grind should.

That had something to do with the fact he loved every single minute.

From a young child he was schooled in the ways of The Arsenal, first by his parents – both diehard Gooners – and then from his tutelage at the club.

He was like most children at that age, singularly obsessed with football. With or without friends, he would kick the ball. At goal, in the street, off the wall. His dad said that practice was the key, so he stuck gamely to his task. This is where he differed from most kids – he was driven, he wouldn’t let up. His mum sometimes worried about the fact that wherever he went, he had a ball with him, but she needn’t have fretted. It paid off big time.

He was enrolled in the youth team from an early age, and despite interest from other clubs, there was only one he would sign for. The moment he put pen to paper is still crystallised in the form of a framed photo on top of the mantelpiece at his mums house.

That was where the hard work really began. For eight years, he clambered up the ranks, the age groups. International recognition came for the Under-18’s, Under-21’s, but this was a mere flicker in the eye of time. By the time he had made his debut for the Under-21’s, full international caps came calling.

That was because his debut for Arsenal was packed with fireworks. He had seven minutes to make the coach and fans sit up and take notice, and he did so in spades. A goal and hanging the opposition’s right-back out to dry on at least three occasions meant that when the next season came, he was firmly in contention.

That was the beginning of his halcyon season – and the sole reason he was still at Arsenal. He played through the entire campaign, he grabbed goals, winners, made more respected colleagues look like they were wading through treacle. Experts and teammates, other coaches all commented on his meteoric rise.

It was his display against one of the best teams in the world though, that meant he was predicted to be a game changer not only for Arsenal, but for England too. He ran the show, weaving a mesmeric web that won plaudits around the world.

The footballing world was his oyster, but he never saw himself anywhere but The Arsenal. His faith and promise were rewarded as well, when injury bit.

It bit hard too. A whole season missed, then half a season. He couldn’t quite get back to where he was. Every time he scaled the insurmountable mountain of recovery, at the peak he fell down the other side. Critics were mounting, ‘sicknote’ tags were sticking.

Seasons were going by and he was no longer the promising kid who had the world at his feet. He now had to prove himself again. It wasn’t enough to have shown he had what it takes to run with the big boys. After his injury record, people doubted whether he could reach that height again.

Most importantly, the fans and the club he loved were beginning to worry about him too.

Fitness slowly crept back, and so did his appearances. Fleeting glimpses of form came and went, so did runs of matches.

Now came the time where his contract was running out. An offer was on the table, and it was once the case that whatever was on the table, he would have signed it, a la Tony Adams.

Now, after a conversation with the coach, he had a decision to make. He needed gametime. His stock was low, international honours was a dot on the horizon. He had played last season, but he was far from where he thought he’d be.

He felt superfluous, a groupie. A biscuit on the side of an extravagant coffee. He was not the main act, but he didn’t want that. He merely wanted to be a vital cog in the machine. At the moment, he wasn’t adding value, worth.

Now the coach has told him that he could stay and try to force his way into proceedings, but at this moment in time, he would be firmly in the ‘backup’ category.

He had spoken to his agent, his parents, his friends, his wife. All said that he owed his club nothing, he had done all he could. He needed to be selfish and do what he needed to do. His career was short, and if he stayed he would be on good money, but he could get more elsewhere and most importantly – he could get back into the international fold as he would play.

Stay at the club he loves? Fight for the badge and your career? Or move on for more minutes and perhaps a little better in terms of contract?

Jack-Wilshere-648544

Where does loyalty rank in terms of significance in decision-making? At what price does the heart come into things? When does business run the rule over matters of sentimentality?

If you were in this position – what would you do?

Ramsey Stay Or Go?

We’ve had a great recruitment drive to welcome in the Unai Emery era, with Bernd Leno, Stephane Lichtsteiner, Matteo Guendouzi, Sokratis and Lucas Torreira whizzing through the checkout to bolster our lines.

They add depth and in some cases a vast improvement over what we had previously, but there is one signing that some see as the lynchpin to a successful side.

Aaron Ramsey is yet to sign an extension on his current deal, which is entering the final year. From December, the midfielder can enter into talks with interested parties – of which there will be a smorgasbord.

Ramsey has come on leaps and bounds, and even in a malfunctioning midfield, has offered attacking excellence and a huge desire in the side – something we have been bereft of recently. The Welshman is truly growing into an excellent box-to-box role, and now entering his peak years, the next few seasons could see Ramsey make a huge impact on the league.

Emery’s fresh tactics and training methods are apt to get a few extra percent from the existing players, pushing them harder than previously. It means we will have a tighter unit, and with more competition for places, our eleven will be hungry to impress on the pitch.

Ramsey and new coach Emery

Ramsey is understandably patient when it comes to signing a new deal. This next one will be his biggest, but it will be downhill after this deal, as he enters his thirties and the nadir of his career. His style of play relies on his engine, and no matter how superhuman you are, players can’t maintain those levels for as long.

So, he wants assurances that if he gives his best years, then he will get something back. That he will be able to leave as big an indelible mark on football as his talent allows. Can Arsenal match his ambition? Or will his peak years go to waste?

Plus, finances come into play too. Ramsey and his negotiating party will know that the demands they put in can be high, as Arsenal will know that if they don’t meet them, another club won’t hesitate.

Ramsey could benefit hugely from the sentinel-like presence of Lucas Torreira behind him. Another feather in the cap of a proposed extended deal would be a possible switch to a 3-man midfield, giving him the long-range passing of Xhaka to feed from.

The midfielder’s late runs in the box are a nightmare to mark for opposing teams, and it is no coincidence that he scores late goals – his stamina levels combined with tired legs of defenders mean Rambo normally hits when it matters – but could he be doing it in another shirt?

2018/19 is his tenth year at Arsenal – and three FA Cups is a good haul for most clubs – but Ramsey wants more – and deservedly so. For us to call ourselves a big club means we must view this trophy haul as underachievement.

Ramsey has a big call to make – the biggest of his career. If he stays with us he could go on to become one of our biggest names amongst a litany of shining stars.

If he decides that he’s better off elsewhere, then he’ll become another name that belongs to the ‘what if’ brigade – when we look at former players and wish that they had stayed, knowing they could have given us much more.

Mohamed Elneny – Contract Extension Deserved?

There are many different roles that comprise a squad.

You need a sprinkling of the mercurial. there must be a liberal dollop of fighting spirit and you won’t garner success without a smidgin of ruthlessness.

Mohamed Elneny makes up perhaps the most overlooked of ingredients though.

Professionalism.

The Egyptian recently was awarded a contract extension for his consummate consistency and professional outlook in the face of a less than certain place in the team.

In fact, the first half of the season saw the midfielder consigned to a bit-part role that contained Europa League games and the odd domestic cup appearance.

Yet, we didn’t hear a negative tweet, comment or noise coming from the Elneny camp. No, when he did play, he was his normal solid self and put his personal concerns behind him to make sure he performed in his role, at the very least adequately.

I’ve never been the biggest fan of the Egyptian. I’ve always thought of him as limited, but I’m happy to admit I was wrong. The departure of Francis Coquelin has pushed him further into the reckoning, and when he’s played, crucially, he’s been utilised in the right way.

You see, Elneny is perhaps the best midfielder we have in terms of the dirty work. Tracking runners, putting in the tackles when necessary, Elneny has put in a shift when others around him have let the side down. The midfielder hasn’t put a foot wrong and in terms of value, he has proved his worth.

Put it this way – is he as blessed as Aaron Ramsey or Jack Wilshere? Is his passing as good as Xhaka’s? No to both. But does he show his worth in every game? Does he add to our defensive side? Yes to both.

Some may see his success as a signal of the weakness of our squad. Would ‘Mo’ have seen any action in previous years? Is he a step down in terms of what we should be used to? It’s an undeniable fact that he isn’t a world beater, and we are accustomed to seeing players with better equipped skillsets on display.

That isn’t to say Elneny isn’t good enough – far from it.

But isn’t it refreshing to have a midfielder who is more adept at the defensive side of the game, and be happy about it? Who doesn’t seek the Hollywood pass, who prefers to make the simple pass to keep possession?

More importantly, isn’t it great to have a player who is so evidently happy at being at the club, despite not having a starting place nailed down?

He possesses a decent shot, he has the physical strength to deal with the majority of the burlier players around, and tactically, he seems pretty astute. He is also the squad member happiest to be the band-aid – that player that comes in when the first choice players are injured. His appearances in central defence show both his willingness to put the club before his own merits and also his tactical nous. It isn’t easy to switch to not only a different position but an entirely different third of the pitch.

Elneny has done it and done it well.

Mohamed Elneny can progress to being the shield in behind our somewhat porous midfield. The Egyptian signing an extension – with a figurative and literal smile on his face – is a great addition to our squad.

His presence makes us stronger and better equipped to deal with the rigours of top-flight football.

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. 

Mertesacker Signs Extension

Originally featured on Goonersphere.

The news of club Captain Per Mertesacker being offered and signing a one year extension to his current contract was met with a mixed reception by Gooners, but while fans may be unmoved by the German’s extended stay, there are a raft of positives to consider too.

The lanky German has yet to play a minute this season after injuring his knee in pre-season, and it appears it may be a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ for Mertesacker. 

The severity of his injury and the occasional wobble last season forced Wenger’s hand into purchasing Shkodran Mustafi, and his fellow German has taken to the Arsenal backline like pickled cabbage to bratwurst. 

Mustafi has a great record in a Gunners jersey, and his budding partnership with Laurent Koscielny has reinvigorated our defence. The decision to bring in the German from Valencia looks to be a shrewd one, but as Mustafi found his feet quickly and began to assert himself upon Gooners affections, the man he was brought in to replace was fighting hard to regain fitness.

The defender known as ‘BFG’ has not rested on his laurels. He has recognised the challenge that faces him in regards to gaining sufficient playing time and regaining fitness and has sought to overcome them. 

Mertesacker has taken up yoga in a bid to strengthen his limbs and aid his rehabilitation, all the while he has also done his duty for the club and taken part in the various events that involve being part of a global franchise.

When the moment comes that Per is included in a matchday squad, it is clear that he will be understudy to Shkodran Mustafi and Koscielny. There will come a time when his services are called upon though, and we should have no doubt that he can perform more than adequately for the team he so clearly is devoted to.

Fans who express concern over his pace are one hundred percent correct to do so. Mertesacker has all the speed of an overweight panda trying to scratch its nether regions. The thing is though, we knew that when we signed him. Also, he was the same speed when he picked up the majority of his Germany caps, and they deemed him more than fast enough to be part of their plans for world domination.

Mertesacker is not our first choice defender. People who think that offering him an extension is a bad decision though? How can it be a bad decision?

His defensive nous is far better than Gabriel’s and Rob Holding’s. His aerial ability is just as good as his colleagues. His distribution is far better than a defender should be able to boast of, and his tendency to vocalise his opinions on the pitch give him an air of leadership that few in the squad can muster.

To decry this decision as madness is madness in itself. The outlook that he is taking up a valuable squad space that someone better can use is simply wrong. Gabriel is strong in some areas, but it can be successfully argued that his weaknesses amount to a bigger deficiency than Mertesacker. In Rob Holding we have a true starlet, but he needs experience and a mentor. Well, Mertesacker has been touted as a future coach purely for his attitude and ethics toward the kids at London Colney.

What about bringing someone in who is better? Ok, we would need to bring in someone who is not established as they would not be happy to sit on the bench behind our current first choice pairing. They would have to be experienced, but satisfied with playing a bit-part role. 

Know anyone? 

Mertesacker can come into the team and out seamlessly as he knows the tactics and his cohorts inside out. He is experienced, still talented and he can ensure two of the brightest prospects at our club – Calum Chambers and Rob Holding – have all the information and protection they need to succeed. 

Mertesacker staying for another season is a good thing, on and off the pitch. 

Ozil Waits On Wenger 

When Mesut Ozil signed for Arsenal in the summer of 2013, the German made it abundantly clear that his decision to leave the glitz of Real Madrid and sign for the Gunners was down to one man – Arsene Wenger.

The cynical among us will also point toward his princely wages as another thing that would have swayed his decision-making process and they would have a point. What undermines this particular topic is that although the weekly amount he earns for his services is amongst the highest in the league, it is an amount he could have recieved if he had moved to any other large scale club.

Mesut Ozil has previously focused on the confidence Wenger has in him and the professional candour he shares with his playmaker. The relationship between each of them is of respect and the fact his Boss rates him and expects so much of him is bound to make Ozil feel far taller than he actually is. 

Imagine if you went into work and your boss pulled you aside for a ‘chat.’ After immediately questioning what rules you might have broken over the course of the last month, you would sit down and wonder why they have decided to focus on you. What have you done to deserve this? Then fast forward to ten minutes later after they have told you in no uncertain terms how brilliant you really are – you would float out of that office and your work would benefit as a result. 

Man management is a whole different type of role that a modern day gaffer must incorporate into their day-to-day job. It is not enough anymore to pick an optimum system for the team and scout the next few opponents effectively. Each precocious talent requires a different tact to lure the best out of them. 

Mesut Ozil needs to feel trusted. He requires that bond between he and his manager. Wenger believes in Ozil, and the majority of the fans do to. His relationship with Gooners helps massively, but it is that invisible tie between the boss and player that will hold firm when other clubs and contract negotiations come calling. 

Mesut Ozil’s deal runs until the summer of 2018. It is the general concensus that the German is fishing for more money. At 28, the contract he manages to obtain next will be his biggest and most important. It will see him past his prime age where he can choose his destination from any team in the world. When this next contract duration is up, he can of course go to the majority of clubs and nations,  but he will be well into his thirties and the demand will be far less than the clamour would be if Ozil’s name was dipped into the shark tank.

Make no mistake – if we fail to come to an agreement with Ozil, he will have no trouble whatsoever in finding a team that is willing to pay him his market worth. Ozil’s latest comments seem to highlight a different requirement that the German’s camp want settled before any ink is splashed on Arsenal headed paper.

Ozil said of his contract negotiations “The club knows that I am here most of all because of Arsène Wenger. 
“He is the one who signed me and he is the one whose trust I have. The club also knows that I want to be clear what the manager is going to [in the future].”  – courtesy of the Daily Express

That is pretty transparent in regards to what the stumbling block appears to be. As Arsene Wenger ticks down the last year of his contract, the club and apparently Mesut Ozil are waiting on tenterhooks to see whether Wenger will sign yet another extension or he will bid adieu to the club with which he is now intrinsically part of.

The next announcement is key. After a statement of this nature from Mesut, it means that the club will not announce an extension or otherwise until they are ready to also declare what Arsene’s future will be. As soon as we are all made aware of what our playmaker is going to do, we will automatically know what our manager’s future will be.

If Ozil decides to stay, then we can assume Wenger will too. If Ozil goes, then we will probably be in the market for a new manager. The two are now one and the same. The announcement has all fans – both pro and anti Wenger – waiting for any slice of news as to the immediate future of our club. A new manager will radically change the the scenery we are to see over the next few years, and it will have huge ramifications on the future of not only Ozil’s destination, but other players too.

Ozil made the life-changing decision to come to London, and he has openly declared his love for the city. You need only scroll through his Instagram feed to see that he loves the freedom this bustling city brings. His career hinges on more than his setting when not at work. He decided to switch Madrid for London because of the trust Wenger placed in him – something that was missing from the tail-end of his time at the Bernabeu.

You cannot fault the fact he places so much importance in what his boss will do. If Ozil signs a contract and then Wenger decides that he will call it a day, it leaves Ozil in a potentially sticky situation.Who knows what kind of manager will replace his current gaffer?

Ozil wants the setup he enjoys right now. That is testament to how happy he is at Arsenal. 

It all hinges on Wenger, whether we like that or not. Keep your ears pressed close to the ground – the next announcement will be positively earth-shattering. 

Bellerin Is A Gunner For The Long Term

Originally published on Goonersphere

The news that Hector Bellerin signed a contract extension recently may have slipped under the radar amidst the flurry of fixtures, but it should be celebrated wildly. 

The young Spaniard has ripped up the rulebook on age and progression since his debut two seasons ago, and his talent has seen him earn international recognition with the Spain. All of this has happened in two years, and throughout that time, his displays for his club have been nothing short of sensational.

The 21yr old found his way into the team thanks to injuries to then first choice Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers, but never has bad luck worked out so well. His inauspicious beginnings contrast with where he finds himself now – as perhaps the most effective right-back the Premier League possesses. 

His first start for the Gunners was in a 2-0 loss to Borussia Dortmund, and the green Spaniard was hung out to dry by the vibrant German team. It was hardly befitting of a player who has gone on to do wonderful things. Plunged into the deep end, and after suffering so severely in his debut, it was sink or swim for Bellerin. Would this teenager wilt under the criticism and pressure?

We all know the answer now, and Bellerin has gone on to answer any questions surrounding his quality in succinct fashion. 

His rampaging runs down the right have become a signature move for Arsenal, and he has provided a valuable outlet when converting defence to attack. He is much more than a swashbuckling wing-back however.

What is particularly impressive is his dedication to improving his defensive inclinations. He could quite easily grab the plaudits by providing assists and a goal threat with his rapier pace, but it is his presence of mind when choosing the right moment to add his weight to an attack.

 His decision making for such a young fellow is quite incredible. His man to man positioning has improved markedly and we have seen on many occasions, Bellerin thrusting out a leg to quell a potential goal, performing the role of last man in our hour of need.

Hector Bellerin is responsible for making expectations for youngsters harder. He has raised the bar. How often do we see a kid of his age hold his own and progressively improve? Now, every product from the youth team will be judged via the Bellerin Effect. 

Increasingly in the public eye, he is charming on camera, and holds himself impeccably away from the lens. His social media actions are far from lascivious as opposed to some who have erred via social media, and he has not courted the slightest bit of controversy. The boy is dedicated to his career, and it shows.

There is a reason why he was named in the Premier League’s Team of the Year last season. Not one player can match his output in the same position. If you imagine a growth chart that every new parent receives regarding their bundle of joy, which estimates the growth projection of the child – if Hector had the same thing regarding his career progression, he would be off the scale.

After just two seasons, he is already well ahead of where most would be. Seeing as he is far from his peak – what player will we possess when he finally reaches his zenith?

That is why it is vital Arsenal tie him down for a number of years. What is the point in cultivating a perfect orchid, only to sell it before it has fully bloomed? We want to see the fruits of our labours. 

Manchester City and Barcelona were reportedly sniffing around Hector – and you can hardly blame them. The move to keep Bellerin at our club was imperative – what good is a bundle of cash when we would struggle to replace him, no matter how much we spend.

We should rejoice at the news. Hector Bellerin has raised the bar for all youngsters thus far, but he may just do the same for his position.