Tag Archives: France

Giroud – A Tainted Legacy

105 goals in 253 appearances.

Not a ratio to be sniffed at, but at the base level, this is what Olivier Giroud brought to the table for Arsenal.

Just looking at numbers renders other, valuable facets somewhat invisible however.

We overlook the way he held the line valiantly, alone, for so many seasons.

We miss out on him holding up the ball not only with his physical edge, but his nous in and around the box.

We also miss out on the fact he tarnished his Arsenal legacy with his actions in a Chelsea shirt.

Giroud came so close to cementing his reputation as a Gooner favourite. While we lamented the fact he was never a 20 goal a season man, the majority of us saw him and his talents as precious – he helped the team with his actions.

Giroud badge

 

He wasn’t just about goals, but the above ratio is not poor. Upon joining Arsenal, he had just been the talisman for Montpellier winning their first Ligue Un Championnat. He joined in the same window as Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski – we had signed attacking players that would boost our threat.

This was certainly true for the three above, but Giroud never materialised as we thought he would. He scored valuable goals and always earned a respectable number, but he was never a goal machine. Still, his biggest asset was that his touch and awareness led to him being part of some magnificent goals and moments.

In his career in our red and white, his highlights reel will live on. Some truly breathtaking goals were bagged, and his part in Aaron Ramsey’s late winner in the 2014 FA Cup Final cannot be overstated. Giroud loved the club while he was here and never wanted to leave, but squad competition meant if he wanted regular gametime, he would need to find pastures new.

His move to Chelsea was a stark reminder that professional football is still, at the bottom line, just a job to the majority of players. He made the right choice as his modus operandi in choosing a new destination was that he wanted to stay in London for family reasons.

Chelsea needed a frontman, and Giroud embarked on a trip to West London.

This was more than enough for some fans to cut the ties we had with Giroud, but his over-exuberant celebrations after one of our worst days on a football pitch – the 4-1 hammering at the hands of the Blues in the Europa League final – was the straw that broke the camels back in terms of his Arsenal legacy.

Mocking Arsenal

Olivier Giroud, if he had kept his nose clean and performed in the respectful manner that he did in his time with us, would have always had a home with the Arsenal faithful. We would always remember his efforts kindly. He stayed while we struggled. He gave his all for us and left us with some truly treasured memories.

Instead, he is now just remembered as being part of the Arsenal framework that led to our slide out of the Champions League. Even looking back at his famous, Puskas-winning scorpion goal doesn’t do it anymore. Giroud has burned the nerve endings.

Giroud

It isn’t as bad as the likes of Ashley Cole, Robin Van Persie or Adebayor – those players ended up being panto villains. But where there was real affection for the player – now there is just a vacuous space.

Oivier Giroud could have left something truly special, but in his job search and his antics thereafter – he tainted what he had left us.

 

Who Is Matteo Guendouzi?

It flew under the radar a little, but we made our fifth summer signing just after the Lucas Torreira announcement, and it looks to be an exciting one for the future for Arsenal.

The young French midfielder Matteo Guendouzi signed on the dotted line for the Gunners, and the purchase from Ligue 2 Lorient shows that Sven Mislntat and his backroom team were intent on providing Arsenal with a long term midfield option that could prove to be a bargain.

Guendouzi is a ball-carrying midfielder who made his first team breakthrough with Lorient two seasons ago, and last season settled into a first eleven role, and with Lorient playing in the second tier, the French club were in the right position to sell their brightest talent.

What do we know of Guendouzi? This purchase took some research. I had heard of the name but never seen him play, but the French football experts certainly rate him, and liken him to an earlier transfer target of ours – Yancine Adli.

Physically strong and adept at transitioning play with the ball at his feet, Guendouzi is just as much at home at the base of the midfield as he is a box to box role.

Guendouzi made 18 appearances for Lorient as they just missed out on an immediate return to Ligue Un. His career started in Paris however, as he began his youth career with PSG. The 19 year old has already played for France U18, U19 and U20 level.

Guendouzi is not without his risks though. He had a run-in with the coaching team last season after being hooked at half time during a game, and our new Under23 coach Freddie Ljungberg will have to instill the famous Arsenal team values if Guendouzi is to prosper here.

The transfer fee of 7m is a modest one for a highly coveted 19 year old, but it also speaks of a player who could make a massive difference should the environment suit him.

What does next season hold for the 19 year old? Well, a run in the Under23’s looks likely, to gauge how close to a first team debut the Frenchman is. He has already played a smidgen of top-tier football, but the difference between that and making a mark on the Premier League is a chasm.

Unai Emery has commented on the young signing, and his words reveal that Guendouzi is very much part of his immediate plans;

We are delighted Matteo is joining us. He is a talented young player and a lot of clubs were interested in him. He has big potential and gained good first-team experience last season with Lorient. He wants to learn and improve and will be an important part of our first-team squad.”

With Granit Xhaka, Aaron Ramsey, Mohamed Elneny and fellow youngster Ainsley Maitland-Niles vying for midfield spots, Guendouzi will really have to shine to get the starts he will be craving, but with a full schedule of games and potential injuries to contend with, this signing very much makes sense.

Identifying talent at a young age is pretty much what Sven Mislintat is renowned for – and what we hired him to do. This signing though, will be the first time that the German has really put his name on a transfer, so it will be very interesting to see how Guendouzi prospers.

It’s an exciting time for us Gunners. This summer’s purchases has reaped experience, proven winners, tenacity, strength and a sprinkling of promise. Guendouzi seems to firmly fall into the latter, but with each display, we will see if he can offer what he promises.
Welcome to Arsenal Matteo Guendouzi!

World Cup – Who’s Your Money On?

Now the Premier League is over, we need our fix.

What are we going to do to provide our football buzz?

Thankfully, there’s the small matter of a World Cup taking place less than a month away to sate our withdrawal symptoms.

Like footballing methadone, the World Cup will fill the gap in our lives as we go cold turkey from a lack of Premier League action. The World Cup is a festival of football that will provide daily thrills and spills, but how can we replicate the drama of watching our beloved clubs do battle?

Let’s face it, aside from the few England matches that will take place before the inevitable Last16/Quarter Final defeat, there will be plenty of action, but not enough to really make you care who exits and who carries on toward the famous trophy and the potential to be World Champions.

Spicing it up with a wager always helps.

I’ve consulted stats, a concise world cup betting guide, and the FIFA rankings to gauge who will be the teams to back with your hard-earned dough – or alternatively – just to win points with your mates and make you look like the ultimate football nerd.

Here are the teams who could pull up trees in Russia:

Croatia

The Croats have Nigeria, Argentina and debutants Iceland in their Group and it’s fair to say that they’ll give top spot a run for its money.

They have AC Milan’s Vrsaljko in defence, but it is in midfield that they are near unrivalled.

Inter Milan’s Brozovic, Real’s Kovacic, the electric Ivan Perisic, Ivan Rakitic who plays for Barca and then the jewel on the crown is Luka Modric of Real. Up top they have Juve’s Mario Mandzukic to profit from the plethora of chances too.

If they can avoid the big guns at the Last16 stage, then a Semi-Final spot beckons at least – much like France 98.

Germany

The Germans are the holders, have continuity with the retention of Joachim Loew as Manager, and much of the World Cup winning squad is still present.

They have liberal sprinklings of brilliance throughout. Mesut Ozil, Mario Goetze, Marco Reus, Toni Kroos, Jerome Boateng, Leroy Sane, Julien Draxler, Joshua Kimmich, Timo Werner, Ilkay Gundogan and the safe hands of Manuel Neuer to compliment this star-studded squad.

That is just the tips of the talent, and the bench for Germany will be nearly as strong as the first eleven. Whoever wins the tournament will have to get past the Germans, who always represent in the latter stages.

France

There have been recent signs that Les Bleus have been on the recovery path. A whole new squad, filled with electric young players, has given manager Didier Deschamps a few selection headaches, but what a choice to have.

There’s the record-breaking Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi, Antoine Griezmann, Samuel Umtiti, Ousmane Dembele, Nabil Fekir – and some of these may not even make the final cut!

Whatever the side that rolls up in Russia, know that France qualified quite easily for the tournament, and will take some beating in the knockout stages.

Argentina

This may be the team to back. Always blessed with a squad to be jealous over, the South Americans have failed to show in a World Cup since a certain Diego Maradona lit up the stage.

That’s what makes them a great punt for your money. Most will be expecting another Quarter-Final exit, but this year may just be their year.

They have the most fearsome attack in the world, with Lionel Messi, Paolo Dybala, Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Carlos Tevez making up the front line. With Man City’s Nicolas Otamendi and United’s Marcos Rojo in defence, they will be well armed to deal with opponents too.

The biggest change though? They have Jorge Sampaoli as coach. The former Chile man was hot property before deciding to take charge of Argentina, and if they make it to the final, they’ll come up against holders Germany.

There are plenty of other contenders too. Spain and Brazil will be looking to lift the trophy again, and Belgium have perhaps the strongest squad in the tournament.

It makes for a mouth-watering prospect.

So who’s your money on?

Thank you Olivier Giroud

The arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was a double-edged sword for us Gooners.

It was first and foremost great news. We have captured a player we’ve all had our lusty eyes on for some time. One who rampaged his way through the Bundesliga as part of a slowly dismantling Dortmund side, outscoring the majority of players with his pace and accuracy.

Then, there is the fact that we lost one of our favourite – and most effective – players as a result of the signing.

Farewell and thank you Olivier Giroud.

The Frenchman was marginalised at first, perhaps for the fact that his handsome features meant he wasn’t the right mould to puncture the rigorous defences of a Premiership team.

Then, his frustrations and rolling around on the turf added weight to the claims that he didn’t have the mettle for the rough and tumble of our league.

Giroud was made of sterner stuff though. He adapted, his frame was used to great effect and we saw that he was more than a front post poacher. His approach play was in tune, his link-up play was perhaps the finest of any striker in the Premiership.

He never made the magical 20-goal mark, but it dawned on us all how very useful he is.

Last season really showed us though, that he had an affinity with Arsenal. He told us how he was warned that he wouldn’t be first choice with the arrival of Lacazette, but he decided to stay and offer his services to further our cause.

This season saw him rise valiantly from the bench on more than a few occasions and make a difference, so much so that his goals landed him level as the equal most scorer as a substitute in the Premier League.

He earned his starting role with Les Bleus, but with a World Cup on the horizon, could we be selfish enough to keep him with us for those sporadic cameos he does so well? Knowing that doing so would most likely ruin his World Cup dream?

No, we did the right thing by letting him leave. Unfortunately, it was to Chelsea. The destination may not suit us, but it will keep him firmly in the eye of Didier Deschamps.

He’s done enough for us that we wish him well, even though he’s joined a London rival. That is a testament to his actions for Arsenal.

Giroud joined us after winning a surprise Ligue Un title with Montpellier, for a bargain £12m. He scored over 100 goals for us since his arrival in 2012. That is some return for the money.

We can never claim he was prolific, but we can definitely say he was useful and gave everything for our badge. He was charismatic, he played his part off the pitch and on the pitch? He did more than enough to earn our affection, which he has got in spades.

He deserves our well wishes. We can overlook the shirt he currently wears, because we all know that underneath it, his heart will always beat red and white.

Merci Olivier.

Welcome to Arsenal – Alexandre Lacazette! 

It is finally official – Alexandre Lacazette is an Arsenal player.

The French striker has arrived from Lyon for a fee believed to be around £44m, with add-ons expected to take the amount closer to £52m. This of course tops the previous record – the £42m spent on Mesut Ozil in 2014 – but is it money well spent?

In short – yes. Very much so.

Consider this. 

Spanish international Alvaro Morata is in the market this summer and any move looks to be in the region of £70m. Morata has time on his side of course but he scored less than half the goals that Lacazette scored last season.

There are more reasons to reinforce belief in our new star striker.

Lacazette was rated in the Top10 for shot conversion rate in the Top5 Leagues last season, he has scored 20goals or more in the last 3 seasons and Lacazette was also wanted by Atletico Madrid – and they have one of the most amazing track records for strikers. 

The bearded Gaul is the real deal, and his all-round play is ready-made for the precision passing that Mesut Ozil provides. This hinges on the proviso that the German playmaker decides to stay at The Emirates, but it is certainly a tantalising prospect. 

There are naysayers though. They point to his failure to establish himself upon Didier Deschamps Les Bleus plans and the apparent weakness of Ligue Un competition. This can be disbanded pretty quickly though. 

Didier Deschamps once preferred Mahmadou Sakho over Laurent Koscielny so his judgment isn’t exactly indubitable. Also, recent seasons have shown French club sides have performed better than Premier League teams in the Champions League, so the gap in quality that used to be between the French and English domestic competition has shrunk considerably.

Lacazette scores in Europe, he makes intelligent runs and is ice-cold in the six yard box. He is adaptable and he is the finisher we have needed to give us a reliable source of goals. Every title winning team has one, and we can proudly say we have one of the best.

It is also a statement of intent. It shows we are ready to mix it with the big boys in order to strengthen. It will send a message to our rivals, and more importantly, to some of our stars who may be looking to other shores. They will be perhaps swayed by this purchase and who knows? It could be the push Alexis and Mesut needs to sign on the dotted line.

This is by no means finished business as far as our need to strengthen, but it is a huge move and it is early. Alexandre Lacazette is elite and has a pedigree hewn from four seasons at the top – and he has done the business in each of them. He is still only 26 and has yet to reach his peak. Under the tutelage of Wenger, Lacazette could even sway Deschamps, although there are an embarrassment of riches for France in attack.

Lacazette has signed a contract for five years, and if injury is avoided, we can look forward to our goal tally being bolstered by a large degree. 

We as Gooners should enjoy this moment. Our club are aiming high. 

The Search for the Perfect 9

Originally on Goonersphere.

The weekly shop is stressful enough.

The demands from your family for specific items, the worry when you see they have no stock of a particular item, other shoppers obstructing your passage, or even taking that last jar of Nutella. The weekly visit to the supermarket to load your trolley for the necessities and the treats that get you through the monotony of day to day life is quite simply a chore – and an assault on your sensibilities.

It can only be made worse, when you have successfully packed your car, navigated back home, packed the items in their relevant places, then realised you will have to go back as you’ve forgotten the taco shells – and it’s Mexican night.

If Arsene Wenger fails to address his teams need for a number nine – that feeling will be far worse, and it will be shared amongst millions of other people.

It would seem he is actively searching to fill the void, and all the right noises are being made, but the feeling of deja vu in line with previous summers never quite stops haunting us. We have been linked with approximately three million, four hundred and sixty four thousand, three hundred and eight different strikers – and yet we remain bereft of the perfect number nine.

We have made approaches though. The ill-fated move for perennial Jeremy Kyle guest, Jamie Vardy, was at least a step in the right direction, We had approached a striker who had proven credentials, and was in the prime of his career. With that attempted move, Wenger was buying for the present, not the future.

Alas, when faced with the dilemma of dragging himself away from the local off-license who afford him the luxury of a large tab, Vardy opted to stay as the big fish in a miniature pond, even if that pond sports a fancy Premiership trophy as a fountain…..

We have been linked – repeatedly – for Higuain, but as I type, it has been confirmed that the Argentine will move to Juventus  for a ball-crushing £75m. That figure is preposterous for most players, but for a 28yr old, it means the Old Lady of Turin is essentially paying Napoli the record fee in Serie A for three years of goals. Yes, it will be a lot of goals, but still……

Now, we currently sit at an impasse. The current rumours link us heavily with Alexandre Lacazette, and Wissam Ben Yedder of Toulouse.

So who would be best suited? Let us delve into the stats and try to find the answer.

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Lacazette is the bigger name, and the bigger frame. He stands two inches taller than Ben Yedder, and has scored 66 goals in the last four seasons, from 134 games in Ligue Un. He is lightning quick and is easily adaptable in the air and to feet. He has also been fully capped for France, as opposed to Ben Yedder, who still awaits his first.  The only question mark is his injury record, which isn’t quite on the level of Jack Wilshere, but a stringent fitness test would be necessary.

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Ben Yedder is a little shorter, but has scored four more goals in four seasons in Ligue Un. He has played for Toulouse for six seasons now, and question marks must remain as to why he is still at a relatively small club. Whilst Lacazette is still at Lyon, at least he can say he has competed in Europe. Plying his trade for Toulouse means Ben Yedder has never had the opportunity to lock horns with the cream of Europe’s defenders.

However, to thicken the broth a little, scoring that impressive amount of goals whilst playing in an inferior side is more kudos points to Ben Yedder. Also, a little known fact that adds more lustre to Ben Yedder, is that he has played for France’s Futsal side, which means the Frenchman has excellent close control. Something which would put him in good stead alongside Giroud and his flick-ons…..

Ben Yedder has one year left on his deal, and would cost veritable peanuts compared to Lacazette. Of course, this is all pointless, as all we have is rumours, smoke and an impressive array of mirrors when it comes to finding the truth in all of this.

It now looks as though Ben Yedder is off to La Liga, and another target bites the dust. Were we ever in for him? Who knows, but with scrutiny, he would’ve been a great fit for our side.

So, to surmise, both strikers would be great, but we probably won’t buy either. Or both. I don’t know anymore. This infernal window is frying my brain………..

Matuidi: France’s true midfield maestro?

In recent times, Blaise Matuidi’s contributions for the national side have been slightly overshadowed, mainly by highly-touted Juventus star Paul Pogba. At this summer’s European Championship, his performances were overlooked once again as the likes of Dimitri Payet, Moussa Sissoko and Antoine Griezmann stole the show. However, not even Leicester City midfielder N’Golo Kante could displace Matuidi in the centre of midfield – and Didier Deschamps was right to keep him in the side throughout the competition.

 
If truth be told, Matuidi outplayed Pogba at Euro 2016, he really did. Pogba was slightly disappointing and may have been put off by constant rumours about his future in the media but that’s no excuse when you’re carrying the weight of a nation on your shoulders. The 23-year-old is France’s “golden boy” and he should be able to deal with the pressure and expectation. Unfortunately for the hosts, he wasn’t able to live up to the hype and Matuidi was forced to step up to the plate… but ultimately it wasn’t enough.
And while the PSG man doesn’t set the world on fire, he does the simple stuff very well; a trait that makes him devastatingly effective without standing out. For example, UEFA’s online statistics show that Matuidi had a 92% pass success rate throughout the tournament, with 345 successful passes from 376 attempts. Meanwhile, Pogba was languishing at 88% – with 389 accurate attempts from 433 passes. Ultimately, this shows just how effective Matuidi was at keeping possession whilst Pogba was perhaps trying to force things a little too hard.

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At times, it looked like Pogba was trying to impress – but that helped Matuidi’s impressive efforts to stand out even further. Manchester United are currently trying to re-sign the current Juventus man but they might be chasing the wrong French midfielder. On his day, Matuidi is a rock at the heart of Paris Saint-Germain’s midfield and United should potentially consider going for the 29-year-old rather than the relatively unproven Pogba. After all, there’s a reason why Sir Alex Ferguson allowed him to walk away so easily in 2012…
As of July 14th, United are priced at 7/2 to win the Premier League in Bet365’s football betting odds and Jose Mourinho’s men could do with Matuidi’s skillset to give them the best possible chance of achieving that goal. While he doesn’t boast a back catalogue of incredible 25-yard scorchers, he is perhaps the ideal man to slot into Mourinho’s midfield. Just look what he did with Nemanja Matic at Chelsea; Matuidi could be his Matic and more at Old Trafford – IF the Red Devils offer PSG enough money.

But for now, let’s just appreciate Matuidi’s phenomenal performance at Euro 2016. The France man was one of their unsung heroes this summer and it is only a matter of time before one of Europe’s elite clubs enquire about his services. Appreciate his talent before he’s gone; and Les Bleus must remember that whilst Pogba is a top prospect, Matuidi is the real deal. Do NOT take him and his skillset for granted…

Written by Ben Sutherland

The Big-Man, Little-Man Combo Is Key For Giroud

There have been many partnerships where a difference in height has been at the fulcrum of their success.

Barker and Corbett. Owen and Heskey. Smith and Wright.

The aerial dominance of one is pure manna for the more diminutive other, who uses their pace and killer instinct to buzz around for sustenance.

With this in mind, could a partner up front be just what is needed for Giroud?

Continue reading The Big-Man, Little-Man Combo Is Key For Giroud

Flares, Fighting and Fantastic Tackling – The Euro’s so far….

The build-up to the European Championship saw talk centred on the heightened police presence that would be concentrated on events in France. The atrocities that unfolded in Paris the previous year meant that the likelihood of a repeat attack was elevated, and French forces would be en masse to ensure the safety of the crowds who would be attending.

There was no talk of how the potential fighting would be in the stands – and between rival fans.

Continue reading Flares, Fighting and Fantastic Tackling – The Euro’s so far….