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Stefan Lichtsteiner Signs For Arsenal

Arsenal have made their first signing of the summer, with former Juventus defender Stefan Lichtsteiner joining the club.

The 34yr old right-back has joined on a free transfer, and his vast experience is not the only benefit to signing the Swiss defender, who is on World Cup duty with his country and will captain Switzerland.

Lichtsteiner is known for his lung-bursting runs down the right flank and his incredible stamina, and has been well versed in Italian defending, so his nous will be a welcome addition to our backline.

The defender won every domestic honour there is to win in his time in Turin, seven seasons in all, and also had three successful years at Lazio.

His addition is seen to be competition for Hector Bellerin, with the young Spaniard comfortable in his status last season with no real players vying for his shirt. Now Lichtsteiner has arrived, and will put genuine pressure on Bellerin to perform in every match.

Lichtsteiner also allows Bellerin to move up the pitch should Emery seek to utilise the flanks. With the Swiss man behind Bellerin offering real support, it means we can truly switch things up on the pitch should Emery need to.

Lichtsteiner, when questioned on his motives on joining the Gunners, mentioned that it was the project that really attracted him to The Emirates, and said that he “will work hard and passionately day in and day out to achieve our sporting objectives and to win trophies with this great club.”

Unai Emery spoke of his first signing, stating” Stephan brings huge experience and leadership to our squad. He’s a player with great quality with a very positive and determined attitude. Stephan will improve us on and off the pitch.”

Buy and Sell – Trimming the Fat in the Transfer Window

This latest transfer window was viewed as a success by the majority, even though the need for a centre-back and a holding midfielder was glaringly overlooked.

Such was the strength of our additions, our paucity for defensive and midfield options didn’t really impact on the optimism in regards to our transfer actions. Bringing in Henrikh Mkhitaryan represented shrewd and much needed purchases, and puts our attack at the very front when it comes to goal threats.

There was another element that made this window a surefire winner though, and it was the fact we cleared our squad of the driftwood that contributed little to our results.

Coquelin in a Valencia shirt
Walcott left for Everton

Managing to cut loose Mathieu Debuchy, Theo Walcott and Francis Coquelin freed up valuable squad space that could be filled with superior options, or a chance for a promising youngster to come through the ranks.

Losing Alexis Sanchez would hurt any side, and the Chilean going to a rival only added to the burn, but having Alexis in the side means we had to play a certain way and limited our options. Plus, Alexis broke the record for amount of times a player has lost possession in one game in United’s 2-0 win over Huddersfield recently. A record he previously held.

It is no coincidence that since he joined, we have lost our regular ability to thrill the crowd and generate moves that draw gasps from the purists and fans alike. The first match we played without Alexis and with our new boys? We played the football that we’re famous for.

Of course it’s early days, we shouldn’t get too carried away, but having our goal threat spread out over Mesut Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Lacazette and Aubameyang is in-keeping with the passing moves we implement. We rely on runners into the box, rather than waiting for one man to produce.

Another loss that could hamper us is Olivier Giroud. The much-loved Frenchman has also departed for a rival, but Giroud’s role was selfless and his introduction into proceedings gave us something different to what we currently possess. We can cope, but having him to call on benefitted us. It would have been selfish to keep him as he needs to play with the World Cup looming, but I fear we may miss Giroud more than we miss the mercurial talents of Alexis.

Mathieu Debuchy and Theo Walcott hadn’t started a league game this season. Francis Coquelin wasn’t playing either. They get first team football, we get a squad place and some cash to reinvest, whether that is through a fee or recouping wages.

Debuchy in a free transfer to St Etienne

Recruiting wisely as we have done, and selling the squad players who were not playing, means we’ve trimmed the fat and not lost any ability to put out a strong side. We still have those players that can come in and do a job and help with rotation, and every man we have in the group can make a difference.

For once, we’ve ticked the majority of boxes and ended a window far stronger than when we started.

Welcome to Arsenal – Sead Kolasinac

Arsenal officially announced the arrival of Schalke left-back Sead Kolasinac yesterday. It is the welcome early start to transfer business that Gooners have been yearning for, and it is quite excellent business by our club.

The Bosnian defender comes highly rated from Bundesliga experts, and one of them in particular – Raphael Honigstein – had this to say to the Guardian’s Football Weekly Podcast about our new signing;

He is one of the better left-backs in the Bundesliga. He is very strong, very physical and very good in the air. He is one of those left-backs that can play as a centre-half.”

Heavy praise indeed when you consider the welath of talent that German football has in its ranks. Not only that, but with our propensity for injuries to blight our season, Kolasinac’s versatility could well come in handy.

So, what do we know of our new guy? Well, he will turn 24 years old this month, and he worked his way up through Schalke’s youth team before making his first team debut in 2012. He did not start at Schalke though. Kolasinac actually put down roots for his hometown club Karlsruhe FC, before going to TSG Hoffenheim and Stuttgart for short spells. He finally found his way in Gelsenkirchen, and his youth team displays soon saw him on the radar.

From there, he quickly settled into the team and 89 appearances later, we have a new left-back. Kolasinac rapidly earned international status too, but it was initially with the German youth team that he played. He decided to play for the nation of his parents – Bosnia Herzogovina – and he now has 18 appearances. 

Kolasinac is known for his physicality, and he won’t be one for shirking tackles. He is more than just a rugged defender though. His touch is impressive, and he has been often seen outwitting markers with his first touch. For a felow with a large frame, he has deceptive speed too, and his five assists were a Bundesliga best for a defender last season.

So, quite the handful. 

What is most impressive is that we have picked this player up for absolutely nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada. If that isn’t good business, I don’t know what is. After grabbing the starlet Rob Holding for a meagre £2m, critics may pick up on a theme of costcutting, but why spend millions when you can grab quality for nothing?

Kolasinac’s attributes point to a player that will require very little transitional time. He will be more than primed for the rigorous physical examination, and his attacking instincts will be matched for our team’s tactics. Once he builds the necessary rapport with his new teammates, he will be a force to be reckoned with.

Kolasinac looks to be the replacement for 32yr old Nacho Monreal. The Spaniard has been an excellent servant for our club, but perhaps his age may prove to be an obstacle when considering another 60plus games for next season. With interest from Bilbao in recent years, Nacho will not be short of offers.

So, we have our first signing of the summer, and Kolasinac is exactly the standard required to improve what we have. 

Excellent first step Arsenal, long may it continue. 

Sead Kolasinac – Arsenal’s New Defender?

Originally published on Goonersphere. ​

The general rule of thumb when it comes to transfer rumours is, you should never listen to transfer rumours.

This easy, Fight Club-esque list of regulations should be quite simple to grasp, but the majority of us occasionally have our heads turned when we read or hear a juicy titbit regarding a player ‘apparently’ being linked to our club.

When it comes to rumours in football, they are used as a tool. Either a newspaper or website is angling for a larger audience so they drop tantalising bait into the waters, or it is an agent who is manoeuvring his client so he can get a fatter contract. 

Either way, what we are left with is a steaming pile of oxen-excretion. 

Sometimes, well, occasionally, the steam that is rising from this fresh load of defecate is not actually steam at all. It is smoke.

And where there is smoke, there is fire.

This could well be the case with the latest gossip doing the rounds around the footballing equivalent of the watercooler. The story of Schalke 04 left-back Sead Kolasinac signing a pre-contract agreement with Arsenal has been published not just by one newspaper, but by all the rags and all the sites. It has been jumped on and Arsenal have been loath to deny or confirm. 

So, there may actually be substance to this one for once. 

The more we dig up on Kolasinac, the more this move makes sense too.

First and foremost, he is a free agent come June. This has meant that Kolasinac has been able to hawk himself around to interested parties since January. One of those that was sniffing around the Bosnian has reportedly been Chelsea. If it is true that he has turned down the Blues for us, then he is more than welcome to join us!

The left-back is 23 and has played for his country 17 times already. In 31 games this season, he has registered 7 assists. Not a bad ratio for a defender. He has a great delivery into the box and is constantly on the overlap, so he would fit right in with us. Kolasinac is quite a hefty build too, so the rigours of the Premiership will not be such a shock. 

This move is a good fit for us, and with our current left-back seemingly losing his ability for consistency, then Kolasinac would be a great move. Nacho Monreal s again being courted by Athletic Bilbao, so Nacho going back home for a more sedate last few years is in everyone’s interests.

Kieran Gibbs may well have his nose put out of joint, but hopefully this will be a reminder that he has to shape up or ship out. The England defender is capable of so much more, so a rival for his spot can only push him on to better things.

Kolasinac may or may not have signed a pre-contract with us, but his pedigree is more than good enough to cause a little excitement with the potential news. 

Flamini – Doling Out Justice

Originally posted on Goonersphere

Alan sat slumped in his highback leather chair, his bare feet surrounded by bubbling water as the new-fangled foot spa attempted to dissolve the stress that plagued him.

His brow, furrowed by the myriad of questions that his mind was furiously trying to answer, instantly snapped to smoothness, as the fax machine in his office chirped to life. The fax machine was reserved for transfer business, but the infernal window had closed. What could be coming through this dated piece of hardware?

He lifted his feet out of the spa, and wrapped his silk dragon kimono around his frame. He grabbed the remote for his office sound system and turned off the powerful melodies of Aswad. This wasn’t the time for reggae.

He ripped the fax sheet from the aperture in the grey lump of plastic. It was from his Head Scout, and it was mystifyingly short. 

“Guv, I’ve just witnessed Mathieu Flamini train on his own in a London Park. He did circuits for an hour, destroyed a bunch of youths with karate, and wildly gesticulated at a large rottweiler. He has still got it. Send the message boss, he’s waiting.”

Alan looked into his full length vanity mirror, dramatically took off his sunglasses that he always wore indoors, and hoarsely whispered, ” By God…”

He ran from his office, shedding his kimono and donning training gear as he ran. Within minutes, he was on Crystal Palace’s training ground roof.

He lifted the tarpaulin from the massive metal, round structure. He then switched it on, and a blitzing beam of light leapt out, reaching the dark night sky. 

There, amongst the plethora of twinkling stars and never-ending inky blackness, surrounded by a circle of white light, was a pointing hand……….

The next twenty four hours passed without extraordinary incident. Training, shiatsu, happy ending. Everything that encompassed his routine was still in place, despite the set of events he had put in place with the previous night’s actions. 

He wrapped himself in a club towel, and thanked Dolph the masseuse for his service. His feet flip-flopped to his office, where his mind once more darkened to his sides current plight. 

His now supple back reached the comfort of his chair, and a long sigh left his freshly moisturised mouth. He let his eyelids meet, but they didn’t have a chance for a long meeting.

A squalling, screeching noise broke the silence. He once more exited his fortress of solitude and donned the training gear he kept on a peg on the back of his door. 

He followed the noise, which led him, and a growing group of staff at the club, to the entrance of the training site.

Slowly, a strange image met their eyes.

A turtle head, inch by inch, revealed itself. It was not the garden variety of tortoise, but the large, Galapagos Island type, that was crawling its way to them. Attached to the edge of its giant shell, were a string of bobbling, severed heads. As the creature got nearer, they noticed that the heads were people they recognised. Lee Cattermole, Glenn Whelan, Nemanja Matic. All five of the heads had been detached from Premier League hatchet men……

Atop the massive shell, was a man. Nay, not a man. On top of the shell was an inspiration to man. Wearing nothing but a hessian sack with holes on each side for his limbs to poke out, was Mathieu Flamini.

Alan came forward from the gaggle of people staring at the Frenchman. 

He offered his hand, ” Mathieu, thank you for answering my call.”

Mathieu leapt from the turtle, Frankie Dettori style, observed the offered hand, and instead waggled his eyebrows three times, before touching his genitalia.

“I do not shake hands, it is not efficient energy usage. I am here to help Crystal Palace, and to ensure my bromance with the genius that is Mesut Ozil continues. Use my ‘skills’ as you wish. You will, however, have to adhere to my conditions.”

Pardew raised his eyebrow, but his desperation meant he was between a rock and a crazy place. In the eyes of efficiency, to signal his agreement, he simply let Flamini continue.

“One, all names used have to contain one syllable. Efficiency, you see.”
“Two, I must fight ecological crime at a moments notice. You cannot stop this.”

“Three. All sleeves MUST be short sleeve. Any long sleeves seen will be obliterated on sight.”

Alan nodded curtly. He was just keen to bolster his ranks with quality, and Flamini would add steel to the soft underbelly of his side. 

With that acknowledgment of agreement, Flamini uttered a cry surely summoned by some otherwordly force, and kung-fu kicked himself to the training pitch.

Pardew and Palace had the mercenary they needed…..

Sayonara to Santi Come May?

Originally posted on Goonersphere

It is a common thread of discussion, that if Santi Cazorla had stayed fit last season, we potentially would have had a great chance to overhaul eventual champions Leicester City.

You see, we fans adore the little Spaniard, and for good reason.

Upon first joining, he held the position as the teams Number10, scheming in attack and being the man responsible for breaking deadlocks and defences.

The next season saw what can be perceived as Santi’s biggest test in his Arsenal career. The assist machine, Mesut Ozil, signed for the club, which pushed Cazorla out wide instead of his favoured position. Cue a campaign that saw the diminutive midfielder reach his potential in fits and bursts as he took to the challenge of learning a new role.

Perhaps Santi Cazorla’s biggest moment in an Arsenal jersey (aside from THAT free kick in the Cup Final) was his heroic performance in the Champions League Playoff ties against Besiktas in 2014. 

Injuries, as ever, played their part in a varied lineup which saw the dependable Cazorla named in central midfield. Many worried the small frame of the Spaniard would be overawed by the occasion and the fierce opposition, but the opposite became quickly apparent.

Not only has the former Villareal man got the skills to pay the bills and is truly two-footed – he also has a burning competitive edge and diamond-cut tenacity that saw him break down so many Turkish attacks. He was the link between defence and attack, and converted pressure into breakaways.

Since then, he forged a partnership with Francis Coquelin in the centre of midfield which was watertight, and fans got to see all facets of the precious jewel that is Santi. In the heat of battle in the centre of the park, he is able to utilise all weapons in his arsenal, and the team benefits as a result. 

So much so, that it seems if a poll was taken amongst our fans, it would be a close call who they would choose to partner Granit Xhaka in midfield – Elneny or Cazorla.

At 31, his tenure in central midfield is surely coming to an end, despite his stamina levels being on a par with most in our squad. Injuries have bitten, hard at times, on our beloved Spaniard, and the merciless pace of the Premier League is hardly the most forgiving atmosphere.

Throw into the reckoning that he is now in his final year of his contract, and it can be assumed that Santi may be nearer the exit door than we realise.

At the end of the season, it will be even harder to nail down a spot in our team. If – and this is a gargantuan if – Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey maintain fitness, they will be ahead of Santi in the pecking order, unless Santi chooses a different position.

Even then, there is a huge level of competition in any slot. 

Let us put ourselves in the tiny shoes of Santi. You are thirty two in December. You have been at Arsenal for four years and are playing in your fifth. You are beloved by the fans, but you feel the wear and tear of ferocious battle a little more with each game that passes. 

If a LaLiga team came calling to take you home – wouldn’t you consider it?

He would still acquire a top team if he did decide to return to his homeland, perhaps a Sevilla, Bilbao or a reunion with the Yellow Submarine. The relatively sedentary speed of the game compared to the ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ razor sharp speed of the Premiership must be inviting.

This is all purely conjecture of course. That, and a little dash of sadness. 

The ever-smiling Santi has sprinkled his talent on our side, and is still underrated by many. It may be only when he departs that we may comprehend what a genius we had in our ranks. Just because he doesn’t rifle in 25yard rockets, and doesn’t put in slide-rule passes like they are going out of fashion, doesn’t mean he doesn’t contribute.

His close control, and ability to smoothly transition defence to attack, is second to none, perhaps the best we have had in some time. His footballing brain, and the fact that both feet can wreak just as much damage as the other, are assets that are scarce. 

When the end of the season arrives, Santi may just be forgiven for thinking of going home. He has given us tremendous service.

One thing is for sure, when he does say goodbye, he will be missed. In a footballing sense, and as a professional who gave everything for the club.