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Turncoats and Enemies

The bond between player and fan is an intriguing one.

We all have our favourites for varying reasons.

They scored a history-making goal. A titanic man of the match performance in a crucial game. An attitude that meant everything was left on the pitch after every game.

Fan favourites come in all shapes and sizes, but when it comes to those we despise? The turncoats, those that have desecrated the badge?

All of us share the hate.

There have been a few that we look at with venom, especially in recent years. Emanuel Adebayor cemented his villain status with his pitch-long run to gloat in front of Arsenal fans when he scored against us in a City shirt, the pain made even worse by the recent wound caused by the Togo striker abandoning us in our hour of need to cash in at the City revolution.

Samir Nasri isn’t looked at with quite so much vitriol, his move to City viewed by some as a player who wanted Arsenal to progress but refused to, so the French player moved to a club that could give him the glory he craved.

Robin Van Persie was shown untold patience and faith during his time at Arsenal, through consistent injuries, shows of petulance on the pitch, and growing pains. we enjoyed the Dutchman in his prime, but not for long. He maintains that the Arsenal board were not showing the same ambition that he had, and United came calling.

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The rest is history.

Ashley Cole was on the back of the greatest ever season that the club had ever had. The world was his oyster, and we recognised that Cole had a gleaming future, so we opened negotiations on a new contract.

We didn’t figure on Cashley being greedy and having his head turned by nouveau-rich Chelsea. The difference of #5k a week saw Cole enjoy his best years at Stamford Bridge, and win all there is to win with the Blues.

Cole hurt badly. This was an Academy graduate, he was one of our own. To see him go to a close rival smarted. To make matters worse, we got William Gallas as part of the deal. The French defender was a great player, but his mentality was sorely lacking and one of the few opportunities at a title tilt in 07/08 was partially ruined by the deconstruction of Gallas’ state of mind on the pitch.

Do these enemies of The Arsenal stand a chance of forgiveness? Will we ever look at these players with fondness? Or are they destined to be part of a rogues gallery of sorts, but far more nefarious:?

At the time of writing, the sands of time haven’t done much to dampen the way we view these players are looked at. How long will it take, or what would it take, for us to forget their past misdemeanours?

If Ashley Cole were to come out and declare he is still a Gooner, and give another reason other than his bare-faced greed for his departure? This will never happen of course, but would we erase his errors?

Like it or not, we have ex-players that crossed a certain line, and it certainly appears that once that line is crossed, the way back is then blocked from view. Outcast, all bridges burned – they are forever a nemesis.

Part and parcel of being a supporter is having a target for our spleens to vent at. Normally it’s a referee, a spurs player, Chelsea, but a former player who has wronged us?

They are forever reserved a spot in our mind, specifically for those that have cardinally sinned in the face of the Cannon. They form part of our history, after all, there can’t be the force without the dark side.

Ramsey Staying or Leaving?

There’s been a lot of change at Arsenal recently, but in terms of playing personnel, the focus has been very much elsewhere.

Aaron Ramsey reminded everyone of his importance to Arsenal last season with his consistency. His ability to make a difference on proceedings helped us stave off more than a few negative results, and served as a reminder of how valuable he really is.

As he enters his last year under contract, the decision on his future is perhaps his most important yet.

Put yourself in his shoes and mull over the variables.

Aaron Ramsey - does he stay or go?

He is entering the prime of his years, knowing full well he could cash in his chips and earn more elsewhere. Somewhere that his chances of glory aren’t so unsettled. Somewhere that may well see him as a central midfielder rather than an asset that can be used in alternate positions. Somewhere that offers him a change he may well crave.

The 27 year old has been at Arsenal since 2008, and has intimated in the past how he would be open to playing in a different country, if it could further his career. Well, his career is at the biggest crossroads so far.

He stood by Wenger as the Frenchman stood by him when he suffered his horrific leg break. The comfort of familiarity was probably an enticing one in the seasons that followed, but now Wenger is gone, and Unai Emery is the replacement – and everything is now in flux.

Emery is known to be quite demanding on the pitch, and he will have to be just as severe at Colney if he wants to implement the pressing game which served him so well at Sevilla. Fitness levels will have to be optimised, but Rambo should have this covered. Another plus point aside from his stamina levels is the reports coming from all corners of the media, suggesting Emery wants to build a team around the Welshman and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

If this rumour is tangible, then Ramsey could well be tempted to stay. The problem though, is the unknown factor. None of the current squad will be able to tell if the future is full of trophies or struggle at Arsenal. Should Emery’s tactics stick, then Rambo and co could be in for an enjoyable stint.

If not, then a decision to stay could have ramifications and regrets.

Ramsey’s stats last season were impressive, but all were sourced from his attacking prowess. Goals, assists, these are the parameters of an attacker, and a world class attacker is exactly what he is. He does track back, but his tackling and defensive input is not exactly up there with the best of the central men.

It’s a good thing that Emery enjoys employing a 4-2-3-1 formation then, as this offers Ramsey a spot in one of the four in the attacking quartet. It is safe to say that the striking slot will be taken by Aubameyang, and one of the three in behind the Gabon man will be Mesut Ozil – who could play from the left. Then that leaves two spots, and given Mkhitaryan’s links with Aubameyang bearing fruit, then the Armenian should book the number10 spot.

That leaves the spot on the right for the Welshman, and he has done extremely well there before. Can he provide the defensive merits that a wideman needs to have though, in order to satisfy Emery?

The only other option is for Ramsey to use his superhuman stamina and improve his defensive leanings so that a central slot won’t leave gaping holes in our play. Ramsey needs a partner who will cover him – his greatest asset is his ghosted runs into the box – but if he can ebb and flow with the game and provide another covering body when things get messy?

Then Emery may well have the answer to our central midfield conundrum. The Spanish boss is used to having excellent midfielders who do their duty – the finest example being Marco Verratti at PSG.

Ramsey finds himself in limbo.

He can either stay and fight, prove himself to be a central midfielder who can possess both sides of the game.

Or he can go elsewhere and earn more cash, perhaps more trophies.

What will be in the level-headed player’s mind though, is how close he is to becoming an icon at the club.

His tenure at Arsenal is a long one in comparison to the majority elsewhere. An extension and a relatively free injury record in the near future and his appearances will skyrocket. Ally that with a title win and Rambo could well be one of our best.

So many if’s – what does Rambo do?

Wenger to leave Arsenal at end of current season

Arsene Wenger will part ways with Arsenal at the end of the season, the club and Wenger have confirmed today.

Wenger has been under increasing scrutiny this season as results have disappointed and our league placing has sunk lower than expectations. Fans have expressed their displeasure during this campaign by staying away and leaving the stands empty, and the overall feeling surrounding the fanbase is one of pessimism.

Media will create a froth over this for weeks to come, but we should now ensure we as Gooners create an atmosphere that is befitting for our departing boss, and one that says ‘thank you for the memories Arsene.’

What is abundantly clear is that our Board have a huge decision to make. We have seen with the fiasco of replacing Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, that getting the right man to head the transition is a difficult task indeed.

Josh Kroenke and his father Stan have the last say on who will come in, but the focus right now should not be who is the frontrunner for our managerial vacancy, it should be to make sure our current campaign ends in some semblance of of glory for Wenger, and we pay tribute in the best way – with our support.

The news of our long-standing manager departing breathes new life into the club, one of fresh promise and that of renewed optimism. Arsene Wenger is the reason for our high expectations, and the last few seasons we are well aware that we have fallen below them.

Finishing below spurs last season and now this season, we have fallen further, but now Wenger has declared the end is nigh, we can all unite to send this great man off with the respect, honour and dignity he deserves.

This declaration has come at the right time for the club, but perhaps a couple of seasons too late for Wenger. Still, now we know he’s leaving, can we focus on saying goodbye instead of looking at who is coming in?

We can all discuss who will take the helm next season, but what we should concentrate on now is making the stands roar for the last games of Wenger’s reign.

News of Raul Sanllehi and Sven Mislintat putting forward candidates to replace Wenger were the first seeds of this news, and this particular strand is sure to run on until the club finally declare who has the task of replacing a man who will forever be remembered at our club.

When Arsene took over the club, we were an outfit that was on the outskirts of
challenging for European places. Thanks to the Frenchman, we now expect to compete in the Champions League and challenge for honours.

If it weren’t for the changes he devised and implemented, then we all wouldn’t be so disappointed with our showings of late. Wenger placed the bar so high that over 22 years, he simply couldn’t maintain.

Plus, let’s not forget the halcyon moments he is responsible for. Two Double’s, an Invincible campaign. Players like Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Patrick Vieira who lit up games with their talents. Our famous Back Five having their careers extended with the intervention of Wenger. Countless occasions we were enthralled by the play unfolding on the pitch. Surviving with a defence that comprised Johan Djourou, Philippe Senderos and Sebastien Squillacci. Our fantastic stadium. WengerBall.

Perhaps one of the brighter lights in his glittering career? Keeping our side in the Champions League with mere pennies to spend. Keeping a squad that had no right to compete at the highest level, dining at the top table.

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We have a lot to thank him for – and that is what we should do in every game
from now until the end of the season.

Time to get rid of Alexis

Alexis Sanchez has been our saviour on many occasions.

That little moment of genius that separates games from the ignominy of the forgotten. The sprinkling of unpredictability that unlocks packed defences and rescues a game from the doldrums.


That has been our Chilean’s speciality since his arrival.


He is no longer our saviour though, he’s just a naughty boy.







This season has been telling in where Alexis’ heart lies, and it is apparent it isn’t at The Emirates.


On some level, we can’t blame him. His signing appeared to be the herald of a continued change of approach, a try at actually acting like the stature of club we purported to be. We had gone big again, one season after breaking our transfer record with the purchase of Mesut Ozil.


It hasn’t transpired. We’re still treading water, still a sizeable gap between us and the glory we should be tussling for each season.


We’ve won silverware, something some of our rivals who are reportedly doing better than us have failed to do for some time. It isn’t enough however.


We’ve dropped out of the Champions League places, we’ve still to rectify the middle of our midfield after so many seasons of inadequecy. Alexis would have joined the club with promises of duking it with the big boys, but it hasn’t materialised.


Still though, there is a big difference in performance from Alexis this season than in his previous campaigns.


Last season we saw a sometimes petulant Alexis. Giving off waves of frustration with every dropped head, every wild arm movement, every scream at his teammates for losing the ball.


He still proved the difference for us on many occasions. He still bagged a hatful of goals and assists though, even if he appeared to be desperately unhappy with things.


At least those small tantrums showed he cared though. The smirking Alexis on the bench we’ve seen on occasion is the direct opposite. 


The Alexis we have this season is a far cry from the one we tried so hard to keep this summer. His poor goal tally, his failure to exert himself on proceedings the way he is capable of, they are all signs that his mind is elsewhere. He is biding his time before going to grass that in his mind – is emerald green.


Six goals in 22 appearances. Only three assists. Those aren’t the figures we have come to expect of Alexis, and the old Alexis would be disgusted with himself with such poor numbers.


We have seen Alexis work his magic this season. His performance against tottenham reminded us that we still have a jewel in our midst. It has also contrasted with his mediocre season thus far.


His performance against Manchester United and then Southampton were awful. He lost the ball on 34 separate occasions against United, and the number was disgustingly similar against the Saints.


Losing possession that many times is unforgivable. He plays in a team that relies on possession, we need it to damage teams. So for him to travel down blind alleyways on the pitch and take on three more players than he needs to is downright irresponsible, and shows he doesn’t care for the team as much as he needs to.


Players of his ilk carry more weight of responsibility as they are looked to by teammates and fans to provide that key that unlocks any defence. When they no longer care for the team though and are just doing things on the pitch to stay in the mind of another manager, then we must look at allowing him to leave.


There are many options for his next club, but we could quite easily find a team that isn’t a domestic rival, and perhaps have a player that could benefit us in a swap? PSG and Julian Draxler srping to mind?


Alexis will leave, without a doubt. We need to get a transfer fee and look elsewhere to fill the void left by Alexis.


Not this season’s version though. This season has allowed us to tailor our play a little more and acclimatise to times without him. 


Last season’s Alexis inigh on impossible to replace, this season there are plenty to choose from. Time to get busy in the market. 

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!

The Ox Leaving Arsenal?

Published on The Arsenal Review

It would seem that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is departing The Arsenal.

Latest news – Sky Sports News being the source – is that the England man has turned down a massive rise in the form of £180k per week and sees his future away from The Emirates. The freshest reports are now saying that a bid has been accepted from Chelsea, and Liverpool are also an interested party.


First things first – how in the name of Bergkamp’s holy boots did Oxlade-Chamberlain earn a £180k per week offer? 


The Ox has risen to prominence since last season. Our team’s switch to three at the back has seen an opening at wing-back, and Oxlade-Chamberlain took his opportunity with both hands. 


He seemed a perfect fit, with his stamina being put to great effect covering in defence whilst roving forward and giving our attack another outlet.


The versatile midfielder made more appearances last season than any in his time at the club, and the second most starts. It appeared as though he was finally ready to seize one of the countless chances he had been given – and hold down a starting spot for an extended amount of time.


What none of us banked on though, is that The Ox wasn’t satisfied at wing-back. No, although he prospered, he wanted more.


















Oxlade-Chamberlain feels he warrants a regular spot on the flank, or in central midfield. He also must feel he can obtain this very thing if he departs the club for another – most likely Chelsea or Liverpool.


So, let us all examine his chances of success.


The Ox has nine league goals in all his time at the club. If he aspires to play for Chelsea or Liverpool, those numbers would have to improve drastically if he wishes to make his mark on newer shores.


He primarily plays on the right, so who would his rivals be at each club?


Chelsea Boss Antonio Conte seems to prefer Willian on the right side, occasionally swapping around with Pedro.


Can anyone honestly say The Ox would squeeze either of these established players out of the Blues side?


What of Liverpool? Jurgen Klopp has been settling with players out of position in his side, so surely a player of the ilk of Oxlade-Chamberlain would be a godsend for the German?


Well, as previously mentioned, The Ox isn’t exactly enamoured with playing at wing-back, so James Milner and Albert Moreno can rest easy for the time being. The right wing position has now been filled by new signing Mohamed Salah too. 


Oxlade-Chamberlain should perhaps check if the grass is actually greener before he packs his bags.


From being guaranteed a pivotal role through the season, The Ox could actually be getting LESS games. Added to this, he certainly cannot nail down a spot on the wing at either of the clubs that are interested in him. The only way to do so is to provide an end product to his play, or at least a concerted rise from what he produces currently.


His numbers have never done his talent justice. When he bursts into action, Oxlade-Chamberlain has at times disemboweled entire defences. He has given opponents twisted blood and left them clutching at ghosts as he jinked past them with apparent ease.


Then, with the entire pitch open and the choices in front of him, he fluffs his lines.


It is a script well-thumbed by the Arsenal faithful. The other version of this is the same introduction, but with Oxlade-Chamberlain opting to beat another man instead of creating a chance.


At the crux of the plateau in his growth chart – is his decision-making.


This is where his talent hits a wall. You can stand toe-to–toe with the best there has ever been, but 

if you do nothing with it then it is futile. The Ox has never quite ridden himself of this problem – and this is the root cause of his battle to start every game.


Injuries have played a part, but not to the same effect of Walcott, Ramsey and Wilshere’s careers. 


The Ox has had a myriad of opportunities to establish himself, and has simply failed.


What makes him think that life at Chelsea or Liverpool will be any different?


Arsene Wenger doesn’t want to see one of his young men leave the club. So much time and effort has gone into the player, and the Frenchman must feel The Ox has more to give – hence the ludicrous contract offer.


The bottom line of this whole story is that Wenger has many failings, and chief among them is the faith shown in his players. Even when he is repeatedly burned by his players on the pitch, he continues to show them confidence.


The Ox has been given the same treatment. For a player to still not have a spot in the team rubberstamped even with Wenger’s plentiful ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ cards?


That is down to the player himself.


I think Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is in for a shock if he does leave Arsenal.  

A Spoonful of Winning Helps the Medicine Go Down.

Posted originally on Arsenal Mania

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

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

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

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

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

Alexis Sanchez is one of these players. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alexis and Ozil – What Happens Next?

Published in Arsenal Mania. 

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


They are ours, they are our precious……


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


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


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


Step forward Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil.























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


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


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


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


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


As well as keeping hold of what we have.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Needing to sell or being unable to keep top players?


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


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


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

Taxi For Alexis

Originally published on Goonersphere.

The recent news of Alexis Sanchez lambasting his teammates has only intensified the hyperbole surrounding his future at the club. 

He and Mesut Ozil – as well as Arsene Wenger – are all precariously placed as the last knockings of their contracts near. Every press conference then becomes a witch-hunt for details about departures or contract extensions, as news about the team take a firm back seat.

It has irked Arsene Wenger, as repeatdd questions about his star players and his own future are peppered at him as he sits in front of the assembled media, but with the latest news, one of the questions appears to have been answered inadvertently. 

Apparently, Alexis had ‘an angry exchange’ with teammates before the Liverpool loss, which then led to a team member having to be held back as tempers rose to the fore.

The surpirse decision by Wenger to drop Alexis to the bench for the match at Anfield was met with surprise, and the Arsenal boss maintained his reason for the Chilean on the bench, stating it was a tactical call.

The decision went awry, as the first half saw little attacking impetus which meant Liverpool were free to wreak merry hell, and Arsenal were on the backfoot for the majority of the 45 minutes. 

Step forward Alexis in the second half, whose introduction to proceedings saw a vastly different Arsenal to the Chilean-bereft Gunners side of the first half. We came together, we actually posed a threat. 

The trouble is, our side are now built to optimise Alexis, so to construct a side without him would require a period of adaptation. We would need time to play properly without Alexis.

The Chilean is a winner, and every lung-bursting run is two-fold. He firstly wants possession, and badly. Secondly, the reason he wants the ball is so he can do all he can to win the game. 

He is a winner. 

Is this excuse for the manner in which he verbally accosted his teammates? No.

Petr Cech is a winner, as is Ozil. They are both accustomed to glory rather than failure, but if they have an issue with the manner in which we are playing? They would not handle it in the way that Alexis has.

This Alexis issue has the capacity for fracturing the team-spirit which all top clubs require. The team must be one, and it must be prized above all else and certainly above sole concerns. 

Alexis has put his own trauma above the team, which any self-respecting manager cannot allow to be tolerated. If Alexis is not happy to construct his feelings of ire into his performances – or even to tell his comrades in a more eloquent manner – then he is a disruptive influence.

Either way, his future looks to be decided. It spells out an unhappy player who will have no shortage of suitors if he instructs his agent to put his feelers out. 

We want our players to be unhappy with current results and displays. It shows they know this level is far from good enough. 

We just want them to do it in the right way. 

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.