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Arteta and the New Defence

You’re only as strong as your weakest link, so the saying goes.

For a number of seasons, Arsenal have been top-heavy. Ridiculously powerful up top, capable of out-gunning any opponent, but porous at the back, like putting cowboy saloon doors on a bank vault.

Or a bodybuilder skipping leg day so much that his top half looks like it’s mid-way through swallowing his bottom half.

When was the last time we had a solid defence behind us that filled us with confidence? The last time we came close to that was the peak years of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker. Before and since, we’ve been fed on a diet of mediocre or average, which has been off-kilter to what we’ve had in attack.

Unai Emery recruited the likes of Sokratis to beef up our weak backline, offer some physical security. But if you’re also asking that same defence to play out from the back, Emery was ultimately trying to fit square pegs in round holes.

Then there is the capacity for mistakes in our defenders. Shkodran Mustafi can withstand pressure from teams for 80-85 minutes and be a prime candidate for Man of the Match, but he carries with him a warning sticker, that lets everyone know that there are mistakes within that can capitulate the efforts of the team, and override any decent aspects that Mustafi has contributed previously.

David Luiz is a huge character on and off the pitch, helping youngsters grow and also being a conduit for the positivity and work that Mikel Arteta’s new regime extolls. But every once in a while, Luiz will put his studded foot in his figurative mouth and inexplicably gift the opposition a goal.

It is a characteristic that has beset us for more than a decade, unfortunately.

But Mikel Arteta is instilling something at Arsenal. Something special. Something that is getting all of the players excited and looking to the next game. This tantalising project is luring players in. Both summer recruits thus far – Willian and Gabriel Magalhaes – have both spoken of other offers for their services coming in before joining Arsenal. Why did they shun these other, more lucrative deals?

Mikel Arteta.

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Magalhaes even spoke of a phone call from Arteta to convince him of his growth at Arsenal and the end goal of the club and how Magalhaes can be intrinsic to that.

We now have a solid looking nucleus of defenders at Arsenal.

Magalhaes was wanted by top clubs and chose Arsenal.

William Saliba is another top young talent that lit up Ligue Un last season. The Frenchman is younger than Magalhaes, but both could form part of a new-look backline – especially if Arteta continues to get his players adapting to a 3-5-2 / 5-3-2 formation. It involves a bank of three central defenders, with two wing-backs shutting down the flanks and then offering an avenue in attack. Put the experienced Luiz in the centre, with the youthful exuberance and skills of Magalhaes and Saliba, and we are looking at a brand new backline that is capable of following Arteta’s wishes.

We also have depth too. With the cultured Pablo Mari to come back into the fold, and Calum Chambers – who impressed last season before injury cut his campaign short – we now have the resources available to withstand the annual Arsenal injury crises at the back.

With the impressive Kieran Tierney able to play centrally too, Arteta may well have what he needs at the back to push this club forward and toward where he wants – and we want – us to be.

 

The Arsenal Shirt – Part of the Fabric of our Club

Some things go hand in hand with a football club.

It can be their rickety stadium, their vociferous fans or it could be one of their luminaries that changed the sport. Whatever it is, there are things that embody a football club. It is their brand and they should cherish it.

Probably the most iconic thing about a football club is their jersey, and Arsenal’s red and white combo is instantly recognisable the world over. No matter the manufacturer of the kit, the white sleeves and red torso on the Gunners shirts are part of the fabric of the club.

Never has this been clearer, than recently when pictures of next seasons kit were leaked – reportedly.

Arsenal's reported new kit from 2018/19

The outcry on social media was fierce, and it propelled a legend or two to comment on the travesty that is our projected home kit for 2018/19. Ian Wright tweeted and posted on Instagram to decry this planned jersey, and rightfully so.

While it maintains the red and white we so hold dear, the manner in which the design is welded together leaves many to think that a lack of care was put into the process that Puma implemented when they gathered round the table to discuss the Gunners shirt.

The relationship with Puma has been a rocky one to say the least. The designs which have been thrust upon us have split the crowd, and for every hit (this seasons black and pink number is quite fetching) there has been a glaring miss (the abomination that is this seasons away kit).

It has led to many of us musing on whether the kit is actually cursed, the ugly piece of kit may well be doing all it can to put its own bad juju on proceedings.

Stories of parts of the kit coming away in the wash and fading of colours have done nothing to inspire confidence in Puma’s wares, and we have all harked back to more recent successes that our players have worn – the yellow kit from Nike’s last season with us was classic, and faithfully upheld our values in the most fitting way.

Arsenal's away kit from 2013/14 - a beautiful design faithfully upholding our values

Then we see teams like Newcastle United sporting the very same designs that we are now wearing – it gives off a fair whiff of laziness coming from Puma’s direction. We are The Arsenal, and we shouldn’t be sharing designs with anyone.

The shirt should be a form of muse for our players. It should inspire new heights for our men, and instill a sense of awe and fear in our opponents. It should also be aesthetically pleasing enough to push us into forking out the copious amounts of dough to purchase them – it would be very insightful to find out sales figures for our blue kit this season in comparison to others.

The book – The Arsenal Shirt – by James Elkin and Simon Shakeshaft did a fantastic job of highlighting what the shirt means to us all. There were a few amid the outcry recently that questioned the level of response toward what is essentially only a shirt, but if you read this wonderful book, it tells you with every glorious page turn, why our shirt is so important.

Some may see it as trivial, but every part of our club’s history is what makes us The Arsenal. Every strand is woven intricately into what comprises us, what makes us unique. We need to hold our values dear and protect them, otherwise the current hunger for business will engulf the character of each and every club.

The new shirt may well be used next season, and it will still sell, but hopefully, Puma’s social media presence will pick up on our displeasure and go back to the drawing board.

If not, then we can cross our fingers that from the season after, our new kit manufacturers ensure they are well versed in Arsenal lore before they put pen to paper.

It isn’t just a shirt, it never is.

It’s part of who we are.

Dick Law’s Transfer Window Deadline Diary

Posted on Goonersphere.

31/08/17 – 0430hrs

I thought this would be a good idea. The Transfer Window has taken on a life of its own in the last few years, and anything from behind the scenes could make a small fortune. Just imagine, there could be a movie – The Diary of a Football Transfer Guru!

Anyways, the reason I’m up so early is it’s the last day of the window before it slams shut and doesn’t open back up until January. That means everyone will be up and at ‘em today. If it’s anything like the last few years, it’ll be frantic and relentless. Perhaps not a patch on the famous window of 2012, but who knows?


I’m at my breakfast table and I’ve got my bowl of Coco Pops and have Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles on the TV. Their spirit and faith towards Master Splinter never fails to inspire me before a big day. My phone is already ringing. It’s Ivan……




31/08/17 – 0515hrs

Ivan has given me the list of targets for me to meet up with and work my charm. There are three, and they could be huge signings for Arsenal! I’ve finished my Coco Pops and I’ve had a shower, now it’s time to dress the part.


No transfer mogul is complete without the obligatory power suit. One that says “I’m all about the details, you won’t get anything past me,” but also “I also own a subscription to National Geographic Magazine.”


I don’t. I buy Wordsearch books.


So, my suit is on and my Peter Griffin tie completes this amazing business ensemble. The tie sprinkles in a bit of the unknown you see, it puts them off-kilter a bit.


Now, just to call my PA, Maurice, to book the flights to Paris, Southampton and Monaco, then I’m ready!


I’ve thought of everything. Let’s go and make some deals!















31/08/17 – 0620hrs

I’ve seen every airport lounge, sampled every Toblerone you can imagine – did you know they do a mint one? – but Heathrow is always the beginning of every journey. It’s special, and the staff there are great to me. They know me now, and they often help me to carry my things. They have a quick turnaround of staff though, they often forget to come back with my stuff!


Queues are the enemy of any passenger at the airport, but not for Dick Law! Thanks to my high position at Arsenal, I get Business Class everywhere I go! The plushest of seats, extra legroom, all the Fanta I can drink! It is the fact I don’t have to queue though, that really makes the difference. This is vital, being the jetset, business-type that I am. Hold that thought, Ivan is on the phone again…..




31/08/17 – 0630hrs

Just ended the call from Ivan, and that is the end of my mammoth Haribo scoffing session. Apparently, if I want to eat sweets, I’ve got to do it on my own bank card, rather than the club’s dosh. Stan has been watching the club accounts you see….


Anyway, there’s been a slight mishap. Maurice didn’t actually book the flights to Monaco. So, now I’ve got to queue up with the rest of the plebs. I’ve told Maurice to contact the Chairman of Monaco to let them know I’ll be delayed a little, but it shouldn’t make too much difference.


Once they meet me and listen to the words I spin, they will be entranced. Then, they’ll be a Gunner!


Arsene will be so pleased, if I get even one of these deals over the line, then I’m sure to get more coupons for the skateboard I’ve had my eye on for ages! Arsene makes sure I get coupons for my good work, and I want that skateboard!


Let’s do this!



31/08/17 – 1200hrs

After queueing, then the delay on the runway, then waiting to get off the plane, then passport control, then stopping to get Toblerone, then the cab to meet the Monaco chairman, I was four hours late.


The Chairman wasn’t there when I got to the meeting point. He had left a message with a member of staff though, telling me that the player has joined elsewhere.


Darn it! I had some great lines stored up to woo these guys! I have to phone Maurice and reinforce how important the next two meetings are. Before I do though, Ivan is on the phone….





31/08/17 – 1300hrs

I’m back at Monaco airport, and I’m just about to go in for my Business Class flight to Paris. Ivan wasn’t pleased about the missed meeting. I told him that it was down to Maurice that I missed everything, but he didn’t let me speak. He just kept shouting at me. It was only when I started to cry that he stopped.


Anyway, this next meeting is maybe more important than the last. We’ve sold a few players recently that means we need new ones – the Szczesny deal was all down to me! – so Paris needs the finest Dick Law that I can be! Mum always says that appearance is just as important as words, so I’ve got toItomake sure I rinse out the jam stain on my Peter Griffin tie when I get into the Executive Bathroom!


Paris here I come, I don’t think you’re ready for the Dick whirlwind!





31/08/17 – 1304hrs

Maurice didn’t book my tickets – again. It means I’ve got to queue up again and get in with the rest of the cattle. I’ve got ten minutes before I do all that, so I’m in the bathroom getting rid of the jam stain and I’m doing my mouth exercises in the big mirrors. Annunciation is a big thing, and I want to impress the big cheese’s at the Parc Des Princes with my big words. 


Annunciation is one of them, I’ll slip it in there somehow!


Now, I’ve got to go, my flight is near and the town that was inspired by Blackpool and their Tower is calling!





31/08/17 – 1605hrs

The flight was bumpy, they didn’t serve up any Babybel, Maurice never booked the transfer from the airport to the stadium offices – and I was mega late again.


The staff at the club tried to find the Chairman, but we eventually found out they had flown back to Qatar and said they won’t be doing business with people who can’t grace them with proper timekeeping! Charming!


Their loss, they didn’t even see my Foghorn Leghorn impression! That was the dealmaker for sure!


Ivan is ringing again, this might take a while…..





31/08/17 – 1700hrs

Ivan threatened me. He said if I don’t get this last deal done, then I can kiss goodbye to that skateboard I want.


I’ve got to get cracking. I’ve got all the talk, all the skills, I just need to get to Southampton. Best call Maurice and make sure the flight is booked, as well as the transfers. I’m not going to miss this one. This deal will go down in history, and it will be all down to Dick Law, transfer expert extraordinaire!





31/08/17 – 2300hrs

I missed the flight. I missed the meeting. According to Maurice, it’s because he’s invisible and can’t touch the keys on the keyboard. It never stopped him when we were kids though…..


Anyway, that means the three players have moved to other clubs, and Arsenal have missed out.


Worse still, the skateboard is gone. Ivan has sent me a Whatsapp with it sawn in half. I cried a little, so I ate one of my toblerone’s to cheer myself up. I suppose I best get to bed, It’s been a long…..


Wait a minute!


I’ve just got a text saying a player has stated his interest in joining The Arsenal! All I have to do is get back to Southampton, and we can talk!


I’m going to get a cab, this could change everything!





01/09/17 – 0002hrs

I got to the meeting, I did my impression, used my big-boy words, my tie sparked a conversation – it went perfectly!


We quickly progressed to negotiations, and this is when my intellect comes into play. They wanted £25million – I hit straight back with £3.


Boom!


They didn’t like that! After a long argument, they then came back with their second figure.


£25m.


I smashed it straight back with £1.50 and a slice of Millionaire Shortbread.


Kapow!


That was when I was asked to leave.


I’ve asked Maurice to ring me a cab, but that was a while ago.


It’s getting quite cold and I forgot to bring my mittens that my mum knitted me.


Ivan is calling my phone….

New Season Predictions


Originally posted on Goonersphere.


Last season seems like an age ago.

The domestic football calendar ended with our glorious triumph and utter humiliation of our opponents at Wembley, which was completely at odds with how we started our campaign, which was mired in mediocrity and saw Gooners everywhere give their opinion on stale milk.

Given how the season progressed, how many of us could have predicted the final outcome of affairs? Could any of us say with any authority that they envisioned us reclaiming the silverware which we so valiantly fought for versus Hull? Did any plucky soul venture a guess as to our Jekyll and Hyde Premiership assault?

Whilst Arsenal remain elusive to the minds eye when attempting to predict their fate, other teams, players and managers plod along their well trodden path with such predictability that next season will see them once more trip, fall and proclaim that outside influences are the cause of their failure rather than their own meandering endeavours.

These happenings will continue to happen until change is forced upon them. Next season will be no different.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give to you, my predictions for next season.

Continue reading New Season Predictions