Tag Archives: signings

Attack on Kola and Ozil – The Ripple Effect

The recent knife attack on Mesut Ozil, Sead Kolasinac and their wives was thwarted thanks to the selfless bravery of our Bosnian defender.

The long-lasting effects may well cast more harmful ripples however.

The CCTV footage showed how the assailants pulled up to Ozil’s vehicle on a moped and brandished a large knife. Kolasinac then exited the car and Ozil drove the respective partners to a position of safety while the left-back aimed to either stifle or incapacitate the criminals.

Thankfully, no harm was done. Well, at least physically.

This footage will no doubt have spread worldwide via social media. Professional footballers will have seen this and the violence on show could act as a deterrent to any prospective moves to the Premier League.

Do we see footballers in other nation’s being attacked by blades? Aside from the volatility of South America, can we say anywhere in Europe has seen similar recently?

This is not to say that knife crime is more prevalent in London or the UK as opposed to Europe, but simply that this sole act occurred in our capital rather than in Italy, Spain or Germany.

Footballers lead a lavish lifestyle and are on the highest of pedestals. The barrier between player and fan is higher than ever before. These sportsmen are now fully removed from everyday life and the fleeting moments that they take part in fan activities or social media interactions are pretty much the only times they put their feet on the same ground we walk on.

This attack could well pull that drawbridge up a little further, distancing us and them even more than before. Players have the ability to seclude themselves in their own world. Their houses are like resorts, they attend exclusive events and venues, and the streets that we share? They will be less and less frequented.

What of potential signings thinking of relocating to the UK? This potentially has a dampening effect, as perception is everything. The news stories that hype the supposed torrent of violent crime on our streets, now exacerbated by our players being nearly killed while attending a restaurant? It will do nothing for enthusiasm to sample the delights of the city.

The reason why the video made such a splash is because of the seriousness of the potential repercussions. Should Sead Kolasinac have failed in his heroic efforts? It doesn’t bear thinking of.

Sead and Ozil

With such riches to protect and these men recognised anywhere they go, it does mean that for the more nefarious of us Joe Publics, these professional players do have a target on their heads. It is easy pickings and ripe pickings at that.

The days of players liaising with fans like they did in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s? That is a thing of the past, and the moat that sees us look longingly at the greener grass of celebrity sportspeople yawns ahead of us, growing wider each year.

We can be thankful that both players and their wives were unharmed after this attack, but the threat of further incidents of the same nature potentially could ripple outward for quite some time.

Spotlight on Youth Progress

Freddie Ljungberg’s move to Assistant Manager from his previous role as Under-23’s boss heralds a shift in focus for our club.

The statement that accompanied the Swede’s move to Unai Emery’s bench chose to underline this, mentioning that Ljungberg’s intimate knowledge of our youth system and the products that have rolled off the conveyor belt recently was the reason that Freddie has taken Steve Bould’s role – with Bould going in the opposite direction.

It is this hands-on, daily intel that Ljjungberg possesses, that gives him the best position to determine who can move up from the Academy and bolster our squad.

With our self-sustainability model in full effect, the dream situation for our club hierarchy and our bank balance, would be finding the answers to bolstering our squad within our current ranks – unearthing the latest rough diamond and polishing it in front of our very eyes in the stands.

Freddie is meant to be the conduit between the kids trying to make that step up, to the ear of Unai Emery, who knows that his budget will leave him hindered in his attempt to reclaw our Champions League prospects back, after last season saw us confirm we will miss out for a third consecutive season.

With Champions League omission comes a shrunken budget, so Ljungberg moving up to provide Emery with another eye, perhaps the most important eye amongst our coaching personnel, means that Emery can have a true gauge on whether our prospects can supply the fillip that our first team and squad we so desperately require.


Jo Willock and Eddie Nketiah spring immediately to mind in regards to who will make the step up, but there are others who will be in with a shout.

Bukayo Saka and Tyreece John-Jules are others who are in with a shot, and Emile Smith-Rowe, along with Reiss Nelson, are champing at the bit to get the nod.

Much like last season, Emery’s first, we can tell a lot from Emery’s team selection for the supposed ‘friendly games.’ He rotated heavily, and with a hectic warm-up schedule, thanks in part to sponsorship deals, games were thick and fast. That meant plenty of chances for the kids to impress, but what will also help these kids show that Freddie’s testimonials were all true – is squad strength.

There has been talk of Arsenal going in for Keiran Tierney in a bid to boost our defensive strength, and it is obvious that our backline is in dire need of reinforcements.

So, with Freddie swooping in and having Emery’s ear in regards to what kid can help out in our hour of need, or who has what it takes, our kids could well be the salve that eases the burn on our backline.

Freddie is meant to help the transition between the youth and first team sides, and with our defence on its knees last season, Ljungberg will be instrumental in ensuring the likes of Calum Chambers, Zach Medley and Jordi Osei-Tutu, currently on loan, make the big leap from boy to man in terms of football.

Whether the Swede truly has enough sway to ensure Emery listens to him regarding our players is another matter intirely, but it is irrefuteable that our club would enjoy a ‘signing’ that came straight from our youth team.

We can only wait and see if Ljungberg is starting to have an effect on proceedings. With the precociousness’ of youth also means we should remember that they will have to be given a little flex in order to weed out the mistakes their game demands they make in order to learn vital lessons.

Without patience, then those opportunities that Ljungberg will fight so hard for might as well not happen. We need to keep that in mind when these kids light up the pitch.

Strike Bromance Crucial To Club Future

All good teams are built on building blocks.

Reliable, rock-hard slabs that you can build on top of. Partnerships that very rarely let you down, players that you can rely on to do their job.

Every good team has had them, and they allow you to worry about other matters, concentrate on the next area of concern.

After last season, it would appear that we have a scarcity of these building blocks in our squad right now. At one time or another last season, all areas of our team had moments that led to our downfall. That isn’t to say that our entire team were atrocious, but in terms of dependability. We couldn’t take many of them to the bank.

Aside from our strike force.

The bromance between Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette flourished on the pitch amidst our turbulence, and their combined tally of 35 goals was the third best in the Premiership last season – only behind Liverpool’s Mane and Salah’s haul of 44 goals and City’s Aguero and Sterling’s 38.

That means that despite our finishing position of 5th, we had the third most dangerous attack. Just imagine where we would have been without them?

It also means that in the face of the constant adulation, tottenham’s pair of Kane and Son banged in six goals less than our pair.

So in the face of transfer speculation about our pair of hotshots, this stat highlights how desperately we need to keep hold of our duo.

Auba and Laca.jpg


We are aiming to build on last season, which saw us fall agonisingly short of a top four spot – a top four spot that was in our grasp until we fumbled the keys in our hands and dropped them through the sewer grate instead of opening the door to the Champions League.

Our midfield is missing key parts, with only Torreira and Guendouzi being players we can see as mainstays for the coming campaigns.

Our defence is falling apart, with only Sokratis and Rob Holding as long-lasting, reliable parts, with perhaps Calum Chambers rising to the fore. Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal have been fantastic servants to the club but their age is against them, with Shkodran Mustafi showing that he is far from the answer we have been looking for.

We need a new left-back. We need a winger.

So in order to make these additions, the last thing we need to do is sell the players that are the standard we need, with the consistency we crave.

Of course, the fees involved in any transfer for both Lacazette and Aubameyang would be lucrative. Even in the face of some of our most recent transfer mistakes (letting Rambo go for free when Eden Hazard goes for more than £100m with one year left to go on his contract?) we could expect £50m plus for each of them.

It would swell our so-called warchest, it would give us the opportunity to reconstruct our defence, maybe even a decent prospect in midfield to help out Torreira and Guendouzi.

We would be going into next season far weaker than we are now though.

We would also be confirmed as a selling club. It would see us selling players at their peak again, a breeding ground for talent so the big fish can sweep them up.

Aubameyang and Lacazette must stay if we are to go one step further next season. After falling so agonisingly short of making last season a success – a top four spot and a Europa League win was a mere two wins away and would have been a categorical success – our prolific strikeforce is mandatory in order to go that half-step further.

Invest our money in our defence, defenders that can act on Emery’s instructions. A midfielder that can diligently track runners and convert defence to attack efficiently. A wideman with white paint on his boots that can whizz in a decent cross – just imagine our pair of strikers feeding from a player that has a decent delivery!

Our immediate future given our target of self-sufficiency hinges on Aubameyang and Lacazette sporting our fancy new kits next season, hopefully helped by some players that aim for their level of efficiency and optimisation.


Dipping Into Deep Pockets – Spend Some Money!

Time for a game of ‘Spot the Difference.’

Farhad Moshiri.

David Sullivan and David Gold

The Srivaddhanaprabha family.

Stan Kroenke.


Any ideas?

They’re all owners of Premier League clubs.

They all enjoy an incredible bank balance.

The difference you’re looking for is that the first three have all invested plenty of their readies into their respective clubs – aside from Stan Kroenke.

In fact, Kroenke has actually taken money out of the club, as payment for consultancy fees.

The result of this lack of spending in comparison to Leicester City, Everton and West Ham is that instead of progressing with our supposed gameplan to haul Arsenal back into the big time, we could instead be battling it out with the above three teams to keep our Europa League status.

Never mind the Champions League for now. With Liverpool and Manchester City going from strength to strength, Manchester United and Chelsea not afraid to spend in the transfer window and Tottenham enjoying lucrative new incomes, Arsenal, now more than ever, have to break free from the restrictive budgets that are shackling our growth, and recognise the shifting landscape.

More clubs than ever can break the bank and land a superstar, and with West Ham signing Pablo Fornals, this is another piece of evidence to support the warning.

For just £24m, the Hammers have a Spanish international that has years ahead of him. Fornals has been a target of ours for some time, and to see him ship off to East London sticks in the craw a tad.

They also reportedly have another +£20m target in their sights from Celta Vigo, and are also after one of our other targets, Alexis Claude-Maurice from Lorient. Let’s say both of our bids are accepted – can we honestly say that we will offer more money than the Hammers?

So we will rely on our allure – the third biggest club in England, a host of domestic trophies and an attractive brand of football with a global fanbase.

Is that enough for the modern day footballer? Will it be enough to continue to snare the top talent? When they are well aware they can earn far more elsewhere – where the expectation will be lower? So they can enjoy the adulation for performing well within themselves?

How long can we continue to trade off the back of our reputation? Are we in danger of becoming a former glory – one that slumbers in the comfort of midtable as our owner cashes in and our rivals enjoy the spoils?

Kroenke 2


That may be an overreaction after our last season saw us miss out narrowly on both a lucrative Champions League spot and a European trophy, but you can’t deny that you’re alarmed when you see teams that don’t share our illustrious history or potential, spending shameful amounts of money that we can only dream of.

The self-sustaining model that Vinai Venkatesham and Raul Sanllehi are keen for us to follow keeps us on the straight and narrow and crucially – without any dependency on our owner who could give two shiny pennies whether we win trophies or not. As long as our cash udders are ripe and producing the goods, he’ll be more than happy for the status quo to continue.

Which means we stay in limbo – not quite good enough for the Champions League, but with teams all around closing the gap.

Financial Fair Play made a mockery of our frugal approach a while back, and it will continue to ignore those teams that are spending well beyond their means – which means we will not be rewarded for our mindful approach when it comes to our balance.

We were told that whatever profit we make can be reinvested into our team. Fair enough, but with us needing a big step up from our current position in order to catch up to the rest, that requires more than what we are making right now. We need to go wild in the aisles and buy the players that makes this squad Emery’s men – rather than the majority being leftovers from the Wenger era.

We don’t want Kroenke dipping in his pockets endlessly, but we do want a fighting chance to regain our standing – and we need a bit of help for that to happen.



Emery and His Summer Plans

It is irrefutable that Unai Emery has helped us make progress this season.

It is also undeniable that he has made errors that have cost us.

The Spaniard is not infallible, and our suspect away form and some questionable decisions when it comes to rotation have been the difference when it comes to certain results this campaign.

It is very important that Emery isn’t hung, drawn and quartered by his mistakes, and while the jury may be out for some, his approach has certainly added more than it has subtracted.

How does Emery help us go one step further though? Next season should see us go into the season with a top 3 position firmly in our sights. With Manchester United still rebuilding and unsure of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s long-term suitability, it should put us on a firmer footing than the Red Devils.

Then there are Chelsea and spurs.

The Blues will be suffering from a transfer ban so cannot strengthen. They have Christian Pulisic to come in and perhaps some of their loanees could come in to fill a gap, but with Eden Hazard’s head turned by Real Madrid and no avenue to replace such a talent, Chelsea could easily be weaker than this season. Then there is the small matter of Maurizio Sarri and if he will even be at Stamford Bridge next season.

Spurs will be thankful to keep hold of Mauricio Pochettino, but transfer funds will need to be freed up if they want to continue their upward curve. Despite all of the brass band sounding and the fawning from the media, they are further away from the title than ever and their trophy cabinet is still emptier than Chris Sutton’s IQ.

The stage is set for us to move up and re-establish ourselves amongst the elite, perhaps even put some pressure on the top2 – although the gap is a sizeable one.

It all hinges on what Emery does in the transfer market – well, he and his new Director of Football that will be coming in.

His first summer at Arsenal saw more success than failure when it came to additions. For every Stephane Lichtsteiner, we had a Matteo Guendouzi, Lucas Torreira and Bernd Leno. Sokratis too, has enjoyed a solid first season.

We need more though.


Xhaka and Iwobi

We have the large aperture created by Aaron Ramsey’s departure to fill. That requires an intelligent attacking midfielder who has a wide range of passing and is blessed with a deft touch for intricate link-up play.

That won’t be cheap.

Then there is the small matter of our defence and midfield.

Our club captain is in his latter years, as is Nacho Monreal. That is two integral parts of our first choice defence with a significantly lower chance of contributing the same amount of matches next season.

Yes, we do have Rob Holding returning, and with Calum Chambers coming back into the fray, we POTENTIALLY have the makings of a solid core. It is still untested though, and Emery will run the rule over them as a duo in pre-season.

If it doesn’t work, then that is another dip into the transfer coffers – an amount that according to hearsay, is not sufficient enough for two world-class additions.

In midfield, in Torreira and Guendouzi we have our near future looking decent, but two midfielders doesn’t make a midfield. We need alternative options to enable Emery’s famous switching of approach, we need able backups as the season wears fitness thin and inflates fatigue.

In that regard, we can see that Mohamed Elneny isn’t quite up to scratch, and Granit Xhaka has already made noises about seeking new pastures. Much will hinge on Champions League qualification on whether the Swiss star stays, but he isn’t the complete player we need.

So we could maybe need two central players to come in, one more established to push the first team and another prospect that can help our team in years to come.

Our attack is in decent health. If we had players like Henrikh Mkhitaryan hitting the heights their obvious talent allows them to, then we would be all set for next season. But the Armenian and Alex Iwobi now need to step up and make a difference far more frequently than they do currently if we are to push on next season. If they fail to do so, then Arsenal is a stage that isn’t best suited to them.


Furious Emery


The potential for quite a busy summer looms large on our horizon. One that involves deeper pockets than our short arms can reach, and some tough calls on players futures.

If we are to move up and get back into contention, Emery and his backroom team will have their phones on during their summer break. Excellence doesn’t rest.

The Importance of Not Being Idle

The World Cup looms large on not only every football fixture schedule, but every player and manager.

World Cup 2018 in Russia
International football may have taken a backwards step in terms of priority for fans and players alike, but the World Cup is a festival of football that ignites passions unlike anything else. It has no peers, and the 2018 tournament in Russia promises to be memorable for many reasons.
Players in the last few months have had the competition in the back of their mind every time they take to the field in the colours of their club. Players have said this is the case in the past, and appearing at a World Cup will be the pinnacle for many players, so attempting to avoid injuries that curtail their World Cup dream could have impacted their performance.

Regardless, these professionals will hopefully have done all they can to book their ticket on their respective nation’s squad flight. They may be wary of injury, but they also had to maintain form and remain in contention for selection.

Managers will be looking at the World Cup for very different reasons.

The season will have ended and weaknesses that have to be remedied will be first and foremost in their minds. The World Cup is the biggest shop window in football, and this is where the thoughts of players and managers unite.

Players will be looking to put themselves in the shop window – and Managers will be looking for those who do so with the most panache.
Unai Emery and his back room staff will be very conscious of what he needs to address, and his experience will also have given him the heads up that this international competition will ramp up any prices of a player who dazzles on this large stage.
Emery must act quickly if he is looking to do business for a player who is doing the business for his country. One match where they look like a world beater and not only will the player know they can ask for more than before their performance, but their agent will have left them 50 voicemails telling their client to hold out for the best offer.

It will spark a bidding war, and the selling club and the agent will have dollar signs spinning in their eyes.
Arsenal’s recruitment team has no excuse to stand on ceremony. They know that to acquire targets, we must be decisive and move early to get what we need. We now have the added bonus of Raul Sanllehi to aid our transfer endeavours, and the man from Catalunya could well be the secret weapon we need to make sure our own armour chinks are welded over in the most effective manner.

The World Cup is going to unearth some real talent, it happens every time. Players that were previously loosely monitored then show the largest audience that they indeed have the minerals to make it at the top. That they have what it takes to make the difference at our clubs.
With our defence needing major reinvention and our midfield lacking balance at times, all and sundry can see where we will need to invest, and Sanllehi will have a very small window to make it happen before the bidding war starts.

Arsenal’s Best Ever African Signings

Published inThe Sport Review

Arsenal have had Arsene Wenger at the helm for over two decades now, and the Frenchman has revolutionised not only the Gunners, but English football. 

From that moment in 1996 when everyone connected with the sport asked the question, ‘Arsene Who?’ – Wenger has set about creating teams that combine swashbuckling play and tactical nous.

It hasn’t been all sunshine and trophies for the Frenchman however, and in recent years he has been under incredible amounts of pressure to deliver from the fans and the media alike. His team in the last few years have flattered to deceive, but whether you are one of the doubters or if you resolutely back him, Wenger remains at the club gamely attempting to craft another squad of contenders.

The Premier League has changed since Arsene took charge of Arsenal, and with Chelsea and Manchester City evolving into football powerhouses, it means the challenge to keep up with the pace at the sharp end of the Premiership is more difficult than ever.

Arsenal have had to adapt a little, and scour the globe for the talent which every top team needs. With an extensive network of scouts, they have tapped into every viable source that they can, all the while they have kept the pursestrings as tight as possible for the majority.

Arsene has a proven track record for finding amazing cut-price players and buffing these rough diamonds up to make them shine, and the Arsenal manager has regularly signed players from Africa to bolster his squad. 

From worst to best, here is the definitive list of African players who have played for the Gunners:

15 – Emmanuel Frimpong

6 League Appearances, 0 goals

The Ghanaian midfielder showed so much promise in his escalation through the youth ranks, but Frimpong seemed to care more for establishing his brand rather than his performances on the pitch. He had incredible stamina, but it never showed in Arsenal colours, and has since lost his way in a multitude of moves across the world.

14 – Quincy Owusu-Obeyie

5 League Appearances, 0 goals

The man known simply as Quincy was hewn in the world-famous Ajax youth system, and was snapped up by eagle-eyed Arsenal at a young age. He was rewarded for some excellent performances in the Gunners youth teams by being given a professional contract, but despite some promising League Cup showings, the Ghanaian forward never quite broke through. He left Arsenal in 2006 to further his career, joining Spartak Moscow. He currently plays for NEC Breda in the Netherlands.

13 – Kaba Diawara

12 League Appearances, 0 goals
Diawara lasted just one season at Arsenal. The reason? for a striker, he wasn’t very adept at scoring goals. Plenty of effort was shown by the Guinea international, but on the rare occasions he did play, he never took full advantage. It mattered little though, as a certain Thierry Henry was just starting to find his feet at Highbury…..

12 – Armand Traore

13 League Appearances, 0 goals
It all started so well for Traore. Several eye catching performances started to attract attention and he was soon putting pressure on first choice positional rivals Gael Clichy and Kieran Gibbs. The Senegalese defender then enjoyed fruitful loan moves to Portsmouth and Juventus. A few injuries and some poor form put a halt to Troare’s rise though, and his final act as a Gunner was playing in Arsenal’s horrific 8-2 loss to Manchester United. After being seen smiling and congratulating the United players after the final whistle, the writing was on the wall.

11 – Gervinho

46 League Appearances, 9 goals
Gervinho came with quite the reputation. He and Eden Hazard had formed a deadly attack at Lille, and his Belgian teammate regarded the Ivorian as world class. Arsene had seen enough to splash the cash and beat many teams to his signature, but the striker with the Brazilian name was on the whole, pretty awful in an Arsenal shirt. there were the odd highlights and flashes of what he could do, but his errant finishing and lackadaisical movement meant that Gervinho was lambasted by fans and was sold after two miserable seasons. His miss from two yards in a cup loss to lowly Bradford City still haunts the collective memory of all Gooners.

10- Mohamed Elneny

23 League Appearances and counting, 0 goals
Elneny signed from FC Basel in the 2015/16 season, and his cool head and safe presence on the pitch have helped Arsenal during their predictable injury worries they incur every season. Tasty in the tackle and with an eye for a shot – his goal against Barcelona in the Champions League was quite special – Elneny has impressed in his short time at The Emirates. He has competition for places at the club, but he also looks to have the capacity to win the battle and earn a regular spot in the lineup.

9- Marouane Chamakh

40 League Appearances, 8 goals
Chamakh was prolific at Bordeaux, and his goals in Europe and Ligue Un prompted Wenger to take him to Arsenal. He started well too, but a goal drought saw the Moroccan slump in confidence. He fell down the pecking order at The Emirates, and an inevitable transfer followed. His story tells how important goals are to a striker, as without them, he looked a shadow of the man who scored in six consecutive Champions League matches. Has never recaptured that form since. 

8 – Christopher Wreh

28 League Appearances, 3 goals
Wreh came to Arsenal and the news that this striker was related to African legend George Weah meant that the Liberian had to produce. Whilst Wreh was not on the same level as his cousin, his efforts on the pitch during Arsenal’s historic Double win of 1997/98 did not go unnoticed. He scored vital goals against Wimbledon and Wolves and huge credit must go to the striker, for without his three goals, the Double simply would not exist. 

7 – Alex Iwobi

34 League Appearances and counting, 5 goals
The rise of Alex Iwobi has been a rapid one. From a few sporadic substitute chances, to starting against Barcelona in the Camp Nou, Iwobi has never let the pressure faze him. The Nigerian is comfortable in any attacking position behind the striker, and his speed of thought and marvelous touch has seen the Number 17 entrench himself upon Wengers plans. He has dipped in form of late, but at such a tender age, Iwobi is all set to do great things for Arsenal. 

6 – Alexandre Song

138 League Appearances, 7 goals
Song’s aptitude for defending was the reason why he became a relied member of the Arsenal squad in 2008/09. He was versatile enough to slot into midfield or defence and his incredible stamina levels meant that his hunger for the ball never waned in ninety minutes. He became a valuable part of the Gunners setup. His link-ups with Robin Van Persie started to bear fruit, but it also meant that the Cameroonian lost sight of his team principles and he was often seen leaving his defensive duties. A £15million move to Barcelona’s bench followed, and a promising career as a Gunner came to a hasty end.

5 – Emmanuel Adebayor

104 League Appearances, 46 goals
The Togo striker’s steady stream of goals at Arsenal softened the blow a little after losing Thierry Henry to Barcelona. There was the odd controversy – Adebayor clashing with his own teammate and a couple of sendings off – but as long as he kept scoring goals, it was overlooked by Gooners. He left Arsenal in the lurch just when they needed him most in 2009, to a tempting offer from Manchester City. Fans were not happy and voiced their displeasure when he returned with the Blues to The Emirates, and a goal celebration where he ran the length of the field to gloat in front of the fans who used to adore him was the final straw. Now a mercenary for hire after proving he has no loyalty with a string of transfers in a short space of time. A waste of talent.

4 – Emmanuel Eboue

132 League Appearances, 5 goals
The Ivorian defender adored his time at Arsenal, and it showed. Always smiling and happy to do any ridiculous stunt for the Arsenal press department, he soon struck up a rapport with the Arsenal faithful. The dancing defender may have been naive at times, but his constant runs down the flank and his effort meant he would give everything to the cause. His dips in form saw him drop from the first team – he was even booed as a substitute by his own fans – but since leaving, Eboue’s stock has risen amongst fans. Now seen as something of a cult figure. 

3 – Nwankwo Kanu

119 League Appearances, 37 goals
The lanky Nigerian had heart surgery before signing for Arsenal. Fans needn’t have worried about the striker delivering for the Gunners though. What he lacked in speed, Kanu more than made up for in skill and unpredictability. His goals against Tottenham and Middlesbrough earned him immediate fan favourite status, and his treble against Chelsea is part of Arsenal folklore. Despite having an incredible size 14 in boot, Kanu’s touch was as deft as any. An Arsenal great who won much in his five years at Highbury.

2 – Kolo Toure

225 League Appearances, 9 goals
The man plucked from obscurity nearly wrecked his dream move from the start, when during his trial, he apparently clattered through Arsene Wenger himself! It mattered little, as Toure’s passion, defensive awareness and his athleticism was one half of a deadly double act alongside Sol Campbell. They were an integral part of Arsenal’s greatest ever accomplishment – The Invincibles – and Toure showed that he had found his true level. Has since played for Manchester City, Liverpool and Celtic, but his time at Arsenal is what established the Ivorian as a Premier League, African and Arsenal legend.

1 – Lauren

159 League Appearances, 7 goals
Lauren Etame Bisan Mayer – or just Lauren – is at Number One above Kolo Toure because the Cameroonian was not a defender when he joined in 2000 from Mallorca. He had made his name as a tough-tackling central midfielder, but Wenger saw enough in his early displays in an Arsenal shirt, that he could perhaps fill the boots of Arsenal hero Lee Dixon on the right of defence. The new defender took to his task swimmingly, and was an immovable part of The Invincibles, alongside Kolo Toure, Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole. A born winner, an iron backbone and a mean penalty taker – he scored the late winner in a 5-4 derby with Tottenham – Lauren overcame all challenges and is now viewed as one of the best Arsene Wenger signings he has made in all his time at the club. 

The 5 Worst Arsene Wenger Transfers

Originally published on Goonersphere.

Buying a player isn’t as easy as popping to the supermarket and choosing between different brands of peanut butter. There are many variables to consider before you take the plunge and deposit the jar into your basket/trolley.

The country from whence they hail, the language barrier, their respective strengths and weaknesses in accordance to the current teams setup, disciplinary record, private life, international commitments, and probably a few more as well. 

It turns into somewhat of a crap shoot, as with so many different reasons why a purchase can go awry it is impossible to reconcile all of the potential pitfalls. 

A grain of luck is often the key ingredient when considering whether a player will make a positive or negative impact, so when a player arrives at the club and his time on the pitch stinks out the whole stadium, the manager can be occasionally forgiven for unleashing such a sight upon us all.

Ultimately though, the responsibility falls on the manager. Their hypothetical success, and career at the club, hinge on whether the new recruits sink or swim. 

Arsene Wenger’s tenure is long, and the amount of signings he has brought to the club is just as lengthy, so in amongst the precious stones he has unearthed, there is bound to be a few nuggets of fecal matter.

Who has been the worst though? The player who should never have darkened our doorway with his foulness? What player gets the unwanted accolade of ‘Worst Arsene Wenger purchase?’

The next five players mentioned are, in my humble opinion, the worst that has worn the shirt in Wenger’s time at Arsenal. I have taken into consideration the money they cost, and their output on the field, and eventually I have come to this decision. 

5 – Nelson Vivas

This modestly framed Argentinean had been part of the Argentina squad, so surely his credntials could not be in doubt? Bought from Swiss side Lugano, he was meant to provide adequate cover to Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn, but each time he took to the pitch, he seemed unable to get to grips with the frenetic pace and physicality of the English game. Bought for £1.6m, which back in 1998 represented a far bigger outlay than it does today, and making 69 League appearances, means that Vivas gets the Number5 spot. Shaky, unreliable, and fading into obscurity for all the right reasons.

4 – Richard Wright

Wright also came with a large reputation. He was part of the Ipswich side which came through the Division One Play-offs and then went on to finish 5th in the Premier League. He looked dependable, and with Alex Manninger having departed, Wright looked a great bet for back up keeper to David Seaman.

The trouble was, that in all of his 12 games for Arsenal, it seemed as if we had signed another Richard Wright. His capacity for claiming crosses was non-existent, and his presence at the near post can only be described as catastrophic. He was subbed at half time in game with Deportivo La Coruna, and he made Manuel Almunia look like Lev Yashin’s heir apparent. We got all of this for £2m. 

3 – Andre Santos

A Brazilian international, purchased from Fenerbahce, Santos cost Arsenal £7m. A wing-back (reportedly) with an eye for goal, the smiling Brazilian played 25 games spread over 2 seasons for the Gunners, and every one of them – bar his goal Vs Chelsea – was utter rubbish.

He started off playing in his signature position, but seeing as he had no defensive skills whatsoever, he soon was pushed onto the wing. Where we discovered he had very little attacking skills either. His fitness was a concern, he looked laboured and out of his depth on many occasions. There aren’t many Brazilian internationals who seem more at home as a character on Takeshi’s Castle. Andre Santos was one of them.

2 – Francis Jeffers

The phrase ‘fox in the box’ is stuck to Francis Jeffers. Our play apparently needed a player who was at home in the opposition box. A player who could finish off moves with aplomb, an opportunistic man who could snaffle chances like a pig with truffles.

Jeffers was that fox – or at least he was until donning an Arsenal shirt. He cost a gargantuan £8m, and played 22 games in his time with us, ‘snaffling’ just four goals. 

Jeffers had pedigree before his move to Arsenal. He still holds the record for the most England Under21 goals, and his finishing for Everton the season prior to joining us showed he had the potential to be an England regular.

Wrong. One England appearance later, and a truckload of missed chances for Arsenal, a journeyman career was what followed. When on the pitch for Arsenal, it looked like the move had come too soon for him. Like a rabbit – or fox if you prefer – dazzled by an oncoming car’s headlights, Jeffers never got to grips with the pressure laden on his shoulders. His transfer fee and burgeoning reputation hung around his scrawny neck like a hundred Flavour Flav clock pendants.

1 – Sebastian Squillaci

This French defender had enjoyed a marvellous career before signing for Arsenal. Plying his trade for Monaco, Lyon and Sevilla – all duking it out in European competitions – he forged a reputation as an astute defender, and he had amassed 21 caps for Les Bleus before signing in 2010.

A £4m fee was agreed, and he looked to be the experienced defender who would corral these young Arsenal whippersnappers into a defensive unit. He had everything we needed.

He played 23 games for us in his time at Arsenal, and he floundered like a drowning kitten in each one. There are no excuses as to why he struggled so badly for us, as his previous efforts before joining showed he was a skilled player. 

He just never played well. Not once. Who knows why he never quite adapted to the game, or nailed down a first team spot, but his confidence-robbed displays certainly didn’t assuage Gooners, nor his boss. 

Honourable mentions go to:

Igor Stepanovs, Pascal Cygan, Kaba Diawara, Mikael Silvestre, Manuel Almunia, Alberto Mendez, Amauri Bischoff, Stefan Malz, Fabian Caballero and David Grondin. 

Don’t agree? Think that someone else deserves the tag? The comments box is below. Have your say.

20 Perfect Transfers for Arsenal

Originally published on The Sport Review

The air is tinged with uncertainty at Arsenal right now. Arsene Wenger, after more than two decades at the club, is teetering on the brink. Although he has signed a new two year deal, the fans opinion is in the balance – which Wenger himself is painfully aware of. 

It leaves the North Londoners in an awkward position.

Normally, plans for the next season will be in motion already behind the scenes, as clubs seek to get a headstart on their rivals. With Wenger leaving it to the last minute to sign – and with a lucrative spot in the Champions League being missed –  the Gunners may miss out on some of their targets in the transfer market.

Throw into the mix the question marks over star players Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil, then there could well be departures from the squad.

All of the above points to a particularly busy summer for all concerned at Arsenal. With what has been another season in which the team have missed out by a considerable margin on the title, new blood would be the push that Arsenal need to make a concerted push for the League next season.

So, who should Arsenal look to to inject some real quality into their side? Here’s twenty players who fit the Gunners bill;

20 – Steven N’Zonzi – CM

N’Zonzi was on Wenger’s radar when the rangy midfielder was at Stoke, but his short time at Sevilla has shown he has much more to his game than before. A full range of passing whilst still retaining his bite in the tackle, N’Zonzi could really provide Arsenal with all they require in the middle. The Frenchman would be a great combination of current Gunners midfielders Francis Coquelin and Aaron Ramsey – but he can do all of it himself.

19 – Marco Schuster – DM

FC Augsberg
This young German has made his breakthrough this season, and Augsberg are benefitting from his talents. Schuster has started the majority of the games in the Bundesliga so far, and the awareness and tackling ability he has shown belies his 21 years of age. It may be a tad early to proclaim such heavy expectations of the midfielder, but eyes from other big clubs will soon be on him, and Arsenal have a track record in snapping up talent early. 

18 – Daniele Rugani – CB

Arsenal are well stocked in defence for the first time in years, but Laurent Koscielny probably only has another year or two at the top of his game and a successor must be found. Step forward Daniele Rugani. Only 22, but the youngster is already part of the Italian squad. Considering the competition he faces to get a look in for the Azzurri, Rugani has already proved what he is capable of. The move would cost a large sum though, so Arsenal would have to buck their own trend of bargain hunting.

17 – Justin Kluivert – RW

If 17 year old Justin is anything like his dad Patrick, then the fact he has only made a handful of appearances for the Ajax first team means little. There will be a heap of pressure on this youngster’s shoulders as the weight of expectation will be heavy, but Kluivert is already making leaps and bounds. A move to Arsenal, perhaps with a season loan back to Ajax would make sense, but whoever has Kluivert Junior on their books could have one hell of a player.A gamble, but Ajax seem happy to include him in their squad, which is always a good omen.

16 – Corentin Tolisso – CM

Tolisso has been making great strides in this promising Lyon side. Versatile, with an ability to drop back in midfield and also slot in on the right of defence when needed, Tolisso has great tactical acumen and a fantastic engine. The Frenchman could develop into a box-to-box dynamo, and with Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla increasingly injury prone, Tolisso could be a ready-made replacement.

15 – Riechedly Bazoer – CM

VFL Wolfsburg
It isn’t normally conventional for a player who signed for a club in January to move away in the summer, but Bazoer joined Wolfsburg to play in Europe, and to play top-flight football. At just 20yrs old, the Dutchman’s progression requires the finest competition week in and week out. If Wolfsburg continue to struggle in the lower reaches of the Bundesliga, or even slip out via relegation, then this starlet could be a bargain.

14 – Jetro Willems – LB

PSV Eindhoven
Willems turns 23yrs old this month, and having already earned international recognition, he will be keen to make the next move on his career ladder. PSV have taken him as far as they can, and Willems has it all in his locker. With Nacho Monreal on the wrong side of 30, Willems could come in and his athleticism and rapid breaks from deep are exactly what the Spaniard provides. 

13 – Inaki Williams – CF

Athletic Bilbao
Williams possesses strength, pace and good link-up play, all valuable assets in the Arsenal team. The Spaniard could improve his goal return, but he is still only 22years old so the capacity for improvement is untapped. Could Arsenal be the best destination for Williams? His style of play is perfect for a free-flowing Gunners side.

12 – Ousmane Dembele – LW

BVB Dortmund
Dembele only joined Dortmund last year, but he has ripped defences to shreds so far. Success breeds attention though, and this means Dembele will be a wanted man. The Premier League has a draw for all players, and with the mountain of money all sides now possess, Dembele could well leave for English pastures. Speedy with an eye for goal, if he can work on his physicality then the young Frenchman could have it all.

11 – Kingsley Coman – LW

Coman is destined for the big time. On the books at Juventus, he has spent this season on loan at another giant club – Bayern Munich. Adept at playing anywhere across the forward line, his dribbling and close control signal him out as one of those players that makes things happen. Coman could command a gargantuan fee, but sometimes the outlay is worth it. Coman would be a great signing for any team.

10 – Emil Forsberg – AM

RB Leipzig
Leipzig are ripping up expectations in Germany. Their first season in the top flight and they are keeping pace with Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga. One of the main reasons for this is Forsberg. His vision has resulted in a slew of chances created, and his efficiency on the ball means he can adapt his style dependant on opponent. The Swede is adored at Leipzig, but he could elevate his career to new heights with a move to Arsenal. 

9 – Ricardo Rodriguez – LB

The Swiss international is a well known commodity, and it is rather surprising he hasn’t been snapped up already. This summer will probably be the moment he leaves, and the rapid, strong, sensible Rodriguez is primed for the Monreal role at Arsenal. So much experience means he will never leave his post unmanned, something that has hindered the Gunners in the past. this target is well within Arsenal’s reach.

8 – Ben Chilwell – LB

Leicester City
Chilwell has had limited opportunities at the Foxes, and this season he has been on loan at Huddersfield Town. The Terriers are in the top 3 of the Championship, and Chilwell’s displays have backed up assessments from experts that Chilwell is top grade material. There is much to learn for the 20yr old, but after Hector Bellerin came in at such a young age, Arsenal do not care about dropping their youngsters in at the deep end. 

7 – Philip Billing – CM

Huddersfield Town
Chilwell’s team mate at Huddersfield, Billing is a formidable size. Despite his large frame, he is surprisingly nimble and hoovers up possession. He can spray the ball from deep, but he is equally comfortable running into the final third. Still young and relatively cheap, Billing could be a real rough diamond – something of an Arsenal speciality.

6 – Luciano Vietto – CF

The 23yr old Argentine has struggled since departing Villareal in 2015. After impressing with the Yellow Submarine, Vietto made his big move to Diego Simeone’s Atletico side. Vietto struggled to make an impact, and was sent on loan this season to Sevilla. Jorge Sampaoli’s side were real contenders for La Liga this campaign in the first half of the season, and Vietto looks to have regained his expert finishing and ability to find the perfect spot in the box. Vietto is surplus to requirements at Atletico, so another move is on the cards.

5 – Marco Reus – CF

BVB Dortmund
Injury plagued, but mercurial, Reus would be a real coup for any top side. Either coming in from wide or playing centrally, Reus causes damage. His technique is peerless, but his versatility is what marks him above most. When controlling a speeding ball, he can wrangle the ball quickly using various parts of his body in an expert manner. Reus has been an excellent servant for Dortmund, but a player like Reus needs the biggest stage. Could Arsenal’s German players lure him to The Emirates?

4 – Nabil Fekir – AM

Fekir is the real deal. At 23, his vision is quite staggering, and his link up play is hewn straight from the Arsenal playbook. A French international and averaging a goal every three games for Lyon, his mastery of all things attack mean he has outgrown Lyon. He will have no shortage of offers, but Fekir has all the tools necessary to do exactly what Arsenal legend Robert Pires did in the Premiership.

3 – Jonas Hector – LB

FC Koln
Another youngster whose talent has outgrown his club, Hector is another left-back who could replace the aging and inconsistent Nacho Monreal. He has years of top flight games under his belt, and he already has 25 Germany caps. Still not at his peak, Hector is due a bigger stage for his talents. This move is perfect for both parties.

2 – Kylian Mbappe – CF

A move to The Emirates for this dynamic striker may have already been mooted, but comparisons to Arsenal hero and legend Thierry Henry do not go away and Mbappe is an Arsenal player in everything but contract. His pace, his finishing, his positioning is so good for such a lack of experience. If Mbappe keeps hitting the back of the net, then he can take his pick of clubs. Arsenal will certainly be one of them, and he could do far worse. Some clubs are just a good fit for a player.

1 – Alexandre Lacazette – CF
The third player from Lyon to make this list, and we have saved the best for last. Lacazette is a goal machine, but he is far more than just a goal-hanger. His speed is untouchable, but he has allied this with a strong frame which means when he is on the run, he is unstoppable. The mark of a top striker is consistency, and with 94 goals in 195 appearances, Lacazette has proved he has this rare skill. Still only 26, the French striker has long been a transfer target. Could he improve Arsenal’s fortunes in front of goal? Much depends on the future of Alexis Sanchez, but even if the Chilean stays, Lacazette would still be a top signing for the Gunners. 

Arsenal Ladies Enter A New Season

The new Women’s Super League season will be kicking off this weekend, and Arsenal Ladies will be hoping to fight for the title they last won in 2012.

For the most successful women’s side in history, being in contention is the base requirement for a season.. Arsenal Ladies manager Pedro Martinez Losa will be under no illusions as to how difficult it will be this season to maintain their lofty expectations.

Not since 2003 has Arsenal Ladies suffered the ignominy of going through a campaign bereft of silverware, but with the rise of Manchester City Women and Chelsea Ladies in recent seasons, the Gunners must elevate themselves higher than before if they are to avoid a potless season.

What hasn’t helped is their exit from the FA Cup at the Quarter-Final stage at the hands of Birmingham City. The Blues triumphed with a 1-0 victory which was earned through an inspired performance from goalkeeper Ann Katrin-Berger. Danielle Van De Donk, Danielle Carter and Kim Little were all thwarted by the Birmingham stopper, and the Gunners were sucker-punched by a 77th minute Marisa Ewers goal – which was enough to dump Losa’s Gunners out of the Cup they had won four times out of the last six seasons.

Without this ever-reliable source of silverware to fall back on, the Gunners will be looking to clinch a first title since 2012, but with Manchester City Women and Chelsea Ladies being heavily backed in the transfer market, Losa and his charges will be fully aware of the need to step up a level after falling short last season.

That saw Arsenal Ladies finish in third place behind the two new powerhouses, and this new campaign looks likely to be just as difficult. 

City have continued to strengthen their side, and with USA star Carli Lloyd on their books, they look to again be the frontrunners for the title. They can also call on the talents of former Gunner Steph Houghton, Lucy Bronze and Toni Duggan. City are well equipped and armed to the teeth.

Chelsea have also added to their already strong squad, with Ramona Bachmann coming in from Wolfsburg and Crystal Dunn arriving from Washington Spirit. With Karen Carney and Eniola Aluko also extending their contracts with the Blues, Chelsea will be in contention at the business end of the season.

What of Arsenal though? 

It promises to be one of two things for the Gunners – a season of transition or one of progression. Losa has been busy in this transfer window, partly due to his hand being forced thanks to two club legends leaving the club.

Firstly, Kelly Smith has retired from football. The England and Arsenal icon has been at the forefront of Womens Football and has helped move the game into the spotlight, but now she has said her goodbye’s, can the Gunners actually fill the void left by such a high-calibre departure?

It didn’t stop there either. Casey Stoney has joined Liverpool Ladies, and the defender will be a big miss at the back for Losa. Experience is vital in defence, and Stoney was unrivalled in that department. With Spaniards Marta Corredera and Vicky Losada also leaving before a ball has been kicked, as well as German Josephine Henning, it was clear Losa must act quickly if any hope of success was to be made tangible.

A huge signing has seen Kim Little return to Arsenal after a spell with Seattle Reign. The Scotland attacker was a talismanic and decisive figure for Arsenal in her first spell at the club, and if she can recreate this form this season, the Arsenal will be in the running. Another new body of note would be the return of Carla Humphrey after spending last season on loan at Doncaster Belles. Humphrey grew in stature and Losa was quick to bring her back into the fold and extend her contract. This looks to be a wise move. Alex Scott looks to have a huge responsibility on her shoulders to marshall this new look defence. 

It may look that Arsenal are a little short in defence, but with an attack that can boast of Jordan Nobbs, Kim Little and Danielle Carter, Losa’s side will be good value for entertainment. Can the Gunners compensate for their lightness at the back with goals? They will need to if they are to overthrow Chelsea and City, as well as see off the emerging threat of Birmingham City and Liverpool Ladies.

This upcoming season of the Womens Super League looks poised to be the greatest one yet.