Tag Archives: spain

Welcome to the After-partey

We finally got him.

After what has seemed an age, Arsenal finally confirmed the signing of Thomas Partey from Atletico Madrid, for the princely sum of £45m. That amount constitutes his release clause from the La Liga club and had to be paid upfront – no installments or special arrangements that we seem so good at arranging. Nope, Partey is ours wholly and what makes it better is that it seems Atletico had no idea that Partey was leaving until the last minute.

With a release clause in Spain, no discussions have to take place involving the clubs – any interested party can simply contact the organising committee and lodge the correct amount – and hey presto – the release clause is activated, nulling the current contract between player and club.

Lucas Torreira went the other way and will be a fine addition to the Atletico midfield but Partey was very much part of Diego ‘El Cholo’ Simeone’s plans, having selected the Ghanaian midfielder for two of the three games that Atleti have played.

Now we have our man and Arsenal have announced it – in a very stylish way on social media of course, with an RSVP invite to a ‘party’ at 1115pm on transfer deadline day – what do we know about Thomas Partey?

BARCELONA, SPAIN – March 01: Thomas Partey #5 of Atletico Madrid in action during the Espanyol V Atletico Madrid, La Liga regular season match at RCDE Stadium on March 1st 2020 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Aside from being the name most fans will have on the backs of their shirts – who can blame them – Partey is 27 years old (until he is 28) and predominantly plays in the heart of midfield. He has a tag of being a DM and while his skillset lends itself to the defensive, dirty work, Partey is far more than a sentry in front of the back four or three.

Partey is known for his driving runs through midfield, carrying the ball and  initiating attacks from deep. He has an Exocet of a shot and is probably one of the best candidates Arteta could have selected to link our team together. With Ceballos and Xhaka, we have certain roles already fulfilled but we never had that player to inject tempo into our game, someone who takes the ball, regardless of who has it – and says to the team ‘let’s go do some damage.’

Looking at his stats, he was played in a deep role by Simeone and last season, that helped Atleti keep 17 clean sheets from 29 games when Partey started (excuse the pun). That highlights how effective Partey can be in cleaning things up, but for Ghana, he is used in a far more attacking way. He has earned 11 goal involvements in 26 games for his country and this shows the capacity that Thomas Partey has. He can be utilised in a myriad of ways, or he can be the DM we need, but with a spin. He can carry us forward , giving counter attacks more power and options instead of relying on a quick release from either David Luiz or Xhaka.

It also gives Xhaka and Ceballos more license. With Partey helping at both ends of the pitch, both of our current midfielders can do what they do best, Ceballos could even take the play maker role should we switch formations.

Partey is versatile  – he can also play at right back – and all Spanish pundits purred about how good this player is. He is also very physically adept, meaning acclimatising to the rigours of the PL will not be a huge jump. We may see the Partey started sooner rather than later.

Arsenal may well have that player that makes everything else click into place. It’s exciting times – let’s get that party underway.

Overseas Fixtures Are Stark Warning For Future Of Football

A move from La Liga’s men that matter on the board may not have grabbed the headlines, but it is set to shake football to its core.

A single match between Atletico Madrid and Villareal is all arranged to play this Spanish top-flight fixture at the brand new home of David Beckham-owned Miami Internazionale.

La Liga has requested the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) for permission to hold this December’s fixture between the above sides at the Hard Rock Stadium, currently the home of NFL side, the Miami Dolphins.

Both clubs have already agreed that this is a good idea and have signed on the dotted line, which brings the death of the game as an everyman sport, that one step closer.

Conventional, regular, everyday, diehard fans will now miss a game at their home stadium and instead be forced to watch the game at home. This is how the majority of us consume matches, but while it may be a solitary match, this is how the end begins.

No doubt the move to play this is lucrative in two ways.

Firstly, there will surely be bonuses for the sides for agreeing to play the game overseas.

Secondly, the move will strengthen US fanbases and also recruit new members – increasing their global brand.

The game will be lucrative, but with this in the offing, the NFL playing regularly over this side of the pond and more sports investigating methods on capitalising on the popularity of their respective sports – there will be other projects created to catch as much of the spewing cash as possible.

Clubs are now businesses, and the move to play abroad stinks of a business meeting with board members discussing how to increase revenue – paying no heed to the lifeblood of the club.

The fans.

Football without fans

Can we imagine if Arsenal eventually decided that they will play a fixture or three in a neutral venue in order to sup at the teat of the money-men?

The fallout would be spectacular, with social media awash with critique and vitriol.

This is not to decry the fact that as clubs grow and are a brand, the fanbase will be globally represented.

Indeed, Arsenal are the 6th-9th best represented club on social media. This screams of Gooners in all corners of the world.

Laying the groundwork has been each and every clubs decision to go on pre-season tours that are gruelling and serve no purpose in what a pre-season is meant to be – preparation for the coming season. Fitness and conditioning. Regaining as much match sharpness as possible.

While useful, the majority of games are against sides that have been plucked from obscurity and are as likely to fight each other for a shirt swap as they are putting in a shift and making life difficult for their opposition.

These tours maintain the affinity these fans have with the club, despite the miles of distance. They purchase merch, they watch games on streams with kickoff times that are quite frankly ridiculous. These Gooners are perhaps even more dedicated than a lot of us match-going fans or those of us who pay a kings ransom for a football TV subscription or three.

This move from La Liga and the clubs to play abroad, bodes terribly for the future of well-packed stadiums. It will ruin the already weak link between fan and club for a lot of us.

It is critical that club’s tap into markets and optimise their actions so every cent goes into the coffers. Without these shrewd business decisions, then many clubs would simply go under.

Fans around the world get the chance to see their team play live. This is a good thing, but it is what will lead on from this groundbreaking move that concerns us. At the moment it is one match but when these clubs and others see the packed stadium? When they do their maths, they will see that why not do this twice a season? Perhaps a cup game thrown in?

The RFEF have already rejected a move to play an earlier La Liga match this season, between Barcelona and Girona. This was set to kick off in January. This latest move shows that football is a juggernaut that one refusal will be unable to knock them off their desired route.

A route that takes football into the corporate world for good.

Suarez Is A Gooner

We had no funds. We were told that signings would be difficult.

So to add a player from Barcelona in this window – and one of real pedigree – is no mean feat.

Our loan signing of Denis Suarez is a bit of a steal really, and some shrewd business by our backroom team. The loan deal until the end of the season means we get a decent window to gauge if Suarez is Arsenal material or not – with an option to buy should he impress. Barca protected their interests too, by persuading Suarez to sign an extension before he departed for London.

And impress he should. Suarez has been sworn in as a replacement for the outbound Aaron Ramsey, and Suarez can fill the void left by the Welshman – although goalscoring is not his strongest suite.

What are Suarez’s strengths though? His technical ability – unsurprising coming from the Nou Camp – is his main asset. A great first touch and a decent pass on him means he can be used in the same positions that Ramsey normally occupies.

It is well documented that the Premier League requires a higher level of physicality than the other top European leagues, and Suarez may find the going tough at first. Fear not though, for suarez is familiar with the rigours of English football after hsi spell at Manchester City back in 2011-13. He didn’t exactly force himself onto first team plans, but his two years with City means he will be more familiar with the language – often a deal breaker with new signings – and it means he may require less acclimatising than others.

Unai Emery has often spoken of Suarez, despite the move not being confirmed – and Suarez has played under Emery at Sevilla for a season, where he played 31 matches for the now Arsenal boss. That indicates that Emery was convinced of Suarez’s qualities, which bodes well for us.

Since that loan spell, Suarez has played for both Villareal and Barca, but in the last season, he has found it a little tough to impose himself on the first eleven, being used primarily as a squad player.

denis_suarez_arsenal_transfer_news_premier_league_gettyimages-959245432

 

He will enjoy far more games with us, especially since Emery has hinted that Suarez is due to be used mostly out wide, where we are in dire need of bodies. Iwobi aside, we are sorely lacking men who have white paint on their boots. With Mkhitaryan injured currently, Suarez could find himself in the first team quicker than he would have imagined.

Make no mistake, Suarez has what it takes to make an impact in our side, and physicality aside, we have a man that can damage opponents with his passing and his touch, which is covered in velvet.

At 25, Suarez is approaching his best years, and hopefully they can be with us. With the Europa League becoming of critical importance in our season with our exit in the FA Cup, Suarez is another body we can rely on when the fixtures come thick and fast.

Emery wants him at the club – and that is a rubber stamp of his credentials.

Welcome to Arsenal, Denis Suarez!

Adios Santi Cazorla – The Smiling Spaniard

Santi Cazorla is set to rejoin his former club, Villareal – and the news is another departure that is hard to swallow.

The Spaniard has been fighting hard for over 18 months to return from a horror injury that nearly claimed his leg, and upon seeing the first images of the sunny Spaniard’s return to training, social media was awash with not only nostalgia – but genuine warmth.

Because Santi Cazorla unites our fans. He is one of those rare breeds that no matter what end of the fan spectrum you are, you cannot help but love the man.

It has helped inexorably that he is perhaps one of the most talented players we have ever had at the club – and his departure and injury that cost him 18 months of playing time will cast a shadow over his time as a Gunner.

The diminutive midfielder is also two-footed – so much so that it is hard to tell which is his natural side and which did he work on tirelessly on the training field at. This ability puts him above most, and also helped out in tight situations.

Santi Cazorla is often described as one of the most blessed his teammates have ever seen – even when compared to Mesut. He has been a source of joy when on the ball, and his talents should be held up to young players as a target to aim for. Should any kid make it and have Santi’s level of skill on his left and right foot? He’ll be destined for greatness -but he’ll need another of Santi’s attributes to succeed too – appetite.

This hunger formed the foundation for his transition from playmaker to a central role – and is probably the biggest testament to his worth.

His success in the middle of the park showed that he wasn’t a one-trick pony. He could create openings in tight games, but his desire saw him outmuscle players he had no right to, and his carrying of the ball forward at the tight times, smacked of tactical acumen and bags of skill.

The thing that us fans will remember above all though?

He played with a smile on his face. He loved the game, he genuinely enjoyed wearing our colours, and he gave everything to us when he was on the pitch.

Villareal will most likely be his last club before retirement, should he return to full fitness. The La Liga club have prior history with our talent – having taken Robert Pires from us when he departed.

We were robbed of what could have been the start of a budding partnership with Aaron Ramsey thanks to his troublesome achilles, and his subsequent recuperation was watched avidly by us all – for two reasons.

Firstly, we knew how much our team could benefit from having a fit Cazorla in our side.

Secondly, we all just missed seeing him.

He possesses the talent to change defence to attack, to grab the ball to stem a tide, to transform what is a tricky scenario into a promising one.

The end of his career is similar to Tomas Rosicky’s in a way.

Both were talented midfielders, blessed with a velvet touch. They also held the affection of all fans. Injury stole some of their time with us, but the ending will be the same too.

We will look at Cazorla the same way as we do at Tomas.

With misty-eyed nostalgia – and gratitude.

Unai Emery Set to be Next Arsenal Boss

Former PSG and Sevilla manager, Unai Emery, looks to be the next Arsenal manager, according to BBC Sport.

David Ornstein, BBC Sport correspondent and the man who often breaks Arsenal news via social media, stated that the Arsenal Board have unanimously agreed on the 46 year old Emery, who is set to be announced by the club later this week.

Unai Emery, the next Arsenal manager

Sky Sports Spanish football correspondent Guillame Balague commented on the situation early yesterday, stating that Emery was in talks with Arsenal and was in London. With most already accepting Mikel Arteta as the next Gunners boss, this was surprising news.

Arteta is now out of the running – whether this is because he turned it down or if he was even offered the managers role is up for debate – and Emery is close to being confirmed, with an announcement expected within days.

Emery earned his stripes at Sevilla, winning three successive Europa League trophies with the Spanish club, during his stint from 2013-16, but he has seen success throughout his managerial career.

In his first job at Spanish side Lorca, he took the club to the second tier for the first time in their history. A move to Almeria beckoned, and he earned a first ever promotion with the Andalusians. They finished a respectable eighth in their first season in the top flight.

Then, a switch to the big boys. Emery replaced Ronald Koeman at Valencia in 2008. The club were in serious financial trouble, but he still guided them to European qualification. His second season then saw him achieve a fantastic top 3 finish in La Liga, which he again replicated the following season – even after selling his top stars Villa and Silva.

An ill-fated switch to Spartak Moscow – his spell lasted just six months, followed, but it was his return to Spanish football with Sevilla that underlined his managerial chops.

Three Europa League wins out of three seasons was the result for Emery, and two fifth place finishes. It was his electric brand of football that really excited though. Sevilla cut through opposition ruthlessly, and their counter-attacks were swift. They could defend stoutly, but their pacy attack was what grabbed the glory in Europe.

A move to PSG was a mixed bag for Emery, mainly because of the bottomless pockets meant that expectation could only be sated with lifting the Champions League trophy. He failed to win the cup, but his band of hastily strung-together stars still dominated Ligue Un.

Now he is set for Arsenal, with skillful players but a desperate need for new tactics – and a more taciturn defence.

Can he deliver? He has the nous and the experience at the top level – all we can do is back him to succeed.

Atletico Madrid Vs Arsenal Europa Lge Semi 2nd Leg

So, our season hinges on this match. Our 2nd leg of our Europa League Semi-Final versus Atletico Madrid is the biggest game of our season, and we’ve got an almighty task ahead of us.

Atletico Madrid Vs Arsenal in the 2nd leg of the Europa League Semi Final.

The Spanish side have settled into their new home – the Wanda Metropolitana – and their defensive record is up there with the best in the business. They have conceded only four goals at home all season in La Liga – a stat that has been bandied around by everyone attempting to paint a picture of how difficult it will be for us to progress to the final.

A first european final since 2006, and a much needed salve on a campaign that has barely even flattered to deceive. Our Premier League hopes were never really lifted, and with just three games left in the season, we face a fight with Burnley for the ignominy of 6th spot.

Hardly form to strike fear into Atletico and their firebrand manager Diego Simeone – but if it weren’t for a foolish mistake at the back, we would have won the first leg. We played with verve and on the front foot, and the fact we are all so disappointed with a 1-1 draw shows that we really turned up and perhaps deserved a little more.

Still, a defensive lapse has been a symptom of our team thus far, and those brain-farts really need to be reined in if we are to harbour any hopes of reaching the Europa League final in Lyon.

In terms of our team, yet again Arsene Wenger opted to rest his Europa League team for our Premier League efforts, well, the majority of them. The lineup that lost to Manchester United on Sunday will be vastly different to who lines up against Atleti tonight, so Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Nacho Monreal will come into our defence, and Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and Danny Welbeck will most likely be included.

That means the impressive showings of Konstandinos Mavropanos and Ainsley Maitland-Niles will likely be on the bench, although if any of them are to be included, then AMN is the likelier of the two to get the nod. Granit Xhaka needs defensive cover and while Aaron Ramsey offers much, when it comes to offering a guardian behind Xhaka, that is not exactly his strong point.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan is one who should make the cut after playing and scoring in the weekend, and the Armenian’s guile will be sorely needed to pierce a formidable Madrid defence.

Diego Godin is the lynchpin of Simeone’s side, but it won’t be the Uruguayan who poses the threat. Antione Griezmann has already showed his ability to score despite living off breadcrumbs for the majority of a game. Diego Costa is also fit and ready to go, and the double act will score goals if we switch off – which means that’s bad news for us.

Saul Niguez is another who can change the game, so we’ll have our hands full. We need to keep it tight at the back, and also score.

What is required is perhaps our best display in quite some years. Think our 5-1 at the San Siro. Our win at the Bernabeu. Our 2-1 win over Barca.

Trouble is, those results happened some time ago. It’s time to make some more memories.

Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Wilshere, Ozil, Mkhitraryan, Lacazette

Predicted Scoreline – 1-0 to The Arsenal

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!

Top 20 Managers to Possibly Replace Arsene Wenger at Arsenal?

Originally posted in The Sport Review

The winds of change are blowing at The Emirates. Arsene Wenger, who has been in charge of Arsenal since 1996, has so far refused to confirm where his future may lie after this current season ends in May.


The French manager is under severe scrutiny, after finally being able to assemble a squad capable of challenging for honours in the last few years, he has been unable to recreate the glories of old in the first decade of his tenure. It seems the old magic has been lost.


Wenger also appears to have lost a large chunk of the support in the stands too. Protests and marches have taken place in objection to Wenger continuing in his capacity as manager, and this season has offered no respite.


With the Gunners out of the Champions League places and yet again failing to make the Quarter-Finals of the same competition, speculation has been rife regarding a possible successor to the Arsenal managerial throne.










Many names have been touted, but here are twenty of the best candidates to lead Arsenal out of the doldrums should Wenger abdicate his position:


20 – Luciano Spalletti

Roma Manager

The Italian started his coaching career the hard way, bringing lowly Empoli up two divisions to Serie A. He eventually earned a move to Roma after a successful spell at Udinese, and a Manager of the Year Award was just reward for turning the Roma team around. He has other experience from different leagues after five years with Zenit St Petersburg, but he has since returned to the Stadio Olimpico – and has seen his team produce the only credible challenge to runaway Serie A leaders Juventus.


19 – Rafa Benitez

Newcastle United Manager

The Spaniard, when in charge of Liverpool, always showed Wenger ample respect when their respective teams duelled. Benitez has helmed some of the biggest teams in the game – Valencia, Real Madrid, Liverpool and Chelsea – and he looks like carrying Newcastle straight back into the top flight. Benitez would relish a return to the larger spotlight, and the ideals he shares with Wenger would make him a man that could come in with the minimum of adaptation time.


18 – Pai Dardai

Hertha Berlin Manager

The Hungary-born man may be inexperienced, but he is showing that his tactical acumen is spot on. Having spent over a decade with Hertha in his playing days, upon retiring he took a position as youth coach. Dardai has also taken charge of his country, before taking the reins at Hertha. The team from Berlin under his stewardship have climbed up to fifth place with a moderate squad, and the relatively young Dardai deserves the credit. His firm grasp on the modern game gives him a shout.


17 – Carlo Ancelotti

Bayern Munich Manager

The eyebrow-arching Italian has won it all in the domestic game, and his accumulated experience means he has much to offer. If Arsenal are planning long term, then Ancelotti could provide the perfect two to three year platform for their intended target to bed in. One thing Ancelotti can guarantee is success and making sure his teams are in contention. His short spell at Chelsea means he is accustomed to the pressures of the Premiership too.


16 – Laurent Blanc

PSG Manager

The Frenchman had a glittering playing career, and his managerial career has gotten off to a great start too. At his first club, he led Bordeaux to a Ligue Un and Coupe de la Ligue double. He also led them to a Quarter-Final in the Champions League. He also took charge of his national team, before being offered the lucrative position of Paris Saint Germain boss. He has led the capital-based team to three consecutive titles, as well as five domestic cups. The Frenchman is now a free agent, which would make negotiations a tad easier!


15 – Joachim Low

Germany Manager

The shaggy-haired German coach has led his country to World Cup glory. He was an integral part of the German revolution which began in the early 2000’s which saw all levels of German football adhere to the same playing model. The tactics have worked, and Low continues to lead his country to domination. His team play in the same way as Arsenal, and he would ensure the Arsenal Way is maintained. After so many years in international football, a new challenge would be a tough choice to turn down.


14 – Luis Enrique

Barcelona Manager

Enrique oversaw one of the most successful seasons in Barcelona’s history, when the Catalan club won the treble in 2014-15. They also won the Double in the next season. He recently announced he would be departing Barcelona at the end of this current season, which appears to be perfect timing. enrique has maintained he needs a rest from the pressures of being a manager, but could he be tempted to come to London?


13 – Dennis Bergkamp

Assistant Manager of Ajax

As a player, Bergkamp is heralded by Arsenal fans as perhaps the greatest man to have pulled on the shirt in recent times. The Dutchman opted to return home to begin his managerial career, but would a return ‘home’ lure Dennis to take the Arsenal hotseat? His lack of experience may harm his prospects, but his choice could prove to be a very popular one within Arsenal fan ranks.


12 – Dragan Stojkovic

Guangzhou R and F

The Serbian played for eight years at Nagoya Grampus Eight in Japan, and he played under current Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger. Wenger has touted Stojkovic as an excellent candidate for manager previously, but his lack of European managerial experience may cost him. However, if Wenger has any say in the process, Stojkovic may just be the surprise option.


11 – Julian Nagelsmann

TSG Hoffenheim Manager

The 29yr old German coach dramatically saved Hoffenheim from relegation last season against all odds, and he has continued to impress and defy the doubters. His side currently sit in 4th position in the Bundesliga, and his innovative tactics and relative success at a modest club are attracting suitors. Nagelsmann would be a high risk choice as he hasn’t yet managed in the top flight for a whole season, but if he earns Hoffenheim a Champions League spot, Nagelsmann will be a wanted man.


10 – Giovanni Van Bronckhurst

Feyenoord Manager

Van Bronckhurst has returned Feyenoord back to where they belong after many years in the shadows of the Eredivisie. They currently sit top of the Dutch league, and the Dutchman is responsible for the turnaround. Van Bronckhurst had a short spell as an Arsenal player, and he had a successful playing career playing under some great coaches. The accumulated experience has helped him as a manager, and if he wins the rotterdam club their first title for over a decade, he will be on the shortlist for sure.


9 – Eusebio Sacristan Mena

Real Sociedad Manager

Mena has allowed Sociedad a period of sustainability, slowly steadying the ship after many peaks and troughs. His managerial style comes from Barcelona after firstly performing the assistant role in the early 2000’s, before taking charge of Barcelona B from 2011 to 2015. Sociedad are his club now, and they are in 5th place as this is written – only one point behind Diego Simeone’s Atletico in 4th. Mena could bring the good times back to Arsenal.


8 – Eddie Howe

Bournemouth Manager

Howe has worked miracles at Bournemouth. The modest South Coast club have not only reached the Premier League for the first time, but under his stewardship, they have comfortably retained their status in the top flight. They are struggling at this moment in time, but the exciting brand of football he espouses is in line with Arsenal. Howe may lack the years of hardened competition in Europe, but Howe could be the long term option that Arsenal crave.


7 – Lucien Favre

Nice Manager

The Swiss manager started off in his native country, before making the short journey to the Bundesliga with Hertha Berlin and Borussia Monchengladbach. He was a success at both clubs, in both cases rescuing them from the relegation places and steering them to the Champions League. He has since taken over Nice, and yet again he is overseeing major change with Nice challenging for Ligue Un against more established teams like Monaco and PSG. Favre is accustomed to tight budgets and his brand of fluid football and unearthing talent is exactly what Arsenal need.


6 – Ralph Hassenhuttl

RB Leipzig Manager

The Austrian coach has earned his stripes. He has managed in all tiers of the Bundesliga, and his last club – Ingolstadt – have risen from the second tier to the Bundesliga under his leadership. He has since moved to cash-rich RB Leipzig, and they seem to be the only credible challengers to Bayern Munich’s domination. Hassenhuttl has changed the way Leipzig play, and has utilised the unique talents at his disposal to engineer a counter-attacking team that are resolute as well as lethal. It is unclear who pulls the strings at the club – whether it be Hassenhuttl or Sporting director Ralf Rangnick – but the Austrian Manager is on the radar.


5 – Leonardo Jardin

AS Monaco Manager

The previous managers of Monaco have proven that cash is not the sole reason for success, but since taking over at the club, Leonardo Jardin has taken Monaco to where they need to be to ensure the millions have not been wasted. The team from the tiny principality are top of Ligue Un and have a gap between them and PSG who have ruled France’s top league for the last three seasons. Jardin’s style has earned plaudits, and his recruitment policy has found some real gems. Jardin could revolutionise Arsenal, and his team’s display in the Champions League against Manchester City recently was the best advertisement for what he brings – fast paced, attack-minded football.


4 – Thomas Tuchel

Borussia Dortmund Manager

Tuchel has matched previous Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp’s path in management. Taking Mainz to the top flight and a  European spot, he was courted by some big German clubs before opting for Dortmund after six years with Mainz. He has lost only 13 games from his 91 Bundesliga matches so far, and he has replaced some players with promising young talent. Tuchel has maintained BVB’s trademark pressing style which he inherited from Klopp, but Tuchel could do with some success on the domestic front before making the leap to the big time.


3 – Jorge Sampaoli

Sevilla Manager

Sampaoli will be forever revered as a hero in Chile, after engineering back to back Copa America triumphs for the South American nation. Sampaoli has since joined Sevilla, and he has allowed the club to make the leap from Europa League to Champions League comfortably. They are also challenging for La Liga, in the mix with Barcelona and Real Madrid. Sampaoli is unflinching in his demand for 100% from his players, but he also manages to make the most from every percent. Sampaoli is one of the favourites for the Barcelona job, but Sampaoli can pick his next club from a host of offers.


2 – Diego Simeone

Atletico Madrid Manager

Simeone was a winner as a player, and as a manager this has been the same. He returned Atletico to the top of Spanish football and won La Liga in 2013-14. He also tasted success as a manager in South America, so his pedigree is one of accomplishment. The man known as ‘El Cholo’ in Spain is labelled as a counter-attacking specialist, but that would be doing a great disservice to his teams. He is adept at adapting his teams to the demands of every opponent, and can switch from possession football to defensively minded in an instant. Simeone has also reacted to losing key personnel by replacing them seamlessly. He has to be a frontrunner for the job.


1 – Massimiliano Allegri

Juventus Manager

Allegri has reportedly already started English lessons as he courts the Arsenal position, and the North London club would be getting a brilliant manager. Starting off in the lower reaches of Italian football, he eventually found his way to Cagliari and pushed them to their best ever season. This paved the way to AC Milan, and he duly won them their first Serie A title for seven years. He then moved to Juventus after four years at Milan, and he enjoyed instant silverware, winning the Double in his first season, followed by the same the very next campaign. Allegri has purchased shrewdly, created teams of strength and pace, and is as thorough in his preparations as anyone could be. The Italian has emerged as the favourite for the Arsenal hotseat, and it is easy to see why. 

Should we Bring Back Cesc?

Originally posted on Goonersphere

Returning to the site of a former glory is never advised. 

Upon leaving after making your mark, the temptation looms large to attempt to recreate the halcyon days of the past.

The thing is though, that it rarely goes according to plan. The circumstances change and when you return, it is never how you remember. The very fibre of the place feels different somehow, even though visually things have stood in place from how you recall.

It is very much the case for football players. With the transfer windows orchestrating a crazed merry-go-round of sorts, it sees players often look to their former clubs for employment. With clubs involved in either the push for promotion or the desparate escape from the relegation trap door, managers often seek out the fillip that will aid their cause.

What a boost it would be too. The fans always enjoy a hero returning home, and memories of the heroics they had performed rise to prominence. There is no risk involved, surely?

When there is a legacy involved, tarnishing its lustre is often unavoidable. Can they return to the heights of the past?

Cesc Fabregas had forged a bond with Arsenal before he unceremoniously left in 2011 to return to his homeland. From his debut in 2003/04, to filling the gargantuan aperture left by Patrick Vieira in 2005/06, Cesc Fabregas embodied everything Arsenal attempted to do on the pitch.

Stylish, inventive and with a penchant for swift, ruthless attacks – Cesc was the tangible element of Arsene Wenger’s musings. As each year progressed, the Spaniards importance grew. From playmaker, to enforcer to captain – Cesc was the lynchpin of the club for the best part of five years.

To see a youngster evolve in front of your eyes is something to behold – and it endeared Cesc to the Arsenal faithful. His never say die attitude and fierce competitive edge, allied with the skills of a razor-sharp fencer, was everything Gooners wanted.

Which made his departure that little more accrid on the tongue.

It was understandable that he wanted to go back home to Barcelona. After winning the World Cup in 2010 with Spain, he was even forced to wear the Barcelona shirt by a teammate, such was the clamour for this wonderkid to come back to his roots.

So it happened, and Arsenal were left rudderless. The entire team had been built around Cesc, and Arsene had to adjust his plans quickly. Cesc soon found out though, that the grass is not always greener when  he signed for the Catalans.

His three years at the Camp Nou were mixed. The entrenched genius of Xavi and Iniesta saw his favoured position taken, which meant the new boy had to adapt.

Cesc played in a few positions, mostly in the forward line, but that impacted upon what he was capable of. He never truly showed his worth.

To add to Arsenal’s woes, Cesc left Barcelona for London rivals Chelsea in 2014. Some say that Cesc was offered back to Arsene before he went to Stamford Bridge, but Wenger opted for Mesut Ozil. Regardless, Cesc now plays for the Blues – and aside from his first season has never nailed down a spot in the team.

Now approaching thirty, Cesc is not playing regularly. This is the age when they should be playing as many games as possible as the peak for footballers is short-lived. Instead, he is seen as a change in approach mid-game for manager Antonio Conte.

During this time, Arsenal seem to be in a rut of sorts. Mesut Ozil is clearly not firing on all cylinders – and his protracted contract negotiations may be taking their toll on his effectiveness. Is he sure that he wants to stay? Is his mind made up? 

The perfect contingency plan is available if Ozil decides to depart from London. The player to come in speaks lovingly every year about his time at Arsenal – and even credits the club for everything he has achieved. Cesc is the man who may just be able to come back and actually enhance his reputation within the fans.

With Santi Cazorla increasingly injury-prone and coming close to his twilight years as a player, Cesc could slot into a setup he is already familiar with and with regular games he could really light up the team. Is this a possibility though?

If Jose Moutinho was still at Chelsea – the answer would be an emphatic no. Antonio Conte may just let Cesc leave though. It is clear that Fabregas is not part of his immediate plans, and would Cesc sign for us? I have no doubts he would.

Could a player return to a place of former glory and buck the trend? Could Cesc come back and boost our side? Most definitely. He has made twenty appearances at the time of writing. These appearances have not allowed for any rhythm whatsoever as they have been broken up. He has still amassed four goals and seven assists in those games. 

Just imagine what he would do with a constant stream of games.

When looking for players to prove that theory, just ask Thierry Henry about his loan spell back at Arsenal.

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.