Tag Archives: transfer

The Ozil saga – The final chapter

The amount of negativity that revolves around the Arsenal fanbase is probably more than most others.

It’s a diverse, objectional and mine-filled group that can be filled with fantastic titbits of history about the club, great, educated opinions – regularly interspersed with hate-filled posts and stuff to generally avoid.

The ‘Great Ozil Saga’ has been the petrol that has not only lit the touchpaper in recent years – but incinerated it.

Who would have thought that it would have ended in this ignominious way when it was revealed in 2014 that we had signed him.

It was joyous.

The scenes unfolding on Sky Sports News during their famed Transfer deadline Day footage are now part of meme culture. The presenter was buffeted by raucous Gooners, screaming Ozil’s name as it was confirmed we had broken our transfer record to sign one of the best playmakers in the world.

Ozil, a genius with the ball. Able to see round corners, through walls. The German could thread a ball through a gap smaller than a gnat’s kneecap. And he was coming to Arsenal.

What made it even more incredible, more overwhelming, is that it was breaking a cycle of underwhelming years that meant we were without a trophy for nine long years.

Not that the media let us forget that of course. Our trophy drought was far longer than tottenham’s 862 year wait for a significant trophy. Or the fact that media darlings, Liverpool, hadn’t won the title since moustache’s and shellsuits the killer combo (they still are in parts of Merseyside and always will be).

Yep, the slide of Wenger, the restricting budgets and payback of loans combined to see Arsenal fight to keep their head above water in terms of the precious Champions League income. Instead of looking up as were promised when The Emirates was built, we were treading water at best.

And the ring of placards that showcased our trophy haul that circled the interior of our stadium? That hadn’t been added to since it had been built.

But Ozil signing was the reminder that we all needed about the stature of our club and the respect Wenger still commanded in Europe.

Make no mistake, it was Big Weng that ensured Ozil shunned all other offers and came to North London. Our brand of football and his own brand of management sat well with the oft-fragile Ozil. The flexibility too, that was key.

Ozil would be given the key to The Carpet, in a bid to recreate the wonders he performed at the Santiago Bernabeu.

And at times, he did.

We won our FA Cup in 2014, we had ended the hoodoo and we had already seen in flashes what Ozil could do. His first-time finish on his debut against Napoli is still so soothing to watch. How he caresses the ball with the side of his foot and the unerring way the ball veers home.

From there, his standing was only enforced when we signed Alexis.

Two geniuses in the team, they bounced off each other. True, we had to adapt the team to fit Alexis in. And often, the Chilean was a tad too selfish. But they brought the best out of each other and the one season where Ozil nearly reached his ceiling – when he equalled the record for most assists in a single season – was when he and Alexis were keeping us afloat. It is still a tragedy that Ozil didn’t break the record. With so many games to go, he only had to get one more – but a profligate Giroud was at least part to blame.

From there though, it has gone downhill fast.

Alexis leaves. Wenger leaves. In comes Emery and a system that cries out for invention, but places other demands on Ozil.

It doesn’t work.

Then Arteta comes in and opens the floor to all players. Adopt my system and you will earn success. All players will play their part.

But Ozil didn’t do enough in his time under the Arteta spotlight. A run of 13 games last season saw that the German simply doesn’t fit the narrative. Team pressing, team orders and unity – whereas Ozil needs the ability to buck tactics and float, sensing the danger and exacerbating it with a killer pass. He is a one-man show.

But we cannot sacrifice our progress for one player. Like him or loath him, he is still supremely talented. But his boots just don’t fit at Arsenal any more.

That makes no excuse for how it has ended – and there will be more to come from this saga after he does leave.

At least we can all agree that when we signed him – we were all happy?

Giroud – A Tainted Legacy

105 goals in 253 appearances.

Not a ratio to be sniffed at, but at the base level, this is what Olivier Giroud brought to the table for Arsenal.

Just looking at numbers renders other, valuable facets somewhat invisible however.

We overlook the way he held the line valiantly, alone, for so many seasons.

We miss out on him holding up the ball not only with his physical edge, but his nous in and around the box.

We also miss out on the fact he tarnished his Arsenal legacy with his actions in a Chelsea shirt.

Giroud came so close to cementing his reputation as a Gooner favourite. While we lamented the fact he was never a 20 goal a season man, the majority of us saw him and his talents as precious – he helped the team with his actions.

Giroud badge

 

He wasn’t just about goals, but the above ratio is not poor. Upon joining Arsenal, he had just been the talisman for Montpellier winning their first Ligue Un Championnat. He joined in the same window as Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski – we had signed attacking players that would boost our threat.

This was certainly true for the three above, but Giroud never materialised as we thought he would. He scored valuable goals and always earned a respectable number, but he was never a goal machine. Still, his biggest asset was that his touch and awareness led to him being part of some magnificent goals and moments.

In his career in our red and white, his highlights reel will live on. Some truly breathtaking goals were bagged, and his part in Aaron Ramsey’s late winner in the 2014 FA Cup Final cannot be overstated. Giroud loved the club while he was here and never wanted to leave, but squad competition meant if he wanted regular gametime, he would need to find pastures new.

His move to Chelsea was a stark reminder that professional football is still, at the bottom line, just a job to the majority of players. He made the right choice as his modus operandi in choosing a new destination was that he wanted to stay in London for family reasons.

Chelsea needed a frontman, and Giroud embarked on a trip to West London.

This was more than enough for some fans to cut the ties we had with Giroud, but his over-exuberant celebrations after one of our worst days on a football pitch – the 4-1 hammering at the hands of the Blues in the Europa League final – was the straw that broke the camels back in terms of his Arsenal legacy.

Mocking Arsenal

Olivier Giroud, if he had kept his nose clean and performed in the respectful manner that he did in his time with us, would have always had a home with the Arsenal faithful. We would always remember his efforts kindly. He stayed while we struggled. He gave his all for us and left us with some truly treasured memories.

Instead, he is now just remembered as being part of the Arsenal framework that led to our slide out of the Champions League. Even looking back at his famous, Puskas-winning scorpion goal doesn’t do it anymore. Giroud has burned the nerve endings.

Giroud

It isn’t as bad as the likes of Ashley Cole, Robin Van Persie or Adebayor – those players ended up being panto villains. But where there was real affection for the player – now there is just a vacuous space.

Oivier Giroud could have left something truly special, but in his job search and his antics thereafter – he tainted what he had left us.

 

Aubameyang – Stick or Twist?

With absolutely zero football taking place right now, our minds have a little more room for thought.

Instead of your brain juggling your teams impending fixtures, injury worries, potential changes in your fantasy team and league placements all residing in a cortex of your grey matter, there is now more room to ponder other things……

Erm…

In the absence of that leather ball bobbling around on that lush carpet we call The Emirates pitch, we have been privy to the usual mix of player rumour – especially circulating around our star striker and perennial goal machine – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

The Gabon man is in contention to win the Golden Boot again after securing it last season. What puts that into perspective is that Auba has done this while for at least half of our season, the Good Ship Arsenal has plotted a course for mid-table ignominy.

Our number 14 has acted as a one-man lifeboat, keeping our precious cargo and personnel above the plunging depths. He has continued to terrify goalkeepers no matter what mess has been going on behind him. He has performed wonders – and we have recognised this.

1963-1309-2.45503595.jpg.gallery

Our club has been attempting to lasso the striker into extending his stay with Arsenal as his contract winds down. Currently in his peak years, Auba is now approaching what will be the biggest decision of his footballing career.

Of course, the media have taken it upon themselves to write the alphabetical equivalent of smoke and mirrors surrounding Auba’s future at the club – and one story has certainly captured everyone’s currently free imagination.

The rumour surrounds Real Madrid, their unwanted striker Luka Jovic – and a large wad of money.

That’s right, the transfer rumour is that those at the Bernabeu want to lure Auba to La Liga, and will tempt Arsenal with a cash plus Jovic bid.

The question is – would you take it?

Everyone knows that the hardest thing to buy in football is goals. With Auba putting up more than his fair share of goals for the team, selling him and his numbers would almost certainly weaken our team.

We currently have Alexandre Lacazette, Gabriel Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah to make up the goals – but Lacazette aside, neither of the young strikers have proved week in, week out that they can make the difference in front of goal. How efficient will they be?

Lacazette has also changed his role somewhat since arriving at Arsenal. He still prowls centrally, but he is dropping deeper as his part in attacks is intrinsic to our moves. That has affected his goal return almost as much as poor form this season.

Then there is the Luka Jovic part of the equation. Jovic was a sensation in the Bundesliga – a competition far more similar to the rigours of the Premier League than La Liga ever has been. Rotation and reported poor discipline has seen Jovic play an ever-increasingly remote part of things at Madrid, but does his pedigree convert to success in the Premier League?

In short, can he be the man that replaces the certainty of Auba’s goals?

Maybe not, but throw in £50m and the search becomes a little easier.

There are other variables to take into consideration. Auba’s age means he has two, maybe three years maximum that we will have the PREMIUM version of the striker. Make no mistake, as he hits 33, 34, he will still bang in the goals, but he won’t be AS prolific, he won’t be able to beat as many defenders with his pace as he runs into the box, he won’t be AS lethal as the man we have now.

So, do we stick or twist?

Can we improve the team more with the money and Jovic?

Or do we stay where we are, potentially risk losing what is a huge asset on a free, but still feed off his goals while he does stay?

What a conundrum.

Good thing we have time to mull it over…

The Nearly Men XI

It’s sometimes better to not have experienced something, if all you are ever going to get is a tantalising glimpse.

We have had players at Arsenal that have burned brightly, but their light was extinguished all too quickly. It leaves us with that frustrating feeling of ‘what could have been.’

That feeling is bittersweet, as we latch onto those moments where these players showed us that they were capable of lifting entire teams on their shoulders, or being a beacon of excellence in their position. It is juxtaposed with longing, as we wish that the unfortunate circumstances that winked their light out was a little more forgiving.

Now that we have entered a new decade, nostalgia is stronger than ever, as we look back at the events of ten years. But how about we look back on the players that we wish were still in our colours, and had the opportunity to unfurl their potential a little more than their last attempt?

Here is the team of ‘What Could Have Been.’ An entire eleven who we saw soar high, but far too briefly.

 

GK – Wojciech Szczesny

The Pole showed us exactly what he could do in his time here, but ill-discipline cost him the number one jersey for consecutive seasons. He loved the club and his celebrations post NLD victory only served to endear him to us more. So when he was sold to Juventus, and then went on to become number one at the famous Turin club, it only exacerbated those feelings of ‘what could have been.’ He should be putting those performances in for us – but alas.

 

RB – Mathieu Debuchy

The Frenchman arrived from Newcastle after putting in consistently excellent seasons on Tyneside. A French international, he began on the front foot with us and showed us all that the purchase was an astute one, but a shoulder injury in his first season was the start of his downfall, and when he returned from his lengthy layoff, he had Hector Bellerin in his way. When he did find his way back into the team, he exhibited again why he was such a great player, only in a different manner as he filled in at centreback. Injuries would again hamper him though, and Debuchy eventually limped out of the club to join St Etienne. He made only 13 appearances for us in four years.

 

CB – Thomas Vermaelen

The Belgian got off to a wondrous start as an Arsenal man, scoring plenty and leading from the front. He was a cultured defender and could play out from the back, so much so that he was touted by many to be a fine alternative to our defensive midfield problems at the time. Vermaelen was a great example to younger players, but again, injuries bit hard. His performances dropped as he struggled to reach the heights of his first two seasons, and he eventually left for, incredibly, Barca.

 

CB – Chris Whyte

There will be a few unfamiliar with Whyte, but the Arsenal schoolboy had plenty of rave reviews as he broke into the Arsenal first team in 1981. He earned caps at U-21 level for England and under the wing of David O’Leary, he seemed destined to make a big name for himself.

A change in manager and a new signing left Whyte out in the cold though, and Tony Adams emergence only further dropped Whyte down the pecking order.

He left on a free transfer, but with no takers for his services, he left for the USA indoor league. After two years, West Brom offered him a deal and in his first season, he was their Player of the Year. A transfer to Leeds Utd followed, and he was a constant presence for the next three seasons, and a top-flight title winner. If we had kept hold of him, it was evident that Whyte had the talent. Right man, wrong time.

 

LB – Silvinho

The Brazilian joined Arsene Wenger’s revolution in 1999 and spent only two seasons at the club, but the unearthing of Ashley Cole served to put him in the backup role. He didn’t put a foot wrong as a player, and scored a wonderful goal against Chelsea that will live long in the memory. He became a full international with Brazil in his time at our club and was also in the PFA team of the year. He went on to join Celta Vigo and then Barcelona, where he twice won the Champions League.

 

LM – Tomas Rosicky

Little Mozart. Arsene Wenger once said “If you love football, then you love Rosicky.” Everyone who saw him play for us could see what he gave us. Truly blessed with a velvet touch, a howitzer of a shot and an astute footballing brain, injuries curtailed the amount of times he played for us, but in a decade at the club, he gave us memories to cherish. Trouble is, it should have been more. What a special player.

 

CM – Abou Diaby

Diaby1

He could’ve been a world-class box-to-box midfielder, but a dirty tackle by no-mark Dan Smith of Sunderland, crumpled his ankle and he was never the same again. His time on the injury books was ridiculous, but Arsenal were loath to give up on such a special talent. In the end, it was clear he would never come back, and Diaby is perhaps the one player who we missed the most of. He could have been our dynamic force for years.

 

CM – Giovanni Van Bronckhorst

The Dutch man was used as a wing-back and a winger in his short time at Arsenal and did nothing really spectacular in his time with us. He then left and joined Barca, won a Champions League and captained his country to a World Cup Final. We missed a trick here.

RW – Santi Cazorla

The Spanish magician is still revered by those who saw him. Truly two-footed, his talent meant he could have played anywhere on the pitch, but it was his first – and his last season where we saw him shine brightest. In his debut season he was utilised as a number ten and he was our Player of the Season. In his last full season he was paired with Francis Coquelin in the centre and showed tenacity as well as exceptional ball-carrying to give us new life. A horror injury threatened his very career but at the ripe age of 35 he is still doing it at the top level. We never got to say goodbye though.

 

CF – Eduardo

Only 41 appearances, and only 8 goals, but there was a short spell, just before that unforgettably nightmarish injury he suffered, where everything he touched turned to gold. An expert marksmen, he scored goals wherever he went and no one can be in any doubt that if it weren’t for the injury, he would have racked up the goals for many seasons.

 

CF – Nicolas Anelka

If only this young man wasn’t so badly advised, we would have had a goal machine for years. Anelka was the reason why Wrighty left, cutting the icon’s appearances down so that he felt he must leave to get more games. The youngster went on to bang them in with alacrity, being awarded the PFA Young Player of the Year in the process. Real Madrid came calling for big money and we cashed in as Anelka wanted to leave and while he achieved success elsewhere, if he had stayed he could have become a legend. Still, maybe it’s a good thing he left as a certain French compatriot joined soon after to fill the void…

 

Am I missing anyone? Was there a player you think is missing?

 

Give me a shout!

David Luiz – An Improvement?

A lot of conversation has taken place in the wake of our active transfer window – and most of that has surrounded our defence.

David Luiz, William Saliba and Kieran Tierney were the defensive additions this summer, but do they constitute what we needed to revitalise our last line of resistance?

Mark Lawrenson recently commented on our purchases and how our backline will cope this coming season. He proffered that while David Luiz is an excellent footballer, he is not an excellent defender.

Harsh criticism? Perhaps, but a lot of experts have spoken about Luiz’s struggles with lining up in a back four and his decent showings in a back three.

The Brazilian is known for his superior technique and ball control, so much so that he has often been utilised in midfield as a sentry figure and one who can distribute the ball.

With William Saliba on loan for the season and very much a figure for the future, we currently have Rob Holding, Sokratis, Calum Chambers, Dinos Mavropanos and Zech Medley as our central defensive units. Do any of them have the missing attributes we have been searching for since Sol Campbell departed the club?

Being Arsenal, our defenders will always be held up to a higher level of scrutiny. We have the highest set of standards because we had what was probably the best defence ever seen in the modern generation. Dixon, Adams, Bould, Keown and Winterburn are part of the fabric of our club and the benchmark.

Since they retired, only Campbell and Toure for a short time have come close to that level. What is the level though?

What is it we need – and do our current crop have it?

The two characteristics we are perceived to lack are consistency and leadership. The consistency can be bred over time and can be achieved with a settled backline. So that is very much up in the air. Plus, we have defenders who have shown they can perform over a stretch of games. Sokratis last season hardly put a foot wrong. Rob Holding before his injury was a revelation.

Then there is the leadership quandary. A leader can be someone who leads by example. Laurent Koscielny was one of these. Then you have leaders who rangle their troops together vocally and by the way they deal with adversity. A stout heart and a puffed out chest.

Do we have that?

Sokratis seems an obvious choice on that front, but Luiz has always been a candidate at every club he has been at. Perhaps giving him the armband is a bit much, but can he show the younger players the right way? Can he bring the best out of his teammates? That would be a yes.

Luiz was a regular for the majority of his times at Chelsea and at PSG. That doesn’t happen by accident. While his best years may be behind him, the short term acquisition gives us a body that can cover us more than adequately.

David Luiz signs

Harking back to the titans of the past is a fruitless exercise, aside from the sweet pangs of nostalgia. A lot of our defence can be our approach to the game, and a more adaptable midfield who can track back and press attacks – so Guendouzi, Ceballos, Xhaka and Willock have a lot of pressure on their shoulders too.

For now, we can look upon our signings positively, and our squad seems well stocked in all regions. Players like Luiz will help us far more than the experts seem to think he will, and his struggles in a back four have been exacerbated a tad.

The bottom line is that will he improve on Mustafi? That is a definite yes!

Welcome to Arsenal, Gabriel Martinelli!

The wait is over – we have finally signed a player this summer!

Brazilian teenager Gabriele Martinelli has signed from Sao Paolo-based Ituano, for a fee thought to be in the region of £5m -£6m.

Most people who claim to have knowledge of the kid will be lying through their teeth. TV coverage is hard to come by for Ituano fixtures, so what can we find out about this promising youngster that was courted so vigorously by Francis Cagigao and Edu Gaspar?

Well, Martinelli has a decent record for someone so young, which has led to him training with Barcelona in the past. The kid has been watched intensely via video, with Cagigao’s strong Brazilian links playing a pivotal part.

 

gabriel_martinelli_Arsenal.jpg
Image credit – Arseblog

It has been Martinelli’s displays in the Sao Paolo Championship though, that have alerted clubs to Martinelli’s ability to sniff out a goal. He was awarded Best Newcomer and the region’s team of the year.

Not only that, but he is Ituano’s youngest ever debutant. Not bad for a country famed for its continuous production line of talent.

Martinelli joins an illustrious list of Brazilians to have played for Arsenal. Gilberto Silva, Julio Baptista, Silvinho, Gabriel Paulista, Denilson and even Edu himself have all represented the Gunners.

Martinelli isn’t expected to be first-team ready this season, and will most likely be plying his trade for the Under-23 side, but he could feature in some pre-season friendlies, which could give him the opportunity to make his mark – and for us fans to see what he is capable of.

This signing is aligned with the club’s new strategy of youth first. Whether that be through foreign recruitment or progression through the Academy, Arsenal are focusing themselves on finding the right player and ensuring they blossom at the club.

Martinelli recently trained with the Brazilian national side. With a move to a top European club giving him the platform to make a bigger impact, Martinelli could well be featuring for the Selecao sooner rather than later – the ball is in his court.

When interviewed by the club, Martinelli sounded very ambitious, saying “It’s a dream since I was a child and also my family’s dream for me to be playing in Europe and playing for a big team like Arsenal. I am going to take this opportunity.”

He also revealed that he models his game on Cristiano Ronaldo. If he manages to obtain that level, we can say this was an astute purchase!

We have now broken our duck for this transfer window, and it could prove to be a very exciting purchase.

Welcome to Arsenal Gabriel Martinelli!

 

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.

Turncoats and Enemies

The bond between player and fan is an intriguing one.

We all have our favourites for varying reasons.

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

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

All of us share the hate.

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

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

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

download (6)

The rest is history.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Head Over Heart

Every day, every part of the routine, didn’t feel monotonous like the daily grind should.

That had something to do with the fact he loved every single minute.

From a young child he was schooled in the ways of The Arsenal, first by his parents – both diehard Gooners – and then from his tutelage at the club.

He was like most children at that age, singularly obsessed with football. With or without friends, he would kick the ball. At goal, in the street, off the wall. His dad said that practice was the key, so he stuck gamely to his task. This is where he differed from most kids – he was driven, he wouldn’t let up. His mum sometimes worried about the fact that wherever he went, he had a ball with him, but she needn’t have fretted. It paid off big time.

He was enrolled in the youth team from an early age, and despite interest from other clubs, there was only one he would sign for. The moment he put pen to paper is still crystallised in the form of a framed photo on top of the mantelpiece at his mums house.

That was where the hard work really began. For eight years, he clambered up the ranks, the age groups. International recognition came for the Under-18’s, Under-21’s, but this was a mere flicker in the eye of time. By the time he had made his debut for the Under-21’s, full international caps came calling.

That was because his debut for Arsenal was packed with fireworks. He had seven minutes to make the coach and fans sit up and take notice, and he did so in spades. A goal and hanging the opposition’s right-back out to dry on at least three occasions meant that when the next season came, he was firmly in contention.

That was the beginning of his halcyon season – and the sole reason he was still at Arsenal. He played through the entire campaign, he grabbed goals, winners, made more respected colleagues look like they were wading through treacle. Experts and teammates, other coaches all commented on his meteoric rise.

It was his display against one of the best teams in the world though, that meant he was predicted to be a game changer not only for Arsenal, but for England too. He ran the show, weaving a mesmeric web that won plaudits around the world.

The footballing world was his oyster, but he never saw himself anywhere but The Arsenal. His faith and promise were rewarded as well, when injury bit.

It bit hard too. A whole season missed, then half a season. He couldn’t quite get back to where he was. Every time he scaled the insurmountable mountain of recovery, at the peak he fell down the other side. Critics were mounting, ‘sicknote’ tags were sticking.

Seasons were going by and he was no longer the promising kid who had the world at his feet. He now had to prove himself again. It wasn’t enough to have shown he had what it takes to run with the big boys. After his injury record, people doubted whether he could reach that height again.

Most importantly, the fans and the club he loved were beginning to worry about him too.

Fitness slowly crept back, and so did his appearances. Fleeting glimpses of form came and went, so did runs of matches.

Now came the time where his contract was running out. An offer was on the table, and it was once the case that whatever was on the table, he would have signed it, a la Tony Adams.

Now, after a conversation with the coach, he had a decision to make. He needed gametime. His stock was low, international honours was a dot on the horizon. He had played last season, but he was far from where he thought he’d be.

He felt superfluous, a groupie. A biscuit on the side of an extravagant coffee. He was not the main act, but he didn’t want that. He merely wanted to be a vital cog in the machine. At the moment, he wasn’t adding value, worth.

Now the coach has told him that he could stay and try to force his way into proceedings, but at this moment in time, he would be firmly in the ‘backup’ category.

He had spoken to his agent, his parents, his friends, his wife. All said that he owed his club nothing, he had done all he could. He needed to be selfish and do what he needed to do. His career was short, and if he stayed he would be on good money, but he could get more elsewhere and most importantly – he could get back into the international fold as he would play.

Stay at the club he loves? Fight for the badge and your career? Or move on for more minutes and perhaps a little better in terms of contract?

Jack-Wilshere-648544

Where does loyalty rank in terms of significance in decision-making? At what price does the heart come into things? When does business run the rule over matters of sentimentality?

If you were in this position – what would you do?

Who Is Matteo Guendouzi?

It flew under the radar a little, but we made our fifth summer signing just after the Lucas Torreira announcement, and it looks to be an exciting one for the future for Arsenal.

The young French midfielder Matteo Guendouzi signed on the dotted line for the Gunners, and the purchase from Ligue 2 Lorient shows that Sven Mislntat and his backroom team were intent on providing Arsenal with a long term midfield option that could prove to be a bargain.

Guendouzi is a ball-carrying midfielder who made his first team breakthrough with Lorient two seasons ago, and last season settled into a first eleven role, and with Lorient playing in the second tier, the French club were in the right position to sell their brightest talent.

What do we know of Guendouzi? This purchase took some research. I had heard of the name but never seen him play, but the French football experts certainly rate him, and liken him to an earlier transfer target of ours – Yancine Adli.

Physically strong and adept at transitioning play with the ball at his feet, Guendouzi is just as much at home at the base of the midfield as he is a box to box role.

Guendouzi made 18 appearances for Lorient as they just missed out on an immediate return to Ligue Un. His career started in Paris however, as he began his youth career with PSG. The 19 year old has already played for France U18, U19 and U20 level.

Guendouzi is not without his risks though. He had a run-in with the coaching team last season after being hooked at half time during a game, and our new Under23 coach Freddie Ljungberg will have to instill the famous Arsenal team values if Guendouzi is to prosper here.

The transfer fee of 7m is a modest one for a highly coveted 19 year old, but it also speaks of a player who could make a massive difference should the environment suit him.

What does next season hold for the 19 year old? Well, a run in the Under23’s looks likely, to gauge how close to a first team debut the Frenchman is. He has already played a smidgen of top-tier football, but the difference between that and making a mark on the Premier League is a chasm.

Unai Emery has commented on the young signing, and his words reveal that Guendouzi is very much part of his immediate plans;

We are delighted Matteo is joining us. He is a talented young player and a lot of clubs were interested in him. He has big potential and gained good first-team experience last season with Lorient. He wants to learn and improve and will be an important part of our first-team squad.”

With Granit Xhaka, Aaron Ramsey, Mohamed Elneny and fellow youngster Ainsley Maitland-Niles vying for midfield spots, Guendouzi will really have to shine to get the starts he will be craving, but with a full schedule of games and potential injuries to contend with, this signing very much makes sense.

Identifying talent at a young age is pretty much what Sven Mislintat is renowned for – and what we hired him to do. This signing though, will be the first time that the German has really put his name on a transfer, so it will be very interesting to see how Guendouzi prospers.

It’s an exciting time for us Gunners. This summer’s purchases has reaped experience, proven winners, tenacity, strength and a sprinkling of promise. Guendouzi seems to firmly fall into the latter, but with each display, we will see if he can offer what he promises.
Welcome to Arsenal Matteo Guendouzi!