Tag Archives: transfers

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.



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 new Head of Football Relations – Raul Sanllehi

Our club have been busy in the last year to replace the regime behind Arsene Wenger.

Jens Lehmann, Darren Burgess, Shad Forsythe, Sven Mislintat are among a raft of names brought in to rejuvenate certain facets of the club. 

Some say it is part of the new setup to ensure the transition to a post-Wenger world is as seamless and trouble-free as possible.

Some say it is Ivan Gazidis actually staying true to his word when he promised change.

Regardless, we are actually acting on the years of falling short, and bringing in people who have a reputation of delivering at the front end of the game.

Now, we have a new Head of Football Relations. 

We have recruited Raul Sanllehi from FC Barcelona to come in and work closely with new Head of Recruitment Sven Mislintat. This new team will help source new talent for the club, and get transfers over the line.

Sanllehi has come in to replace the outgoing transfer ‘guru’ Dick Law. Our transfer policy in recent years has gone from praiseworthy to laughable, so a tried and trusted man like Sanllehi is extremely welcome.

Who is this new fellow though? And why is he an improvement?

Raul Sanllehi was Director of Football from 2008. This is no mean feat when you consider the many turbulent presidencies of Juan Laporta, Sandro Rosell and Josep Bartomeu. It shows he is a safe pair of hands.

He was at the Camp Nou to get deals over the line, something we have lacked with the incompetency of Dick Law in recent years.

Before his years at Barcelona, Sanllehi was involved with Nike. Experience at a big brand like Nike means he is unfazed by anything thrown at him. It also means he has excellent contacts. His rolodex will be a who’s who of sport.

Indeed, even Ivan Gazidis said of his experience and contacts; in a club statement;

“Raul’s appointment is another important step in developing the infrastructure we need at the club to take everything we do to the next level. Raul has extensive contacts across the football world and has been directly involved in some of the biggest transfers in Europe in recent years. We look forward to bringing that expertise to Arsenal.”

Sanllehi will initially be working alongside Wenger, but this appointment is very much planning for the future.

We now have excellent and intelligent people in the most important posts at the club who are in touch with innovative methods and the modern game.

We are well placed for the future with this recruitment drive. When the time comes to replace Wenger, our team should be able to keep the club firmly on track.

Sven Mislintat – the Diamond Eye of Talent Spotting

Arsenal have been busy overhauling their backroom staff in the last couple of years.

Shad Forsythe, Jens Lehmann, Huss Fahmy and Darren Burgess are all recent additions in varying capacities to Arsene Wenger’s network of coaching.

Now, the latest name to join that list is perhaps the most exciting – Sven Mislintat.

The German has joined us from Borussia Dortmund, and he will be taking up the role of Head of Recruitment. Mislintat will be taking over from club stalwart Steve Rowley, who will still be helping Arsenal on a freelance basis.

So, who is Sven Mislintat? And why is there such a fuss over him?

Well, Sven created a bit of a legacy at Dortmund. He started as a green scout just after BVB were declared bankrupt. Money was inevitably strictly budgeted, so a shrewdness to player acquisition had to be be a priority. This is where Mislintat grew into the man German journalists have dubbed ‘Diamond Eye.’

Mislintat is credited with the stellar careers of Shinki Kagawa, Robert Lewandowski, Ousmane Dembele and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Aside from Kagawa, Mislintat didn’t discover these players from ignominy, but he is responsible for highlighting that these players were destined for greatness. This is his talent.

He learned his trade from the old-school scouts who were at Dortmund, but has also embraced data into his vision. It is this all-encompassing view that has enabled Mislintat to alert his respective managers to players that they need to nurture rather than offload.

Simply put, Mislintat knows when a player is the real deal rather than a waste of time.

Old Diamond Eye is a Dortmund pedigree and was not seeking a move away from the club, but a falling out with Thomas Tuchel that led to Arsenal making enquiries. Apparently, Tuchel banned Mislintat from the inner circle of the club, and it was this that pushed the German into the welcoming arms of Arsenal.

His hiring has led to many questioning voices, wondering if this is a step toward preparing for a Wenger departure? You would have to say yes. Arsene has the rest of this season and one more until his latest contract extension ends, and it is looking doubtful that he will sign another with such doubt over the last few years results. Sven will not be joining for just a year, so if he is indeed in it for the long haul then he will be staying on when Wenger does depart. It is a necessary step in preparation to future-proof the club.

This move takes a smidgin of responsibility away from Wenger. He will undoubtedly still have the final say on any recommendations for players, but Mislintat will most likely take the lead on acquisitions. They both share the same vision on transfers, so this will help Mislintat acclimatise at Arsenal.

We have hired the cream of the crop in fitness, we have a new and un-ignorable voice as a coach (just try and not listen to Jens Lehmann) and from December, we will have a man who can revolutionise our recruitment policy.

Our club prides itself on creating diamonds rather than buying them, and with Sven ‘Diamond Eye’ Mislintat in our ranks, we can be hopeful this will continue. 

Trimming The Fat of the Squad

Published on Goonersphere.​

If there is one thing us Gooners have learned over the past few seasons, is that squad depth is paramount in launching – and maintaining – a push for silverware.

Every campaign in recent memory has seen a period of consistent results which has seen us primed for a push at glory, and yet the wheels have come off time and again when the gruelling amount of games starts to snap at our heels.

Injuries to Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey, and a raft of defenders has repeatedly vanquished our dreams, as our side has been forced to field back up players who have failed to match the level of excellence we require.

It places a focus on those very fringe players, and it shows that every single signing that is made is just as important as the marquee transfers which capture our imagination. It is a cause for optimism when we sign players of the ilk of Alexandre Lacazette, but it is just as mandatory having a man like Danny Welbeck waiting in the wings to cover any injuries or tactical changes.

Some players, if bad luck strikes, are irreplaceable and will leave a chasm in the team regardless of who slots in to replace them, but with an able and adequate understudy, we can breathe a little easier every time an opposing player clatters into our star men.

We endured the years when our squad was so shallow that even the first eleven was below par, but now we can look upon our squad and have the luxury to say that our fringe men could get into the majority of PL teams.

There are weaknesses in our pool though, and with our numbers fit to bursting and in need of some thinning if we are to strengthen again, which players need to be mercilessly culled in order for progress to be made?

Our players who can operate at wing-back are of particular importance, seeing as our recent switch to three at the back has placed more importance on these transitional players. Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal continue to play huge parts in the team, and new boy Sead Kolasinac looks to be a shrewd signing. We have a few though, that have their heads on the block.

Kieran Gibbs, Mathieu Debuchy, Carl Jenkinson and Calum Chambers all seem to be set for a role on the periphery this coming season, but are they actually good enough to slot in when they are inevitably called upon?

Debuchy seems the most likely to be discarded, with the Frenchman having been a ghost in the team since his unlucky debut season. Carl Jenkinson, whilst a fan favourite is dispensable. 

Kieran Gibbs has done an admirable job of coming into the team whenever called upon, so what of Calum Chambers?

His age and his recent loan spell at Boro should be reasons enough to keep him, but what if Chambers wants more? His recent exploits with the England Under 21 side mean his stock is high, and his progress could be halted if he is used as a utility player. His chances in his favoured position of centre-back look pretty slim, so it is down to 

Chambers himself if he should want to go.

We have promising youngsters coming through in the form of Krystian Bielik, Ainslie MAitland-Niles, Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson and Rob Holding. Shouldn’t these promising youngsters be given the chance to play those 10-12 games in a season when injuries mount?

We cry out for driftwood to be chopped, but nearly every player has good reasons to keep them. The only reason we should sell any of them – Debuchy aside – is if we can acquire better. If we can, then there is one other question.

Will these prospective new signings be happy with a bit-part role?

Let us be honest, the majority of our side is nailed down, and whilst rotation has a place in modern football,  a constantly shifting eleven does not promote consistency. We need to have players such as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Olivier Giroud champing at the bit, waiting for their positional rivals to slip. This is the motivation that our players need to pull elite performances out of the bag.

Do Mohamed Elneny and Francis Coquelin put enough pressure on Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey in the centre of the park? Whilst they may have their uses, are they first team material? If not, then how difficult will it be to find a player willing to be the equivalent of a new goldfish – sitting and waiting in a bag whilst they become acclimatised?

We all cry out for signings, but with so many different facets to consider, whilst we all wait for David Ornstein to give us a morsel of info, we need to look at the bigger picture. Signings are much harder than they look and we all forget this from time to time.

The chopping block is in place and the axe has been sharpened – but who should go?

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.

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. 

Arsenal’s Summer Rebuilding

Published in Arsenal Mania.

There are many uncertainties surrounding Arsenal Football Club at this present moment. For a club that prides itself on its stability in the shifting tides of the game, Arsenal normally stand as the last bastion of routine and conviction.

As of right now though, the ever-moving cogs of the rumour mill are geared toward the management at Arsenal, and Arsene Wenger’s long-standing tenure.

Over two decades of Wenger and his particular brand have led to respectability and an elevated expectation, but staleness seems to have set into the club. No one can honestly say for sure whether Wenger will choose to take the offer of an extension already extended to him – or whether he will decide enough is enough and cut the ties which hold him so tightly.

Underneath the broiling waters though, a threat just as alarming is developing – and it threatens to undermine any plans a new or existing manager may hatch.

Arsenal’s midfield has been bereft of the wonderfully talented Santi Cazorla for the majority of the season, and it has recently been announced the Spanish midfielder will miss the rest of the campaign through his long-standing injury. This is not the first time Cazorla has been on the treatment table, and each time he has been missing from the side – Arsenal have suffered greatly.

Santi Cazorla remains the only player in the Gunners ranks who can transform defensive pressure into positive possession. His low centre of gravity and tight turning circle means he is a nightmare to dispossess – and his true two-footedness is a trait incredibly rare to find and/or cultivate.

Arsene has had to cope with this huge gap in his teams repertoire since October, and with his squad being stronger than in recent memory, he has had the bodies needed to try and rectify the situation.

The trouble is, the remaining central midfielders do not fit the bill – or are simply not good enough.

Aaron Ramsey has a wealth of talent, but his own injury problems and a certain weakness on the defensive side of his game mean he is not well balanced to be the barometer of the side.

Francis Coquelin’s hunger for possession is greater than the rest, and his tackling ability is up there with the best of the defensive midfielders in the PL. His increasingly erratic positioning are starting to overshadow his strengths however, and his inability to pass effectively is a shortcoming that cannot sit well with Wenger’s passing ethics.

Then there is Mohamed Elneny. The Egyptian has performed well when called upon, but he has cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines for the most part. Even when he has enjoyed a rare run in the team, Elneny has been solid – but unspectacular. He is clearly not the answer to the missing Spaniard. Elneny is a squad player.

What of new recruit Granit Xhaka? The Bundesliga-seasoned midfielder was supposed to be the all-round weapon and toughnut that soft-centred Arsenal needed. Instead, his tendency to lunge in with ill-timed tackles has cost his side dearly, and his mobility has been somewhat less than rapid. 

With Jack Wilshere on loan and seeking assurances on his future – this means that Arsenal’s centre of their team is light in number – and deficient in the top quality needed to push the team forward.

The summer will need a complete focus on the Gunners midfield. If whoever takes charge next season goes into the new campaign with the current midfield ranks – then the Top 4 may be a distant dream.