Foxes Flummoxed by French Frontmen

What a game to kick off the new league season it was last week! In a game that threw up everything, including all the emotions we normally associate with our beloved Reds many of us (those who woke at 430am on a Saturday morning) would have felt certain impulses of familiar frustration. We probably asked ourselves what the hell we were doing awake at this time to watch this team put us through the ringer in the very first game of the year? We cheered at Lacazettes’ debut goal after only 2 minutes (surely the fastest debt goal on record?) before despairing at our patched up defence leaking like a rusty boat at every thrust forward by our opponents. When things seemed their worst, we held our heads in our hands as the boss switched Bellerin to Left back, the Ox to Right back while he subbed on Ramsey and Ollie for the last twenty minutes. What a masterstroke it turned out to be as both lads scored late goals to equalize and then snatch the victory in a breathless opening day of the new campaign.

In the aftermath of that roller coaster experience, there was the normal flurry of activity on social media, calling out the fairly obvious and also the obscure. Whatever your stance on the on field performance was it can’t be ignored that, yes the defence was fairly dire and the way we conceded did indeed infuriate many of us. We aren’t exactly going to reach for the white sheet and the shotgun just yet, but there are definitely areas we expect to see some improvements in this weekend as we travel to castle greyskull to battle skeletor and his legion of disfigured footballers.

For instance, it will be a big help to actually play more than 1 centre half in a formation that requires 3 fairly decent centre halves to be effective. If Mustafi, Mertesacker and Koscielny (banned) are still not available this week we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see us revert back to a flat back 4 until they are good to come back into the squad again. Last week was a bit of a debacle to be honest as far as that goes. We got away with it, luckily for us, but on another day (and against better opposition) we might not get that some rub of the green.

On the lighter side of things, Sead Kolasinac rubber stamped his cult hero status with a great debut performance that included such highlights as; shoving his huge rig into Mahrez until the Algerian lost the ball over the touch-line, having 85 touches, winning 100% of his 4 tackles, going on a mazy run up the flank that included a delightful bit of skill and notching a cool as ice assist when through on goal.

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Add to this a goal scoring full league debut for Alexandre Lacazette and things seem even better. There was a great piece of analysis on his first game from Arsenal legend and GOAT, Thierry Henry which you can take a look at right here. There will obviously be a few tweaks to our game style as the midfield gets familiar with the new boys runs, the signs from the Leicester game are positive though.

This weekend we travel to Stoke. We all know the history and how big a match this is for their local pride as being recognised as the most tooth barren fan base in all the land.

Seriously though, this is Stokes Grand Final every season. If there’s one game their fans will be happy to go out and take victory in, it’s this one. We have dealt with their hostilities in varying ways in the past, more recently we’ve seen off their challenges through the pure gulf in class between the two squads but this season we should approach with caution. They’ve recently added another Ex La Liga prodigy and Champions League winning striker, Jese. Sure he’s fallen from the limelight a bit, but with our most recent defensive display nothing to write home about, we will need to be well and truly aware of the threat Jese may pose as he looks to impress in his new colours. They’ve also added dutch international Bruno Martins Indi on a full-time basis, who is a handy pickup as well. How long it takes them to adapt to life on Trent, remains to be seen, it is quite the idyllic area.

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The boss gave his normal pre match interview last night ahead of the clash and it seems likely that The BFG’s cracked noggin’ has recovered enough for him to be available, so that will be a boost to our defensive line. Alexis looks set to miss again with the boss saying;

“For Sanchez it looks a bit early. He works hard everyday in training. Our medical people think Saturday comes to soon and that he should be fit for the next game against Liverpool”

Not surprising but it would have been nice to have Alexis back in the frame. Best to get him 100% before exposing him to the trials of a full paced game.

Other players set to be included in the squad for the game include; Mustafi and Coquelin, although we are unsure as to their match readiness given that Mustafi was on the pine last week but didn’t feature and Coq is working back from his latest setback.

The pressure will be on to keep the points coming this week as our rivals, particularly United, continue on their fairly easy start to the season where they will no doubt rack up early points (they play none of last seasons top 6 in the 1st 6 games).

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Players to watch:

Granit Xhaka

Had a middling game next to Elneny last week. Made an error which led to a Leicester goal but also showed moments of his normal range of passing and confidence on the ball. The sooner he gets to full swing the better, especially with the number of key players currently under cooked.

Mesut Ozil 

Showed signs of his rustiness as he worked his way through the game last week. Will be better for the run out and we are looking forward to his developing relationship with our new frontman.

Matty B and I will be reviewing the game Sunday for you all with a brand new podcast covering all the best and latest from the Arsenal coming shortly afterwards. Keep your eyes open for that.

A Fine Line Between Pleasure & Pain: Thoughts On Opening Day.

It’s finally here, the new season is upon us. For the next nine and a half months we can all soak up as much football as we can lay our hands on. There’ll be plenty of games to look forward to and review. Plenty of form to analyse and discuss with our mates around the water cooler at work or perhaps over a few pints at the local. For us over here in Australia, the season starts, on the East Coast , at 4:30am Saturday morning and for many of us, who will wake up bleary eyed and a bit miffed in less than 12 hours to watch our beloved Arsenal put us through the wringer once again, it is a return to trying to enjoy the game without disturbing those trying to sleep around us. There will be many times during the season where you might wonder “why the fuck do I keep doing this?” And yes, as with any sport – you are going to go through your good times and your not so good times. If there’s one thing that keeps us, especially myself, going on and getting up week after week when a nice warm bed and a solid 8 hours is on offer it’s the fact that we want to participate in the Arsenal journey and community.

The journey this season is one that poses several vital questions. Questions like: Can we return to the Top 4? Will we hold our nerve over Alexis? Did the board make the right decision in extending Wengers’ contract?

For me, the main question is; What can we now safely consider to constitute a successful season?

A simple return to the top four is probably not enough, after Arsene escaped his blushes by securing a record-breaking FA Cup victory at the very end of a disappointing league campaign. Make no mistake, it wont take long for the heat to come if things don’t go well from the off. For the most part 2017 was a total disaster, with the boss himself finally admitting in the off-season that speculation surrounding his future may have directly impacted the performance of the team. When things were their most dire, the seemingly desperate switch in formation to the back 3 actually sounded the turning of the tide and we salvaged what we could from the remainder of the league season (despite still missing top 4) and of course the famous victory at Wembley. Our patchy long-term form over the course of recent seasons has been something that has frustrated the hell out of us all and when it happened again last season, many of us lost hope that Wenger would still be the man to lead us back to the level we had not only been promised, but one that we had seen glimpses of during those seasons.

Yes, we can string runs together that see us right up there in the lofty echelons of the league table. But we have seen those runs abruptly end among injury crises, fan turmoil and a never-ending carousel of media speculation for more of our recent history than I care to remember. This season will see the club under as much scrutiny as we have probably ever experienced while Arsene has been at the helm. You can understand why, there is a great narrative for drama here again for us this year. Out of the top 4 for the first time in 20 years, one of the games living legends trying one last time to prove that he can take his team back to the glory days of the late 90’s and early 00’s and a fan base that shows as much passion as any team in the league but on a scale that dwarves nearly all and sundry.

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So can Arsene take us back into the top 4 and more importantly, is that enough for us to expect this season? For me, if we are not in the reckoning at the end of the season then I will be hard pressed to be convinced of anything other than failure. The goal has to be on winning the league. Europa cup…fucken what of it? Carabao Cup? Jesus don’t even start me. FA Cup? Respect, but mate we’ve got the record tucked away, no one can take that away from you now. The league is the only way to restore the gloss that has been scratched away by the recent tribulations of the recent past.

It starts on a Friday night in North London against a Leicester team that snatched the league title from our grasp only 18 months ago. We go into the game missing several players many of us would consider key starters and in the case of Koscielny and Alexis, I completely agree.

Our other absentees will definitely include; Gabriel, Coquelin, Cazorla, Wilshere who are all at varying degrees of coming back from respective injuries.

Question marks linger over the availability of Ozil, Ramsey (both of whom returned to first team training this week after slight knocks) and Mertesacker which could mean we start with a team in the vein of;

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Whatever the lineup may be, this is an opening day that cannot repeat the debacle that was an opening day disaster against Liverpool last time around. The first half a dozen games are as important as any period of the season, more so. For the mentality of the team moving into the critical Xmas/New year period, it is essential to be with the leading pack and not struggling to keep up with them. The run on the other side of the new year has been the bane of many Arsenal fan for too long, it’s time to put those and many other demons to rest.

Arsene is a man of immense pride and stubborn bullishness, he will be as keen as any of us to go out this season and prove everyone that he has been wrongly written off by far too many. He is the master of his own domain. Success this campaign will see him justly returned to the pinnacle of managerial recognition, failure will see his legacy tarnished far more than his efforts deserve.

We will be back with a brand spanking new podcast next week as Matty B and I look over the remains of the opening day results. The blog will also continue to tick over at least once a week for your reading pleasure, so stick around for that too!

This also marks the start of our 5th season here at Gunners Down Under so without getting too teary eyed and emotional, thanks again for all of your unwavering support in getting us to where we are today. We couldn’t do it without the support of you all, who download the pod, read the blog and chat with us on social media. We’ll keep up the hard work to make sure there’s always good Aussie Arsenal content available to you for as long as we can.

Cheers again and Come on you Gunners!

Arsenal Strike While The Iron is Hot – Squad Assessment Part 4 – Forwards

Welcome to the final part in our pre-season squad assessment. Over the past three days we have cast an eye over our stocks in Midfield, Defence and Goal Keepers leaving us with todays look at our Forward options. With the Friday night game kicking off the new league season less than 48 hours away, we are all hanging out for things to get going asap. So without any further farting about, here are our Forwards.

Forwards:

Alexis – 28 yrs – Striker/Left Wing

The tip of the spear, Alexis topped off another fantastic season with 30 goals, 17 assists and the Arsenal Player of the Season award. Under a huge amount of speculation this summer as he enters the final 12 months of his contract, Wenger has made it clear on numerous occasions that he will not be sold this window. Given Alexis’ role within the team, it would be a massive blow to lose him and we would face a number of issues in trying to fill any gap left from his departure. A workaholic and demonstrative player, Alexis gets kicked up and down the park every week and still turns out world-class numbers. Currently listed as injured for the first 2 games of the season after only a short off-season break. Freak!

Olivier Giroud – 28 yrs – Striker

One of the GDU faves, Ollie played another significant role last season even though he found himself playing a supporting role from the pine, when Alexis took over through the middle. Scored crucial goals to salvage draws or win us games with regularity and bagged easily the best goal you’ll see from an Arsenal player in years with his effort against Palace. His positive spirit and high work rate make him a reliable option for Wenger when things need to be changed up. Faces additional competition from fellow Frenchman and new boy, Alexandre Lacazette. Handsome!

Danny Welbeck – 26 yrs – Striker/Left Wing

Took awhile to get back to first team action after managing a lengthy injury, but made a decent return through the cups bagging goals against Soton, Liverpool and of course United. Hasn’t been able to lock down an ongoing starting berth in the 1st XI, he does provide pace and athleticism drifting in from wide positions which can cause opposition defences a few issues. Still has some work to do on his finishing, this is probably the main thing preventing him from going onto that next level. Will play a supporting role in the league and should start most domestic cup games.

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Lucas Perez – 29 today – Striker/Right Wing

Added to the squad late in the window last season after Jamie Vardy turned us down, Perez brought a direct dynamic into the team that many of us were excited about. Blessed with great pace and the ability to finish off attacking moves, he was probably disappointed with the amount of game time afforded to him during the year. Had an impact on the score sheet when he did play but lacked a little bit of the cohesion with his team mates that would have seen him used more often. Set to leave this summer after a fairly public outcry about his lack of opportunities, he looks likely to return to Spain should an offer come in matching our valuation of him after an outlay of £18m only 12 months ago. Gone!

Theo Walcott – 28 yrs – Right Wing

Became a centurion for the club last season and is also our longest-serving player. Moved back out to a role on the Right Wing following his underwhelming attempts at becoming 1st choice striker. Frustrates and excites in equal measures, he again reached double figures for goals but saw his role diminish after the switch to the back 3. A good lad with awesome pace, he looks likely to be set for a fight to reassure his place in the team. We’ve said it for years now and we would still like to see him add some tricks to his bag as he is too predictable on the ball. Could score a hatty and only see the ball half a dozen times for the day….

Alex Iwobi – 21 yrs – Right Wing/Attacking Midfield

Another of our young stars, Iwobi has natural talent in spades and loves to take the ball with him as he tricks and twists his way through opposition defences. We like the weight of his passing and his vision allowing him to play what appear to be difficult balls into players on the move. Wenger gave him a good run of games in the 1st half of last season before his form dipped and he went back to playing a supporting role. Should kick on again this season with another pre-season under his belt, his confidence will continue to grow as he sees more game time. We’d like to see his finishing improve as he has the positioning and movement to also get on the end of things. Jet!

Alexandre Lacazette – 26 yrs – Striker

Our new record signing comes to us after being on our watch list for a number of seasons and the back of yet another successful season in Ligue 1. Top scored at Lyon again and has a fantastic goals per game ratio making him one of the elite strikers in Europe. From what we’ve seen of him so far he looks direct, fast, skilled and pretty deadly….all pretty important attributes for the frontman to have. Should play an important role in the #9 position throughout the season with the likes of Ozil and Alexis around him to make things even more interesting. Watch this space!

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Departures:

Yaya Sanogo – Released

We will also be expecting Perez to depart and everyone will be waiting to see if we can stick to our guns with Alexis!

Arrivals:

Alexandre Lacazette – £52m from Lyon

Overall:

We have plenty of great attacking options which allow us to vary our style of play based on who we are playing or how a game is playing out. All the focus has been on Alexis and new boy Lacazette. It seems key to our fortunes that these two blokes are both fit and firing for us over the coming season and will be provided great competition from the others waiting to make the most of any opportunities.

Got any thoughts on our Forward line? Send us a tweet or comment on this post to kick off a discussion!

We’ll be back tomorrow with a preview of the 1st game of the season and what we should be aiming for over the course of the campaign.

 

This Game is Won in The Middle of the Park – Squad Assessment Part 3 – Midfield

Welcome to part 3 of our pre-season squad assessment, where today we will be casting our eye over the current midfield group. Enough of the filler, here’s the main event!

Midfield:

Aaron Ramsey – 26 yrs – Centre Mid

After a string of niggles kept him from finding his rhythm during the first half of the season, he forged a great partnership with new boy, Granit Xhaka as the season moved into its final stages. Scored another FA Cup winning goal on the final day of the campaign and looks set to play another key part of our league fortunes this year. Needs an injury free run to recapture that 12/13 form.

Granit Xhaka – 24 yrs – Centre Mid

The 1st of our big signings, along with Mustafi, from last season. He took some time to find his feet and adapt to the pace and physicality of the English game, finding himself on the end of two pretty harsh red cards. Did score two thumping shots from distance which led all and sundry to scream ”SHOOOOOT” every time he picked it up within 30 yards. Has a fantastic range of passing and allows Mesut Ozil to focus on final third play instead of dropping off so deep so often. Beast!

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Santi Cazorla – 32 yrs – Centre Mid

The little Spanish wizard spent just about all of the season in the treatment room managing a serious calf/Achilles issue. In the immediate aftermath of his injury we really missed his influence on the game and ability to hold the ball. Had his contract extended while recovering and will be a great inclusion back into the team once he is fit again. Maestro!

Francis Coquelin – 26 yrs – Centre Mid

The combative defensive midfielder has found himself an important part of the team with his tenacious attitude and willingness to do the dirty work. After his partner in crime, Santi, went down with injury, he took some time to establish a new playing relationship with Ramsey/Xhaka but kept working throughout the season to provide a valuable option when called upon. What he lacks in technical ability, he makes up for in work ethic. Coq!

Mo Elneny – 25 yrs – Centre Mid

A rotation option throughout the season, he showed he has the mentality to compete at the level when required. With numerous established players around him he struggled to nail down a full-time role, but he is a great option to give other blokes a chop out and also should see time in the domestic cups early door. Loves having a go from range. Plays simple, smart football.

Mesut Ozil – 28 yrs – Attacking Mid/Left Wing

The jewel in the current Arsenal lineup and GDU fave, Ozil is a pure footballer. Able to change a game with one touch he has made more chances and assists than any other player in the league since debuting he can carve opposition defences week after week. Spent some time on the right-wing at the end of last season after the change to the back 3, he has most influence from the #10 position. To those that give him shit for his laconic style we say; You don’t use your Ferrari to plough a field… Wizard!

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Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 24 yrs (next week) – Right Wing

Had his most successful season for the club in term of goals and assists last season and finally got some solid game time under his belt after an injury interrupted career to that point. Showed some genuine quality especially towards the latter stages of the season, he adapted to being shuffled into unfamiliar positions really well with his great work ethic and skill on the ball. A direct dribbler, he comes into the season with under 12 months left on his contract. Wants more minutes through the middle but faces a tough job to displace those ahead of him and may find himself played wide right yet again.

Jeff Reine-Adelaide – 19 yrs – Attacking Mid

First season on the senior list and used in half a dozen games in domestic cup comps, Radelaide will be one to keep an eye on again this season as he continues his development. Has come under a bit of a query this pre-season after rumours of a fall out and possibly leaving the club came out. Was left out of most of the pre-season commitments. Faces competition from Ainsley Maitland-Niles and newly promoted Reiss Nelson.

Jack Wilshere – 25 yrs – Attacking Mid/Centre Mid

Made the bold call to go out on loan to the Cherries last season in order to restart his league career. Took some time to work his way into Eddie Howe’s lineup and was constantly managed throughout the campaign, he may not have impacted the stats sheet for Goals or assists, but he did provide a good pivot for Bournemouth to launch towards their most successful season ever. Still some uncertainty over his Arsenal future, it looks like Wenger may be open to allowing Jack to continue his career elsewhere. Would need to find that 2012 form to cement an ongoing role within this team.

Departures:

None, but keep an eye on Wilshere, Chamberlain and Radelaide.

Arrivals:

None, but we are probably in the market for Thomas Lemar, should we shed some of the weight Arsene has so frequently talked of.

Overall:

When fit and firing this can be a midfield group that can take it up to any of the best midfields in the league. The main query is and has been for some time now, trying to keep them all fit as we have seen the wheels fall off too many times on the back of long-term injuries to even one key member of the group. Santi and Jack will be luxury players if they can get back to the level required. Perhaps a signing is on the way late in the window?

Got any thoughts on our midfield? Send us a tweet or comment on this post to kick off a discussion!

We’ll be back tomorrow with a look at our Forwards!

 

We Will Build a Great Wall – Squad Assessment Part 2 – Defence

Welcome to the next installment of our preseason squad assessment! Today we will be taking a bit of a look over the defence, what we expect from our Senior players as well as what we’d like to see for the upcoming campaign.

There’s a few to cover so let’s get into it!

 

Defenders

Per Mertesacker – 32 yrs – Centre Back

Our BFG had a memorable season only by the fact of his amazing performance in the FA Cup final off the back of only 27 mins of league football until that point. A fantastic role model for everyone at the club his playing days will come to an end at the conclusion of this season, when he will step into a development role alongside compatriot and Invincible, Jens Lehman. Expect him to play a support role on field, covering for our other options in league games and during congested fixture weeks. Hopefully he can stay fit. Love him!

Laurent Koscielny – 31 yrs – Centre Back

Lolo has developed into one of the finest Centre-halves in Europe since arriving in 2010 as a relative unknown. Has been managing a nagging Achilles issue for the past 6 months which is a bit of a concern given how important he is to the team. If fit, expect him to anchor that back 3 in as many games as he can handle. He loves a goal too and should continue to be a danger to opposition 18 yard boxes during set pieces. More of the same thanks!

Shkodran Mustafi – 25 yrs – Centre Back

Last Summers’ big money signing showed he has the qualities to tackle (puns) the best strikers in the league, with his balls to the wall, aggressive style of play. Loves a slide tackle, sometimes to the point of detriment to the team (we’d like to see him stay on his feet a bit more this season). Doesn’t mind marauding forward or pinging a long ball over the top. Has the ability to spring play from defence to midfield in a similar way to Koscielny. Forged a great partnership with Lolo and should find himself next to the Frenchman as the 2nd part of our back 3.

Gabriel – 26 yrs – Centre Back/Right Back

Has pace and aggression but lacks a bit of the discipline to utilise it at the right times. Found himself covering for an injured Bellerin at RB during the season and did so manfully. It wasn’t enough to gain him a regular berth in the XI and he still has some work to do to stake his claim. With the emergence of Holding and the return of Calum Chambers, Gabby could find himself squeezed out of the squad before the window closes. If he stays, he will provide competition and back up to our preferred options. Gets a bonus point for bollocking Costa, we still love it!

Rob Holding – 21 yrs – Centre Back

Looks like we’ve found one with Rob Holding. Made strides in his development last season when given the opportunities and found himself part of the new system in big matches towards the end of the season, including his famous double act with The BFG on FA Cup final day. Cool as a cucumber, he has leader written all over him and should find himself further developing into the team this time around. We’re sorry he didn’t cost £50m so everyone could know how good he is. Gun!

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Nacho Monreal – 31 yrs – Left Back/Centre Back

Our versatile and reliable Spanish defender had another stirling season, with a number of key displays throughout the campaign. Scored a crucial FA Cup Semi-final goal vs City to put us through when the pressure was on. Works tirelessly for the full 90mins and rarely finds himself beaten on the day, even when facing trickier, pacier opponents. Established Left sided defender, we’re interested to see if he players as part of the back 3 long-term or out wide at LWB. He gives us options and has a consistent level of performance.

Sead Kolasinac – 24 yrs – Left Back/Centre Back

Our first signing of the Summer, the Bosnian born Left back was voted into last season Bundesliga team of the season – highlighting what a great piece of business his acquisition has been. From what we’ve seen so far and what we know from last season, he is another aggressive, direct defender who can provide an assist as easily as he can win the ball and run away from any number of Chelsea attackers. Grabbed a goal on his Wembley debut, cementing his cult hero status for the upcoming season. Unless he’s doing it in front of the Spurs fans, we’d prefer his goal celebrations to be modified from what we saw on Sunday. Tank!

Kieran Gibbs – 27 yrs – Left Back

Gibbs found himself on the outer last season after progressively falling further and further behind Monreal. Grabbed some minutes as a LWB late in the piece, but overall it was a season to forget for our boy. With the arrival of Kolasinac, his future looks likely to continue elsewhere and there have been numerous rumours connecting him with a move away from the Emirates. The club looks to be holding out for a fee in the region of £10m. We expect him to hang around until the final days of the window where managers will start getting a little jumpy before snaffling the Englishman up. Left out of preseason team commitments.

Hector Bellerin – 22 yrs – Right Back

One of our brightest young stars, everyone loves his sizzling pace and ability to work up and down the right hand side and combine with the attacking side of our game. Took the load of being our only fit RB for most of the season in outstanding fashion, although he did begin to wear down towards the end of the year. We want to see him work on his left foot so he isn’t as easy to box into a corner. Can also develop his passing/crossing further. Looks likely to take the majority of work on the right again this season.

Calum Chambers – 22yrs – Right Back/Centre Back

Had a successful spell on loan at Borough last season where he became an integral part of their ultimately relegated squad. Saw plenty of action in defence and was able to play at both Centre-half and Right back. Started every game at the U/21 championships this off-season and seems to be a player capable of developing with this Arsenal team. We like him and think he can provide good cover for Bellerin at RB, while also being a familiar partner to fellow U/21 Englishman, Rob Holding. Give him some chances, we think he’s got what it takes!

Mathieu Debuchy – 32 yrs – Right Back

I think it’s fair to say his move to the Emirates has been a total disaster for the Frenchman. Spent another frustrating season in the recovery room with various complaints before making a short-lived return and reinjuring himself in the very same game. Unfortunate, but his time is up and he will probably find himself moved on to a Ligue 1 team shortly. Arsene has spoken at length about the need to trim the squad and Mathieu is undoubtedly amongst those set to leave.

Carl Jenkinson – 25 yrs – Right Back

We love him, he’s a dyed in the wool Gunners man living the dream of playing for his boyhood team. Was used when Debuchy and Bellerin were both out injured in a couple of games but looked sorely out of his depth and played without confidence. Expect to see him on the list of players shipped out before the close of the window. Will always be remembered for his emotional goal at Carrow Road.

Departures:

None, but we expect to see Gibbs, Jenkinson and Debuchy all depart. There are queries over Gabriel and Chambers at this stage as well.

 

Additions:

Sead Kolasinac – Free Transfer from Schalke

Overall:

We have a great mix of experience, athleticism and aggression that should be able to cope with most of what is thrown at them during the season. With a new formation and a handy group of Mids in front of them, we like our defensive flexibility for the new campaign. We will be watching the development of Holding and Bellerin closely again this season and also cant wait to see what Kolasinac brings to the table apart from his shredded rig.

Got any thoughts on our defence? Send us a tweet or comment on this post to kick off a discussion!

We’ll be back tomorrow with a look at our Midfield!

I Never Did Like ABBA & Squad Assessment Part 1 – GK’s

We finally got a little taste of competitive action over night, with the FA Community Shield being played out in front of a decent crowd at Wembley on a fine Summers day. As I spoke about in Fridays blog, the game probably has little meaning for those not amongst the rank and file of the two competing teams. For the rest of us, it was a nice little London derby that served as a preview to what lay ahead in the league and a chance to get one over on our rivals while claiming another piece of silverware at Spurs temporary home ground.

That’s exactly what we went out and did. Chelsea appeared to have continued their tactic of diving, hacking down and elbowing opposition players at every opportunity, at one point even mistaking one of their own for one of ours and eventually found themselves a man down. Cahill was lucky escape without so much as a reprimand for his flying elbow, which caused The BFG’s head to crack open like a tin of Campbell’s soup – his day ended in the first half. Funnily enough though, it was the man who replaced him and new cult hero, Sead Kolasinac, who scored the goal to send the game into a shootout. What the fuck was with the order of that shootout anyway…? Mental. I never did like ABBA.

In the end we got the win, we got to laugh at new Chelsea boy, Alvaro Morata, who scuffed a penalty so horribly I almost felt like the ref should give him another go. Alas, this is not the U/12’s and he will need to put his big boy pants on if he wants to get anywhere in this league.

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3 pre-season shields in 4 seasons and another win at the ground where Spurs will fail miserably this season. Good times indeed!

We now look forward to the first league game of the campaign but before all that business, we are going to take a look at the playing squad and break down some expectations for each senior player for the upcoming season. Starting today with our Shot stoppers.

Goal Keepers:

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Petr Cech

Our undisputed #1 comes into the new season with an absolute wealth of knowledge and prowess in between the posts. Shook off a bit of a calf issue during last season to maintain his position as Wengers preferred option. Should play the same role as last season, taking the gloves for league encounters. As a pure shot stopper, Cech is one of the Premier Leagues all time greats. It may be a bit much to ask but at 35 years of age, he still needs some work on getting down low to his near post and is yet to save a penalty in an Arsenal shirt.

Take a look at some of his best work from last season here.

David Ospina

Was involved in all that early window speculation around a move away from the club, but given the sale of Wojciech Szczesny, now finds himself satisfied to again play usurper to Cech. More than adequate when called upon, he played throughout our cup campaigns and held his place ahead of Cech to be a part of the team that won the FA Cup. At a great age for a goalkeeper, he should retain the role he played last season with the odd league appearance sprinkled in for good measure. Distribution can be a bit iffy at times and he does seem a bit awkward at pulling down the aerial ball, but we like him and expect him to be ready to challenge for the #1 shirt throughout the 2nd half of the season.

Enjoy some of the best saves from the Colombian here.

Departures:

Wojciech Szczesny – Juventus – Transfer in the region of €10m after two seasons on loan at Roma.

Emi Martinez – Getafe – Season long loan for the 24 year old as he looks to gain valuable experience.

Additions:

None

Overall:

You would be hard pressed to find two better choices at any club in the league. Both players have a fantastic amount of knowledge at both domestic and International level. At 35 this may be Cech last season as outright #1, but with Ospina there to support him through another long campaign, he should be able to stand in-between the sticks for most of our league games. Expect another solid showing from these two. Our only concern would be any injury troubles that start to impact either man for longer than a couple of weeks. Matt Macey is still at the clubs U/21 level, but let’s keep fingers crossed we wont have to throw the youngster into the fray just yet.

Got any thoughts on our goalkeepers? Send us a tweet or comment on this post to kick off a discussion!

We’ll be back tomorrow with a look at our Defence!

Stans’ Hunt For Silverware Goes To New Levels

This weekends run-out against the Chavs can’t come quickly enough. Sure, plenty of people out there see it as nothing more than a glorified friendly. But when it’s your mob out there on the park taking on the league champions in front of a decent Wembley crowd, it’s pretty tough to not take it slightly more seriously. It’s a chance to get one over on our rivals, build some sort of momentum for the first league encounter barely a week later and also add to the trophy cabinet along the way. For most of us back here on the currently frosted shores of Oz, it might be a difficult ask to watch the game live. The kickoff time of 11pm (EST) on a Sunday night is far from ideal. I, myself, will be forced to watch on replay at a much more reasonable hour the next day.

After the curtain raiser at Wembley this weekend, it’s full steam ahead as we prepare to tackle another league campaign. Prior to all of that excitement though, we need to look back at all the best bits from this week…

Picking through the bones of another quiet few days, there seems to be a bit of a lull in real news at the moment, with the Neymar to PSG deal dominating the spotlight as far as transfer stories go.

We did see the return of key man, Alexis to the training ground after a suspect lurgy kept him overdue while he holidayed at home in Chile. The panic merchants saw the post and the speculation went into overdrive. Now that we’ve seen him back on the training ground, even running and kicking a ball, the interpretation of his every move has kicked on to ridiculous levels. The news that PSG have moved to pay astronomical money for Neymar obviously puts them out of the race for any deal involving our man and we have remained steadfast in our stance that Alexis will be an Arsenal player for the coming season.  Whether we see the #7 see out those terms is something we are all waiting to see unfold.

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As far as transfers in, there is nothing to speak of. There was a little bit of a hubbub surrounding Wellington and a proposed move to Bordeaux falling through, which pissed a few people off. Since we’ve probably painted out the change rooms at the Emirates more times than Wellington has seen them, I’m not sure we need to worry ourselves about it. We are simply trying to get a $ value for a player still officially ours, nothing wrong with that. Anyway, Werder Bremen have emerged as a possible destination for the Brazilian with a fee in the region of €5m. Whatever.

Oh, in-case you needed another reason to sharpen your sticks when it comes to owner Stan Kroenkes administration of the club – the American entrepreneur launched an online TV channel in the UK this week. What’s the big deal, I love Netflix/Stan/Amazon etc? The storm in this particular teacup comes from the content of “My Outdoor TV” containing programs which show the hunting and killing of endangered animals. Over here in Australia, we are all for living off the land and farming local indigenous wildlife for our own kitchens and fridges – hell, we are the only country that eats it national coat of arms! Mmm, some delicious Roo burgers will have you hopping round the living room like a cut cat!

What most of us are irked by in this particular situation is the fact that hunting endangered animals, even legally, is a bit of an archaic pastime that conflicts with the constitutions of many a modern football fan. In an era of over the top reactions in an attempt to be the most offended or vilified, this is one reflection on the club we could do without. It’s just a bad look plain and simple and while it may not necessarily mean Kroenke has to be given an ultimatum from the Arsenal board, it is an image we would rather not be associated with and the smart money would be on a silent (heh) withdrawal of the channel from the UK market in the near future. We’ve got an idea for a new show from Stans’ hunting channel; it’s about the hunt for an elusive trophy that can only be captured once per year. Where men use their feet to lethal effect against their adversaries over the course of 9 months. Shooting again and again until all other hunters are left in a heaping, bloody pile before finally standing over their smouldering corpses, their prize in hand, glory achieved. That’s a show I think we could all get behind….

In the lead up to the first game of the league campaign next week, we will be running a special week of content analysing our thoughts on what to expect from the senior list throughout the season. It should be an interesting preview to get you through the week, so keep your eyes out for that!

We look forward to bringing you another season of content to digest as we go through the ups and downs of another interesting campaign.

PS: Don’t forget to check out the latest offering from the Pod where we recently spoke with local Arsenal tragic, Elijah about what it means to be a fan of the Arsenal watching from afar….

 

Perez Cops Clip Over Quit Quips & Other News

With less than two weeks until the start of the new premier league campaign and the senior squad now back in full training at London Colney, things are starting to heat up as the pre-season moves towards its final run outs.

The touring party are now back on the lush greenery that is London Colney after a lively jaunt across Australia and China. (We will speak more with a special guest this weekend to relive some of the moments from the tour in Sydney, so keep your eyes and ears out for that one!) In Shanghai we faced up to Bayern Munich and Chelsea amidst horrible atmospheric and pitch conditions. Coming off the back of a lovely trip and run out in front of the packed ANZ stadium crowds, it must have been a real shock to the system to go from a dry 15 degrees to a dense, smoggy 36 degrees in Shanghai. Add to this the conditions on field and a bout of the shits cleaning out a number of players and you’d be forgiven for a poor showing on either night. As we are all well aware, pre-season is no longer only about getting your players in order for the upcoming trials of a new league campaign, no my friends these days we must engage the world-wide fan base and increase our profile in markets where the brand can fulfil its destiny as another channel to feed the coffers. And, look I totally get it and as an Aussie fan who just had the team come to town for the first time in 40 years I am not complaining, but the work the players are putting in these days when as few as 10 years ago they’d be running up a slope in some hidden Austrian training camp, deserves some reflection.

Anyway we got the choccies against Bayern, putting to rest any bad taste we had in our mouths after that little hiccup we had earlier in the year…. Following that Antonio Conte went basically full strength for our little match up and, once his players stopped racially abusing the locals, came away with a straightforward “victory”.

After that it was back home and on to matters more focusses on the new campaign. News this week is that Alexis and Mustafi will rejoin the main group as they kick off their regimes back to match readiness after their extended campaigns at the Confed Cup. Of course, while all this has been going on, the has been no end to the speculation surrounding our little Chilean and things are at a bit of an impasse at the time of writing.

Several reports and articles popped up during the week that announced PSG were back in the chase with claims that 2 separate bids for the front man had been turned down by Arsenal on the back of Wengers refusal to sell the key player this summer. PSG are also hotly linked to Barcas’ Neymar and with a release clause of €220m it might just be a case of them not quite having the cabbage left over to bring Alexis on board.

What is pretty obvious though, is the media’s push towards a deal being sought to reunite Pep Guardiola with his former Barcelona winger at Man City. There’s even the notion that Alexis would be willing to accept less from City than what Arsenal have put on the table to further highlight his desire to leave the Emirates for Etihad. Compound with this the reports of Arsenal being close to striking a deal with Monaco for Thomas Lemar and things seem close to breaking point.

If Arsene and the board have set their minds on keeping Alexis for the last 12 months of his contract before most likely losing him for nothing to the same destination, then we might as well sign Lemar now anyway. It’s not like we need to keep that cash warm in hand while he runs around in Ligue 1 for another season, racking up his value and interest from other parties.

If the resolve of the club is wilted by a fair offer, say in the region of £50+m then we’d be silly not to really. If Alexis isn’t signing our best offer now, he’s hardly going to sign it when he gets 12 other offers placed in front of him this time next year, is he? So why the charade? It will only be a matter of time before this starts to impact preparations of other squad members as well as transfer business and tactical musings as the season draws near. Yes, it will be painful to see another key man move on, but that’s the game nowadays. No point getting your knickers in a twist over something none of us can influence in any way. Let’s just hope that the club do right by everyone and get things cleared up before it all turns to shit.

Speaking of shit, I enjoyed Conte’s comments regarding the ambitions of our Spursy London neighbours – if you haven’t seen the article it’s a good non-arsenal related laugh. Questioning Spurs title ambitions is like asking a vegan why he doesn’t wanna come to your BBQ. Fuck I hate spurs. Good luck staying in the top 4 throughout your stadium rebuild, cunts.

In other news, Lucas Perez has had enough of being given the burnt sausage from Arsene Wenger and has told Spanish outlets that the decision to play new boy Alexandre Lacazette in his number 9 shirt was the final straw. Some might say that his treatment has been unfair given his numbers when he was afforded the opportunity to play, but I say he would have been told the door was open for him to leave well prior to the trip to Sydney (should an offer come in that meets our valuation of the man) and so would be well aware that his short time at the club was over before this tirade. These comments just come off as sour grapes to me and I’d be happy to see us take £10m for him and move on. Get over yourself, mate.

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Hey, Santi Cazorla says he’s going to be back as good as new sometime this season as he continues his long-term rehab from an ongoing Achilles issue that derailed his 16/17 campaign. Fitting the category of “Like a New Signing” to a tee, the little Spanish maestro felt confident his best days were not behind him, saying;

“I do not know how far I am [off returning] but I am convinced that I am going to play football again and at my best level.”

To be fair, this is a return that we would all gladly welcome. His quality on the ball is something that we sorely missed in the heart of midfield last season as we patched up as best we could in his absence.

If you’ve forgotten what he’s all about, check out this Match of the Day Analysis from a while back, it’s pure fucking gold.

Just quickly;

  • Jacky Wilshere is back training with the squad as he steps up his recovery from that season ending leg fracture.
  • The annual pre-season Emirates Cup is on this weekend, as we welcome RB Leipzig, Sevilla and Chris Willocks Benfica. There’s limited coverage so best bet is check out Arsenal.com for live streaming.
  • The away kit was launched by Puma – check it out here
  • We are close to a €55m deal for the aforementioned Thomas Lemar

Catch yas on the flip side!

 

 

That Was The Week That Was #ArsenalinSydney

You’ll have to forgive me for the sparsity of content this past week, modern technologies have conspired against me and disconnected me from the outside world – through the destruction of my modem during a power surge. Such is the life of an Aussie Arsenal blogger/podder.

After a whirlwind tour that saw over 160,000 people pack out ANZ stadium in Sydney over the course of 2 games, the Arsenal bandwagon has rolled on to its next stop, in Shanghai, as preparations continue ahead of the new season.

For scores of us Aussie Arsenal fans, last week was a once in a lifetime event or an event that brought many into the Arsenal family. It was a week almost 18 months in the making. A short stop for the club and only one step along yet another marathon campaign, but as meaningful as anything that will unfold until the final day of the season for those locals it touched.

From the moment that the Emirates flight touched down in Sydney the club and fans engaged in an enthusiastic and positive way. There had been one or two murmurings around the local social network water-cooler, that it may be an idea to voice some displeasure over the way things unfolded throughout the uglier parts of last season. While there will always be one or two among any group that want to go ahead and do their own thing, the overwhelming response to the visit was true to local form in almost every way.

Recently, some of Footballs biggest clubs have tapped into our basically obsessive addiction to sport with teams like Real Madrid, Manchester City, Roma and Liverpool all having packed out the MCG. Earlier in the Winter, Brazil played Argentina in Melbourne, Liverpool returned with a legends outfit and then the mighty Gunners came to town. There’s no doubting our thirst for major sports events here Down Under and this has the added benefit to clubs as being a great way to double pre-season preparations with a quick boost to the coffers.

Fans of the Gunners Down Under were treated to the launch of the 3rd kit for the upcoming season, a marketing campaign set beautifully on Sydney Harbour during magic hour and just ahead of the opening game against Sydney FC at ANZ stadium. There were pre-match drinks at favourable times, which was probably as welcome as any other part of the tour….No 3am kickoff this time!!

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We saw the Arsenal debut of record signing Alexandre Lacazette, who obliged the hordes with a neat finish as we ran out comfortable victors on the night. While the early games of pre-season are undoubtedly about getting some K’s into the legs of the lads as they start to ramp up for the League season, it’s also a good chance for some of the fringe or younger players to strut their stuff in front of the boss and 80,000 fans. Reiss Nelson was a particular highlight for Gunners fans, as his live wire 68 minutes on the right-wing. Joe Willock and Cohen Bramall also looked decent in the aftermath of a BFG overhead kick goal.

Before wrapping up the whirlwind visit, the club packed in various events, engagements, interviews, appearances and training sessions all the while remaining open and friendly with the fans who flocked to all of the above with an unerring endearment that demonstrated further the connection we all have to a club on the other side of the globe (putting it bluntly). Fans lined up for hours, ahead of the open training session/ fan day, to catch a glimpse of their heroes up close and in the flesh. They had their photos taken with the Golden League Trophy (from the unbeaten season), the most recent FA Cup, hear from Ray Parlour – who apparently treated himself to more than his fair share of amber refreshment over the few days in town! – before looking ahead to the 2nd game against the Wanderers on the Saturday night.

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It was a day/night of celebrations, of first times and returns to old times. The scores of photos flooding our social media channels stood as testament to many a memorable day, not to mention the heart-warming stories of meeting childhood idols or taking your kids to see the Gunners for the very first time as a family. The club had time for all of us and showed the kind of class and interaction with its fans that many of those others I mentioned earlier, sorely lacked. There is no doubting the respect shown from both sides of the fence speaks clearly to the type of organisation the Arsenal is and to who the Gunners Down Under really are. The reciprocal love of the game and mutual understanding displayed last week really was a credit to all involved.

While there were crowd figures of over 80,000 in attendance at both games, there is no number that can be placed on how many people the tour touched in other ways. Here’s hoping fans of the Gunners Down Under won’t have to wait another 40 years to create some more of these great moments. For many of us, it’s back to business as usual – here in Melbourne, we will get back to our local cafe (where they charge like a wounded bull, no doubt) to chew over the week that was with our bearded counterparts.

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We will be back soon with a new pod that will share some of the moments you had in Sydney as well as getting back into all the latest news, views and banter you all love.

Check back in early next week for a report on the weekends news!

 

Thanks for the memories……

Arsene Lands Laca – Weekly Wrap – 07/07/17

G’day everyone and welcome to the end of what has been a pretty exciting week from an Arsenal point of view. There’s only one place to start, so let’s get into it!

As we reported on Monday, the expected signing of Alexandre Lacazette was announced on Wednesday afternoon (UK time). An initial fee in the region of £46.5m with possible add-ons amounting to £52.6m means that the French striker has become Arsenal’s record signing, surpassing the £42.4m outlay for Mesut Ozil back in 2013.

Last season’s Ligue 1 second top scorer was pretty pumped to be joining up with his new team mates following his medical at the start of the week and provided some of his thoughts on the move to the official club website, saying;

“Arsenal are the club that plays the best football in England so I really wanted to come here.” Before adding,

“Throughout my childhood and thanks to Arsenal’s former striker Thierry Henry and other French players, I always dreamed of playing for this club so that dream has been fulfilled. I like clubs with a history and the fact that the manager has been here for a while shows that it is a stable club. There are quite a few French players at the club which will make it easy to settle in.”

The man who has reportedly had his eye on our new man since as far back as 10 years ago also had some nice things to say about the coup, stating;

“We are very happy to have Alexandre join our group. He has shown over a number of years that he can score goals and that he is a very efficient finisher.

“He has very interesting technical qualities and a strong character. So he is a guy who is a great addition for us, and someone who will help us challenge at the top-level this season.”

Following the UEFA imposed transfer ban on Atletico Madrid, where Lacazette had initially agreed terms, Arsenal moved swiftly to secure the 26 year olds services. With his arrival at pre-season training yesterday, we were also treated to the news that he is expected to travel with the squad to Sydney next week, as the club plays two games at ANZ stadium before moving on to more preseason fun in China.

The move should now allow Arsene and his team of highly skilled and well chuffed negotiators the time to focus on trimming down a rather hefty squad while also tying down deals to retain key players on long-term deals.

The addition of Lacazette is the second of the transfer window so far, following on from the signing of Bosnian Left Back, Sead Kolasinac.

Options at the front now look pretty handy and the addition of Lacazette to the mob only further enhances the likelihood of a departure from that area of the squad. With the likes of Alexis, Theo and Welbeck all offering something different in attack, we look well suited for the coming campaign.

Where this leaves the futures of Lucas Perez and Oli Giroud is still to be worked out, but it would seem to be highly unlikely that they would fancy staying on now that the club has made its record move for a fancy new striker. Reports throughout the week still strongly tie both players to moves away from the club with Giroud the subject of rumoured interest from West Ham and Everton. Perez meanwhile is attracting interest from the continent and Spain in particular, with Depor, Sevilla, Espanyol and Valencia all said to be keeping an ear to the ground ahead of any potential move for the 28-year-old.

Speaking of squad options, Arsene should now be of the mind to try to trim down his list ahead of the new season. The man himself spoke recently of his “very heavy” squad and with the latest additions to the lineup, will now be forced to make his mind up on the futures of some of his senior players. We all know that Alexis, Ozil and the Ox are coming into the final 12 months of their deals to keep them at the Emirates and if we had things our own way, we’d much prefer to keep them than see them pull on another teams jersey. I think in the case of Ozil, it’s more clear-cut that he will remain than the others. By the by though, players like Wilshere & Szczesny have returned from their loan spells and find themselves in a similar position. While no reports strongly link Jack with a move away there were early summer stories of interest from Juve for our Polish stopper, with a laughable fee of £4m quoted. Add to this the various stories linking David Ospina with an imminent departure and things become slightly more complicated.

There was even that report that stated Emi Martinez would become Cechs’ understudy for the coming season.

Kieran Gibbs is another whose future surely lies elsewhere after Nacho Monreal again dominated the Left-back position during the previous campaign, despite the relative fitness of the Englishman. Now, with the addition of Kolasinac, Gibbs must surely be on the move as he looks to get his career back on track. While we are on the defence, there are two at right-back who must surely be ushered on to pastures new before the window closes. I would hold a firm view that there will be no new arrivals until we trim some of the fat from the squad and also, possibly tie down those we mean to keep at the club. If we can get a definitive decision from Alexis and the Ox as to their intentions, then Arsene should find himself free to supplement the list according to what our needs are ahead of the first fixtures of the new season.

Right, just before we let you off to enjoy your the lead in to the weekend, you may have noticed the red circle on your calendar for this coming Thursday. Yes, that’s right, the Arsenal will finally be here to strut their stuff in Sydney as part of the much awaited Tour Down Under.

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In anticipation of the massive interest from Arsenal fans across the country as to the events and activities planned for the visit, we will be recording a fresh podcast for you all with a special guest who can share all the relevant and important details you need to know to have the best time possible. Keep an eye on Twitter and Facebook for updates over the weekend and if you have any questions you want us to look into just reach out via any of the usual channels.

Have a good one!

_The BFG

 

 

 

Arsenal Close in on Record Deal for Lacazette

G’day and welcome to Monday! The weather around here is cold enough to freeze the nuts off a plough, so hopefully you’re all tucked up away from the worst of it as we take a look at the latest developments over the weekend.

The major news in the last 48 hours is the ongoing progress of negotiations between Arsenal and Lyon over a deal for Alexandre Lacazette. With multiple reports, statements and quotes coming thick and fast it seems the general gist of the story is that the deal could be announced as early as Monday UK time. The very chatty Lyon prez, Aulas, has played down talk of the deal exceeding €60m but confirmed that the fee would equal a record for both clubs. Arsenal’s current record transfer fee was the £42.5m deal we completed for Mesut Ozil, back in 2013.

“The deal will happen for something between €45 and €50 million. To be close to €50m is something unique, and will be a record for Arsenal and a record for Lyon,” Aulas said. Previous reports of a figure in the region of £44m would now seem to be right in the ball park. Whether the deal includes any add-ons or other clauses remains to be seen.

The French international, 26, is expected to be in London early this week to complete the formalities with an announcement set to follow shortly after. Lacazette had been set to join up with Atletico prior to their transfer ban, but with the Madrid team out of the running and having also recently re-signed Antoine Griezmann to a long-term deal, we’ve swooped in and now stand on the verge of our first major signing of the window. Lacazette has been in lethal form in recent seasons with Lyon and found the net on 37 occasions over his 45 starts last campaign.

News of the imminent deal for Lacazette was slightly overshadowed by some concerning reports that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had turned down Arsenal’s latest contract offer, casting further doubt over his future at the club. He is one of a number of players at the club entering the final 12 months of their contracts and at 23 years of age, the Ox is now looking for more than just a decent increase in his pay packet. Having been made the target of speculation in regards to a move to Liverpool, news of his decision to reject our latest offer leaves us in a difficult position. Having invested much time in nurturing his talent throughout recent injury interrupted seasons, the Ox broke through to become a shining light on field – especially as the season drew to a close. Whether we allow him to run down his contract and risk losing him on free this time next season or recoup what money we can for him now, most likely to a Premier League rival – it seems that he will have to move on in order to get the playing time that he is determined to have.

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Finally, Alexis Sanchez gave a revealing media conference while on international duty at the Confederations cup during which he commented on his future.

When asked whether Claudio would become his team-mate at club level as well as with the national team, he responded; “Good question! Right now I’m focused on the Confederations Cup. When this is finished I will see if I stay of if I go. I don’t know.” Before then being asked if he knew whether his future was clear; “Yes it’s clear, but I can’t tell you.” He then refused to go into further detail over his Arsenal future, batting away the Sky Sports reporter with a simple; “I don’t know, my friend, I don’t know”

The current relationship between Alexis and the club is undoubtedly strained with several instances of a difference in opinion being played out on the field, most notably when he was left out of the squad that was defeated at Liverpool in the New Year following reports of locker room tantrums on top of the on-field displays of frustration.

Pep Guardiola’s Manchester outfit has been strongly linked with a move for the Chilean, but whether Arsene sanctions a deal to cash in on his top scorer from last season is a point of debate for fans of the Arsenal, as we wait to see who blinks first in what will prove to be the most important saga of the summer for the club. Selling to a direct league rival or allowing him to leave on a free in 12 months (possibly to the same destination) are the only two options should Alexis refuse to sign any deal tabled by us.

It’s like choosing between a shit sandwich and a kick in the plums.

Let’s pray his comments refer to the fact that he wants to remain at the Emirates and simply can’t announce anything officially until the finer points are locked away. After all, we are notoriously fastidious when it comes to dotting the “I’s” and crossing the “T’s” before making any kind of official statement regarding player dealings.

*Gulp*

_The BFG