The Equaliser & then the defeat

After a busy spell during which I have found new employment opportunities, attended the wedding of my sister and enjoyed a drought-breaking premiership victory for the other sporting love in my life (Richmond FC), I thought it might be a good time to get back into the swing of things with Gunners Down Under and see what I’d been missing out on with Arsenal over the past few weeks.

Upon returning to a somewhat regular routine of reviewing the weekend’s league action as well as watching our games in full, it seems that very little has changed. I guess it’s difficult to act surprised and as Matty B has made quite clear recently there seems very little we can do from our comfy positions as distant fans of the club that could possibly impact fortunes on the field in any way. So the emotional investment that was so often the heart on his sleeve has, temporarily, been tucked back into his shirt.

For those of us watching and trawling the social pages week in and week out, this seems like a totally reasonable response to a club that has continued to act in a way that undermines the very confidence and emotional (as well as financial) investment that fans all across the world have made in the club. The relationship between any football club and it’s fans is fundamentally simple. We support the club so that they may prosper while they attract fans by ensuring that they show it will not be in vain for them to invest in said club. All over the world, people are looking for a team to follow as the world game expands and consumes all in its path. But even away from the world game and especially here in the sunny land of Oz, sports craving locals new to the scene will drain their mates over who they should follow and why.

As a long time/long distance Arsenal fan, I would have a really tough time spruiking the reasons as to why any new comer should put their eggs into the Arsenal basket. What kind of friend would that make me right now? It’s almost worth wondering if there should be a legislature forbidding that kind of behavior on grounds of mental anguish…

Still, it isn’t the fans who are to blame in the case of the pain being inflicted when it comes to following the Arsenal. This is a club spiraling around the edges of the plug hole, where instead of simply reaching for the plug and stopping the spin down the drain, we have been pouring more water into the tub as we helplessly try to cling to the ever receding waterline. Arsene has been endlessly running back and forth from the same old well, with the same old bucket given to him years ago. Well, Arsene’s legs aren’t what they were 15 years ago and the bucket is now more like one of those steely mesh things my missus uses for filtering my pubes out of our hot tub. Colin, der!

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Meanwhile, as Arsene scrambles back to the well after an embarrassing 2nd half capitulation at Vicarage Lane (the first defeat at Watford in over 3 decades), the men with the power to put the plug in the tub are down at the pub, measuring dicks. Stan Kroenke & Alisher Usmanov have been firing shots across the bow in a quite public manner that only serves to further indict the current (lack of) leadership. Rectifying the current situation is not going to be as simple as getting someone new in to carry the bucket, or letting Wenger have a new bucket or finally getting Kroenke and the gang to put the plug in the tub. We are in a position now where all three of those things need to be acted upon. The delay in any action is not only hurting the fans but the reputation of a team that was, until very recently, held in lofty regard by many of the prestige clubs around the world and it’s coterie.

Now we are the punch line in many a joke. The whipping boy for malaise and inaction and mediocrity. The crux of media agenda to stir up a hornets nest with the knowledge that as long as the current regime sits in office, the clickable material will flow like glorious media honey.

We aren’t feared anymore, there is no air of confidence emanating from our squad, the manager or our home ground.

Troy Deeney picked our current frame of mind apart in several post match interviews, where he labelled himself “The Equaliser”, after coming on, taking it upto and then away from an Arsenal team bereft of leadership, confidence and prowess. As a fan, I couldn’t help but laugh. Not like in the way when you hear a particularly offensive one liner at the bar, but more like the laugh of a person who is quickly realising that this club is the laughing stock of the league. Troy fucking Deeney, give me a spell!

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If that’s what it has come to, where opposition captains publicly lambaste the team after a late victory and no one bats an eye, then things really have passed the point of no return. Sure there was the inevitable retort from some of our senior players, but what we really needed was to see them respond on the pitch during the game, as it was being challenged from our grasp.

So now, we travel to Belgrade for a game which many of us on distant shores will have difficulty in seeing in any meaningful way ahead of an away trip to a sluggish but dangerous Everton, in what is shaping as yet another danger match in a season not even 10 games deep. For now there is nothing we can do but watch on as the exploding clowns car that is Arsenal FC drives headlong into the (un)known.

Join us early next week as we make a return to the airwaves with a few interesting announcements as well as a special guest to get you all smiling again.

 

Don’t forget to check out the Sports Writers Festival coming up shortly in Sydney and Melbourne. Some of your favourite journos, bloggers, podders and sports personalities will be in attendance – including Arsenal podding/blogging royalty, Andrew Mangan of Arseblog.

You can get all the relevant info for the event right here:

sportswritersfestival.com.au/

 

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Special Event – Sports Writers Festival

Special Announcement!

Some of your favorite broadcasters, bloggers & podders will be coming to Melbourne & Sydney SOON as part of the Sports Writers Festival, inc fellow Aussie Gunners fan and radio personality – Francis Leach and Legendary Arsenal Podcaster/Blogger – Andrew Mangan (Arseblog)!

We will be providing additional details as they develop but for all current info, you can head to;

sportswritersfestival.com.au/

Also check for updates on the Podcast/Twitter/Blog as well as Arsenal Sydney/Arsenal Mel & Vic fan pages for event details relevant to your city!

Truth or Dare? Arsenal’s Chance to Answer the Critics

As we emerge from the wastelands of the summer transfer window and look for a way back to redemption, a lot of us probably find ourselves wondering “how can we salvage anything from this mess?”. It’s something we here at GDU have been contemplating since our last blog. With no league football for over a fortnight now, many of us found ourselves drawn into the quagmire that was our diabolical end to the window off the back of a turd sandwich performance at Anfield. Fair enough too, both of those scenarios required unparalleled outrage given our expectations based on the things we are repeatedly told by those in power at the club.

Perhaps now that the dust has settled on that stoush and with the squad locked in for the rest of 2017, it would be a good time to think about what we can set ourselves on to achieve for the remainder of the season. Forget the power mongers, the would be ITK’s and the pundits winding us all up for more clicks and hits on their pay-walled websites. These people can’t influence one damn thing when it comes to matchday performances. That’s all down to the players and how they want to respond to the warranted (for the most part) criticism that has been squared at them in a constant stream since the defeat at Stoke. Who is going to be the one to pull this group together and say “whether we like it or not, we are all in this together. So, how do you want to answer the critics?” Is there anyone in the playing group capable of galvanizing such an obviously disjointed team?

As for myself, I am a fan of the football. I don’t give a fuck about Stan Kroenke, Ivan Gazidis or Dick Law. Sure, they provide me with plenty of fodder for creating content, but when it all boils down I could care less about what they’re upto. It’s results on the pitch that drives me. I want to see Arsenal putting out a side that I can get behind and channel my passion for the game into. I want to get excited about seeing a kid like Reiss Nelson find his way into the senior squad and go on one of his twisty dribbles up the field. I want to see my passion reflected by the players on game day. What we have seen so far has got many of us concerned that the passion has gone out of this group, and with good reason. The mismanagement of the first 3 games of the season cannot continue if we are going to get even a sniff of redemption. We have to wait and watch on now as we take measure of how much impact that mishandling will have on the rest of the campaign. No doubt it has played a part in some of the performances we have seen so far and for that Wenger will have to suffer the consequences.

The great thing about this game is that there is always another game to bring yourself back, no matter how far down the well you go and we are a long way down said well. Have you ever seen The Ring? That movie scared the absolute shit out of me when it first came out. When the little girl’s mum suffocates her and kicks her into the well, damn that was a mistake… Fortunately for Arsenal we don’t have to rely on supernatural video tapes to enact vengeance on those who have wronged us, no. We get a rope lowered down on a regular basis for the next 8 months or so, with every 3 points we collect along the way up added to the bucket. We just need to grab the rope and pull ourselves up.

There will undoubtedly be a fair amount of work to do in order to appease the players who had the rug pulled out from under them recently. How we get Alexis & Mustafi back on side after they were shown the door before having it slammed in their face remains to be seen. You’d like to think that in the world of professional football, they would just be able to put that behind them and focus on getting back to it. My tip is that it won’t be so simple and we may see the reaction to those situations play out in the way of dodgy form over the next couple of weeks. Alexis is copping a hiding from the Chile fans at the moment because, well you know…football fans. He responded to the flagellation through social media (as is the way in modern sports) to deflect the heat as much as he could.

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There’s no doubt that things are weighing on his mind. We need him fit and firing on all cylinders to be any chance this season. Top 4? Shit, I’m worried about West Brom right now, nevermind making top 4.

With the WC qualifiers out-of-the-way and the squad back in London ahead of the weekend, we now look to our response against Bournemouth. The Cherries also find themselves in a bit of an early season slump and will be out to send a message of their own. There’s not going to be any red carpet rolled out for our boys, every team in the league is circling the boat now with the smell of blood in the water. Nothing will give Eddie Howe more motivation than to know his charges can kick-start the rest of their own season with a win against the wounded Arsenal.

Pay no attention to the journos and pundits who might play this one-off as a “hiding to nothing” for our lads, this is as important a game to win as it is not to lose. A win goes some way to burying the horror which has been the season so far. It gives a little platform to go to Cologne on the following Thursday night and kick off our Europa league campaign in positive fashion and build a head of steam up for the Sunday trip to Stamford bridge (where it will all be undone as we get smacked all over the park :P) We’re joking of course….

The best time to answer all those who have railed against the team for 2 weeks solid now, is this weekend, at our place with 60,000 fans just waiting to help pull them up out of the darkness. Either that or push the lid across the well for good.

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Let’s hope we can answer in the best possible way!

Highbury Died for This: Arsenal in Crisis

Well, here we are. Not yet 4 games into a new Arsene Wenger contract extension and the club is now widely criticised as being “in crisis”. To be fair, we don’t really need to add the quotations, even if no one else had said it before – we would be of that view in any case.

After a trip to Anfield which saw the manager play Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain out of position at RWB off the back of another contract rejection, leave his record signing and team of the season Left Back on the pine in favour of team mates who, while you can’t discount their desire, are simply not cut out to start in those positions, before shrinking into his pitch side seat as he oversaw one of the most inept performances seen in modern times, we then came to the final days of the summer transfer window. A transfer window in which it had become crystal clear we would need to be involved in further after witnessing a start to the campaign which highlighted some of our glaring weaknesses. With early transfer predictions putting us as being one of the big shakers this window, we watched on with nonchalant horror as we came to the realisation that there would be no further investment in the squad. The handling of the AOC situation was a dire example of our lack of strategy for players coming into the final 12 months of their contracts.

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With the player having found a good run of injury free from throughout the previous season and being a catalyst (see what I did there?) behind our change in form that saw us close out the end of the season with some semblance of half decent football, our response was to;

  • Allow the player to play through this good form, knowing that he was coming to the end of his current deal, without tabling an extension.
  • Make comment in the press that he owes the club after so much time and energy were invested in him. Basically trying to guilt trip him into accepting terms which he had already made clear he wasn’t open to accepting.
  • Continue to play him out of position (RWB/LWB) knowing he wanted a CM role, after we told him how much he owed us and while the likes of Xhaka/Ramsey/Coquelin all fumbled about ahead of him.
  • Offer him £180,000 per week without the inclusion of the conditions he so clearly identified as hurdles in him accepting the 1st few offers, basically asking him to trade cash for career direction.
  • Play him against the team he had been in discussions with all summer, out of position, just days after rejecting your final offer.
  • Selling him for good money, to a league rival and folding the money into our pockets rather than replacing someone who was a key factor in last seasons’ turnaround and then cry poor as the window came to a close.

There are many more examples of mismanagement from the previous weeks’ efforts, but this one feels the most pertinent. There was only ever one outcome here given our refusal to accommodate any of the Ox’s conditions in a window where it has become blatantly obvious of our need to shake things up in Central midfield. The fact that we also offered him £180k per week, before selling him for £40m and then crying poor should be more than enough to prove that not only are things not changing at the club – things are worse than ever.

Not even 4 games into a 2 year extension (and £2m pay rise for Wenger), the club is back in crisis with nowhere else to look but in the mirror. What is the manager up to? The team selection at Anfield was diabolical. If ever there was a case for self sabotage to simply prove a point, this is the one. The recent past is littered with high-profile losses to our opponents. Think back and remember the losses to Crystal Palace (0-3),  Bayern Munich (1-5 x 2) and in previous seasons such as Wenger’s 1000th game (0-6) etc etc… but only the Liverpool defeat was an example of a team being sent out with players completely out of position, left on the bench or omitted from proceedings altogether.

The performance itself screamed of discourse from a playing group clearly no longer motivated or interested in taking on board what the manager is offering them. Speaking from my varied experience with team sports and coaching, once a group of players lose belief in the process to win games that they are trying to emulate on field, it is basically impossible to get that group back on track without major shifts in both staff and/or approach. You can change a few players around (and it’s pretty fucking obvious that we are in need of a few new faces), but without a new philosophy being brought to them, the malaise that has infected the existing players will eventually seep into the new additions and the rot continues…

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The problem for us, as fans, is that we know the club is in desperate need of leadership across all levels. On field we lack natural leaders. For all our business to bring in players with a bit of edge and fire (Xhaka, Mustafi, Alexis) two seem to be lost to the ether of mismanagement while Xhaka is floundering in the mire with no-one to throw him a line to safety. It means that when things do start to go bad in-game, like against Stoke where a turn of iffy luck played against us, we don’t have the guy who can rally the troops in order to maintain focus and see the game out. Instead, we spiral so quickly out of control that we make a team who basically met for the 1st time 4 weeks ago look like world beaters.

On the sidelines Arsene sits passive. We know his routine inside and out. So does every manager in the league. We hate high pressing oppositions, teams that let us have the ball then press us into our own half until we make that inevitable mistake and the opportunity presents to score. Of the 8 goals we have conceded this term, 6 have come directly from turnovers and within 10 seconds of the turnover being made. Wenger rarely emerges from his chair to dictate in-game adjustments, relying on his players to read the game and adapt accordingly within the structures set in the lead up. He will not gesticulate. He does not emote. He will not allow Steve Bould to even rise from his position in the number 2 chair. At 70mins we see the switches to personnel and we put our eggs in the Giroud basket. It is so predictable. The fans are fed up and now, finally, we can see the players giving up the ghost. How many times can you go through the same old routine and expect that results are going to change?

With no leadership coming from the man who is meant to steer this team when things seem to be going against the players on field, what more can we expect from them? I don’t totally excuse the players for the game at Anfield, but they are by no means solely to blame. So who makes the management team accountable for the performance of the team on pitch?

In the case of Arsenal, it seems Arsene is accountable to no one but himself. Given an extension against the advice of Ivan Gazidis, Wenger appears to have been given his previous PD with a view to maximise revenues while minimising expenditure and maintaining the teams place in the league. Think it was coincidence that we lost £20m in CL revenue but then came through the transfer window with a net gain in the region of £25m? For a man so clearly calling for change at the club, when it became clear that he would be overruled on his stance for changing the manager and bringing a new outlook to the club, Gazidis should have seen the writing on the wall and pulled up stumps. Knowing that the influence of the manager outweighs your own influence over the administration of the club as CEO, is a position that cannot be taken forward in any measure of business. It’s this kind of lack of decisiveness which permeates an aura of acceptance at the Emirates. It underlines the issues at the club as starting from the very top and presents a very worrying formula for everyone underneath with interest in the club that is not solely financial. With no one able to assert their influence strongly enough to incite the change that is so desperately needed to get this club back on track, it looks to be down to the fans/media to exercise methods already gaining traction.

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It’s embarrassing to be an Arsenal fan right now. We don’t inspire fear or hate or jealousy anymore. I actually have people coming up to me at work to tell me they feel sorry for me. It’s hard to maintain the fight and the passion to bring yet another long-winded, negatively toned piece of content to you all. Matty B can’t bring himself to do it at the moment and who can blame him?

When you invest so much of your personal time and energy into supporting a team from the opposite side of the world, the least you would expect is that the same team gives you every indication that they are out to reward that dedication with success on the field. When that is not only MIA but willfully and blatantly the case, it’s kind of hard to give a fuck in the same way for too long.

 

RIP Matty B, I’ll light a candle in the window at GDU headquarters for you.

 

For some bonus lol’s, check out Arsene Aug 2016 vs Arsene Aug 2017 press comments following defeats to Liverpool

Last season, here vs Last week here.

Catalyst For Change, Just Not When You Expected

It’s probably a lot earlier in the season than I was expecting to be writing this sort of piece, but after 2 games in the league and no real activity in the transfer market it seems like as good a time as any to start asking a few questions.

Arsenals’ catchcry during the early off-season/end of last season was “A catalyst for change”, Ivan Gazidis repeatedly mentioned the need to create an environment at the club that forced action to change an outdated approach and failed tactics at keeping the club at the top-level. When the 2 year extension of Arsene Wenger was announced finally, after months of damaging speculation and reluctance to be transparent with its players and fans alike, it hardly felt like the change we had been looking for. Given that we are all well and truly aware of the legendary stubbornness and rigidity of the gaffer, it seemed almost impossible to think that after so long in the role, Gazidis and the board would be able to exert enough pressure that would prompt the Frenchman into reinventing himself and the team. When we saw a tactical switch in the match against Middlesbrough in mid-April, in hindsight it looked like the pressure had finally cracked the dam wall. In isolation a formation change during the season is not really news, but when it’s Arsene Wenger making such a change it felt like a monumental moment in our season. It was the first time in 20 years that Wenger had dropped the back 4 and reverted to a back 3 that had existed in some form way back in the months before his tenure began. Back in the days when we had Keown, Bould & Adams all at their peak. The switch from a then successful defensive lineup to the updated back 4 was part of the innovation that Wenger bought to Highbury in those halcyon years where he innovated the game overall in England. As the years went by though, football progressed and in recent seasons the tactical switch to a defensive 3 has seen many lower teams in the league able to compete at a much higher level. Playing on the counter against their possession based elite opponents. Last season saw Chelsea storm away with the title off the switch to a back 3 setup with Spurs following suit and not far behind in the overall race. By the time we finally adopted the approach, the season was well and gone.

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We saw the decision to deny the club a restructuring of its football department by creating a role for a Director of Football to come in and provide expert knowledge and assistance to Wenger to keep us relevant in both contractual and player movement areas. While we have brought in additions to the back room staff (Jens Lehman & Darren Burgess) these are all men who will report into Wenger, not challenge him on matters regarding the senior squad.

We came into the transfer window with some optimism, the early gossip and much hyped “chase for Mbappe” amounting to nothing more than filler in the transfer columns. The signing of Bundesliga Left back of the season on a bosman was a choice piece of business which was then followed by the July transfer of record signing Alex Lacazette for £52m. Soon after the excitement died down, the boss talked of the need to shed some of the weight in the squad before new additions could be considered again. The contract situations of several players rumbled through the rest of the preseason as we are well aware, all of which are still unresolved. 3 key players from last season now all have under 12 months remaining on their deals with Alexis and Chamberlain both unlikely to go on after that if we can keep them through this window. The once vaunted “British Core” are now seemingly on the scrap heap, but with so much invested in them during the last round of contract negotiations, there is a problem trying to move them on due to the high wages they are paid while basically playing smaller and smaller roles at the club. Jenkinson has been loaned out yet again. Gibbs and Wilshere look unlikely to ever play for us again. Ox & Theo are both up in the air. We are now forced into a position where we have to squeeze every last dollar out of any interested party and are then at the whim of the player to accept what would most likely constitute a pay cut in order to essentially go and perform more work…

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While we have started the season continuing with the back 3 that brought us some success at the end of last season, over the course of the two games we have been far from convincing. We got lucky against the Foxes, it’s not every week that two subs will come on and rescue the game for you when you give up 3 simple goals. Stoke was just how the Leicester game would turn out the other 80% of the time. Sure, we had a few iffy calls from the ref but that shit is gonna happen throughout any season and when you simply don’t create or take the chances you make during open play and couple that together with goals that are totally preventable, you don’t have anywhere else to look but in the mirror.

Playing a back 3 works, when you play it with 3 centre halves. Hell, you can even get away with 2/3 there as we saw last season when Monreal joined up with Kos and Mustafi in the last line, but when Mustafi is your only out-and-out CB in a back 3 that’s asking for the whip. With Per Mertesacker (captain and FA Cup hero remember) sat on the bench and Rob Holding sitting next to Calum Chambers (England U/23 CB pairing this summer) in the stands sinking pints, it was kind of exacerbating to see Monreal and new Left back, Kolasinac, trying to anchor a formation that is beyond them. Not only this but we have shoehorned the Ox into the LWB and then RWB role, seemingly to give him the minutes he so desperately wants, when it is obvious that he cannot be a long-term solution for either position. Against Stoke, this meant that our premier Right sided defender was played at LWB. A position he has never started in for us previously.

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For a squad so heavy on options and “impossible to manage” Arsene seems unwilling or unable to use the options that are currently available to him. The substitutions made over the weekend were baffling as well. Theo Walcott coming on with a Stoke team sitting back in lines so close together they could basically touch the shoulder of the bloke in front of them, yeh-nah mate it was never gonna work.

It’s off to Liverpool this weekend, in what now shapes as an absolutely season defining game. With the returns of Koscielny and Alexis both more than likely, we should see both of those guys step straight back into the 1st XI, but whether we see a continuation of the back 3 for another week or Ox/Bellerin on the right/left sides again, remains to be seen.

Wenger spoke during the past fortnight about the responsibility a manager has in giving younger players a chance to shine, even at the expense of points in the league. He has various options to go to, the question is – will he follow his own advice? How long until the pressure of early 2017 returns to the Emirates? Was the catalyst for change a simple rallying call to again appease fans who demanded something had to give?

We may see as early as this weekend.

 

You’re probably wondering where the hell that podcast we promised you is. I urge you to petition my co-host @MattyBAus and convince him to get himself up for 45 mins a week so we can bring his despondency to the airwaves. I’m worried about him, I think Arsenal are slipping from his heart.

#prayformatty

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!