Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Podolski want him, Ozil loves him and Wenger's quite about a deal for World Cup winning midfielder

By Joss Bennett

Usually during the madness of the summer transfer window, newspaper outlets and online sources add ‘journalistic licence’ to what is 90% of the time simply a guessing game. Someone decides what Arsenal are really lacking is a striker, and so every man and his dog is linked with the club whether a real target or not – as seen with Loic Remy, among others.

At first glance, the story of Sami Khedira’s proposed move to Arsenal seemed like another one of those stories. A German international who was injured for most of last season and yet is still highly regarded amongst most for both club and country – and with apparent wage demands of £100,000 a week plus on top of a sizeable transfer fee for a player whose contract runs out in a year is hardly an archetypal Arséne Wenger signing.

And yet the story has continued to run, and at the moment he seems to be the favourite amongst an increasingly short list of ‘defensive midfielders’ to join the Gunners.

Should the Real Madrid midfielder join the club, it would certainly pose an interesting tactical question for Wenger and his staff – and surely presents plenty of risk (whether or not that’s considered a good thing these days).

When playing for his country, Khedira has been a far cry from a holding midfielder. Making only three tackles in five appearances during the World Cup – yet four shots (one goal) and five key passes (one assist), and averaging 0.8 dribbles per game – clearly shows a freer, more box-to-box role.

Mikel Arteta, meanwhile, Arsenal’s first choice holding midfielder last season, averaged 3.4 tackles per game with only 0.6 key passes per game, 0.5 dribbles per game and a total of 12 shots in more than 30 league appearances in 2013/14. Even Aaron Ramsey, the more attacking of Arsenal’s double pivot averaged 3.3 tackles per game in a standout season for him.

However, with the Spaniard now 32 – and his only back-up, Mathieu Flamini now 30 – there is no doubt that he needs replacing sooner rather than later.

In theory, there’s no overwhelming reason why two box-to-box players can’t work together (and it may well be something Wenger sees Ramsey and Jack Wilshere doing in the future).

However, if it were to work it would require both to have a good understanding of one another and the rest of their team and excellent discipline.

While both may be capable of these, it would be a shame to limit Ramsey’s attacking freedom after a season when he clearly found his confidence and scored 10 league goals, and the move would certainly have to be completed soon before Wenger was forced into trial and error in competitive games.

The other option if a deal were to happen would of course be for Wenger to use Khedira in a similar way to vice-captain Arteta. Despite his role for Die Mannschaft, the 6’2” former Stuttgart man is capable of playing a more withdrawn role, as his performances for Real Madrid in 2012/13 showed.

In that season, Khedira’s offensive stats were significantly lower than during the World Cup.

Playing in a deeper role behind Luka Modric, Angel Di Maria and – perhaps importantly – Mesut Ozil, the German made just 0.2 dribbles per game and managed less than one shot and key pass per game. On the other hand, his tackling stats rose to two per game and a further 1.2 interceptions per game (not too far short of Arteta’s 2 per game ratio).

So whether Khedira would need ‘converting’ like Arteta did is perhaps up for debate, although we have seen over the years that Wenger has the know-how to change a player’s role if necessary, and he certainly enjoys the challenge.

However, whether or not Khedira would fit into the Gunners’ system (or indeed whether it would have to be changed to accommodate him) may prove to be less of a stumbling block than the player’s wage demands.

While the apparent £45 million already spent by Wenger may suggest a changing of the times in some respects, it’s difficult to envisage the manager giving in to the demands of a player who would surely be a luxury rather than necessity at this point.

With players like Lars Bender and Morgan Shneiderlin seemingly available at a similar price and less tactical risk, a move for Khedira seems to have less business sense as first choice but an envious third or fourth choice.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Another done deal -Speculation mounts over star's departure -And look who's back!

Morning Gooners.

The most expected transfer of Arsenal's summer dealings has been done as the club finally announced the signing of Mathieu Debuchy on the standard long term contract for an undisclosed fee.

Clearly right back was an area which needed addressing following the departure of Bacary Sagna and in Debuchy we have a player who has both international and champions league experience. While I'm sure many aren't excited by him joining, I think we'll all be pleasantly surprised with his contribution to the team by the end of the season.

Debuchy pushed Sagna out of the France side for four of their five World Cup games, so is clearly highly regarded by Didier Deschamps, who is clearly a good judge of character as he doesn't like Samir Nasri.

Arsenal have handed our new signing the number two shirt and I have to admit, I'm looking forward to seeing both our first choice full backs wearing two and three (Gibbs). It just feels right.

While Debuchy has signed, a player who is being rumoured to be leaving is Carl Jenkinson. West Ham is the latest club to be linked with the 22-year-old who may wish to leave the Emirates for the season on loan to gain valuable first team experience.

Personally I don't believe that Jenkinson will leave the club permanently as mooted in the Daily Mail. He clearly is well regarded by Arsene Wenger otherwise the manager wouldn't have awarded him with a five year deal along with the British core in 2012/2013. But a year of football under his belt will stand him in good stead for the rest of his career.

And finally, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott have both returned to first team training, giving them both good chance of being fit for the start of the season.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Khedira's agent admits to contract talks -Owen predicts Arsenal's downfall again

Morning Gooners!

Sami Khedira's agent has been speaking about the German midfielder's future and admits he's been discussing his client's future with Real Madrid.

Jorg Neubauer, Khedira's agent, said despite reports in Spain suggesting a fee had been reached with Arsenal he had heard nothing about a deal to bring the World Cup winner to north London.

He told the Daily Telegraph:
"We are not in talks with Arsenal. I don’t think a fee can have been agreed, otherwise I would have been told. 
"When a club have an interest I am sure they will call me and we will speak about things. The same goes for Chelsea."
This transfer does have a wiff of the Yann M'Villa's about it. Suddenly Arsenal have an interest in a player who they've rarely been linked with in the past. Arsene Wenger's scouts have been concentrating their efforts on the German market in the Bundesliga and have been closely watching Lars Bender.

I think Khedira would be a good signing but he's not the defensive midfielder lots of people are making him out to be. Which is why I think it's more likely we're looking at other options as well.

Meanwhile Michael Owen has been thinking about who will finish in the top four this coming season. It's safe to say he's not the best at predictions after suggesting we wouldn't make the Champions League places last season.

He told talkSPORT:
"The signing of Sanchez has made everyone sit up and take note. I really do rate him, he’s a top player and it’s a big step in the right direction. 
"But, in no particular order, my top four for next season would be Chelsea, Man City, Man United and Liverpool. 
"Arsenal haven’t had any real stand out players in the last few years, like Thierry Henry. They have just lagged a step behind."
Prehaps he should stick to the horse racing. He seems to have a better understanding of that.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Wenger finally get his man! And shows it pays to play the waiting game

By Joss Bennett

The dates 2 September 2013 and 10 July 2014 should long be pinned to the front of Arsenal fan’s minds. And squeezed in between them 17 May 2014.

Nine long years in the waiting and then in the space of less than 12 months, fans have been spoiled and finally have genuine reason to be happy and expectant, rather than searching the backs of their minds for optimism.

Two world-class talents have joined the club after having excellent last seasons at the world’s two biggest clubs, and an FA Cup trophy was even thrown in for good measure.

Of course the fees spent on Mesut Ozil (£42.5 million) and Alexis Sanchez (somewhere between £30-35 million) means that many of those who criticised Arséne Wenger’s commitment will believe they have won.

That the manager has given in to demands and smashed his dust-gathering piggy bank.

They couldn’t be further from the truth, though, with both signings emphatically Wenger in all but nationality and price.

In fact, Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis prepared us all for a couple of big summers this time last year when he declared ‘an escalation in [the club’s] financial firepower’. And this is exactly what has been evident since 10 minutes to midnight on 2 September.

If the £35 million price-tag for Alexis Sanchez – or the manager’s willingness to cough it up – has come as a surprise to many fans, the quality and type of player shouldn’t. Although the first Chilean to join the club, Sanchez represents everything Wenger looks for in a player; the former Barcelona man has pace, power, creativity and, perhaps most importantly, versatility.

The 25 year old, who was Los Cules’ best player with 19 goals and 10 assists last season, is by all accounts the perfect option for Arsenal and presents an interesting dilemma for the management of how to best use him.

The most likely scenario is that Sanchez will be used as a lone striker, taking the heat off Olivier Giroud, who made a total of 51 appearances for the club last season and inevitably felt the effects. The Chilean’s average conversion rate of 30% for his three seasons in Spain (peaking last year at 31.2%) show he is more than capable of taking chances when they come his way.

Another option may be to play Sanzhez on either wing, as he was primarily used by Barcelona for most of his time there. However given Theo Walcott’s pre-injury form, and the fact that Wenger prefers to have a playmaker figure cutting in from the left (which Sanchez is not) makes it seem unlikely.

The last consideration likely to be made is whether a return to the good old days of 4-4-2 may be the way forward. Wenger experimented with it at times last season – including in the FA Cup final – and with Sanchez used to not being relied on entirely for his club it could be an interesting option but again unlikely to be what we see in the majority of games.

Wherever Wenger decides to play him, Sanchez is likely to prove himself as what may still only be the side’s second or third world class performer. But Arsenal are getting there, and with a rumoured move for Matthieu Debuchy and several world-class ‘holding’ midfielders linked, that number may well increase before Arsenal fans begin celebrating Ozil’s one year anniversary.

Whatever the reason for it, there is no doubt that this summer has seen a change in approach and must prove that good things come to those who are patient and wait.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Khedira would be fantastic but worth £150k? -Cazorla wants to stay -Arteta off?

Morning Gooners.

It appears that this summer we won't be making any last minute buys in the sales, with all our main signings wrapped up before the season starts.

Sami Khedira is the player who is on everyone's lips at the moment. The Real Madrid midfielder is at loggerheads with the Spanish club about a contact extension. It appears that they won't meet his wage demands.

The Germany international has a year left on his deal in the Spanish capital and future now appears to be away from last season's European Cup winners.

Arsene Wenger is apparently keen on bringing the player to north London but will Khedira's £150k-a-week wage demands put Arsenal off. Our two top earners - Mesut Ozil and new signing Alexis Sanchez are on £130k-a-week. Pushing that budget another £1.4m a year doesn't seem unreasonable for a star player, but I'm not sure we'd make that offer to a midfielder.

According to the Daily Mirror, our interest in Khedira has cooled because of his wage demands. Added to the fact we'd have to shell out £23.5million for a player with one season remaining on his deal, it doesn't really make financial sense.

What I wouldn't be surprised at happening is that Wenger keeps hold of Mikel Arteta - who's has a year remaining on his deal and there is discussions about his future at the Emirates taking place - for his last contracted season and then add Khedira next summer.

Meanwhile Santi Cazorla has admitted he wants to stay in north London after speculation linking him with a move back to Spain.

He is quoted in the Daily Star saying:
"I'm happy here. I want to play for Arsenal for more years. Of course, next year I play for Arsenal."
The expectation was that Lukas Podolski would be the attacking player who would be moved on during this closed season because of his lack of involvement during last season. However there has been little said of his future following our FA Cup win.

Instead it is Cazorla, the player who scored our first goal in the Wembley final win over Hull City, who is being linked with a move away from the club.

I do not think we are at a stage yet when we need to start letting players leave. We need competition for places and at the moment we've only signed Sanchez. Having Cazorla and Podolski in the squad doesn't make us any weaker.

But should we head back into the transfer market for a senior attacking player, I'm sure we'll see movement out of the exit door to balance the books.

It's certainly an exciting time to be a Gooner. And anticipation for the coming season is building.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Video: Serge Aurier admits to Gunners fan he'll sign for The Arsenal

As every Gooner not hiding under a rock knows, defender Serge Aurier has admitted several times to the media he wants to join Arsenal.

But now one Gunners fan claims the Ivory Coast international has told him he will be joining Arsenal this summer.

The Toulouse right-back, who has been scouted by the Gunners man in France Gilles Grimandi as the north Londoners look at options to replace Bacary Sagna, told Gooner Ado Kandzetovic twice that he will make a switch to the Premier League.

Aurier will play for the Ivory Coast in this summer's World Cup squad spoke to the Arsenal shirt wearing fan after his country were beaten by Bosnia-Herzegovina on Friday night.

The 21-year-old would cost in the region of £7.5million.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Wright: This feeling - it's one to get used to every season

Ian Wright believes Arsene Wenger should strike in the transfer market while momentum is with the Arsenal manager following Saturday's FA Cup victory.

Writing in his column for The Sun, the former Gunners striker says the north Londoners cannot allow the opportunity to build on a trophy winning season to slip.

The 3-2 extra time win over Hull City at Wembley resulted in Wenger's side picking up their first trophy for nine years.

And Wright believes this cannot be allowed to turn into a one

He wrote:
"Now, of course, there can be no resting on laurels. No thinking that this victory is enough to satisfy the appetite. 
"It has to have the opposite effect. It has to be a case of: 'Now you know this feeling, it's one to get used to every season'. 
"And I think everything is in place for that as well. We all know Arsene has to spend big this summer but I don't think he needs the dramatic increase in numbers some would suggest. 
"If Wenger can bring in three players of experience and ability, then I do not see any reason why they should not be right in the mix for all the big prizes."
Wright continued:
"Hopefully Arsene now realises what I and other ex-players have been saying for ages. That there is simply no substitute for a winners' medal. 
"One of the worst days of my career was watching Man United go up those steps to collect the FA Cup in 1990. One of the best was going up to do likewise three years later. 
"Now the current players have tasted that, they will want more, and there is certainly no way anyone in that dressing room will think simply getting into the Champions League is a trophy-winning feeling."

Winning a trophy is a drug I want more of! No £100m transfer can produce this much joy

I don't think I can be the only one who is still on a high from the weekend. The last three days have been superb and I don't really want it to end. These are the special moments in football we should cherish. It's been a long and tough nine years, but everything which was achieved on the pitch on Saturday can now be built on.

I've never been in any doubt that we'd win the FA Cup this season after we won our third round tie against those lot down the road. Of course it was looking tricky when we went 2-0 down on Saturday, but I've had a sense that this year was going to be our year.

But like our 5-2 victory two seasons ago against Spurs, the fans got behind the team and played their part in giving the players the confidence to play their own game and slowly get a stranglehold on the game. Around me there was only support for the team, none of the doom and gloom negativity which can sometimes be found at the Emirates if we go a couple of goals down.

I thought the fans at Wembley were superb. During the semi final, I had seats in the upper tier and the atmosphere around me was tense and it wasn't enjoyable one bit. On Saturday I was stood in the lower tier behind the goal and it was a complete contrast to the Wigan game. The fans were loud, noisy and passionate. They were there to support the team, not worrying about what they were going to have in way of refreshments at half time.

At 2-0 down after eight minutes - and it could have been worse had Kieran Gibbs not headed off the line - the fans needed something to cheer about and they got it from Santi Cazorla's free kick. Once we had a foot in the game, we could build. Laurent Koscienly got the only goal of the second half, which the Gunners dominated following the introduction of Yaya Sanogo for Lukas Podolski and then it was extra time.

The double change of Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky for Mesut Ozil and Cazorla added fresh legs and fresh ideas and it culminated in Aaron Ramsey's goal, which was superb. He didn't have to break his stride to power home Olivier Giroud's back-heel to win us the cup.

There was bedlam in the Arsenal end.

There is a unity among the players, a good mixture between experience and youth, and the manager has finally managed to get them over the finishing line. Winning breeds a winning mentality and I hope that the players get a good taste of this experience and want more of it. I certainly do.

Sunday's parade was a fantastic occasion for anyone with an Arsenal connection to be involved in. I made my way back into the heart of Arsenal land and was thrilled to see so many Gooners turn up. The walk to Islington Town Hall was busy, noisy and friendly. It was great to see so many youngsters waving FA Cup final victory flags.

Then the stage was set in our perfect position opposite the town hall entrance. Pint in hand, we waited with excitement for the players, staff and manager to arrive. And on arrival they didn't let us down. The day was perfect for an open top bus parade.

And the scenes at the Emirates must have driven home again to the players how big a club it is that they play for. The place was awash with a sea of red and white - and yellow - clad supporters waving flags in a party atmosphere.

It's a weekend which will live long in the memory and one which won't be forgotten for a long time. We won the FA Cup. Now lets go and build on it next season.