Sunday, 7 August 2011

Wenger to sign attacker? -Fabregas to forego £4m payment -RVP crocked

Morning Gooners.

Well the final game of our pre-season campaign ended in defeat and against opposition as good as Benfica, expecting us to come away with a positive result with a thread bare squad was probably hoping for something a bit beyond this current group of players.

And this situation is desperately worrying. We are heading towards the toughest set of August fixtures anyone cares to remember with a squad which is largely unchanged from last season. We're still waiting for the manager and chief executive to push through the deals they've promised us. Arsene Wenger said we could expect changes in the defence, but only Gael Clichy has left the club and he's been replaced it seems by two rookies, who may well come good in the future but aren't the answer now.

The performance was everything you've come to expect from Arsenal this season. Take the lead in the game with a good first half performance. Fade away in the second half and concede sloppy goals. I know we can't make judgements on a pre-season game because it is just that. A game where results really don't matter but where fitness and form count.

And from first half performances, we can be hopeful that if our first 11 had played the whole 90 minutes we could have won the game. They were under the kosh early on with Benfica pressing hard and fighting to get the ball off us, but yet our passing and movement proved to be more superior and we took a deserved lead.

The goal was something we'll see more of this season. With Kieran Gibbs pushing on into the box from the left and finding the killer ball which birthday boy Robin van Persie smashed home to put us in the lead. Gervinho had chances as well. He looks to be an excellent buy on his pre-season showings. If he gets his final ball right, we can hopefully expect lots of goals and assists from the Ivorian this season.

With the majority of the team who played the first 45 minutes expected to be lining up against Newcastle next week, Wenger made six changes at half time to allow those in the squad to show him what they could do and put in a display which would hopefully raise questions in the manager's mind about giving them a start.

The second half team had a much more youthful look with Carl Jenkinson, Emmanuel Frimpong and Ryo Miyaichi called on from the whistle. And you could see that these three have had only a handful of first team games between them.

But the problem we face is that at least two of them could be called upon regularly to deputize for experienced first team players and I don't believe either of Jenkinson or Frimpong are ready to make that step just yet. If the manager is going to rely on them, we are in for a seriously rocky ride this season.

Benfica came at us and they piled on the pressure. We couldn't keep hold of the ball in midfield. There was no link up play from midfield to attack. The team had been forced back and back and the defence was too deep, meaning the midfield came back too help out then leaving huge space between our midfield and Marouane Chamakh.

And there was space to exploit. Kieran Gibbs wasn't offered much protection if any with Miyaichi in front of him. He dived in carelessly and failed to win the ball. Then when he recovered he failed to cut out the cross. Jenkinson didn't go to the man, so Squillaci had to and then when he couldn't cut out the pass Vermaelen tried to but missed, allowing Aimar to slot home easily with Fabianski having no chance.

The second goal had been coming and finally arrived in the 69th minute. The ball was played out to the left. Jenkinson wasn't near the attacker and he passed the ball inside. Squillaci tried to anticipate the shot would be left footed but he was turned and Nolito beat Fabianski at his near post.

I thought Lukasz Fabianski did well overall. He kept us in the game with a number of fine saves and was not at fault for either goals, although you could question whether he should have been beaten at his near post for Benfica's second.

Frankly we were toothless in attack in the second half. I can't really think off the top of my head of one chance were we seriously made the Benfica goalkeeper work. Lansbury had a chance that he converted well.. had he been playing rugby. But this is a huge worry of mine. We still lack the quality players in the squad to make us a force this coming season.

And with the manager confirming post match that Thomas Vermaelen, Kieran Gibbs an Robin van Persie are all injured and is unsure if they'll be back next Saturday. If van Persie is out for any length of time I'm seriously worried about our season. Chamakh has looked the shadow of the player we signed last summer so far this pre-season and our best replacement for RVP, Nicklas Bendtner is trying his best to find a new club.

There is just no way we can allow Bendtner to leave when we are in serious need of his services. He looked in superb form on Members Day but has yet to pull on an Arsenal shirt in pre-season. If there is any way of ensuring a deal for Bendtner to leave doesn't take place, especially as there has been no talk of replacing him with another experienced player, I would hope the manager would put the club before the player.

The next month looks frightening. I just hope that we can conclude some business in the transfer market this week which would enable us all to look at the opening fixtures without the fear that our season could be derailed before it's even started.

Still no word from our captain. He didn't tweet last night about the game. Perhaps he was too busy watching Barcelona play.

The Mail on Sunday are reporting Cesc is prepared to give up the £4m Arsenal would have to pay him if he were to finally get his wish and move to Barcelona this summer. Obviously this is another sign he wants to leave the club - if we needed one, but I'd be more happy about him leaving us without all of the revenue generated from the increase cost season tickets for the coming season in his bank account.

As ever with this deal, it's now down to Barcelona to stump up the £40m required to take Cesc back to Spain.

A round-up of stories making the Sunday newspapers. The Sunday Mirror report Arsenal will finally do a deal with Southampton for Alex Chamberlain. The initial payment would be £7m with add-ons which would be performance related. Steve Stammers reports there would be no option included for a loan-back arrangement and that Chamberlain would be used first in the Carling Cup side as he adapted to life in north London.

In the same newspaper there is also talk about the signing of a central defender. The usual suspects of Jagielka, Cahill, and Samba are mentioned. With the first two on England duty at London Colney, it is imperative that Arsene Wenger at least captures their signature of one of them before they leave the capital - a piece of scrap paper will do. Just get them to sign! In all seriousness, when there is little time to be faffing around, Cahill and Jagielka are the ones we should be aiming for. I get the impression though that Wenger and Gazidis are playing poker with Everton and Bolton to see who blinks first to cash in our chips the fastest. Both of them have reason to want to do a deal with us. Everton have no money, whilst Bolton have a player who is entering the final year of his contract and will leave for free next summer. But which one of them has the greatest need to get a deal done with us? Or will we blink and do the deal, in turn paying top dollar.

And talking of England duty, Jack Wilshere has been selected for Fabio Capello's squad to face Holland at Wembley. Arsene Wenger has said there is no chance of Jack playing however because he is still recovering from his ankle injury.

Meanwhile Manchester City could be priced out (Can't believed I wrote that about the richest club in the world) of signing Wesley Sneijder. And now Ajax teenager Christian Eriksen has said he's happy to stay in Holland, so they could be back in with a bid for Samir Nasri. If they offered us anything over £20m, I would accept it and go and buy a player who wants to play for Arsenal.

The Daily Star Sunday speculate that if Nasri is sold, Cesc Fabregas will stay. If no one had not imagined this to be the case before this revelation, I'm not sure which island you've been hiding on.

Elsewhere, the Sunday Express say Carl Jenkinson has yet to make up his mind which country he wants to represent at senior international level. At present he's chosen to play for Finland in the junior age groups. But this might change if England come calling.

Extra reading today comes from this fine post from Yankee Gooner on the depth of our squad or lack of it.

Follow Ashburton Grove on Twitter, chatting Arsenal throughout the day. To receive the blog everyday you can subscribe via e-mail or take the RSS feed to your favourite reader.

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