Thursday, 8 December 2011

Santos out -Hazard joins Gotze as January target -Eriksen on radar

Morning Gooners.

I'm sorry , I know this is an Arsenal blog, but there is just one place to start this morning and that's with the results of the two Manchester clubs in the Champions League last night. Both have qualified for the Europa League having been not good enough in their groups, quite an achievement for one club with a rich pedigree and the other with the most expensively assembled squad in Europe.

Remember that Arsenal are a club in crisis yet Manchester United failed to win the easiest group they've been drawn in in years and their noisy neighbours had a squad full of players with playing football at the highest level yet still failed to make it through to the knock out stages.

Arsene Wenger has led Arsenal through the group stages for 12 years. Quite an achievement. I'm personally looking forward to the wall to wall coverage of both Manchester club's crisis moment. In all his time at the club, Wenger has never qualified for the Europa Cup. I shudder at the thought of playing football on Thursday nights. That should be left for big teams like Manchester United, Tottenham and Manchester City!

There were some other interesting results last night. Lille crashed out of Europe all together, whilst Ajax finished third in their group.We've been interested in Eden Hazard for some time and could the French club's elimination from european competition make him a more likely January transfer target, much like Mario Gotze? We've also been tracking the Dutch club's star midfielder Christian Eriksen. Could his name now be in the frame for a move to north London next month?

The Hazard and Gotze situations are more clear than that of Eriksen's. With no European football for the remainder of the season, surely the oair are more likely to favour a move away during January? I don't know whether if one of them signed for us if they'd be eligible to play in Europe for us. Even so, if they couldn't play in the Champions League they'd offer us the Arshavin boost which we received in the league and FA Cup when the Russian signed.

Something you would imagine the manager is pondering about. There is nose behind the scenes that deals in January are likely to happen. It is a good time to buy to allow a bedding in period ahead of next season, if the price is right. And it would be good to get some deals done ahead of a very busy footballing summer where top players are likely to be involved in the European Championships or possibly the London 2012 Olympics, or even both.

The draw for the next stage of Europe's elite competition takes place a week on Friday. Arsenal's possible opposition includes: Napoli, Basel, Lyon, Cska Moscow, Bayer Leverkusen, Zenit or AC Milan. Personally I would take any team apart from a German or Russian club. But you have to play good teams at some point in the competition and we've proved in past seasons we can beat the best.

Elsewhere there is fall out from Tuesday night's defeat in Greece. Andre Santos who injured his ankle in the second half tweeted last night that he'd be out of action for up to three weeks. This is a serious blow considering the run of games we've got coming up.

You would imagine the manager, who is still without Kieran Gibbs as he continues his recovery from a hernia operation, will move Thomas Vermaelen out to left back. Station Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny in the heart of the defence and bring in Johan Djourou at right back. That in my mind would be the sensible option. I can't see him calling up Ignasi Miquel or 17-year-old Swiss defender Martin Angha to play in the defence when he has more senior options.

Meanwhile Yossi Benayoun has been speaking about the difference Arsene Wenger's deadline day signings have made to the club.

He said:

"All the players bought on the last day have proved themselves and we are playing much better and winning games. 
"The supporters now understand that we have a good team with a lot of quality, and I think they have forgotten about the other players already. 
"We are only two points from Chelsea now, Tottenham and Manchester United are not that far ahead."
Despite not making a Premier League start, the Israeli international has shown some positive signs in both the Champions Leauge and the Carling Cup as well as his cameos in league. And after coming back from a season in which he spent the majority out injured, I'm not sure we should expect too much from him until the second half of the season.

What he might not be bringing on the pitch just yet doesn't negate the positive impact he's having around the place. From what I'm told he's a good character to have around the squad and if he can make a difference to the team moral and add special goals like he did on Tuesday night, then I'm sure the manager will be considering whether to take up the option he has with Chelsea to buy Benayoun out of the remaining two years of his Chelsea contract.

Nothing will have been decided over whether we will be buying him now but I'm sure the boss will be weighing up his worth to the squad and team, especially as the contracts of Rosicky and Arshavin come to an end.

And finally it is great to see the club's preparations for Saturday's 125th anniversary game are well under way. Yesterday they announced a sixpence would be used to decide who would kick off our game with Everton. A fitting idea given our history.

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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