Tag: Manuel Almunia

What Arsenal need

Two weeks away and what have I missed? Not so much really. Podolski is the only confirmed signing, Alumunia departing. Plus a whole lot of the usual speculation. If it were all to be believed, Arsenal are bidding for a dozen or so players and have already been snubbed as many times.

The hard and fast announcement is that Manuel Alumunia, Gavin Hoyte and some teenagers are not having new contracts. This will be heartbreaking news for the young players especially, that they haven’t made it at one of the top four English clubs having had the choice. But hundreds are earning a living at other clubs and so good luck to them in finding a place to play professional football.

I’m not sure how many first team starts Gavin Hoyte had in his time at Arsenal, I suspect you could count them on one hand. So it probably hasn’t come as such a shock to him. No shock either for Manuel Almunia. There’s been a fair amount of crap thrown at Almunia since the announcement. I used to say such stuff was surprising, but sadly it isn’t. Personally I wish him well. He’s clearly a good guy and I think he always gave his best. Sadly his best wasn’t the level Arsenal needed. He’s an agile shot stopper who distributes the ball well. But he’s also indecisive and too often in the wrong place.

I don’t think he was ever meant to play as many first team games as he did. I don’t think that Arsene Wenger was looking so much for a cheap number one as someone who would bridge the gap between Lehman and Fabianski. But as we know, Fabianski’s development didn’t go as well as hoped and Almunia played over one hundred games. I think he could do a good job for another club and I hope he finds a good deal somewhere.

A lot of the transfer speculation revolves around Yann M’Vila and Jan Vertonghen. There is so much contradictory stuff being said about M’Vila that it is hard to pick out a real consensus. A couple of weeks ago there was a firm story that he was coming to Arsenal that was written up by some respected football journalists. Since then though it’s been as clear as mud.

As for Vertonghen, it appears from direct quotes that he wants to come to England and that Spurs are interested. And him in them. The interest of both is plausible. Spurs need more fitness and quality in the middle of their defence. Vertonghen will want to play rather than sit on someone’s bench. Some have chosen to portray this as a snub to Arsenal or more evidence of Arsenal’s transfer market incompetence.

But if Vertonghen comes to Arsenal he will have to compete with Koscielny, Vermaelen and Mertesacker for his favoured spot and Gibbs and Santos for his second choice position. The idea that this might not appeal is not exactly a big indictment of Arsenal. If he comes, well and good, he looks a decent player. If he doesn’t, no big deal as far as I can see.

Far more important is finding a good, disciplined defensive midfielder. Arteta is a great bridge between front and back. Song, when he’s set his mind to it for the whole ninety minutes, has played some immense defensive games. But he doesn’t always see himself as the holding player and wants to attack as well.

We need someone you gets their satisfaction out of being the defensive midfielder. Someone who sees their job as owning the space in front of the back four, stopping the attacks through the middle and covering when a defender get drawn forward. And nothing else. That might be Yann M’Vila or Lucas Biglia or one of the many others mentioned. That’s the transfer news I’m hoping for.  And, of course, the news that we don’t need a new striker!

share save 171 16 What Arsenal need

Arsenal team against Olympiacos

Travelling in to London through a murky dull Essex this morning, reading the murky dull news that Jack Wilshere will be out for another five to six months after the operation to repair his stress-fractured ankle. Not good news at all. Perhaps there is something in the stories that Arsenal staff have been in Spain to secure a deal for Valencia’s Dani Parejo.

The news on Theo Walcott is that he won’t be ready to start against Olympiacos tomorrow but hopes to be back for the Spurs game on Sunday. I suspect that Walcott may not have started tomorrow anyway as Arsene Wenger needs to rotate here and there. Arshavin is the most likely change for Walcott.

There are probably two other choices to make: Ramsey or Rosicky, Santos or Gibbs?

The combination of Arteta, Ramsey and Song had been working well, but Arsene Wenger may be wary of overplaying both Ramsey and Arteta. I suspect that we will see one of them make way for Rosicky.

I think that Rosicky is a good option for European games. He’s got tons of experience. He can also adapt to a changing game because as well as going forward he can also tackle and hold the ball when we’re under pressure. For some reason it doesn’t seem to work for him as well in the Premier League, but for tomorrow I think he would be a good choice.

Santos or Gibbs? I’m slightly puzzled so far about Santos and assume that it is just his fitness level that sees Gibbs getting picked ahead of him. I want to see Kieran Gibbs succeed but Arsenal have so little margin for error now and he is the weakest link in the back four at present. I assume that Santos is the man unless he can’t go the distance.

The rest of the defence is looking steadily better. Not prefect but improving. I wouldn’t change Mertesacker or Koscielny unless they absolutely need it. The less we’re forced to change the central pairing the better.

Szczesny and Van Persie are automatic picks. How we agonised over keepers last season!

What does the unfortunate Almunia do at the weekends? I hope he finds a new club in January. He’s always struck me as a thoroughly nice guy. He just wasn’t right for Arsenal, a stop-gap who ended up playing most games.

Robin Van Messi is on fire at the moment and long may it continue. Maybe just a hint of an injury to be dropped around Christmas – just to ward off curious managers with deep pockets!

Gervinho also looks like an automatic choice at the moment. He could still improve on his decision making but he looks the real deal and is providing some variety to Arsenal going forward.

So that means something like:
________ Szczesny ______
Sagna _ Merte _ Kos _ Santos?
__________ Song _______
____Arteta ___ Rosicky ___
_ Gervinho _ RVP _Arshavin _

What do you think?

share save 171 16 Arsenal team against Olympiacos

Arsenal team against Bolton

Can Arsenal get a win against Bolton tomorrow?  The answer of course should be a resounding yes and it is the most likely outcome.  But the way this season has gone so far and the morale sapping time the club has endured make anything possible.

The win against Shrewsbury was pleasing, with Oxlade-Chamberlain and others showing their potential.  But beating Shrewsbury Town isn’t really what we’re here for.

A lot of fans are calling for AOC to be drafted straight into the first choice line up now and I’m sure he’s going to get games this season.  But let’s not forget the story of Jack Wilshere who clearly played too often last season and now we’re waiting on his return to fitness.

Kevin Davies and Tuncay Sanli will be the biggest threats to deal with, Ivan Klasnic is out on suspension after headbutting a Norwich player.

So who will play tomorrow?

For most of last season this is the point where we would dive straight into a debate about Almunia, Szczesny and transfer speculation.  Later adding Lehman to the debate.

At least we have this spot sorted now.  Wojciech Szczesny still has stuff to learn, particularly about distribution, but he is now the first name on the team sheet without hesitation.

Who is definitely out?  Vermaelen, Squillaci, Diaby, Benayoun, Rosicky and Wilshere are not fit.  So Arsene Wenger’s options are still limited.  Plenty of jokes mid-week about Yossi Benayoun’s true Arsenal style start – he scores his first goal, he’s out injured!  But I don’t think we really expected him to start every game.

The debate really is the same as last week: who will play either side of Robin Van Persie; and who is our first choice left back?

Santos didn’t have a dream debut last week, playing a Blackburn player onside before a goal, but I can’t believe he’s here as back up.  I’m guessing that he starts.

I also believe Gervinho will start, so it comes back to Walcott or Arshavin?  Last week Arsene Wenger opted for Arshavin and I think he will do again, though its a bit if a guess really.

Walcott is making more noise these days about playing a more central role. But he won’t get in against RVP.  Unless Arsene Wenger is about to tinker with formation, that leaves him out wide.  Just hope he doesn’t get his head in the same place as Bendtner did.

Anyway, unless Arsenal are holding something back on injuries, and we’ve not heard much about Rosicky or Sagna, I guess we’ll see a team like this:

_______ Szczesny _______
Sagna _ Merte _ Kos _ Santos
________ Song _________
___ Arteta ___ Ramsey ___
Arshavin __ RVP __ Gervinho

What do you think?

share save 171 16 Arsenal team against Bolton

A little bit of football and a lot of talk

Well it was good to see a bit of football again, even if it was a very soft pre-season friendly.   It would be foolish to read too much into such a game, but what we got was encouraging.

Miyaichi and Jenkinson looked good.  The winger has pace and some tricks and the defender looked competent though we were not really tested defensively.  There were lots of nice passes and finishing from Ramsey, Walcott and Vela.

The biggest talking point though is over why Denilson was subbed just twenty minutes after getting on the pitch in the second half.  Some say he stormed off down the tunnel afterwards.  If so, I don’t why he’s getting quite so precious, he’s the one who said he didn’t want to be around anymore.  If he’s got something better to do then he should ….

Except the offers haven’t exactly been flooding in have they?  I suspect that problem is that he’s on a decent pay level and no-one who’s interested wants to match it.  Arsene Wenger tactfully talked about him having a little knock the day before and twenty minutes being a good result.  Hmmm, not often I’m more convinced by a Metro story than the manager but this time maybe.

Arsene Wenger has been busy upsetting Manchester City over their enormous naming rights deal.  £300million?  Three times the amount Manchester United get from their sponsorship.  A strictly commercial deal obviously.  Obviously.  Wenger is right on this blowing a big hole in the UEFA Fairness policy but I’m not sure it will make any difference.

Le Prof has also been slapping down Barcelona after Xavi’s comments about Cesc Fabregas ‘suffering’ were posted on their official website.  This just seem to be such a dumb move on Barcelona’s part.  Why piss off someone you want a deal from.  Unless of course you can’t afford the deal and just want to chip away bit-by-bit like a teenager.  That couldn’t be it could it?

Elsewhere it’s all a bit quiet.  No hard news yet on Bendtner or Almunia’s departure.   No news on a new defender.

share save 171 16 A little bit of football and a lot of talk

Anonymous sources rescue Monday!

It’s a typical Monday morning on the papers and football websites.  According to one we are ‘moving ahead’ of Liverpool in the race for Stewart Downing, whilst another warns that the left winger is set to snub us for a move to Anfield. On the subject of ‘moving ahead’, apparently Tottenham now have the edge on signing Samba.

You couldn’t make it up, as they don’t say on the Sunday night shift!

The Telegraph has a slightly more convincing looking piece on possible destinations for Bendtner and Almunia.  Bendtner to Borussia Dortmund or Sporting Lisbon and Almunia to Malaga or Athletico Madrid.

As I’ve said before, I don’t find Downing that convincing and the prices being talked for his contract are amazing.  If every Englishman is worth upwards of £17million, how come England never win anything?  If Arsenal do have to spend over the odds, let’s at least spend where we need it most, at the back and some cover for Song.

When it comes to defenders, an old favorite returns to the rumor mill today – Per Mertesacker.  Despite not having a great season or world cup, the big German has some Arsenal fans.  My worry is that he isn’t particularly quick, either in a straight line or on the turn.  One of the main lessons of the World Cup seemed to be that as long as you can dominate the midfield and keep the ball moving you can get away with lower quality at the back.  Neither of Germany’s central defenders did that well but the team as a whole did.

But I don’t think that the same applies to a season-long league campaign.  As we found to our cost, teams that can’t defend get found out.

Mertesacker would add some height and experience.  I think he would be as good a choice as Samba, but not as good as Cahill.  But I’m still hoping that Arsenal will use what cash it has on a really classy central defender and a proper replacement for Gael Clichy.

This is supposedly the week we say goodbye to Almunia and Bendtner.  Let’s hope we finally get to say some hellos as well!

share save 171 16 Anonymous sources rescue Monday!

Arsenal – who’s going, who’s staying!

Arsenal have annouced their 23 man squad for the games in Malaysia and China. So who’s going and who’s staying. And if they’re staying, does it actually mean they’re really going?

Goalkeepers -
On Tour: Szczesny, Mannone
On Hold: Almunia, Fabianski

According to the BBC, an Arsenal spokesman has hinted that transfer negotiations for Manuel Almunia could be in the offing with the club having more to say on Monday. Lukasz Fabianski is still recovering from the injury to his shoulder in February.

Defenders -
On Tour: Djourou, Gibbs, Jenkinson, Koscielny, Sagna, Squillaci, Traore, Vermaelen
On Hold: Eboue

Emmanuel Eboue apparently has a calf injury and the rumour mill has been pretty quiet for a while. There was some early talk of a move to QPR but nothing has materialised.

Midfielders -
On Tour: Arshavin, Denilson, Frimpong, Miyaichi, Nasri, Ramsey, Rosicky, Song, Wilshere
On Hold: Diaby, Eastmond, Emmanuel-Thomas, Fabregas, Lansbury

Diaby has an injury and, according to The Mirror this week, Arsenal are open to offers. Then again, other reports say Arsenal have turned down offers. Craig Eastmond broke an ankle back in April while on loan at Millwall. Not much on Jay Emmanual-Thomas. There have been rumours of him being a make weight sale or loan in a deal for Cahill, but nothing substantial. Fabregas, well of course he has an injury hasn’t he! The Sun today says that a season-long loan deal will send Lansbury back to Norwich for regular Premier League football.

Forwards -
On Tour: Chamakh, Van Persie, Vela, Walcott
On Hold: Bendtner

The BBC story on Almunia above also puts Bendtner in the same boat: something happening on a transfer soon, more to be said next week.

Of course, not everyone who is going is necessarily staying!

share save 171 16 Arsenal   whos going, whos staying!

Rambo & The Verminator? Arsenal team against Stoke

Injuries to Fabregas, Nasri and Diaby mean that Aaron Ramsey is sure to start today at the ground where he had his leg broken. Could be a bit daunting for him, but coming off the back of a great game against Manchester United it will hopefully be a chance to rise above what must have been a dreadful episode with another classy display.

You have to wonder about Fabregas’ injury. Is it the same sort of problem perhaps as Almunia’s elbow? Have we seen him play for the last time? Much will be written on the ‘should he stay or should he go now’ theme. My two thoughts are that he needs to make his mind up early on, and he should only stay if he really wants to. Performing on the pitch isn’t just about technique. You have to want to be there. Cesc needs to decide where he wants to be. I don’t think it’s cut and dried yet – does Cesc want to be part of a Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets rotation? – would be any happier at a different non-Barcelona club than Arsenal?

Doubts about Djourou’s fitness may mean the return of Thomas Vermaelen. I’m in two minds about this. His injury made a huge difference to Arsenal’s defence this season and it would be great to see him back. Just so long as it isn’t going to jeopodise his fitness. With only three games left and the title hopes a faint flicker, the priority now has to be his fitness for next season.

Clichy is also a doubt with a tight hamstring, so it could be a rare chance for Gibbs. With speculation about transfer moves for a left-back, Kieran Gibbs will want any opportunity to be on the pitch. Gael Clichy has got better as the season has gone on, but still hasn’t shown the promise that he did immediately after Ashley Cole’s departure. Arsenal could probably do better, and whether Clichy is number one left-back next season depends more on whether the the right deal is available than his own form.

Arsene Wenger says that although there is only a faint chance, a real competitor fights to the end. So I assume that means Van Persie starts rather than making some gesture to Bendtner or Chamakh. Keeping number two and three strikers sweet is a real problem given the formation Arsenal play, but fighting until the end means that RVP should start.

So depending on the final fitness tests, I expect to see:

_________________ Szczesny ____________________
Sagna _ Djourou (Vermaelen) _ Koscielny _ Clichy (Gibbs)
___________ Song ______ Wilshere _______________
________________ Ramsey _____________________
Walcott _________ Van Persie ____________ Arshavin

Painsme to say it, but we need Chelsea to win today to tighten the race further, on top of a solid Arsenal win at Stoke. It’s only a flicker, but that’s what the game is all about. We are Arsenal – it isn’t just about taking part!

C’mon Arsenal!

share save 171 16 Rambo & The Verminator? Arsenal team against Stoke

Arsenal United!

It’s been a tough time as we fell out all the competitions and now we’ve been falling out all over. Wenger must go! Almunia, Eboue, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy, Denilson, Diaby, Chamakh and Bendtner must go (sorry if I’ve missed anyone). Ticket price rises must go. Where’s our club gone?

What’s definitely gone in the storm of disappointment is an air of reality.

Change is needed at Arsenal. The squad needs more experience and Arsene Wenger needs more pragmatism over tactics. But this won’t be achieved through wholesale change and turning back the clock.

And people grabbing 15 seconds of fame in a black scarf won’t do much either, apart from allow people in the media to use it as backdrop to whatever anti-Arsenal agenda of their own they want to run.

Hopefully the team will do their bit for a united spirit by showing some fire on the pitch this afternoon against Manchester United. The squad seems to be in good shape physically with only Fabianski, Diaby and Vermaelen unavailable. Vermaelen came through a reserve game this week without problems which is a good sign for next season.

The main problem has not been physical though but mental. Since the Carling Cup final they’ve continually looked like a beaten team, full of nerves. Whether they can through that off and perform remains to be seen.

I expect we’ll see:

_________ Szczesny __________
Sagna _ Djourou _ Koscielny _ Clichy
_______ Song ___ Wilshere _____
__________ Fabregas _________
Walcott ____ Van Persie ____ Nasri

C’mon Arsenal!

share save 171 16 Arsenal United!

Arsenal team against Spurs

This should of course have been a more decisive occasion – our game in hand that put us head-to-head for the title.

The chance is still there of course, especially with Manchester United dropping points last night, but the odds are longer than we hoped before those three home draws.

It’s Arsenal v Spurs though, so still chance of great drama and important to fans.  Hopefully it will be important to the Arsenal players too.

It has the potential to be a very different game than the one against Liverpool.  Spurs will attempt to sweep down the wings with pace.  They will attack throughout.  So if we can cope defensively and get the ball moving forward there should be more space to play in.

Arsene Wenger had good news on the injury front.  Only Fabianski is too unfit to train at the moment although Vermaelen isn’t ready for team selection yet.  Almunia will slip quietly back on to the bench and Sagna will take back his place from Eboue.

Hints were dropped yesterday about midfield rotation, so Diaby could well play again instead of Wilshere. Upfront I expect we will start with the same three as Sunday.

So, probably:

__________ Szczesny ___________
Sagna _ Djourou _ Koscielny _ Clichy
________ Song __ Diaby ________
__________ Fabregas __________
Walcott ___ Van Persie ____ Nasri

C’mon Arsenal!

share save 171 16 Arsenal team against Spurs

Sleepy Arsenal let title slip away

It isn’t over yet, eight games to go, but the overwhelming impression from Saturday’s performance was that the players are resigned to second best this season.  Apart from the odd spell no-one looked too bothered either way. No-one was terrible, no-one was particularly good.

Manual Almunia had a couple of his usual moments, but I’m surprised he didn’t have more as so many Arsenal fans decided that he deserved ironic cheers every time he caught the ball cleanly.  Would you rather he conceded and proved you right guys, or what?  Beyond me!

You have to wonder about the fitness of Fabregas and Song in particular.  Song was hobbling after some fairly minor knocks and when Nasri took a huge bang on the head, Fabregas wasn’t required to do anything more than jog up and down the line a bit.

Nasri had been driving the team forward until that point.  In fact the first fifteen minutes was our best period.  You have to assume that Wenger didn’t believe Fabregas had 70 minutes in the tank.

As Wenger said, we were poor with no real tempo.  He doesn’t do himself any favors by adding tiredness to the list of reasons for the bad performance though.  Manchester United had players away on International duty too, but their second-half performance at West Ham shows why they are back in control of the title race.

When Chamakh and Bendtner came on, I thought that meant we were going to mix it up a bit and change the style of play.  But the tactics stayed the same.  One of the reasons I liked Chamakh when he got a lot of games early in the season was that I thought he gave a us some variety.  We could tried that variety in the second-half.  It couldn’t have turned out worse than what we got!

It’s going to be a long eight games if Saturday is anything to go by!

share save 171 16 Sleepy Arsenal let title slip away

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