Arsenal edge Angers on penalties

Arsenal continued their pre-season preparations with a penalty shoot-out victory over a hard-working Angers.

Farid El Melali put the hosts ahead in the first half against an inexperienced Arsenal line-up. As the regular first-team stars took to the field, the Gunners gained more control and Reiss Nelson levelled proceedings minutes after the restart.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had a number of chances to nick a winner but a combination of poor finishing and the offside flag denied him. The striker did net from the spot in the resulting penalty shoot-out with Emiliano Martínez saving the decisive spot-kick from former Gunner Jeff Reine-Adélaïde to seal the win.

A healthy crowd saw Angers mark their 100th year with a high-profile friendly against the North Londoners. Unai Emery named a youthful line-up with Calum Chambers deployed at right back and Mattéo Guendouzi the experienced man in midfield. 

Reine-Adélaïde was named in the starting line-up for the hosts and looked motivated against his former employers. The winger was constantly on the move as Angers dominated the opening exchanges and should have gone ahead when El Melali sunk a ball right into the danger area in the Arsenal box but Chambers was in the right place to get it clear.

Arsenal struggled to deal with the intensity of Angers and their effective press and after a couple of warning signs Baptiste Santamaria produced a defence-splitting pass to send El Melali through and the Algerian rounded Martínez for the opening goal.

The visitors struggled to keep hold of the ball with Angers continuing to press high and that left Arsenal’s attackers as spectators. The frustration started to show around the half-hour mark with a couple of fouls that saw Zech Medley receive a yellow card.

Thomas Mangani’s set-piece delivery threatened to double Angers’ lead but both Mateo Pavlović, who fired past Martínez, and Baptiste Santamaria were both flagged offside to spare Arsenal’s blushes.

The young Gunners ended the first strong strongly but failed to test Ludovic Butelle with Gabriel Martinelli heading wide and Nelson firing off-target.

The half-time break saw Emery ring the changes with Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Dominic Thompson, Granit Xhaka and Joe Willock all introduced.

And within five minutes the Gunners drew level. Eddie Nketiah’s shot, from a fabulous Guendouzi cross, was blocked but Nelson was there to knock in the rebound.

A strong run in the Arsenal box from Reine-Adélaïde gave him the moment he had been waiting for but he lost his composure and blazed his shot horribly wide.

Emery went for it on the hour mark replacing Nketiah and Guendouzi with Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The Gabon forward led the line well and went close to edging Arsenal ahead when meeting a Xhaka free kick but the bobbled wide.

The final 10 minutes became an open contest with both sides going for the win. An excellent, albeit robust, challenge from Shkodran Mustafi sent Arsenal on the counter with Nelson touching Martinelli’s cross into the path of Aubameyang, who tapped home from an offside position. Nelson picked up a knock in the process and had to be replaced by James Olayinka.

Aubameyang could have had a hat-trick as the chances continued to fall for him, this time he missed an open goal after Butelle parried Mkhitaryan’s effort right into his path.

With the score locked at 1-1 at the final whistle, the game entered a penalty shoot-out and after both sides converted their opening three. Aubameyang put Arsenal ahead before Wilfried Kanga blazed his penalty over.

Is Shkodran Mustafi really that bad? A defence of a much maligned player

I watched the Crystal Palace game with a friend, and before we saw Zaha’s goal, he received a message. It just said: “Mustafi”… We proceeded to watch in horror as the German centre-back attempted to shield the ball back to the goalkeeper – failing badly and allowing the Palace player to put them back into the lead. Since then, he has received death threats and a cursory search of his name on Google will bring up page after page of articles lamenting how poor the £35 million signing is, or how often he makes mistakes. In truth, I have to disagree.

Let’s set the record straight, Shkodran Mustafi is not a good enough player for Arsenal Football Club. I do not believe he has the qualities to play elite Premier League football. But he was good enough for Germany’s 2014 World Cup winning squad, and Arsene Wenger was convinced to spend that much money bringing him over from Spain.

His defensive abilities are best noted in aerial duels. People are quick to point out that he conceded the penalty away at Tottenham, but forget that we all agreed it should never have been given. People remember Arsenal collapsing at Southampton to lose 3-2, conceding three sloppy goals and eventually conceding to a header after Leno came for a ball and missed it. They forget Mustafi didn’t play that day and his absence was felt.

Much like the maligned Granit Xhaka, people seem quick to ascribe full blame to the German centre-back. I have read several reviews of the game which excoriate Mustafi and blame him for all three of Palace’s goals. What nonsense! Jenkinson plays Benteke onside for the opener – Mustafi’s line is good and would have caught the Belgian offside. For the third, it is shambolic defending from a corner – from all defenders. Mustafi is as much to blame as everyone else in that penalty area for letting the play develop as it did.

To prove the futility of the exercise, it can be proven quite easily with stats that Mustafi has had a better season than Virgil Van Dijk. No one seriously believes this to be the case, and yet in seven fewer games the German has a better tackle completion rate, number of tackles and number of interceptions. They’ve scored two headers apiece. Yet their value is miles apart and rightly so.

So, if his statistics are impressive, what is his problem? It doesn’t take an experienced manager to see that Mustafi seems to have a lapse of concentration every single game. When Arsenal’s midfield and other defenders apply too much pressure too often, Mustafi will make a mistake more frequently than any other defender Arsenal have. With cover in front of him and some coaching he can become the competent centre-back his statistics indicate he could be. Yet, as we saw with the goal in question, two players attempt to head the ball with Benteke, leaving Mustafi one on one with Zaha. If Koscielny is across from him, Mustafi likely doesn’t make that mistake. Could Leno have come for the ball? Very much so but it’s not Leno’s fault.

So is Mustafi a bad player? Not at all.

Is he good enough for Arsenal? No – and he isn’t the only one.

Should Arsenal sell him? Not unless they can replace him. He’s not the best we could have, but if we can’t find a replacement he isn’t the worst we have. Maybe playing alongside Koscielny until the Frenchman retires and alongside Sokratis and Holding could help Mustafi become a better player. I don’t think anyone’s condoning the death threats but the serious reality is that Mustafi is what we have. He wasn’t even the worst defender on the pitch against Palace, nor even the worst centre-back! Mavropanos was far worse, yet rightly we can chalk that up to inexperience. Jenkinson was comfortably worse than Mustafi. So keeping him whilst we have no better is logical. Throwing out the baby with the bathwater and selling him, however, is not.


It’s Wednesday and we’re still in 3rd…

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As an Arsenal fan things are pretty f*cking great at the moment, we remain in third place despite United playing their 32nd game up at Molineux and a small part of me thinks Crystal Palace are going to turn up to Spurs’ new ground this evening and spoil the party. Wishful thinking? Yeah, probably. But stranger things have happened and we are talking about a club notorious for their ability to crumble under the slightest bit of pressure.

Wolves 2-1 Man Utd

Wolves away was never going to be an easy game for United, even with Ole at the wheel full—time now I wasn’t surprised to see Nuno Espirito Santo’s side stick it to them on a cold Tuesday night in Wolverhampton. United started the game promisingly and when you see Scott McTominay hit a sweet strike like that past the diving Rui Patricio from 22 yards to score his first goal for the Manc bin dippers you do wonder whether its going to be one of those nights. Fortunately Jimenez and Jota were at the races and some lovely combination play between the two led to Wolves’ equaliser 12 minutes later.

A draw would have been a very positive result from an Arsenal perspective but things got even better when some calamitous defending involving De Gea, Smalling and a red faced Phil Jones gifted Wolves the winner. Arsenal and Spud’s fans alike would have been celebrating that winning goal across North London but it wasn’t long before the realisation kicked in that we too face a difficult trip up to Molineux on April 24th.

Although we’re in a fantastic position to qualify for next seasons UEFA Champions League and all the bookies have us as the firm favourites of the 4 teams chasing 3rd and 4th our patchy away form this season is a real cause for concern. There’s still a long way to go and I’m sure there will be many more twists and turns in the race to UEFA’s cheque book so it’s imperative we take each week at a time. Unai will need to rotate the squad effectively in order to maintain the fitness of our stars whilst at the same time being careful not to disrupt our momentum – sounds easier than it is right?

In other news, Fulham were finally put out of their misery and relegated to the Championship following a 4-1 defeat at Vicarage Road meaning another travel-friendly away trip will be missing from the fixture list next season. Cheers lads!

With 3 Premier League games taking place tonight including Spurs vs Crystal Palace and Chelsea vs Brighton it’s hard to see us still in 3rd come this time tomorrow so I plan on enjoying it for another few hours at least.

Our Everton vs Arsenal Preview Show will be out at 10am (uk time) on Thursday morning featuring a very special guest so stay tuned

Ozil stance could spell the end for Emery

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When Unai Emery was appointed back in May 2018 the hope amongst the Gunners faithful was that he’d be able to get more out of the current crop. His fresh (in comparison to Arsene’s) methods would take things up a level, increase the teams productivity and see us challenge for a place in the top four. I’ve made no secret of the fact my faith in the Spaniard has somewhat evaporated of late but in fairness we are just a solitary point away from United in 4th and despite the defeat in Borisov we stand a realistic chance of marching on to Europa League glory. “So what are you complaining about?” Well, I’m coming to that!

The on-going feud between Emery and Ozil continues to cast a shadow over our season and with no viable resolution in sight, you can’t help but feel its having a negative impact on the group, its an unwanted distraction and one I believe the manager to be largely responsible for. When Mesut Ozil penned his bumper contract back in January of last year the entire fanbase celebrated, we’d managed to tie down one of our biggest talents/assets for the foreseeable future despite having just watched Alexis Sanchez (in the same position) trade London for Manchester. Add to that, the fact we’d signed Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan during that same window and it felt as though despite the Chileans disappointing departure we were coming out of the window in better shape than when it opened on January 1st.

Along came Unai Emery in the summer of 2018, the ‘standout candidate’ with a dossier of how he planned to get the very best out of each and every squad member. The clubs hierarchy spoke of how he ‘wowed’ them into offering him the position but here’s my question…when he flicked to the page on which Mesut Ozil’s name was printed what did it say? “I will isolate Mesut, showing a total disregard for the £350k the club will be paying him each week” – of course it didn’t. Because if it did, theres no way this money obsessed institution would have hired him. Therefore, whatever has gone on between the two took place during the course of the season.

There have always been questions over Mesut’s body language and attitude but his quality has never been in doubt. On his day, he’s as good as any creative player in the world but it’s fair to say since arriving in North London back in 2013 his form has been ‘patchy’ for wanting of a better term.

So far this season we’ve heard of back injuries, illnesses, tactical emissions from the match day squad and whilst as supporters we can never be absolutely sure of whats gone on it feels as though the manager is trying to make an example of Mesut. If he’s sick, he cant play and the same goes for any injuries the German may be struggling with but if you’re going to leave Mesut out because you’d rather play Iwobi or Mkhitaryan (two players who also struggle with consistency) questions will be asked and rightly so.

Of late, Arsenal have struggled to play with any fluency, the creative spark has dimmed and the results have dipped in comparison to our early season form but I struggle to have sympathy for a manager who chooses to overlook his most talented individual week in, week out. The longer this goes on, the more toxic the entire situation becomes. Emery has a history of falling out with his star players, just ask Thiago Silva and Neymar but whether you agree with the managers stance or not…history tells us the modern day football club will most likely back the player and thats usually because of the level of investment required to make the deals happen (see Mourinho vs Pogba as a recent example).

I’d have expected Unai to come in, put his arm around Ozil, settle on a system that compliments him and give him a fair opportunity to prove himself behind Lacazette and Aubameyang. For years and years we had the creator but lacked top quality strikers, now we have both and we’re choosing to ignore Mesut’s talents. I’d challenge any of you to put forward a sensible case as to why Iwobi or Mkhitaryan are any better…I’ll wait.

If we are indeed restricted by FFP and have to make do with what we’ve already got the manager has to find a way of getting the maximum out of Ozil. When the end of the season comes, Unai will be entering the last year of his contract, if CL qualification isn’t achieved and the performances continue to stutter I fear for the Spaniards future. He’s almost heaping extra pressure on himself by taking this stance and I’m pretty sure that when push comes to shove and all the financials are taken into account its he who will be given his marching orders first.

Arsenal vs Spurs | Carabao Cup | Match Day Blog

The more I think back to the weekends defeat at St Mary’s and the abrupt end to our 22 game unbeaten run the less disappointed I feel about the whole thing.  I think we could all agree that if we were to cast our minds back to the day Unai Emery was appointed and were told that 17 games into the Premier League campaign we’d be 3 points outside of the Champions League places having only lost to City, Chelsea and Southampton we’d have been pretty pleased.

In many ways, I’d rather Southampton (a club for whom I have no ill feeling) were the ones to beat us  because I wouldn’t have fancied going into the Carabao Cup quarter final with the fear of Spurs being the ones to finally turn us over.  The club who notoriously released a DVD of the 4-4 draw back in 2008 would have been talking about it for at least 124 years had they been the ones who finally brought the run to a halt.

I’m not sure how to feel going into tonight’s game and I guess that stems from the fact I have no idea  what sort of team Unai Emery will select.  Shkodran Mustafi is back in full training and Sokratis Papastathopoulos returns from suspension so the hope is we’ll be far more competent in the central defensive positions this evening.  I could be way off the mark here, but I believe the weekends defeat will have altered Unai Emery’s approach to tonight’s fixture.  

It’s important that Arsenal bounce back immediately and collect as many points as possible before the trip to Anfield on December 29th so what better way to boost the morale amongst the group and get the fans back on side than to knock our fiercest rivals out of the Cup and register a second victory over the spuds in less than three weeks!

No matter how much you value or disvalue the Carabao Cup any fixture versus Spurs is a must win, whatever the competition or however high it sits in your list of priorities as supporter.  I’ve made no secret over the years of my careless attitude towards the League Cup but the minute the name Tottenham Hotspur was drawn everything changed.  

Taking all of the above into account this is the line up I’d start with this evening:

Cech, Lichtsteiner, Sokratis, Mustafi, Monreal, Maitland-Niles, Xhaka, Torreira, Ozil, Lacazette and Aubameyang.

Nacho Monreal would slot into the left centre back position with Maitland-Niles operating at left wing back, that’s assuming Sead Kolasinac remains sidelined.  I thought that would have been a smarter approach on Sunday too, AMN showed last season he’s composed and confident enough to come in and do a job but whilst I’m not convinced Emery feels the same way that’s what I’d personally go with.

I’d like to see Alex Lacazette start as the central striker, his hold up play is noticeably better and he gives us a bite, grit and determination that I’m just not seeing from Aubameyang at present.  The Gabonese forward has certainly chipped in with his fair share of important goals and so it’s almost impossible to leave him out, however as we’ve seen on many occasions this season he carries that goal threat even whilst operating from the left thus creating space for Lacazette to come back into the side.

Mathieu Flamini’s not around anymore to bag a brace and break Tottenham hearts as he did back in 2015 so it’s over to the new crop to make it happen.  I’m not overly confident ahead of this one but I’m certainly glad it’s at our stadium and not theirs, oh wait they don’t have one! Not a finished one anyway! 


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Arsenal’s number one? Comparing Cech & Leno

Bernd Leno joined the Arsenal from Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen back in July and given the sizeable transfer fee paid in order to acquire his services you’d have been forgiven for assuming he’d have been installed as the number one with the veteran Petr Cech being limited to providing cover and featuring in the cup competitions.

And so, eyebrows were raised when Petr Cech began the season in between the posts with the 26 year old German warming the bench.  Given his poor performances last season the general feeling was that Cech was long past his best and no longer agile enough to play at the top end of the world’s most competitive league.

Having watched the pre season tour closely during the summer the improved conditioning of certain individuals, Cech being amongst them was visibly noticeable.  The new training regime has clearly been of great benefit and Cech’s improved form and agility are a testament to that.

On the 2nd October, during the home win versus Watford, Cech injured his hamstring taking a goal kick and was forced off, subsequently opening the door for the German to stake his claim as the number one.  Despite Cech’s return to fitness Leno has held down his place having turned in some impressive performances during the past few weeks.  However, I think it’s safe to say he had a mixed evening versus Liverpool on Saturday, pulling off a couple of wonderful saves in between a couple of uncharacteristic errors.

From watching the pair, it’s clear both have very different skill sets and once again Unai Emery has an extremely difficult decision to make over who will be his number one going forward.  In terms of their overall quality as goalkeepers, in my view there’s not a great deal in it, both having shown they can earn the team points and so it comes down to the manager’s preference and who he feels better compliments our desired style of play.

Leno is far more polished with the ball at his feet, his distribution is better than that of some central defenders, he takes up a braver starting position and is  happy to play as a ‘sweeper keeper’ when necessary – you could say he’s your typical modern day goalkeeper.  Stylistically, the German is very similar to Alisson of Liverpool and Ederson of Manchester City – Leno is a far more economical alternative considering the aforementioned two cost their respective clubs a total of £92m between them.

Petr Cech on the other hand is a lot more dominant in aerial situations, has a greater presence in the penalty area and is certainly more vocal in terms of organising his defence. The 36 year old is a more orthodox Goalkeeper, the traditional kind that we older folk can relate to.  Perhaps it’s time we acknowledge that Petr Cech could be one of the last of his kind and that going forward, Goalkeepers will also be judged on their ability to play football rather than just their ability to keep the ball out of the net.

Unai Emery and Arsenal find themselves in the fortunate position of having two top quality goalkeepers to select from, both with different strengths, weaknesses and characteristics.  Is one clearly better than the other? Not for me, they’re both stoppers of the highest quality and it’s a great problem for any manager to have.  Having made it through to the League Cup quarter finals, set to qualify for the knockout stages of the Europa League and the FA Cup third round to come in January there will be plenty of games for both to feature their fair share.

Seeing as I can’t decide, here at @chronicles_afc we want to know who YOUR preferred goalkeeper is of the two. Tweet us or comment your thoughts below.  The best answers will feature on next weeks podcast!


Arsenal’s decision to pull the plug on Ramsey deal ‘isn’t personal’

Aaron Ramsey signed for Arsenal back in 2008 for a fee believed to be in the region of £5m.  Despite interest from Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson the Welshman opted to join the North London club and has been quoted as saying “I just felt a bit more wanted by Arsenal and the boss” since.

Arsene Wenger and the club had arranged for the 17 year old to be flown out to Switzerland for a meeting during Euro 2008 and at that point the youngsters mind was made up.  Fast forward two years and this promising young midfield player faced his most difficult challenge to date.  During a game up at Stoke City he suffered a horrific leg break courtesy of Ryan Shawcross’ x-rated challenge and having shown great promise many felt the physical and psychological scars would be difficult to recover from and prevent him reaching his full potential if he was to return to fitness.

To his credit, Aaron showed great mental strength and incredible determination to get himself fit again and has since scored two FA Cup final winners, helped his un-fancied National team to a European Championship Semi Final and established himself as a regular in the Arsenal side.  Taking all of that into consideration you do wonder why Arsenal Football Club would have allowed such a valuable asset to run down his contract, at 27 years old the midfielder has yet to reach his peak and resolving his future a year or so ago would have at best protected his value in the transfer market.

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The Gunners stand to lose him for free this summer and it has since emerged an offer that had been made to the player was later withdrawn suggesting that the Club were willing to accept his demands at some stage and have since had a dramatic change of heart.

Unai Emery was highly complementary of the player during the summer months and despite all the drama behind the scenes has continued to praise his attitude, reiterating the fact he remains a part of his immediate plans.

A great deal has changed at Arsenal in the recent months, there’s a new manager for the first time in 22 years, Ivan Gazidis’ has left for pastures new, Raul Sanllehi is the Head of Football, Vinai Venkatesham is now a Managing Director and Arsenal’s recruitment approach is now driven by the recommendations of Sven Mislintat. Aaron Ramsey has been a victim of these changes, collateral damage left in the wake of an excitingrevolution taking place.

Given the self-sustaining model under which Arsenal operate, the club will continue to think twice before offering its stars long-term bumper contracts.  In today’s market Aaron Ramsey is certainly worth a fair few quid but would you make such heavy investment if it were to restrict you in the transfer market going forward?

The club have placed their faith in Unai Emery to restore their Champions League status, with the financial reward being so substantial achieving that goal means everything.  Despite the recent good run of form the manager will know full well he needs further recruits to build a side capable of achieving his target position and sustaining it.  If presenting Aaron Ramsey with such a lucrative deal will restrict Sanllehi’s ability to acquire those targets identified by Mislintat and the manager it would be viewed as counter-productive.

Is Aaron Ramsey irreplaceable?  You’d have to assume the manager and the key decision makers don’t believe that to be the case and therefore this is a decision taken with the clubs future dealings in mind. Perhaps the impressive performances produced by Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira so far this season had an influence on the decision to withdraw the offer – I guess we’ll never really know.

However what I will say is this, it isn’t personal, the decision won’t have been taken lightly, it’s as much football based as it is financial and providing Arsenal invest smartly in the coming transfer windows I feel it is one that will be vindicated.

Let us know your thoughts, Tweet me at @chronicles_afc


Ramsey confirms contract offer withdrawn by the club

Aaron Ramsey has revealed that in his mind he had reached an agreement with Arsenal regarding a new contract only for the club to perform a complete u-turn and withdraw the offer.

The 27 year old’s deal expires in June and he’s made it clear that it was the clubs decision to withdraw their offer rather than his own decision to walk away from negotiations.

This, his 11th season with the club looks set to be his last but he’s promised the Gunners faithful he will remain fully focused and make this a campaign to remember.

I know we’ve heard that kind of talk before but I’m confident Rambo won’t take his foot off the gas, at the end of the day he needs to earn a contract elsewhere and he strikes me as the type to want to prove the club were wrong to have withdrawn the offer.

I guess the first question as supporters we’re all asking is why?

Without the club coming out and clarifying their position all we can do is speculate. I’m not claiming to be ITK but I am going to make an educated guess based on the facts that have been presented to us.

Is it a footballing decision? Possibly.

Is it a financial decision? Perhaps.

If I was to guess I’d say it’s a combination of both…

I think we can all agree that since Unai Emery’s arrival Aaron Ramsey hasn’t been quite as effective. Now don’t take this the wrong way – I don’t think he’s played badly, he’s still worked extremely hard, pressed from the front and played an important part this season but in terms of his actual impact on the ball the game has passed him by at times.

However, that’s not just true of Aaron Ramsey, the same could be said about Mesut Ozil for the most part of this season.

The point I’m trying to make is that if Unai Emery’s system only demands hard work of players in that position than he could quite easily go and find another work horse who’d ask for half the wages. Therefore from a financial and footballing perspective it makes no sense for the club to fork out £200k a week when that money could be used to strengthen other areas of the team.

If Unai Emery is working to a tight budget in comparison to some of our competitors, which we believe to be the case then he’d naturally be reluctant to spend such a huge percentage of that to tie down a player who he feels is replaceable and has had his fair share of injury problems down the years.

Remember, this is not Arsene Wenger. Unai Emery has no loyalty to the player – yes, he spoke highly of him when he first arrived but opinions can change.

As an Arsenal fan I’ve grown quite attached to Aaron Ramsey so naturally I’m a little sad that he’s going to be leaving but that’s just the way things go sometimes.

I think he’s been somewhat unfortunate that the expiration of his contract coincides with a period of real transition at the club.

Let it be known that I don’t agree with those calling for him to be dropped, he can play a big part in helping us to achieve our goals this season and whilst hes under contract we’d be silly not to utilize him.

Emery will have known this was coming for a while and the fact that he’s kept him involved for me shows that the Spaniard has no concerns re his attitude or professionalism and so neither should we.

Speaking to the media the Welshman had the following to say…

“Am I disappointed? That’s a decision that they have made and things happen in football and you just have to get on with it and carry on playing the best I can. That’s all I am concentrating on and giving my best for Arsenal.”

“Would I stay for the rest of the season? Of course, yeah,”
“I am contracted to Arsenal and I am going to do my best now this season to try and achieve something special.”


Ben Turner on the Transfer Window…

Now that the season is underway and the transfer window is closed I’d like to have my say on how I felt our Transfer window went and share my brief thoughts on our summer signings.

Given that this summer we have seen a complete re-structuring of Arsenal football club in the wake of Arsene Wenger’s departure and the fact this was a World Cup year I believe that Unai Emery and the recruitment team have had a successful 1st summer, each acquisition having addressed a key area.

Stephan Lichtsteiner – the 1st through the door and divided the opinions of the fan base mainly because of his age (34) however having watched Lichtsteiner during the World cup I have no doubt he will prove a shrewd bit of business. He will provide defensive cover at both RB & LB and given he has been a part of the success that Juventus have had over the last 7 years he has a winning mentality that I’m sure will translate to other members of the squad. I find it refreshing that the clubs are able to look at what a player can offer without being concerned about his age.  Listening to him speak recently, the way in which he spoke reassured me of how invaluable his maturity can be.

Sokratis – His arrival from Borrusia Dortmund is a transfer that reassured me that after years of defensive frailties we as a club were looking to sure up those problems by adding another experienced CB, Sokratis enjoyed a successful spell in Germany  and although towards the end of his time at Dortmund he wasn’t spectacular I believe we have a real leader in the centre of our defense now.

Bernd Leno – a welcome addition the squad, we have seen the GK position come under immense scrutiny down the years with Petr Cech not really showing anywhere near the type of form he once did at Chelsea & David Ospina failing to fill the fans with any confidence.  It’s an arrival that given time will really take off, Leno has made over 300+ senior appearances and for such a young goalkeeper he has real pedigree, it’s a signing I’m really excited about.

Lucas Torreira – given that it’s taken so many years to bring in a defensive midfielder of quality I am absolutely thrilled the club pulled this one off, many fans who hadn’t seen Torreira during his time at Sampdoria managed to get a glimpse of him for Uruguay during the summers WC, he tops my chart of summer acquisitions, once he has settled I firmly believe he will be the 1st name on the team sheet, he really is going to add that defensive intelligence in MF we have lacked for many years.

Then came 19 year old Matteo Guendouzi, a Central Midfielder from Lorient, Relatively unknown it was viewed that his arrival would mean a stint away from the 1st team, We couldn’t of been more wrong having seen him earn a well deserved start against Man City last Sunday.  He was arguably our best player of the pre-season, definitely a player we can look forward to seeing more of in the future.

Thanks for reading.

Ben Turner



Mesut Özil: Diamond or Dud?

Mesut Ozil is a player who continues to divide opinion amongst Arsenal fans and viewers of the game in general. On his day he can be marvelous, a joy to behold and oozes class but since his arrival from Madrid in September 2013 the general opinion is that he tends to hide, disappear and go missing in the biggest of fixtures and when his team mates need him most.  Having played an instrumental part in Germany’s World Cup success back in 2014 you could argue that Ozil has already reached the pinnacle of the game and therefore a lack of motivation could be what’s holding him back.

Whether that is or isn’t the case we’ll never know for sure, he says all the right things and you’d have a hard time proving how motivated somebody is or isn’t.  All you can do is make judgment based on what you see and there won’t be a Gooner out there who can honestly say we’ve always managed to get the maximum out of Mesut when wearing the famous cannon on his chest.  The talent is there, that shouldn’t be disputed and in fairness to Özil criticism of his work rate is unjust.  The statistics prove it – he covers just as much ground as anybody else, if not more than most so what’s missing from his game?

Is it a lack of desire? Not for me; I find it almost impossible to believe a top level sportsman would be content with simply plodding along; collecting his/her pay cheque at the end of each month and accepting mediocrity but then again, Theo Walcott made it!  So what seems to be the issue?

Arsene Wenger’s management has seen many players regress over the past few seasons and Mesut Özil happens to be one of them.  Other examples include Hector Bellerin, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alex Iwobi.  All of these players were given opportunities at a relatively young age, threatened to become world beaters in their respective positions yet every single one of them at some point or another, under Wenger’s leadership hit a brick wall in terms of their development.

Where the aforementioned cases differ to that of Mesut Ozil is that they were young fledglings looking spread their wings, make a name for themselves and were in need of a vastly experienced mentor and top quality management in order to maximize their potential. Mesut Ozil arrived at the Emirates Stadium as the ‘finished article’ meaning Arsene Wenger’s part to play in his career was a totally different but just as important one.

Mesut arrived in North London at a time where Arsene Wenger’s best days had long since passed him by.  His inability to find the correct balance in our midfield often left us exposed defensively and Özil to endure waves of unfair criticism as a result.  Not to mention the long periods our German playmaker spent operating from the right hand side, yet another Wenger masterstroke!  Mesut Özil has suffered a similar misfortune to that of Andrey Arshavin when he arrived back in 2009 and you won’t be surprised to hear the common denominator was Monsieur Wenger.

One can only hope new boss Unai Emery recognizes this and will do his upmost to accommodate Mesut in his preferred central position whilst also relieving him of a lot of his defensive responsibilities.  

The acquisition of Lucas Torreira should go a long way in rectifying our midfield imbalance and if Aaron Ramsey is to stay I’d expect him to be far more disciplined without the ball then he has been in recent seasons.  The new manager has a diamond in Mesut Özil and so creating the right environment around him should, in theory see him shine bright in 2018/19.

Words: @HarrySymeou