FM

Nov 102013
 

Ahead of Manchester United’s victory over Arsenal, Mesut Ozil gave a very cocky interview in which he claimed that his side would definitely win.

As it turned out, Ozil struggled to make an impression on the game and Arsenal once again found themselves on the losing side at Old Trafford, with their former captain, Robin van Persie, scoring the only goal of the game.

“We don’t feel any pressure at all,” he said. “We are going to Old Trafford to have fun – and that is why we are going to win. We know the quality we have and we want to be successful playing our own way. The plan is not to settle for a draw. If we are going to achieve the target of our coach, then we go to win. Of course, it’s going to be difficult. United are a high-quality team. But I’m sure they also respect us because we can beat anyone, home or away.”

Oct 012013
 

Arsene Wenger has revealed just how close Cristiano Ronaldo was to signing for Arsenal before United stepped in at the last minute to sign him.

“He was very close to coming here,” said Wenger. “He has a number nine shirt with Ronaldo on the back from Arsenal Football Club. What happened was that Carlos Queiroz went to Manchester United and they snapped him away from us because he knew him from Sporting. That’s what life is about. You give your best but sometimes you might find that people are stronger than you. That can happen as well.”

Ronaldo went on to win three league titles, the European Cup, the FA Cup and two League Cups at United, whilst Arsenal have won nothing since 2005.

Oct 012013
 

Gonzalo Higuaín, who looked set to join Arsenal himself in the summer, has hailed their signing of Mesut Ozil as a “bargain”.

“I had the pleasure to play with Mesut and he’s one of the best players in the world,” he said. “As a striker he’s great to play with because you know that Özil is going to create scoring chances for you. When you look at some of this summer’s transfer deals, you have to say that Mesut was a great deal for Arsenal.”

Sep 012013
 

Arsenal vs Tottenham, 16:00

 

- These fierce rivals could not have had more contrasting fortunes during this Summer’s transfer window. Spurs have brought in a total of six players, and it appears that they have settled into life in North London rather quickly.

 

- Central midfielder Paulinho may not have hit the back of the net so far this season, but on the back of his performance last week it seems that this may change rather quickly. The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that the Brazilian took 6 shots against Swansea; only Ricky Lambert mustered more.

 

- Who needs Gareth Bale when you’ve got Andros Townsend? The EA SPORTS Player Performance Index demonstrates exactly why Roy Hodgson opted to call him up to the England squad, as his total of 5 dribbles was tied with the most in the league.

 

- The player to share this accolade with Townsend was his Belgian teammate Moussa Dembele. The Belgian midfielder also completed 5 dribbles at the weekend.

 

- In Spurs’ match against Crystal Palace on the opening weekend of the season, defensive midfielder Etienne Capoue managed to make more interceptions than any other player – despite being on the pitch for only thirty-three minutes. He continued his fine defensive work against Swansea by winning 6 tackles, the most in the league.

 

- French captain Hugo Lloris has made himself pretty much indispensible to AVB’s side, and the white half of North London will be delighted to see that he is still adding to his glowing reputation. According to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, Spurs’ stopper has made 8 saves this season – tied with Simon Mignolet as the most of any keeper who is yet to concede a goal.

 

- Spanish maestro Santi Cazorla is known for his creativity and ability to play defence splitting passes, and this was on show on Saturday as he was one of only 17 players who managed to register an assist. On the other hand, so far this season he has failed to win a tackle – this is despite attempting 10.

 

- The news that Lukas Podolski is out for up to ten weeks will be a bitter pill to swallow for Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal faithful. The 100-capped German international has had 2 shots this season, and, according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, both shots have resulted in goals.

 

- Polish shot-stopper Wojciech Szczesny had his fair share of critics last season, but if he continues to perform like he did on Saturday these critics will soon disappear. He made 6 saves on Saturday, the second most in the league.

 

- Theo Walcott’s performances on the flank will prove critical to the Gunners chances of success this year, and it appears that his pace was causing Fulham headaches at the weekend. His total of 4 dribbles was equal-second in the league.

 

Aug 292013
 

PUMA has signed a new long-term partnership with Arsenal’s creative midfielder Santi Cazorla. The Spanish international will wear PUMA evoSPEED football boots on pitch this weekend, joining a rich portfolio of evoSPEED players that includes Sergio Agüero, Radamel Falcao and Olivier Giroud. Santi Cazorla will become another important asset in PUMA’s global football ‘Nature of Performance’ communication programme.

Combining several performance characteristics such as speed, agility and close control, Santi Cazorla is the perfect player to promote the PUMA evoSPEED product range. The Spaniard enjoyed a phenomenal first season at Arsenal, thrilling fans with an attacking style of play that led to him being voted the player of the season at the North London club.

Santi Cazorla said: “Signing this new partnership with PUMA is an exciting step for me. I like the people, their ideas for football and I am impressed with their product development. The evoSPEED boots I have chosen to wear are very light and give me a freedom and quickness of movement, which is very important for me to perform at my best. I am pleased the new season is underway and hope I can help my club and national team enjoy a successful year, and I am looking forward to working with PUMA.”

The evoSPEED 1.2 boot that Cazorla will wear is PUMA’S latest performance football boot, designed to enable players reach top speed quickly without sacrificing stability or comfort. This is made possible through the use of light materials in combination with an internal midfoot support cage (EverFit cage) that maintains a good fit during all points of sprinting. The outsole is reconfigured with smaller conical studs that give the player a better grip on the ground and enhances manoeuvrability on the pitch. For optimal comfort, a minimised tongue and heel have been added, reducing pressure on the Achilles tendon whilst the sock liner distributes the foot’s pressure evenly.

Aug 272013
 

February 10th 2008: “There are talks with the club and I hope everything will work out because I am happy here,” Flamini said. “I like English football and I love Arsenal. Hard work. I have done that for the three-and-a-half years have been at the club. Now I have my place in the team and I am getting more and more confidence. I am in central midfield and that means I am involved in everything. That suits my style.”

March 11th 2008: “This is the best partnership,” Wenger said of Fabregas and Flamini. “Going forward they are technically good and very mobile. Before we had players with impact and now the players’ strength is in mobility. Maybe they are less physically strong in the challenge than Vieira and Petit but they have a good understanding and they cover each other well. We build a team over years, being very restrictive about our spending and you are only rewarded if you can keep the team together.”

April 1st 2008: “I am talking with the club and we’ll see what happens. But I hope to stay at Arsenal,” said Flamini.

April 4th 2008: “I keep telling him to sign it quick because we need him,” said Fabregas. “But he is concentrating on the football at the moment – we are still going for two titles, so right now, everything else is not as important. Of course, he wants to know where he will be next season, but we all hope he will be with us. He is working really hard, he is a nice guy, he wants the best for Arsenal and I know he wants to stay. Mathieu has a lot of options because he is playing amazing football, but I know he really wants to stay here and that’s the most important thing.”

April 27th 2008: “There is something in this team which is stronger than a few bucks here and there,” said Wenger. “What is really important is that this team says ‘lets go to the end of our potential together and not walk out for any simpler reason’ – and that is where I expect them to show strength, and care what they can achieve together. We are not any more in a period where you get £100 more at another club and it decides your life. Flamini can earn more somewhere else that is for sure because it would be a free transfer – but how much is he ready to sacrifice to stay here?”

May 5th 2008: Flamini signs for AC Milan on a 4-year-deal.

May 7th 2008: “It is a problem [the salaries on offer] but we did not master this situation [with Flamini] because when a player is out of contract he can sign where he wants,” said Wenger. “I must say I am disappointed that he did that – but legally he can do it. But I hope that 95 per cent of the team, the core of the team, says ‘come on, we have only just lost’. If our players are not capable of doing that and just want to walk out for bigger contracts, for me that would be the biggest disappointment.”

May 11th 2008: “I actually wanted to sign a new contract at Arsenal last July but it didn’t happen,” said Flamini. “AC Milan did so much to sign me I couldn’t refuse. What happened to us after leading the league for so long was the most painful experience I had during four years at Arsenal.”

May 17th 2008: “If Arsenal had offered me a contract last summer I would still be their player now,” Flamini said. “Last July I told Arsenal I wanted to extend my contract so, of course, I would have signed if they had offered me a deal – but they didn’t. They said they wanted me to prove myself first. It was difficult for me at the beginning. I had to see it as a challenge but I won’t lie, it was not easy. You have to be mentally very strong to cope. I’ve enormous respect for Arsene Wenger, but I did not leave for the money. I’m leaving for Milan because it’s one of the biggest clubs in the world – with millions of fans everywhere, an enormous history and one of the biggest trophy cabinets in the world.”

March 24th 2010: “I’m following the interest towards me of big English clubs. But my priority is Milan,” Flamini said. “I’m at a legendary club, one of the greatest in the world. I feel very good there, I’m counting on imposing myself, at this moment I’m in full possession of my abilities.”

April 9th 2010: “I would like to stay at Milan,” said Flamini. “I don’t know if (manager) Leonardo will be our coach next year but I am a Milan player and my duty is only to give my best on the field.”

June 21st 2011: “It is my intention to remain at this club and extend my agreement with Milan,” Flamini said. “There is no rush though, we will speak in the future when the right time has arrived, but I want to stay a long time at Milanello. After winning the league title this year, I want to try to win the Champions League.”

June 20th 2012: Flamini released by AC Milan.

June 26th 2012: Flamini re-signed by AC Milan.

July 4th 2013: “The club did offer us a two-year extension,” said Flamini. “But, considering what he brought to the club, Mathieu wanted a longer deal. He is refusing to consider his future at AC Milan.”

July 10th 2013: “I miss England and I want to win the Premier League,” said Flamini. “It has a special place in my heart. I like the pace and the physicality of English football, and I like that every game is very open. When you are a competitor, what you want is to be successful. And to be successful, you want to win trophies. Other countries are possible, too. I don’t want to close any doors.”

Aug 252013
 

Reports from Spain today claim that Arsenal have let those close to Iker Casillas know that they are following his situation closely.

The goalkeeper lost his starting place in the Real Madrid team when Jose Mourinho was in charge last season. There had been some suggestion that it was a personal problem between the player and manager.

However, with new manager Carlo Ancelotti in charge, Casillas was left out of the team for Real Madrid’s opening game of the 2013-2014 season.

Casillas is Real Madrid through and through though, having joined the club when he was just 9-years-old, so isn’t looking for a move away just yet. But if Ancelotti makes it clear he doesn’t have a future at the club he could be persuaded to leave.

The goalkeeping position at Arsenal has been problematic for almost a decade now and Wojciech Szczęsny had a nightmare opening day of the season in the 3-1 defeat against Aston Villa.

Arsene Wenger hasn’t made a habit of buying older players though and Casillas is 32-years-old. But if the price is right, the manager will be tempted to see if a deal can be done.

Aug 232013
 

March 31st 2011: Willian linked with moves to Chelsea and Barcelona. Both Carlo Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola were reportedly keen to sign him after scoring twice in Shakhtar Donetsk’s 3-0 second leg success over Roma in the Champions League last 16 game.

April 13th 2011: “Willian would be perfect for Arsenal,” said Denilson (Arsenal player). “I know him well from the Brazil youth team and he had a real winning mentality then. I’ve heard Chelsea are interested, but his character could improve our team and his style would fit much better at Arsenal. We need match-winners at Arsenal and knowing what he does for Shakhtar and the national team I know he could do the same in England. He has great vision and ability and is one of the best creative players I have played with. I’ve spoken to him and told him that he could be a success with us.”

January 23rd 2012: “Willian is a very interesting player, but he is cup tied in the Champions League,” said Andre Villas-Boas (Chelsea manager). “I don’t think we should go for players who cannot be involved in all the competitions. We are not stressed regarding what we can do in this transfer window. If a good opportunity arises, we could study it, but at the moment, we are very satisfied.”

January 23rd 2012: “We have no burning desire to sell the player, but in football some things are impossible to avoid,” said Sergei Palkin (Shakhtar CEO). “If it weren’t for our good relationship with Chelsea – and Willian does not hide his intention to test himself in one of the best clubs in the English Premier League – we would insist on the £29m release clause written into the player’s contract. It is important to understand that we are talking about Chelsea’s desire to buy Willian, but not Shakhtar’s desire to sell him.”

January 24th 2012: “We have received a bid from Chelsea for Willian valued at €20million, but he is not for sale,” said Palkin.

January 26th 2012: “I wouldn’t have any fears about coming to England because I have played against English sides in the Champions League and studied the English game,” said Willian. “To play in a league that is seen throughout the world would be good for my hopes of playing regularly for Brazil, especially with the World Cup at home in two years’ time. That is my aim. I’ve worked hard for four years to establish myself in the national team. It has taken that long but now I feel I have a good relationship with the coach and I want to keep working hard, so I remain in the side. There are times when you look at your life and realise how lucky you’ve been. I’ve played for a great club in Corinthians and been successful. I moved to Shakhtar and that turned into a great move too. There was talk about Barcelona and Arsenal before but now Chelsea are interested. If the next step of the adventure is England, then I would be excited by that. I have friends in the Brazil side who play for Chelsea, like David and Ramires. All they talk about is the thrill of being in a city like London and playing for a club like Chelsea. I’ve known David since we played together in the Brazil Under-20 side and he talks about what Villas-Boas is trying to build at Chelsea. He and Ramires feel he wants a core of young players who can mature and grow together but also be successful. David says how the coach takes a real interest in all his players, how he can adapt different cultures together and bring the best out of them. Then obviously there is life in London. David and Ramires say there’s nothing like it anywhere else in the world – it’s exciting and challenging at the same time.”

July 18th 2012: “I told Willian he can leave, but only if the right offer is made,” said Shakhtar Donetsk manager Mircea Lucescu. “He’s a great player. Willian was the biggest investment Shakhtar have made in a young player, we have to respect that. He played only seven or eight games in Brazil. They paid a lot of money for Hazard but are not willing to pay for Willian, even though he’s better in my opinion. Chelsea want to buy Brazilian but made an offer for the eastern European market. They offered €34million but we don’t think that’s his current value.”

July 20th 2012: “I don’t know what the coach said, but the correct value was €25million,” said Willian. “But regardless of the value, of course I really wanted to play for a club like Chelsea, a club that won the Champions League. I’m really annoyed that the board didn’t let me go. It would have been good for me and for the club too. I’d play in a big league and would be able to grow as a player. This is not a message to anyone, everyone knows I want to leave. Chelsea had already reached an agreement regarding Oscar when they made that last offer to sign me. I’m sure it won’t be a problem as we are different kinds of players. He is more like a playmaker and I am more like an attacking midfielder. But it’s a matter of waiting. A lot can still happen.”

August 25th 2012: “I have the offer but it’s complicated because of the board,” said Willian. “Everyone knows that I want to leave. I’ve been here for five years, I’ve won many titles, so I hope they respect my will. I don’t regret having come here, but I regret what’s been going on with this situation. Chelsea tried to sign me, now Tottenham, so I have to rethink.”

August 27th 2012: Shakhtar Donetsk reject a £11.8million bid from Tottenham for Willian.

October 23rd 2012: “Willian was far away from Chelsea,” said Lucescu. “They didn’t even get anywhere near to our requirements, having done nothing to make my promises to Willian come true. Speaking specifically about the amounts, they officially offered the sum for which we had bought him young. I would really like them to highly appreciate his true value and realise that they made a big mistake.”

October 23rd 2012: “There were two offers in the summer,” Willian told Lancenet. “One from Chelsea and one from Tottenham. Choosing between the two clubs would be difficult. I don’t know. I mean, Tottenham is a big club and it has a good person in charge. Andre Villas-Boas wanted to bring me to Chelsea and also tried at Tottenham. He always sends me messages. We are always in touch, and he has become a friend, for sure. And Chelsea is Chelsea. They are a great team, with amazing players and are the champions of Europe. I would love to play for either of those clubs. But my mind remains at Shakhtar, and I’ll do my best to get the win against Chelsea. Everybody knows what my goal is. I’ve clearly stated that I would like to play in a bigger stage, whether it be England, Spain or Italy. I want to come back to the national team, and being in a bigger spotlight would help me get noticed.”

December 20th 2012: “My goal is to play for a bigger club in a high level league. If I tell you that I was happy, I would be lying. My desire was there, with a €25million (£20.3m) offer from a big club like Chelsea. I wanted to pack my things and go, but I can’t do that as I am under contract. It shows how much Shakhtar like me and shows that I am doing a good job, which is why they wanted me to stay. I have tried to convince them many times to let me go. I know that Juventus and Chelsea have made offers to buy me and that motivates me a lot. The club know that I want to leave, everyone knows that. The president has told me that he’ll let me go for €30million (£24.4m) and my intention is to sign for a big club.”

January 31st 2013: Willian signs for Anzhi Makhachkala for €35 million.

February 6th 2013: “Of course I thought about everything, I also took the Champions League into account, but it was the right moment to leave,” said Willian. “In the middle of the year it would make two years I would have been trying to leave without success. It’s indifferent for me that Shakhtar are in the round of 16 of the Champions League and Anzhi are in the Europa League. My objective was to leave from the front door and I think that happened. I don’t feel hurt by anybody.”

August 17th 2013: “There was the Manchester City bid that was turned down,” said Willian. “Now I’m waiting for a new bid to arrive in the next days from a few clubs, like Liverpool. If it’s really Liverpool, then it is surely a great club. I’m hopeful and very calm, just waiting for the best. England is my goal. I like the Premier League very much, I enjoy English football and certainly, if that happens, it will be very good for me and for my image.”

August 22nd 2013: Spurs agree £22m deal for Willian and he passes a medical with the club.

August 23rd: Chelsea also have a bid accepted for Willian.

August 23rd 2013: “I think he’s already made his decision,” said Jose Mourinho. “I don’t like to speak before time because football can be crazy. I know what the player wants, so in this moment we cannot hide. That is a possibility. You have to do the medical before, but the best thing to do is to do the medical in secret. If the player is fine, you can sign him.”

Aug 232013
 

Fulham vs Arsenal, Saturday 12:45

– Patjim Kasami picked a good moment to score his first Fulham goal as his second half header earned Martin Jol’s side all three points on their opening day fixture.

– Brede Hangeland’s presence in the centre of defence will clearly once again be crucial to Fulham’s chances this year. The giant Norwegian centre half already leads the Fulham squad for clearances with 13.

– New signing Martin Stekelenburg will no doubt be hoping the relatively quiet introduction he got to Premier League life against Sunderland will continue this week. He only had to make two saves according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, the second lowest of any keeper in the league and 3 less than the other keeper starting life with a new club in the Premier League, Simon Mignolet.

– Derek Boateng has already earmarked himself as Fulham’s potential midfield enforcer for this season, racking up 4 fouls in his first appearance.

– Arsenal’s season got off to the worst possible start as they fell to a 1-3 defeat to Aston Villa at The Emirates. Olivier Giroud’s well-taken goal had seemingly set the stage for the Gunners to dominate the match but a spirited fightback from Villa saw their afternoon end in disappointment and yet more pressure heaped on an embattled Arsene Wenger.

– Despite his expertly taken goal, Olivier Giroud struggled to consistently test Brad Guzan last weekend. He scored with his only on-target attempt on goal, being off-target with the other 75%.

– Although Arsenal fans are desperate for Wenger to spend before the close of the window, one area where they do have relative strength in depth is in creative midfielders. Despite coming out on the wrong end of 1-3 home defeat last weekend, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey still placed 2nd and 4th on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for passes completed inside the opponent’s half, with 54 and 52 respectively.

– The loss of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for the near future to a knee injury deprives Arsenal of one of their gamer-changers and Arsene Wenger will be concerned about losing the attacking purpose the Ox brings to the team. The young winger took on Villa with a joint squad-high 4 dribbles and the Gunners will miss his surges forward in the coming weeks.

– Key in replacing Oxlade-Chamberlain’s attacking instincts will be Tomas Rosicky who already leads his colleagues for attacking contributions with 7 according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance. This is despite being the oldest member of the Arsenal squad.

Aug 122013
 

There is one name Arsenal supporters repeatedly look towards when phrases such as loyalty, strength and determination are banded about and that name is Jack Wilshere. Arguably one of the finest natural English talents of his generation with his performance against Barcelona in the 2010-2011 campaign catching the eye of many a Spanish footballing aficionado, Jack Wilshere has become somewhat of an enigma with his name being whispered almost in hearsay with the midfielder having missed a sizeable amount of football over the past three seasons as a result of repeat injuries leaving many to believe his place in Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad next summer is in considerable jeopardy.

Whichever way you look at things Jack Wilshere has been poorly managed, he has often been rushed back from injury due to the fact in terms of number, Arsenal’s midfield is weak with Abou Diaby being unreliable in terms of fitness and the departures of Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song have also taken their toll on the strength in depth of the Gunners’ midfield. Furthermore, once rushed back, Wilshere is then overworked with the England midfielder often being asked to play three to four successive games which is simply too much for a man of Wilshere’s questionable fitness.

Even at the close of last season Jack Wilshere was again struggling with fitness with Arsene Wenger confirming that Wilshere would miss the final matches of last season with an ankle injury that would require summer surgery to rectify. Wilshere has since returned to the first team fold on Arsenal’s pre-season tour and has come through several matches without any fitness worries however if Arsenal are to not make any significant moves in the transfer market it will only be a matter of time before Jack Wilshere is again overworked and injured much to the detriment of not only Arsenal Football Club but also his chances of going to the World Cup in Brazil.

In signing Santi Cazorla, Arsenal made a fantastically clever move. Cazorla sitting in the number ten role just behind Olivier Giroud brought back the creativity lost with Samir Nasri’s departure and more to Wenger’s forward line. Cazorla settled quickly to the Premier League and was undoubtedly a key part of Arsenal securing yet another top four finish with the former Malaga playmaker contributing twelve goals and eleven Premier League assists according to statistics provided by ‘WhoScored.’ With Cazorla operating either on the left hand side or the number ten role there was little protection provided for the deeper central midfielders however with Mikel Arteta and Abou Diaby beginning the season as the central pairing after Alex Song’s transfer to Barcelona and Jack Wilshere’s injury troubles kept him out of the beginning of last season.

This midfield partnership was successful until Diaby picked up yet another long term injury which would keep him out for the remainder of the campaign. Jack Wilshere would eventually return but was as previously mentioned overplayed due to the lack of strength in depth Arsenal had in the deeper midfield areas. Now there is a relatively simple, well not simple if you look at events thus far this summer but it is easy to see a way in which the pressure could be taken off Jack Wilshere and that is to sign Luis Suarez.

Make no mistake, Luis Suarez is an outstanding footballer, his pace, close control and ability to beat a man with a quick turn of pace put him right up there with the elite attacking footballers in Europe at this time. Suarez in terms of footballing ability as Jamie Carragher says, “Should be playing in a team which challenges for the Champions League.” Suarez can be deployed as a striker, he is a nuisance to defenders, snapping at their heels forcing a mistake with an outstanding ability to score from an improbable angle making him an incredibly difficult player to defend against.

Now onto Arsenal, Luis Suarez can be utilised just as effectively in the aforementioned number ten role, he can beat a man and draw defenders out of position before playing a clever reverse pass to a centre forward positioned further forward who now finds himself in space. Suarez is very creative, he can find himself in a tight corner surrounded by two or three defenders and still manufacture a way to wriggle out of the danger and break into space, he has illustrated this on several occasions against Manchester United, particularly in his first appearance against United at Anfield.

This would be fantastic for Arsenal, Suarez situated just behind Olivier Giroud would not only take pressure of last summer’s new recruit but it would also allow Giroud to concentrate on getting into goalscoring positions in the box and find himself on the end of chances created by Suarez. Arsenal will once again become hard to defend against as defenders will be unsure of whether to break rank and try and shackle Suarez which in turn leaves Giroud in space, as well as this if an opposition feels they need to restrict Suarez’s creative flow they may use a holding midfielder to track the Uruguayan’s movement but this will then leave a gap in their midfield which Arsenal could manipulate using Arteta, Wilshere and Cazorla.

Now you are probably thinking, how on earth does this help Jack Wilshere? Well if Suarez was to be positioned as Arsenal’s number ten which I feel on most occasions he would be, then Santi Cazorla will be forced to play deeper in the midfield alongside Arteta. Cazorla has proven not only during his time with Villarreal and Malaga but also in his debut campaign in English football that he has a truly impressive eye for a pass. Cazorla can sit in the middle of midfield almost in the mould of Paul Scholes and just look to spread passes across the breadth of the pitch in order to create chances for Arsenal. With Arteta as the holding midfield just alongside or behind him Cazorla would have the freedom to play his calculated game from the middle of the midfield.

This would give Arsenal an increased strength within the midfield, both in terms of quality and depth. With Cazorla able to play in the centre of midfield without leaving a gaping hole of quality in the number ten role with Suarez now filling there, Jack Wilshere will have the opportunity to be eased back into Premier League action and then once back playing he will not have to be overplayed as Wenger can rotate between the trio of Arteta, Cazorla and Wilshere. This school of thought would have been exactly the same had Stevan Jovetic been brought to the Emirates if Arsenal had not wisely baulked at Fiorentina’s initial £27million asking price at the beginning of the summer but Suarez whilst more expensive would add Premier League experience and a more reliable source of input than Jovetic who does appear at times rather streaky in terms of consistency.

Wenger has an outstanding midfielder at his disposal in Wilshere, he can pass the ball as well as any of Spain’s starting eleven but he also has the gritty tough nature of an archetypal English central midfielder very much like Bryan Robson making him a incredibly useful player for both club and country provided he is fit. Wenger has to recognize this and look after him accordingly, with the amount of injuries he has already had at just twenty one years of age it is likely Wilshere will be susceptible to further knocks and setbacks however if Wenger was to add to the his squad with Suarez and possibly other players it would not only have a huge impact on Arsenal’s overall quality but it would protect and more than likely bring out the very best of their most valuable asset, Jack Wilshere.

Jul 252013
 
Giggs and RvP

The 2013/14 Premier League season is set to explode back into our consciousness in just three weeks time and what a campaign it promises to be. Fans all over the globe are eagerly rubbing their hands at the prospect of a catalogue of intriguing storylines, controversial incidents, stunning goals and surprise packages over the next nine months whilst teams, managers and players will all be looking to create a new slice of history in what is arguably the most gripping league in the world.

Here’s a look at where the biggest talking points could arise along with a few predictions.

Title Race/Top-4 Contenders

The title race represents a tantalising prospect this upcoming season as it is widely expected to be a compelling contest with as many as six teams in the mix for English football’s top prize. Numerous managerial changes signal a dawn of a new era making for a hugely competitive, yet unpredictable, campaign. Three of last year’s top four teams have made switches in the dugout this summer, with all eyes on David Moyes and Manuel Pellegrini inManchester, whilstChelseafans will be hoping that the return of the “Special One” can end the wait for the team’s first title since 2010.

Defending champions Man Utd, along with Man City and Chelsea, will be the main contenders for the top honour, however, a rejuvenated Arsenal will be looking to mount a serious challenge, while the likes of Tottenham and Liverpool – providing they can keep hold off their star players Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez – will be determined to secure a top-4 finish at the very least, which only  adds to the unpredictability at the top.

Everton cannot be ruled out of a place in the top-four either. New boss Roberto Martinez has boldly proclaimed his ambition to propel the Toffees into a prized Champions League spot, but will need to make a couple of astute signings as well as holding onto his star names, in order to achieve this challenging goal.

Top 10 Finish

The other top-flight teams will find it difficult to break into the top-seven, which leaves three remaining places for a creditable top-10 finish. The likes of West Brom andSwanseawill be looking for top-half standings once again, while there is a real sense of optimism on the south coast atSouthampton, with their highly rated boss Mauricio Pochettino setting his sights on a European place.

Meanwhile north east rivals Sunderland andNewcastlewill be eager to make a vast improvement on last season’s relegation battles. Nothing is ever dull with Paolo Di Canio at the helm, while Joe Kinnear’s return to Tyneside is sure to make for an interesting season ahead for Magpies fans.

Elsewhere, Fulham and West Ham together with Aston Villa will be hoping to challenge but they too must show marked signs of improvement on the 2012/2013 campaign.

Relegation Battle

The frantic fight for survival in one of the most competitive leagues in the world is always a thrilling, yet nerve-shredding, affair.Norwichand Stoke endured difficult run-ins last season and could be in danger of losing their top-flight status in 2014, however, as is usually the case, the three promoted clubs have been installed as the favourites to drop straight back down to the Championship.

CrystalPalacehave a woeful record in the Premier League having suffered relegation in all four of their seasons at the top. Under charismatic boss Ian Holloway they will be looking to rip up the history books and cement their place in the top-flight for a second season, which will be easier said than done.

Hull are also expected to struggle, while money-bags Cardiff have the potential to conjure up a surprise or two, providing they splash the cash, although as QPR found out that method can prove chaotic and ultimately costly.

However, if you delve into the recent records you’ll find that between 2001 and 2011, at least one of the three promoted teams has survived the first season in the top flight, while in 2011/12 QPR, Norwich and Swansea all miraculously survived, whereas both Southampton and West Ham avoided an instant return last season. The question therefore is, which ofCardiff,HullandCrystalPalaceare capable of continuing that trend this term?

Top Goalscorer Contenders

As always, the race to win the Premier League Golden Boot will be hotly contested amongst the top flight’s best strikers and last year’s winner Robin Van Persie will be looking to become the first player since Thierry Henry to win the prestigious award for the third time in a row.ManCity’s Sergio Aguero, Tottenham’s Gareth Bale and Wayne Rooney are also in contention along with last year’s surprise package, Aston Villa’s Christian Bentake, Daniel Sturridge andManCitynewcomer Álvaro Negredo.

LMA Manager of the Year

Having won it twice in the past three years, Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement opens up the door for another manager to win the prestigious LMA Manger of the year award. Due to the amount of managerial changes, this looks set to be a very competitive and Fergie’s replacement David Moyes and his cross-city rival, Manuel Pelligrini, have to be fancied along with Jose Mourinho, who amazingly never won the gong in his previous three year stint atStamfordBridge.

Surprise winners in recent years include Alan Pardew (2012) and Roy Hodgson (2010), which provides hope for those gaffers outside of the top six and it would be no shock if Mauricio Pochettino, Roberto Martinez, Paolo Di Canio or Steve Clarke emerged victorious next May if they can guide their respective teams to a successful campaign or cup run.

New Signings

There have been a number of exciting new additions to the Premier League so far and there are sure to be some more signings before the transfer window slams shut at the start of September.ManCityfans are looking forward to seeing the hugely talented Jesus Navas and Fernandinho plying their trade in the Premier League, while Tottenham have snapped up Paulinho. There will no doubt be a couple of me marquee signings in the pipeline, with the futures of Luis Suarez, Wayne Rooney, Gareth Bale and Christian Benteke still yet to be decided.

Goal-line Technology

At long last goal-line technology, in the form of the hawk-eye system, will be employed for the first time next season. In recent years a spate of controversial incidents and referee/linesman howlers have forced the league’s big wigs to finally act. Hopefully we can look forward to a fair and unproblematic process, although there is bound to be an odd contentious moment as is always the case with technology.

Premier League 2013/14 Predictions

Chelseato win the Premier League

Robin Van Persie to win the Golden Boot

Stoke to get relegated

Southamptonto finish in the top 10

November to be the month of first managerial departure

Jul 242013
 

Arsenal fan, Piers Morgan, has been quick to criticise the Premier League’s most unpopular player, Luis Suarez, over the years. “Cheat”, “pathetic”, “cannibal” and “berk” are amongst the names Morgan has used to describe the Liverpool striker. He also claimed he would be “disgusted” if an Arsenal player behaved the way Suarez has.

Then Arsenal put in a £40,000,001 offer in for the player and Morgan changes his tune.

Jul 242013
 

In the video Mikel Arteta shows how to spot space and weight the perfect pass to take defenders out of the game.

Arteta wears the super soft PUMA King. It’s in his nature to be the Ringleader – he runs the show. Arteta has filmed exclusive Nature of Performance training videos to help you become the master at playing the killer pass. Head to facebook.com/pumafootball to watch and share.

Jul 232013
 

It has been a funny summer for Arsenal fans. For the first off season since Done Howe was in charge, the threat of losing players to the more glamorous clubs of Spain, or er, Manchester, is not apparent. Add to that the claim by the club that there is money to spend of anything between £70m-£120m and there were certainly reasons for the fans to finally enjoy the summer.

It has, however, not quite panned out like that so far. No players have left and there was plenty of talk of world class players being linked: Higuain, Suarez, Rooney to name three. But there is nothing doing as yet. Twitter is exacerbating the hope and disappointment, so much so that fans are already getting tetchy. Personally I have absolutely no idea who Arsenal will or will not sign. In fact, I am not even sure who I’d like. It’s almost “anyone better than we currently have”.

There is of course, plenty of time left, but the hope of early June is starting to slowly erode. The club are currently on a tour of Asia, which has seen them completely dominate three relatively average opponents. Ramsey and Giroud in particular have impressed of the senior players.

In the absence of major signings, or even really a hint of one (even though L’Equipe claim we have actually agreed to sign Bernard), the fans have had the pleasure of watching some of the supposed younger stars get some fairly decent game time.

Chuba Akpom, Serge Gnabry and Thomas Eisfield have all impressed in small parts, hinting that they all themselves have a future at the club. But one name has stood head and shoulders above those players mentioned.

Gedion Zelelam. A 16-year-old Ethiopian by parentage, who is eligible to play for the German national team, was discovered playing in Maryland USA by Arsenal North American scout, Daniel Karbassiyoon.

There was hype around him before anyone had ever seen him play. There were reports he was every bit as good as Cesc Fabregas at 15. Exciting indeed. But as Arsenal fans we have been here before. The hyped kid who turns out to not quite fulfil the hype. Over the last 3 games, the fans have had the chance to see what all the fuss is about.

In the three games on tour he has played a significant part in all. Of course the opponents have not been good, but that tells only half the story. In the latest game, a 3-1 win over Wenger’s former team, Grampus Eight, he showed remarkable vision in setting up one goal and creating another couple of chances, most notably for Chuba Akpom. The balance and vision he has displayed in his first few minutes in the first team belay his tender age. Physically he has quite some way to go, as you would expect of a 16 year old. However the signs look very good.

It is rare for such skills to be present in one so young. Rooney, Fabregas and Michael Owen are three players that I can think of who were so obviously going to be world class players at 16, there are not many more.

It will be very interesting to see what Wenger has planned for him this season. At the very least I would expect him to be a central part of the Carling Cup team. And perhaps he will get a run out in the Champions League if we are lucky enough to face a dead rubber. But who knows? Cesc was fast tracked very quickly, and the initial signs are that Gedion is very much in that league.

We could, of course, be completely mistaken. It is hard to know, but as fans, we love to hype a player. It is part of the fun. Being there from the begining of a players career. It is often very hard to not gush about someone with such obvious talent, but this can heap huge amounts of pressure on them as the fans expect them to perform miracles from day one.

It is nice to have such a player coming through, and we can only hope that he goes on to have half of the career that Cesc had with us. And whilst we should be cautious of any expectation we place upon his shoulders, it also does appear that he has all the tools to make it at the very top level.

Fingers crossed!

Jul 222013
 

Team: Nagoya Grampus

Kick-off: 11.30

League: J-League

Club name origin: Derived from the two most prominent symbols of Nagoya: the two golden grampus dolphins on the top of Nagoya Castle (which can be more accurately described as shachihoko, a mythological creature part of the local folklore), and the Maru-Hachi (Circle eight), the city’s official symbol. The use of an orca in the team’s logo is likely a reference to the fact that the kanji for shachichoko (鯱) can be pronounced “shachichoko” (the aforemention mythical creature) or “shachi” (orca).

Arsenal link: In 1996, Arsene Wenger led them to the Emperor’s Cup and a runners-up finish in the J.League, the club’s best ever finish

History: Originally founded as the company team of the Toyota Motor Corp. in 1939. They are one of only four teams to have competed in Japan’s top flight of football every year since its inception in 1993.

Stadium: Shares home games between Mizuho Athletic Stadium (capacity 27,000 and the J.League’s oldest-serving stadium) and the much larger Toyota Stadium (capacity 45,000).

Honours: All Japan Senior Football Championship (1968, 1970), Konica Cup (1991), J. League Division 1 (2010), Emperor’s Cup (1995, 1999), Japanese Super Cup (1996, 2011).

Notable former players: Gary Lineker (Leicester, Everton, Barcelona, Tottenham Hotspur), Dragan Stojković (Red Star Belgrade, Marseille), Bernard Allou (Paris St Germain, Nottingham Forest).

Notable former managers: Arsene Wenger, Carlos Queiroz, Gordon Milne.

Mascots: Grampus-kun, and his wife and two children.

Last season: 7th out of 18.

Jul 202013
 

Before being beaten by Manchester United in the 2009 Champions League semi-final, then Arsenal captain, Cesc Fabregas, revealed his admiration for the opposition.

“I’m a massive Man United fan,” he said. “I have no problem saying United are one of the best clubs in the world – even though I want to beat them. They are the best side in the world at the moment – a top, top side and we respect them a lot. United are probably our biggest rivals but they are a team who play good football.”

Now at Barcelona, Fabregas has been heavily linked with a move to Manchester United, despite the official denials of the club.