30 May 2014

Arsène: he's like a new signing!

This is it. This is the season. Finally, with the silver-backed silverware monkey off of our backs, we can finally stop dwelling in the past and start preparing for the future. With news of a new contract for Arsène made official on Friday, it's time for him to put his freshly-minted money where his mouth is. Well, first correction: Silverbacks can only be gorillas, which are not monkeys, but the point remains. Second one: Arsène won't be putting any of his own money where his mouth is; it'll be the club's. Having sorted all that, it's time for Arsène "he's like a new signing" Wenger to make a few, new, actual signings, or his contract won't be worth the paper it's printed on. Unless they got the paper for free. And it's French. And they borrowed it from Ligue 2.

OFFICIAL: Arsène has signed 3-year deal

In the wake of a season that alternated between exhilirating possibility and frustrating disappointment, terrifying lows, dizzying highs, and creamy middles, there was one near-constant, as much a fixture of an Arsenal season as, well, actual fixtures: Arsène out. After the loss to Aston Villa, of course, it reached a, uh, fever pitch only to ebb after the signing of Mesut Özil and a run of form that saw us riding as high as can be until January and February when injuries and a cluttered schedule took their toll. However, we managed to claw our way back to something resembling respectability topped at the very end with the cherry that is the FA Cup. With the long winter of our discontent over, perhaps it is time to lay to rest the calls for Arsène to leave? Indeed it is. News from the official team site is that he's signed a three-year deal!

28 May 2014

Parting with Sagna would be such sweet sorrow...

It's far from official, but all indications are that Bacary Sagna has played his last match for Arsenal. In his own words, he has said, "there's a 90 per cent chance I will leave and 10 per cent that I will stay. I have been asking myself that question [about leaving Arsenal] for a long time, and it's the time for a new challenge." That, more than any suggestion of an offer from Man City, seems to confirm in my mind that Sagna has left. To say that he seeks a "new challenge" goes beyond any argy-bargy over pay or duration; no, it's a bit of a euphemism for saying he's done with Arsenal. Still, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. By contrast with other high-profile departures, Sagna's (should it come to pass), would feel like a bittersweet parting rather than a rancorous break-up. To me, he's been consummate, diligent, dedicated. If Man City or PSG want to give the man a golden parachute, I'll understand.

Will Pochettino spur an exodus to North London? Shaw, Schneiderlin, I'm looking at you...

With news that Spurs have announced Mauricio Pochettino as their next manager, the next, inevitable question is 'who will follow him to North London?' I'm less interested in how Pochettino will affect Spurs' style of play at the moment and more interested in who among his former players might make a move to North London (assuming along the way that they're looking to improve their lot in life, rather than degrade it. Many of Southampton's players are just starting to get noticed by their national clubs, and a judicious move could bolster both Arsenal's fortunes as well as their own. We do, after all, have a bit of a pipeline from St. Mary's already. If a few Saints are assessing their futures, why not extend an invitation to the Emirates?

27 May 2014

Transfer round-up: Draxler, Cavani, and Fàbregas continue to flirt and seduce...

There's not much actual football being played at the moment as we all hold our collective breath and wait for the World Cup to begin...in two weeks' time. Sigh. You can bet your bottom-dollar that these days will be filled with all sorts of rumors, from the scurrilous to the sensational, but few if any offering much in the way of substance. It's at this time of year that I turn to the betting sites—not because I'm a gamblin' man but because I find their ruthless, cold-blooded assessment of all things transfer-related to be a breath of fresh air, if only by contrast with the click-bait on offer from The Daily Mail, The Sun, Bleacher Report, and others. It's still early days, of course, and Arsène's proclivity for leaving things late, whether they be substitutions or transfers, should never be underestimated. Still, though, there are some encouraging signs from the legitimate businessmen's community...

Wenger warned as wounded Welshman suffers surgery-rumors

...or not. A report from the always-reputable Daily Mail reported that Aaron Ramsey would have surgery on to repair the thigh trouble that knocked him out of action from late December until early April, a stretch that saw us tumble from the top of the Prem and get dumped out of the Champions League. However, the Daily Mail link is down, and Ramsey himself has tweeted a refutation of the rumor.  However, even this alarming kerfuffle comes at a good time for all concerned.

26 May 2014

Does Özil need a world-class striker, or can he create one?

This is a vital question for Arsenal as we go into the summer transfer-window. For as much as we spent on Özil, that could be money down the drain. By some standards, the man struggled in his first season in the Prem, enough so that there were accusations that we had wasted our money or, alternately, that he was unhappy with his role. Now it comes out from no less an authority than Philip Lahm, captain of the German national team, that Özil needs the right striker to get out of Özil what we paid to get. This begs the question that I've asked in the lead-in: does Özil need a world-class striker ahead of him, or can he create one?

Jack Wilshere, Pinball Wizard...

Amid all of the other hullabaloo, lost in the litany of other injuries and returns, has been the growing influence of one Jack Wilshere. He may not have delivered the goals that Ramsey has or the breath-taking turns or passes that Özil, but Wilshere's return to fitness gave this squad a jolt when it was needed most, and his appearance in the FA Cup final coincided, perhaps not coincidentally, with our seizing that match by the scruff and dragging it home. Earlier in the season, it looked like we might see Wilshere suffer a fate similar to Diaby or Eduardo, players whose careers have been derailed and curtailed. When Wilshere injured his ankle, it felt like the worst kind of déjà vu. His cameo in the FA Cup final may have only amounted to about 15 minutes of action, but his play there and on the season show a man ready to take it to the next level.

25 May 2014

Real Madrid, la Decima, and Arsenal's ambition

What a thrilling, heart-breaking, epic final that was. Though the outcome probably surprised no one, there was a full 90 minutes when it looked as if Atlético would stand at the very pinnacle of European football for the first time in its history. A squad cobbled together with journey-men, loans, never-were's, and might-be's hadn't just pushed the galácticos to the brink, they were seconds away from shoving those overpriced mercenaries off a cliff. It would a glorious result, not just for Atléti but for football itself. By defeating Real, Atléti might also defeat the idea that reckless spending paves a path to glory. Sadly, however, shorn of Costa and exhausted in the waning minutes, Atléti couldn't hold out against Real's relentless assault as goals from Ramos, Bale, Marcelo, and Ronaldo sealed a 10th Champions League title. However, there's still something in this saga for us to study.