Previous names: Dial Square, Royal Arsenal, Woolwich Arsenal

Friday, June 29, 2007

Is Wenger about to abandon his search for a wide midfielder?

Apparently Arsenal have already lodged a £6m bid with Auxerre and are waiting for permission to speak to Bakari Sagna.

The Auxerre president Gerard Bourgoin in his comments to the Daily Mail seems to imply that the transfer is on as the player is interested.

"Sagna has a deep desire to play in England and he genuinely wants to wear the Arsenal shirt. They seem keen to sign him as well. The conditions for him to leave have not all been met — at least for the time being."

Bakari Sagna is a right back and young enough at 24 to appeal to Wenger. They say he can also play at left back but he has appeared in all 38 of Auxerre’s games this season and they were all at right back.

So why would Wenger be interested in signing a right back when he has, in my opinion, two good defenders for that position, in Eboue and Hoyte, as well as a promising youngster in Kerrea Gilbert? And there are also other players that can cover for that position if need be like Djourou, Gallas and indeed Toure.

Is Wenger interested in buying additional cover when Eboue will be away at the Africa Nations Cup? It will be an expensive cover however at 6m and judging by how frugal Wenger is with Arsenal’s cash we just do not see this as being the main reason why Sagna is interesting him.

Alternatively there is a gap in the left back position where Traore although promising is still too raw and inexperienced to cover for Clichy if need be. And Sagna can also play at left back. Granted Arsenal need cover for this position (Arsene. Who to buy?) but surely Wenger’s first choice will be Clichy. He will not buy a 6m player just to have him sit on the bench.

Wenger is concentrating at the wrong end of the pitch. Shouldn’t he be utilizing his energy and available cash in recruiting a couple of forwards and a wide midfield player instead?

There can only be one viable reason for Wenger’s interest in Sagna if indeed he is interested! There is a possibility that Eboue could be pushed forward to the right midfield position as he has been tried by Wenger on a few occasions in the latter stages of last season’s campaign. Notably against Portsmouth, Manchester Utd and Chelsea with good effect.

If this is the case then Wenger may now be abandoning his search for another wide midfielder.

He will then have available for the two wide midfield positions Eboue, Hleb, Rosicky,Walcott and even Robin Van Persie (if and when Wenger chooses to play a 4 3 3 or a 4 5 1 formation).

I am assuming that Ljumberg will be moved on. He has lost his pace which was his most pivotal attribute as it enabled him to get behind defences and score. Additionally at around 4m a year for the next two years he is indeed a very very expensive bench warmer.

Under this scenario it would probably mean that there will be no place at Arsenal for Reyes. And we say this only from the financial point of view.

Indeed a committed Reyes, and I stress the word committed, would be a very attractive addition to this list, providing additional selection options and valuable cover all round (especially if Hleb does not improve the quality of his play significantly).

And a successful season for Reyes may push his price back to the level which Wenger bought him.

By 1970's Gooner

Thursday, June 28, 2007

If Wenger could play God he would create Thierry Henry again

Thierry Henry was the best player to ever play for Arsenal and in my opinion he was the best player to ever play in English football. Between 2003 and 2006 he was by far the best player in the world. The fact that he was ignored for the top European honours is more a reflection of Arsenal’s status in Europe rather than his own ability.

I know we all suspected he was going, but when I heard that the deal was done, a small part of my soul died. The realisation that on August 11, when Arsenal take on Fulham for the opening game of the new season Thierry is not going to lead the team out was too much to bear.

Thierry gave all Arsenal fans a lot of reasons to be cheerful, 226 reasons in fact, in 364 games, winning 2 tittles and four FA cups along the way and of course the crazy Champions League adventure of 2006.

Very wrong to say he went missing in the big games.

People always said that he went missing in big games and that he never scored in a final. It’s true he did not score in a final but it was his goals and assists that made it possible for both Arsenal and France to compete in those finals.

Did you know that Henry at the age of 19 was the top goal scorer for France in the 1998 world cup? The only reason he missed out in the final was that the coach decided that it was time for experience not youth.

Missing in big games? No way. In the Champions League: Goal away against Madrid, virtually guaranteed that we went through, second goal against Juve at Highbury, hat trick against Inter Milan when we won 5-1 in the San Siro, another hat trick against Roma in the Olimpico. Assist for the Kolo Toure goal against Villareal.

In the premiership, he scored a hat trick against Liverpool when the famous unbeaten season was stumbling after CL and FA cup heartbreaks. The famous goal against Man United, one of the best goals I have ever seen and of course the winner at the first ever Emirates derby against the Mancs. The goal against Spurs to make sure we kept in touch during the 05 –06 season, where we beat them to 4th place in our last game ever to be played at Highbury. The brace he hit against Chelsea in their first year they won the league….

I could go on, the list is endless, but I think that his record speaks for it self. A goal every 1.6 games cannot be questioned and I would think it stands against any other striker to ever play in England. I always felt that people who made these type of comments were deeply envious of his ability.

Thierry plays the game with the perfect blend of skill, balance, power and pace. Thierry Henry in full flow is the most amazing sight I have ever seen on a football pitch. If Wenger could play god for a day and he went about creating his ideal footballer I bet he would create Thierry Henry all over again.

He is not a spent force. Barcelona got a hell of a deal

I am not also one of those that buy into the theory that he is now a spent force. Thierry is a specimen of an athlete and I find it very difficult to believe that a player looking after his body so well can be finished at 29. Even if he lost a yard of pace he is still quicker than most. He is an intelligent footballer that would be able to adjust even if his pace had been compromised.

At the price quoted Barcelona got a hell of deal. Thierry would walk into any other side in the world, but even now when everybody says he is finished he chose the one team with arguably the best front line in the world. That to me says a lot about his character.

I feel privileged to have been able to watch the best player of our generation play week in week out. In no way do I feel resentful of his choice to look for a new challenge. If he ever came back to play against us, I would give him a standing ovation even if I was in a minority of one.

There were so many special memories that I cannot possibly pick only one. However the way I want to remember TH14 is getting down the left side of the pitch, toying with the right back, cutting inside to torment the centre back and finally curling a shot past a hapless goalkeeper with no effort at all.

Au’revoir Thierry, thanks for the memories and I sincerely hope that in the future you will be associated with Arsenal in some way or form.

There have been a host of names put forward to replace him; like Martins, Owen, Torres, Anelka (Arsenal in for Anelka? The return of the prodigal son) and others.

No one can even get near him. But just as Fabregas, with his own particular style of playing, replaced Vieira so will someone else step in to fill the void.

By Arsenal Analysis season ticket holder at the Emirates, South Stand: Row 5

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Arsenal interested in Edu II ?

Chinedu Ogbuke (Edu) has been linked to Arsenal before due to his impressive performances for the Eagles in the World Youth Championships of 2005.

It was also reported that Arsenal had sent scouts to Norway to have him watched on several occasions and were interested in signing him during the 2006 summer transfer window. So were CCSK Moscow and Liverpool.

In December of that year a deal with another Moscow club this time Lokomotiv looked set to materialize. However this did not go through due to both the manager and president leaving the club. He has since had trials at Wigan and later at Portsmouth but concerns over work permit problems put Hary Redknapp off.

He joined Lyn in 2005 at the same time as Jon Obi Mikel (now of course with Chelsea) and was previously a youth player with the Shell Academy in Nigeria. He was Young player of the year in Norway for 2006.

He is considered to have an eye for goal and this is backed up by his impressive goal scoring record in Norway of 5 goals in only 8 appearances (62%). The last one against Rosenborg (2-1) where he scored Lyn’s both goals, last Monday.

Edu who is only 21 years old has recently been linked with Tottenham, Wigan, Liverpool, Portsmouth and Celtic. Although his age may appeal to Wenger the price may eventually be bid up as there are a host of clubs interested.

However due to his age and relative inexperience I can only see Edu as being another skillful player with potential. What Arsenal need of course is an experienced forward who is a proven goal scorer.

The team has lost a lot of experienced players and we do not want to see a rudderless ship again wandering in the heavy waters of next season’s highly competitive Premiership League. A repeat in other words of the effects of when Vieira departed.

Wenger of course may have spotted the possibility of using him in the wide positions as well as a providing cover as a forward.

His agent is John Shittu who also represented John Obi Mikel during his controversial move to Chelsea which saw The Blues pay Lyn £4 million and Manchester United £12 million to sign the midfielder.

By 1970's Gooner

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Arsenal in for Anelka? The return of the prodigal son

Henry was brought in to take over from Anelka in 1999 and now eight years later Anelka is coming in to replace Henry. At least that is what Antony Kastrinakis of the News of The World is revealing. He further states that Wenger already held preliminary talks with Anelka's people to sound him out about a move to the Emirates!

It is of course imperative that Wenger brings in a forward of proven value to replace the big gap that Henry’s departure has left in the Arsenal squad.

It is also imperative that the Board stop being obstinate and grant Wenger his wish of signing Anelka. We don't want another crisis at the club right now. That's for sure.

It would of course have been timelier if Anelka or anyother forward was brought in before or during Henry’s impending move to Barcelona. In our previous posting “Arsenal need to act quickly to stop the rot” the point was made that it will actually prove more difficult to attract a quality player now that Henry is not there. Or indeed if the potential recruits fear that Wenger may not be there the season after; as Henry has hinted.

Nevertheless apart from Anelka there have been other names mentioned since Henry’s departure of course. These include Michael Owen, Martins, Huntelaar, Babel, Kanoute and Torres. We will not bother mentioning non starters like Diego Forlan (heaven forbid).

For regular visitors to the site it will not come as a surprise that we would of course place at the top of the list Nicolas Anelka. If all these rumors actually become a reality then we will feel very satisfied as having identified him as a must get target as early as March of this year “Anelka for Arsenal” and also in our analysis of “What does Arsenal need to do to challenge for next season?” The reactions from some of the visitors to the site did not so much castigate him for his football abilities but for his character and the way he left Arsenal. Others were all for it.

At the risk of sounding repetitive we believe that Anelka will be a terrific signing for Arsenal as he has all the attributes that this Henryless Arsenal side now more than ever need.

At only 28 years old he now has a blend of relative youthfulness along with maturity and experience that is sorely missing from an experience depleted squad.

His attitude and maturity have been evident on the football pitch both for Bolton and for the France national team. He has received no yellow or red cards.

And he can score goals. He has found the net 11 times for Bolton this past season out of 35 appearances with 5 assists. Compare that to the 17 he scored (out of 35) during his last season at Arsenal during the 1998-1999 season. The goals he scored this season were from a lonesome striker role; in an average, launch them long and high, Bolton side. Imagine how many goals he will score in an Arsenal side that creates scoring opportunities for fun.

He also knows the English Premier League well and therefore does not require any adjustment time as a new raw Wenger recruit would otherwise need.

This is one of the reasons why we would place him above Babel, Huntelaar and Torres. Good forwards they are they will need an adjustment period at a time when this current Arsenal side does not have the luxury of providing. The other reason of course is that Anelka is a more mature player and will bring experience to bear.

Babel in particular has impressed us during the under 21 Championship finals as he looks strong, fast and skillful. A typical Wenger player. He would be a good signing for the other vacancy of the wide midfielder if Wenger cannot find a team to unload Reyes. Otherwise we would be happy to accept Reyes back to the fold in the same way as we hope Anelka will be welcomed back.

Our second very close choice would have been Kanoute but he has already ruled out a move back to the premiership. He would have been an ideal second choice as he possesses most of the attributes that are apparent in Anelka.

Huntelaar looks good and has a very impressive goalscoring record albeit in the Dutch League with 21 goals in 32 league appearances for Ajax or a 65% success rate.

Of the other forwards mentioned, Owen, Martins and Torres, we have our reservations. Owen is a good goal scorer, always will be. But he has lost pace due to injuries and he is not a mobile center forward as Wenger likes his players to be. We think he is near to what in business lingo you would characterize as “burnt out”. He will be a risky signing considering the price asked for in comparison to his age and injury record.

As far as Martins is concerned he has pace and given the opportunities he will get you goals. But we don’t see him as a centre forward. He is more a winger or an inside forward playing off the centre forward. Along with Babel we would place him in contention for the other vacancy at Arsenal Football Club. But he is likely to cost a lot more than Babel.

Torres is promising but he is still young and raw in our opinion and without Premiership experience. And at 27m you might as well forget it. Wenger does not usually splash out the money. Not this much anyway.

So apart form Anelka there are only second and third best options left for Wenger.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Arsenal need to act quickly to stop the rot

Well what everybody feared happened. But if the impact on Arsenal is only this then maybe we can live with it. But we are worried that unless remedial action is taken almost immediately then we are afraid to say that this may not be the only bad news we get to hear about Arsenal.

Why has Henry decided to leave? It looks that the main reason is that Wenger is refusing to commit his future to Arsenal beyond the end of this coming season. And since Henry is nearing the latter stages of his career he needed to find success at a club which in his opinion has more chances of winning silverware than “Wengerless” Arsenal.

In one of our recent postings “Will Henry succeed at Barcelona?” some readers did not like the idea of an Arsenal site talking about Henry’s departure and so prematurely. We nevertheless expressed the opinion that success for Henry at Barcelona will not be that easy. And we still hold that opinion. But this is now academic in a way.

Nevertheless the important aspect of Henry’s departure is that it is sending a message that Arsenal does not have a bright future. That it is always in transition and that silverware will be hard to come by. The impact of this message on morale within the playing staff at the club will be more devastating than when Vieira left.

But why is Wenger not committing himself beyond the end of this coming season? Because the Board ousted his closest ally David Dein from the Board, in effect deciding to reject Kroenke’s forthcoming bid. A bid which if successful would have probably meant more money for Wenger to sign those quality players he promised only very recently.

Well we ask you how will Wenger be able to attract those quality signings now if he does not have the “you will be playing next to the great Thierry Henry” marketing spin to throw at them?

More importantly how will he be able to convince the next quality player or even any other player to sign for Arsenal if he himself has not committed to Arsenal beyond this coming season? Especially since Henry has sited this as a major reason for leaving?

This indeed may be the real reason why there have been no signings by Wenger so far. Not the reasons sited (by us as well of course) such as waiting for La Liga or the Under 21 Championship finals to end!

An even more significant risk beyond being able to attract new quality players is stopping the existing stars from being unsettled and wanting to leave the club this season. And not wait to see how things would pan out next season as they have in a way been hinting.

Some people have suggested that the biggest danger of them all is for Wenger himself to get up and go. We do not subscribe to this view but not because there are not good enough football and Board room reasons for Wenger to indeed want out. Indeed from his point of view there probably are. It is just that we believe him when he says that he will honour his contract.

But of course this is THE problem that needs to be resolved and prompto. In one of our April postings “Wenger holds the keys to Arsenal’s doors” we made the point that Wenger being the key man at Arsenal should intervene to force the Board in resolving this dispute with Dein and Kroenke for the good of the football club.

How can the rot be stopped now? Well it needs radical and courageous measures by the Board otherwise after a mediocre season where Arsenal battle it out with Spurs and a few other clubs for fourth place and Champion’s League qualification Wenger may indeed up and go.

We know that what we will suggest will sound like a fantasy but it is indeed the only right way that we can see for resolving this mess that the Board got us into.

The rot can be stopped only if the Board come to an arrangement with Kroenke for increasing his participation in the club with a view to buying a majority share

If as a result some or almost all Board members resign then so be it.

Then get Dein reinstated at the club. Kroenke may make that a condition anyway.

Then get Wenger to sign a new long term contract now in pre season and not next year.

Then make funds available to get those quality players in that Wenger has been talking about.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Is Justin Hoyte the new Pat Rice?

The elder member of what constitutes Arsenal Analysis is old enough to remember watching Pat Rice in an Arsenal shirt! He draws an interesting comparison with Justin Hoyte.

I remember when Pat Rice made his debut for Arsenal. A young kid from Northern Ireland who grew up next door to Highbury. Who, after working at a greengrocers on Gillespie Road joined the Gunners as an apprentice in 1964. Apart for four years at Watford (1980-1984) he has never really left Arsenal. Playing at right-back, he was a stalwart at the club through the 1970s eventually becoming club captain.

I remember the press making the point that after so many appearances at Arsenal he remained the only outfield player at the time who was without a goal to his name. A kind of football virgin if you like! Or a latter day John Jensen (who joined Arsenal in 1992 scoring his first goal two years later). We the fans were of course urging Pat on in every game to go forward and try his luck. He managed 13 goals in the end (not all in that game)!

He was never an attacking full back. He didn’t like going forward so much and always concentrated on doing the simple things well. In those days the full backs were indeed full backs who were not really encouraged to be that adventurous. Bob McNab (the Arsenal left back in the 70s) used to do it more often and he was considered an exception to the rule. What I remember most about Pat Rice in football terms was that he played with gusto, tenacity and determination and always put safety first. Conservative but dependable.

I have been noticing most of these characteristics in Justin Hoyte. He has improved a great deal since he went out on loan to Sunderland and came back stronger and more experienced. And his recent performances for the England Under 21s have been in my opinion very good (apart from his penalty miss). Unlike Pat Rice he has already scored for Arsenal!

He also has pace which is inherited from his parents, who were very decent sprinters themselves.He grew up at Arsenal tagging along with his parents who have a coaching role at the club. A little bit like Pat Rice who practically lived at Arsenal.

He is ofcourse in competition with Eboue for the right back position. He does not have the flair and skill of Eboue but then again Eboue doesn’t have the positioning awareness and dependability of Hoyte. Eboue of course has impressed this season more for his attacking flair and the beautiful crosses he put in the box for Henry to exploit.

Especially the late winner against Manchester United and the headed goal against Porto at the Emirates in the Champions League. He has indeed performed well as a right wide midfielder whenever he was used in that position. Arsenal Analysis and others of course have seen the potential in this switch (Arsene who to buy?).

Is there I wonder a place for both in the current Arsenal team?

P.S Pat Rice holds the distinction (along with Bob Wilson) of having taken part, as player or coach, in all three of Arsenal's Doubles. Let’s hope that Justin Hoyte matches that…at least.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Will Henry succeed at Barcelona?

There is a lot happening on the Henry saga with regard to will he go or will he stay etc. It is almost a carbon copy of the Vieira departure which started about a year earlier than his eventual departure.

Consider the following: Henry states only a week ago “I am an Arsenal player…. for now…” His agent denies claims he met with Barca officials. Meanwhile Thuram gets a call from Henry sounding him out on how life is at Barca and in Spain.

And almost simultaneously it is reported that Wenger has met with Barca to discuss the move! Finally Edelman, from the Arsenal Board, states that they will follow Arsene’s decision on the matter!

But most important of all Wenger himself has not denied that he met the Barca officials!

But if Henry is leaving Arsenal will he ‘fade to grey’ as has Vieira or a lot of other ex Arsenal stars who dared venture to pasture on seemingly greener grass across the pond? Like some of the bigger names: Anelka, Petit, Overmars, Vieira, Edu, Pires.

Being released by Wenger does not of course, one may argue, necessarily stigmatize a player as a failure who will not again reach the dizzy heights of football perfection.

However, we tend to think so. And there are, to us, obvious reasons for this.

Wenger grooms the players for the position that suits them best and they therefore have every chance of excelling. Remember Henry was a winger when he arrived at Arsenal and wasn’t himself sure if he was cut out to be a forward.

But more importantly he organizes the team’s tactics and way of play to fit the players skills, motivates them superbly through his man management skills and creates a loyalty factor which is second to none.

Let’s take Henry’s case: We believe that he will not be the same player for Barca as when he was playing for Wenger at Arsenal.

The most obvious reason is the way Wenger sets up his teams and their style of play which is to always use the front man as the pivot of the attack. This invariably culminates in providing the scoring opportunity for the centre forward. Will he get this at Barca?

Will their coach, whoever he may be, adjust the team’s style and their mentality to suit Henry’s way of playing and allow him to be the main man? Especially when they have so many other stars in their line up all wanting the lime light and a piece of the action?

Secondly how will Barca themselves tactically accommodate four superstars in their line up? If Eto’o is not allowed to go they will have Ronaldinho, Eto’o, Messi and now Henry. They may play 4 4 2 with Henry and Eto’o up front and the other two on the wings. It sounds good but we don’t think this is the way to go!

Henry as has been proved before in his displays for France, when he was paired with Trezeguet, cannot be as effective with another forward next to him. It crowds him out. It is not a surprise that Wenger has very rarely played a straight 4 4 2 formation when Henry was in the team.

If they choose to play 4 4 1 1 (with Eto’o and Henry in the more forward positions) do you see Ronaldinho and Messi tracking back to defend as this system demands? And if they play 4 3 3 their defensive midfield options are severely compromised.

Barca’s style of play also depends on quick passing and movement and for this to happen the players need space. Something that will become a very rare commodity if all four of them play.

A way to avoid these problems is if they let Eto’o go. And this may prove a blessing in disguise for Arsenal as Eto’o at 26 is a much fitter and hungrier player than Henry and with a much better goal average at 12 goals in 16 appearances! He will do very well at Arsenal.

Arsenal Analysis has argued before that there is too much reliance placed on Henry by Arsenal and it was about time to reduce this imbalance (Waiting for Godot).

There are two more reasons why we think that Henry is likely to find that the grass is not greener elsewhere. The first is his age. At 29 going to 30 he is indeed entering that age where fitness and injuries will come more into the fore.

There must be some niggling thoughts at the back of Wenger’s mind that may be Henry is beginning to lose his pace due to age and not because of injury. He is after all entering that stage in his career at 29 where this indeed may begin to show.

And if indeed Henry has expressed a desire to leave then Wenger may have decided to cut his losses and go for the money and/or Eto’o. Will Henry regain his fitness? (Henry for Barcelona).

And this brings us to our last point which is to do with Henry’s personal situation. For him to be effective on the field his personal life has to be settled. Will he and his family settle in Spain? Learn a new language and a new way of life? In addition to getting used to his new team surroundings? And if all this takes him a season to settle in will he be as fit as when he was 29?

The downside to this is the psychological impact that his departure will have on the other players who have only recently managed to get over Vieira’s exodus.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Wenger travels to Norway. The Board see sense. A transfer kitty? August looks promising!

There are four pieces of good news and one not so good for Arsenal fans. At least that’s how we interpret the following:

- Wenger traveled to Norway to try and sign a 16 year old
- Hill Wood and Edelman met with Kroenke in New York
- 40m has been set aside as Wenger’s transfer budget
- West Ham offer 17m for Bent!
- The August fixtures look encouraging. Arsenal can hit the ground running

Wenger traveled to Norway to try and sign a 16 year old

Now you might consider this as bad news in the sense that Wenger is a maverick coach hell bent on signing only young talented kids with a lot of potential. Rather than go for the finished articles or at least players who don’t need permission from their parents to play in evening kick off games! Especially when the team is desperate for quality reinforcements. As he has himself admitted.

Apparently Wenger traveled to Norway last Sunday to try and get the young defender’s club FK Haugesund to accept a 1.8m fee for his signature. They refused to do so even if the youngster has set his heart to going to Arsenal. It appears that Man United are also interested; which is bad news again!

The good news for us however is the fact that Wenger took a detour form his trek back from his holidays in Sardinia, probably letting his family find their own way back to London, to fly all the way to Norway. For a 16 year old kid!

Well we ask you if Wenger was actually thinking about leaving Arsenal next year would he have gone so much out of his way and travels to entice FK Haugesund’s president to accept the fee offered? One would have understood if this effort was expended to try and get Eto’o or a player of similar messianic attributes to sign for Arsenal. Not for a 16 year old kid!

Planning for the future in this way does not seem to us the actions of someone who is about to or thinking about jumping ship. This year or next.

The members of the Arsenal Board are trying to stay on board……

Hill Wood and Edelman met with Kroenke in New York

Apparently a meeting took place in New York between Peter Hill-Wood and American billionaire sports tycoon Stan Kroenke. This is a big turnabout by Hill Wood and the rest of the Board after their much publicized ousting of David Dein for having fraternized with the same Mr. Kroenke!

“We don’t want their sort here…” are the famous words for which Hill Wood will soon have to find ways of making palatable for his taste buds!

But of course one may consider this as bad news as it implies that indeed a takeover might be on the cards. And there are a lot of Arsenal fans that rightly are concerned about the profit motives that any investor will inevitably subscribe to.

However for us it is good news. This is because a sensible approach seems to have been adopted in recognizing that the 12.1% that Kroenke has amassed together with the 14.6% that Dein already holds is a force that needs to be appeased rather than draw into an open battle front.

It appears that the comments made by the Arsenal players and Wenger himself with regard to Dein’s departure may be influencing in an indirect way the Board’s way of thinking. Why are Henry, Fabregas, Rosicky, Silva and Djourou speaking ou at the same time?

If the Board can manage to accommodate Kroenke and avoid a hostile takeover battle then they would have masterfully avoided the very real danger that unsettling events in the Board room would have found their way to the manager and the players; inevitably jeopardizing any chances that the team may have of winning any silverware this coming season. What does Arsenal need to do to challenge for next season?

Part of the answer for challenging next season, although not all of it involves new personnel……

40m has been set aside as Wenger’s transfer budget

Arsenal have made financial arrangements whereby a credit facility of up to 40m will be made available to Wenger for any transfers he might decide to push through. This has been deemed necessary so that the selling teams will be assured that funds will be available for Arsenal to meet any future agreed installments on the purchase of a player.

It is highly uncertain of course whether Wenger will go mad and spend it all this summer. But it does indicate that we will be seeing some activity in the transfer market. We hope.

The delay in creating this facility may explain part of the reason of the lack of news on this front. The other reasons, which carry more weight, include the waiting for La Liga to come to a conclusion (and the need to respect Reyes’s wish to stay in his home country) as well as for the Under 21’s tournament taking place now.

And we all know that the probability of Wenger being interested in signing anyone under 21 is high (although he may of course be interested in some of the players taking part which are allowed to be over 21).

But will Wenger want to spend the 40m?

West Ham offer 17m for Bent!

This is the not so good news! Not because we feel that Arsenal should be signing Bent. He is not the type of player that Wenger goes for as he likes fast, skillful and creative players rather than big front target men. Bent would not fit in the Arsenal style of play. Bent is a good player but is he really worth 17m?(Charlton must be kicking themselves since Bent himself has rejected the move!)

We think this is bad news as our fear of the expected price inflation showing its ugly head in the transfer market is becoming a reality. We expect this to happen in a market awash with the monies from the new deal of selling the Premiership abroad as well as the new funds that are likely to be made available to the teams that have recently changed or will be changing ownership.

Teams such as Manchester United already overspending on exorbitant prices for only good players like Nani for example or teams such as Liverpool, Newcastle, Aston Villa, Birmingham, Portsmouth and West ham United to name only those that have new owners. Let alone those that will have new owners.

This isn’t good as Wenger seems to hate having to overpay for a player. As we have written in previous postings Wenger has an opinion about the value of players and he can set that against the price being asked.

If the price does not represent what he thinks is the real value then he may not go for it. He is just as happy to stay with what he has as he believes that he can improve players and challenge for silverware using home grown resources.

And speaking of silverware……

The August fixtures look encouraging. Arsenal can hit the ground running

Sir Alec Ferguson stressed the importance of hitting the ground running when starting the last campaign. This is because Chelsea being so efficient do not slip up easily so it becomes very important to be in the race from the beginning.

It allows the team to get more confidence to see themselves up there at the top with the other protagonists and to be talked about as possible contenders for the Championship.

It’s almost a confidence trick but nevertheless significant when the team consists mainly of young and inexperienced kids.

And the good news is that the August fixtures are winnable. Fulham at home should not present a real problem (we expect Laurie Sanchez to struggle in his first year in the Premiership especially with the names that Fulham are being connected to as possible transfers),

The tough away fixture at Newcastle will be postponed due to the Champions League qualifier. Blackburn away will not be easy but we hold no fear as we won there last season with 10 men and then Manchester City at home should be a home banker if we are to seriously challenge this coming season.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

'Waiting for Godot'

Estragon: … Let's go.
Vladimir: We can't.
Estragon: Why not?
Vladimir: We're waiting for Godot.

With all the talk about Henry leaving Arsenal we think it’s about time Wenger began to think about having a ready made replacement or at least someone who will in due course be ready to take up the mantle of a “25 goals a year man”.

Even with Henry in the squad Arsenal still need another top quality forward as the past year has shown that injuries and suspensions can leave the team desperately short of cover. And this somehow tends to happen when you least wanted it i.e at crucial times in the football calendar.

An honours chasing team cannot rely on just one player to provide the most desired commodity in football. It has to have alternatives and we are not convinced, however one tries, to even consider Adebayor, Van Persie, Bendtner or even young Walcott as viable alternatives to Henry in terms of goal scoring ability.

They could get Arsenal to fourth or third place again which will be no mean feat. But, if Henry is out of the picture, do you see them scoring enough goals to win the League? Or go far in the Champion’s League?

Of course there are a lot of other aspects, other than new players, that Arsenal need to get right if it is to seriously challenge for honours next season.

Fortunately they are all correctible as a lot of the changes needed involve a change of attitude or better coaching and organisation on the pitch. These arise from the fact that it is a young team and is only now beginning to gel together (What does Arsenal need to do to challenge for next season?).

But one cannot escape the fact that Arsenal need to recruit for two positions: that of a wide midfielder and a forward. Arsenal Analysis has advocated in previous posts the suitability of Anelka since he can play both as a forward and as a wide midfielder as the need arises (Arsenal need two but may sign only one player).

Taking this route may appeal to Wenger’s policy of preserving Arsenal’s financial resources and allowing his young prodigies room to grow.

Another viable option as a center forward in our opinion is Fredie Kanoute who is not likely to cost silly money due to his age (30) but has a very impressive goal scoring ratio.

His 21 goals in 31 appearances or 68% is only bettered in Spain by Van Nistelroy and surprisingly Cristiano Rigano of bottom club Messina (both 70%) and in Italy only by Totti with his impressive 74%.

And as Wenger has to find a market for unloading Reyes in Spain then a part exchange deal may be possible and ideal from Arsenal’s point of view. This may in fact be the reason for Wenger’s inactivity in the transfer market so far as he waits for the Spanish La Liga to come to a conclusion.

Kanoute also, in our opinion, has three other important characteristics.

Firstly his technical ability and style of play would suit Arsene’s way of playing the beautiful game;

Secondly at 30 years old he will provide experience but will not interfere too much with the progress of the younger guns in the squad;

And thirdly he has premiership experience with Spurs and West Ham and therefore will not require that dreaded “Premier League adjustment time period” of six to twelve months.

There are of course the usual big names that are mentioned as possible signings in the transfer market. Names such as Fernando Torres, David Silva, David Villa, Diego Milito, Giraldino to name but a few.

They are all good players in their own way. But there are two things common to them. They have no experience of the Premier League and are likely to cost big big money.

This is because there are a number of teams likely to be interested in players in this position and there is the strong likelihood of price inflation in a market awash with the monies from the new deal of selling the Premiership abroad.

And just buying one of them is likely to consume Wenger’s entire budget! What if the player does not adapt? Can Arsenal afford to take the gamble at such a high price?

There is of course another alternative for Wenger. In our opinion not a viable one.

Sign no one for this position.

And play the youths in the Carling Cup (up to the final if need be), the reserves in the FA Cup and rotate in a big way first team squad players between the Premiership and the Champions League!

Oh, and pray for no serious injuries, suspensions and loss of form!

And wait for Godot!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Why are Henry, Fabregas, Silva, Rosicky and Djourou speaking out at the same time?

It’s déjà vu! For another year instead of being linked with players to come into the team our best players are touted around Europe. But for the first time I am not unhappy about it! There is logic behind my madness.

Arsenal Analysis resident season ticket holder at the Emirates, South Stand: Row 5 has an explanation for the recent comments made by some of the Arsenal pros.

Thierry Henry speaks out or comes out?

Thierry Henry has over the last few years been linked with all the top European clubs. However never in the past has he openly spoken against the club or gave any indication that he wanted to go.

Even last year when he was very close to joining Barca all he said was that he needs time to make his mind up. For the first time this year he is openly talking about his dissatisfaction for some of the staff going on and how Dein was so important to the club.

However, Henry is well aware that if he goes to any other club in Europe, the whole team will not necessarily be set up around him. At Arsenal Wenger provides him with all the tools to showcase his talent to the full. I am not sure that that would happen elsewhere.

And he knows that without Wenger he might not be as good a player as he is now. Arsenal Analysis in a recent post “Henry for Barcelona” argued that there are strong reasons for Henry to stay at Arsenal. I don’t for one moment think that he is seriously thinking of leaving.

If this is so why is he allowing some doubt to creep in? Is it intentional?

Cesc will stay if Wenger stays

Last year Cesk signed a new 8-year contract. I don’t believe for a second that he agreed the new deal without being given some assurances that Wenger would be at the club for at least a significant part of that contract.

Wenger is the best coach of young talent of the world. If he leaves now Cesk might never fulfil the early hype. It is no wonder then that Cesk has said that if Wenger were leaving then he would probably do the same.

Is this a threat aimed at the Board?

Not only that but Rosicky, Gilberto and now Djourou almost in tandem are coming out stressing the importance of the coach and the captain remaining at the club.

You don’t normally see these kind of comments coming out from a club’s senior (and not so senior in the case of Djourou) players.

Are all these comments somehow connected?

I think all the noises coming out are simply some muscle flexing by some of the pros at the club’s playing side. It looks as they are trying to make sure that the Board understands that without Wenger and the talent he has assembled, the club is in danger, especially with the debt that they have taken on to fund the new stadium.

If standards on the field drop then they won’t be able to charge the same high prices or sell out the stadium. And the servicing of the large stadium debt will be jeopardised.

In other words are these players sending a message to the Board to get it together and see some sense? To take it a step further, are they trying to pave the way for the return of the Wenger and Dein show?

The long term success of the club depends on Wenger staying at Arsenal until at least 2011 and the return of Dein may indeed be connected.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Malouda for Arsenal?

The story that is breaking at the moment is that Arsenal are about to scupper Liverpool’s chances of signing Malouda. If it is just press gossip or rumor it is a well thought out one.

From what we have seen of his style of play and taking into account his other stats he indeed possesses those characteristics and is the type of player that might interest Wenger.

The first step in the decision making process is whether of course there is a need for a player in that position, then it’s a matter of the player’s technical and physical ability and then if the player fits these it’s his character.

After all these criteria are satisfied the price plays a major role. And for Wenger if the price does not represent what he thinks is the real value for that player then he may not go for it. He is just as happy to stay with what he has!

We thought this might happen with Ribery when Bayern’s money from the sale of Hargreaves came on stream (Arsenal close to Ribery but not to Bellamy or Reo Coker)

Malouda, who was voted as France’s player of the year, is a left sided wide midfielder and we think possesses enough skill to satisfy Wenger that he can fill that vacancy that has been accepted by many Arsenal supporters and other Arsenal blogs (inclusive of Arsenal Analysis – Arsene. Who to buy?) as waiting to be filled.

He is a strong and pacy winger who also possesses physical strength. This will fit in well with the demands of the Premiership, an area where both Rosicky and especially Hleb have found it difficult to adapt.

And at six foot he is tall enough to provide an aerial threat to opposing defences. However on the negative side he will need a period of adjustment as all foreign players do.

His goalscoring record is good for a wide midfielder when compared to the other so called targets for Arsenal. 10 goals scored in 27 starts. A percentage of 35% or a goal scored every two and a half games. Not as high as Pires’s which was 14 in 33 (42%) during his last season with Arsenal.

However even if Malouda’s eight substitute appearances are factored in he still has a higher goal scoring percentage (28%) than Ribery who has scored 5 in 25 (or 25%) or even Quaresma’s 23% or Babel’s 20% (who reports say has not impressed Wenger).

Comparisons are of course difficult as consideration has to be given to other factors that affect a player’s performance such as the quality of the league he is playing in, of his team mates and of course injuries.

Is he young enough though? We all know that Wenger likes them to be of an impressionable age. Well at 27 he is neither too young nor too old in footballing terms. At this age most footballers can blend relative youthfulness along with maturity and experience. And isn’t this what is sorely missing from an experience depleted squad such as Arsenal’s?

As far as his character is concerned we can only assume that Wenger would have made a few discreet enquiries, especially from his friend Mr. Houlier, the departing Lyon manager.

It appears then, that if the press reports are right, Wenger would be trying to negotiate the last hurdle in his quest to satisfy the criteria mentioned above: the price!

Apparently the 8m that Liverpool were offering will now, with Wenger’s intervention, probably rise to 10m which might be Wenger’s limit. If Lyon want more will Wenger respond or will he walk away?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Should Wenger consider resigning Anelka?

Nicolas Anelka scored a beautiful and killer goal for France in their recent Euro qualifier against the Ukraine.

He has in fact scored in each of his last three appearances after his recent reconciliation with Domenech and the French national team. His performances for the national team and indeed for Bolton have oozed maturity. He is 28 now after all.

We have been watching Nicolas Anelka closely during this past campaign and cannot fail but be impressed with his attitude and high quality of performances. Not to mention those two gloriously taken goals against the Arsenal at the Reebok.

Regular visitors to Arsenal Analysis will remember our “eulogy” of the player a few months ago and also in other postings such as “what does Arsenal need to do to challenge for next season?”

And now Manchester United, it has been reported, may want to sign him. We don’t blame them. He will be a great signing for them.

But even at this late hour why shouldn’t Arsene go for him? He certainly fits all the football requirements that Arsenal badly need to supplement their forward line.

In our earlier posting we laid out the attributes he will bring to the team:

- he is ideal as a forward to play with Henry or without him. We have argued before that Arsenal need two but may sign only one player!

- he is a very skilful player who scores goals for fun but can keep the ball and bring players into the game. Look how well he is playing for those average players at Bolton.

- he has played for Arsenal before and knows the way Wenger wants his forwards to play

- he knows the English Premier League well and therefore does not require any adjustment time as a new raw Wenger recruit would otherwise need.

- at only 28 years old he now has a blend of relative youthfulness along with maturity and experience that is sorely missing from an experience depleted squad.

His attitude and maturity have been evident on the football pitch both for Bolton and for the France national team. He has received no yellow or red cards.

- he is not likely to cost silly money and anything under 8 m will be considered value for money.

What a tremendous addition to the scoring capability of Arsenal he will be. He has scored 11 goals for Bolton this past season out of 35 appearances with 5 assists even. Compare that to the 17 he scored (out of 35) during his last season at Arsenal during the 1998-1999 season.

And for the goals scored this season he was playing the lonesome striker role; in an average, launch them long and high, Bolton side. Imagine how many goals he will score in an Arsenal side that creates scoring opportunities for fun.

Anelka himself, looking to play in the Champion’s League next year, has said: “there has been no contact with any other club for my signature as yet, none at all. But if there was then, of course, I couldn't say no to a club like Manchester United."

The good news is that apparently David Gill, the Man Utd Chief Executive, confirmed to Bolton chairman Phil Gartside that they have no interest in Anelka.

Wenger himself admitted that he considered signing him last season but obviously thought otherwise.

It’s about time he reconsidered. And fast.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Henry for Barcelona

There is a lot of gossip appearing in the English press in the last few days about Henry’s agent Jerome Anderson already in talks with Barca officials!

There are also the usual Barcelona induced Spanish press gossipers who at the end of each season begin the usual ritual of publishing stories about Henry leaving Arsenal.

This is also spuriously linked to a few words that Henry himself has said about not being happy with the way things have turned out at Arsenal this season.

Leaving aside the fact that all concerned with Arsenal should indeed be unhappy with the season just ended there are not in our opinion strong football, financial or personal reasons at the moment to justify Henry’s departure from Arsenal.

Football reasons

A fit Henry is not for sale full stop. But clearly Henry has not been at his usual scintillating best during last season. The stats on the player would obviously not make a pretty reading.

This has been put down to injury and fatigue. This may be so; we are not in a position to know. Maybe Wenger and his medical team are also not in a position to know either.

There must be some niggling thoughts at the back of Wenger’s mind that may be Henry is beginning to lose his pace due to age and not because of injury. He is after all entering that stage in his career at 29 where this indeed may begin to show.

And the fact is that unless Henry gets totally fit again no one will know. Totally fit in our mind means doing it on the centre stage in a competitive match. Not at the London Colney play house nor indeed at the Amsterdam Tournament or the Emirates Cup during the pre season.

So it would indeed be very premature for Wenger to let Henry go at this juncture. No one can tell whether Henry is past it yet. So if Wenger is serious about challenging for the title next season he needs to keep Henry at the club and hope that Henry will be at his top form.

Arsenal Analysis has advocated that Arsenal need to recruit another striker in order to supplement the forward line and provide cover. Something that was evidently missing this season. What does Arsenal need to do to challenge for next season? So you wouldn’t let a 25 goal a season man go just like that whatever money they are offering you.

If indeed Henry is not up to it then the best time to cut your losses and sell will be in the January transfer window when by then Henry’s fitness will be more evident and the team’s capabilities in terms of winning something major more apparent. And the public outcry probably a little less vociferous.

Wenger was faced with this type of decision before! He could have got a vastly superior purse for Vieira but he held on for another season (incorrectly so, as Vieira was indeed not performing at his high best but that is another story).

There is another football reason for keeping Henry.

The effect on player’s morale would be even more devastating than when Vieira departed. Judging by what happened when Vieira left then you can kiss the title goodbye if this happens.

Especially if there is no effective replacement with a big name signing coming in. Like Eto’o for instance. And the chances of this happening are not that great.

And if indeed it does happen there is the now almost mandatory six to twelve months adjustment to English football period to consider. Wenger knows this and that is why in our opinion he will not want to let Henry go, for now.

Financial Reasons

On the face of it there is a strong case for purely financial reasons to sell Henry on. The club will receive a substantial fee in the region of 20m plus save his salaries for the next four years totaling another 25m. That’s a huge sum of money to waive goodbye to!

However if, say, Henry were to be sold the year after, most of the salaries will not go away nor indeed a large part of the transfer fee. In other words the risks in terms of forgone financial benefits could be manageable compared to the possible upside of winning trophies next year and the commercial benefits that will ensue.

Personal Reasons

We have left this factor last because it is indeed the most important. If Henry wants out then Wenger will have his work cut out to convince him otherwise. But Henry has won almost everything there is to win in football apart the Champions League.

He has won the World Cup (played in two finals), the European Championship and several League championships in the toughest league in the world. Does he honestly believe that by moving to Barcelona he will win the Champion’s League? The Barcelona that were knocked out by Liverpool?

And then there is his personal situation. His wife is English and they have a young daughter. Why move abroad and unsettle all that? Especially when the Arsenal youngsters are coming of age and on the brink of establishing Arsenal as one of the best teams in the world playing fantastic football!

Only last week Henry said:

“Since I started playing football there has been speculation about me going to a lot of clubs and that will never, ever stop.

But as I said, for now I am an Arsenal player, so there is nothing to add to it.”

Ed: the italics are our own!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

England 1 Brazil 1: Much ado about nothing.

This famous thespian title describes perfectly, we feel, the on goings during this uneventful and mainly dull encounter between these two famous national teams.

It was after all a friendly game and this was the reason why the visitors played it like one. It was also an end of season encounter with the Brazilians next serious competition, the Copa America, another month away still.

England on the other hand had more at stake and took this game much more seriously. The European Championship qualifier away at Estonia on Wednesday predominantly on the coaches and players minds.

There was also “much ado about nothing” with regard to Beckham’s return to the fold which was hyped up as the return of a rejuvenated star who will lead England to qualification and beyond!

Well we are sorry but we just don’t see it. Yes his crossing is second to none and his capabilities from dead ball situations are well known. And it was his cross from a free kick that allowed Terry to head home.

But we all knew that his forte was this! He was after all displaying these skills in abundance for England prior to his axing by McClaren! The fact is that this is all that Beckham can do. He can’t go pass his man, he can’t tackle and is not very good at tracking back to defend.

His inclusion in the squad stinks of desperation by McClaren who we think is displaying signs of reaching the maximum of his capabilities as a coach (which are not of the type that will make your head dizzy if you happen to be afraid of heights).

“The press are on to me… Do I not like a repeat of the horror in Skopje…If we don’t get a result at lowly Estonia my head will go…Get Beckham in, at least this will quiet the press and the public….Estonia is no great shakes and if he delivers a winning cross or scores from a free kick then I gain some more time to think what to do next….”

If the inclusion of Lennon was not possible due to injury why not try Shaun Right Philips or even David Bentley who by all accounts excelled for the under 21s a few days before. Give youth a chance.

Beckham’s inclusion also stinks of press over hype who as always like to elevate players (and coaches) to the top layers of heaven and then bring them down to cruel earth. It sells papers after all. But it is shameful nevertheless.

Beckham’s contribution other than his crosses was to often abandon his position right of midfield and try and play a play makers role getting into Lampard’s way and jeopardizing the team’s balance in the process.

It also meant that England had no real width on the right.Just like Arsenal this season with its wide players coming more infield!(Arsene. Who to buy?) Beckham has of course realized that he can’t go past players any more that is why he drifts infield. It’s a shame that McClaren hasn’t!

Joe Cole’s inability to exploit the other wing meant that most of the play was compressed in the centre of midfield as both Lampard and Gerrard were reluctant to venture forward. The latter obviously following instructions to play an withdrawn, man to man, role on kaka; which he performed with excellence. But we ask you is this really Gerrard’s role in an England shirt?

England will surely beat Estonia and qualify from this weak group but its progress when the competition proper begins will continue to be hindered we feel by the choice of formation and the players within it.

The formation of course needs to be chosen taking into consideration the players capabilities. So since Roonie is indispensable then the formation up front has to be of the one one variety. That is Roonie playing off a striker, as he is at his most efficient at this position.

The midfield therefore needs to consist of four players and since balance is very important in a football team the right and left midfielders have to be natural wide men with pace to burn. Not Beckham or Lampard or Gerrard. Square pegs in round holes don’t go. And the national team’s performances have suffered greatly from this selection policy.

The center of midfield needs to have a holding defensive midfielder to give protection in front of the defence. Brazil had Gilberto Silva of Arsenal who excelled in that role, scoring an incorrectly disallowed goal in the process. Enter Hargreaves for England.

And this leaves a place for a creative midfielder who will play the play makers role, support the attack when needed and the defence when under pressure. A great all rounder. The box to box midfielder. Both Gerrard and Lampard can do it but not both together. Enter Gerrard.

This formation will leave out Beckham, Lampard and Carrick to form part of a very formidable bench. But hey the name of the game is to win isn’t it?