11 December 2014

Thursday Throwdown: In Arsène We Trust, Or Rust?

This post came about because I wanted a better place than Facebook and Twitter to express my opinions regarding Arsène Wenger and the board. I thought that if I wrote on my own, I was bound to invite rage and invective on to myself, because I am in the "Wenger Out" camp [I made the unilateral decision to call the two sides of the divide the AKBs and WOBs (Arsène Knows Best and Wenger Out Brigade, respectively). While these are far from ideal terms, they are known terms, quicker to write and easier to use to refer to the two main fan factions.] However, my thoughts and opinions are far more complex than that, so I thought it would be best to have a "friendly" discussion with my regular Throwdown partner Andy. Andy is generally more positive than I am, so hopefully we can balance each other out and actually explore the issues, rather than it becoming a slagging match like those seen on social media. I am not trying to be inflammatory or controversial for the sake of it; I'm sure Andy is in the same boat. While I've been vocal, both at Lir and online - sometimes in a snarky manner - all I'm trying to do here with Andy's help is explore the issues at hand.

This sight has become too common for many Gooners.
(Credit: The Herald)
Sam: After an inconsistent season, and following the boos Arsène Wenger received after the Stoke match, the voices calling for a change at Arsenal have never been louder. The Arsenal fan base is splitting in two, with both sides preferring to shout at each other in and outside of stadiums and on social media, with some fans actually coming to blows over their opposing opinions. Right off the bat, I'm going to say that I think Wenger should leave; more accurately, I think the best time for him to leave would have been after the FA Cup win. He would have left with his dignity in tact, and with fond memories and the best wishes from all fans as he'd finally ended the infamous trophy drought. These opinions started some time in January this year; at about the 20th minute in the Liverpool game, as the Scouser fourth goal hit the back of the net, I came to the conclusion that our title challenge was probably already over, and my opinion became concrete. However, I will admit that it's much more complex than just saying "Wenger Out" on Twitter or Facebook after every defeat or poor performance.

Having said all that, Andy: where do you stand on this divisive issue?

Andy: As you accurately said in your introduction, I am much more of a Wenger apologist and I remain of the mind that he is the best manager for the Arsenal at this time. Let it also be said up front that supporting Wenger and being blind to his faults do not go hand-in-hand. I have been critical of some things that Arsene has done and will be in the future I'm sure. But I believe that it is possible to find fault with some of his work while still seeing him as a fantastic manager and an Arsenal legend.

That distinction between constructive criticism and the "off with his head" attitude is at the heart of my dislike of the #WengerOut crowd. I know that if I was to go in-depth with each person calling for the manager's resignation that I would hear plenty of nuanced, well reasoned opinions, and that is part of the reason we are having this conversation in the first place. However I can't help but have an immediate, visceral reaction each time I see someone pipe up about how Wenger doesn't have a clue about tactics, or how the game has passed him by, or how he was arrogant to come back and manage again this year. The off-the-cuff snark and extreme pessimism toward a man that has brought this club unparalleled success and prosperity still baffles and infuriates me.

Sam: To answer your first point: you're not wrong for thinking that. But there is a perception that anyone who wants Wenger out of a job hates the man himself and doesn't support the Club. So the flip side of your argument - that you can support the manager while still acknowledging his flaws - should be that you can support your club, but still want more from it. The supposition that WOBs are going against the Club is far from the truth; I've supported Arsenal my whole life, and in that time I've seen the best era of the Club's history. So when someone says that they think we should be doing better than finishing 4th 6 times in the last 9 seasons, no one should be questioning that person's support. Part of supporting a team is wanting them to win. For me, 4th place and one Cup in nine years is not winning.

There also seems to be an idea that anyone in the WOB is showing Arsène no respect; in my case, at least, that also is untrue. No one should ever forget that this is the man that gave us 2 Doubles, the Invincibles and a (sadly unsuccessful) run to the Champions League Final. He also signed the greatest player in the Club's history, and managed my favorite player ever (Dennis Bergkamp), as well as giving us players like Pires, Ljungberg, Vieira, Sanchez, Özil, etc.

Here's the thing though. For me, and I think many others, "Wenger Out" is an easy, catch-all term for my frustrations at the whole club. It's not just one man who is the problem; what are your opinions on the Club's board?

Andy: If the Wenger Out sentiment was displayed with that kind of nuance then I would be much more accepting of it. I agree that there is nothing wrong with wanting your club to be better than it is, especially if it should be. Arsenal is one of the richest, most prestigious clubs in the world (thanks in no small part to one Arsène Wenger) and it is frustrating that we are stuck in this rut of finishing in third or fourth without truly challenging for the title along the way. I am not one of the people who say things like "you should be happy with fourth, a team like West Ham would kill for that kind of success" because it's a very defeatist attitude. Yes, fourth would be great for lots of clubs but if this particular club has the resources and structure to do better, then they should be held to a higher standard. We are on the same page regarding what Arsenal should be trying to do.

Where I have a problem with #WengerOut as a general "movement" is that because it is the alternative to the status quo, and because certain people at the heart of it have fallen a little too in love with their self image as rebels and iconoclasts, its very nature is one of antagonism and outcry. After all, how are they supposed to change anything if they talk quietly and politely? But because this point of view has to be aggressive and loud, I find myself quick to become annoyed when the ideas are presented in catchphrases and blurbs, and how everything seems to be an indictment on Wenger and his time with the club. I understand that to a degree this is unfair because I'm criticizing an opinion for acting in the way it has to act due to the role it has accepted, but it doesn't make the criticism any less valid.

Stan Kroenke is also the target of a lot of anger.
(Credit: ZeeNews India)
I do understand that #WengerOut has become a general term for dissatisfaction with how the club is being run as a whole, I just find that to be unfair to the man himself. To answer your question, my problems with the board are mostly with Stan Kroenke in particular. It of course is naive to expect a billion dollar company to act like a down home, local sports club, but I could do with it being at least a little less apparent that Arsenal is a way for Kroenke to print money. I wish it was owned and run by people who were more obviously fans of the Gunners and not just the money that the club brings in. I think it's necessary to have businessmen like Ivan Gazidis in order to stay competitive with the truly moneyed clubs in the Premier League, I just wish there was also more of a connection to the fans who give their support.

Is this a reasonable stance to have? Can I have my issues with the board and how things are run while also wishing that the opposition to the current rule would express itself diplomatically and intelligently rather than (in my eyes) the reactionary and loudmouthed way it is behaving now? I fear that I'm trying to have my cake and eat it too.

Sam: You make a good point about the rebellious aspect of #WengerOut, and the way it makes us WOBs seem to be louder. But this in itself causes escalation, because certain members of the AKB faction then raise their voices to meet, or overpower, the boos, and then, of course, tempers get lost and the division in the fan base becomes wider. It doesn't help things when both sides scream invective at each other. Too often on social media, people use the arguments of their side of the divide to show 'how much they support the Club'. "You're an idiot if you think Wenger should still be in a job." "I support the manager so I'm a better fan than you." These seem to be the general subtexts of a lot of arguments, which of course just feeds the fires and makes each statement come with more hatred than the one before it.

Sidebar: I don't subscribe to the argument that the fans need to be united behind the Club. How many of the so called "bigger" clubs actually have 100% unity in their fan base? Maybe Chelsea, Man City, Bayern, Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid. (This doesn't include clubs like Stoke or Swansea who don't have the expectations that a club like Arsenal does.) The common denominator there? Winning. If Arsenal actually showed they could consistently win trophies, or even maintain a "title challenge" past March (sidebar to sidebar: I think a title challenge is only that if you're going in to the last 3 or 4 games of the season with a chance to win it all, not collapsing after 2/3rds of a season), then maybe there'd be better unity. In England alone, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham's fan bases will have sections that still support their clubs, but aren't happy with results. Just like us Gooners.

To answer your questions in order: Yes. I agree with you entirely on the board. No one involved seems to care as long as they are getting their yearly bonuses and dividends. There's a real problem when the Club Chairman, to paraphrase the man himself, says that whether Wenger has a plan or not, they won't question him on his results.

And yes to your second question, too. But that has to work both ways. The respect has to be mutual, and come from those who are still giving their support to the manager. There's no need to get sarcastic or angry when you (generic you, not you Andy!) reply to someone. I commented on a Boston Gooners Facebook post earlier this week (which quickly got out of hand) that everyone has the right to their opinions and should be free to voice those. Now I don't mean to be snarky here, and forgive me if I'm wrong, but isn't free speech one of the basic tenets of any democratic society? In fact, I believe it's a part of the document that this nation is built on. (OK, that was a really snarky, English thing to say. But it's true in my country too.) Yet there are certain factions who think that the WOBs should never be allowed to speak out. So it's OK to express your positive support, but negative opinions and criticisms aren't welcome? A lot of people questioned the banner that was raised at West Brom after our win there, saying that it shouldn't have been raised after a win. Well when else? If it came after a loss, everyone involved would have been accused of being too reactionary, or someone would have said that it was no proper way to support the Club. It seems like whatever people on my side of the divide do, we are always in the wrong.

If that seemed angry or direct or whatever, then I apologize. I'm just trying to voice the opinions that have come out in discussions with people that agree with me, and from what I, and others, have experienced on social media and in person for having a dissenting opinion.

Andy: This point in the article would be an excellent time to insert any Randy Marsh "what, I thought this was America?" pictures.
People telling us what we can say and when?

I don't disagree with you on this, though my philosophical objections to the WOB point of view do make it a little more difficult to go all Voltaire about your right to say what you want. For me, though I have no interest in curtailing anyone's rights to speak about the direction of the club, I reflexively bristle to the Wenger Out demands in part because of the nature of the movement as I discussed before. It's not that I don't want people with that opinion to bring it up, it's that I know that I will be immediately annoyed by it, due both to the content itself and the aggressive way that it has to be presented. Perhaps it's not the healthy thing to do but I don't really engage in the argument that much anymore because I know going in that I'm going to be frustrated by it and, go figure, I don't want to intentionally frustrate myself. It then becomes easy to mentally lump all WOB opinions into the category of whiners and complainers, even though the core of their argument is similar to plenty of things that I've thought myself before. You don't have to be part of the the camp that wants Arsène gone to see his missteps in transfer policy, questionable tactical moves, and so forth, and to complain about those things with the hopes of having them corrected.

For me, that is what this boils down to and the obvious difference between the sides. One side no longer thinks Wenger can or will change in order to fix his mistakes and the other side has faith in him to right the ship. I know that sounds like a very obvious statement to make but the difference is what colors the entire conversation because the WOB crowd needs to agitate for change without seeming disrespectful while the "In Arsene We Trust" camp (myself obviously included) plays the part of the overly patient lover saying "he can change, just give him time!" The psychology in each side is heavily influenced by their feelings for one man and therefore the argument can get very defensive or overly aggressive quick. That's of course not to say we shouldn't have it, but more to clarify why it's such a touchy subject. For the people who want Arsène to stay, there's a lot of emotion tied up into him and his tenure with the club. It's about the hope that this man, this absolute legend in football, is able to see the ways in which he has erred and change things going forward for the better, and when you start to identify with a feeling of hope it becomes very difficult to entertain the notion of extinguishing that light.

One area that I am fairly convinced the pro-Wenger camp has in its favor is the pragmatic aspect of how to move forward. People are calling for Arsène to be sacked mid-season but what on earth do you think the club could do afterward? And that's not only in terms of who we could bring in to coach the team but what manager would want to come to a club that just fired their respected and long-standing manager in the middle of the campaign? What would players like Mesut Özil, who said that he came to Arsenal because of the manager, do if such a drastic move was made? I invite you to try but I just don't see how I could be convinced that this is a sensible course of action.

Sam: You've hit the crux of the matter there, I think. For myself, and many others who share my opinions, Wenger is out of touch. It's an incredibly harsh thing to say, seeing as he is the most successful manager in Arsenal history. If anything, he's become a victim of his own success. When he arrived from Grampus Eight, he changed football in England. He brought with him revolutionary new diet and training regimes, and implemented a beautiful, flowing style of football rarely - if ever - seen before in England. He was successful for so long, but the minute Roman Abramovich purchased Chelsea, football changed again. Now, you have to spend money on established players (which we've seen recently, but for too long we were the ones selling our stars) and build a deep squad. Wenger shouldn't be blamed for not finding himself in a situation where he had a moneybags owner, but there have been glaring mistakes made in the last few years in the transfer policy. However, my feelings aren't personal. All I want is the best for and from the club I've supported my entire life. Whenever Wenger's Arsenal career ends, I will applaud him and thank him for all the successes and all the good memories he has provided, but also be excited about a new era.

Could this man be a future
Arsenal manager?
(Credit: Wonker)
I'm glad you asked that, because I've been giving it some thought. It is, of course, the go-to response for many AKBs to say "Who should come in?" when a "Wenger Out" statement appears on social media. I have 2 thoughts on this issue. The first thought is wholly based on the idea (which many in the WOB camp agree with) that Arsenal are not going to contend again under Wenger. The Club has become so completely molded in the shape of Arsène's vision and philosophy that - as we saw with Man Utd once Alex Ferguson retired - it will take time to break free from such a strong character. So say it takes 2 or 3 years for a new manager to remold the Club, sign players he likes and implement a new system before we challenge for the title again. That means that, under the scenario I just painted that we don't contend again under Wenger, Arsenal fans could be looking at another 5 or 6 years before we enjoy a prolonged title challenge. If Wenger had left last May (and having written that several times, that is the heart of my personal argument: that would have been the perfect time to leave. Right now? Not ideal, I'll admit that), then the rebuild process could have started earlier, and we may have been ready to push for trophies and more than just 4th place earlier in this hypothetical rebuilding cycle. On paper, this idea seems to be an NBA-style tanking process. Here's the thing: the sooner Arsenal return to being genuine title challengers year in, year out, the sooner I'll feel better about being a fan and less of a laughing stock to fans of other clubs.

My second scenario would be this: a certain 37-year old Frenchman's most recent playing contract has just expired. Bring him in immediately, maybe as a player-coach or something, but get him earning all his coaching badges and licenses, and have Wenger mentor him and teach him until, in 2017 Arsène leaves his Club to the greatest player of the Premier League era. King Henry would then immediately bring in Dennis Bergkamp as his assistant, and then we have a new era under the guidance of our two best players ever. Is that pipe dream completely ridiculous? And how wrong am I with my first scenario?

Andy: I've written about Wenger's outdated transfer policy before and agree that he's had his issues, but a lot of that can be traced to the lean years after the move to Emirates and how drastically different transfer policy was then, even compared to the last few years. This is a topic for another full article but while I have my problems with the way business has been done, I don't agree that it's an open and shut case that the business of the sport has passed him by.

There is a large disconnect between AKB and WOB over what can be accomplished with Wenger still at the helm. Suffice it to say, I don't believe as you do that it's a foregone conclusion Arsenal won't be able to compete with their current manager running things. I look at last year and lament the midfield injury horror show that started around January because we were keeping pace quite well. But all of that is kind of beside the point because one side thinks one way, the other thinks the other, and I doubt we're going to convince each other to switch sides. I just think it's worth pointing out that there are some very basic thoughts about possibilities for the club that each side doesn't come close to seeing eye to eye on.

As for your Henry theory, I simply don't know. I don't mean this skeptically, mind you. It's an honest admission. I have no idea if it's plausible because I don't know if he wants to coach, I don't know if Arsène is open to the idea of making our former star his successor, and I have no idea of Henry would actually be a good manager. I think the way you have it laid out is slightly "Arsenal fan's wet dream" but that doesn't mean that it's impossible or that it's wrong to hope that it works out. Hey, as I said before, I'm all about hope so far be it from me to take yours away.

One way or another, the club has to start planning for a future without Arsène. Not (in my mind) because he is past it and needs to go, but because he's not getting any younger and eventually change will have to happen. Such is life. However, there are serious questions over what the next step would be. I'm about as big a Jurgen Klopp Stan as there can be, but he's said numerous times that he's staying where he is. Roberto Martinez looks a little out of his depth with Everton right now, though I think he is a talented manager overall. There's no one in the Arsenal pipeline that is guaranteed to come along and be the next great thing. There's a lot of uncertainty going forward, and that's for a planned succession over the course of several years. With that in mind, I hope you can see why I view sacking Arsène midseason as utter insanity.

Sam: And now we come back to the board. One of the major frustrations with WOBs, and maybe the fan base as a whole, is that we don't feel we can trust the board to replace Wenger. They've shown time and again that they don't understand the fans, and are content to sit back and watch their profits go up. There isn't really anyone at the top with a footballing mind. I actually quite like Ivan Gazidis; he seems like a decent enough bloke and is good on the corporate side of things, but if he's left in charge of hiring a new manager, then I have no idea what to expect. Also, it's hard to see who would want to take over right now. All the names people mention - Guardiola, Klopp, Simeone, Martinez - are either at top clubs, struggling themselves, or unlikely to make it at the level required (sorry Roberto - I'm still a fan, though). Unless one of them wanted to take on the challenge of rebuilding a club and breaking the oil-money stronghold at the top of the Premier League, then it really is unclear who the next manager could be. But then again: how much was known about Wenger when he took over? He came in as a complete unknown; the next manager shouldn't necessarily be seen as a downgrade.

With plenty of media coverage and dissenting fans at each other's throats, this issue certainly isn't going away for a while. It will be interesting to see where this season and beyond take us.

Andy: I think the thing to take away from all of this is that the people on both sides of the argument simply want what's best for Arsenal. Of course there will be dismissive or irrational or aggressive people in each camp, but at the core this is about loving your club and wanting it to be as good as it can be. So try to see both sides and try not to give in to that all too easy impulse to shutter yourself off and see the other person as the enemy. I'll even go so far as to shake your hand when I see you for Newcastle, Sam. Cheers.

Sam: I'm glad this stayed civil, otherwise that handshake might have looked something like this...

03 October 2014

Match Preview: Chelsea v. Arsenal, Stamford Bridge, Oct 5 9.05am (EST)

The opponent
Cesc, just looking plain wrong in blue, faces Arsenal
from the comfort of his new home stadium
(Credit: Ben Sutherland)
After a week of slagging Sam for putting in a subpar effort into writing the match preview for the North London Derby, I decided that I would write this week’s match preview for the Chelsea game. One of the things that I criticized Sam for was not taking the piss out of Spurs more. I had a million jokes about them! Well, over the course of the day, I’ve realized that writing about Chelsea is going to be a lot harder than it looks. Whereas I find Spurs to be comical and unthreatening, I respect Chelsea as a competitor. While I want to make jokes about them, I found my approach to Chelsea a lot more serious than I wanted it to be. The following is that seriousness, anxiety, and hopefully, some humor.

Part of that feeling or approach is tied with how I view this game. Chelsea are off to the hot start, sitting atop the table. This match against them presents an opportunity for Arsenal to close the gap and to get a much needed win over a rival for a top four spot and possibly a league championship. It presents an opportunity to gain some confidence and some belief to perform at a higher level against other big opponents. Arsenal’s struggles against the top clubs in recent years, especially on the road, has been well documented and it would be nice to see that change this year. It’s also because I hate Chelsea.

26 September 2014

Match Preview: Arsenal v. T*******m H*****R, Emirates Stadium, Sept. 27 12.30am (EST)

According to the Ox, Sanchez is incredibly hyped
for his first NLD.
(Credit: Ronnie Macdonald)
Saturday sees the 174th meeting between The Arsenal and their old rivals, Sp*rs, and the 44th under the management of Arsène Wenger. Both clubs come in to this game on what can best be described as mixed form; however, as the old cliché goes, you can throw the form book out the window in a game like this.

Arsène Wenger and the board have come under scrutiny early on this season (especially from yours truly), partially due to a questionable transfer policy and partially due to mixed results to open the season. Last time out in the league, Arsenal bounced back from a disappointing (in terms of the Gunners were unlucky not to win) draw against last season's champions Manchester City and a 2-0 drubbing away at Borussia Hipster with a 3-0 win away at Villa Park (though it should be noted that Villa's squad was hit with a case of what can best be described as the sh*ts). Three goals in 192 seconds earned Arsenal their first league win since the opening day of the season and helped lift the Gunners to fourth in the - admittedly very young - league table. More importantly, the match saw Danny Welbeck score his first goal in an Arsenal shirt and the return to form of Mesut Özil, who scored a goal and assisted Welbz.

The WAT: Top 6 Derby Day Tottenham Take-Downs

Tomorrow is the ultimate -- the North London Derby. Arsenal will face off against their most hated rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, the eleventh-best team in the Premiership in 2008.

It's a great opportunity to get behind the Arsenal, but sometimes rooting for the players on the field just isn't enough. Sometimes, you need to show your support with biting take-downs. An enemy is not beaten unless their will is broken; they are not crushed until they are taking sit-down, cry-showers. In order to bolster your Derby Day Take-Down arsenal, The WAT has compiled the top 6 ruthless mud-slings to hurl at Spurs supporters' stupid faces.

12 September 2014

Match Preview: Arsenal v. Manchester City, Emirates Stadium, September 13 7:45am (EST)

THE PREMIER LEAGUE IS BACK (*collective sigh of relief*). 

Danny Welbz is dat guy and the world affirmed it after his
brace vs. Switzerland. Source: Metro
Sure, it's wonderful and thrilling and truly delightful to see our new £16m signing Danny Welbz (dat guy) score a brace for England in their 2-0 Euro qualifier vs. Switzerland, but good riddance international break. It feels like it's been an eternity since our uninspiring 1-1 draw vs. Leicester City, and that combined with the fact that I've been gazing longingly at the new Arsenal team photos ever since they came out on Thursday morning means that I am more than ready for EPL action to get back underway. 

And just like that– practically out of nowhere– we find ourselves jumping right back into the swing of things with our first massive test of the season: Manchester City at the Emirates. This marquee matchup provides the Gunners with an opportunity to make a statement and silence the naysayers who refuse to believe in the validity and importance of our 3-0 Community Shield victory over City at Wembley last month (how they fail to see the immense significance and prestige in what is most likely the best and most important shield in the entire world is beyond me, but alas). The 3-0 victory (with goals from Santi, Rambo, and the handsome Frenchman) marks our most recent matchup vs. the reigning EPL champions, but Gooners will also remember our 1-1 battle at the Emirates in March, and our catastrophic and epically confusing 6-3 loss at the Etihad in December of 2013 (back when Walcott was healthy!). 

With Olivier Giroud's unfortunate ankle injury (sing a Giroud chant in his honor on Saturday), Welbeck looks set to make his Arsenal debut this weekend. Le Prof was quoted in a pre-game presser on Thursday saying, "Danny Welbeck is an ideal signing for us because he can play through the middle, which I think is his best position, but as well on the flanks." Welbeck has the potential to make an immediate impact, and his speed in combination with that of Electric Sanchez and eventually Theo Walcott is something that any (and every) team should and will fear. That coupled with the fact that he'll have the likes of Ozil and Santi Cazorla pressing forward and sending balls into the final third should hopefully translate into great success for the former United boy in London.

After three gameweeks Arsenal currently sit seventh in the table with five points after a win and two ties. The London side is unbeaten in 19 consecutive EPL games at the Emirates (14 wins, 5 draws), and they've won their last four in a row. Despite this, the Gunners' offense has looked somewhat unconvincing in the early stages of the season, and only time will tell if Wenger thinks that the current 4-1-4-1 system with Ozil working down the left side may not be our best option. With Ramsey looking doubtful after an ankle sprain (being assessed on Thursday), Gooners should still be hopeful and optimistic, taking solace in the fact that Ozil could potentially slide into a more central position with Cazorla and Sanchez occupying the left and right wings respectively. Other Arsenal injury updates have been positive: Arteta and Gibbs are back to normal training, Ozil is available despite not featuring for Germany over the break, and Walcott is only a few weeks away from being match fit. 

Arsenal and Manchester City's most recent matchup was at Wembley
in the Community Shield. Source: Ronnie MacDonald
City head into this match desperately hoping for a fresh start after a shocker of a home loss to Stoke last gameweek. They currently sit in fourth place with six points, and with no transfer deadline day activity to really take note of (aside from the departure of Negredo, Richards and Guidetti), their biggest news comes in Pellegrini's confirmation that Jovetic and Fernando will not feature this weekend. Stoke was able to stifle the City attack by effectively clogging up the middle, where Silva and Nasri normally maintain possession and distribute alongside Yaya Toure, and hopefully the Gunners will be able to build on this example and provide City with their second consecutive loss for the first time since October of 2010.

City only sings when they're winning. We're Arsenal til we die. COYG.

05 September 2014

The WAT: Arsene Wenger FIRED

... from commentating position at French television channel, TF1. The news comes as a shock after 10 years of providing his expert insight regarding Les Blues -- the French national team -- this writer assumes, not having practiced French since high school.
Hieronymous Bosch's Interlull and the Human Condition, ca. 1490-1516

The Frenchman brought a certain je ne sais quois to TF1, probably, though it's pretty hard to say, since the broadcast is not available in the U.S. This journalist assumes that "Le Prof" provided not only a measure of economical insight to the sport, but also a brazen, pearly white smile disarming enough to cause a car accident -- something he rarely allows himself at his other job.

They say that all TF1 commentators want to be Premier League managers -- and all Premier League managers want to be TF1 commentators. For the past dix ans, Arsene Wenger was arguably the luckiest homme in the world, with both of the aforementioned notches confidently etched into his proverbial bed-post.

Friday Throwdown: Analyzing the Transfer Window

New signing Welbeck will see plenty
of playing time in his favored position
(Credit: Wikimedia)
Sam: So, Andy. Arsenal had something of a Jekyll and Hyde transfer window this summer; it started so brightly with the arrivals of Alexis, Chambers, Debuchy and Ospina, leading us fans to believe that things were finally going to change, and that we had all summer to add further to the squad. However, the second part of the window passed without anything happening until Danny Welbeck arrived after an extension at the deadline. I've already made my feelings clear, and after a couple of days have passed my mood hasn't improved greatly. Many Gooners have had their cautious optimism completely torn down; how are you feeling about Arsenal's transfer business?

Andy: Now that everything is said and done, I don't feel bad and I don't feel good. I think that steps were made but also needs were ignored. If you liked last year's team then you should like this year's team as well; the question is whether or not last year's team was good enough to win the league.

At first blush that seems like an obvious "no" since they finished seven points out of first and weren't in the hunt in May, but it is easy to say that this was largely due to the midfield injury bug that bit in early 2014, costing the Gunners Theo Walcott for half the season, Aaron Ramsey for several months, and several weeks here and there for important players like Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Mesut Özil. Combine that with the fact that it was Ozil's first year in the Premier League and you could make the argument that if things had broken slightly different, Arsenal would have been a contender to the end if not league winner.

02 September 2014

Hot Sports Takes: The Transfer Window Closes

Those of you that follow me on Twitter would have seen me ranting and raving about Arsenal's transfer deadline day yesterday. A night's sleep has done something to calm me down, but I'm still pretty damn pissed off about what's gone on this summer. Here are some random tjhoughts in no particular order...

Arsène Wenger has lost touch with modern football.
Seventeen years ago, Wenger was a genius. He modernized training, conditioning and eating regimes to maximize the potential of his players, and won several competitions with a fast, flowing style of football. However, once Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea, the football world changed dramatically. Now, Wenger seems set on ignoring all calls to actually strengthen his squad and insists on waiting until the very end of the window to cover a need that has been screaming in his face all summer.

15 August 2014

Friday Throwdown: 2014/15 Arsenal EPL Preview, Pt. 3

Andy and I found it very hard to stop once we'd started discussing Arsenal's upcoming season, so here is the final piece of the preview. If you missed any of yesterday's posts, Part 1 is here, in which we discuss transfer, 'keepers and defenders, and Part 2, which covers midfield and attack, is here. In the third and final part, we look at the fixture list and Arsenal's final league position.

Gooners will be hoping to see a full season
from the Welsh Jesus
(Credit: Wikipedia)
Andy: We may have our quibbles, Sam, but it appears that we are both positive about Arsenal's chances this season. Looking at the fixtures, are there any tough stretches you see that could trip us up, or vitally timed blocks of games that will be important to potential title aspirations?

Sam: A cursory glance over the fixture list doesn't show too many clumps of big fixtures together, which is a nice change from last year. Last season, the Gunners faced runs like Liverpool-Man U-Liverpool-Bayern in the space of 11 days in February, then Everton-Bayern-Spurs-Chelsea-Swansea-City-Everton in the space of a calendar month. That is a hellacious stretch of fixtures, even if you have a full-strength squad, which Arsenal certainly did not have at the time. For title considerations this time round, though, the run-in looks harder than in recent seasons; Arsenal are due to face Chelsea at home and Man Utd away in the last 5 games of the season. Liverpool also visit the Emirates in early April, and those fixtures could have a large part to play in the final destination of the league trophy. Depending on what happens in the Champions League, and fixture changes, we could end up with a few more Saturday midday kick-offs after European travel. But we won't know what will happen there for a few weeks. Is there anything that stands out for you on the fixture list?

14 August 2014

Thursday Throwdown: 2014/15 Arsenal EPL Preview, Pt. 2

Mesut has already stated his intent to improve
on his first season in England
(Credit: Wikipedia)
To make this extra-long Thursday Throwdown easier for you to read, we've decided to split in to several parts. In part 1, Andy and I got as far as discussing the transfers, goalkeepers and defense. Here, we move further up the pitch, and take a look at midfield and attack...

Sam: Stepping up the pitch to midfield, I think it's safe to assume that the deeper roles will be occupied by Arteta and Ramsey during the season's opener on Saturday. Ramsey looks like he hasn't missed a step this summer, with a great goal against City last weekend; his first touch to lift it over his defender's foot was perfect and showed great speed of thought, while his finish was exactly what we Gooners have come to expect when we see him in those positions. I assume you agree with me on those selections Andy? I'll also go on a limb and assume you agree with me that further forward, Arsenal's best options are Theo Walcott, Mesut Özil, and Alexis Sanchez...

Thursday Throwdown: 2014/15 Arsenal EPL Preview

Following on from this week's club-by-club previews (in case you missed them, part 1 is here, part 2 here and part 3 can be found here), regular Thursday Throwdown columnists Andy and Sam took some time this week to discuss Arsenal's prospects for the upcoming season. Unsurprisingly, this was a very long conversation. The first part follows here, the second part will come later today. There may well be a part 3, which will go up tomorrow.

Giroud and the boys celebrate his stunner against City
in the Community Shield.
(Credit: The Score)
Sam: All this week, One Club on Boylston have been looking forward to the new season with club-by-club previews. Today, we focus on the club that gets us all up at ungodly hours to watch; Arsenal. There's a lot of optimism around the Club and its fans after finally ending the trophy drought last season with the FA Cup, beating Manchester City in the Community Shield and the transfer dealings done by Arsène Wenger. Let's focus on that last point first, Andy. For once, Arsenal have done most of their business early in the window, rather than leaving it to deadline day, and there are still two weeks left to bring in some new players, should Wenger feel the need to (now we have only two centre backs, let's hope he does). We discussed the signing of Sanchez a few weeks ago, but let's talk about the other new signings. What are your thoughts on Wenger's transfer business?

Andy: I think it's hard to be upset with the way Arsenal have attacked the transfer market so far this summer, so long as those operative words "so far" are included. The Sanchez signing was important, both from a strategic view and as a statement of intent; Calum Chambers is looking better and better, though the phrase "it's only preseason" should appear in all CAPS after any gushing treatment of him; bringing in Mathieu Debuchy and David Ospina was smart as they were necessary moves to shore up weaknesses left by players transferring out. All very well done and boosts to the squad going forward.

13 August 2014

2014-15 Barclays Premier League Preview, Part 3

Bojan is one of more intriguing
signings of the summer
(Credit: Wikipedia)
With the 2014/15 Barclays Premier League kicking off this Saturday, One Club on Boylston will be previewing each team's chances this season, looking at their performances last season and the business conducted during the transfer window so far. Part 1 went up on Monday, Part 2 was yesterday, and Part 3, featuring Stoke City through West Ham United. Come back tomorrow for the Arsenal season preview - the one we actually care about - when Andy will join me for our regular Thursday Throwdown column.

Incidentally, this is One Club on Boylston's 100th post. Thanks for sticking with us and giving our writers an audience to share their thoughts with, and for making them feel important because they have an audience. Here's to the next 100 posts. Thank you, Boston Gooners!

Stoke City: Stoke are coming off their highest ever finish in the Premier League era, after ending the season ninth in Mark Hughes’ first season as manager. The Potters have had a relatively successful summer, signing Mame Biram Diouf, Steve Sidwell and Phil Bardsley on frees, while agreeing undisclosed deals for Dionatan Teixeira (Google tells me he’s a Brazilian-born Slovak U21 defender from a club called Dukla Banská Bystrica - OK!) and former Barcelona striker Bojan Krkić. The Bojan signing is interesting: for Stoke, it something of a coup to sign a player who has played for Barca, Roma, AC Milan and Ajax; for the player himself, though, it says a lot about the direction his career has taken after exploding on to the scene not long after his 17th birthday. If Bojan can revitalize his career just a bit, then Stoke have a good chance of improving on their ninth-placed finish of last season. One of our regulars has them finishing as high as 6th; OCoB can’t see them qualifying for Europe, so has Stoke a more realistic 8th.

12 August 2014

2014-15 Barclays Premier League Preview, Part 2

City fans will be hoping for a repeat of scenes like these
(Credit: Wikipedia)
With the 2014/15 Barclays Premier League kicking off this Saturday, One Club on Boylston will be previewing each team's chances this season, looking at their performances last season and the business conducted during the transfer window so far. Part 1 was posted yesterday, Part 2 features Liverpool through the team that Liverpool have mercilessly decimated this summer (Southampton), and Part 3 is coming tomorrow. Come back on Thursday for an in-depth discussion between Andy and I, regarding Arsenal's prospects for the season.

Liverpool: AKA Liverhampton. The Anfield club have made a determined effort to build on their second-placed finish of last season by selling their best player and top-scorer by snatching up most of the core of the squad that impressed many by finishing 8th. It was the right time for the Reds to sell Suarez, and they did well to get £75m for a player who won’t even be able to train with his new club until late October. However, his 31 league goals will be incredibly difficult to replace, so while £4m for Rickie Lambert represents decent business, there is still a gaping hole upfront. Brendan Rodgers will hope that new signings Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic and Emre Can will create and add goals from midfield, Dejan Lovren will add stability to a back line that conceded a lot of goals last season, while the exciting Belgian talent Divock Origi has been signed from and immediately loaned back to Lille. The full-back position has also been strengthened, with Spaniards Alberto Moreno and Javier Manquillo moving to Merseyside, and Rodgers is rumored to be interested in Barcelona’s Dani Alves. Liverpool are also being linked with most of the top strikers in Europe to replace Suarez, but nothing has transpired so far. While Liverpool fans will surely enjoy the business that has been done and be glad to see the back of the controversial Suarez, it is hard to see them replicating their success of last season due to the clubs around them doing better business and not losing their best players; a Champions League qualifying finish may even be out of their reach.

11 August 2014

2014-15 Barclays Premier League Preview, Part 1

A new season begins, and this
is what everyone is playing for
(Credit: Neil Turner)
With the 2014/15 Barclays Premier League kicking off this Saturday, One Club on Boylston (OCoB) will be previewing each team's chances this season, looking at their performances last season and the business conducted during the transfer window so far. Part 1 features Aston Villa through Leicester, Part 2 comes tomorrow and Part 3 will go up Wednesday. Andy and I will discuss Arsenal in a more in-depth preview as part of our regular Thursday Throwdown column.
Aston Villa: The Villains enter the new season under some uncertainty; owner Randy Lerner put the club up for sale in May, though there have been no bids so far. Lerner claims that he and the management team - including new assistant manager Roy Keane - are fully focused on the upcoming, and not the sale. Villa have added former Arsenal defender Philippe Senderos and Joe Cole on free transfers, as well as Kieran Richardson from Fulham, and will hope that last summer’s signing Jores Okore can make a contribution after rupturing knee ligaments in just his 4th match for the club and missing the whole season. Christian Benteke’s services have been retained, and manager Paul Lambert will hope that the Belgian can return to the form of a few seasons ago, rather than last season’s lackluster performances. If he can rediscover his goal-scoring form, the Villains will be confident of improving on last season’s 15th-place finish.

07 August 2014

Thursday Throwdown: Sano-Goals Galore

There are no free-to-use pictures of Yaya or Joel,
so have some Gunnersaurus to lighten up your Thursday
(Credit: Wonker)
Sam: Arsenal fans got their first glimpse of several senior players at the Emirates Cup, against relatively high-strength and high-reputation European clubs. While the first game was a fun 5-1 win against Europa League finalists Benfica, featuring 4 goals from the somewhat-maligned Yaya Sanogo and Joel Campbell finally making his first appearance in an Arsenal shirt, Sunday's game was a disappointing defeat to a Monaco side, who, it should be noted, start their season next weekend so are a few weeks ahead of the Gunners in terms of preparation and fitness. So, Andy, let's start with our goal scorers. How impressed were you with our young strikers in the match they played?

Andy: I've always felt a little bit bad for Yaya and it's never had anything to do with his ability. Once he worked his way into the first team last year, he was a useful player that could control the ball up top and work off of Olivier Giroud when put in that situation. He looked like what he was: a young, raw player that needed matches and additional training in order to progress to the point where we could truly judge his talent. The pity comes from how harshly he has been judged by a segment of the Arsenal fans simply because he had the bad luck of being Arsène's only forward signing during a transfer window when pretty much everyone agreed that the Gunners needed another striker. He became the butt of jokes aimed at Wenger's youth policy and got a lot more stick than he deserved.

24 July 2014

Thursday Throwdown: Summertime, And The Livin' Is Easy

Arsene wooed his man, who chose
North London over Merseyside
(Credit: Fanny Schertzer)
Sam: Well, it feels like ages since we last sat down to talk about the Arsenal. What with work getting busy, then enjoying the World Cup too much to actually take the time to write about it, and major transfers happening, the time has just flown by. So far, we've had a really busy summer, and I'm sure there's a lot more to look forward to. I also realized last night that Boston Gooners events are getting back in to full swing, with Arsenal playing friendlies every weekend until the new season opens with the Community Shield on August 10. So, Andy, how has summer treated you? What's been the highlight from an Arsenal perspective so far?

Andy: Some of us are lucky enough to have tickets to go see Arsenal playing their friendly in New York City against the Red Bulls so that is certainly on my mind at the moment. Overall though, the Arsenal based highlight of the summer for me has to be the signing of Alexis Sanchez. He stood out as a star among a game Chile side during the World Cup, but we all knew how good he was far before that. Players don't earn transfers into the starting eleven at Barcelona for being decent occasionally when representing their country and to be honest, it's still a shock to me that the Catalan club was willing to give him up.

05 July 2014

World Cup: Quarter-Finals Predictions, Day 2

Well, I was completely wrong about yesterday's results, but that's never put me off before, so here are my predictions for Saturday's quarter-finals.

Argentina vs Belgium
On paper, this match looks like it should the best of those on offer this weekend. On one side, you have one of the best players of his generation, Leo Messi, supported by a brilliant winger who is just starting to get the credit he's due, Angel di Maria. The second tier of players - Ezequiel Lavezzi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain - certainly have the talent, but haven't played their best (yet), while the rest of the squad is largely made of functional players - your Mascheranos and Zabaletas. The Argentines needed 120 minutes to beat well-organized Swiss side in their last match. On the other hand, you have most people's pre-tournament dark horses, who have so far failed to live up to expectations. The de Rode Duivels, however, boast an impressive array of attacking talent - Hazard, de Bruyne, Origi, Mirallas, Lukaku, etc - and are solid in the middle and at the back. They also boast a goalkeeper who has never lost on the international stage in Thibaut Courtois. Marc Wilmots selected Origi up front in place of Lukaku against USA, and the teenager looked sharp, worrying the American defense and only being kept at bay by an inspired Tim Howard. Once Lukaku came on in extra-time, his strength and pace changed the game, which may be a tactic the Belgian manager wants to repeat against an aging Argentinian back line.

04 July 2014

World Cup: Quarter-Finals Predictions, Day 1

Brazil's hopes rest squarely on Neymar's shoulders.
(Source: Danilo Borges)
The quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup take place this weekend, nicely coinciding with the Independence Day weekend, so even though the United States were eliminated in the last round, there should still be a major audience for the games. For the first time, all 8 sides that won their group have progressed to the quarters, and the only real surprise package is Costa Rica. For the first time this tournament, I'm going to have a shot at predicting the winners and score in each match; so if you fancy a little bet, whatever you do, don't follow my advice.

27 June 2014

World Cup Watch: Do Arsenal Players Equal Wins?

Campbell celebrates his goal
against Uruguay
(Credit: Danilo Borges)
During the England vs. Italy game on the first weekend of the World Cup, as my home nation were losing, I turned to my wife and her parents and jokingly said that the reason the Three Lions were losing was that Roy Hodgson had neglected to select the Arsenal players in his squad. This was followed by a dawning realization that I may have actually been on to something; Spain had been thrashed by the Netherlands the day before, while Santi Cazorla sat on the bench for the majority of the game, while Joel Campbell inspired Costa Rica to a 3-1 victory over Uruguay in the match before England's. After this, I kept an eye on the trend. Germany started Per Mertesacker, Mesut Özil, brought on Lukas Podolski, and demolished Portugal. France's first game ruined my theory, as they beat Honduras with Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny, though I was bailed out on Twitter by my regular Throwdown partner Andy, who said that everyone would beat Honduras anyway. France then redeemed themselves - in the eye of my theory - by thrashing the seeded Switzerland, with Giroud starting alongside Karim Benzema for Les Bleus.

25 June 2014

World Cup Links: He Bites, He Dives ... Well, You Know The Rest

Cannibal Suarez. To be fair, Chiellini
does sound like a tasty pasta dish
I’ve been meaning to write about the World Cup ever since it started, but just couldn’t really find anything of interest to say; we’re all aware of how good this iteration of the tournament has been, with more goals per game than any World Cup in a long time, the reigning champions being eliminated after just two games, and late equalizers and winners. I didn’t feel like I could add anything to what we’d all witnessed. Until yesterday, that is.

As I’m sure you’re all aware, Luis Suarez bit Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini on the shoulder, with the score tied at 0-0 in a game that would go on to decide who qualified from Group D behind Costa Rica. It should be noted that replays from multiple angles haven’t proved overwhelmingly conclusive, but it certainly looked like the Racist Cannibal had a good munch on some prime Italian shoulder meat. FIFA have opened an investigation into the incident, with Suarez claiming that Chiellini “bumped” into him. Compounding the matter is the fact that Suarez threw himself to the ground as if he’d been shot (as is his wont) in a clear attempt to either confuse the referee or earn his side an important penalty; he might have been hoping the Italian defender would react and shove him, so by going down quickly was preparing for contact.

18 June 2014

The WAT: Arsenal to try new 0-1-0 formation

Having negated the need for new, returning, or current first team players with the signing of Mesut Ozil in 2013, Arsene Wenger may be adopting a new midfield-heavy 0-1-0 formation during pre-season training after the World Cup.

The new formation will feature Mesut Ozil in all outfield positions and, with limited goalkeeping options, Wojciech Szczesny featuring largely in the "rotation."
Ozil kicking ball, running after ball, then kicking it back the other direction at training.

The always excitable Arsenal fan and first/only team keeper announced his excitement to get back to basics in the upcoming season. "Mesut is a great, great player. I'm looking forward to us getting a lot closer this year. Also, I haven't talked to the boss yet, but I'm hoping maybe I can get some outfield play time in some big games this season, too."

12 June 2014

Thursday Throwdown: World Cup Predictions

Neymar (center) will be key to the hopes of the
host nation
(Credit: Ronnie Macdonald)
Sam: The Greatest Show on Earth is finally here! The 2014 iteration of the World Cup takes place in Brazil, the nation that gave the world the likes of Pele, Ronaldo, Zico, Romario and Roberto Carlos (definitely deserves to be in that list!) and home to some of the most rabid and passionate soccer fans on the globe. The hosts will be considered among the favorites to win the tournament, though the last time they hosted, the Seleção crumbled under the intense pressure, losing to Uruguay in the final.

Despite that, I have them as ranked as favorites to win; they won the Confederations Cup convincingly in similar stadia and conditions last year and key players like Hulk and Neymar enter the tournament in good form. Argentina will also have a good chance; their group is one of the easier ones, so they should progress without taxing too many of their key players, and Lionel Messi will be desperate to add international success to his club trophies and strengthen his argument as one of the best players ever. Finally, I am looking forward to watching Germany. They have a very talented and deep squad, though taking just one traditional striker could hurt their chances as they get to the latter stages. So, Jess, those are my favorites to take the trophy home. Who do you think will win the 20th World Cup?

10 June 2014

World Cup Watch: Gunners in Action Pt. 2


Placed in dubious Group D along with Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica, England will begin its World Cup action with a marquee matchup vs. Italy on June 14th. Roy Hodgson's side includes the Arsenal midfield duo of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere, each of whom will play a crucial role for England if they are to advance. And it really is incredibly difficult to predict which teams will advance from this group; Uruguay, Italy and England have a combined total of seven World Cups and ten world titles, as well as a myriad of star players, which means that at least one star-studded squad will be excluded from the knockout stages of the competition.

Arsenal midfield duo Super Jack and the Ox
Credit: Flickr
England have looked less-than-stellar in their World Cup tune ups, most recently playing a ten-man Honduras to a scoreless draw amidst lightening storms in Miami. Before that, the English side drew Ecuador 2-2, a match that resulted in Oxlade Chamberlain's knee injury after clashing with Carlos Gruezo. Fortunately for England, the Ox was in training in a protective knee brace yesterday going through some pretty strenuous conditioning training. Although he will miss the opener against Italy, he could be fit to face Uruguay in England's second group match. If our revered Ox can get back to full fitness, he will be a part of the young English core that the team's success depends on.

09 June 2014

World Cup Watch: Gunners in Action Pt. 1

A poll on Arsenal.com asks Gooners, "Which Arsenal stars are most likely to win the World Cup?" Our response thus far has been overwhelmingly in support of the German trio– Ozil, Mertesacker and Podolski– who currently hold 65% of the vote. Coming in second is Santi Cazorla who made the final cut for La Furia Roja at 16%, followed by our English and French boys at 6% each.

Twelve Gunners will be in action in Brazil competing for seven different countries. Below is a preview on the Arsenal stars representing France, Germany and Belgium in the 2014 World Cup. Tomorrow's part two will feature Gunners in action for England, Spain, Costa Rica and Switzerland.


Didier Deschamps' French squad boasts three Gunners in Olivier Giroud, Laurent Koscielny and Bacary Sagna (and lacks one former Gunner bad boy in Samir Nasri, an absence that I'm sure none of us shed too many tears over). In fact, not even the ruling out of Franck Ribery was enough to get Nasri back in the final 23, and recent reports suggest that Koscielny's opinion on the matter and his position as a senior member of the side may have swayed Deschamps' decision to exclude the Manchester City midfielder. 

Les Bleus will face Honduras in their opening match of the tournament on June 15th, fresh off an 8-0
Koscielny is key to France's success in Brazil
Credit: wonker
drubbing of Jamaica which included a second-half goal from our very own Oli. Also included in Group E are Switzerland and Ecuador. After a truly awful showing in the 2010 World Cup, France look poised to win Group E and avoid the winner of Group F, which will almost certainly be Argentina.

It will be interesting to see how much action Giroud gets in Brazil, as he will most likely be playing back up to Real Madrid's Karim Benzema. Sagna, who played the second half of France's final tune up match against Jamaica, will also play a secondary role behind Newcastle's right back, Mathieu Debuchy. Koscielny, who finished third in the voting for Arsenal player of the season, is France's premiere central defender and will partner with either Sakho or Varane in the center of the pitch for Les Bleus. He will undoubtedly be hugely influential for the French side.

06 June 2014

Friday Throwdown: Transfers. Transfers? TRANSFERS! It Must Be Silly Season, Part 2

In the first part of our transfer Throwdown yesterday, Andy and I discussed the needs in the defensive areas of the pitch. Today, we will be looking at the more attacking positions: attacking midfield, wingers and striker. And, of course, we discuss the big story of the week - Cesc Fabregas. Note: this was written before the news that Arsenal would not, in fact, be activating their buy-back clause.

Andy: I assume no one will argue that we need to replace Aaron Ramsey in the box-to-box role or argue that we are short on creative talent through the rest of midfield either. Is the Gunners' midfield indeed set outside of the CDM role, or do you see some tweaking that could still be made?
Cesc won't be returning, but could Carlos Vela
move back to North London?
(Credit: Ronnie Macdonald)

Sam: I think that the midfield is pretty much sorted, which is why - once again, controversial opinion alert - I'm on the fence with regards to all these Cesc Fabregas rumors, leaning towards the side of not re-signing him. Look, I understand all the arguments for: he's a great player, he knows and loves the club, it will strengthen the squad and give us extra depth, etc. Also, I would hate to see him play for a different EPL squad, but I have concerns too. Ramsey has just had a break-out season so we don't want to see him in a platoon in that position, and while you could play Cesc and Ramsey together, it doesn't address the need for a more defense-minded central midfielder; if anything, it takes us further away from protecting the back line and makes us much smaller in midfield. Cesc could also play further forward, but then you're dropping one of Ozil, Cazorla or Walcott (who probably constitute the first choices in attacking midfield) and that's before listing players like Wilshere, Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain... I know I'm in the minority here, but I really believe that it would impede the progress of Wilshere and especially Ramsey, who's just completed one of the best breakthrough seasons in recent memory. One of the lesser mentioned aspects of a potential Cesc signing is the impact on our transfer budget. No one outside the Club knows for sure how much money we have to spend, but if the fee of £30m being quoted for Fabregas is correct, then that would surely deplete much of our funds, putting us in a position where we may not be able to sign other high level players or focus on strengthening positions that really need it. The more I think about it, the more I'm torn; it would be great to have squad depth, and a rotation of Cesc, Rambo and Wilshere would be one of the best in the EPL and of course we'd have cover for any injuries, and I wouldn't be unhappy if he returned, I just think there are other areas of the squad that should be priorities. Also, Wenger is usually against re-signing old players, and by all accounts he seems to have told Barcelona he's not interested in Cesc. To me, that shows he has faith in the players he has, and I believe it is time for this young core to develop together. Am I being stupid here?

05 June 2014

Thursday Throwdown: Transfers. Transfers? TRANSFERS! It Must Be Silly Season, Part 1

Serge Aurier is rumored to be Arsenal's
future at right back
(Credit: Swing59)
This week Andy and I decided to discuss transfers: what signings we need, who we would like, etc. Our discussion ran much longer than usual, so this week's Throwdown will be split in to two parts. Today, we look at goalkeepers, defense and central midfield. Come back tomorrow for our takes on the Fabregas rumors, attacking midfield and strikers.

Sam: It's been a pretty quiet week, with most of soccer being focused on the World Cup. Following on from last week's Throwdown, we're going to discuss specific transfer needs and desires. At the end of the last post, I seem to have made a somewhat controversial statement regarding the goalkeeper position; allow me to defend my position. As much as Wojciech Szczesny has improved over recent season, and as well as he played this past season, I still think that an upgrade is possible. Victor Valdes, a multiple La Liga and Champions League winner, is out of contract at Barcelona, while Iker Casillas, Spain's number 1 and a multiple trophy winner at domestic and international level, seems to be out of favor at Real Madrid. Am I wrong in thinking that either of those are better 'keepers than Szczesny? I'm not saying we should go after them, just that there are other options in the soccer world. Realistically, though, I guess we'd go for a back-up, so, Andy, has anyone caught your eye for that spot?

Andy: I believe the phrase "how dare you?!?" is the first thing that came to my mind when you mentioned upgrading from Sir Szcz, so yes, mildly controversial. In a vacuum, I might agree with you. At the moment Casillas and Valdes would be upgrades (though we may disagree on the degree) over Szczesny, so Arsenal could technically improve the goalkeeper position if they wanted to spend the money. But here's the thing: Szczesny is 24 years old and he has fought off all comers to win the job and become the Gunner's #1. I can't help but feel that it would be massively unfair to unseat him after his best season yet where he firmly established himself as The Guy. So no, I can't be on board with that.