Sunday, 29 May 2011

Transfer Update - Mathieu Valbuena, + Vela & Bartley


Not much transfer news going around at the moment...

Right now, Mathieu Valbuena is the biggest name being linked with Arsenal (that I've not already covered). TalkSPORT (yeah, I know), among a couple of even less credible sources, link us with the 25-year-old midfielder. I'm also told that the French media seem to agree with the rumour, also claiming that we're interested in the diminutive midfielder. He's had a decent couple of seasons for Marseille, and I remember him scoring a screamer against Liverpool one or two years ago in the Champions League. He also scored against England recently, so we know what he can do.

Apparently he'd be replacing Arshavin or Rosicky. Seeing as Arshavin is pretty much nailed on as staying (as I said here) I'd think he would be more likely to replace Rosicky. I've heard that they're similar players, obviously with Valbuena having the edge thanks to his age and a couple of other factors. I think he's definitely a player on Wenger's radar. Whether he makes a move for the France international, I don't know. But I think he'd be a useful addition to our squad. 

Rosicky has really gone off the boil this year. Just a couple of assists, one goal and a missed penalty to boot - after a seemingly promising start to the season, he's lost all form and has struggled to regain it. It looks almost certain that he's leaving.

According to MedioTiempo we have not let Carlos Vela go to this summer's Copa America. It seems that Arsene is willing to give Vela another chance to impress this year, after a fairly disappointing loan spell with West Brom. I'm pleased about this news; it'll give Vela a good pre-season with us, and I think he can push on for a starting place. Him getting the number eleven shirt last year was perhaps indicative of his inclusion in Arsene's long term plans, and I think he could play a more vital role for us this season.

Finally, the excellent 'Les Rosbifs' website is the latest to accomodate my ramblings. The editor, Gav, was kind enough to publish my review of Kyle Bartley's loan spell at Rangers. Les Rosbifs is a site dedicated to English players/managers plying their trade abroad, just like Bartley did from February to May. You can read my article here.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Arsenal 2-1 Barcelona - My Account



FEBRUARY 16th, 2011
3 hours to go
As I swung my left leg into my dad’s car and pulled the door shut, I had no idea what I would witness in the 90 minutes that I had been building up to for ages.

Dad, my brother and I were about to set off to London – the Emirates Stadium, to be precise – to watch the Arsenal against the best team in the world; FC Barcelona. Some had even called them the greatest side ever. Arguable, yes. But they’re definitely up there.

It was lucky that I was going in the first place. We have two season tickets (immensely lucky too) and normally I take turns with my older brother. However, he usually pulls rank over me when it comes to the big games. For example, last season’s Barcelona game was his as soon as the name was pulled out of the hat.

Dad had said I might be able to go this year, but I was fairly sure that Josh would insist he was the one at the Emirates. But as we approached the tie, the man who sits next to my dad told him he wouldn’t be able to make it, and was wondering if dad would be interested in his ticket. He said yes, and that meant that my brother and I could both go. Just like the old days at Highbury, when we both came to the Champions League games in that remarkable run in 05/06. The Juventus game still stands firmly in my memory as one of my favourite games.

Anyway, back to the events of “that night”. As we began the (almost) 2 hour journey to Arsenal, which consisted of getting the car to Richmond and getting various tube lines until we reached our destination, a million thoughts ran through my mind. Could we do it? Actually, that was pretty much my only thought. I put my earphones in to attempt to calm down and try to stop getting so excited. My mum always tells me to “prepare to be disappointed” whenever we’re about to play a big game, and it was no different this time. But I couldn’t help believing.

2 hours to go
Something like 45 minutes later, we arrived at Richmond. We had left a little early so we could grab some McDonalds. I went upstairs to grab a table, and dad and Josh queued up. I got upstairs to see that there was one table free, and it only had two chairs. It would have to do. As I settled down into my seat, I looked across the room to see a woman sitting on her own, with no food left, on a table for six people, reading a book. I shook my head in disbelief – how could anyone be that selfish? Anyway, one McChicken Sandwich and large fries later and we were back on our way. We headed to the tube station, took a newspaper each and got on.

As I read the preview for that night’s game, my heart began to pump with anticipation once more. How good would it be if we did it, I thought to myself. At the school where I go to, there are barely any Arsenal fans, and every time we lose, I’m absolutely ripped by my friends, so it would be brilliant if we could beat the best team in the world. But then again, given my optimism pre-match, they’d ridicule me for my glass-half-full prediction prior to the game if we lost. Especially if we got thrashed.

But I didn’t want to think about that. We were going to win.

1 hour and 15 minutes to go
After one quick tube journey and another very lengthy one, we pulled into Arsenal tube station. I can still picture the Arsenal fans in the streets, singing songs, buying merchandise, taking pictures. If that atmosphere was good, the one that would greet the players as they came out was unbelievable.

But that was an hour away. We strolled towards the stadium in high spirits, smiling and nodding at any Arsenal fans that glanced towards us. Up the two flights of stairs, and onto what is now known as the “Ken Friar bridge”. We crossed it with a swarm of Gooners, all equally optimistic about our chances of conquering the three-time European champions.

We saw some Barca fans chanting outside the stadium, in confident moods. We walked past them, shaking our heads, but secretly a little impressed with their passion. Of course, we could match it, and then some.

We entered the stadium through the turnstiles, having exchanged some quick greetings with the usual steward. Dad purchased a programme, as Josh and I rushed to the TV screens to check out the team news.

“BREAKING NEWS:” read the Sky Sports News scrolling banner along the bottom of the television, “SAMIR NASRI STARTS FOR ARSENAL”. We clenched our fists in joy, knowing that the side was pretty much full-strength, except for the absence of Thomas Vermaelen. Still, Laurent Koscielny and Johan Djourou had formed a superb duo at the heart of our defence, and we’d coped without Vermaelen the entire season – we could do it again.

We trotted down the steps to our seats, shaking hands with the usual match-goers who were already in theirs. “Seen the team?” said one. We confirmed that we had, and agreed how good it was that Nasri was starting. After a conversation about our French winger, and the players he’d be facing, someone pointed out the flags on our chairs. “Last time we had these, we got thumped by Man U.”

He was right, but I didn’t see it as a bad omen. I was excited to wave my flag, and couldn’t wait to contribute to the immense atmosphere, just like in the Champions League semi final of a few years ago against United. I hadn’t been at that game, so I was thrilled to be here and to be a part of it. Josh was a little less enthusiastic, but hey ho.

We continued to discuss a number of topics, from the referee to the Barcelona manager. As we spoke, Messi and co. were flooding out of the tunnel, to cheering from the Barca fans, and jeers from us. As our boys came out of the tunnel, they were greeted by huge applause from the home fans, which overcame any booing from the away fans – despite their numbers compared to ours. It was a little strange how they were already all in their seats an hour before, but they probably wanted to witness as much of Arsenal as they could.

00:00
The time had come. The rest of the regulars had found their seats, ready to cheer the players on to what would hopefully be an historic victory. The now-traditional pre-match song of The Wonder of You was boomed out of all the speakers, and as usual I joined in, holding my scarf proudly up in the air, just like thousands of others were. This was an atmosphere.

Then came the fairly-new video as the players lined up in the tunnel. As usual, I softly whispered each commentary as it came; “Brady… oh look at that! Look at that! What a goal by Brady!”, “And it’s Tony Adams, put through by Steve Bould, would you believe it?! That… sums it all up!” and of course “Thomas, charging through midfield, it’s up for grabs now! Thomas, right at the end!”

As the clock on the video ticked towards one, the players were about to enter the stage. The announcer told us to “Get our flags ready,” and then at last, to “Welcome Barcelona, aaaaand the Arsenal!”. And what a welcome we gave them.

Flags in the air, 60,000 all singing in harmony – it was enough to make every hair on your body stand up.

The players got into their positions, and the referee blew his whistle. This was greeted by another roar, then another rendition of “And it’s Arsenal, Arsenal FC, we’re by far the greatest team, the world had ever seen”. And we wanted to prove it.

We were straight out of the blocks, attacking Barcelona with a thrilling “no-fear” attitude. This could, of course, go spectacularly wrong if they caught us on the break, but we seemed willing to take that risk.

Barca nearly caught us out, when Lionel Messi found himself clean through on goal. He waited, and waited… and waited some more… before clipping a shot over the despairing Wojiech Szczesny (on his Champions League debut, mind you). It looked destined for goal… but it rolled inches wide.

Counter-attack seemed to be our best option, and we nearly made a breakthrough using that particular method. Fabregas was set free down the right handside, and clipped a cross towards Robin van Persie, waiting at the back post… and as he was about to nod it home, Abidal got a nick on it – cleared. Just.

It was our best chance so far, but instead of spurring us on, it motivated Barca. Messi weaved his magic in the hole, and played it in for Villa. Surely it was offside? Apparently not, as the linesman’s flag was not raised, and David Villa took advantage, slotting through the ‘keeper’s legs to make it 1-0.

We tried to respond, but Barca came back at us, with wave after wave of attack. Then suddenly, we broke away with Jack Wilshere. Into the other half… towards the goal… Walcott’s free on the right! No, he gave it to van Persie… we rose in expectation of our in-form striker… I clutched the shoulder of my brother’s coat… is it in?! Nope, side netting. It was a good chance, and it had gone begging. No fear – we’d score, we just knew we would. We had to…

But it looked like Barca were the ones who had scored, again, when Messi bundled in a header from a rebound. To our relief, the linesman called this one for offside. Only when the replay was dissected at super-slo-mo on ITV afterwards could they finally conclude that the assistant had indeed got it correct.

We went in at half-time behind by one goal to nil, but it could have been more, so we were in a way lucky. I nervously tucked into my half-time snack, surprised I could eat with the butterflies in my stomach.

Before we knew it, it was time for the second half. As the players struggled to impose themselves, Andrey Arshavin replaced Alex Song. We went close several times before that, but nothing particularly clear cut.

We still couldn’t get past Barcelona’s rearguard though. Wenger took a risk, throwing on Bendtner for Walcott.

Minutes later, we did it.

Gael Clichy dinked a ball perfectly into Robin van Persie, who had a tight angle for a cross inside the area. He went to pull back the trigger, and it looked like he was going for fire it across goal, hoping it got a touch and went in.

But instead, he went for the outrageous. Many players wouldn’t even think of doing what he did. But I’m glad van Persie did. He fired the ball at Valdes’ near post, and the goalkeeper had shifted away from his goal instinctively, thinking to block the cross. He was caught out, and the ball flew in at the far post from an immensely acute angle.

Goal! With twelve minutes left, we had grabbed a goal! We went crazy, absolutely over the moon. High fives were shared, hugs with random people, the usual stuff. Van Persie celebrated jubilantly, embracing Arsene on the touchline as the rest of the players celebrated amongst themselves. I rapidly texted all my friends who had texted me at half-time rubbing in the scoreline. Still, more than ten minutes left.

But if we thought van Persie’s goal was an amazing moment, we would have an even better one five minutes later. My head was already pounding from the immense noise, and Barca laid siege at our goal. “Clear it!” we yelled.

Laurent Koscielny, absolutely marvellous all night, picked Lionel Messi’s pocket once more. He looked for options, and concluded that Bendtner was his best bet. He slid the ball into the Dane, who came infield into a swarm of players. As Xavi ambled away from goal, a gap opened up, and Bendtner managed to find Wilshere. Encouraging applause and cheers. Wilshere found Fabregas first time. More encouragement. In one fluid movement, Fabregas pirouetted and spotted Nasri in space. He sent a ball spinning into the Frenchman’s path.

Nasri hared down the right, in the empty space left by Barcelona as they pressed for a winner. Only a few Barca players were back, but we didn’t have many players forward. Van Persie jogged into a good position, but Nasri seemed to be going for goal. He cut back, assessed his options for a millisecond. Van Persie was being marked too tightly, what could Nasri do?

Then he, and the 60,000 fans in the ground, saw him.

Arshavin.

He sped into the box, screaming for the ball. We all screamed for Nasri to give it to him, and give it to him Nasri did.

Would he shank it miles over like he did recently vs Leeds? Would the goalkeeper save it? Would he miss it completely?

Within a second, we had our answer. And we had our hero.

As Arshavin curled the ball perfectly into the corner of the net, the Emirates Stadium exploded. It was a feeling of pure euphoria, and disbelief. Had we really just gone 2-1 up against Barcelona? The announcer confirmed that we had, as Arshavin, Bendtner and the rest of the team raced into the opposite corner to celebrate. I wasn’t paying much attention to what was happening on the pitch, instead celebrating with those around me. Somehow, I found myself and my brother switching places as we jumped around like crazy.

In my ecstatic state, I managed to notice that the guy next to me wasn’t celebrating. He wasn’t, but I was, and for 5 full seconds I went crazy in his face, not caring what his reaction was.

After a while we settled down, my heart still beating furiously, and my head pounding even more. I took a moment to rest, with my brain going crazy. The pain in my head was easily bearable thanks to the enormous supplies of adrenaline pumping through my veins. As I tried to relax, I checked my phone. Something like 4 new messages, saying things like “Fair play” and so on. I replied to all of them, telling them what a feeling it was, and how buzzing I was. To others, who weren’t aware, I bragged that I was there. They were jealous, and I felt so lucky.

The seven minutes remaining, plus the four of added time, seemed to take forever. As we urged the referee to blow up, regardless of how long should still be played, the players were equally nervous, but managed to clear every attack that came our way. Barcelona threw everything at us that they had, but they’d tired. A late scare in the form of Dani Alves was rejected by Szczesny, who had celebrated the second goal as vigorously as any of us. Clichy booted the ball into touch, and it seemed like the storm we were weathering wasn’t over. But apparently it had taken a nick off a Barcelona player, and we had the throw in. Taking as long as he could, Clichy launched it into the centre circle. It fell to a Barcelona player, and they tried piling forward again.

The referee had looked at his watch. The whistle was in his mouth. You could barely hear him blow, but I could tell from the reactions of the players and the fans alike that it was over – for now. There was the second leg to come, but for the time being I just wanted to bask in the incredible glory of the victory.

Overcome with joy, all of the Arsenal fans exited the stadium in good voice. Singing many songs about van Persie, Arshavin and of course the Arsenal, I joined in with each one. I got a frown from my dad when I joined in with the “We’ve got Arshavin” song, but at the time I wasn’t too concerned.

On the journey back, we saw many other Gooners, including on the tube. Already in our seats, some lads a little older than me settled into theirs, huge grins on their faces, just like us. My dad said “I guess your team won then?” and they nodded, still grinning like mad.

The events that had just gone on made the journey completely bearable – in fact, as I reminisced the night’s goings-on, I was nudged by my dad; we were already at our stop. Once we got on the next tube, which was outdoors for most of the journey, I checked my phone again. I replied to all my messages, and went about updating my Facebook status. I couldn’t respond to the comments, but I was aware of them, and showed my dad some.

We got into the car, and turned the radio on. For once, we decided to brave listening to TalkSport – even they were complimentary of our side’s efforts. We grinned as they gushed over that moment when Arshavin curled in the winner, picturing the moment in our minds’ eyes.

We got home at something like 12, but I wasn’t going to bed. Instead, I watched Sky Sports News with dad, to see what they said. After they exhausted the topic, we went onto the recording of the game to experience that amazing moment once again. We watched van Persie’s goal first, then waited until Arshavin’s goal came on. Having watched until the end of the game, we rewound, and watched the goals again. And again.

I must have got to bed at about 1am, and I decided to wear my Arsenal shirt as I slept – so immensely proud of my team. I soon drifted off to dreams of Arsenal, satisfied with the night’s events.

I know I’ll never forget that night. Since I wasn’t around when Micky Thomas slotted home the winner at Anfield, the Arshavin winner is currently the greatest moment of my Arsenal supporting life. It’s my Anfield ’89.

Transfer update - Samba, Hazard, Falcao, Alvarez + Benzema


A lot of transfer talk since my last post...

First up, Karim Benzema. He says he is "honoured at the interest from Arsenal", but has spoken to Mourinho and thinks he will stay. He feels he has something to prove at Madrid, so it doesn't look like Benzema will be coming to the Emirates. I did, however, read somewhere that Real will sell one of Kaka or Benzema, and with Aguero most likely coming in it could be Benzema. On the other hand, they've got a lot of midfielders, so I'd think it would be more likely to be Kaka on his way out of the Bernabeu.

The next story is Chris Samba. wearethenorthbank has the exclusive once more - we have tabled an £8 million bid for the Blackburn centre half. I'd absolutely love it if we signed Samba, although I'm a little unsure if he'd be good in our high line. I think we'll be able to prise him away from Ewood Park, as he said he will have to consider his future. 

After 73 goals in 85 league games, Radamel Falcao is a hot prospect. According to the Porto striker's agent, us and Tottenham are willing to meet his £26 million buyout clause. He's an absolute fox in the box, one of, if not the best headerers (is that a word?) of the ball in the world. He'd be a signing of real intent. However, for now, I'd just put this down as agent talk, only attempting to big up his client and get himself more money.

The ever-reliable Young Guns reports that Arsenal representative Richard Law has met up with representatives of Ricky Alvarez's club Velez to discuss a transfer. Early reports that Alvarez was out of contract seem to be false - and it looks like Velez want something in the region of £8 million for their player. I think it's a risk worth taking; he seems like a quality player. Right now I'd rate the deal as 50-50 to go ahead.

Eden Hazard says he doesn't think he'll leave - although he did say "we know that if a big club comes in with a big bid, I'll be off". I'm not sure if we're able to make that big bid, but he'd certainly want to come here if we did. It depends on how much Arsene wants Hazard. Personally, I'd go all out to get him, he really is a huge talent. His comments seem to rule Liverpool out though - he said he wants to play in the Champions League with Lille or a big club next season.

As for departures, Arshavin is staying, which I think is good news. If we can get Hazard and Alvarez in and keep Arshavin and Nasri, we can rotate and keep all four wingers sharp - a little like what United do with Park, Valencia, Nani and Giggs. Carlos Vela's agent says he's still wanted by club, and I think we could do worse than be patient with the Mexican. The ever-reliable Marco Silva says Inter Milan are preparing a £6 million bid for Gael Clichy, and that Almunia has offers in Spain.

Interestingly, he also says Nasri will only sign a new contract when new signings are guaranteed. He claims that this is the reason for Wenger telling us to expect signings in "late May or early June". It would be good to get all our business wrapped up early this year, so there's a lot of time for the new players to gel with the team before the new season starts. 

Finally, a little news on the youth front. Sky Sports say we've secured the deals for Barcelona youngsters Jon Toral and Hector Bellerin - apparently both had numerous offers from other top European clubs (and Aston Villa) but chose Arsenal to continue their development. More good academy news comes in the form of Oguzhan Ozyakup signing a new contract at the club. It had seemed like he was off, but it looks like he's decided Arsenal is the place to continue his development. 

Before I go, there's a campaign to get a Sunday league manager as the next Chelsea boss. Apparently Martin Grisley is the "Mourinho of Abington Park" and has taken Dynamo FC to new heights. While it's not a very real prospect, Coral have him at 100-1 to be the next Chelsea manager, and will give betting proceedings to Help for Heroes, which is a nice touch. Here's the Facebook page, and there's a bit about him on the Coral site here. All for a good cause.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Transfer update - Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain


I promised you all more transfer news when I got it, and I have some more!

According to wearethenorthbank (the same blog that broke the Downing story), we have reopened talks with Southampton over winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. For me, it's good news - the only two players we have that can play on the wing are Arshavin and Nasri. Walcott isn't a winger, and neither is Bendtner. 

The article above says that the sticking point of the deal the last time the clubs were negotiating was the sell-on clause; Southampton wanted more than we were willing to give them. Sell-on clauses have been used very cleverly by Arsenal in the past - David Bentley got us something like £5 million when he moved to Tottenham for £17 million. I'm sure we'll be able to strike out a deal, and I hope we do.

As usual, any more concrete news will be up as and when I hear it.
 

Transfer update - Arsenal sign Carl Jenkinson


A signing to inform you all of - how well is this transfer window going so far?!

The Finnish FA has confirmed speculation that Charlton defender Carl Jenkinson has signed with Arsenal. The rumours have been going on for quite some time now, and we were only waiting for the announcement to be made. A Finnish journalist (Edan Richardson) discovered the news on the Finnish FA website here. Apparently the compensation agreed between the two teams is £1 million.

More on transfers just as soon as I hear it.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Transfer update - Stewart Downing, Ricardo Alvarez & Nicklas Bendtner

I have a couple of transfer stories to inform you all of today.

Firstly, via Marco Silva, we have said the following about Ricardo Alvarez following speculation linking us with the Argentine midfielder: "I am afraid it is against Club Policy to comment on any transfer speculation surrounding individual players". However, I can confirm via Marco that it is the English Arsenal that the Argentine press is linking Alvarez with, not the Argentine Arsenal.

Marco also tweeted a quote from Nicklas Bendtner's father and agent, Thomas, who said: "Nicklas is 100 percent determined to change club immediately". His exclusion from the squad against Fulham pretty much confirmed that he's on his way out. I'll be disappointed to see him go, but that's football.

wearethenorthbank have exclusively revealed that we had scouts at Villa Park to watch Stewart Downing play against Liverpool, who he has also been linked with. Apparently we look like we're going to join the race to sign him. While I think he's a decent player, and that we lack wingers, one big concern of mine over Downing is that he seems unable to use his right foot at times. And by "at times", I mean "always". However, I've been proven wrong in the past by similar players like Adam Johnson. If we signed Downing I'd love for him to prove me wrong.

The final story I'm going to cover is the exclusion of Jack Wilshere from the England under-21 squad for the tournament this summer. It's a big victory for the club, as we'll be able to have a fresh Jack ready and raring to go when next season starts. I don't think he'll play as big a part as he did this season - he's notably very tired now, and Ramsey is back in the frame. As well as that, there will certainly be some reshuffling of the squad.

I'm avoiding talk of on-pitch matters, as our season clunked to an uninspiring halt on Sunday. There was reason to celebrate though - often our scourge, Birmingham City have been relegated to the Championship. Sadly, Blackpool have gone down too, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices.

I'll try and publish more news just as soon as I hear of it.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Arsenal season review


It's been a crazy season.

There's been all sorts of drama on and off the pitch, and you can read my view on the former here, on the excellent and new "themakélélérole".

Saturday, 21 May 2011

More on Ricky Alvarez


A little more 'news' has emerged on the potential signing of Ricky Alvarez.

Argentine journalist Manuel Olivari tweeted this yesterday: "Ricky Alvarez no firmó ningún precontrato con el Arsenal, es información falaz". Loosely translated, this means: "Ricky Alvarez did not sign pre-contract with Arsenal, is false information".

Where this leaves the deal, I'm not sure. Whether Olivari means that the entire deal is made up, or that the deal just isn't as far ahead as people think, I don't know. However, any news that I get I'll get it up here as soon as I can.

In the mean-time, however, if you want to watch Alvarez play, check out this YouTube video.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Ricky Alvarez & Denilson


Two major stories for me to cover today, both involving transfers. Huzzah, I hear you say!

And most people have been happy about both of them. The first story to break today involved Denilson, who has revealed he wishes to leave Arsenal. He claims to have decided roughly eight months ago that he wants to quit - I'm not going to reel off all the quotes, as you can find them in the link above.

Really, I think that if he was a winner, he'd stay and fight for his place in the team, instead of quitting when the going got tough, which is what he's doing. And on the basis of that, I deem him a quitter, not a winner as he claims. Furthermore, if you're a winner, you chase players back when we have few players back when being hit on the counter, especially against Manchester United!

To be fair to him he's put in some decent performances and I feel he's had some over-the-top criticism, as well as being made a scapegoat for the club's failings. He does give us a good long range shot but he has had some poor games for the club recently. I wrote an article about how he's become the forgotten man at Arsenal a month or so ago (wasn't published) and it becomes clear why - he's just not wanted to be here, and if that's his attitude, then good riddance to him.

That seems to have shown in his performances; this has been a much worse season for him than in previous years. Perhaps, instead of his footballing incompetence, it was because he didn't want to be here. He says he hasn't caused any disruption off the pitch by asking to leave (until now) but his below-par performances have caused some disruption.

It looks like he'll be off to Spain - I can't claim to have any sources but my instinct tells me he'll be at Sevilla next year. Based on that, put your entire life savings on him signing an 8-year contract with us tomorrow. Seriously though, he's had some good games and scored some great goals. He had a lot of potential so I'm a little sad it's not worked out, and I wish him all the best.

After that story had come out, the "news" filtered through that we had reportedly signed Ricky Alvarez from Velez Arfield in Argentina. After further investigation, it seems that Alvarez is a 22 year old attacking midfielder/winger who has really had a break through season this year. Those that I know who are into Argentinean football have spoken glowingly of him, which can only be good - the supposed transfer of Alvarez was described as a "coup" for us by one person.

It appears that we've signed him on a "pre-contract", so it would be free. Having watched a little of him on YouTube, he seems a decent player, but obviously so would Susan Boyle with some fairly clever editing of clips, so it's difficult to judge just from YouTube. Still, the clips looked fairly promising, and hopefully he'll bring something to the club if he does sign.

The news had no internet source - apparently Fox News reported it on their television channel. However, those that reported it on Twitter are very reliable, so I believe them. If Alvarez does join, I look forward to seeing him in an Arsenal shirt. Remember; Javier Hernandez was barely known when he joined Manchester United!

That's all for today, more later in the weekend. Hope you all have a terrific one.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Woeful


That's what Sunday's performance was - woeful.

The players put in a poor, lacklustre performance and it was shown in the result. Despite the refereeing decisions that may have gone against us (I don't know what we should have had as I haven't watched the game again since getting back from the Emirates) we didn't deserve to win the game. We didn't even look like scoring when we got inside the box, we didn't even look like scoring.  

We were sloppy in defence, too - the goals we conceded were just shocking from our point of view. Simple balls split our defence in half, and Bent had the easiest job in the world.

It's weird, because that was a very similar team to the one that beat Man United at the Emirates just two weeks ago. And it wasn't like there was nothing to play for - Chelsea had just slipped up and we had a chance for second, with City breathing down our necks for third.

It was the final home game of the season, it was the last chance for the players to apologise for their previous failures. Interviews and tweets are all very good, but the real way to show that you're sorry is by going out on the pitch and playing your heart out. Only two or three players did that for me.

It's worrying that the players couldn't get motivated for a game like they did on Sunday. They should have absolutely no trouble doing so, but if they can't then it's the manager's job to do it for them, and he didn't seem to do so.

Having said all that, the fans getting on the team's back wouldn't have helped one bit. I completely disagree with booing, granted you want to make your feelings heard, but it's only going to make the players play worse. We should be getting behind the team no matter what in my opinion.

I would be surprised if a marquee player, like Arshavin, wasn't signed to appease the fans during summer. Perhaps Benzema or somebody like that. I can see Wenger breaking the bank, and our record fee, this summer. There are definitely changes coming. 

I don't think I saw Almunia in the lap of honour, so he's gone. Rosicky wasn't even in the squad and I'm sure he's available so he's gone. Denilson was in the squad for the first time since West Brom so he's gone. I'm sure a few others will make way too, then we'll need some additions to the first team and more back-up players.

It's going to be an interesting summer.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Pat Rice stays & other things


So, the big news today is that Pat Rice is staying for another year.

The Mail have the quotes from Arsene: 'Pat Rice has told me he will continue for one more year,' Wenger said on Sunday. 'It's important for me because he knows how I work and we have a good understanding and complement each other. The day he stops will be a massive loss to this club.'

Many people have blamed Pat for some of our failings this season, labelling him a "yes-man" but I don't think you can judge how good an assistant manager he is just by watching the game. People seem to be searching for someone to blame, and they just want change of any kind so would like to see a new assistant manager.

What they seem to be forgetting is that Rice also coached the Invincibles and our double-winning sides in recent years, so it works both ways. Also in that report in the Mail was the admission that Arsene will be given £30 million to spend in the summer. They reckon he might think about selling Cesc or Nasri so he had more money to make the surgery required.

The only situation I can see one of those players leaving is if Nasri refuses to sign a new contract. What would be the point in selling arguably our best two players? That would be two steps backwards already, regardless of who we signed. Wenger's got a great history in the transfer market, I'm sure he can pick up some bargains. For example, Hernandez has been absolutely incredible, and barely anyone had heard of him. 

If we have £30 million, that's four players for an average of £7 million each. I'm sure Arsene, with his huge scouting network and knowledge of players, can find four players for that kind of money to improve the squad. Hernandez was £6.5 million, which just goes to show there's always a bargain signing ready to be made.

And anyway, there will surely be some other players leaving - Rosicky, Almunia and Denilson are certainly headed out of the door. I think we'd get a maximum of £12 million from those three, and one of Chamakh and Bendtner may be heading out of the exit door as well. That would free up more money for quality players.

Also, the infamous Black Scarf Movement are walking in London in protest over several things before the game today. They've got a bit of a bad press, and had some quotes taken out of context. Overall they actually make some very good points. I won't be joining them on the walk, but it'll be interesting to see how it pans out.

Finally, some more first team squad news. Conor Henderson is in the squad, as is Ignasi Miquel. The exclusive was once more brought to you by Young Guns. As much as it'll be good for them to get some experience, it's not as if this game doesn't mean anything. We may well get beaten to 3rd place by Man City, and we can't afford to let that happen. We need to secure that automatic qualification for the Champions League.

And that's about all for today, thoughts on the game will follow tomorrow I should think. Also, thanks to arsenalnews.net for sourcing my posts - hit 3,000, 4,000 and 5,000 views yesterday! Wonder what I'll be at by the time I arrive home... until then.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Nasri, Pires & the Verminator, plus Benzema

A few stories for me to cover in today's round-up. 

Firstly, the Mirror reckons that if we don't manage to sign up Samir Nasri to a new deal, we'll reluctantly look to sell him this summer. I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case, but I think too much has been made over the whole contract situation. Many people around the club seem confident that Nasri will sign up, and his agent also said that the Frenchman wants to stay at the club. It seems like a case of wanting to focus on football for the moment, rather than wanting to join a different side.

The Mirror report also added that we will look to Borussia Dortmund's Mario Goetze as a replacement for Nasri if he does leave. I can't say I've seen much of him - in fact I'm not sure I've seen him play at all - but I've heard good things about him. Still, I can't see Nasri anywhere else but the Emirates next season. 

Robert Pires returns to Arsenal tomorrow for Aston Villa, and he's had some words of advice for Arsene Wenger. He reckons we're lacking English experience/grit - I think it's important to note that the only English players who were regulars in the Invincibles side were Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole, plus Ray Parlour. I'm not sure nationality is the problem, but more so experience; another area which Bobby thinks we're lacking in. 

We should really sign some more experienced players, but Pires cited the reason for experienced Englishmen as being that "they know the English league". I can't agree with that - look at Vieira, Bergkamp, Henry, Ljungberg and Pires himself. They were all new to the league when they signed, but became world-class players over time. I for one think we should tap into the Italian league a little more. There are some excellent players there, for example, Gokhan Inler. Furthermore, Vieira, Bergkamp and Henry were all signed from Serie A, as was Kanu.

Continuing the talk about signings, the Benzema to Arsenal rumour continues to pick up pace. According to the Metro, he's been "given the green light" for a £25 million move to the Emirates this summer. It's a huge amount of money, and many are skeptical that Wenger wouldn't go anywhere near that kind of sum for one player. However, it's worth remembering that he did actually bid £20 million for Pepe Reina in the summer, so it'll be interesting to see what happens with Benzema.

I'm a big fan of his, I think he'd add a lot to our play and score a lot of goals here. However, I also heard that Juventus had a £25 million bid for the French striker turned down. I can't remember who said that, but Juventus fans seemed quite certain it was true. But as I always say - I guess we'll see...

Finally, some words on tomorrow's game. Nasri and Cesc face late fitness tests, but there's a rumour that Conor Henderson is in the squad, which would probably mean one of or both of our star midfielders was out. Villa aren't great away from home, and are on a dodgy run of form, so we should dispose of them easily.

Thomas Vermaelen should start, which will be great to see. We've missed him a great deal this season, and I can't wait to see him appearing for us week in, week out again. And for anyone who's interested - he's now on Twitter, under the username T_Vermaelen05. 

That's all for today, I can't be bothered to cover the glory of both Manchester sides, although in other footballing news, Benik Afobe put in a decent shift for Huddersfield in the playoff semi final first leg. He missed a decent chance, but other than that lacked service.

Until tomorrrow.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Video of the week: Thierry Henry - The Arsenal Legacy

 
Apologies for the lateness of this post, but Blogger was broken recently so I've had to wait. I was planning on posting the video of the week on Thursday (as that is the designated day from now on) but yeah, I couldn't. So here it is, a day late. A superb tribute to Thierry Henry.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Dennis Bergkamp: a tribute

Today marks the birth of an Arsenal legend: Dennis Bergkamp.

I called upon my Twitter followers to send in their tributes to the great man, and they came flooding in. Here they are, every single one.

@Thegoodwillout: the most beautiful footballer i have ever watched. Happy Birthday ice man 10. I want the DB10 times back again

@TomRichardson19: Happy Birthday DB! I went to his Testimonial at the Emirates and got the DB10 t-shirt :)  
No matter what anyone says, the best DB moment, the goal against Newcastle.

@Tom91Gunner: Happy birthday Dennis,Thanks for everything you done for the club , A class act on and off the pitch. A legend. 
Remember Dennis Bergkamp day at Highbury , scrored a great goal vs WBA. Legend 

@GoonerKal: the best there was, the best there is, the best there ever will be ---> DB10

@Jconnell1988: happy birthday dennis you are a legend and its ace because its my birthday today aswell haha. (Happy Birthday to you too!)

@tinythegooner: happy birthday Dennis.....the best player to wear the red n white,,,,my hero .....a true legend!!ps come back as coach pls
one of my favourite bergkamp moments wasnt even in arsenal shirt. his last minute goal in world cup against argentina.CLASS 

@DBCloggy: Everything about Bergkamp was class. Touch, vision, movement, awareness. God, I miss him! So many great moments. But my favourite from games i've seen was the Leicester hat-trick. Summed him up. 

@gsgooner75: Happy birthday DB10. True Legend, True Hero, irreplaceable. Arsenal through & through 

@richardmiah1971: says everything you need to know about DB10,every gooner wishes he was back.simply the best.happy birthday den.LEGEND

@Goonerforlife52: Happy Birthday to Dennis Bergkamp Arsenal legend and scorer of the best goal football has ever seen.

@Hendo_IRL: Dennis Bergkamp. The only player to have a set of eyes on the 4 sides of his head. An absolute wizard.

@EmmineffinNBG: after Bolton game to qualify for Europe, he leaned out of dressing room window and our eyes met. Magic moment.

@ArseGunn: how about: don't be afraid of flying, just come back and be our Flying Dutchman of a manager?

@jonnyth14: Club legend, best player I've ever seen put on an Arsenal shirt!!!

@Tilley_96: happy birthday Dennis. Figurehead of arsenal in his time. We need him back in his prime!

@JP_the_gooner: bergkamp is a legend 1st ever arsenal match i went to was DB day and it was amazing and we won to top it off what a player

@robjh15: If there's one player I'm gutted about only seeing just the once, it's Bergkamp.. he just played with elegance & swagger!

@SettsEl: When DB left Inter, Moratti said that we'll be "lucky if he scores 10 goals this season" DB gave us more than just goals...

And that is what the Arsenal fans have had to say about Dennis Bergkamp, who is 42 today. A true club legend, and I was privileged to run out on the pitch at his testimonial and wave a flag with other JGs. Never forget that day. Sadly, as I leaned forward to get a high five from the man himself in the tunnel, some fat lady pushed me out of the way. Hmph.

So, which is your favourite tribute or Bergkamp memory? And what is your tribute to Dennis Bergkamp?

Monday, 9 May 2011

Arsenal after Patrick Vieira: a revealing anaylsis

Warning: This article is a little tippy-tappy like lil Jack Wilshere...If you are the "shoot at sight" type, I suggest you read this The year was 2002. I was a young and naive Arsenal fan who could never understand all the praise going Patrick Vieira's way. It never occurred to me why he was named the new permanent Arsenal captain after Adams's farewell. Surely it ought to have gone to Bergkamp, Dutch master, Arsenal legend and of course senior to Vieira? Or Wenger could have given it to Thierry Henry, then the most exciting player in the world even if FIFA chose to regularly disagree. Surely all Vieira did was to run around, make a few fouls and get red cards at crucial times after winding up/getting wound up by someone.
A year later my opinion had changed completely. I was a year older and therefore wiser, but more importantly I had grown patient enough to watch every player in the game instead of just Henry and Pires. It was then that I began to appreciate what Vieira did for us. Technically he was excellent; he was an unrepentant tackler, his passing was limited but never wasteful and he did often stride forward with purpose using those long legs. But perhaps his greatest asset was his mental toughness and the attitude of a winner. He was passionate, occasionally vocal, mostly confrontational but best of all, he knew how to win games. He knew how to see a 1-0 lead through to a 1-0 win. Most of all, he was a very ambitious captain. He wanted glory on every stage, the Champions league included and that would eventually be the reason for his departure. When Patrick Vieira lifted the Premier League trophy aloft on 15 May 2004 as the leader of the "Invincibles", he was 28 years old. A year later he would leave for Juventus for 14M pounds. Arsenal fans everywhere scrambled to find excuses to justify his transfer--- ranging from "he was too injury prone" and "he's past it" to "He is not a good captain", "14M is a great transfer fee for a 29-yr old" etc. This particular article amuses me even today - http://bit.ly/mPhLyM
There's not much point in debating whether Arsenal miss a person like Vieira. The only question is how much? Hard to answer exactly but I have done some stat work to show Arsenal's performance this decade with Paddy and after Paddy. I have divided the stat work into 3 parts:

1.Average points in the 1st 19 league games of the season

2.Average in the 2nd 19 (2nd half of the season)

3.Average points (in the last 12 game of a season) earned in the "Business end" (where we have recently done no business) or the "Squeaky Bum time" as Ol' Whiskeynose likes to call it. In the 1st half of the season, we average almost 4 pts lesser now than when compared to with Vieira.
But the story unravels as you move to the 2nd half of the season: we average a whopping 8 pts lesser now than with Vieira. It gets more damning when you move to the 3rd part of the stat. Arsenal collected an average of 28 pts from 01-02 to 04-05 in the final 12 games of the season/final third/home straight/squeaky bum. Since Vieira's departure, we average a meager 22. In fact, we have never even touched 28 pts in the final third of the last 6 seasons, leave alone average 28. The league title would have been ours in 2007-08 if we had managed just 1 more point than our current average of 22. We would be champions already this season if we had managed 28 pts in the last 12 instead of the paltry 17 we are currently likely to get.
Of course, there are several other factors that have led to the dip but the absence of a proven-winner is surely not a co-incidence? I leave you to make your own conclusions from these stats.But ff nothing else, atleast it gives us Gooners one more chance to appreciate and celebrate the true champion that was Patrick Vieira.



This post was written by Eboue_Eboue - be sure to hit that follow button!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Tactical analysis - Arsenal and United

Cometh the hour, cometh the Man United.

For a lot of this season I've subscribed to the notion that Manchester United are a comparitively average side. While individually they may not have an outstanding player who wins games for them on their own - although Wayne Rooney does that at times - I realised today that as a team they're very, very good.

My rose-tinted glasses were the only thing stopping me from doing so. Only now that they've effectively sealed the title can I look at things from a more realistic standing point, as I'm a very optimistic supporter in the long term. It also helped me to open my eyes to Man United's collective effectiveness by watching Arsenal and Manchester United back-to-back. The performances were from completely different ends of the football spectrum.

While we played a slow, even dull passing game which failed to break Stoke down, United were dynamic and powerful in attack, exchanging quick-fire passes and sprinting up the pitch. As much as it pained me to say it, their style of play reminding me of that of the Invincibles. Not obsessed with keeping possession like we are, but patient. They don't force the opposition back with pressing and a high defensive line, making it difficult to break down the other team's defence. They play a deep defensive line, making attacks easier to deal with and defences easier to break down.

The way that we set out our stall is just asking teams to sit back and defend - if they don't, it's pretty much suicide, as Blackpool have found out. Arguably our biggest problem is of our own doing. One of the only teams to not sit back due to our high pressing has been Tottenham at White Hart Lane. They were able to do so because they managed to match us in attack - not because they're on the same level as us going forward, but more because of the fact that it was a derby, and anything can happen in derbies. West Brom also succeeded in playing attacking football against us, exposing our poor defence with excellent counter attacks, just like Man United do to us and other teams regularly. 

Our high defensive line and the knock-on effects of it are what make beating us usually so easy for them to beat us. It also explains why so many of their goals against us are on the counter attack - we press so high up the pitch that when they get the ball, they find it so easy to break against us due to our limited numbers in defence. 

We try to emulate Barcelona with our high line and so on, seeing as they've had a lot of success in La Liga and the Champions League, but they're completely different competitions to the Premier League. Barcelona also have far superior attackers to us, not to mention the incompetence of oppositions in La Liga. Their Champions League success is more about the former.

I really feel that Theo Walcott is wasted at Arsenal in our current system. As a right winger, he struggles to use his main asset, his pace, because to beat his man he needs to go to the right and run - usually this would mean he went over the touchline and gave away a throw. Furthermore, he would absolutely thrive in Hernandez's role at Man United, in my opinion. Hernandez's goal against Chelsea was an absolute carbon copy of Theo's against Tottenham, and I think he could do it far more often if played centrally like Hernandez, with Man United's tactics. 

The reason he managed to do it against Tottenham was because, like I said, they tried to match us in attack stride for stride, instead of focussing on defending, like most teams sensibly do due to their attacking strengths/weaknesses. Theo will probably only thrive in our current system against sides who play attacking football - Blackpool, Tottenham, Barcelona etc. That's why I think we should play like United. In my opinion, that would make Walcott so much more effective.

Chants from Stoke fans accused us of being boring, and if I said I was entertained by the football we played I'd be lying. It was slow, indirect and dull. We lacked a change of pace, another problem created perhaps by our tactics, but also the personnel. I can't blame Stoke fans for calling us boring - sometimes I find Barcelona boring. When it's not your team in possession, it gets seriously boring when it's pass after pass with no directness. Even when it is your team, it can get boring, especially when you're used to it or need a goal, two things that applied today.

Returning to the topic of Manchester United, Alex Ferguson has been excellent for them this year in particular. His tactical calls, like using Park instead of Nani for the big games, and signings, namely Hernandez, have been masterstrokes. As much as we'd like it to be Arsene, the manager of the decade has to be Ferguson. I'd nominate him for manager of the year too, despite how well Holloway has done, or Hodgson and Dalglish in the second half of the season. He's got every last drop that he could possibly get out of this Manchester United team, and no matter what you say about them, they're a pretty effective machine.

Stoke preview and some other stuff


Only a quick preview from me today as I want to go and watch Carlos Vela get 10 minutes in the Wolves - West Brom game...

I've already spoken about this game in posts gone by but obviously this is the return of Ramsey to the Britannia. He may well get booed but we've just got to accept the idiocy of some fans. I'm sure he's thick-skinned enough to not let it affect how he plays. It would be wonderful to see him get on the scoresheet, but the most important thing is a win. 

This is how I'd expect us to line up:

Szczesny
Sagna -- Koscielny -- Vermaelen -- Gibbs
Song
Ramsey ----- Wilshere
Walcott --------------------- Arshavin
van Persie

Obviously Nasri and Fabregas are still injured so Ramsey and Arshavin will fill in for them. Clichy and Djourou will undergo late tests, but I don't see why we'd take a risk on them if they weren't 100% fit, and I can't imagine they will be. Gibbs has also been unhappy with a lack of playing time so we'd be killing two birds with one stone.

A similar team in a similar set-up played against Man United and won, so I think we've got a good chance of winning. A lot of it depends on how Stoke play. If they sit back and wait for us to come towards them and then hit us on the break, we could struggle. I think that's what they might do as well - they haven't got a whole lot to play for, and won't want to get injured or suspended ahead of the FA Cup final next weekend.

That may well work in our favour though, as they probably won't be jumping into the kind of tackles that broke Ramsey's leg last year. I have a sneaky feeling Jack Wilshere could grab a long overdue goal. He's not scored as many as I was expecting, so it would be nice to see him regain his touch in front of goal. Having seen him for the reserves and academy in the past, he can score some great goals, so it's been frustrating seeing him spurn decent opportunities.

It'll be good seeing Vermaelen back, whether he starts or is on the bench. It would be good for him to return because as I said a few days ago, Squillaci and Koscielny against the likes of Carew, Huth and Jones would be disastrous. I think Koscielny and Vermaelen could work well together - Koscielny is a great reader of the game, while Vermaelen is a solid, tough, no-nonsense defender.

Speaking of that kind of defender, who else saw Samba's performance against West Ham yesterday? Amazing, some brilliant blocks were made by the huge defender, and I'd love to see him at the Emirates. The only problem is he might struggle in our high line - the same problem with a lot of potential defensive signings that I think would be detrimental to their performances.

Also in that game was a missed sitter by Robbie Keane. That could have been the goal that kept them up, but instead he fluffed it, just like he did against Chelsea the other week. His misses could be the difference between West Ham going down and staying up. As much as I want them to stay up, anything bad (other than an injury) that happens to a Tottenham player is hilarious.

Which brings me to Heurelho Gomes' latest antics. It was brilliant to see him save a penalty, get all adrenalined-up, then give away another straight away and concede. I really hope he stays at White Hart Lane, because for all of his spectacular saves, there's always an error waiting to be made.

And after that game, which officially confirmed St Totteringham's Day, I enjoyed a meal of lasagne - made by my Tottenham-supporting mum. It's the simple things in life.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Some academy news & rumours, Clichy and more Stoke talk


Today seems to be a day of rumours.

As well as a lot of talk about the future of Gael Clichy, among others, which I'll cover later, there's been some encouraging buzz about a potential academy link up with Belgian side Anderlecht. John Chapman began the talk on Twitter - not many know more about Belgian football than him. The only Anderlecht youngster I know much about is Romelu Lukaku. Similar to Didier Drogba in style, the 6ft3 17 year old has been linked with Chelsea and Real Madrid, as well as some others. He also has a younger brother, Jordan.

It looks unlikely that we're in for Lukaku. Tribal Football links us with Lukaku jr and Dennis Praet, the former being a "powerful left back", the latter being a "highly-rated central midfielder". Some other news to stem from the Anderlecht link is the potential loan deal of Wellington Silva to the Belgian side. He's struggled to make an impact at Levante, and I think a spell elsewhere would do him good. The Daily Mirror links him with said move here.

That article also links Bendtner, Clichy and Arshavin to moves elsewhere. I'd be surprised if Bendtner and Arshavin left, but I can't see Clichy staying. It looks like we'll look for something in the region of £5.5 million for him - he may have struggled in recent seasons but that fee is a lot less than he's worth. Sadly his contract is running out, so that may be the best we get. He's a likable guy, so despite his shortcomings, I'll be sad to see him go if he does leave.

Returning to the subject of the academy, Young Guns has a few stories about the futures of trialists and our own youth players. Apparently we're set to decide on whether Kevin Mbabu and Robert Mirosavic stay at the club after relatively successful trial periods or not. The same site also reports that promising youngster Roarie Deacon will follow George Brislen-Hall out of the Arsenal exit, and is on trial at Sunderland. 

I've heard good things about Deacon - mainly from Young Guns - so it's a little surprising that he's being let go. What wouldn't surprise me though, is if Jay Emmanuel-Thomas left. He's not exactly set the world alight at Cardiff, and his attitude has been criticised. I suppose we'll see in the summer.

Rounding off the Young Guns news, we have the news of another potential exit - this time it's Oguzhan Ozyakup. Apparently his contract talks have broken down, with the Dutch youngster listing broken promises in terms of his future as the reason. Coincidentally, he's been linked with Anderlecht. He's been praised by a lot of academy enthustiasts, but I'm sure there'll be someone ready to take his place.

Anyway, back to first team matters. There's been a lot of back and forth between Arsenal and Stoke Rugby Club fans. I've not got involved, as it's silly to attempt to reason with insane human beings such as them. However, I've read some comments that their fans have made, and they really are vile people.

Some have spoken about how they're going to abuse Aaron Ramsey. Quite where he was in the wrong for having his leg almost snapped off I don't know. Speaking of that tackle, there's a terrific article on Futbol Intellect about tackles like those - it's a great read. There's also been accusations at Arsene Wenger just like in the song you often hear at Old Trafford - I don't think I need to go into further detail. The hypocrisy is rife; forgetting the fact that Wenger is clearly innocent of such ridiculous accusations, he's not the manager who showers with his own players. Cough - Pulis - cough.

It's a shame that all of the pre-match talk has been about the rivalry between the clubs' fans and the situation with Ramsey and Shawcross. I'm sure Sky will zoom in on their hands as they meet/miss before the game, which is a bit silly. It's a football match, and the talk should focus on the football - even if only one team will be playing football on the day.

We've been linked once again with Phil Jagielka by the Mirror in the article I linked earlier. Most people who claim to be in-the-know have said that we were strongly interested in Jagielka last summer, and had a bid turned down. It seems like solid talk, and I'd be pleased if we were interested again. He's a top player, severly underrated. How Lescott went for £22 million baffles me. In truth, Jagielka was the one making him look good.

His constant interceptions, ball-winning tackles and powerful headers help Everton win games and keep clean sheets. He's a dynamic player and a leader from the back. I'd be thrilled if he was playing in the red and white of Arsenal next season, but if I was a betting man (who was allowed to bet) I'd put money on him staying at Everton. Still, I guess we'll see.

That's about all I've got for today, more tomorrow when hopefully we'll get a good three points at Stoke.