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by Zain Shahid

This season has been one of the worst in Arsene Wenger’s career at Arsenal and when you look at the trend with Arsenal’s points tally and performances overall improving since the last 3 seasons, this season has come as a big unpleasant surprise. The big question in everyone’s mind is what has gone wrong this season.

Arsenal miss their partnership
Arsenal miss their partnership

The main reason in most people’s minds would be the departures of Flamini and Gilberto. They were our main holding midfielders and who would not agree to the fact that Flamini was one of our best players of the season, second only to Fabregas. With their departures we have had to play on most ocassions without a holding player or sometimes with Song in that role and everyone knows he is just not good enough to be in our first team. And the fact that Wenger has been more interested in signing Arshavin than a defensive midfielder came as a big surprise to me. (Talking of Arshavin, Zenit have said they are waiting for a reply from Arsenal as negotiations continue; and Wenger has said he wants the deal done before the match against West Ham.) We know there has been a lack of clean sheets this season and it can be blamed on the lack of a natural holding midfielder in the side rather than putting all the blame on Gallas and Toure. But to add to that the lack of defensive cover has also been a big factor. When Gallas and Toure have been out, the far from convincing Silvestre has come to fill in or the inconsistent Djourou. If Arsenal fail to keep a clean sheet against West Ham tomorrow then they will have just 15 clean sheets so far whereas last season in the same period they had 20 and we have conceded 35 goals so far compared to 28 last year at this time.

One of the most creative midfielders Arsenal has had in recent times
One of the most creative midfielders Arsenal has had in recent times

Another reason is Hleb’s departure and with it his creativity that pierced defences open. Ok Hleb did not score as much as he should have but he was exceptionally talented when it comes to creativity. I’ll be honest, I miss Hleb. Some might say Nasri has been a great replacement and I agree, especially considering he scores a lot. But the problem lies in piercing defences open, creating a lot of chances rather than passing sideways all match. Nasri can do the job but he can’t play up to the level he is capable of on the left. Last year Hleb was played as a second striker and he was brilliant there, I see no reason why isn’t Nasri played there too. He has showed with his few performances in the centre how good he can be and especially with Fabregas out he is needed there.

Not good enough...
Not good enough…

Then comes the lack of support Fabregas got in the centre and lack of quality in midfield. This really does not need much explanation. We all know Song has been hopeless and Denilson can’t defend so Fabregas has had to worry more about tracking back rather than doing his job i.e ripping apart defences with his exceptional passing. On the wing we have seen Denilson, Diaby and Eboue. All have not played up to the mark. Imagine for instance if Denilson was in AC Milan, or Barcelona or Manchester United. Would he be in their first team? Noway! He is not good enough to be in the first team of a top European club. Same goes for Song, Diaby and Eboue. We have been just waiting and waiting and waiting for them to come of age. Will they ever be good enough? Doesn’t seem so does it?! Especially Eboue. I have always mantained he should be sold and replaced with a natural, world class winger and I stand by it.

Gone... And injured
Gone… And injured

A lot might say injuries have been the biggest setback this season. Imagine Rosicky on the left, Fabregas in the centre, Walcott on the right, Nasri supporting van Persie and Adebayor. With a defensive midfielder this attack can be the best in the world but poor us, all these guys are hardly fit together. But the point is players get long-term injuries like we have seen with van Persie in the past, now Rosicky is still out, Eduardo is coming back, Walcott and Fabregas still out; these injuries are not going to happen every year will they. That’s what everyone said of van Persie when he got injured time and time again but they were wrong. He has showed his fitness and class. He has been our player of the season so far. So if the aforementioned players remain fit, Arsenal are a side to be feared by all European power houses. They may be injured now, but they won’t be out for 3 4 months every season, hopefully not next season.

These reasons have led to defensive frailty and lack of creativity up front. Right now it’s just van Persie keeping Arsenal in the fight for the title, even though with all the poor results we have got this season and where we lie in the table at the moment thinking of winning the season seems quite unrealistic. This season looks like a fight for a Champions League place and not the title. The only very dim hope remaining is that van Persie contines the form of his life and with Nasri, keeps getting decent results for Arsenal till Fabregas and Walcott return. That might be the turning point of the season if Arsenal are still in the race for the title when the duo make their comebacks.

by Zain Shahid

Wenger - Admits Arshavin deal is 90% done

Wenger - Admits Arshavin deal is 90% done

Arsene Wenger has finally admitted that negotiations with Zenit over Arshavin are in their final stages. So far Wenger had been tight-lipped whenever questioned about the progress on signing him, however finally the Arsenal manager accepts that Arsenal seem close to signing the Russian. Wenger said in the post Everton match interview:

“There is nothing new, because today I have been focused on the game, and I did not pick up any phone calls so nothing has happened. It was 90 per cent that I will be able to give you more in the next two days. Remember in this job the other 10 per cent can be more important than the other 90 because people can change their mind quickly.”

So as we were told by Zenit, it seems Arshavin’s wage demands are the only obstacle to the transfer. Hope he makes the right decision and agrees to Arsenal’s terms!

The goal that rescued a point

The goal that rescued a point

Meanwhile Arsenal made a great escape at Goodison Park and manage to come out with a point. It seemed Arsenal’s little unbeaten run was going to end, but the Gunners showed great character and in injury time with around a minute remaining, van Persie scored a gem of a goal. Some might say its two points dropped and some will say its a point gained. As the season progresses we might get to know how costtly these two points can be or how helpful the point may be. Right now what everyone will be looking at is that Arsenal are now 5 points outside the top four, and 8 points adrift of the leaders, who also have a game in hand. So the situation looks grave. To hope of winning the title now, seems more and more unrealistic. Lets hope we see better performances and results in the FA Cup and Champions League.

by Zain Shahid

Arshavin - Getting greedy now...

Arshavin - Getting greedy now...

Zenit St. Petersburg have finally accepted Arsenal’s offer, though it is less than their asking price. One would think the deal is all but done now considering Arshavin himself wanted to come to Arsenal and repeatedly showed his disgust at Zenit’s high pricing of him. Yet just when it seemed its nearing an end, another crisis shows up. Now its Arshavin’s turn to frustrate and annoy all us Gooners. Zenit claim they have told Arshavin they are now ready to sell him to Arsenal, but the Russian’s wage demands are too high; high enough not to be accepted by Arsene Wenger at least. Zenit general director Maxim Mitrofanov frowned:

“I worry the deal might not be done. I hope he can find a compromise but he wants too much money from Arsenal. I’ve told him we are ready but it is his decision. Is it his dream or is it just a question of money?”

So Arshavin has a big choice to make now as Mitrofanov says. He surely wants to leave Zenit, and I don’t think there is enough time now left in the transfer window for another club to come in and hijack the move. So either he will stay at Zenit and probably leave for another club, not Arsenal, in the summer or he will make a compromise and choose to move to Arsenal now. There is no third option for him at the moment it seems. He’d better make the choice soon.

Meanwhile Wenger insists there will be no excpetion to the club’s strict wage structure. The Frenchman sternly said:

“The players who come in here are all on our wage structure or they do not come in. It’s as simple as that. Nobody will come in above the highest level we have here.”

Now that is a strong statement for Arshavin! Wenger mentions here that nobody will come in above the highest level that we have here which is Fabregas who according to my information earns 90k. So if Arshavin agrees to this sum or even 85k, I think that should put him nearly on par with what he was earning at Zenit. He just needs to settle for round about the same what he was earning there rather than expect a huge pay rise.

The chances of the deal being completed are no doubt decreasing every passing day, but still there remains a ‘slight’ chance!

by Zain Shahid

Arshavin

Arshavin

Hours after an official statement made by Zenit claimed that a deal had nearly been agreed upon by the two clubs regarding the transfer of Andrei Arshavin, Wenger denies their claim.

Arsene Wenger known to be very silent on transfer matters, and does not accept much till the deal is 100% done has outrightly denied the news saying:

“[That is] not true. In this job ‘far’ doesn’t mean a lot. I believe that we are not close to concluding any transfer, Arshavin or anybody else. I don’t know [if it will happen] frankly. Time is getting short and at the moment I am more focused to win the game tomorrow. We know we are in front of a big game and the most important thing is to focus on that. I am only responsible for the statements we make and I cannot be responsible for the statements that other clubs make. Zenit look to have different voices coming out of the club and I’m not sure if it always the official voice. I believe what I see and what I hear directly.”

So we experience ecstasy and anguish in the same day! This is getting more and more annoying day by day. One one hand we are told the deal is almost done and on the other we are told that its nowhere near to be concluded as yet. This is is really frustrating I am sure for all Gooners. I think now we should not pay much heed to any such statements made by either side and rather wait for an official statement from Arsenal.com whenever, and if, the deal is done. Otherwise life goes on, whether he comes or not does not make too big a difference. What makes a difference is our attitude towards him not coming. If we say ok he is not coming and now we are doomed and we are not going to win anything and stuff like that then expect another trophyless season. But if we are optimistic and say it doesn’t matter if he is coming or not then just wait and see and the trophy will come! The fans attitude shapes the seasons of  all teams.The point is we are playing well without him right now and so there is no reason why we can’t continue this way. Especially when Fabregas and Walcott wil return, it will be like two huge signings much better than Arshavin. So I would advise, get over Arshavin now! It doesn’t seem like he is coming.

by Zain Shahid

With the form that Arsenal are in, this performance against Cardiff came completely out of the blue. Poor defending at times, gave the ball away on too many occasions and did not create enough chances; and all that against a Championship side!

Ramsey - Below par performance from the youngster

Ramsey - Below par performance from the youngster

The hosts made a bright start and one might say we were lucky it remained 0-0 thanks to some not so good finishing. Gradually we came into the game with Nasri getting a brilliant chance to put us ahead but his shot was saved by the keeper. Apart from that there was a van Persie free kick that flashed just wide of the post and an easy chance wasted by Adebayor. The list ends there and it sums up the performance of Arsenal. Cardiff nearly made us cry but their late free kick hit the bar otherwise we would have been left fighting for just two trophies.

The only positive from the game was Keiran Gibbs, who is becoming a good cover for Clichy; and not to mention the fact that we managed not to lose! Ramsey did not perform to the level he can as probably the occasion got to him and he gave the ball away too easily. Eboue had another hopeless performance. Bendtner looked a bit lost as the striker but played better on the right. Diaby, when he came on in the second half, played quite well but another substitute Adebayor was unbelievably poor. A guy with his quality has got to finish chances like those but on more than one occasion this season we have seen him miss chances like that.

Surprisingly with us needing a goal to win it, Vela or Wilshere were not introduced to inject the vital pace which was desperately needed. I was really confused with Wenger’s thinking on this one. And when he did bring on Wilshere, he got a couple of minutes to win the match! Unbelievable.

Arsene Wenger will surely not be pleased to play an extra game now with the small squad that he has but you have to live with it. If Arsenal manage to win the replay, they will face either West Brom or Burnley at Emirates. Seems easy on paper but like this match against Cardiff, it wont be easy…i.e if Arsenal get to the next round!

by Zain Shahid

Richards - Flattered by Arsenal link

Richards - Flattered by Arsenal link

With rumours linking Manchester City centre half Micah Richards to Arsenal, the young Englishman has straight away come out and pledged his future to the Eastlands club. It was rumoured that Arsene Wenger will make a swoop for Richards for a lowly £7m which would have been an exceptional buy considering the guy is extremely talented and worth more than just £7m. However flattered he may be with the link, he is set to remain loyal to his current club where he has a 5 year contract. He said:

“It’s always flattering being linked with a club like Arsenal, and they have one of the best managers in the world in Arsene Wenger. However, as I said before, I’m happy at Manchester City and believe that the club is going in the right direction. We’ve had a difficult season all round, which can affect performances, but I think that I can continue my development at City and hopefully win some trophies. I’m still young and still learning, and I’m fully settled at the club and believe that Mark Hughes will help me to improve my game.”

Well, there is another rumour squashed and with it the chance of any consolation transfer as Arshavin coming to Arsenal seems like is never going to happen. But still there is a week to go and a very slight hope of a quality player coming in!

Meanwhile Arsenal have been held to a stalemate by an impressive Cardiff with the replay at the Emirates to be played now nine days later. The report, analysis and ratings tommorow!

by Zain Shahid

Arshavin - Wont be a Gunner now it seems

Arshavin - Wont be a Gunner now it seems

Zenit St. Petersburg’s stubborn officials will now be hated by Gooners all over the world! Arsenal have constantly been negotiating with them over Arshavin but their sky-high demands are too artificial to be accepted by Arsenal. Wenger is not stupid. He will never pay an amount for a player which the player is not worth. Arsenal have a good squad and if Zenit are not going to lower their stupid demands then so be it. Zenit’s general director, Maksim Mitrofanov, told Sport Express:

“If Arsenal don’t accept our terms, then Arshavin will not be sold to them. In any case this will be resolved by Saturday evening. Arshavin may still end up in England. Several other clubs are interested in him, who haven’t yet issued an official approach, but who are ready to do so.”

I hate these people. Even though there is still a *tiny* chance of signing him, but lets be realistic, it is not going to happen now. Arshavin was needed badly I thought but now that he is not going to come, lets move on. We still have a decent squad and when Fabregas and Walcott will return it will be a much more than just decent squad. And also with a few days still remaining till the February 2nd deadline, Arsene should turn his attentions to some other quality player now, preferably in the mould of Arshavin. The fact that he is not coming, after all the signs that he will eventually end up at Arsenal, seems like a player has left Arsenal even though he was never here! That’s why I like transfer negotiations and all to be done quietly without any media coverage.

As for these ignorant freaks of Zenit, if they expect other clubs to pay their overly high price for Arshavin, then they are the most stupid persons in the world! I guess they don’t live in this world which is going through an economic recession so they expect clubs to slash out stupid cash. The guy wants to come to a club and they are treating him like a slave by not allowing him to go there. The EU should sue them! I hope Arshavin buys out his contract which will be worse for Zenit than accepting Arsenal’s offer for him! According to FIFA’s Article 17 footballers can break their contract once a ‘protected period’ has expired. For those younger than 28 when they signed their contract, they must be three years into their deal. The player must pay a compensation fee to the club. So if Arshavin happens to use it, Zenit will get a much lesser amount of money than they would had they accepted Arsenal’s bid! Lets hope it happens!

To be honest I would want Wenger to pay the one or two extra million that they are asking for because it would be so hard to get over the fact that he will not join Arsenal! Especially because I don’t expect him to buy another player now. 😦 Can someone pass me the tissue paper please? 😥

by Zain Shahid

Cardiff City vs Arsenal

Cardiff City vs Arsenal

Another FA Cup weekend is here and as many say FA Cup is the most realistic chance of a trophy for Arsenal this season. People might say it’s another easy fixture for Arsenal after having an easy ride against Plymouth in the last round. Even though no match is too easy, everyone will have to accept that but considering that Manchester United and Tottenham play each other, Everton and Liverpool also face each other so comparatively Arsenal are advantaged in this round.

It has been the case in recent weeks that every Arsenal match has been a virtually ‘must-win’ encounter to stay in contention for the title. In this case too it is a must win match too. It’s the Cup; you lose, you’re out and that is something Arsenal cannot afford because as I mentioned this is Arsenal’s most realistic chance of winning some silverware this season.

Cardiff are a decent side and no doubt they will make Arsenal work really hard for the win. For Arsene Wenger, the fact that it is a Cup tie makes no difference as for him every match has the same importance and he wants to win every single match. Cardiff have the advantage with the home crowd behind them and if Ramsey is to be believed, the fans at Ninian Park are really noisy and are very much behind the team for the 90 mins.

For Arsenal, they have the same old injuries with only Gallas coming back. Clichy is suspended. Wenger is not prioritising any competition so we will see a full-strength Arsenal side with the exception of Fabianski.

The man to watch for Cardiff will certainly be van Persie. The Dutchman is in hot form, arguably the best form of his career so far, and so far this month he has been involved in a goal at least in every match. On the other hand Arsenal need to watch out for Jay Bothroyd. He has been a very successful buy for the Bluebirds and will certainly be looking to inflict some damage to his old club. Arsenal’s weak link will be Keiran Gibbs. He is relatively inexperienced and as he has been transformed from a left winger to left back so there are still some weaknesses in his defending, though going forward he can be exceptional.

The expected line-up should be:

Fabianski
Sagna      Toure(C)      Djourou      Gibbs
Eboue     Denilson     Ramsey     Nasri
van Persie    Adebayor

There is still the possibility that Arsene might rest at least one of van Persie, Adebayor and Nasri considering the midweek trip to Goodison Park is of immense importance and he would not want his main players fatigued or in the worst case, injured. There is also a possibility of Gallas returninig to the first team which would mean Toure might be left out and van Persie will wear the captain’s armband once again. But as he has just returned to full fitness so I don’t expect a start for him. Vela and Bendtner might get an important start too if Wenger decides to rest van Persie or Adebayor and I certainly would love to see Vela starting. Bendtner’s, if not started, substitute appearance might be a match-turning introduction if the match is not over already by then considering the form the Dane is in. And this FA Cup tie is another chance for young Ramsey to once again impress the fans and the manager and send a message to Denilson and Song that he is knocking on their door so they’d better start performing well! My prediction is a 2-1 win for Arsenal. Lets once again hope that no matter what the scoreline, Arsenal go through to the next round!

by Zain Shahid

Arshavin - Is either coming to Arsenal or is not! lol!

Arshavin - Is either coming to Arsenal or is not! lol!

The day started with seemingly good news for Gooners. Reports suggested that Zenit have agreed to sell Arshavin to Arsenal for £15m, which was to be received in installments over two years. Then later a Russian TV Channel also gave the breaking news that the two clubs have finally reached a deal. But soon after this breakout of news, Zenit Radio rubbished it all claiming that Arsenal’s improved bid of £15m has also been rejected by Zenit. However, they say negotiations still continue. Ivan Glazidis and Ken Friar are still in St. Petersburg. Arsene Wenger knows Arsenal need him badly so he is going all out after him. He has now even indirectly admitted that Arshavin is the only player they will buy if they buy someone. But there has been some bad news quoted by Peter Hill-Wood (though I am not sure of its authenticity). He said:

“This is our final offer. We do not intend to continue to raise the sum. If we do not purchase Arshavin, then so be it.”

Arsene Wenger too has been making comments so as to making Gooners ready for the bad news if Arshavin is not signed. He said:

“You have to accept that in the transfer market, sometimes you go for a player and that sometimes it happens, and sometimes it doesn’t happen. But I am very happy with the squad I have and will only add someone who can give us something special. For the rest I have good players and believe strongly in them. Should we not get what we want, we will accept it as well because I believe we are strong enough with what we have. We are not close to signing anybody else, but what I see in training is a very determined team of top quality.”

Sounds fishy doesn’t it? It’s as if he has accepted that Arsenal might not be able to get Arshavin. I am suddenly losing hope on Arshavin now. It now seems it will be a tranfer-less January for Arsenal (excluding the loan moves).

But for the optimistic Gooners, notice that the claim by Zenit radio is not an official statement. So officially the bid has not been rejected yet. Lets have high hopes then:D

by Zain Shahid

Eboue - To Remain at Arsenal
Eboue – To Remain at Arsenal

According to Emmanuel Eboue’s agent Franjo Vranjkovic Arsenal recieved an official offer from Athletico Madrid, which was turned down. Vranjkovic said:

“We received a few days ago an official request from Atletico Madrid
which was passed to Arsenal. I have the fax from the British club’s director, Ken Friar, who
wrote to me to say they are not interested in the offer and the player
remains in London. Then I received a call from Arsene Wenger, who invited me to go to
England to start negotiations over a renewal, so I see no possibility
that the player will leave Arsenal.”

So Eboue will stay, not just for now, but as Vranjkovic says Wenger is keen to extend his contract, so for a few more years! Duh! Hopefully he will improve in this time so Gooners wouldn’t want him out. What surprises me is that a club like Athletico Madrid has bid for him!