Sunday, 31 August 2014

Team News: Arsenal vs Leicester - Ramsey returns but who is sacrificed?


After a well earned victory against resilient opponents midweek, we find ourselves up against tough opposition in the form of newly promoted Leicester City.

In what was a crucial tie, Arsenal managed to improve on previous performances and approached something resembling the form they are known for. Although much of the post match analysis centred around the last fifteen minutes and an apparent struggle, I saw the game far more positively and saw a wealth of opportunities created as well as relationships improving in the attacking third too.

Sanchez got off the mark and this clearly lifted him and the team as well. This is vital considering the injury to Giroud but also because it is becoming more apparent that a new striker will not be signed this transfer window. A lot of people are angry about this fact and the world of the internet has exploded in the usual preposterous way with calls for Wenger to be fired. The world is becoming more and more crazy and what seemed like a minority of people is slowly feeling like it is taking over. The same fans that have been clamouring for us to sign Balotelli are probably at this time lambasting his performance following a series of misses in the first half. Fickle doesn't even begin to describe some people. I think the media perpetuates this and for that I hate them.

Anyway I digress. Point being; Sanchez is likely to feature up front in the majority of games and I personally feel that this is why Sanchez was bought in the first place. There is going to be an acclimatisation period both for Sanchez himself but also the players around him. Giroud, for all his faults of which there are many, became the focal point of our attacks. We became reliant on him at times to hold the ball up, something he does very well. *UPDATE - NOPE SANOGO IS GOING TO START UP FRONT*

The players need to change their style now to suit a very different type of forward. I do think this will actually benefit our attacking play in the long run this season but in the interim we may need to be patient. The attack could look very exciting and extremely quick when things settle down and the teething problems are resolved. The thought of an attack containing the pace of Walcott and Sanchez is truly mouth watering especially when complimented by the passing and creativity of Ozil and Cazorla.

However with all these players fast becoming available, the manager has quite the challenge on his hands to pick the best team. Already you can see there are some issues in terms of fitting in all the players we have.

For this afternoon we have Ramsey returning after his suspension midweek. This in itself is great news but will surely mean that either Wilshere or Cazorla will have to be sacrificed to facilitate him despite both these players having their best individual performances in quite some time. Also there is the question of where to play Ozil? It is obvious that his best position is the number 10 role but some of the criticism for his performances on the left have been (surprise, surprise) ridiculously over the top. He created the goal for Sanchez and was tidy in possession throughout. He is still finding match fitness which could explain the position he is being played in at the moment.

I think it will be Wilshere that gets rested/dropped today which is a shame as this could be a game where perhaps Flamini will not be needed as we are likely to keep the ball for longer periods. It would also be good for both Ramsey and Wilshere to practice adapting their game in deeper positions.

Starting lineup:

This game will be another test for a team still finding full fitness and rhythm but it is one any Arsenal fan would expect to win.

Prediction: Leicester 0 - 2 Arsenal

Come on The Arsenal.


Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Confirmed Team News - Arsenal vs Besiktas Preview

Evening all,

The beginning of our crucial Champions League campaign is upon us but in truth, we could be in better shape.

After overcoming a resilient Crystal Palace with a fairly thin defence, injury to Kieran Gibbs has now left us comparable to Nicole Ritchie and a stick man's love child. With Mertesacker still absent due to lack of match fitness and Koscienly making it through a late fitness test, our options are most certainly limited in this part of the pitch.

This isn't the only area that we are affected in; Yaya Sanogo is another casualty from the weekend which, if you ask me, is a blessing in disguise. He really struggled on Saturday and whilst his potential is something Le Boss strongly believes in, we looked a far better team with Giroud leading the line.

I would personally be tempted giving Sanchez a go up front alone and bringing in Chamberlain but that is my obsession with pace and the way I think we should play. If only life was football manager. *Looks longingly into the distance.*

Anyway, digression aside, here is all the team news according to

Theo Walcott - 3 weeks
Kieran Gibbs - 3 weeks
David  Ospina - 3 weeks
Serge Gnabry - No return date

Starting today will be:

I expect this team to get a result and am touching wood (get your mind out of the gutter) that nobody, especially in defence, sustains an injury.

Come on Arsenal.

Prediction: Besiktas 0 - 2 Arsenal

Let me know your predictions below.


Sunday, 17 August 2014

Top of the league: Start as you mean to go on - well sort of

Afternoon all,

Having recovered from a day of drinking and nail biting I am finally in a position to give my thoughts on our season opener yesterday.

First and foremost a victory is a victory regardless of how it comes. We have got three points on the board which is three points better off than this time last season. In fact it finally bucks an unwelcome trend of dropping points on the opening day, so that in itself must be applauded.

The performance however wasn't great. Nor was it enjoyable to watch. Not by any stretch of the imagination. It was as pleasant as getting a cheese grater to the balls whilst listening to the noise voice of Michael Owen attempt to construct a coherent sentence. I have decided that this year my post match reports will be set out slightly differently to how I have written them in the past. Partly to cut out the guff as most people tend to watch the match but mostly to provide actual analysis as opposed to provide narrative. It will now follow a simple format and should hopefully add to the debate with any comments welcome.


Calum Chambers - Before we scored the winner in injury time I felt the only player that could really walk down the tunnel having enhanced his reputation was Chambers. In many ways that still holds true but Ramsey stole the headlines to some extent which is understandable having scored the winner. I was very impressed with him. He was composed, good on the ball, had great positional sense and was brave in the challenge. He is clearly still very much work in progress, especially when nobody seems to know what his best position is, but one thing is clear: this kid has bags of talent. He has gone from an exciting prospect at Southampton to a reliable squad player at a top club. With a Champions League debut imminent and the faith of a manager known to give young players a chance he has a great future ahead of him. It really is hard not to get excited.

Winning when not playing well - Not much in our build up play went right yesterday. Lots of misplaced passes from all members of our midfield. They just didn't click in the midfield. Despite this, Arsenal managed three points and won in a scrappy fashion not often associated with us. This is something we will have to continue all season if we are to have a chance to win the League.

Tenacity - Despite never looking like scoring we never gave up and kept on plugging away which in the end paid dividends. Ramsey atoned for a pretty abysmal display by grabbing a late winner. Some may say it was lucky but I would say he moved well and watched the line even better to be in the right place at the right time.


Passing - One could never guess from our performance yesterday that we are a team renowned for slick passing and combinations. We controlled possession in periods through sideways passing but always struggled passing forward. All the players in our midfield struggled to find each other regularly and this caused us to be very disjointed in the attacking third. This looked like a group of individuals rather than a team and this is something that needs to be worked on immediately. In fairness, I would venture a guess as this being a bad day at the office as opposed to a general problem within the team but with a crucial Champions League qualifier on the horizon we have got to shape up and fast.

Defending that corner - Much can be said about the merits of zonal or man marking systems but the truth is whichever system is deployed, everyone has to do their job. Alexis tried to contain Hangeland but after leaving his zone it was the job of a sleeping Koscienly to prevent Hangeland from making that header. He didn't attack the ball because he didn't even know he was coming. He needed to be more aware and get to that ball. Once Hangeland got his head to it a goal was always likely, especially when there was nobody on the far post. Why that was the case is beyond me but for a team who had the best defensive record when defending set pieces, this wasn't really reassuring.

Movement in the attacking third - This seems a bit general and I suppose it is because much of our play seemed pedestrian and lethargic. Sanogo was preferred up front to Giroud for that extra fitness and movement but he seemed to not contribute much at all. The rest of the team either ran too far beyond or held their runs which resulted in lots of misplaced passes as mentioned earlier. It was as though they were not on the same wavelength as each other. This was particularly true of Alexis, whilst cannot be faulted for effort, did find himself unable to effectively communicate with his new team mates. I suspect it may take a few weeks to develop those relationships but it was certainly a hindrance yesterday.

Gibbs injury - Gibbs seemed to have pulled up with a hamstring complaint which could see him out for three weeks. If that is the case then we are even lighter, number wise, defensively. Our need for a new signing at the back has just increased exponentially.


We won. We got three points. We know what needs to be improved. We can only get better. Hopefully the results stay the same though.

Also remember to join the Goonerverse Fantasy League.

The code is: 2125017-470489

Until next time.


Saturday, 16 August 2014

Team News: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace - Alexis, Debuchy and Chambers set to make competitive debut

Team News: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace Preview

A not so glorious afternoon, but one fit for football nonetheless. Today marks a strange one for me, the first opening fixture I haven’t gone to watch in what seems like an eternity. To compensate however, lots of beer is cooling, a BBQ is on the go and a nice big HD widescreen TV. Now all we need is a button to mute Michael Owen’s monotone, incredibly stupid drivel from proceedings and I’m all set. (I know he wont be commentating today, it's just the thought of him.)

There is nothing quite like the first day of the season for me. The excitement starts as early as Thursday for me when the team news begins to trickle in and you start getting an idea of how things will shape up. Well imagine my surprise when after team news started filtering through we had our first managerial casualty of the Premier League Season without a ball even being kicked.

Tony Pulis has left Crystal Palace for a reason that I guess he knows but it shows how ridiculous this sport can be. A club in dire situations when he took over has been allowed to leave just before the season kicks off. Not complaining from an Arsenal point of view as surely this helps us rather than hinders us but just strange nonetheless.

Onto the team news and the first piece seems promising. Laurent Koscienly is expected to be fit for the tie despite an Achilles knock sustained during the Community Shield last week. Wenger had this to say:

"Koscielny had a knock on his Achilles but he should be available for Saturday."

We also know that Walcott is a long term absentee who should hopefully be nearing a first team return. Wenger confirmed as much when he said:

"Theo is, as I always said, end of August or start of September. That is back into training of course."

Aside from that, the only other absentees are David Ospina and Serge Gnabry according to

With that in mind I expect the team to look like this today.

As you can see, three new signings in the starting XI which is very exciting but surely, all eyes will be on Sanchez. What a player he could prove to be. If you read my season preview you would know I expect him to have a really big impact this year, particularly with his goalscoring and as such I would love a nice early goal for him to get into the swing of things.

I expect a positive start and strongly believe we can win this match and start the right way for a change!

Come on The Arsenal!

Prediction: 3-0


Arsenal Season Preview 2014/2015

It’s slightly later than planned so apologies there but without further ado; here is the Goonerverse 2014/2015 season preview.

What a contrast this summer is to the one last year. At this stage of the pre-season last year, the only arrival was that of an unheard and apparently injury prone Yaya Sanogo. The mood was only worsened by the shock 1-3 defeat to Aston Villa at the Emirates on the opening day. People were calling for heads, namely that of Arsene Wenger, with many people questioning the direction of the club.

How much the mood has changed since then. The deadline day capture of one Mesut Ozil started the ball rolling in what can only be described as a feel good factor around the club. This was continued with a very promising start to the season where we were winning at will and seemed like genuine challengers for the title. Things went by the wayside in the latter half of the season when injuries, (What injuries? At Arsenal? You’re having a laugh mate!) poor form and some heavy defeats coincided to see us go from title challengers to competing for the somewhat familiar position of fourth place. This, however, was not all.

We finally won a trophy. The 9 year monkey was well and truly beaten into submission when the delicious Aaron Ramsey scored a hugely dramatic extra time winner in the FA Cup Final. The celebrations commenced and gooners around the world were ecstatic if not somewhat relieved.

Since then the euphoria has dissipated a little but there is more than a sense of optimism among fans for the season ahead.

Unlike last season, business has been conducted in a timely fashion and as such Arsenal are in a far stronger position than they have been at the start of a league campaign for some time. Though there are still some areas of the pitch which could be further strengthened, and one would hope they will be before the transfer window slams shut, we have certainly added quality to the starting XI and to the squad in general.

The first summer arrival was the most exciting in my opinion, not only for Arsenal fans but for the Premier League as a whole. Alexis Sanchez, a world class player who has performed on the biggest stage and come off the back of a very promising World Cup signed for Arsenal for a reported fee of £32 million. This could end up being a bargain as if he fires, which I believe he will, he has the potential to do very well in a team that is built for his qualities. Whether he plays on the flanks or up front is up for debate at this moment in time but what is indisputable is the fact that he has many of the qualities we need. He is a proven goal scorer with a very healthy goals to shot ratio, a great passer and possesses both pace and dribbling ability which will make him a nightmare to play against.

Combine him with the wealth of creativity in the team, particularly that of Mesut Ozil and we have a potential leading goal scorer. Perhaps not an obvious choice, but he is my choice to take the boot this year and that’s where I will be putting my money.

Mathieu Debuchy has arrived for £10 million to replace Bacary Sagna as he did in the French National Team. From what I have seen of him he looks to have settled in nicely and whilst he may not have performed as consistently as Sagna has over the last few years he is younger and as such am hoping he is, if not an improvement, an equally competent player. Signs so far point to a positive outcome.

David Ospina comes in for a fee believed to be around £3 million and he is set to battle with Szczesny for the Number 1 shirt. This is a great signing but one has to wonder if such a talented and promising keeper is going to be happy playing second fiddle in the long term. This will certainly provide a strong sense of competition for an area of the park where that hasn’t really been the case for a while.

Finally, for now anyway, our final signing of the pre-season was the unexpected Callum Chambers capture. A player that can play in a number of positions across the back line and has been described as a future defensive midfielder by Arsene Wenger, Chambers has been acquired for his versatility. Despite being one for the future, he has increased expectations considerably following a series of promising performances in pre-season. He looked right at home in the Community shield, and a few shaky moments aside, he does seem to possess all the qualities to make it at Arsenal in the future. He is only 19 and one can’t expect too much of him too soon but as an understudy in the defence and defensive midfield area he is likely to come in very handy this year.

So as things stand this is the business we have conducted so far this summer according to the Mirror:

In: Alexis Sanchez - Barcelona - Undisclosed (In the region of £32m)
Mathieu Debuchy - Newcastle - £10m
David Ospina - Nice - £3m
Calum Chambers - Southampton - £12m rising to £16m
Out: Bacary Sagna - Manchester City - Free
Lukasz Fabianksi - Swansea - Free
Nicklas Bendtner - Released
Park Chu-Young - Released
Chuks Aneke - Released
Daniel Boateng - Released
Thomas Eisfeld - Fulham - Undisclosed
Benik Afobe - MK Dons - Loan
Thomas Vermaelen - Barcelona - £15m

Despite adding four players, there are two contentious areas among most fans and pundits. Both in central defence and defensive midfield we are seen as being short either number wise or quality wise.

I certainly understand the argument for another central defender as we are an injury and suspension away from having to play Nacho Monreal as a centre back. As much as the thought of Peter Crouch’s illegitimate love child humours me, I do not want to see him as a centre back in an Arsenal shirt ever. This is an area we can add real quality to not only provide backup to Koscienly and Mertesacker but to challenge them too.

The other position is one which I see an acquisition being very unlikely. Despite me wanting a new defensive midfielder, we are very well stocked in midfielders in general for us to buy another one without letting one go. There were rumours surrounding the future of Mikel Arteta and whilst some fans and pundits argue he is past his best, he still is a capable and skilful player. He has also just been named captain which suggests not only is he going to stay, but Wenger sees him as the first choice for that position. I am not saying he cannot be improved upon, but I guess it doesn't matter as it seems unlikely that he will be replaced. I hope that isn’t the case but I don’t think it’s the end of the world if it doesn’t happen either.

Another type of signing, and perhaps most importantly, is that of Shad Forsyth. He has a very good reputation and has a distinguished background in sports science and medicine. If he can stem the flow of our injuries this year then he could prove to be the best signing, not of just this window, but perhaps of the last five years. There is a great piece in The Guardian by Amy Lawrence of what he can bring to Arsenal.

One can only imagine what could have been had we avoided costly injuries at key times and I guess with the improvements we have made both to the squad and the medical team, it is clear why there is a sense of optimism around the club.

I strongly believe we are in a far stronger position than last season. Our squad has more quality and certainly more quantity all over the pitch (apart from at centre back) when compared to last season but I think a crucial source improvement could emanate from within the current playing squad. Players like Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are hugely gifted individuals and can benefit from an injury free season. I genuinely think both will push on greatly this season and particularly in the case of Chamberlain we are looking at a potential world beater. He really does have it all in his locker, pace, control, passing ability, strength, finishing and overall technique. If these two push on and improve, like I believe they will, competition is going to be huge this season.

So with almost all the pieces to the puzzle in place; a cup victory, addition of world class players, increased competition and a medical team fit for purpose (hopefully) I predict big things for us this year. It will be a tough start especially with a somewhat disjointed pre-season and lots of crucial fixtures early on, but if we can ride the early storm I think we will challenge for the league. We might not win it but we will certainly be up there this season but I am ever the optimist. Come on you Gunners.

League Prediction: 1st Place

Top Scorer: Alexis Sanchez

Player of the season: Aaron Ramsey

Also remember to sign up to the fantasy league.

The code is: 2125017-470489

The GoonerVerse Fantasy League

A very quick post to let you know about the GoonerVerse Fantasy League. I know it is late but felt as though it would be good fun to compete against readers and fellow gooners in a Fantasy League.

 To this end, I have set up a Fantasy League and am aiming for 100 or so gooners to join. Depending on how many people join, a prize will be decided on. So the more of you that join, the more likely it is that there will be something to win.

Also there will be shout outs weekly for those of you doing well in the competition so please let all fellow gooners know.

The code is: 2125017-470489

May the best gooner win.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Community Shield Preview: Arsenal vs Man City

Morning all,

As the season draws ever closer, I find myself tugging at my testicles with increasing gusto (sorry for the graphic detail – I am just very excited).

Although today doesn’t quite mark the start of the season proper, it does hold a special place in my heart which, for me at least, signifies the end of pre-season. Today may be a glorified friendly but it is certainly an opportunity to make a marker on the season ahead. We certainly have a chance to lay rest to some of the niggling doubts about our ability to play against the so-called bigger teams. Whilst the result may not matter as such, we can use this game as an opportunity to give us a positive platform for the season.

Today is also an opportunity to get ready for the upcoming season in a meaningful way; top opposition, fairly competitive and what is essentially an opportunity to see how we may line-up next week.
And how might we line up? This question is somewhat trickier to answer given the sale of club captain, Thomas Vermaelen to Barcelona for a reported £15m fee. Not bad going, business wise, considering this is a player that fell out of favour majorly but this leaves us numerically very short at the heart of defence. The centre back situation is further complicated with the absence of Per Mertesacker due to his holiday and subsequent return to fitness. It is unlikely that he will be ready for the start of the season which leaves us with only Laurent Koscienly, himself working towards full fitness.

As you can see this is quite the area of contention and needs swift remedial work. I expect a centre back to be bought, certainly by the close of the transfer window, but ideally before the league opener next week. Who that may be? Well we can speculate as much as we want but I suppose we will have to wait and see.
Back to immediate matters and one would expect as close a line up to next week as fitness allows. I expect the team to look like this

It is an exciting opportunity to see how the new signings will fit in to existing systems and also to experiment. As you can see from above, I am half expecting Alexis to start up front by himself. This is in part due to Giroud’s fitness but also I can imagine this being the case for some of the bigger games.

The result doesn’t matter so much but gaining much needed fitness is imperative because from next week there is no margin for error. For now though, we can perhaps enjoy with much less stress than we are otherwise used to.

I am certainly looking forward to today for a number of reasons. I am excited. Very excited. Beer is cooling. Meat has been ordered. Tugging. I think I am ready.