Saturday, 24 September 2011

Strictly Business Against Bolton

Well its been a while since my last post but come on, there hasn't been much worth talking about has there? Scraping a 1-0 at home against Swansea, nearly beating German champs Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, dropping a clanger in the 4-3 loss to Blackburn and just about beating League 2 Shrewsbury this week in the Carling Cup. Not one of these games inspired me enough to write anything worth reading on here, especially after the disaster at Blackburn; I was completely disheartened with that loss.

However with Arsenal's 3-0 demolition of Bolton today, there is finally cause to write, read and rejoice in all things Arsenal. Two goals from captain Robin van Persie and a late effort from Alex Song ensured all 3 points at the Emirates this afternoon, a well earned and much needed victory for the Gunners. After a largely uneventful first half in which both teams squandered good chances, van Persie slotted home almost immediately after the half time break to give us the lead. Soon after going behind things got worse for Bolton when David Wheater was dismissed after tangling with Theo Walcott. Reduced to 10 men Bolton couldn't stem the Arsenal tide for long, let alone stage a comeback. With just under 20 minutes left the captain doubled his tally for the day and put the game to bed, making it 2-0 to the Arsenal. With the game almost over, Song capped off the win with a deliciously curled effort to make it 3-0 and job done. The only thing to spoil the day was young Theo limping off with only minutes left in the match, with what appeared to be a painful knee injury. With all the injuries we already have, and the news that Jack Wilshere will be out until Christmas, we really could do without losing Theo. Unfortunately injuries have been the bane of this Arsenal squad for many years now and things don't look like changing for us anytime soon.

Alas, lets not dwell on the negative and instead let us embrace the positive. And it doesn't get any better than seeing our captain, Mr Robin van Persie, scoring his 99th and 100th goals for the club this afternoon, joining an elite group in Arsenal history. With Robin joining the centenary club today, it marks a special occasion for our Dutch striker. He has been quality for us over the years, scoring some very important goals and winning some big games. Of course there's always been the other side to the coin, with Robin missing massive parts of his career through injury, always being struck down just when he was really hitting his stride. But during a time when the club needed a leader most, when the team needed their captain to step up, van Persie delivered today with two excellent goals, carrying the club on his back and ensuring all three important points stayed in North London. I'll never get bored of seeing my favourite Gooner smashing the ball past opposition keepers, and just pray he can stay fit for just one whole season. Let's hope Robin can keep up his incredible goals-to-games ratio and make his way up the Arsenal goalscoring leaderboard over the next few years.

So up next for the Gunners is a tricky home game against Greek side Olympiakos in the Champions League. We're at home and we traditionally do well in Europe at the Emirates so I expect nothing but a win. It's imperative to win your home games during the group stages, so we must get a win on Wednesday night. Hopefully I'll be able to tune in and after today's win, I'm even looking forward to it!

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Deadline Day: Busy, Busy, Busy

So the transfer window has closed and Arsenal had their most active deadline day in recent memory; I can't remember a transfer window when we made so many signings and at the last minute too. So let's run through who we bought and what I think:

Park Chu-Young

The first big signing we heard about was the acquisition of South Korean captain Park Chu-Young from recently relegated AS Monaco. The 26 year old striker, who scored 25 goals in 91 games for the French club, joined for a fee of under £3 million and will add some depth to our very thin forwards group. Unfortunately the South Korean has to go back to his country in 2013 for national service, which means we will lose his services for a couple of seasons. He'll wear the number 9 shirt this season.

Now I've never really seen Chu-Young play, apart from the 2010 World Cup, but I wasn't really paying attention back then because we weren't likely to sign him. Hopefully he can contribute this year but I'm not expecting greatness, so anything he can add to this squad will be brilliant in my eyes.

Signing grade: B-

Andre Santos

The next signing Wenger made was to shore up that problematic left back position. With Gael Clichy moving to Man City, Armand Traore moving to QPR and Kieran Gibbs continuously getting hurt, the boss had to buy someone experienced and he did just that. Brazilian international Andre Santos joined us from Fenerbahce for a fee thought to be around £6 million. The 28 year old has won 22 caps for his country so has plenty of top-level experience and should hopefully slot in nicely in what will be a new-look back four. I'm excited about this signing and I reckon Santos will really help this team move forward.

Signing grade: B+

Per Mertesacker

Finally Wenger addressed the crucial weakness to this team, the centre back position. He had the entire summer to do it and naturally left it right to the last minute. Nonetheless the signing was made, and relief swept across every Arsenal fan in the country. The mini-saga that was Gary Cahill joining us didn't materialise and in my opinion we got someone better, and cheaper, instead. The German international and Werder Bremen captain Per Mertesacker joined us for around £8 million and will hopefully become the immovable force of our back four. Mertesacker is 6'6 and has 75 caps for Germany at the age of 26, so there is still plenty of gas left in the tank and he is already so experienced, playing and doing well in two World Cups already.

This is the signing I'm most excited about. I think Per is perfect for our team and will thrive in English football. Some people have pointed out that he's not the quickest of defenders but we've had slower players succeed in our team before and I don't expect Mertesacker's pace to hinder his performances at all. A fantastic signing, I'm just praying he and Vermaelen can stay fit all year and have a really strong partnership.

Signing grade: A

Yossi Benayoun

With the transfer window just about to close, Wenger swooped for two players to add some creativity and depth to the midfield. The news came through that we had acquired Israeli captain Yossi Benayoun from Chelsea on a season long loan. All the news before Yossi's signing told us we were close to getting the Spanish playmaker Mikel Arteta from Everton, but when news reached us that the Arteta talks were off the idea of having just Benayoun as our only midfield signing was a bit of an anticlimax. No disrespect to Yossi, but a season long loan from Chelsea was the best we could do? Especially with cash still to spend, there had to be someone else coming surely? Well it was better than nothing and I'll forever be grateful to the Israeli for that goal against Spurs on the last day of the 05/06 season. Anyway, Benayoun isn't a bad player and he should be able to chip in with his clever runs and the odd goal, but knowing we only have him for a year is a bit underwhelming. Still, we need as many experienced bodies in the squad as we can get, so Wenger did well to get him.

Signing grade: B-

Mikel Arteta

With the departures of Fabregas and Nasri, Wenger had to address the gaping hole that was left in the heart of our midfield. Even with Wilshere and Ramsey ready to step up and take Cesc and Nasri's places, with injuries and suspensions occurring all the time this season we needed another experienced body for cover. With the news that Arteta had signed, we finally filled that hole. The 29 year old Spaniard joined for around £10 million which is a great deal. Everton were reluctant to give him up, a player who had served them faithfully for many years, but the lure of Champions League football was too much for Arteta to pass up.

When I heard that we were in the running for Arteta yesterday lunchtime I got pretty excited. The talented playmaker can pass as well as anybody and won't need to adapt to the Premier League 'cause he's been over here for ages. But when I heard talks had broken down and reports indicated Arsenal weren't going to try again, I was pretty annoyed that I'd gotten my hopes up. Luckily the club persevered and we got our man. I'm pretty excited to see Arteta in an Arsenal shirt; he's no Fabregas but he is exactly what this young inexperienced squad needs. A very astute signing Mr Wenger and I'm very happy about this acquisition.

Signing grade: A-

So, all in all a very busy day for Arsenal and many new faces coming in to help bolster this very weak squad. Hopefully we can improve now and get some confidence in this very shaken team. News that our giant Dane Nicklas Bendtner joined Sunderland on loan is good news. Hopefully he can play every week and get some goals in him. This is his chance to prove he can really perform in the Premier League, there's no excuses now. If he can score 12-15 goals this season, I'd say we give him another shot at making the first team next year. Hopefully he can do well.

Anyway that's enough from me for one day. I'll be back with something after the international break. Until then...

Thanks for reading.