Happy St. Totteringham’s Day

The season is over. Arsenal will not play again until three months time. Until then, we have a World Cup to help fill the void. However, the World Cup only lasts a month, so transfer speculation will eventually take hold and consequently bore you to tears.

Most Arsenal die hards will be trying to work out which players will be leaving and which players will be joining. The former is easier to work out than the latter. So let’s start with current players returning from a loan spell.

Philippe Senderos
Out of contract at the end of June. Failed to break into the Everton team during his recent loan spell there. Wenger has stated that he will not be offering Senderos a new contract. OUT

Wojciech Szczesny
Just turned 20. His loan spell at Division One side Brentford was deemed a success. Voted Brentford’s Player of the Year. Touted by many to be Arsenal’s future Number One. However, I think Wenger will loan him out to a Championship club next season and see how he progresses and develops. Still too young and inexperienced to be Arsenal’s Number One. IN but on Loan.

Jack Wilshere
Bolton manager Owen Coyle thinks that Wilshere should be in England’s World Cup squad. He wants Wilshere back at Bolton for next season. Wilshere, however, wants to return to Arsenal and be guaranteed more playing time. There’s no doubt that Wilshere has improved and impressed everyone during his four months at Bolton. With Ramsey out injured until November, Wilshere could be recalled by Wenger and given the opportunity to stake his place in the Arsenal first team. IN

Kerrea Gilbert
He’s made 10 first team appearances for relegated Championship team Peterborough United since his loan move there in January. His contract at Arsenal ends in June. It will not be renewed. Expect him to be playing for Leeds, Millwall, or Charlton next season. OUT

Gavin Hoyte
Plays right back or center-back. Six feet tall and will be 20 in June. Was made Reserve team captain until he was loaned out to Brighton and Hove Albion in October, 2009, where he has made 21 appearances. Also made 10 appearances for Watford in the Championship and played three 90 minute games in the Carling Cup this season for Arsenal. Came on as sub for Aaron Ramsey in the 3-0 Premiership defeat to Manchester City back in November 2008. Represented England at U-16, U-17, U-18, U-19 and U-20 levels and played in the 2007 U-17 World cup. Recently signed a long term contract with Arsenal. IN but on loan.

Luke Ayling
Aged 18. Signed his first professional contract last July. Spent the past month on loan at Division One side Yeovil Town where he has made four appearances and one start. IN but on loan.

Jay Emmanuel-Thomas
Central midfielder, aged 19. Height: six feet two and built like a tank. Enjoyed successful loan spells at Championship sides Blackpool and Doncaster Rovers making 25 appearances and scoring six goals. Helped both teams in their play-off bids. Started for Arsenal against Stoke in the FA Cup 4th round. Is seen as the next big thing. IN but on loan but to another Premiership team.

Sanchez Watt
Striker aged 19. Spent 2010 on loan at Southend United and Leeds United. Played mostly as a winger by both Division One clubs. Earned rave reviews by Leeds fans. IN but on loan.

Gilles Sunu
Striker aged 19. Made his Champions League debut against Olympiacos back in November. Recently returned from a loan spell with Derby County where he made 9 appearances and scored one goal. Joined Arsenal at 15 and was seen as one Europe’s hottest prospects. Seems to have failed to live up to the hype. IN but out on loan.

Jay Simpson
Striker aged 21. Has been out on loan to QPR where he’s made 39 appearances and scored 12 goals. Many Arsenal fans were raving about him after he scored two goals against Wigan Athletic in the Carling Cup 4th Round. He enjoyed a successful loan spell at Millwall during the 2007-2008 season where he was voted their Player of the Season. However, his loan spell at Premiership struggler’s West Brom in 2009 didn’t go so well. He rarely started games and only scored two goals. OUT I expect him to be sold to a Championship team this summer.

Mark Randall
Central Midfielder, aged 20. Played 10 games for Burnley last season and helped them gain promotion to the Premiership. Has made substitute appearances for Arsenal in the Champions League and started three Carling Cup games. Randall has just finished a loan spell at Division One side MK Dons where he scored one goal and made 17 appearances. OUT He will be sold to a Championship team or a high flying Division One outfit.

Henri Lansbury
Central Midfielder, aged 19. Lansbury has just completed a season in the Championship with Watford. Described by ex-Arsenal striker, Alan Smith as having “huge potential.” Arsenal pinched him from Norwich City back in 1999. He enjoyed a successful loan for a month at Championship side Scunthorpe last season and was rewarded with a new long-term contract last Christmas. Wenger said of him: “Lansbury will be a big player for Arsenal.” He came on as a substitute in yesterday’s 4-0 win against Fulham. IN

Rhys Murphy
Striker, aged 19. Recently signed a new long-term contract in January. Suffered a bad ankle injury while on loan at Brentford. Expected to be loaned out again once he recovers from injury. IN but out on loan.

Havard Nordtveit
Central Defender, aged 19. Height: 6 feet 2. Spent the past season on loan in the Budesliga with Nurnberg where he made 19 appearances primarily as a defensive midfielder. Signed for Arsenal in the summer of 2007 and was seen as the brightest defensive talent in the whole of Europe. However, his loan spell at Spanish club Salamanca was a failure, so Arsenal loaned him out to Lillestrom of the Norwegian Premier League. He played 17 times mainly as a right-back before joining Nurnburg. Expected to return to Arsenal and fight for a first team place. IN

Kyle Bartley
Central Defender, aged 18. Height: 6 feet 3. Arsenal took him from Bolton back in 2007. Captained Arsenal’s reserves and has spent the last three months on loan at Sheffield United, where he was mainly used as defensive cover. United wanted to sign Bartley on a permanent basis and Bartley was tempted to sign. However, he returned to Arsenal last week and is expected to go out on loan again next season. IN but out on loan.

Pedro Botelho
Left-back aged 20. This man is meant to be the real deal and will probably be challenging Clichy for the left back spot. Armand Traore can start looking for another club once this young Brazilian returns from his loan spell with Celta Vigo, where he has played 27 times and scored 1 goal. This came after a successful loan spell at Salamanca where Pedro made 37 appearances. IN

Nacer Barazite
Striker aged 19. Enjoyed a successful loan spell at Derby County during the 2008-09 season. However, this past season he has played only reserve team football. His days at Arsenal are numbered. OUT

Keep It Arsenal

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Post Season View – Arsenal F.C. 2009-10 Pt. 1

We have finished in third place. The big question is whether we have improved or not. By looking at the table – and they say that table doesn’t lie – we have improved by finishing one place higher than last term.

Table aside, my feeling is that Liverpool have regressed and United and Chelsea have been better than us, again. We have not improved. I’ve looked at things as fairly as I think I could have. Injuries have not entered the equation because big clubs are big clubs because they have big squads capable of coping with injuries. Yes, we have suffered an abundance of injuries, but I refuse to use that excuse.

My season’s analysis is based on what I’ve seen, not what could have been if we had all our players. It is based on what was required in August and what has been delivered in May. Consider the following comparison to last season:

Goals conceded:
2008/09 – 37
2009/10 – 41

Clean sheets:
2008/09 -16
2009/10 – 14

Points from Big Four matches:
(fuck Spurs, they are not a Big Four club, Liverpool have been ill)
2008/09 – 10
2009/10 – 6

We’ve done worse than last season in each category. I grant you that it hasn’t been much worse (in terms of numbers alone), but the margins are very thin when you are trying to compete at the highest level. Two clean sheets when it mattered most could have made a big difference.

I was impressed by Cesc’s return to form this season. He has been the player Arsene hoped he’d become. Alex Song has made us proud at 1886. We always knew he was special.

There’s been a lot of talk about Wojciech Szczesny becoming the No. 1 at Arsenal. Let’s be clear, the boy has proved nothing. He has not played in any meaningful run of matches. He is the latest young player to show promise. That is all. His case is not different from any of the others – I’m honestly not even sure Kieran Gibbs will be the player we hope for.

I hope they both and all the others prove me wrong, because it is well and truly time for a few of these young players to do a Cesc and make a first team place their own. We run the risk of being left even further behind Chelsea and United. The future is now.

I have struggled to find a turning point in the season. Then I realized that there really was none. When we were beaten by United and Chelsea, that’s really all there was to know. There were moments when we fought and made things interesting, but it has turned out to be a false dawn. I thank the boys for trying, but we were never going anywhere with those two clowns between the sticks.

The worst thing about this season has been that our aura as a dangerous side has faded. Teams no longer fear us. That needs fixing. It really, really does. We’ve seen our status improve off the pitch, but as a football team we’ve stood still and may have regressed a bit. I trust Arsene to get the balance right though. The man is determined to do so. He will not rest until he does, such is the belief he has in his project. He has learned however, that certain components must be replaced if we are going to see a trophy from this group.

I wonder if Steve Bould isn’t a resource we should be making better use of. I love what he’s done with the U18s but making fewer defensive mistakes and better organization at the back are areas he can fix. That is certain.

With the added pressure from Spurs (if you want to call it that), Arsene will want to improve even more. I doubt he is looking over his shoulder with fear, just with added purpose. It was a fantastic run that must be restarted. As a great man once said, “It’s the hope that gets you.” Long suffering Spurs fans will feel that they’ve got over the hump. No more just hoping. Well, see below:

Burnley 4 Spurs 2. Fuck off Spurs!

Keep the Faith

The No. 1

Currently, Arsenal lack a world class goalkeeper.

We have the demoted Manuel Almunia, a world class backup goalkeeper.

We have Lukasz Fabianski, out injured since the Valencia preseason friendly.

We have Vito Mannone, an inexperienced Italian goalkeeper who doesn’t play like an Italian goalkeeper.

We have Wojciech Szczesny, an even more inexperienced goalkeeper with a great build and tons of potential.

I’ve already said enough about Almunia. I don’t believe he’s capable of being a world class goalkeeper. Even at the height of his Arsenal powers, he wasn’t even close to getting a cap or a call up to the Spanish squad. That he tried to qualify for the England team tells you more about the state of English goalkeepers than it does the quality of Almunia. To me, Manuel performed best when motivated to displace Jens, who was a fantastic goalkeeper. When he got there and he attained some security, his performances haven’t been as steady. Unfortunately for Manuel, I’ll always remember him for giving up two goals to Barcelona in the Champions League Final. You may think I’m being harsh, but you’ll never convince me that he couldn’t have done better. He’s been out with a “chest infection,” and now that he’s back, he must be unhappy to not be playing. Cheeky Wenger is, how many players have had “injuries” in the name of real rotation?

Vito Mannone has committed two errors in the last two Premier League fixtures. The Birmingham one didn’t affect us in the long run, but the West Ham one sure did. But I’m not going to be too hard on him. He is extremely young, and he didn’t play much football at all when he was nurtured at Atalanta. Blinder against Fulham aside, the mark of a true number one goalkeeper is dealing with all chances at all times. When you play for a big club, you only have to make a few saves per game. But when you have those shots against you, you must deal with them superbly. People can extol the virtues of Shay Given, but were he goalkeeper for Arsenal or Manchester United, things may be different. Look at what’s happened with Ben Foster. Vito is one for the future. He is still not commanding when it comes to communicating with the backline, but he is brave and has a good build. I wish he would show a bit more anger at times, but that’s just a personal preference. He’s just not really ready yet.

The same can apply to Szczesny. I think he’s an extremely intriguing prospect, but he’s had even less playing time than Mannone. Some say that they rate him as highly as Mannone. He is a colossus and played well in the last Carling Cup tie. Keep an eye out for him.

Which brings me to Lukasz Fabianski. Many are unconvinced by him, and they have a decent right to think that way. He has given up near post goals, and his birthday performance against Chelsea in the FA Cup was disastrous. That being said, at the age of 24, he has been capped by Poland 14 times. He was handpicked by Wenger over false hopes like Craig Gordon. He has outstanding reflexes. He plays with the aggression that I like. He was handed a three year contract at the end of the last season. I really believe in this guy. I think he should be given a chance to be the Arsenal No. 1 and see what he’s capable of. Only a stretch of games can illustrate if you have a winner or a dud.

And if none of these options work out, we may need to buy in January. Who is available? Beats me, although names like Manuel Neuer and Akinfeev float around. But to me, we’re a goalkeeper away from being world beaters. Whether or not the solution already plays for Arsenal remains to be seen.

As for Liverpool today in the Carling Cup, it’ll be a mixture of players from the Reserves and the First Team. Liverpool will have been buoyed by the result against United, but our young players are hungry and our team wants the result after the last two disappointing draws. We play at home, and that gives some of our more enthusiastic fans to experience Arsenal football tonight. I look forward to this very much.