Arsenal – Another Season Of Expectation to turn to Disappointment?

Ems

After finishing in the top four for a 20th consecutive season, Arsenal and in particular their manager Arsene Wenger are facing their most defining crossroads since the pertinacious Frenchman seized the managerial reigns in 1996.

Famously labelled a “specialist in failure” by longtime rival Jose Mourinho, the 66-year-old is running out of time just as hastily as the spectators are running out of patience. This summer’s transfer window will have taken these levels of vexation to new heights, with the club appearing motionless in comparison to their fellow title contenders who have all stolen a march on the Gunners.

True ot not?
True or not?

Jamie Vardy’s decision to turn down a move to the Emirates was bordering on humiliating and yet since then there has been no apparent urgency to rectify their shortcomings in the striking department. With Danny Welbeck sidelined until 2017, their lack of depth up top is a genuine flaw that needs addressing.

Despite his impressive form at Euro 2016, Olivier Giroud is not the world-class talent that Arsenal fans dream of leading the line and will never grace the superlatives of Thierry Henry or Dennis Bergkamp. High-profile names such as Michy Batshuayi and the mercurial ability of Zlatan Ibrahimovic were available, but overlooked.

The level we need
The level we need

This constant pondering and contemplating often sees top-drawer players go by the wayside. You wouldn’t bet against the likes of Gonzalo Higuain and Alvaro Morata plying their trade elsewhere, through either being deemed too expensive or not quite fitting the mould of a quintessential Arsenal player. Perhaps Lacazette or Icardi maybe more what Wenger is looking for.

Last year saw the arrival of a proven top-class Premier goalkeeper in Petr Cech, but Wenger decided against boosting his options outfield. On the other hand, he has already made two additions to his squad with the signings of Japanese starlet Takuma Asano and Swiss star Granit Xhaka.

Xhaka is just 23 years of age and already named in the Bundesliga team of the year back in the 2014-15 season when he started all 34 league encounters for Borussia Monchengladbach. However, the youngster must overcome the setback of being the only player not to the score in the shootout as his country lost out to Poland in the last 16.

In spite of this, both recruits are untested in the frenetic and furious pace of the Premier League. With Per Mertesacker on the decline, surely enlisting a high-quality centre-back would provide cover and competition to the first-choice pairing of Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel?

Many will remain perplexed by Wenger’s desire to bring in yet another midfielder to enhance his wealth of riches in the centre of the park, when other positional amendments are clearly more of a pressing issue.

Sky Bet and Coral are offering odds of 11/2 on Arsenal ending the season top of the table for the first time in 12 years since their ‘invincibles’ stormed to the title. Breaking this barren spell is going to be extremely difficult and uncertainty will continue to plague Wenger should his side falter again.

My predictions are for the title aspirations of the Gunners to be shot down in flames once again. Not even a top four finish is a guarantee this time round and this is reflected in the 11/8 odds being offered for the North-London club not to qualify for the Champions League for the first time under the Frenchman’s leadership. However, they are always a certain in a weekend accumulator. You can get all the best football accumulator tips from That’s A Goal.

Last season was undoubtedly their greatest opportunity to be crowned Premier League Champions in recent memory, but with the eye-catching arrivals of Pep Guardiola and Mourinho in Manchester and the appointment of tactical mastermind Antonio Conte at Chelsea, the top-flight of English football has never promised to be so cut-throat. Its do-or-die.

Welbeck and Walcott: could they have led England to glory at Euro 2016?

W&W in Happier England times
W&W in Happier England times

It is official: England have been eliminated at yet another major tournament. Roy Hodgson’s men were incredibly disappointing against Iceland on Monday night and The Three Lions paid the ultimate price as they crashed out of the competition.

Unfortunately for Hodgson, he has now had to resign after his position became untenable, but it could have been very different – especially if the former Liverpool manager had opted to take Theo Walcott ahead of Raheem Sterling and Danny Welbeck had managed to avoid his serious knee injury at the end of last season. The Arsenal contingent would certainly have helped rather than hindered England’s chances of success.

Okay so Walcott didn’t have the greatest of years but he was rather harshly overlooked by Hodgson in the build-up to this summer’s competition. Walcott was – and is likely to be – an integral part of Arsenal’s attack and he could play a key role for the Gunners as they hunt a first Premier League title since 2004.

At the time of writing, 32Red UK are offering 5/1 on Arsenal to win the division and Walcott mat still, despite the rumours, have a positive impact. After all, his sheer speed out wide will give Arsenal an added dimension in attack and one that England could have done with throughout the Euros this summer.

Furthermore, Walcott would have actually offered pace and width on the flanks; something that Lallana simply couldn’t provide. Hodgson shot himself in the foot with his player selection on too many occasions and his entire 23-man squad for the competition had holes in it.

4666457

Jack Wilshere had played just a handful of Premier League matches all season but was included ahead of ever-present title winner Danny Drinkwater, whilst the injury-prone Ryan Bertrand was also selected but played just one game. Ultimately, it seemed like Hodgson had picked too many people to ‘make up numbers’ rather than basing his choices purely on form – although we all know that Wilshere is clearly England’s best midfielder when fit…

And in a way, this should have benefitted Walcott. The problem was Hodgson’s naive nature and inability to adapt to tactical changes was always going to cost England. Although Sterling can be a decent player on his day, he has struggled to hold down a regular spot in the Manchester City starting line-up whilst competing against a player of Jesus Navas’ calibre.

An extra option out wide, whether that was Walcott or even Newcastle winger Andros Townsend, would have given Hodgson that extra choice and option in wider areas. Perhaps as a result of such choices, the manager failed – just as he did in Brazil. Except this time he paid the ultimate price of being forced to give up his job.

Welbeck would almost certainly have been included in Hodgson’s squad if he hadn’t suffered that season-ending knee injury in the draw away at Manchester City. On his day, the England international is a fantastic talent and his versatility and ability to play almost anywhere across the front is one of his greatest traits.

Would have given Hodgson a selection headache
Would have given Hodgson a selection headache

Ultimately, he could also have given Hodgson a selection headache in wide areas, especially if the likes of Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney weren’t up to scratch. Kane was dreadful throughout the tournament and Welbeck would have been the perfect complement to Rooney up front. However, it is probably slightly unfair and foolish to think that way, as injuries just cannot be avoided.

Next season, both Walcott and Welbeck could return champing at the bit for Arsenal ahead of England’s World Cup qualifying campaign. The Gunners should benefit from their added hunger and desire to do well, although Welbeck may not return until after Christmas – such was the extent of his injury. Walcott, on the other hand, could impress the next England boss and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see the 26-year-old force his way back onto the international stage.

He is certainly good enough when he gets a run of games in the starting line-up, unless Olivier Giroud continues his fine recent form throughout the summer. At the time of writing, the Frenchman is 8/1 with 188Bet and 32Red to finish as the top goalscorer at the Euros this summer and Walcott may be hoping that his Arsenal teammate slows down prior to the beginning of the domestic campaign.

Whether Walcott and Welbeck both have a future for England or not, one thing is for sure: both men may have a role in leading Arsenal to Premier League glory next season and we must now turn our attention to our own domestic game following England’s failings in France.

Celebrates scoring at WC in Brazil

As Vardy U turns will Wenger turn to 30 Goal a season Islam Slimani?

Is Islam the answer?
Is Islam the answer?

The reaction to the news that Vardy will not be coming to Arsenal has caused a typically over the top reaction from the media and from Arsenal social media. Those that wanted him never actually did and now are convinced he was never right for us and we should be aiming higher.

What is for certain is that Arsenal were played by Vardy and his agent. Whether this was their intention at outset by presenting the deal to Wenger or whether the initial intention was honourable and the player them had a change of heart is a moot point. I know what I believe but we are where we are and doomsayers are swiftly returning and telling us that there is no one left to buy in June, Morata is off to Chelsea, there is only Lukaku left to buy and Wenger has blown it again.

The reality is that Arsenal do need competition for Giroud with Welbeck injured and Walcott out of favour and yes Wenger has singularly failed to land an out and out striker for many years. It is well known that I would dearly love to see Alexis played as a striker in a two, as he is played by his country, but even if that was on the cards another Number 9 is required. Some may believe that Akpom is an answer but if so, the question has to be ‘which young striker is not ready to play regularly in our first team?’

One player that could present a solution is the Algerian striker who came to the fore at the last World Cup, Islam Slimani. The player has been linked to many Premier League clubs after a stellar season in Portugal with Sport Lisbon which saw him net 31 gaols in 46 outings, including 27 in 33 in the league. Sporting finished runners up to Benfica and Slimani only missed one match all season ans his clean injury record with what Arsenal have suffered wit Welbeck and others is a plus. His career record in Portugal over 2 season is better than a goal every other game and similarly for Algeria he has scored 23 in 43 caps.

Celebrates scoring at WC in Brazil
Celebrates scoring at WC in Brazil

He is tall, physical and good in the air but seemingly more mobile than Olivier Giroud. His hold up player may not be quite as good but his play on the shoulder of defender would offer more options to the likes of Ozil and his reactions to rebounds and lose balls in the six yard box is something Arsenal have lacked. Primarily left footed he is able to finish with either of his Nike Hypervenom Phinish boots as featured in this best of the boots at Euro 2016 article. The video here shows all his goals in 2015/16 and on the face of it what’s not to like?

The nagging doubt might be the strength of the Portuguese league outside the top 4 teams but equally many top strikers from that league have moved to Spain or Italy and succeed. Certainly the physicality of the Premier League would not concern him and he is extremely confident in his own ability.

Jorge Jesus the coach at Sporting has admitted in May that he would be powerless to prevent a wealthy club steal there star asset and the player is rumoured to be keen on a England move. At 27 the player although contracted to his present club until 2020 know that the next move is the most important of his career. It is suggested that the £24 million buyout clause inserted his last deal expires on the 30th June. This being the case and with no hindrance to access as with the Euro’s and some other potential targets, if Arsenal are keen this one will happen in the next week. If Talksport are correct Arsenal and Liverpool have both had £20 million bids rejected so the question is do Arsenal think Islam Salami is worth the extra £4 million?

I guess a fringe benefit to bring in Slimani would be that any approach this window on in the future for his international team mate Mahrez might gain a boost.

Until next time @Goonerdave66

Alexis wins his 100th Cap tonight as a Striker in a Two – Why not at Arsenal?

Winning the Copa America last time
Winning the Copa America last time

In September I wrote a column for Shoot espousing a theory that Arsenal might consider playing Alexis in the formation in which he often thrives for Chile. I have revisited the theme once or twice since but tonight it seems appropriate as our Chilean superstar prepares to win his 100th Cap in the Copa America semi in a few hours.

Chile often operate a 4312 with a playmaker behind Alexis and Vargas and the Arsenal player thrives with a partner. With rumours that Juventus and PSG are keen to tempt him away from North London I wonder Wenger telling him he can play up top in a 2 might carry as much weight as further key signings. He has taken his international goal tally to 34 with 3 in the current tournament and who would bet against him adding to that total against Colombia. Definitely worth a few quid, using 2016 bet365 bonus code, as he lines up, in a few hours against his fellow Gunner David Ospina.

A system to get the best from our best
A system to get the best from our best

The joy of this fluid system is that not only does it get Alexis closer to goal but it allows Ozil playing behind him at least one mobile and fast target to hit. Not only that but with our embarrassment of riches of central midfielders it allows us to play 3 of them at once and not 2. As I have said recently the width needs to come from energetic full backs and it may explain wht Arsenal are limlked with young left-backs like Rodriguez and this week Douglas Santos.

This was the argument for the system I used back in September….

No today I wanted to consider the misfiring Arsenal attack and how an alternative team set up might assist us. My theory or solution proposal is born out of a growing concern about Alexis Sanchez and his role in the Arsenal team. Last season Alexis hit the Premier League like a whirlwind, surprising defenders with his combination of strength, pace, tricks, energy and of course finishing prowess.  After 6 league fixtures last September the Chilean firecracker had already scored on three occasions in separate games yet this season he is yet to get off the mark. Now this is a player who could not be higher in confidence having just assisted his country win their first Copa America in a century so what has changed? Continue reading

Surely England need Jack Wilshere against Wales

promo290090821

Arsenal fans were distressed to see Jack Wilshere not included in England’s starting 11 against Russia in the Three Lions opener. From my perspective it was a surprise, more because Hodgson seemed to be trying desperately to bring him on in game time and fitness and because if his key role in qualification pre-injury. Disappointingly for Jack the troublesome role of the most defensive midfield berth for England seems to have been cemented by Eric Dier. Even with an Arsenal hat on I cannot argue with the Spurs anchor man’s inclusion and he certainly justified his selection.

Many Gooners were angry at the pack seemingly being shuffled to accommodate Rooney and felt it was the captain being shoehorned into midfield that cost Jack his start. Again whilst I have sympathy with this view I was fulling expecting the United veteran to play a deeper role after his form for United I the final weeks of the season. The decision was made easier for the manager I suspect both Wilshere and indeed Henderson were well behind Rooney in a match fitness sense. Despite any misgivings some may have had, although not shared by me, Rooney did play well and certainly in the first half controlled the game. Indeed as Jack sat on the bench he could only admire his captain’s performance.

Wilshere admired Rooney's performance
Wilshere admired Rooney’s performance

Opting for a 433 however was a trifle surprising, particularly given that Raheem Sterling had shown little in the warm up matches or indeed all season to warrant a place. Despite a few runs after 90 minute and the ultimate disappointment I was astonished the City wide man was still on the field late in the 2nd half after contributing very little and making awful decisions continuously. On the opposite flank, with the exception of his poor finishing, Lallana more than justified his inclusion. The Liverpool payers was aggressive, busy, inventive and showed far better decision making than his ex-team mate at Anfield.

So looking to the ‘big one’ tomorrow what is the online soccer betting on a few changes in the starting team against Wales? The big question marks are over Sterling, Alli and Kane for me and I suspect 2 of the three will miss out.  I genuinely believe that Hodgson always had in mid to start Jack Wilshere in the UK Derby on Thursday and given how poor Sterling was I think Vardy will also come in. But who should miss out and which of his 2 formations will he play?

Arsenal target Vardy to come in?
Arsenal target Vardy to come in?

We have seen Hodgson play Vardy on the left of the 3, in the centre of the 3 or along another striker in a 2. I hope that for the Wales game we see Vardy where he should be which is centrally with a partner. I would love this to be Sturridge as Harry Kane look a shadow of the player he has been all season. Hodgson knows what Kane is about so to be play him in all 3 friendlies after a long campaign where he is never rested by Tottenham was foolhardy. As I say though he will persist with the Spurs front man and Vardy should play with him. Arsenal fans are still hopeful that Vardy may combine with Wilshere at club level next season. As and aside it is reported that Wenger has an alternative target if the Leicester frot man chose to remain so.

Rooney will retain his position but perhaps at the head of a diamond midfield. He made 55 passes with close to 90% completion against the Russians but critically 38 of them were in their half. Play Rooney closer to the opposition goal and yet younger legs do the lion’s share of the work.

Impressive cameo
Impressive cameo

Wilshere for his ball retention, creativity, decision making and his ability to beat a man should play on the left of the diamond. His interplay with Rose will be critical and far more natural than that shown between Rose and Sterling. Rooney and Wilshere enjoy playing together and have a good understanding. Wilshere did well when he came on the other day but it should have been to play with the captain and not to replace him.

The last call is for me the trickiest one to make. As with Kane, taking club allegiance to one side, I seriously rate Deli Alii but did he really play to his usual level on Saturday? To me he also looked a shadow of himself in the second half but it is anyone’s call between him and Lallana for the right side of the diamond. Both like Jack and easily interchange fluidly with Rooney at the point and both have the engine to work box to box. For experience and for his display Adam Lallana edges it for me and this would be my team to play Wales.

abLniiXacg

Until next time thanks for reading @goonerdave 66

Affiliate-Banner-Leaderboard-(728x90)-Animation (2)

Kitted out for EURO16 yet? If not click here  #EURO16 @Classicshirts