Should Benik Afobe leap frog Sanogo and Akpom – A real scouting report!

Yes we have a striker who can score v United
Yes we have a striker who can score v United

With all the talk being of the inadequacies or otherwise of our manager, coaching staff, medical staff and of course of Theirry Henry this week I am back with ‘something completely different.’ In reality it is a lazy article as someone else has done half the work and most of the research but I hope it is all the more relevant for that.

At present Arsenal have 2 undoubted Premier League level central strikers in Giroud and Welbeck and I assume few Gunners would dispute that statement. Beneath this we have Walcott who would love the role but is unlikely to be given it on his own, Podolski an enigma who I am beyond fathoming and Sanogo who has the faith of the boss but few others. We also have Joel Campbell, who apart from for Costa Rica plays mainly on the right and Apkom who many have high hopes for but one suspects needs a loan for a season or from Jan to May at the very least.

In my view Wenger does not trust Podolski wholeheartedly and when he does play him would opt to do so wide where possible and he seems to have even less faith in Joel.  Theo is due back as early as this weekend and whilst I have seen some question his Arsenal future in the medium term, in the short term he jumps ahead both and arguably ahead of Danny Welbeck.

For me Sanogo also needs to go only loan and while he may be resistant, convinced he has a role for us now, he could well be in the minority of one. This is admirable self belief which is unfounded at this stage perhaps.  Lastly many fans are hanging their hopes on Apkom to leap frog Yaya and challenge sooner rather than later. I am not in this group and whilst I cannot claim to have watched him for hours as some have for the under 21s I do know Brentford season ticket holders whose opinion of him last season whilst on loan could hardly have been lower. Phrases such as ‘pampered schoolboy’ and ‘simply could not rough it with the big boys,’ would sum up the consensus.

So enough of me rambling on and to the point of this article. That is to revisit the progress of the player who along with Wilshere, was mapped out to be the next prodigal son.  The question is whether, barring his appalling luck with injuries, it would have been Benik Afobe we were discussing as pushing Podolski, Campbell and Sanago for the fourth striker berth? I have followed Afobe along with his compadre, Aneke’s careers closely since both were subject to an approach from Barecelona as teenagers and were described by Steve Bould as 2 of the best players he had ever worked with. With Chuks departed without the breakthrough, that leaves me with Afobe who I first wrote about as early as December 2011 and more recently in January 2013 when he was on loan at Bolton. It would be fair to say my conversations with Bolton bloggers did not make good reading for Afobe or Afobe fans.

However nearly 2 years on, Afobe is 21 and the decision on his future for Arsenal will be made between now and the end of this season. His contract I believe is due to expire in June 2015 and the next deal is huge for this young talent, whether it is at the Emirates or elsewhere. If it is the latter I am fairly certain there will be a very long list of suitors based on his exploits so far in 2014/15.

For those of you not following his progress he has been on loan at League 1 MK Dons and it would be fair to say he has been a success in a side that do try and play the right way. The statistics alone are enough to renew any Gunners Interest but they alone are not enough. Continue reading

Arsene’s Number 1 Transfer Target in January should be a Sol Campbell II

Not written one of these for a while but as the ‘Winter Window’ nears and media speculation will mount over Wenger’s war chest and where it should be spent I thought I would. Yes it’s one of my if I had the cash who would I buy to for Arsenal blogs. Where would I be betting my money this year? This one may be seem a bit off the wall but my track record of knowing Wenger’s mind is not so bad. I predicted Giroud 10 months early and Arteta in advance as well. Had it not been for Mourinho’s pettiness or Wenger’s indecisiveness I could have chalked Sahin or Schneiderlin as number 3.

Firstly I should highlight the 2 obvious problem areas to be addressed, namely at the centre of the defence and in the holding midfield area – but we all know that! Secondly it is worth pointing out that with Arteta, as our skipper and on the verge of a new contract extension, despite what we all believe has Wenger’s trust anchoring midfield. I am not totally opposed to that as we are a stronger side with Mikel in it and retain possession infinitely better. My concern lies more with the attacking disposition of our fullbacks and how it leaves our captain’s lack of pace exposed unnecessarily. I have already written on this subject and my views are here. In short with Ox, Theo and Alexis providing speed and width do we need our fullbacks pushing on and overlapping? Not in my view.

I think it is also worth considering, although again unpalatable to most fans, that it would be unusual for Wenger to go out and buy big or buy multiple in January. There are reasons for this, not least players being cup tied in the Champions League but also the elevated prices and we all know out manager’s reluctance to pay over the odds.

So what do I think we are looking for based on the above introduction?  Personally and not without logic, given who is to return from injury, I think buying a player who can be equally accomplished at centre back or in defensive midfield would make perfect sense. When Debuchy returns Chambers will be in need of a rest and I am certain he will be given time to recharge. From here on he is cover centre back where I am certain is future lies. When Koscielny returns, I for one would like to see him as the lynch pin on his right foot, not spending his time continually worried about a colleague’s positioning and pace. Whether you agree with me or not about Per not being a guaranteed starter it is logical with Chambers as cover CB and right footed that we have a left footed defender is the new addition.

Our future but needs a rest
Our future but needs a rest

So to recap in my opinion we need a top class left footed central defender, who can play alongside Koscileny who is comfortable on the ball and good enough to go straight into the starting eleven, even when all fit. We should be looking for starters to improve us not squad additions. I would personally add to that for January additions Premier League experience if not vital is certainly preferred. I guess the list is narrowing and many are thinking Nastasic but if we add on the final requirement it narrows further. Because whilst I would love us to return with the proper offer for Morgan Scheiderlin that seems unlikely, so I want the new signing to be able to play when required at the base of our midfield in the big game and the tough away fixtures.

Mbiwa - Missed Opportunity perhaps?
Mbiwa – Missed Opportunity perhaps?

To narrow the list further and based on 18 years experience of Wenger, he does go back for players he has openly admired or courted in the past.  I am very surprised he did not take a second look at Yanga Mbiwa, who whilst not flourishing at Newcastle was superb at CB and DM for Montpelier and now on firm again on loan at Roma. However I assume it was because he has 3 right footed central defenders and saw a fourth, even one who could play DM as too many. So we are left with one outstanding target to my way of thinking.

The only real question I have remaining about the player I think ticks all the boxes, both for our needs and Wenger’s foibles is whether his existing club would sell to a rival. Particularly when that rival is a few miles down the road!!

Yes the obvious player for us to go all out for in January is currently unhappy, out of favour, inexplicably and has broken contract extension talks with Tottenham. Jan Vertonghen is accomplished, proven, aggressive, fast and crucially left footed.  His is 27 and at the peak of his ability and still has many good years ahead of him and we know that Wenger admires him.

Come on Wenger do a Sol!
Come on Wenger do a Sol!

I think the only thing that prevented Arsenal signing the Belgian when he left Ajax was the fact that then Wenger wanted him solely as a defensive midfielder, already having Vermaelen, Koscielny and Mertesacker in 2012. This information came incidentally not from me but from the player himself. However now his compatriot has departed for the Camp Nou and Mertesacker is 2 years older and two years slower. You would have to assume that if Arsenal returned now offering a chance at the Champions league, mainly a central defensive role alongside one of the best defenders in the world, with occasional defensive midfield duties, Vetonghen might have an altered perspective.

There are other factors we can add to this. He sees a Tottenham side who are struggling under a new manager who does not, for some absurd reason see him as the first name on the team sheet. There is speculation about the future of the club and its ownership and Younnis Kaboul is his captain??? I could go on and I will….. Thursday night football, a disjointed squad bought by a previous manager and disharmony in the camp, with players out of favour and turning on the fans.

So from this simple fans view here is a summary. Vertonghen is a top flight left footed centre back and we have none of those. He can also play defensive midfield and has done for his country and Ajax and we know Wenger admires that. He has his best years ahead of him so a 3 or 4 year contact on a far superior salary could be offered to secure his future.  He would improve our defence and make for a far more solid, balanced and mobile partnership as well as given is an easy option in the anchor midfield role when required. Of course having 2 swifter defenders behind our midfield would also assist Arteta. The player this summer is into the last year of his contract so the pressure will be on Spurs to sell at a lower price than is they accepted a good offer now from Arsenal.

The question is not really whether it is a good deal for Arsenal but more whether our fierce rivals would ever accept selling to us?  In the modern world money talks and I suspect £15 million plus would solve a fair few on our issues if and under pressure Levy could be convinced. Were we to make a open overture I suspect player power might kick in and we could have the next Sol Campbell on our hands!

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IF we are all Arsenal Supporters – One Fan’s View in verse!




If you think all is rosy you’re not watching the games

If we do not agree stop calling me names

If you think we owe Wenger you’re probably right

If you think we owe him forever you may be talking shite

If you think that our tactics are missing I don’t make you crazy

If you say he has none your analysis is lazy

If you think full backs should defend first you are not out of date

If they stay back from hereon it may not be too late

If you think we have pace to burn in our ranks

If you consider it best used out on the flanks

If you are tired of tippy tappy and want to see crosses

If you feel variation might mean wins and not losses

If you feel the key lies with Theo and Ox

If you want to see them whipping the ball in to the box

If you want to see players picked on form and not history

If you find the continued selection of Cazorla a mystery

If you are prepared to admit that Per is not the Messiah

If you question Arsene you are not a pariah

If you want Stevie Bould have more of a role

If it baffles you why we don’t see more of young Joel

If you want Mesut Ozil to prove his worth over again

If you think he should earn the title of World’s Top No.10

If you want Ramsey’s back heels and flicks a thing of the past

If you want Jack on his feet and not on his arse

If you want to be proud of the fans and the club

If you want to enjoy not dread the banter in the pub

If you are prepared to be objective and consider both sides

If you prefer honest debate to back stabbing snides

If you can hold your head high knowing your support is true

If you can say this regardless of the extremity of your view

If come rain or shine you will still sing and cheer

If win, lose or draw you can still share a beer


If you remember we are all Gunners with differing views

You may just be me!

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Gunner Legends Bergkamp and Dixon support Willow Foundations ‘Stars on Canvas 2014′


I am sure that almost all Arsenal fans are aware of the incredible work done by the Willow Foundation, set up by Arsenal legend Bob Wilson and his wife Megs, after the the tragic loss to cancer of their daughter Anna when aged only 31.

The inspiration for Willow came from one special woman’s determination to live every moment to the full, despite the most difficult of circumstances.

Bob Wilson, Life President

Willow is the only UK charity designed solely to give special days to young adults aged 16 to 40 who are suffering serious illness. Special days are organised to give the young adults and their families one off days to reconnect, enjoy quality time and to create memories to be treasured forever. Since its beginning in 1999 The Willow Foundation has provided over 10,000 of these special days and I hope will continue to do so for a long time to come.

I am honoured to have met Bob in the course of researching my Geordie Armstrong tribute book and indeed he provided a foreword as a tribute to his friend, who left us to early. I can only imagine having one of my own children diagnosed with a life threatening illness or losing a loved one but what I do know is that it happens too often.

Because of this it is crucial that The Willow Foundation is supported by Arsenal fans and by all who wish to see them continue their fabulous work. Operation Arsenal Art (@alsnotnutz) and Piebury Corner have this weekend held their second exhibition of Arsenal inspired art, which I know has been a huge success. Proceeds from some of the art work auctioned from this event will go to Willow.

Appropriate timing therefore to point out and highlight that Willow themselves are staging their only Art inspired auction ‘Stars on Canvas’ a bi-annual event that sees this year over 250 celebrities who the worlds of politics. entertainment and of course sport produce original art canvasses. These will be auctioned in a 10 day Ebay event from the 13th to the 23rd of this month and all the details are here. Continue reading

Gunners Keen on Leaving the Drama in Brussels

Late Drama in Belgium

Late Drama in Belgium

Arsenal head into their fourth Champions League fixture, aiming to handle Anderlecht with less theatrics than in their last encounter with the Belgian champions. Only two weeks after the Gunners unexpected comeback in Brussels, they head back home to the comforts of The Emirates hoping to take care of business in a more convincing fashion.

Down 1-0 in the final minutes of the match, the Gunners were saved from picking up their second loss in the group stage with two dramatic come from behind goals. Kieran Gibbs and Lukas Podolski saved the day with respective tallies at 89′ and 90′ +1 in the final moments, stunning Anderlecht at Constant Vanden Stock Stadium. Continue reading