Wenger Humbled By The Man Who Would Be King

Bayern

It’s been too long.

It’s been far too long.

Life, work, new hobbies…they’ve all taken their toll on my Arsenal Ramble and it has been left neglected, out in the cold, like a Dickensian orphan.

Dear reader, forgive me.

I write today after a 5-1 humbling from the Teutonic Juggernaut that is Bayern Munich. A lot has already been put to paper by bigger and better than myself; both teams missing key players, Wenger vs. Guardiola, etc., etc.

My ramble is going to be about Arsenal’s (read: Wenger’s) approach to the Champions League this season.

The first game against Dinamo Zagreb smacked of ‘if we turn up, we’ll win.’ The team looked unbalanced and Zagreb actually tormented the defence all evening.

Against Olympiakos, Arsenal were sucker-punched. They received yet another lesson in counter-attacking football and how to use set-pieces wisely and effectively. Lessons that take place several times each season but are seemingly inexplicably ignored.

The Bayern match at home was, granted, a real victory for Wenger’s tactics. Bayern were themselves sucker-punched (or Giroud punched) by a well set-up, disciplined Arsenal XI.

But last night, Bayern caned Arsenal. And let’s be honest, it was as uneven a contest as you’ll ever see. It trumped the humbling’s dealt out by Barcelona over the years and even surpassed the brutality of previous Bayern Munich thrashings. I’m not sure Bellerin, Wilshere, Ramsey, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain or Koscielny would’ve made much difference.

Yes, Cech is a class act, and yes his defence in front of him has chopped-and-changed since he arrived, but he has now shipped sixteen goals in (IIRC) fifteen games this season.

Are Ozil and Sanchez being run into the ground? Sanchez hasn’t been on it since Watford away, can they both inspire some payback against Spurs on Sunday? Spurs on Sunday is a big one. It usually is, but now more than ever, Arsenal need to bounce back from this massive European setback and respond with a dominant performance against those noisy neighbours.

Is the Champions League lost? Who cares? Really? Who cares? If Arsenal beat Zagreb and better Olympiacos in Greece by two (a fixture that usually sees Arsenal become unstuck quicker than a sticky jelly toy tumbling down a window, much to the delight of the throwing child), surely it sets up a last-16 tie that will inevitably result in a away-goals loss…this Arsenal team cannot win the Champions League. We aren’t good enough over two legs against the better sides…or even sides we as fans and maybe the players too see as inferior sides: see AS Monaco, to sustain a credible challenge. Is this good enough for Ozil? For Sanchez? For Bellerin? For Gabriel? For Monreal? For Ramsey? For Cech? Nope. Not at all.

Is a spell in the Europa League going to placate fans? I think I know the answer already! Thursday evening games followed by Sunday fixtures…uurgh.

I’m not going to worry at all about Europe. It is a non-event; and has been since 2006 if I am honest. Spurs and the chance for partial redemption is what I am focusing on for now.

It may not be our year in the league, but there is a sense that it could be due to the inadequacies of the main contenders.

The two shoot-outs against Manchester City could well determine whether the glorious Premier League trophy stays in the South or goes back up North. I am sure Giroud’s very well taken goal will keep his confidence flowing and he does have a decent record against Spurs. But I for one am worried that Ozil and Sanchez are running themselves into the ground…and looking past them, who would step in?! January is a very hard time to buy players, but, my goodness, Wenger should be lining up some deals right now.

The reaction on Sunday will give us all a strog insight into the much vaunted (but rarely seen) mental strength of this squad…

Cheers.

Muller Oh dear. Mullered again.

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Who Watches The Watchmen?

The Watchmen

The Watchmen

It has been a while, it has been far too long.

Today, I am going to write ‘off-topic’ for an Arsenal blog. I am going to write about arguably the best comic book (graphic novel) movie adaptation there has been, and yes, I include Christopher Nolan’s brilliant ‘Dark Knight Trilogy’ and Zack Snyder’s follow up ‘Man Of Steel’ in that opinion. More on those later. Oh, and some James Bond thrown in too.

I want to talk about ‘Watchmen’ and specifically, the best expositional montage committed to celluloid. Five minutes and ten seconds of sheer directorial genius. Twenty Two scenes that set the tone, and warps the historical events between the 1930’s and the film’s ‘present day’ – 1985, that shaped The United States of America (and indeed, the world) around this alternate ‘Watchmen Universe.’ And it is a deeply layered piece of work.

“Welcome to the layer cake, son.”

Played out to the sublime ‘The Times They Are a-Changin” by Bob Dylan; what superb juxtaposition…

Scene 1 – We’re outside what many assume to be Gotham City’s Monarch Theatre, where, in the background, two well-dressed patrons have spent part of their evening stepping-out to watch ‘Footlight Frenzy.’ As ‘Watchmen’ is a DC film…and ‘Batman’ is a DC character, we can assume this to be a true assumption. In the foreground, an assailant (Jack Napier?) has been apprehended by the ‘Batman-look-alikey’ Watchman; ‘Nite Owl.’ Has his actions prevented the Wayne’s murder and thus, Bruce Wayne becoming ‘Batman?’ Layers…

Scene 2 – Sally Jupiter, AKA ‘Silk Spectre’ gets her introduction – a never more stunning Carla Gugino; stockings, suspenders and a corset…being photographed as a uniformed policemen cops a not-so-subtle eye-full…yes, she is indeed an object of lust.

Scene 3 – Enter ‘The Comedian.’ Fat cigar? Check. Maniacal grin? Check. Apprehended bad guy? Check.

Scene 4 – ‘The Minutemen’ – the first watchmen, here being photographed in 1940. This is an image that will be recreated forty years later when the new watchmen are formed.

Scene 5 – A silver Boeing B-29 Superfortress has just dropped the bomb over Hiroshima, and ‘Miss Jupiter’s’ portrait is emblazoned below the cockpit. Clearly Colonel Paul Tibbets thought her picture a more appropriate emblem than that of his mother’s: Enola Gay Tibbets, in this universe…

Scene 6 – Times Square, New York, VJ day and instead of a dark-clothed sailor kissing the pristinely white clad nurse, Ursula Zandt, AKA ‘The Silhouette’, ‘The Minutemen’s’ second female member, clad in what looks like a leather jumpsuit, has instead passionately embraced the nurse in front of the camera.

Scene 7 – Calamity. A ‘Captain America’ look alike is dead, stuck in a revolving door. A bank’s revolving door. We later discover that ‘Dollar Bill’s’ cape had become caught and was duly shot by the armed robbers he had attempted to apprehend. ‘The Minutemen’ are starting to unravel. It is 1947.

Scene 8 – ‘The Minutemen’ are gathered around a long table. Sally Jupiter is retiring. It looks damn-near-identical to the famous picture of Christ’s last supper. Sally Jupiter is pregnant. Layers people, layers.

Scene 9 – ‘Mothman’ with his bizarre costume wings flapping away, is being hauled off to an asylum, struggling as he is dragged into the back of an ambulance.

Scene 10 – ‘Silhouette’ and her female lover (the VJ Day Nurse?) are laying dead, on their bed. It is a crime-scene. Blood has been used to sprawl ‘Lesbian Whores’ on the wall at the bed-head.

Scene 11 – Suited men, one reading a newspaper proclaiming that Russia has developed an atomic bomb are sat in chairs on a house’s landing…like a make-shift waiting room. A lady be-clad in lingerie beckons one into the end bedroom just as another man departs, ruffling the red hair of a bewildered looking adolescent as he goes.

Scene 12 – John F. Kennedy is seen shaking the hand of a glowing blue man in front of the White House. It isn’t Tobias Funke.

Scene 13 – Dealey Plaza; downtown Dallas. John F. Kennedy has just been shot and Jackie Kennedy is scrambling over him to scoop up his head. The camera tracks the motorcade to the flyover and homes in on a gunman crouched on a grassy knoll. Fat cigar? Check.

Scene 14 – Sally Jupiter is arguing with a man. A small girl watches on. The camera slides past and focuses on a black and white news channel that shows a figure engulfed in flames on a street in South Vietnam. I think it is safe to assume that this is a scene that shows the Buddist monk Thich Quang Duc during his self-immolation protest in Saigon, 1963.

Scene 15 – Two rough-looking characters have just been discovered by the police, tied up around a fire hydrant. A gust of wind blows away a sketch that roughly depicts a Rorschach test…

Scene 16 – A flight of MiG’s perform a low flypast over Moscow’s Red Square; as ICBM launchers slowly roll down a packed parade ground, which is being overlooked by Leonid Brezhnev and a cigar chomping Fidel Castro.

Scene 17 – Kent State University, Ohio. Protesters are facing off military policemen and their row of rifles with fixed bayonets. A lone protester slips a white flower into the barrel of one. The gunshots are dull, staccato, shocking. The muted screams more so.

Scene 18 – The factory studio: Andy Warhol is being photographed in front of his now-famous silkscreen ‘Diptych’ painting. But it isn’t depicting Marilyn Monroe. It is a portrait of ‘The Nite Owl.’

Scene 19 – Neil Armstrong is on the moon. Mr Gorsky is getting his shout-out. A glowing blue man is seen reflected in Armstrong’s helmet visor. It isn’t Tobias Funke.

Scene 20 – ‘Ozymandias’ is outside Studio 54. Cameras flash. He is loving the attention. He is clad in his superhero costume. David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust and Mick Jagger are leaning on a car bonnet behind him. The Village People are also in the background. Bowie leans over to shake the hand of the man in the more outlandish costume as he walks over.

Scene 21 – ‘The Watchmen’ are having their group portrait taken. We’ve seen this scene before…

Scene 22 – President Richard Nixon has been re-elected for a third term. The electrical store’s windows are being graffeeited on…’Who Watches the Watchmen?’ A flaming Molotov cocktail hurtles towards the glass…

As I said, five minutes of genius. The casting; so very good. I first saw this film during a cruise on the Med’. I was unfamiliar with the novel, the concept or the film. I was drawn in. The violence was brutal, the language clever, the in-jokes plentiful. Patrick Wilson; an everyday looking, but at the same time also a handsome actor, perfect to play the hesitant second ‘Nite Owl.’ Malin Akerman, an actor I first saw in ‘Harold and Kumar…’ and who never really made an impression, cast as a startlingly sexy second ‘Silk Spectre’ in a costume tighter than the first incarnation…cripes! I had never seen or heard of Jeffrey Dean Morgan or Jackie Earle Haley before this film, and my word, they are awesome as ‘The Comedian’ and ‘Rorschach’ – to the point that I couldn’t imagine any other actor playing those roles. Carla Gugino; who can do sexy in her sleep, is wonderful as her ‘Silk Spectre’s’ younger and older selves. She portrays the character as if feminism never happened – perhaps it didn’t in this universe. Billy Crudup; another actor unfamiliar to me, is masterful as the dis-attached ‘Dr Manhattan’…even if it is mainly just his voice that we, the viewer, experience; as his character is a CGI creation that fits in seamlessly. And what we do see of Crudup – in flashbacks – he is excellent.

I have left Matthew Goode for last. He is a British actor, and once again, one I had not encountered on film before. He is quite marvellous as the ambiguous ‘Ozymandias’. In fact, after watching him again in ‘Stoker’ (superb, see it!) I can quite easily see him slipping on the tuxedo of James Bond. James Bond is a bit of a passion of mine…I have ‘cast’ James Bond in my head ever since Pierce Brosnan’s woeful follow-ups to ‘Goldeneye’ hit the cinemas…I couldn’t wait for him to leave, and thought Clive Owen would be the perfect replacement after watching ‘Croupier.’ Daniel Craig is, however, a savvy choice, and one I totally agreed with after his ‘audition’ in ‘Layer Cake.’ But now, with him aging and the films taking forever to make (hurry up Eon!), a replacement is surely due after the next two offerings…

For the record, my top-picks would be:

Mr Goode

Mr Goode

Matthew Goode – he can portray suave, cold, cruel and seductive expertly…as he did in ‘Watchmen’ and ‘Stoker’. He’s British and he isn’t ‘supermodel good-looking’ just rakishly handsome.

Mr Fassbender

Mr Fassbender

Michael Fassbender – probably the favourite for the role, but is he too ‘mainstream’ perhaps now? And would he commit to a franchise? He off course has the acting chops, the looks and the air of danger about him that Bond has in spades. He would be a great choice…but not my choice!

Mr Cavill

Mr Cavill

Henry Cavill – would movie-goers want him playing two indestructible characters? Hmm, I’m not sure, although he was the apparent runner-up to Daniel Craig when they were casting after Pierce Brosnan. Perhaps too good looking as well. A does he have the acting range..?!

Mr Dornan

Mr Dornan

Jamie Dornan – perhaps my first choice for James Bond after watching him in BBC’s ‘The Fall’. Dornan is handsome, and also has that air of foreboding about him that the character requires. I think he’d be perfect, but I am worried that ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ may put a hole in his career underneath the waterline…it could be a turkey. Luckily, ‘The Fall’ is coming back!

Now, is ‘Watchmen’ the best comic-based film? For me, it is. Whilst ‘Batman Begins’, ‘The Dark Knight’ and ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ are a superb trilogy, they have quite a small scope…it’s Batman vs. a baddie, in one city. Beautifully directed, shot and produced, with an astounding cast, but ‘Watchmen’ feels bigger, it covers more ground. It is an outsider’s view of America and the Cold War. ‘Man of Steel’ had for me, the best teaser-trailer campaign since ‘Cloverfield’ but the film didn’t quite match up to what we’d glimpsed at. I loved the concept of a Terrence Malick-looking superhero film; which the trailers suggested, but in the end, it wasn’t to be. ‘Watchmen’ combines the brutality of ‘300’ with the cynicism of ‘Catch-22’ and the dark, foreboding feel of Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight Trilogy’. It has it all. It is glorious.

I hope to have more Arsenal writing coming up, but finding the time just isn’t happening!

Thanks for reading,

Greg

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Headmaster’s January Team Report

New Year Reports

New Year Reports

Dear Parent/s.

I hope the New Year finds you well and that the tax man can be successfully avoided by you all this coming April. As you may know, The Islington Preparatory School for Boys uses a discreet tax arrangement in Belize; talk to Felipe if you go over there and tell him I sent you.

As highlighted, no, shouted in the media, The Islington Preparatory Club do indeed find themselves top of their Association Football League, despite strong challenges by The West Fulham Academy and the Abu Dhabi Manchester School for Boys and as is customary for this time of the year, the annual school report now finds its way winging via school messenger pigeon into your laps. I must say, as an aside, how wonderful it has been to see The Outer Mancunian Boys Boarding School, Ltd., whom, despite changing their leadership last year, are dutifully bumbling along, despite all of us knowing that their old headmaster, Sir Alex Ferguson (Keeper of the Watch) duked the OFSTED reports that kept the old school out performing the rest of us. Hat’s off too for old boy Van Persie, R., who is keeping up a stiff upper lip in his school’s sick bay. Chin up old fruit, I hear Germany is lovely in the summer.

Any how, jolly-ho and on with the reports.

Szczesny, W., Our Polish prefect has had a wonderful season thus far, and has successfully kept the goalkeeper’s jersey safely tucked away for himself (in a tuck basket, no doubt) this year. Foreign exchange student Viviano, E., and fellow prefect Fabianski, L., really should push on more during P.E. lessons if they want to usurp our agile young glovesman. A.

Sagna, B., Whilst we hope Sagna, B., continues into Further Education with The Islington Preparatory School for Boys for the next few years, we will understand if he’d like to take the opportunity to sample educational establishments abroad. The lad has had a corking season thus far and his work with Mr Bould in P.E. theory classes has really paid off. Top work. A.

Mertesacker, P., We are proud to announce that Mertesacker, P., has been awarded Head Boy status after his imperious performances on the pitch for our football team. Whilst many parents were questioning the removal of previous Head Boy Vermaelen, T., I fully endorse the actions of Monsieur Wenger and I (or my Personal Secretary) will personally carriage Vermaelen, T., to The Barcelona Technical College of Covert South American Transfers should he wish to continue his education elsewhere. A*.

Koscielny, L., WE have all been relieved to see that the diagnosis of ‘heads gone’ after the school trip to Ukraine last year was indeed incorrect, and Koscielny, L., has shown that his head hasn’t ‘gone’ nor has he ‘lost it’. In fact, we are fully anticipating that The Royal University of Massaging Economics, in Madrid will enquire about offering him a scholarship. We shall tell them just where to stick their junta. A-.

Gibbs, K., Young Master Gibbs has pushed on somewhat this season and the school nurse; Mr Lewin, has been pleased to note that his trips to the sick room to avoid P.E. have been less frequent since the summer hols’. Bravo Gibbs, K., keep it up. A-.

Monreal, N., Another good goal defender who has helped keep Gibbs, K., out of the sick room. Parents will note that a small percentage of school match trip money will be used to insure the left foot of Monreal, N., just in case Gibbs, K., has a re-occurrence of the ‘yips’ during the remainder of this season. B+.

Jenkinson, C., We at the club don’t feel that Jenkinson, C., has had the best season when called upon. However, he is still youthful and could still be in with a chance of getting a prefect spot. Keep slogging away young man. B.

Vermaelen, T., A quiet year for former Head Boy Vermaelen, T., and whilst he has done well this year when required, one cannot help feel that his heart just hasn’t been in it. I shall ask Monsieur Wenger to check whether an exchange visit to Spain might be called for, especially if former Head Boy Fabregas, C., would like to re-join the school. B-.

Flamini, M., Ah, Flamini, M., A damnably fine egg and we’re very much glad that he swapped AC Bunga-Bunga last summer to return to Islington. And a fine job he is doing. I’m glad to see that the monsterings that he hands out to the scholars are also handed out pitch-side too. A.

Rosicky, T., In what may be his last term at Islington, Rosicky, T., appears to be playing with the gusto and vision of a pupil possessed. Certainly, overtures from The Munich School of Smugness appear to have cropped up and I dare say that our younger scholars should look up to the craft that Rosicky, T., puts into his game. Why, he is even as keen in class, just the other day I saw him covered in chalk dust. A-.

Arteta, M., Head Boy Arteta, M., is another enjoying an Indian Summer with his game. Top performances this season, despite a lot of competition. The Bursar; Mr Gazidis is going to fund a project with our science department in order to successfully clone young Arteta, M’s., head of hair. Such scientific endeavours could really help our school’s funding. A.

Ramsey, A., Full marks and the award of Prefect to former scholar Ramsey, A., whose effort and work-rate this season has been exemplary. Full praise for Monsieur Wenger’s perseverance and vision in coaxing these performances from our Welsh Dragon. Bravo too, the school nurses who have also aided. A*.

Wilshere, J., Whilst we all commend Wilshere, J., for his efforts and improvement in front of goal, he must remember to resist reminding opposition parents that yes, the school motto does indeed begin with a ‘V’. He is also to be applauded for keeping the swear-box in Mr Akers’ office down to a record low…at this rate, we’ll only be able to afford one Harrod’s food shop a week! A.

Oxlade-Chamberlain, A., Alas, our young scholar is only just returning after a mishap playing against The Midland Academy for the Confused, and thus his school report is brief. However, he has shown signs of promise. B-.

Cazorla, S., Ahh, our young Spaniard, who has found his feet in halls after a credible first term here at Islington. Could do better however, and maybe less mucking about with Rosicky, T., after lights out perhaps? B+.

Ozil, M., Our latest student, who you will recall arrived from The Royal University of Massaging Economics, Madrid, last summer, and who used up all of the school’s air miles getting Nurse Lewin out to Munich. A good, solid start, but he must remember, great things are expected here at Islington, so ensure that you do some extra laps around the cross-country course with Mr Primovic. A-.

Gnabry, S., A young scholar who has done well when called upon. Stay focused and try to ignore distractors; such as Herr Klopp; the school master at the North Rhine-Westphalia College for Gifted Boys. Bravo. B+.

Walcott, T. We have all been saddened by the numerous visits to the nurses’ room this year by Walcott, T., and his prolonged absence will be felt, I am sure, by all. Chin up lad, hopefully a New Year’s visit from former Head Boy Henry, T., will perk you up. I know that he is bringing over Hershey Bars and fizzy pop. B+.

Bendtner, N. *Note from Mr Bould* “Get that hair cut lad, you’re not in Italy now!” I think, that, well, speaks for itself. Get that done, Bendtner, N., and pull your socks up, you’re in Islington now, not Chinawhite (whatever that is). C.

Podolski, L., *Additional note from Mr Bould* “Three more laps of the field, schnell, schnell!” Good effort, must try harder. B.

Giroud, O., Our resident swordsman…in so far that he is our school’s best fencer too. Giroud, O., is one that does try, but perhaps needs to spend less time in the barber’s – send Bendtner, N., there please – and more time in the opposition’s six yard rectangle. B+.

Sanogo, Y., Sadly our young scholar has been holed up in the nurses’ office and thus, his report is brief and to the point: Where are you?! C-.

Park, C-Y., Could anyone who may have seen young Park, C-Y., please phone admissions on 01987 765236. Otherwise our truant officer; Mr Keown, will have to be summoned into service. D.

I trust any parents whom disagree with my report and the affixed grades will contact me promptly, via my Secretary.

Don’t forget, the National Cup match is on Friday against The Midland Shambles FC. Please bring Bovril and (branded) Wine Gums for the school mini-bus. Monsieur Wenger will put the team up on the dorm’ walls on Thursday.

Up The Islington Preparatory School for Boys!

Sir Fries.

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Question Marks Over Arsenal’s Title Bid

Jack doing what we're all thinking...

Jack doing what we’re all thinking…

Morning guys,

So…Arsenal travelled up North (where we do what we want) to play a Manchester City side who have been positively bristling with confidence in their home stadium, for the London club’s second ‘don’t lose this game’ of the week.

And…Arsenal got humped 6-3. Against Napoli, the agenda was ‘Don’t get beaten by three or more goals, and you know what, if we draw or win we’ll be top of our group and hopefully get a better draw in the next round’ and against Man City, the brief was ‘We failed to capitalise on our rivals’ woeful weekend last week by drawing against Everton and throwing a lead away, but if we get a result today, well, we’ll be in great shape to face Chelsea in nine days time.’

Arsenal demonstrated again on Saturday that this team DOES lack mental strength. The team were practically beaten against Manchester United before the game kicked off, because of the toll previous beatings have installed into the team’s collective mind, plus Per Mertesacker was ill…I suspect that the team took a hit in the dressing room from that news. Against Napoli, Arsenal failed to produce the goods up front to even worry the porous Italian side, and against Man City, yes, three good goals were scored, yes, some decisions very much went against the away side, but seriously, you cannot give a team like Manchester City so many freebies. Time and time again, the defence and midfield parted or gave the ball away cheaply and Man City’s danger-men, who, you would’ve thought would be known to Arsenal before the game started, took the Gunners to the sword. Arsenal have lacked against Manchester Utd, Manchester City and Chelsea already this season, and have broken even against Borussia Dortmund and Napoli over two games.

Frankly, the game against Chelsea takes even bigger meaning. A win would get the now wobbling title-bid back on track…but can Wenger beat Mourinho for the first time, let alone when the chips are down, Laurent Koscielny is injured and the free-styling movement of the side has ground to a halt? A loss would frankly be catastrophic in my view – Arsenal won’t win a title just on games against your rivals, but it bloody well helps. It is do-able, but Chelsea are back in the groove and are winning when they aren’t playing well. Beating the smaller teams is vital and Arsenal are doing that, but you really should, at least, beat your rivals at your home ground. Hence why Chelsea at home, on Christmas Eve Eve, is vital. Utterly vital. Even a draw, would, I think, sacrifice the top spot. And with Man City’s goal difference, every point will be vital. I dread to think what will happen to this season if Arsenal get beaten by Chelsea. The great, promising, resurgent start will have been pissed away.

The defence need to have a serious word with themselves. Did Thomas Vermaelen’s introduction actually weaken the backline?

Are Olivier Giroud, Yaya Sanogo and Nicklas Bendtner really the only strikers that Arsene Wenger will call upon to win a league, or indeed, a trophy?

Should Theo Walcott start against Chelsea – is he Arsenal’s best ‘big game player’ now?

Does Jack Wilshere need to be dropped – although he is playing out wide?

Will Wenger buy in January – surely a CB, CF and RB are needed?!

Will Bacary Sagna sign a new deal?

So many questions and answers we won’t know until next week against Chelsea.

Thanks for reading,

@GregCross82

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Is This It

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Arsenal’s Injury Issues – An Analysis

An all too familiar sight for Arsenal fans; an injured star player. Picture: BR

An all too familiar sight for Arsenal fans; an injured star player. Picture: BR

Hello Gooners, this is a post I have long looked forward to publishing, as fellow Arsenal fan Jake Schuster (who is a Boston-born MSc Sports Nutrition student currently studying at Loughborough University, with experience working with elite and professional level athletes in four different countries) and I managed to have a chat; getting in-depth about Arsenal and the many injury issues that have beset the club since the turn of the century.

Arsenal fans have seen, amongst others in the current squad, Lukas Podolski, Kieran Gibbs, Thomas Vermaelen, Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Tomas Rosicky and Abou Diaby blighted by injuries that at times have seemed never-ending, as well injuries to ex-players like Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg, who both suffered with chronic problems during their Arsenal tenure. And not forgetting the shocking leg injuries sustained by Aaron Ramsey and Eduardo da Silva, where in both cases, the Arsenal medical team’s prompt actions not only saved the player’s careers, but their seriously injured limb too, as well as Bacary Sagna, who suffered two leg breaks in quick succession.

Jake can of course be found on Twitter – @CoolHandJakeGS – he is a massive Gooner and I think he is quite simply a must-follow…despite him being a fan of Kings of Leon sound-alikes Creedence Clearwater Revival… I really could talk to him all day (but the court order says firmly that I can’t).

Jake also blogs (brilliantly) at http://www.WelltraveledWellness.com about nomadic lifestyles, nutrition, fitness, travel and sport, amongst other topics. I strongly suggest that you ‘Favourite’ or bookmark his website as well.

I hope you enjoy the read, and please share it if you have liked it, or leave a comment below. Many thanks.

Ramsey has been in imperious form after a careful recovery period.

Aaron Ramsey has been in imperious form this season after a carefully managed recovery period.

GC – Jake, when Arsene Wenger first arrived from Japan, he introduced a dietary regime and fitness programme that several players – such as Lee Dixon and Tony Adams – attribute to their longer-than-average (at the time) careers. He had players get their wisdom teeth removed to prevent affiliated issues too. Fast forward to now – Arsenal have suffered for at least six to seven years with frequent injuries, often long term, across all the outfield playing positions, what do you think has changed?

JS – The sports science landscape in English football has seen a dramatic biphasic change since Arsene Wenger landed on these shores a decade and a half ago. At first he was miles ahead of anyone, but now other teams have caught up, and this makes Arsenal look disadvantaged by default. The technology that is used to screen players for injuries is standardized among most professional football clubs now, as are the methods of injury rehab. Arsenal DO screen players with wellness questionnaires every day, among many other methods.

When Wenger entered England the approach to managing athletes was completely different. Now, a healthy and fit lifestyle is a prerequisite to being a professional athlete, and even third-tier football teams have highly qualified performance coaches monitoring everything the athletes do. I don’t think the new infrastructures in English football have been in place long enough to know if players are still having longer careers under Wenger than with other managers, but it is fair to say that Arsenal have seen their fair share of injuries over the past half-decade. Perhaps some of this is a consequence of playing style and the type of footballer (small, slight, quick) most commonly brought into the squad. Then again, one look at Tomas Rosicky this season shows us that longevity is still an option for a skilful player! In general, my observation is that lack of squad depth and Gary Lewin leaving have both instigated and magnified any injuries issues among the Arsenal players.

Other top clubs have seen plenty of long-term injuries -think about Michael Essien (at Chelsea) – but have had the depth to mitigate the effect of injuries on team success as well as to allow players to return to playing at their own pace. Perhaps this season we are seeing the positive consequences of a having a relatively deep squad, as most injury absences among the first XI have been short ones with minimal deleterious effects.

Even amateur bloggers can see this pattern of injuries at Arsenal, I wonder at times ‘why can’t the club?’ Or specifically, as they surely can see their injury records from over the years, why haven’t we seen any improvements? Fans instead still see or hear of set-back after set-back for players that we are told are only out for ‘three weeks’ initially. It seems Arsenal’s medical team are indeed missing (now England team physio) Gary Lewin’s valuable input.

Have Arsenal been guilty of playing younger players – like Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott – too often and too early in their physical development?

Perhaps there have been instances where fans are left wondering if a players who was keen to return to or stay on the field continued on when he shouldn’t have. I’d say the Sports Science team at Arsenal have been brilliant in that regard of late, managing Oxlade-Chamberlain well last year and keeping Wilshere fit this season, as well as obviously nurturing Ramsey back to (and beyond) full fitness. It’s easy to second-guess decisions in hindsight, but Sports Scientists are humans and it is impossible to know with certainty what will happen with an athlete’s injury status every time. Young players especially often heal quickly and want to play every week, it’s hard to keep them down!

Additionally, thought paradigms with regards to how much to train/play athletes have only recently caught up to ideas behind how to train, and there are new trends in the sports sciences to closely monitor over-training statuses, stress levels, sleep, hydration, etc. These ideas and technologies are now being used by Arsenal to keep players on the field, and they simply weren’t around when Wenger showed up in 1998 and was able to blow away the competition simply by enforcing healthy lifestyles and good nutrition! It’s a constant evolution, and you can see that Arsenal are working to stay at the forefront.

The medical team are clearly doing a great job with the ‘freak injuries’ Arsenal players have endured in recent seasons – how they dealt with the breaks suffered by Remi Shaaban, Eduardo Da Silva and Aaron Ramsey saved their careers – are these bone injuries easier to deal with than muscular injuries? Can they be more preventable at all?

Bone injuries are far more straightforward from a therapeutic perspective. The healing, re-strengthening, and rehabilitation process as whole is actually (relatively) simple. With muscular injuries, the variation in the response of the athlete is massive. Bone injuries are usually a ‘wrong place at the wrong time’ scenario, making them largely unpreventable. Well…maybe Stoke getting relegated would help!

How different is English sport’s general approach to sports science and sporting injuries – especially prevention – compared to mainland Europe’s approach?

In my experience Continental Europeans are more likely to be open-minded about approaches and techniques that would be considered, in English speaking countries, to be ‘alternative’. While the ‘Dutch Skunk’ jumping into a pile of horse placentae was a step too far, concepts such as meditation, gluten-free diets, and Eastern Medicine>Western Pharmaceuticals treatments are slow to develop in England. Even various soft-tissue (massage) techniques which have been used in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia for decades are still thought of as ‘niche’ in the English-speaking world. What is used to improve athletes is often simply the best of what is known and felt comfortable with, not necessarily what works best. It should be known, though, that around the world scientists and sports teams alike want to know how to track and prevent injuries in football: I’m currently applying for a PhD split between Sydney, Oslo, and Germany to develop a new screening system for football injuries!

So Jake, what are your hopes for Arsenal this season, especially after the injured Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott return?

I think Arsenal will win the league and get to the Champions League semi finals, but bow out of the FA cup at the quarter final stage. I think Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain are big wild cards…it could be a lost season for both, or one (or both) could give the team a huge boost in the second half of the season. It will be interesting to see how they each integrate with Ozil and perhaps take some scoring load off of Olivier Giroud. Personally (I feel alone in this) I think ‘Prinz Poldi’ will come back with a flourish and play a big role in the stretch run this year. He can score goals, and I think people falsely say he can’t play centre-forward. He was far from fit (ankle?!) last year when played upfront, and I’d bet he does a job for a stretch when Giroud inevitably goes down for a period of time. I think Arsenal still need to buy an additional striker in January and really believe they will, and that will propel them to the EPL title! It took Arsene Wenger some time to put together a third-evolution Arsenal team, but that team appears to be gelling and thriving this year, and I believe they will now rise to and stay at the top of European football for years to come!

Excellent, cheers Jake, it seems then that the issues stem from other teams catching up with the fitness/nutritional techniques that Wenger trail blazed with when he first arrived, or perhaps – in my view – Arsenal have been falling behind a bit in terms of their approach to sports science/data analysis, as well as from having a small squad with Wenger’s favourite XI, plus having to cope after suffering from some freak injuries that sometimes cannot be accounted for. Let us hope that these issues don’t derail this promising season! I personally think, looking at previous Arsenal league-winning seasons with information that @Goonerjon777 tweeted me on Sunday – “in 1997 we had 24 points at this stage, 23 points in 2001 & 33 points in 2003, all after 13 games” – Arsenal have 31 points after 13 games, this is a good precedent for a successful season, I think we will know more after the festive fixtures. I also think the home games against the Manchester clubs and Chelsea will be absolutely vital. With Arsenal being linked to forwards Alexandre Pato (SC Corinthians) and Julian Draxler (Schalke 04) this weekend, maybe a signing will be made in January, a la Walcott or Reyes that will just help push the team over the line to win a trophy…and with a lot of ‘Twitter smoke’ in the air regarding Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morata joining Arsenal on loan…there could well be some strengthening after Christmas.

Thanks for reading, and thanks again to Jake for the chat!

@GregCross82

Rosicky seems to have placed his injury-woes behind him and is teeing up a new contract extension...

Rosicky seems to have placed his injury-woes behind him and is teeing up a new contract extension…

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Ramsey returns to blitz The Bluebirds

The best 'keeper in Europe?

The best ‘keeper in Europe?

Good morning gang,

Firstly, a big happy birthday to my long-suffering wife, who is closer to thirty now than she was yesterday! Please give her a follow on Twitter – @NikkiEmmaCross – she’d love some birthday followers.

Well, how impressive were Arsenal eh? Three goals, with two more from the irrepressible Aaron Ramsey, a player who is making a real mockery of his price-tag, which looks increasingly like a bargain when he was prized away by Arsene Wenger from Cardiff City.

And what about the Polish #1?! What a crucial, Gordon Banks-esque save at 0-1 that kept Arsenal in the game, and arguably ensured that three points were heading back over the Severn Bridge to England. Is there actually a better goalkeeper in Europe, or the World at this moment? Manuel Neuer doesn’t look invincible, Iker Casillas has lost his club and country places and Gianluigi Buffon isn’t getting any younger. And neither Hugo Lloris nor David De Gea looked as good as Arsenal’s big Pole in their 2-2 draw yesterday. To keep a clean sheet against Cardiff City on Saturday and produce the saves that he did is a big indicator that Wenger has finally solved his ‘#1 Problem’ and I am delighted that Arsenal have a backline that looks capable of keeping this stingy goals-against momentum going. It is a solid base to build on.

As for the outfielders, Mesut Ozil assisted two goals, with two immaculate, shave off your Movember ‘tache razor sharp passes and with Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, ran the show, with Mikel Arteta and latterly Mathieu Flamini sweeping up behind the inter-linking attackers. Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla weren’t quite at the races, and one wonders whether the Handsome French Hunk should be rested against Hull City (who beat Liverpool comprehensively) in order to keep him fresh for the huge game against Manchester City. I am sure Theo Walcott could do a job up front against the Tigers, and he assisted Flamini well for his spank of a strike on Saturday.

Lukas Podolski must also be chomping at the bit too! Watching the Arsenal midfield strut their stuff in the Premier League this season must be porn for an Arsenal attacker. And another clean sheet is highly welcome, making it three games in a row with a shut-out for the brilliant backline.

Tomorrow, I hope to post a (I think at least) brilliant piece by myself and Jake Schuster (@CoolHandJakeGS) regarding Arsenal and their injury issues. I can’t wait and Jake has excelled himself with some salient points.

Best wishes too for Arsenal legend Pat Rice, as he undergoes treatment. I think I speak for all Gooners in saying ‘Get well soon Pat.’

Take care you Gooners, have a great one!

@GregCross82

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Au revoir, Olympique!

Jack sucking. Not as much as Olympique Marseille.

Jack sucking. Not as much as Olympique Marseille.

Bonjour le gang!

Well, that game started and finished quicker than a rabbit with premature ejaculation, didn’t it?! Twenty-nine seconds was all it took for Olympique Marseille to almost blunder through Arsenal’s backline, using their biggest battering ram, André-Pierre Gignac, only for the Gunners to clear down the right flank, finding the superlative Jack Wilshere on the wing, who burst forward, hit the box, cut in and caressed a shot with his left into the far top corner. Game over against a depleted Olympique Marseille, there and then. If Jack needs to add anything to his game, it is shooting and scoring. Well, he certainly did that last night. His second goal, after great work by Mesut Ozil, was an easier tap-in, but a lot of credit goes to Jack as well, as he made a nice, late David Platt-esque run into the six yard box to grab that much simpler goal.

Not the best penalty he'll ever take...

Not the best penalty he’ll ever take…

Mesut Ozil, dare we say it, didn’t have the greatest day at the office. His famously gorgeous first touch evaded him when a scooped ball sent him through on goal and his penalty was weak and unconvincing to say the least. ‘German Misses Penalty Shock’ would be an appropriate headline there…

Two home penalties awarded in two games (after none had been given at The Emirates so far this season) and one scored. This one was arguably conceded outside the box after Aaron Ramsey was tripped, so perhaps some Karma was due to an Olympique Marseille team who only threatened once Florian Thauvin came off of their bench. And what a great clearance by Nacho Monreal after his shot threatened to drop over Arsenal’s goal-line! Monreal was superb all game on that left flank and he really looks like another canny Wenger buy. Ozil, to his credit, continued on with his head-up a little higher after that penalty miss and laid on Wilshere’s second goal very nicely. Also in midfield, Aaron Ramsey continued his incessant quest to achieve legendary club status before Christmas with a powerhouse performance and really should’ve made the score two-nil just minutes after Wilshere’s opener. Santi Cazorla put in a nice cameo, and again, should have wrapped up a game Arsenal tried their hardest to make a meal out of, when a chance fell to him on his left foot, but was sadly skied high over the bar. Theo Walcott also continued his comeback, and had a chance that he snatched at. A game that really should have been four or five-nil, ended up being a slightly (only slightly) nervy two-nil. Mathieu Flamini was as industrious as ever in defensive midfield – but please don’t tell me ‘Sleevegate’ is a thing now. That bloody hotel and Tricky Dicky have a lot to answer for. Why couldn’t it have been called ‘Waterworks’ or something?! I also thought Per Mertesacker was brilliant last night. He was absolutely magnificent and is easily Arsene’s best signing from that 2011 trolley-dash. Sorry Mikel’s hair. Arteta did look lively when he came on too, hopefully the rustiness I thought I saw at the weekend with his play has been loosened up…is it bad I only noticed that Tomas Rosicky was playing about twenty minutes into the game?!

So, that is twelve points gained from the group of death and only a heavy loss in Naples will deny Arsenal progress into the knock-out rounds. Two two-nil games on the spin, well done you Gunners!

It was great to see another shocking away performance from Chelsea last night too, what with their forthcoming trip to The Emirates coming up. Mohamed Salah of FC Basel looks far too good for the Swiss league and I think he will be snapped-up in January. And as for Andre Villas-Boas at Tottenham precarious position, what a laugh eh? How much money has that team spunked up the wall trying to play ‘Arsenal-Catch-Up’?! Daniel Levy really is in danger of looking like a complete megalomaniac if he fires yet another manager. And so help me if they lure Michael ‘Dreamy’ Laudrup to White Hart Lane…

Have a great ‘hump day’ guys and girls…I had to say a really big apology to my neighbours this morning as I had dreadfully misunderstood the meaning of ‘hump day’…and I may not be allowed back into that park again.

Cheers then,

@GregCross82

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Saints Gunned Down

What's Polish for 'D'oh!'?

What’s Polish for ‘D’oh!’?

Morning gang, firstly, I am very sorry for the lack of recent Arsenal-Ramble-Goodness, but a teething daughter and her first birthday party put any plans I had to nip away for a bit to get some ramblings down, to be scrapped if I am being honest. Who knew children’s parties were so stressful? They weren’t when I was a child…

Plus it was the internationals last week, and who really gives a shit about two meaningless England friendlies?! No one wants me to write a post on those!

On a weekend that included Mario Gotze returning to haunt his old club Borussia Dortmund; whose injury list now seems likely to really affect their Champions League performances, Liverpool dropping two points against a ebullient Everton side in a hyperactive Merseyside Derby, Manchester United’s seemingly irresistible pull with referees again rearing it’s ugly head (come on guys, Fergie has gone, you can relax, seriously, he won’t say nasty things about you poor, precious match officials anymore, or if he does, he’ll put it in a book so he can pocket a few more pennies); with Rooney staying on the pitch after a nasty incident but which didn’t help them as they threw away two points thanks to a spirited Cardiff City come-back. And then the weekend gave us Tottenham, a tragic Tottenham who were in desperate need of Carl Froch’s referee for their match, as they suffered a spanking against the irresistible Manchester City (at home, that is). Spurs really needed the game to be finished way before half time and Froch’s referee would surely have saved them from the humiliation that followed. Downward Spiral, eh, Andre? Tottenham, who have Emmanuel Adebayor haemorrhaging their wage bill, Roberto Soldado looking as cutting up front as a wooden spoon and Hugo Lloris who is determined to pay back his #1 status in my Fantasy Football Team’s line-up with Chuckle Brother-esque performances, you have to say that Andre Villas-Boas looks on shaky ground; has he been found out again at another London club? Twitter is awash with rumours that former Tottenham mercen…I mean, legendary striker Jurgen Klinsmann will take over after leading The USA national team to the World Cup Finals next year…leaving Andres to contemplate another premature exit. Bless them. Watch out for those Downward Spirals fella. Finally, we saw the tactical mastery of Sam Allardyce, as his plan to relegate West Ham and pocket a nice pay-off gathers increasing pace, following an absolute caning from Chelsea. You’d have thought they should have known to close Frank Lampard down, eh? So bravo Big Sam, bravo! Maybe buy a striker, or three in January, perhaps? Talking of which, did Arsene really say he didn’t want a striker in January? Damn it!

And then we get to Arsene Wenger’s glorious Arsenal. An Arsenal who welcomed the high-flying Saints to The Emirates and sent them back down to the South coast with a sore bottom and a wise lesson learnt; no, not ‘don’t employ Harry Redknapp,’ the lesson on Saturday was don’t fanny about with the ball if you are a goalie and a devilishly handsome, urbane French bloke is chasing you down!

Olivier Giroud netted his ninth and tenth goals against an effervescent Southampton side who threatened the Arsenal back line through-out the match, and if you compare the £12m Arsenal spent recruiting Giroud from the south of France to the £26m Tottenham spent recruiting Soldado from the south of Spain, then you see just how well Wenger can still do in the market he knows best. Giroud’s first goal had more to do with Boruc’s faffing than pure skill, but you don’t turn down freebies, do you? As for his penalty, it was despatched with venom and again, no point doing anything clever when facing a team that had the impressive Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez probing and prompting Arsenal for 90 minutes. Two ‘easy goals’ and a nice recovery (again) after the last lost league game.

Other positive notes include Jack Wilshere’s performance; he really looked like he has rediscovered some form on Saturday, Theo Walcott’s return from a hernia problem, Per Mertesacker’s imperious defensive work and Wojciech Szczesny’s ‘keeping; showing fellow countryman and rival Artur Boruc how to really do this goalkeeping lark. Plus, of course, Aaron Ramsey was sublime, and could have notched, along with Wilshere, a goal of the season contender. That damn post. With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski to return soon, Wenger is going to have some real selection headaches to come. Which is great, I reckon.

However, Mikel Arteta’s performance was slightly under-par, and he looked a little sloppy and slow. Is the man shattered after a non-playing international break?

So, 2-0, three precious points in the bag and a home game against a hopefully disillusioned Olympique Marseille side to come on Tuesday. A great weekend had for The Arsenal and us growing-hopeful-Gooners.

But come on, how good were Bayern Munich as well on Friday?! Pep Guardiola has them playing like Ajax, circa 1994-1995 and the ‘interchangability’ of players like Alaba, Lahm, Gotze, Tiago, Martinez and Boateng gives them so many tactical switch options; it is like a Teutonic Total Football, with added Catalan flair. Superb. Scary. Impressive. Poor old Jurgen Klopp had the look of a man who was witnessing his ex-girlfriend being squired around town in a Ferrari by a Monaco playboy when Gotze netted his superb strike.

Thanks for reading,

Take care,

@GregCross82

HAPPY BIRTHDAY CAITLIN! Love, Mummy and Daddy.

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Wenger’s #1 Problem

Has he ever been replaced?

Has he ever been replaced?

Morning Gooners, I’d like to talk today about Arsene Wenger’s Number One Problem. No, not his eyesight, nor his frankly ridiculous sleeping bag coat (let’s hope Puma don’t make a replica next season), I mean his Number One position: Goalkeeper. I may be a touch unfair, but I think Wenger has only signed one decent goalie in his Arsenal career. Maybe two. Can you guess them? I’ll give you a paragraph break…

Yes, Wenger did have the unenviable job of replacing the legendary David Seaman, but he has spent most of his Arsenal career sitting on a lot of available transfer money, and plenty of top, top quality goalkeepers have moved clubs within the last 17 years (including Sebastien Frey…) and arguably none have made the journey to N5 (near misses like Paul Robinson and Craig Gordon don’t count here…).

If you have said ‘Jens Lehmann and Alex Manninger’ then you win my respect and admiration. But let us look at those goalkeeper signings and sum up their Arsenal careers.

Alex Manninger – (1997 – 2002) Manninger was signed in 1997 from Grazer AK as a deputy for the aging David Seaman, and was called into action during his first season as Seaman succumbed to an injury. Manninger, in my opinion, was a decent goalkeeper who certainly played a large part in Arsenal’s Double win that season. Manninger left after another three seasons as Arsenal’s number two, and was arguably one of Wenger’s best bargain buys, regardless of position.

Richard Wright – (2001 – 2002) Wright was signed from Ipswich Town for an undisclosed fee and I think was viewed as Seaman’s long term successor for both club and country by many in the game. Whilst Wright had an average season, with only a howler against Charlton Athletic the one mistake that sticks in the memory, Wright never held the number one spot, despite Seaman suffering another injury during that season. Wright lost his place and then dropped below Stuart Taylor in the pecking order. Whilst he did play a role in Wenger’s second Double, he was sold to Everton the following summer.

Rami Shaaban – (2002 – 2004) After Wright’s exit and Seaman’s inevitable exit on the horizon, many Gooners were expecting a seriously good goalkeeper to arrive. To say Rami Shaaban was underwhelming would be an understatement. The Swedish ‘keeper started his career off well, ably deputising Seaman after yet another injury. But a bad leg-break scuppered what could have possibly been a realistic shot at the number one position and at the time, it was feared that he wouldn’t be able to play top flight football again. By the time Shaaban had recovered, Wenger had finally signed a decent goalkeeper.

Guillaume Warmuz – (2002 – 2003) Warmuz was signed in winter 2002 on a free transfer as cover for Seaman and Shaaban, and failed to play for the first team. Warmuz left for Dortmund as their goalkeeper went the opposite way…

Jens Lehmann – (2003 – 2008 & 2011) Lehmann was signed from Borussia Dortmund and played an instrumental role in The Invincibles team. Lehmann had suffered a flop move to AC Milan earlier in his career and I think this had spurred him on to achieve in England. Lehmann had at least three superb seasons wearing the #1 shirt and his leadership and unflappable attitude helped Wenger bed-in a youthful new defence as he replaced the last of George Graham’s defensive legends. However, a loss of form resulted in a certain Spaniard taking the number one position, and that is where his Arsenal tenure started to go wrong. Lehmann did re-sign on a free in 2008 to cover the goalkeeper position and did a good job again, rolling back the years!

Manuel Almunia – (2004 – 2012) Almunia joined in 2004, in a quietly announced transfer from Celta Vigo ( a lovely town, by the way) as back-up for Lehmann. His appearance in the 2006 Champions League Final after Lehmann was sent off was arguably the most crucial game he had ever appeared in and I think he was culpable for both of the Barcelona goals. In 2007, Lehmann was dropped and Almunia made first choice. What followed was, for me, the start of Arsenal’s mediocrity that stemmed from the back. Almunia was for many, a liability who lacked Lehmann’s leadership and attitude, as well as his ability. Almunia left after losing his place in 2010 to the two Polish ‘keepers and is now playing for Watford. I don’t think Arsenal were ever capable of winning a trophy with Almunia in the number one position at the club.

Lukasz Fabianski – (2007 – Present) Fabianski joined in 2007 after a league winning campaign for Legia Warsaw and his career at the club has been mixed, to say the least. He has conceded a lot of ‘soft goals’ and is the personification of a ‘confidence player’ and I don’t think that he has been able to really stake a claim for the #1 shirt due to his apparent inability to get over knocks to his confidence. Fabianski isn’t a complete goalkeeper and I think he lacks the penalty box presence that his compatriot has…

Wojciech Szczęsny – (2009 – Present) Arsenal’s current #1 and a player who you can’t say lacks confidence. Whilst he is prone to the occasional rush of blood (he thinks himself a ‘sweeper keeper’ I reckon) he can certainly pull off great saves and isn’t afraid to rule his area and boss his defence around. Szczesny has battled through some awful injuries too and whilst he isn’t great yet, he is the first ‘keeper I think since Lehmann who could be considered great in the near future. He does seem to have grown up a lot since his first few years and I think his competition for club and country has helped push him on and upwards. A new, long-term contract shows just how much faith Le Boss has in the confident Pole and his performances this season have certainly warranted such a pay-rise. Let us hope that deters those clubs prepared to pay daft money on replacing misfiring goalkeepers *cough* *Manchester City* *cough*…

Emiliano Viviano – (2013 – Present) As for Viviano, who knows? We have yet to see him in action, and whilst he has international pedigree, we don’t know if this will translate into the English game. We shall await with interest!

So, is Arsenal’s Polish #1 the man to lead Arsenal from the back to success, or are their candidates out there better than those ‘keepers who the club currently have on their books? I personally like the Germanic foursome of Ron-Robert Zieler (despite his Manchester United history), Rene Adler, Marc-Andre Ter Stegen and Oliver Baumann, as well as Stoke City’s Asmir Begovic and of course there is the current puzzle surrounding the ignominious career-drop Real Madrid’s Iker Casillas, who may very well want to move on from his present situation, having fallen out of favour in a big way with both his club and the Spanish team. Barcelona’s Victor Valdes is also on the move…but may favour AS Monaco, joining his old friend Eric Abidal there (as well as tax-free, coastal living!). We know that the Puma money will soon be rolling in…

Thanks for reading,

@GregCross82

(A version of this post appeared on Gunners Town last month)

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