It’s Groundhog Day again for Arsenal

There was a sense of déjà vu about Arsenal’s defeat by Tottenham at the weekend.

Not in the sense of losing to Spurs as that hasn’t happened too often under Arsene Wenger. But in the sense that it is reminiscent of the situation 12 months ago.

It wasn’t the way Wenger would have wanted to mark his 700th Premier League game as Arsenal manager.

Losing 2-1 at White Hart Lane, especially after being in front at half-time, has again led to fears that Arsenal are in danger of missing out on qualification for next season’s Champions League.

That finishing in the top four is the target when we’re only just into February is clearly a disappointment after at least being involved in the title race for the opening months of last season. A 14-point gap to Chelsea isn’t going to be bridged in the next three months is it?

And it is understandable why there is annoyance, even anger, when making the Champions League again is what will be classed as a successful season.

The parallels with this time of year last season are drawn with Arsenal losing 5-1 at Liverpool the week before the FA Cup fifth round, which was a similarly demoralising and depressing defeat as Saturday’s was at Spurs.

But Arsenal recovered from that setback to subsequently knock Liverpool out of the FA Cup before going on to beat Hull City in the final.

Wenger also ensured Arsenal qualified for the Champions League for the 17th consecutive year.

An FA Cup fifth round tie at home to Middlesbrough offers a great opportunity to reach the quarter-finals and Arsenal could easily end the week back inside the top four.

So, come the end of May, there could be a repeat of the 2013/14 season, with Arsenal finishing in fourth place and winners of the FA Cup.

But, it is this perpetual feeling of Groundhog Day which is the source of such discontent when it comes to talk about Wenger and Arsenal’s future, and what is the ultimate ambition.

Wenger never wavers in his belief that Arsenal will finish in the top four. Meanwhile, the odds have Arsenal as 4/9 to finish in the Premier League’s top four.

Yet the fans demand more than that. There is a desire, a desperation even, to see a sustained assault on the title, which hasn’t been won since 2004. That only three clubs have won the league since then, and those are the three with the biggest resources, is of little consequence.

It always seems a case of one step forward, and then one step back, over and over again. The promise and potential is there, the footballing talent is unquestionable, but the character and bull-by-the-horns leadership of past greats like Adams and Vieira always seems to be out of reach.

Sure, the game has moved on since Adams and Vieira were leading Arsenal’s charge for honours. But there is always the need for players of that ilk.

It is hard to see Arsenal’s seemingly pre-determined seasonal destiny changing until that issue is addressed.

Still, would finishing fourth at the expense of Spurs make up for failing to challenge for the title?

 

Why Arsenal need top stars not Krystian Bielik

Arsene Wenger’s swoop for highly-rated Legia Warsaw midfielder Krystian Bielik will be welcomed by the Arsenal fans, who are keen to see the squad bolstered ahead of a tough second half of the season.

At just 17-years-old, however, Bielik is one for the future and has made just five starts for his club this season. If he does make the move to the Emirates, he looks unlikely to break straight into the first team and dislodge the likes of Jack Wilshere or Aaron Ramsey just yet.

If Arsenal are to progress in the Champions League or to break back into the Premier League top four, Wenger must look to sign established stars that are ready to contribute to the team’s efforts straight away.

Potential

There is no doubting Bielik’s potential. Legia Warsaw are also clearly confident of his temperament, having made him the youngest player to appear in the Europa League this season when he came on as a substitute against Trabzonspor. But the Premier League will surely be too big a step up at this stage.

Having signed goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny from Legia Warsaw as a 16-year-old, Wenger will be hoping for similar success with Bielik. But he will know that it will take time for him to get up to speed. You can follow his progress and keep up with other transfer and betting news at bluesq.

Consistency

Having lost two of their last six league games, including a 3-2 defeat to this weekend’s opponents, Stoke City, Arsenal must find some consistency in the New Year if they are to make a challenge for silverware.

There is no doubt that Arsene Wenger needs to strengthen and that defensive midfield is a priority area, but he should turn his attention to established stars with proven Premier League track records if he expects them to make an immediate impact.

The likes of Newcastle’s Moussa Sissoko, with whom the Gunners have been linked, would be an ideal target and could make a significant improvement to the Arsenal starting 11.

Three reasons why it’s time for Arsene Wenger to go

Three reasons why it’s time for Arsene Wenger to go

Arsene Wenger has been great for Arsenal since being appointed 18 years ago but his time is up.

Two wins out of eight and 11 points behind unbeaten Chelsea already is not where the Gunners should be.

Saturday’s scrambled 2-2 draw against a modest team like Hull City showed off all the current team’s fallibilities. Yes, there are injuries to key players, but the root of the problem is Wenger himself and he should walk away now for the good of the club.

Transfer policy
It hasn’t been right for several years but this summer’s policy was probably the worst since Wenger was appointed.

How can he let Thomas Vermaelen leave and not have a replacement lined up? Nacho Monreal had to play as a central defender against Hull because Laurent Koscielny is injured and Calum Chambers suspended.

But it didn’t take a genius to work out that such a scenario would happen sooner rather than later when there are only three senior central defenders on the books.

And why wasn’t a defensive midfielder signed when that was clearly an area that needed strengthening? Mathieu Flamini is not the player he was a decade ago.

Poor tactics
Wenger has his way of playing and will not change it if the Gunners are playing Chelsea or Burnley.

He is so pig-headed that he will not adapt and intransigence is his middle name.

Arsenal – who you can follow on blue square – won’t win the Premier League title this season that much is already clear. That means that it is now 11 years since the last success, which is far too long.

Out of date
Football has moved on since 2004 but Wenger hasn’t. Monaco are said to want the 64-year-old and it may be best for all concerned if he does indeed head to the south of France.

It almost makes you wish that Arsenal hadn’t won the FA Cup in May, as surely if Hull had won at Wembley Wenger would have gone in the summer.

Why Hector Bellerin deserves more of a chance at Arsenal

Why Hector Bellerin deserves more of a chance at Arsenal

hectorArsenal fought hard to get Hector Bellerin out of Barcelona – with Arsene Wenger a huge fan of his ability.

Bellerin was a winger who sometimes played up front when Arsenal grabbed him, but now he is a right back; and a great one at that.

Speed, technique and excellent crossing ability – Bellerin has all those qualities but has now added some defensive steel to that. He’s bulked up and improved so much, now he just needs the chance to show it.

He got a chance against Hull City and now he needs more. Bellerin is a super talent and will only improve by getting more and more match time.

Will it happen? Even the best betting in running odds can’t tell us that right now, but Wenger likes him and that’s what matters.

Anderlecht is his next chance and we’ll know before kick off the full teams.

Three reasons why Arsenal will cope without Mesut Ozil

Three reasons why Arsenal will cope without Mesut Ozil

Three reasons why Arsenal can cope without Mesut Ozil

Mesut Ozil has been ruled out of action until probably the new year and, while the news is a blow to boss Arsene Wenger, there is no need for Arsenal fans to panic. Here we look at three good reasons why losing the German star for a while might not be such a bad thing.

1. It means others will step up

Ozil’s absence means there is a regular starting role at the Emirates up for grabs – and there are no shortage of players ready to step into the void.

Ozil has started six games so far this season so it is clear he is automatically in Arsene Wenger’s line-up if he’s fit. After an impressive initial start in the months to Christmas last season, the playmaker’s influence waned in the second half of the campaign with the World Cup looming. That allowed the likes of Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and, eventually, Aaron Ramsey to shine – with the latter’s own return from injury coming just a little too late to help force a Premier League title challenge.  Theo Walcott’s imminent return from injury also means he can immediately find a way back into the side so there is considerable strength in depth without Ozil.

Ozil being out for the next few months means the aforementioned players can again assume a more important role, while the often-forgotten – but talented – Tomas Rosicky could even step up to the plate.

2. He’s not been at his best anyway

Ozil may well have been suffering from a post-World Cup hangover as he has not been up to the level many fans would have expected of him so far. Some pundits suggest the quick pace of English football does not suit his game and he has struggled to control matches in recent months with the same poise and tempo as in the past. Frankly, there have been games this term that have passed him by somewhat and he has found it difficult to get going and on the ball enough in dangerous areas to make a real difference.

Ozil has scored just one goal (but a check of the stats show he’s only actually had six shots in the league), while he also has just one assist to his name. They are figures that prove he’s not been anywhere near his best so it could be argued Arsenal will not miss him all that much anyway.

3. He should be fit for the run-in

Like several of the Gunners squad, Ozil was hardly coming into the season fresh after playing in Brazil over the summer. The fact he went all the way with Germany to the World Cup final meant by the time the new campaign came round in the middle of August he’d barely had a month off. That gruelling schedule seems to have taken its toll and this enforced injury absence arguably gives the 25-year-old a well-deserved and timely rest.

The knee injury is being assessed by Arsenal’s medical staff and they will hope he can be back in action for his club in 12 weeks or less but his return will not be rushed with Wenger wary of him suffering a setback.

Provided his rehabilitation goes to plan, Ozil should be fighting fit by the end of January at the latest and in great shape to improve Arsenal’s odds in the football betting markets while spearheading what is hoped will be a Gunners’ title challenge in the final few months of the season.

Who are Arsenal looking to sign this summer?

Who are Arsenal looking to sign this summer?

Although all eyes have been on a wonderful 2014 World Cup packed with high quality, end-to-end football, every Premier League are working hard behind the scenes to prepare themselves for the upcoming 2014/2015 season.

It could be an important summer for Arsenal who came so close to winning the title last season, but ultimately lacked the quality and durability to sustain their dominance at the summit.

Arsene Wenger has often came under criticism for failing to be active in the transfer market and address Arsenal’s problems, with injuries and suspensions exposing a relatively thin squad.

Qualifying for the Champions League for the 17th consecutive season should be a considerable selling point for Arsenal to attract big name players to the club to remain competitive.

This has become all the more important due to the fact that Arsenal’s closest challengers have already been active in the transfer market, with Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United spending big amounts of money to improve their respective squads.

Acquiring some star players could improve Arsenal’s odds with Betsafe and ensure they continue to compete with the big spenders.

Alexis Sanchez
The Chilean star has enjoyed a wonderful World Cup campaign with performances which further demonstrate the quality he provides for club and country.

An impressive debut season at Barcelona may not be enough for Alexis to remain at the Nou Camp, with many clubs across Europe keepings tabs on his situation as Luis Enrique may look to sell the pacey winger-cum-striker.

Signing Alexis should be seen as a coup for Arsenal who would secure a top quality player that would not only add more pace and creativity going forward, but also offer much-needed support for Olivier Giroud who, alongside Yaya Sanogo, is the only striker currently on the Gunners’ books.

Mathieu Debuchy
Losing Bacary Sagna to Manchester City has created a considerable void at right back which Arsene Wenger must address if Arsenal are to retain their defensive solidity. Although Carl Jenkinson is a dependable defender who has shown impressive progress, he is the only recognised right-back at the club.

Arsenal continues to be strongly linked with a move for Toulouse’s Serge Aurier, but it appears they have turned their attentions to Mathieu Debuchy. Newcastle would loathe losing one of their star assets, with the Frenchman enjoying a good debut season in the North East and is currently keeping Sagna out of the French team during the 2014 World Cup.

Debuchy’s ability to foray forward would fit perfectly into Arsenal’s system, but it may require a considerable transfer fee to persuade Newcastle to sell their star right back.

Mario Balotelli
Mercurial as he is controversial, Mario Balotelli is a livewire on and off the pitch. The Italy and AC Milan star carries a certain persona that may appear arrogant to some, but also symbolises the belief in his own ability as one of the best strikers in Europe.

Barbara Belusconi’s recent comments that Balotelli is not ‘irreplaceable’ have sparked rumours that the striker could be sold by AC Milan following a disappointing season in Serie A.

Arsenal may have to pay a considerable transfer fee to get their man, but Balotelli would represent an excellent signing that could make the all-important difference between finishing fourth and first.

Arsenal stars set to shine in Brazil

The 2014 World Cup will provide many of Arsenal’s stars with the opportunity to represent their country with pride and hopefully return to the Emirates with a winner’s medal around their neck. Playing at the most prestigious tournament in world football is an honour for any footballer, and is the pinnacle of their career to wear the national shirt and perform on the biggest stage. Winning the FA Cup not only ended an agonising 9-year wait for silverware, but will also provide a massive confidence boost for the players who have been called up to represent their country in Brazil to travel in good spirits. It may remove the pain and agony of letting the Premier League title slip from their grasps despite staying at the summit for over half the season, but the players must now focus on the World Cup and the wonderful excitement, drama and tension that is likely to ensue. Keeping tabs with the latest World Cup news and scorelines can allow Arsenal fans to track the progress of their favourite Gunners who could set Brazil 2014 alight and showcase the talent that make them invaluable to the Arsenal cause.

Mesut Ozil

The £42.5 million signing from Real Madrid has enjoyed mixed fortunes in his first season in an Arsenal shirt, but will look to play a starring role at this summer’s World Cup. Mesut Ozil has recaptured the form which was prominent during the first few months as a Gunner, although Arsene Wenger had to defend the German star during a difficult spell between February and March when he was well below his own high expectations. Joachim Low values Ozil as an important figure in his Germany side, with the creative midfielder utilised for his ability to create chances with his silky left foot.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

The Ox has returned to fitness at just the right time for Roy Hodgson to include the young Gunner in his 23-man England squad for the World Cup. A groin injury put his chances of playing in Brazil in doubt, but the livewire winger has more than enough in his locker to be utilised as an impact substitute if he is not fully fit to start. Wenger has utilised Oxlade-Chamberlain has been utilised in a more central role on occasions, a position Wenger feels is where his future lies and can get the most from his dynamism and pace. The 20-year-old has a wonderful future ahead of him, with his stock set to rise even more if he plays a starring role England who are not expected to go far in Brazil.

Laurent Koscielny

Another team that will enter the 2014 World Cup with considerably lowered expectations and hope is France, although it will provide a wonderful chance for Laurent Koscielny to showcase his progression as a top defender. The Arsenal centre-back has enjoyed an excellent season alongside Per Mertesacker, with a crucial goal in the FA Cup Final illustrating his attacking threat at the other end of the pitch. Koscielny is likely to be a first-team regular during the World Cup as France will look to rewrite the many wrongs of South Africa 2010 and do their country proud.

 

Should Arsenal sign Alvaro Morata?

Should Arsenal sign Alvaro Morata?

Morata
Alvaro Morata is a real talent

Arsenal have been strongly linked with a move for Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata in recent weeks, with the forward apparently a long-term target for Arsene Wenger.

Madrid think Morata is a big player for the future, despite all the odds, he has not been a regular player for their first-team – and a transfer away in the coming months looks all but certain.

But with Arsenal believed to be his number one choice when he leaves the La Liga club – should Wenger bring him to the Emirates Stadium?

Morata brings power, strength and is a very good finisher, something that will be useful as Arsenal look to win the Premier League title next season.

But manyhave previously said that he is too similar to Olivier Giroud, while Yaya Sanogo and even flop Nicklas Bendtner also have similar qualities, something that the guys at MAB have also echoed within their following, showing that Morata could well split the fans opinion.

Morata is very talented but he would be very expensive – maybe even as much as £25million.

I’m not sure he’s worth that much, but he could be a very exciting option if Arsenal sign him up in the future.

We will see what happens when the transfer window re-opens in the summer but I think Gunners fans are definitely in for an exciting time with new players coming and going.

Joel Campbell ready to get his chance at Arsenal

Joel Campbell ready to get his chance at Arsenal

Campbell_Arsenal-367199
Campbell wants his chance at Arsenal

On-loan Arsenal youngster Joel Campbell has admitted he is desperate to make his mark with the Premier League club despite his goal-scoring heroics for Olympiakos against Manchester United.

The Costa Rican youngster scored a sensational second goal for the Greek side in their Champions League last-16 first leg against Manchester United to shock the Betfair odds, but the young forward wasted little time in admitting he is hoping his form for Olympiakos is enough to catch Wenger’s eye.

The Costa Rica international is playing in his third loan spell since signing with Arsenal in 2011, after Betfair fans began tipping the young forward to make the switch to the Premier League.

After season-long stays with French club Lorient and then Spanish side Real Betis, Campbell has spent this season playing in Greece with Olympiakos. With eight goals to his name for the Greek giants this season, Campbell is now looking to make his mark with his parent club at the Emirates Stadium when his time at Olympiakos ends.

“I am still hopeful of playing for Arsenal but I have not been given the chance yet, I hope to keep working at Olympiakos,” said the youngster.

“There are many things I can improve on though, I am 21 and I have to keep working. I am making sure that I take this opportunity.”

While this season would have been too early for Campbell to have made much of an impression at Arsenal, that’s not to say the 21-year old won’t be ready to make an impact on the first team next season.

The Betfair odds indicate Arsenal will be active in the transfer market this summer, but Campbell will be hoping to have done enough in his latest loan spell to warrant being given a chance by Wenger next season.