Archive for the ‘Premier League’ Category

Iker

Save after save from Diego Lopez is met by cameras panning into the view of Iker Casillas. Commentators discuss his future week in, week out and repeat their points as the Spaniard becomes increasingly frustrated on the bench, reacting with bemusement to every save because he knows that the cameras are fixated on him.

Context

It all started under Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid reign, the Portuguese manager was adamant that Casillas took his first-team place for granted and did not work hard enough in training to merit guarding the goal every week for ‘Los Merengues’. Mourinho, out of frustration, would start Adan ahead of Casillas as he looked to give the Spaniard a wake up call – a rude awakening, if you will. Adan was dire and, with much reluctance, Mourinho opted for Casillas as the starter. Fast forward a tad into last season and Casillas picked up a hand injury (broken fingers) which set him back a couple of months. By the time Casillas had recovered and returned to full fitness, a new goalkeeper had already taken his place and was making waves, gaining plaudits from fans and pundits alike as well as receiving praise from Mourinho: Diego Lopez was the new kid on the block.

Mourinho left, Ancelotti arrived and still Casillas struggles with dispossessing Lopez of his first-team status. Casillas has been restricted to Copa del Rey and Champions League starts which, essentially, means a lot less game time than Lopez. The notion of a new manager filled Casillas with the hope that he would return to being one of the first names on the team sheet and, yet again, he has been given a wake up call. Casillas needs to move from Real Madrid and he is finally beginning to accept that. When baited by a reporter asking if he is considering leaving the Bernabeu, Casillas bit and replied: “If I am still not playing again in three months and you asked me the same question, then maybe I would say that I am thinking of leaving”.

There is a tear in the Real Madrid fan base regarding Casillas; some love him, some not so much. This all stems back to the pro and anti Mourinho division in the Real Madrid fan base and this is one of the bits of debris left behind after Mourinho’s destructive final year at the club. But how does Casillas view the fans? Does he view them highly enough to rule out a move to arch-rivals Barcelona? Victor Valdes is out of contract in the summer but Casillas becoming available could push the Catalan club to sell Valdes in January. San (Saint) Iker would be seen as the biggest traitor of all to make the jump from Real Madrid to Barcelona and vice-versa. Does he want to burn all bridges with Real Madrid or does he want to leave as the man who was, in his and many others’ eyes, unfairly treated and harshly scapegoated?

Casillas to City – it makes sense

I, for one, cannot see Casillas in a Barcelona shirt and would bet a lot of money that it will never happen. As silly and reactionary as Florentino Perez is, surely he would not risk strengthening his club’s biggest rival… Or maybe he would. Perez is as enigmatic as club presidents come. Personally, I can only see Casillas moving to Manchester City and it is a move that makes so much sense that it would be a tad shocking if Casillas opted for a different club.

Settling in would not be an issue in any way, shape or form for Casillas. First of all, he has spent many years captaining one of the biggest sides in Europe so he most definitely will not cower away and struggle to gel with his teammates. Manchester City have a very strong Spanish contingent, flaunting four Spaniards in their squad: Alvaro Negredo, Jesus Navas, David Silva and Javi Garcia. Two of those four players, at some point in their respective careers, spent some time at Real Madrid, albeit mostly with the ‘B’ team but in and around the senior squad, and therefore should already be acquainted with Casillas.

Manuel Pellegrini would be a huge factor in Manchester City pulling off the signing for more than one reason. Casillas worked under Pellegrini in the 2009-2010 season, a season which was a success for Real Madrid, in terms of point tally, as they broke their record for most points in La Liga, only to be trumped by one of the greatest Barcelona sides of all-time. Casillas’ relationship with Pellegrini was a good one but the Chilean was harshly sacked after that season following his inability to win La Decima – an obsession of everyone affiliated with Real Madrid. Pellegrini said, upon his departure, “I didn’t have a voice or a vote at Madrid. They sign the best players, but not the best players needed in a certain position. It’s no good having an orchestra with the 10 best guitarists if I don’t have a pianist. Real Madrid have the best guitarists, but if I ask them to play the piano they won’t be able to do it so well. He [Pérez] sold players that I considered important. We didn’t win the Champions League because we didn’t have a squad properly structured to be able to win it.” It would be bittersweet for Pellegrini himself if he plucked Casillas out of the Real Madrid team and went on to add some prestigious trophies to his CV with a Real Madrid boy.

Pellegrini gives Casillas orders at Real Madrid

Pellegrini gives Casillas orders at Real Madrid

Joe Hart’s dire form for well over a season has just hit rock bottom. Pellegrini has finally grown the courage to drop Joe Hart and bring Costel Pantilimon into the starting 11; whether this is permanent or not, only time will tell. Should Pellegrini freeze Hart out, this would pave the way for Casillas to walk straight into the Manchester City side in a very ironic manner. What Hart could find himself going through in the future is exactly what Casillas is going through right now. Casillas will demand assurance of being first choice which both Pellegrini and City will adhere to, without a doubt.

It goes without mentioning that this is a World Cup year. In Spain’s last two friendlies, Del Bosque has opted for Valdes between the sticks because of Casillas’ lack of game time. This could very well be Casillas’ last World Cup and he will want to be the first name on the team sheet as Spain set out to retain their World Cup trophy, much like they did with the European Championship. He would start the remainder of City’s games if he were to join in January, possibly missing out on a couple of cup games due to rotation and Hart being given (another) chance, and that would be enough for him to get right back into contention at international level.

Conclusion

Casillas would have a point to prove wherever he goes as many are now under the assumption that he is not as good as he used to be. Casillas has recently been linked to Schalke but I am certain that he would see that as a step down, especially if big money City come along to play. His price-tag I am unsure of but if he forces his way out it should not be much for those interested in him. Manchester City would be the perfect move for Casillas but will he battle it out with Lopez in order to show that he is not cowering away from a challenge or will he just play it safe and move to a club where he will play regularly and competitively?

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Nacho & Gibbs (courtesy of MSN Sport).

Nacho & Gibbs

It’s quite common within the Arsenal fan base that the arrival of a player instantly means that a current one will be challenged for his spot and may lose his status in the squad. Whilst this is true in some cases, it’s far from it in others: Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs, in this instance. Nacho was signed, according to Wenger, to be a “left-sided defender” – not a left-back, explicitly. Nacho has the ability to operate in a more advanced role and can then work with Gibbs as a flexible and versatile combination which sees the two intertwine in positions when on the pitch at the same time.

Monreal was signed on the final day of the January transfer window due to Kieran Gibbs being sidelined for “four to six-weeks”. The Spaniard joined Arsenal for circa £8.5million and was seen as merely competition for Gibbs. Some thought Monreal was a panic buy but, shortly after the deal was announced, it was also met with the news that Arsenal had already agreed a deal with Malaga and that Monreal was set to join in the summer; the process was sped up due to the aforementioned Gibbs injury. Monreal left La Liga as one of the best left-backs in Spain and arrived at Arsenal to do so much more than just fill in for Gibbs’ injuries and provide competition for the Englishman.

Upon joining Arsenal, Monreal was placed up against two of the most physical sides in the Premier League: Stoke City and Sunderland. The Spaniard completed eight out of eight tackles in those two games and showed the Arsenal fans how solid he is when it comes to his defensive actions. After receiving praise from fans, Wenger went on to say that Monreal can be an attacking threat for Arsenal as a “left-sided defender”. Whilst it was perceived that Wenger meant he’s good at going forward, it turns out that Wenger meant he can play much further up the field. Is this surprising? Not really. Monreal played as a left-midfielder/winger for Malaga, at times, when Eliseu would start as a left-back; the positions were never fixed as both players would combine and change roles throughout the entirety of the game. If you look even further back to Monreal’s career, he also carried out the exact same role with Azpilicueta at Osasuna under Jose Angel Ziganda. This came after Osasuna had been hit with injuries to their full-backs. Azpilicueta moved over to left-back whilst Monreal operated as the man further forward.

Monreal possesses the traits to play further up the field as he is mobile, has a good left foot, is a great crosser of the ball and excels in combination play. Monreal can cut infield and provide Arsenal with the extra man in midfield as his ball retention and passing are exquisite in the final third – these two traits are essential if Arsenal are looking to press higher up the field and force the opposition into creating errors. Monreal’s crossing is another great asset of his. At Osasuna, he played with the likes of Walter Pandiani, a recognised target man, as well as Roque Santa Cruz at Malaga. Giroud could really flourish from getting on the end of these crosses as the usual ones that enter the box are quite inconsistent and erratic from those who deliver them.

It’s obvious that Wenger didn’t sign Monreal just to pose a threat to Gibbs’ squad status. Monreal was brought in as someone who can operate on the same pitch as Kieran Gibbs and offer an attacking outlet that none of Arsenal’s other full-backs can. This is a recurring theme, surely. Andre Santos, as much as he was ridiculed and maligned for his inability to defend, was actually an adequate player going forward. The difference is, Wenger hit the nail on the head with Monreal as the Spaniard can defend as well as he can attack unlike the bowling-ball-like Brazilian. Wenger targets left-backs who won’t tamper with Gibbs’ progression, or directly challenge him, but instead he targets ones that possess the ability to build partnerships with Gibbs on the left flank.

Most of Gibbs’ time in the academy saw the Englishman actually play in central-midfield as well as a left-winger. Gibbs, much like the aforementioned players, has developed his attacking game phenomenally. He can time runs, use his pace to perfection and is an adequate passer; his only faults in that area are his final balls and decision making. Ultimately, this is why Wenger targeted Monreal and Santos because they share the exact same traits in a forward position. What this means is that Gibbs can switch roles with Monreal and operate as the man further ahead as well as Monreal can. This gives Arsenal an air of unpredictability on that left-flank as well as the ability to switch from Gibbs’ pace to Monreal’s quick, incisive passing and pin-point crossing.

It’s not all about attacking, though. Monreal is usually brought on to help keep Arsenal’s shape and reinforce their left-side in order to keep the opposition at bay or hold onto a vital result. The fact both Monreal and Gibbs are excellent defensively, and going forward, means that they can switch roles to shut out different passages of play from the opposition and mark different players that someone like Cazorla or Podolski, on that left-side, wouldn’t usually mark.

Overall, the point I’m getting at is that Monreal isn’t at Arsenal just to play second fiddle to Gibbs and fill-in when the Englishman is in the “red-zone” or injured. Monreal is here to pair Gibbs on the same pitch in order to help hold on to a result or provide a unique attacking outlet like no other full-back in the squad. Wenger once said that “Monreal can be an attacking threat for us”  and that he’ll be looking to experiment with the two on the pitch at the same time. I think it’d be far too basic and superficial to look at Monreal just as back-up. Wenger has shown that he can play further up the field and will, undoubtedly, flaunt that option and experimentation more often as the season grows old and fixtures start stacking.

Ozil Alemina

 

On September 2nd, deadline day, Arsenal decimated their previous transfer record by signing German international, Mesut Özil, for £42.4m. It was later confirmed that Real Madrid and Arsenal had been discussing this transfer for weeks and that Özil himself had already completed his first of two medical sessions last week at London Colney. Özil turned down PSG and Manchester United in the process of joining Arsenal for, largely, the chance to work with Arsene Wenger. Özil said: “I am thrilled to be joining a club of the stature of Arsenal and am looking forward to playing in the Premier League. It will be great for my own personal development as a player and I am particularly looking forward to working with Arsène Wenger.”

Creativity no longer an issue

An outsider looking in would be forgiven for thinking that the signing of Özil isn’t what Arsenal needed, despite it being an outrageously good one. Some assume that Arsenal are awash with creative talent and, whilst that may be true to an extent, it even shows through statistics that we’re not. Everton created more chances than Arsenal last season, albeit most coming through Leighton Baines, which is quite shocking to most who don’t watch Arsenal frequently. Jack Wilshere dipped in and out of the squad with injury, Aaron Ramsey only came to life from January onwards, Tomas Rosicky turned up in the last couple of months and Mikel Arteta curbed his attacking instinct in order to screen our defence and operate as a deep-lying playmaker. Just by briefly reading that, you can begin to see why Arsenal failed to create more chances than Everton. Last season, the creative burden fell on Santi Cazorla far too often and for far too long. If our diminutive Spaniard had an off game, it’d be apparent and the team, as a whole, would struggle to create chances for a striker heavily dependent on support from those behind him. If we combine the two, Özil and Cazorla, we have a devastating creative partnership beginning to brew as Özil eliminates all of our creativity issues. Özil creates a chance every 22.1 minutes – more than any other player in Europe’s top 5 leagues. Mix that statistic in with Cazorla’s 91 key passes in the Premier League, the 2nd best in the league last season, and you have eliminated all potential issues regarding creativity that had seemed apparent in the last couple of seasons. And just to make you even more eager to see Özil in an Arsenal shirt, our new German averaged 2.9 key passes per game in the league last season (for two seasons in a row); Santi averaged 2.5. 

Özil’s time at Real Madrid

Özil spent three successful years at Real Madrid although maybe not as a collective but more-so as an individual. He won La Liga and a Copa del Rey when, it may be argued by many at Real Madrid, that the club should’ve won more. That aside, Özil was an orchestral figure in Real Madrid’s midfield and a key component to their relentless counter-attacking style of football under Mourinho. Özil started to distance himself from the club when they brought in Isco – a signing which was thought to be a very good one but not one that was desperately needed for Real Madrid – and eventually drifted away once Bale was on the brink of being announced. Özil said himself that he needs a manager’s full support and trust and wasn’t feeling that with Ancelotti. Ancelotti had doubts over Özil’s ability to play a possession-based game, despite clearly having the attributes to do so. The sale of Özil is one that has left the club’s fans questioning Florentino Perez’s sanity, on the same day that they smashed the world record transfer fee for Gareth Bale. 

Let’s move away from footballing politics and discuss on-field matters regarding Özil. Özil is a player who can operate on either flank but is, predominantly, an attacking-midfielder. Having been part of a mobile and fluid front-four, Özil was used to interchanging with Di Maria when Real Madrid were in possession; Benzema/Higuain would pull wide, Ronaldo would make a diagonal darting run into the box to occupy the centre-forward position and Özil would interchange with Di Maria. This was a move executed frequently by Real Madrid, not always all at the same time, but different variations would be seen every game. 

Özil’s main strengths, and there are many, consist of dribbling, vision, set-piece taking and crossing. One of Özil’s most mouthwatering traits is his vision. Not only can Özil pick a pass from almost any range, he possesses the outstanding ability to supply the final ball against teams who park out on the edge of their area and inside the box (seen at the Emirates every other game by visiting teams). Özil can break down the sternest of defences and, upon doing this, disorientates the opposition and renders their planned defensive approach to the game almost useless. 

Whilst there are impeccable traits that are unique to Özil’s game – his innovative style of dribbling and his flicks – there are some flaws to his game which shouldn’t be ignored. One, in particular, needs addressing once he begins life at Arsenal: fitness levels. Özil’s greatest flaw is his inability to complete a 90 minute game; by the 65th-70th minute, Özil is already blowing and begins to lose his influence in the game. This is a problem synonymous with his time at Real Madrid because, if you look at his international appearances, he does tend to complete 90 minutes more often than with Real Madrid. This could be down to Real Madrid’s aforementioned relentless counter-attacking style of play and Özil’s constant interchanging in such a fluid attacking system. The other flaw is his defensive contribution, which is almost non-existent; this problem simmers if he’s operating as an attacking-midfielder but, once he gets to the wing, our full-backs will have to be aware that he’ll rarely double up to help out defensively – unless Wenger drills this into his head. 

With those flaws addressed, let’s return to talking about Özil’s traits. Özil brings the best out of anyone in close proximity, hugely reminiscent of Cesc Fabregas when he was at Arsenal. No-one assisted Cristiano Ronaldo more than Özil did in three seasons: 27 assists, to just one player, is mind boggling. So how many assists did Özil get over the course of three seasons? 86 in all competitions – more than any other player in Europe. Back to Fabregas, how many of you reading this remember Adebayor’s 30 goal season? It was largely down to Fabregas getting the most out of those in front of him, as Adebayor would score goal after goal without playing particularly well most of the time. Now imagine what Özil could do with Giroud and Walcott and now also imagine what he could do with Santi Cazorla on the same pitch as him. If they can get 25+ goals out of both Giroud and Walcott, it begins to make sense as to why we pushed for Özil and not for a Suarez/Rooney who would score a shed load of goals. Not to mention that both Özil and Cazorla like to fill their boots fairly regularly.

What the overall move means for Arsenal

The signing of Özil is, without a shadow of a doubt, Arsenal’s biggest signing since Dennis Bergkamp. Not only because of how talented he is or how much the transfer fee was, although both are taken into consideration, but more-so what it means for the club. The deal saw Ivan Gazidis, Wenger and Stan Kroenke “heavily involved”. Why is that so important? Most reading this will know that Arsenal are renowned for having a board full of “businessmen” and not footballing men, they will also know that Stan Kroenke does next to nothing apart from pocket a profit from the club etc. So to have all involved in the deal, especially a “heavily involved” Kroenke, means that maybe the board are beginning to unite with Wenger and give him full backing – something that he never seems to have, financially. Gazidis excitingly said: “Mr Kroenke, our controlling owner, has always fully supported Arsène and the Club in making significant investments to strengthen our squad and to bring in talented players who fit our style and ambitions. Like all of us, Mr Kroenke wants to see Arsenal winning titles and trophies and he has absolute faith and belief in our manager to achieve that. We will continue to work towards that goal and look forward to an exciting season.”

So if there’s less rift in the boardroom and with Wenger, they become closer and Wenger could finally let people help him out and ease him out of all the tasks he, sometimes, unnecessarily carries. If they’re closer, this projects onto the players as we begin to sign better quality to add to an already talented squad and, in due time, start to seriously mount a challenge for trophies again. This then rubs off onto the fans, thus making everyone happy and relieving the Emirates of its sometimes “poisonous” atmosphere. Maybe I’m living in cloud cuckoo land/dream world and maybe this is a knee-jerk reaction, but I do genuinely believe that the signing of Özil is the catalyst towards seeing this club return to its glory days. 

Having Özil at the club means we’ll begin to attract players of higher quality than we have done in recent years. Özil spoke of wanting to be a part of this ambitious future that Arsenal have planned and I’m sure that, if needs be, he could be on the phone to a few friends next summer selling them the Arsenal dream much like Wenger, Mertesacker and Podolski did with him.

Even before the signing of Özil had been announced, Arsenal had already received a lucrative offer to attend India on their pre-season tour next summer. Özil is a very marketable player as he’s a household name, has come from Real Madrid (a club with one of the biggest worldwide fanbases) and is a marquee signing in terms of his transfer fee alone. Arsenal will recoup a large chunk of the transfer fee spent on him due to shirt sales all around the world and this proposed pre-season tour.

Conclusion

All in all, I’m still perplexed by the signing of Özil. He’s a perfect player for our system and will be with us throughout his prime years. Not only will he attract top players but midfielders like Jack Wilshere and Gedion Zelalem will have a lot to learn from both him and Cazorla. For now, it’ll take two long weeks for us to see Özil in action sporting the cannon on his chest but I’ve no doubt it’ll be worth the wait. Up the Arsenal! 

 

Sagna takes a breather during his best performance of last season away at Sunderland.

Sagna takes a breather during his best performance of last season away at Sunderland.

In a past season that has just seen Arsenal end with the 2nd best defensive record in the league, it’s been quite odd to see three Arsenal defenders (one not at the club anymore) come under a lot of scrutiny from the fans; Bacary Sagna in particular. Following five seasons of showing the utmost consistency, Sagna followed that up by putting in some shoddy performances last season – this not helped by the fact that there’s still a massive question mark over his future as he enters the final year of his contract.

From people saying he didn’t care about the club anymore to others saying he was entitled to an off season following the aforementioned previous seasons of consistency, this was one of the factors which divided the Arsenal fan base last season. Sagna, himself, didn’t help the cause by doing the whole “I want to see better players at the club” drama act which has become synonymous with an Arsenal player leaving, what with him entering his final contractual year. What sometimes turned out to be an adequate/good defensive performance from Sagna was later slated and undone by fans aplenty who chose to focus solely on his consistent inability to send a cross into the box. There are a few arguments that counteract the crossing debate, some of them along the lines of “we don’t have anyone to aim for in the box”. Now, whilst that argument may have some substance to it, it’s still frustrating to see Sagna continuously fail to get the ball past the first man. But that’s something we’ve always put up with when it comes to Sagna: he’s not the best going forward, but he makes up for it with his defensive work. But it only began to anger people last season because they, in my opinion, tried to distance themselves from him in order to cushion the blow of  seeing one of the best right-backs to ever pull on an Arsenal shirt leave the club.

When injuries hit the Arsenal back-line last season, as they seem to always do, Sagna was called upon to make a surprising appearance at centre-back. Many doubts were cast over this decision due to his height (many forgetting his prolific win percentage in aerial duels)  and the fact he’d been having poor games every so often. So as the whistle blew and the ball left the centre-circle, Sagna stood next to Mertesacker as fans hoped and prayed that the defence wouldn’t come under heaps of pressure from Sunderland attacks; they did. Fast-forward 90-odd minutes and the whistle blows for the final time as the camera pans to the two men who played a pivotal part in clinging on to a one goal lead: Sagna and Szczesny. This performance in a, somewhat, unfamiliar position for Sagna had the fans ranting and raving as they touted him as our new 3rd choice centre-back and dubbed his majestic performance as ‘the best performance of the season from any of our defenders’ – and it was hard to argue against that, at the time.

Fast-forward a few months and Sagna is still at the club, enjoying his pre-season and speaking of how he wants to keep playing for the club. No signs of leaving, as of writing this (I’ve jinxed it, haven’t I?). In a 7-1 win over Vietnam in pre-season last week, Sagna played at centre-back again and, albeit against a relatively awful side, put in another great performance next to Koscielny and then Mertesacker. The question on everyone’s lips is “is this a new position that Sagna will play in, if needs be, next season?”. That question is usually met by most fans saying that they’d much rather Arsenal sign a new centre-back, which I can’t disagree with. But here’s my theory: Sagna’s entering his last year and probably won’t renew, meaning Wenger has no real obligation to keep playing him even when he’s turning in bad performances, like last season. This means that, if Sagna keeps playing like he did in patches last season, Jenkinson will be able to cement his spot in the right-back position. If Vermaelen stays, despite being out injured for 2-3 months, it means we’ll have three centre-backs and one makeshift centre-back – enough for going into the season with. Because it’s Sagna’s last season, providing he stays and doesn’t renew, it means we can begin to ease Jenkinson into the right-back position and start thorough scouting for a young centre-back, possibly in the mould of Kurt Zouma, for the 14/15 season. Although there are many variables in that theory, the main three being Sagna staying, not renewing his contract and Vermaelen staying, it’s something which I’d like to see us go through with. Sagna would be set for his Arsenal swansong, passing down his final pearls of wisdom to Jenkinson whilst helping the team out in various position, showing professionalism and a love for the club. The best case scenario would be Sagna returning to his best and, as much as we all love him, I think the two injuries and age have finally taken their toll on Sagna; although I do hope I’m wrong.

Jenkinson recently spoke of pushing Sagna for a place in the first-team and wanting to be on that England plane for Rio 2014 and I firmly believe Wenger will give Jenkinson more than the 19 appearances he was handed, in all competitions, last season. Jenkinson has to grasp every opportunity he gets and begin to cement himself in the Arsenal starting 11. Why? Because this, as I’ve said in the post, could be Sagna’s last season and there’s no-one Jenkinson will learn more from in his position than Sagna. Jenkinson has all the tools to become a mainstay in that right-back position for the next ten years, or even more: he can defend, his crossing is mouthwatering in comparison to Sagna’s *insert joke here about an elderly person in my family having better crossing ability than Sagna* and he’s determined to shine for the club that he’s loved all his life. Jenkinson has also had the privilege of learning from Sagna and hopefully he can emulate the consistency that Sagna’s shown throughout his time at Arsenal. Once Sagna decides it’s time to switch the red and white of The Arsenal for the boring, plain, stupid colours of any other club, we will have a well-equipped Jenkinson, able to mix everything he’s learned from the Frenchman into his own game.

To reiterate my points: I want Sagna to stay for his final year, I’d prefer for us to sign a centre-back this summer but I wouldn’t be annoyed if we manage to hold onto Vermaelen and use Sagna as our makeshift centre-back.

Until next time, ta-ra.

What do Arsenal really need in midfield?

Arguably the best box-to-box midfielder in Europe.

Arguably the best box-to-box midfielder in Europe.

As the 2012/2013 Premier League season draws to a close, many Arsenal fans have speculated over potential signings that we require during the summer transfer window. A notable thing that fans and the media alike have bemoaned about this Arsenal side is the lack of a ‘real’ defensive midfielder. While that is true, I am against the view that a defensive midfielder is the midfield signing that we need to make.  I am more in favour of the more dynamic box-to-box midfielder. Here are a few reasons why:

The current system Arsenal play in is the 4-2-3-1 formation. If you look at all the top clubs in Europe, most of them also play this formation, and none of them use players that you could classify as a real defensive midfielder. They play a double pivot with  deep-lying playmaker and a box to box midfielder. Here are some examples; Real Madrid: Alonso – Khedira, Borussia Dortmund: Gundogan – Bender Juventus: Pirlo – Vidal Bayern Munich: Schweinsteiger – Martinez. Some of you may be thinking “but Javi Martinez and Sven Bender are defensive midfielders” but if you watch them in a match you will notice that they press and win the ball higher up the pitch rather than sit deep in their own half. You will also notice that they even get into goal-scoring positions in matches and start of many of their teams attacks.

Another reason why I prefer the box-to-box midfielder to the defensive midfielder is the difference in dynamism and energy that a box-to-box midfielder would bring, unlike a defensive midfielder. Now I am not a big fan of stats but they are useful and important so I did a stat comparison with  Maxime Gonalons, who has recently been linked with a move to Arsenal, and Arturo Vidal, who is arguably the best box-to-box midfielder in Europe right now.

Maxime Gonalons: Appearances – 33 Goals – 3 Assists – 0 Chances Created – 8 Passing Accuracy – 88% Average amount of passes per game – 64.5 Tackles made – 125 Tackle success – 81% Interceptions – 102 Who Scored Rating – 7.25 Squawka Performance Score – 1,633

Arturo Vidal: Appearances – 28 Goals – 10  Assists – 7 Chances Created – 60 Passing Accuracy – 87% Average amount of passes per game – 54.3 Tackles made – 146 Tackle success – 71% Interceptions – 40 Who Scored Rating – 7.77 Squawka Performance Score – 1,601

As you can see the stats show that Vidal is the more active of the two players, bringing  a far superior offensive contribution to his team whilst still being very active defensively. Also, one thing these stats don’t show is that Vidal is winning these tackles higher up the pitch. Where would you rather win the ball back? In your own half or in the oppositions half? However, as I said previously Vidal is arguably the best box-to-box midfielder in Europe  so you could say it’s an unfair comparison. So let’s compare him to Arsenal’s current box-to-box, Aaron Ramsey.

Aaron Ramsey: Appearances 19(starts) Goals – 0 Assists – 2 Chances Created – 42  Passing Accuracy – 88% Average amount of passes per game – 52.2 Tackles made – 64 Tackle success – 91% Interceptions – 42 Who Scored Rating – 6.88 Squawka Performance Score – 1,059

Bearing in mind that Ramsey has only played regularly in this role for the past two months or so, I think those stats are pretty impressive. Which leads into another reason that I don’t want a defensive midfielder. Throughout the season we have not played with a defensive midfielder. Instead we have used pivot consisting of Arteta and Diaby, Wilshere or Ramsey. With this we currently have the 3rd best defensive record in the league with two games left and the best defensive record in away games. Also since facing Bayern Munich at the Allianz arena, we have conceded 4 goals in 8 games, with only one of those being from open play.  Are those the stats of a team lacking a defensive midfielder? In this period of defensive solidarity, Ramsey has been excellent in  the box-to-box role. Infact the only thing you could fault in his latest performances is his final ball and finishing(which I hope he’ll work on in the summer). He has been a crucial part to our recent defensive record, but you wouldn’t say that he is a defensive midfielder.

So, if we are to buy a midfielder this summer, I do hope that it is a box-to-box midfielder rather than a defensive midfielder. As I have said, they bring more to the table than a sitter would and can still provide defensive ability.

Thanks for reading and if you enjoyed you can follow me on twitter for more if you would like – @_Josh97_

Wojciech Szczesny

 

There isn’t an Arsenal player, in the current team, who divides opinion more than Wojciech Szczesny. Vermaelen could be argued as one, but I feel more people dislike him, because of his constant mistakes since QPR away last season, than those who do still like him. Sagna is another, but I believe a bigger amount of our fan base would be content with seeing him leave in the summer following a vast amount of sub-par performances this season. The only man who comes close to Szczesny is Giroud, but I’ve already spoken about him before. With our Pole in goal, no not Fabianski, but Wojciech Szczesny, we’ve someone who’s quite like the marmite footballer of this football club.

Szczesny’s blown hot and cold this season; he’s had games like Everton away where he’s struggled, once again, to get down quick enough to save a shot from distance and then he’s had games like the one against Sunderland where he was exceptionally sublime and single-handedly won us the game, along with a makeshift centre-back in Bacary Sagna. There have been games where even the littlest of things have disgruntled the fans, and myself: Liverpool at home – Szczesny decides to execute his patented Cruyff turn, only to be dispossessed in his own box. Luckily, nothing bad happened apart from a few hearts in the crowd, and at home, stopping momentarily. This is something Szczesny does a lot. Not only is his cockiness & arrogance off the field, in interviews, frowned upon, he also lacks maturity on the pitch when it comes doing these pointless fancy, showboating tricks in his own box.

In my opinion, Szczesny’s cockiness is almost set up by him as a barrier to help him bounce back from mistakes. When he makes a mistake, his head never drops in that game, but he’ll continue to make that mistake repeatedly in later weeks/months. I feel this is down to his lack of competition at the club. Take away the recent showing of ruthlessness from Wenger to finally give Szczesny a kick up the backside and drop him, Szczesny’s almost been unrivaled as Arsenal’s number one ‘keeper. With someone perhaps more experienced than the Pole, Szczesny would learn something from this figure. At the age of 23, he’s still a naïve character who, in reality, shouldn’t be near the first-team of a top club at that age – for this reason alone, I feel he’s got the potential to be a great for Arsenal. Wenger isn’t a fool, he knows potential when he sees it. Szczesny is an extremely good shot-stopper for his age and can, more times often than not, hold his own between the sticks and organise his defence.

The problem with Szczesny is that he’s never really been given a kick up the backside, or even introduced to the notion of a ‘keeper at his club being ‘better’ than him. His constant first-team appearances, despite mistakes being made, must feed his already giant ego. In his head, he’s led to believe that he’s better than every other ‘keeper at the club. When he went to Brentford on loan in 2009, he started almost every game without being dropped for a different ‘keeper. In recent months, we’ve seen Fabianski come into the mix and relegate Szczesny to the bench; Wenger has also left Szczesny out of the squad as a whole due to him displaying “mental tiredness”. Szczesny even deputised for the U21’s against Liverpool, to whom he conceded three goals. This must’ve hurt Szczesny immensely – seeing his compatriot take his place in the first-team, being put in the U21’s to build his confidence again. But it’s something that, fingers crossed, will help Szczesny develop into a much better goalkeeper.

Since Fabianski picked up yet another injury, Szczesny has returned to his coveted first-team goalkeeper spot where he’s only conceded one goal in four games, as of writing this; that one goal was also a penalty, so he’s conceded none from open play. He also played a huge part in the recent 1-0 win away at QPR where he made a vital stop, eight minutes from time, to keep the score at 1-0 to the Arsenal. He’s come back in, concentrated on his football and has yet to make a catastrophic mistake or one of those silly tricks he does in his own area.

At the tender age of 23, it’s crazy that we’ve become so expectant of Szczesny. But he needs to understand that the criticism he’s recently received has been warranted. He now sports the Arsenal kit with the number ‘1’ on the back which, in itself, shows the belief Wenger has in him. Wenger could’ve signed someone last season, or the season before, to be a regular, experienced and consistent performer between the sticks, but he’s kept at it with Szczesny. Many will knock Wenger over tactical decisions and so on, but you can never knock his ability to develop and nurture youngsters into potentially great players for the future. In my humble opinion, if Fabianski leaves in the summer, we should sign someone vastly experienced. Someone who’ll not only challenge Szczesny for the number 1 spot, but will also take the pole under his wing and pass down some tips to Szczesny. Szczesny will become a far better player and will learn to curb his misplaced confidence on the pitch. I’ve no doubt Szczesny will be the man between the sticks for years to come at the Emirates – he has the potential to do so.

Joel's come on leaps & bounds at Betis. Could other Arsenal youngsters follow in his footsteps?

Joel’s come on leaps & bounds at Betis. Could other Arsenal youngsters follow in his footsteps?

With the news that Arsenal would be signing a collaborative agreement with Betis, or a link-up with the Spanish club in other words, I thought it’d be appropriate to write about what this deal could have in store for both parties. I’ll be looking at who we may be interested in from their squad, which of our players could be moving there next season and why Betis are a very good club to get this deal done with.

It’s been widely reported in the last couple of weeks that Pepe Mel (Betis’ manager) and Miguel Guillén (Betis’ club president) will be travelling to London in the near future to put pen to paper on this deal. Arsene Wenger has already shortlisted a few of his players, youth & fringe players struggling to get first-team football, so it’s incredibly likely that we’ll see this deal concluded sometime this season with more details to be unveiled in due time.

The deal, essentially, sees us loan players to Betis for further development or, as mentioned previously, offer game time for those who can’t get into the team. It gives us an easy route to loan out some who we can’t offload just yet because of high wages; so, hypothetically speaking, someone like Bendtner, Chamakh, Mannone etc. could be the prime candidates for moves to the Andalusian outfit. In terms of youngsters, many sources have tipped the following bright youngsters with loan moves to Betis: Ryo Miyaichi, Thomas Eisfeld, Francis Coquelin, Serge Gnabry and an outside chance of Hector Bellerin, assuming that Wenger thinks he’s close to breaking in to the first-team quite soon.

Now, there’s more in it for Arsenal than just the careful, yet productive, nature of the development of our future starlets. It’s strongly believed that Arsenal will get first pick at the top talents in the Betis team, and there’s quite a few to choose from. The main candidate will be the Spanish box-to-box midfielder whose made waves in La Liga this season, Beñat. Beñat is, predominantly, a defensive-midfielder who plays in a pivot with another potential Arsenal target in Cañas. Beñat has started to build a lot of hype around him since flourishing in a box-to-box role; his quick feet, vision and set-piece taking have seen him earn many plaudits, and deservedly so. He plays very much like Mikel Arteta does, but he’s more defensive-minded if needs be. He’s only 26, so he could dispossess Mikel Arteta from that defensive-midfield role, which’d allow our Spaniard more leeway to roam forward. Beñat has amassed four goals and seven assists this season, the latter seeing him top the assists table for Betis.

Benat passing

This shows how positive his passing is when playing in a box-to-box role. He’s very incisive with his passing and hardly plays backward passes, which’d see him suit our midfield. Via (Squawka Sports)

The next player is one who hasn’t featured much this season, but has caught the eye whenever making a substitute appearance: Álvaro Vadillo. Vadillo is the brightest prospect in the Betis team by a country mile. The 18-year old Spaniard has only made eight appearances this season, with six of them being off the bench. In these cameos, he’s picked up two assists and has made a good case for Pepe Mel to ponder whether the bright, young winger is ready to start for Betis. It’d be interesting to see where he’d fit in to an Arsenal side with an already up and coming winger in Oxlade-Chamberlain, although if Wenger decides to give Chamberlain some chances down the middle, the addition of Vadillo would make sense.

In six sub appearances, Vadillo has created ten goal scoring chances; two of them culminating in assists. Via (Squawka Sports)

In six sub appearances, Vadillo has created ten goal scoring chances; two of them culminating in assists. Via (Squawka Sports)

The final two who we could also have some sort of interest in are: Adrián and the aforementioned Cañas. Adrián has kept ten clean sheets in 24 league starts this season. He’s a very good shot-stopper and a great distributor of the ball. Should Fabianski fail to renew his contract, I could see Arsenal exploiting this link-up to bring Adrián in as someone who can provide Szczesny with some competition. The final player, and the unlikeliest for Arsenal to show interest in, is Cañas. Cañas is Beñat’s partner in the midfield; the two play in a pivot which, later in the game, turns into a 1-2 system where Cañas sits deeper and allows Beñat to roam forward in order to try and create chances. There are two reasons why I think Cañas is unlikely to join, or gain interest from Wenger: He’s available on a free in the summer, and Swansea have, supposedly, agreed a deal with Betis in January to bring him in for free in the summer transfer window, the other reason is the fact he’s very ill-disciplined; he commits some unnecessary challenges off the ball, but makes up for it with the way he reads the game, breaks up the play, intercepts many opposition passes in the ‘danger zones’ and is a very prolific winner of the ball.

This shows how successful he is in the tackle, but also his ugly side with the fouls hie commits.

This shows how successful he is in the tackle, but also his ugly side with the fouls hie commits. Via (Squawka Sports)

In conclusion to the potential signings of those players, Beñat would be the best signing and the dearest too, with many Spanish sources reporting that he’d cost circa £18M.

I believe this deal with Betis could work very well for both parties. We’ve seen the way Joel Campbell has adapted to life in Spain and Betis. He’s matured as a player, has developed a whole new skill-set from playing in various positions and has won the heart of many Betis fans with his positive attitude and incredibly high work-rate and fitness levels. This would be a good sign for our youngsters as they’d potentially talk to Joel, he’d speak incredibly highly of his time at Betis and the fans would give said youngsters the time and belief having seen how Joel came in and improved the side. On the topic of Joel Campbell, the rumoured clause in this deal is that Betis get the Costa Rican for another season-long loan. What with Joel getting his work permit this coming summer (fingers crossed), it makes next-to-no sense that he’s being sent back to Betis, considering he’d be eligible for a loan move to a Premier League side in order to get a taste of English football. Personally, I don’t think we’ll ever see Joel in an Arsenal shirt again if he returns on loan next season to Betis – I say this because, by the time the second loan would’ve ended, he’d have built a very strong bond with his team-mates, Pepe Mel, the fans and the club as a whole. He’s really enjoying himself in Spain, and could be playing European football next season with Betis.

As a whole, this will see us build a very positive link with the Andalusian club. It wouldn’t surprise me if this led to us playing them in a friendly every season, or maybe them taking part in the Emirates cup. Overall, this is a very beneficial deal for both clubs.

Arteta celebrates his goal against Wigan.

Arteta celebrates his goal against Wigan.

It’s not been the best of seasons for our midfield metronome, Mikel Arteta. But it’s not been a bad one by a long stretch. Arteta’s start to the season was brilliant; he had Diaby sitting next to him in a double pivot which, in a nutshell, resulted in both of them sharing the defensive duties. Once Jack Wilshere returned, the spotlight was shone on the Englishman, and rightly so. Wilshere had just returned from injury and was playing like he’d never suffered a 14-month absence from first-team football for the Arsenal. Whilst Wilshere was orchestrating the play in the pivot with Arteta, his lack of defensive nous left Arteta with all the defensive duties. A player with Arteta’s experience, you’d expect to be able to cope with a pile of duties left behind by a youngster, but the defensive-midfield position is one which he has only started playing this season. By having to focus primarily on the defensive duties, Arteta’s supply of creativity has been cut off.

Last season, despite his gung-ho antics, Alex Song worked incredibly well with Arteta. As many will point out, Arteta almost played the DM role at some points because of Song’s headless chicken-esque runs. But, off the ball, Song put in a shift defensively. Many who say Song was a bad defensive-midfielder simply didn’t watch him in 10/11. Moving away from Song. Arteta flourishes in the double pivot when he’s given the leeway to get forward more often and involved in the incisive play in the final third. When he’s left with all the defensive duties, it’s easy to cut him out of the game entirely: stick an energetic, mobile player on him, and he has no freedom whatsoever; he has to focus on passing it sideways because said player is always breathing down his neck. We saw this when Sir Alex Ferguson deployed Rooney as an attacking midfielder to isolate Arteta – this was probably what instigated the constant isolation of Arteta in many games. Later on, most notably, we saw Toni Kroos do the same to Arteta at the Emirates – arguably the Spaniard’s worst game in an Arsenal shirt, this season.

Surprisingly, this shows that Arteta's least played type of pass is backwards.

Surprisingly, this shows that Arteta’s least played type of pass is backwards. (courtesy of the brilliant SquawkaSports)

With no sly dig at Wilshere intended, Arteta plays much better when he has someone with a competent defensive nous sitting next to him. Whilst it may not be appreciated, Aaron Ramsey’s ball retention and tackling goes incredibly under the radar. The double pivot of those two seems to be working a treat as it allows them to take it in turns to attack/defend; they work hand-in-hand when it comes to the off the ball work. Ramsey and Arteta are very similar in terms of their defensive work, primarily tackling, as they both hover around the player with the ball and expertly wait for an opening to stick their foot in. When playing next to Diaby earlier in the season, Arteta could rely on him to out muscle players which in turn led to Arteta cleaning up the loose balls. What I’m trying to say is, Arteta works well with someone who’s willing to share the defensive duties as opposed to just piling them on him. Sure, some will say Wilshere’s always willing to get stuck in, but there’s more to it than just throwing your leg at the ball.

The reason I think Arteta will still be vital next season is because I firmly believe we’ll purchase a powerful defensive-midfielder. If we do so, it’ll help not only Arteta but also Wilshere. Whilst Wilshere will be able to drive through the midfield without worrying about his pivot partner, Arteta will also be able to dictate the play and split defences open with his newly found freedom on and off the ball. It goes without saying that the addition of a defensive-midfielder will not only add some much needed balance to the midfield, but will also add strength in depth. Having Ramsey, Arteta and Wilshere all suitable to play a tad ahead of this defensive midfielder, whoever he may be, is going to be fantastic. What with Santi making waves on that left-hand side, it leaves Arsenal with options in the attacking-mid position also: Rosicky & Wilshere equally adept to playing in that position. It’s a weird one with Wilshere because I don’t think he’s consistently incisive enough with his final ball as an attacking-midfielder, but I also don’t think he’s defensively sound enough to play in a pivot; that said, the inclusion of a defensive-midfielder will aid the squad in so many different departments on the pitch.

Just a final word on Arteta, I just think it’s commendable how well he’s played for Arsenal this season. He’s quietly gone about his job with the utmost professionalism, he hasn’t spoken about how hard it is for him to focus on so many different aspects of the pivot by himself and his leadership qualities have been second to none. His direct contribution to seven of Arsenal’s 59 league goals this season should also be appreciated hugely, considering that demoralising penalty miss in the final minute against Fulham at home. He’s also only picked up three yellow cards all season, that in itself shows how calm and composed he is an a newly explored position.

All in all, I feel as though people saying Arteta will be a bit-part player next season really aren’t looking at the full picture. Whilst a defensive-midfielder will, possibly, reduce Arteta’s game time, I still feel as though he’ll play a massive part next season, especially if Wenger’s long-term vision of Wilshere is in an attacking-midfield position.

 

Joel Campbell when he joined Real Betis on loan.

Joel Campbell when he joined Real Betis on loan.

There are times when you look at a striker’s stats, and are able to build a judgement on them. If they’ve scored quite a few goals in a decent amount of games, they’re deemed as ‘quality’ players. If, like Joel Campbell, they don’t have ‘stand-out’ stats that you look for in a striker, some will look at him and think he’s not that good. Well, that’s where the cliché, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, comes in.

With only two goals and one assist to his name this season, Joel Campbell hasn’t been a prolific ‘striker’, so to speak. An outstanding goal, candidate for Betis’ goal of the season, against Depor has easily been his best solo moment for Betis. But, what Campbell brings to a team like Betis isn’t just goals; especially when he hasn’t even been deployed in that centre-forward position. Betis’ manager, Pepe Mel,  has used the Costa Rican on either flank in a 4-3-3, or as a right-midfielder in a 4-4-2. Having said that, it isn’t odd at all to see Campbell in a more central position, during a game, because of the interchanging between the front-three of himself, Ruben Castro and Molina.

Joel Campbell's two goals this season via [ Squawka stats ]

Joel Campbell’s two goals this season via [ Squawka stats ]

Campbell doesn’t play like a striker, in my opinion, but seems like more of a wide-midfielder/winger. I say this because of his incredible defensive contribution (The best I’ve seen from such a young forward). His willingness to play wherever Pepe Mel wants him to, is a fantastic option for both Betis and Arsenal. Wenger is known for his liking of versatile forwards, and his conversion of them from wingers to centre-forwards. One of the main flaws in Campbell’s game are his final balls and decision making. His upper-body strength, and blistering pace, almost always gives him the upper-hand against most full-backs; the only problem is, once he gets past the full-back, his crossing isn’t always the best. But, that’s part and parcel with learning how to play in an unfamiliar position. Campbell averages a whopping three key defensive actions per-game, which is what an average defensive-midfielder does per-game. The fact he can play on either flank really shows his ambidexterity; he’s able to shoot and pass with either foot. He’s been a vital component in what’s been an overachieving league campaign, for Betis. Despite being in the shadow of players like Ruben Castro and Beñat, his performances for Betis have made the fans, and Mel, warm to him.

Joel Campbell is a young loanee which most clubs would take on board in a heartbeat. It’s hard to find a youngster in this modern generation whose head is screwed on properly, focuses solely on his football and wears his heart on his sleeve for a club which he more-or-less knows he won’t be playing for, come the start of the next season. Campbell’s recent tweet underlined this when he said “At Betis I should, and will, give 110% in every game and training session”. Maybe I’m looking too far into things, but most of Arsenal’s youth players on twitter tweet a lot of garbage that has nothing to do with their footballing careers. Sometimes, they hardly even squeeze in a tweet about football. The generic ‘Nando’s’ and song lyric tweets sometimes makes me think they’re not really interested in football as a whole. Maybe it’s a bit harsh considering it’s their personal account, and they can do what they want, but Joel Campbell’s rare tweets are always about his progression at Betis, and how he’s working hard to hopefully break into the Arsenal team when he’s granted a work permit. Campbell’s very humble and passionate about his football, and that’s a massive trait for any young player to have. He’s never at the centre of media attention.

On the topic of Joel Campbell’s work permit, it’s been said that he needs to play two world cup qualifiers in order to have 75% of it complete. That, plus the vast amount of minutes he’s getting under Pepe Mel at Betis, should see him get granted his work permit and join the Arsenal squad in the Summer.

I think Arsenal have a very promising forward on their hands. It’s hard to pin-point what, exactly, Wenger will do with him once he’s granted his work permit and is able to come to England. He seems a bit too raw to be used as a squad player, but he’d definitely benefit from another loan spell, preferably to a Premier League team, to see how he fairs in England. His end-product could do with some work. He’s not perfect. But, at the age of 20, he’s shown some very impressive signs. I’d like to think he has a very bright future ahead of him at Arsenal because, as mentioned previously, the positive and hard working mentality is there.

— GB1886. It’s good to be able to combine La Liga and Arsenal together into one post, once again.

Arsenal's new left-back

Arsenal’s new left-back

As a massive Arsenal fan, as well as a La Liga fan, it’s very rare that I get the chance to combine the two in a blog post. But, after the great news that we’d finally signed a player from La Liga, it makes this post very enjoyable to write.

Nacho Monreal joins Arsenal from the over-achieving Malaga; a team who are not only a joy to watch going forward, but also a team to admire when defending. Malaga bolster one of the best defences in La Liga, having only shipped in 19 goals in 21 league games. So, after the completion and capturing of Monreal, we have picked up a player who will bring some much needed solidity to our defence.

All 19 goals conceded.

All 19 goals conceded.

In terms of the signing, Monreal was a coup: £8.3M, and he’s on £55k-a-week. A player who, according to Wenger “Our scouts have followed his progress for a while”. Monreal has been learning English, a couple of months prior to his arrival, as it is believed that Arsenal had a pre-agreed deal to sign him in the Summer. What with the injury to Kieran Gibbs, it’s refreshing to see us bring a player of quality in and not have to persist with Andre Santos.

Monreal is a terrific left-back who, not only was one of the best left-backs in La Liga, is also Spain’s 2nd choice left-back. Monreal is a player who tends to build a strong bond with his counterpart on the left-flank. His link-up play with his team-mates is one of his strong points and, when he does get forward, he has the ability to put in a fantastic low/high cross with great precision. One of his greatest attributes is his heading, and winning aerial battles; this gives us an extra hand in terms of defensive outlets from corners. It’ll be interesting to see how his concentration levels fair at Arsenal as he’s usually a player who’s very short of calamitous errors in his locker, as well as silly mistakes. Hopefully lapses in concentration, and calamitous mistakes, aren’t contagious. Monreal has all the attributes of a wing-back, but his defensive contributions mean he’s an all-rounded left-back with great ability to both attack and defend. His positional awareness is flawless, and one of the best I’ve seen from a full-back in La Liga.

Monreal's average defensive contribution per game.

Monreal’s average defensive contribution per game.

What Monreal will bring to the side is quality in depth; and, also, without sounding too harsh, it means we won’t have to see Santos at left-back again in the Premier league. That’s the one problem that comes tied with signing Nacho – he’s cup tied in the Champions League. And, with Gibbs out injured, this means we’ll either see Vermaelen Vs Robben or Santos (read this whilst weeping) Vs Robben. Monreal will provide Gibbs with some great competition which’ll only make our player of the season, thus far, a better player. Healthy competition is always good, and I feel Monreal Vs Gibbs will be a fantastic battle which also sees us have the best left-back depth in the league, in my opinion.

All in all, I feel that Monreal is a player who will bring a lot of quality to this Arsenal team. He fits the bill perfectly with his quick, incisive passing and great technicality. It’ll be interesting to see how quickly he adapts to the English game considering the fact he’s built for it, and seems like he’ll take to it like a duck to water. A fantastic signing, and one that has had me singing his praises to many people; I just hope he doesn’t let me down. Also, don’t think he’s just a one season wonder, Monreal has been consistently performing since his Osasuna days; days which attracted interest from Barcelona and Real Madrid amongst many other big clubs.

Stats from the ever fantastic: http://www.squawka.com/