Tag Archives: Arsenal

Do key pair get unfair criticism from Arsenal fans?

Raul Sanllehi has got into some criticism with the way he has run the club since he was promoted to Head of Football following the departure of Ivan Gazidis back in September 2018.

It is his movements within the transfer market that hassled to the most criticism, as well as the departure of recruitment guru Sven Mislintat in January 2019. Mislintat reportedly left over a disagreement over the recruitment of Denis Suarez – a player backed by then coach Unai Emery and Sanllehi. Suarez flopped.

Many have pointed out that Sanllehi uses his “little black book of agents contacts” to find out who is available, rather than Mislintat’s search and selection method.

Mislintat and his scouting network would attempt to uncover players that no one has heard of, or was watching. Hidden gems. Whilst Sanllehi reportedly relies on agents contacting him to make him aware of their clients availability.

It is probably unfair on Sanllehi to say all he does is wait for agents to call him. He is Head of Football so deals with a lot more other than just recruitment, which is why he bought Edu in.

The Edu / Sanllehi axis has been massively criticised, and no more so than for their relationship with “super agent” Kia Joorabchian.

But is the criticism of the pair really fair?

The aforementioned Denis Suarez was bought in on loan in January. A deal that went bad. But was this down to him being not good enough? Or due to injury?

“Obviously it was a bad loan because I did not play,” Suarez told The Athletic in. “But there were circumstances which I would like the fans to understand. I played in my first game against Manchester City and then 10 days later I got injured against BATE in the Europa League.”

Asked if he felt 100 per cent at any point, Suárez replied: “The first week., that’s all. I felt it getting worse. After the match against BATE, I had incredible pain.  Every movement, every change of direction, every shot. Unai [Emery] could not play me as he knew I was not even near 50 per cent.”

In 2019, Arsenal shocked the world by spending big when no one thought they had any money.

1st through the door was Gabriel Martinelli.

The 18-year-old Brazilian was originally signed to join up with the U23 squad, but soon pushed his way into the first team.

Martinelli scored 10 senior goals in 26 games, becoming the first teenager to reach double figures in a single season for Arsenal since Nicolas Anelka.

His season came to an end prior to the suspension of football for COVID19, and he has since been ruled out for most of 2020.

Jurgen Klopp labelled him the ‘talent of the century’.

Following Martinelli into the club was teenage defender William Saliba.

Signed from Saint-Étienne, the club decided to leave the French central defender at his home club to continue his development. Big things are expected of him next year.

Then came the moment Arsenal shocked the footballing world. Nicolas Pepe joined for a club record £72million.

Pepe joined following a fruitful previous season for Lille, where he scored 23 goals in 42 games.

He has not lived up to a big price tag yet, although no Arsenal player created more goals and only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has more goals and assists combined.

His best game for Arsenal came in the FA Cup final.

Throughout the season he has showed glimpses of his talent. Next year he will be stronger, fitter and more prepared for the English game.

Kieran Tierney arrived injured having undergone a double hernia operation in May 2019.

The Scotsman’s slow return to full fitness was hampered by a dislocated shoulder against West Ham in early December. He was not seen again until the suspension of football was lifted in June.

Tierney has since played in every game since football returned, showing his versatility by playing left back, and the left side of a back 3.

Still just 23, the left back has done enough in his disrupted first season to show why Arsenal took the risk on him. He has the type of personality to become a terrace legend, and the ability to become one of Arsenal’s greatest left backs of all time.

Alongside the deadline day announcement of Tierney, Arsenal pulled a surprise by signing David Luiz from Chelsea for £8million.

Initially it was though Luiz had signed on a 2-year deal, but it alter transpired that it was a one-year deal with an option for a second.

We all know what David Luiz does.

He can put in a match winning performance one week, then make errors that led to penalties, sending offs and goals the next. His Arsenal career has been mixed, with him giving away 5 penalties and receiving 2 red cards.

But it is his influence off the pitch that led Arteta to push for Sanllehi and Edu to trigger the 2nd year of his contract.

His leadership is shown during the drinks breaks since the return of football.

Arteta is holding court with players in one circle, whilst Luiz is doing the same in another.

Luiz could be the leader that Saliba needs alongside him.

And then we have the loan deals.

Dani Ceballos joined on a season long loan.

A tough start to his career saw him in and out the team, and he would have been rocked by Unai Emery leaving.

On top of this he also picked up a hamstring injury that ruled him out for 2 months.

He has returned from suspension like a new player under Arteta – topping pretty much every statistic going for Arsenal.

Back 3 months ago, no one would have wanted Ceballos’s loan move to be made permanent. Now everyone will be frustrated if he is not with us next year.

An excellent signing.

Pablo Mari joined in January as injuries in defence mounted up, and then proceeded to get injured himself.

The ex-Manchester City man did enough on the training ground for Arsenal to secure his services permanently.

When he returns from injury, he will be in contention for first team football.

The signing of Cedric Soares was strange.

A loan player who turned up injured, unlikely to play for 2 months. It just seemed a waste.

But with his contract expiring in the summer, what Arsenal were basically doing was bringing his signing forward by 6 months. Allowing the club to rehabilitate his injury, and him to settle into new surroundings in North London.

He might not have played much, but Arsenal now have a Premier League experienced internationally capped right back to push Hector Bellerin.

When you break it down player by player, it becomes clear that Edu & Sanllehi have come in for a lot of unfair criticism.

Pepe has struggled, but the talent is there, whilst Ceballos, Martinelli and Tierney have all had disrupted debut seasons.

It is unfair to judge Mari and Cedric, but in what we have seen they look good additions.

David Luiz is the only one people could label “poor signing” on. But he was so poor that Arteta pushed the board to renew his contract. Sanllehi and Edu were reluctant to do so.

Maybe we as fans just need to step back a little, give those managing the club some time and space to breath. To recruit well. And to stamp their footprint on this great club.


Willian a “sensible signing for Arsenal”

The potentially signing of Willian from Chelsea has predictably been mate by plenty of grumbles from Arsenal fans.

Signing a soon-to-be 32-year-old that a rival was “happy” to let the contract run down for will raise some questions. Especially when his agent is a certain Kia Joorabchian. Especially after the experience of Mikel Silvestre and David Luiz.

Signing Willian would be seen by many as Arsenal once again putting money into Joorabchian’s pocket.

It would be seen as Arsenal going for a cheap option that is actually expensive due to salary and signing on fees.

It would be seen as Arsenal signing an ageing player, past his peak, rather than focusing on younger, hungrier talents.

And all those opinions are valid.

But Willian would actually be a sensible signing for Arsenal, if it is taken as part of the bigger picture.

Whilst Arsenal won the FA Cup played 343, the feeling by many is that his preferred formation is 433, with 3 central midfielders providing the defensive cover for the defence.

Lining up 433 would leave no place for a Mesut Ozil-esque Number 10. It would see a midfield 3 like Liverpool’s.

Hard working, more defensive minded, but can create.

It would require Arsenal securing Dani Ceballos for another year, and buying one more to add to Granit Xhaka.

We have been heavily linked with Thomas Partey and Donny van de Beek.

Playing 433 would mean we would only need a part-time Number 10. Someone who is happy sitting on the bench. Potentially also covering left or right wing. Someone who we can turn to allowing us to transition from 433 into 4231 or 4213 when chasing the game.

Willian can be this option.

With Willian on the bench, you have 3 substitution options with just one player.

He can come in and play 10, as the team shifts from 433 to 4231. He can also cover both wings.

So if Arsenal shift to 433 next season and buy a top class central midfielder, Willian becomes a sensible signing as the more attacking option.

If Arteta chooses to go for 4231, signing Willian makes a lot of sense if we also bring in a younger creative midfielder.

Arsenal might be looking across Europe at the likes of Dominik Szoboszlai from RB Salzburg or Saïd Benrahma at Brentford.

The issue with signing these two players is they would be coming from Austria or the Championship. The step up to the Premier League is huge.

So it would make sense if Arsenal signed, for example, 19-year-old Szoboszlai as a long term option whilst also adding a senior option to take the pressure off.

Willian could be that senior option.

Willian’s high wage would be offset by the youngsters much lower wage and the club could do the maths and end up paying less for Willian and the new creator than what Ozil & Mkhitaryan were costing. Even if we have to continue paying some of Ozil’s wages to move him on.

In this scenario, Willian also provides a duel role.

Alongside providing experienced cover and guidance to a less experienced “10” he also provides experienced cover to Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli.

So we have young, hungry, talented teenage attackers and Willian as an experienced, reliable head.

Willian turns 32-years-old in a few days, but has just had his most prolific season in the Premier League – scoring 9 and assisting 7. He started 29 games.

He is certainly not yet a player on the slide.

As always, it comes down to money.

Should we pay Willian a £200k a week for 4-years? No.

Would he accept just a 2 year deal? No. He has already turned that down for Chelsea.

So something in between needs to be found. Maybe a 2+1 or 3+1 deal

Willian becomes a sensible signing if him joining allows the club to rebuild the rest of the squad in the eye of Mikel Arteta.

If he is the only “big name signing” Arsenal make this summer, fans will be on his back from day one.


FA Cup win ‘just the beginning’ under Mikel Arteta

Nothing beats lifting silverware.

And for the 4th time in 7 years, Arsenal have finished the season with a trophy.

It was our worst season in 25 years the media gleefully told us at the end of the league campaign as we finished 8th – our lowest finish since 1994/95.

And then we go and lift the FA Cup and it was a glorious moment.

I would have been guaranteed a Wembley final ticket. What with my 60 something away credits.

Last week sadness hit as I realised I would not be making the trip to the final. So plans were put in place.

A dozen people turned up. The BBQ was on. The garden bar open. And a life time of memories created.

I will always remember the 2020 FA Cup final. Watching it with some of the greatest people in the world. Lads I have known for decades, been over land and sea with. Oh what a night!

Some might say that the result is “papering over the cracks”. But for me this is not a 2017 situation, where winning the FA Cup hid the slow demise of Arsenal under Arsene Wenger. This is a new start.

Mikel Arteta came in 8 months ago. Some loudmouths didn’t want him. “He just puts out Pep’s cones” they cried. They probably had their anti-Arteta tweets lined up in their drafts.

The victory of Chelsea shows just how far we have come since Arteta took over.

Arteta has shown we are a top 6 side who were coached poorly at the beginning of the season.

Taken into account we had a caretaker manager for 5 games, where we won just 5 points, to finish just 6 points off of 5th highlighted the improvement under the Spaniard.

We have beaten Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United under Mikel Arteta.

28 games he has been in charge for. We have won 57.14% of them. That is just a little shy than Wenger’s win ratio – 57.25 (incredible for 20 years at the club).

Yet people will still deny we have made progress under him.

Yes, we have had some disappointing results. Aston Villa and Brighton stick out. But it is easier to improve to beat the smaller teams than it is to beat the better ones.

Taking into account Arteta took over a team low on confidence, fitness and focus following Emery’s disastrous handling of the squad, what he has achieved in 8 months is incredible.

What is obvious on the pitch, during the drink breaks, is the players respect him. They listen to him. They buy into him.

You see it at Man City and Liverpool, the way the players celebrate with the manager. They see themselves as one unit. Arteta is the same.

The way he has dealt with the Mesut Ozil and Matteo Guendouzi situations is also remarkable for a man who is in his first senior job.

Whilst Bernd Leno, Shkodran Mustafi, Gabriel Martinelli and Calum Chambers were all at Wembley, crutches and all, Ozil and Guendouzi were no where to be seen.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles sums up Arsenal under Arteta.

You are either with the manager, putting 100% in training every session, or you are not. And if you are not, you do not play.

A few months ago Maitland-Niles seemed on his way out of Arsenal.

Questions about his attitude, about him demanding to play midfield. He had seemingly played his last game for Arsenal.

He kept his counsel, worked hard at training and was fantastic on Saturday. Likewise he was key against Manchester City in the semi-final.

Maitland-Niles deserves his FA Cup winners medal.

The same for Mustafi and Granit Xhaka. Two more players who have come back from the brink to become key performers under Arteta.

It is important that Arteta is able to keep the core of this squad together. That Pierre-Emerick Aubameayng signs a new deal. That Dani Ceballos is secured for at least another 12 months. Hopefully more.

And then we rebuild.

Get rid of those players who have not bought in to Arteta’s process, and replace them with hunger individuals. Players that want to achieve. Players who have the desire to play and improve. Players who want to join us on the journey.

But for now, we can all relax. Enjoy ourselves. No negativity. This is just the beginning for Arsenal under Mikel Arteta.