My piece for the Boot Room on the one and only Arsene Wenger
Arsenal fans may not want to accept it but Arsene Wenger will stay at the club next season.
To paraphrase Commissioner Gordon’s speech from the Dark Knight slightly, he may not be the manager they need, or want, but he is the one they are stuck with.
The Gunners are in the midst of an all too familiar season of disappointment. Dumped out of the EFL cup early by eventual finalists, Southampton, out of the title race and certainly out of the Champions League, Arsenal’s only chance of silverware is the FA Cup. Having won the competition in two of the last three years, the Arsenal faithful won’t be too impressed with dominating a competition no longer high on the list of the elite.
Another year of tactical and mental failures has increased the calls for Wenger to leave the club and recent results haven’t helped. The 2-1 loss at home to Watford was followed by the somewhat expected 3-1 loss to Chelsea, though it’s the 5-1 hammering at the hands of Bayern that still sticks in the mind. Despite these issues, it seems likely that Wenger will stay at the club. The BBC recently reported that the Arsenal manager will make a decision on his future at the end of the season knowing that new deal has been offered.
And there lies one of the reasons why it is a certainty that Wenger will stay on beyond this season.
The decision makers at Arsenal are quite okay with the status quo and are seemingly in awe of the Professor. Consistent Champions League football and meekly attempted title challenges are good enough for Stan Kroenke, Ivan Gazidis, and co. No one on the board has the football knowledge to challenge Wenger, or at the very least help him improve their fortunes on the field. That also makes the possibility of finding a capable successor even more daunting. Wenger is the Director of Football, manager, and coach all rolled into one. There’s really no other manager, especially at a top club, that has such power. To expect a new manager to come in and fill all those roles is an almost certain recipe for failure. That could be negated by hiring someone to fill the role of Director Football, with the alternative being promoting Wenger to that position. Whether Wenger will want to relinquish everyday control of his team, or the new manager willing to have Wenger breathing down his neck, is another matter.
The names that have been mentioned as possible successors, Thomas Tuchel, Diego Simeone and Massimiliano Allegri favorite among them, are all exciting. Each would have his own reason for not wanting to join. Tuchel has an exciting project already underway at Borussia Dortmund, Simeone has much more ambition than yearly 4th place trophies, plus his style doesn’t fit the Arsenal way, and Allegri is doing well at Juventus where winning the domestic title is a given and actually winning the Champions League is the main concern.
There is the possibility of a lesser known manager taking the reins but that would surely require Wenger staying in an executive role or hiring from the outside. The best bet would be on Silent Stan wanting to keep Wenger around. He doesn’t seem to be the only one either.
The Guardian reports that both Mesut Ozil and Hector Bellerin would be more inclined to stick around if Wenger stays. The fans will have mixed feelings in this regard but will surely not want to return to the days of Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Robin Van Persie departing. Ozil’s form this season, and the continued doubts about his performance on the biggest stage means fans may not miss him too much should he go. Bellerin, as reported by ESPNFC, recently sign a new long-term contract so a departure is unlikely.
If the overwhelming majority of the team would like Wenger to stay then that makes the decision easy for the board. On the flipside, Alexis Sanchez, the one player Arsenal can’t lose, seems likely to leave if Wenger retains his place as manager. The Chilean has shown his frustration on numerous occasions this season and may feel his energy is better spent elsewhere. Should a new manager come in he might be tempted to stay.
Wenger is unlikely to want to leave on a sour note and has been in this position before. As far as his employers are concerned, he is meeting the requirements they have for him. One could argue that failure to qualify for the Champions League next season should prompt some response but, again, the likely action will be to trust Wenger to guide the club to a quick return to the competition. The board have given Wenger the utmost trust and confidence and their silence during the recent poor run does nothing to suggest a change will come.
The possibility of life at Arsenal without Arsenal is surely one that keeps “Silent Stan” screaming at night. The recent botched succession of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United is suggested as a major reason the board at Arsenal would be hesitant. That’s understandable but the club then risks falling behind by standing still. Regardless, the board have already made their decision.
A contract has been offered to Wenger in lieu of real success or progress, or silverware as the fans call it. The board is smart enough to know they lack the football knowledge to fill the gap the Frenchman’s departure would create and they probably feel he can’t be adequately replaced. While Arsenal is a club rich in history and full of talent, the elite managers may look at the lack of ambition shown from the top and be drawn elsewhere. The possibility of key players departing, however minute in some cases, also factors in.
Wenger has made himself indispensable to the current leadership at Arsenal. If they are happy with what he provides then a departure will only ever come on his terms. One can only hope Arsenal won’t be too far behind when that occurs.
My piece for the Boot Room on which of Arsenal’s two superstars is more important.
Arsenal’s two superstars have been the subject of much debate as the Gunners continue their fine start to the 2016/17 season.
Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez have been key to Arsenal’s recent revival and much of their good form this season. The duo arrived in consecutive summers when their former employers sought high-quality, and highly expensive, additions from two of their rivals. Arsenal were the benefactors from those moves and two FA Cups have since arrived to end the club’s trophy drought. Success in other competitions has been non-existent but the strong start this season has increased expectations.
A major cause for that is the ever-improving on-field relationship between the two stars. Sanchez’s deployment as a full-time striker for the Gunners has led to a partnership between him and Ozil reminiscent of the days of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp.
Arsene Wenger has received credit in some corners for a long overdue move to place the Chilean livewire at the head of Arsenal’s attack. That decision has led to an increase in productivity and quality from both stars, as they play closer together in the central of the park with skills that complement each other well.
Both players are well on their way to their best tallies for the club, with Ozil’s nine goals and five assists bettered by Sanchez’s 13 goals and eight assists in all competitions. Both have produced match-winning performances and moments so far and its no wonder Arsenal fans are biting their nails over any bit of negative news about the duo.
The Telegraph reported at the beginning of the season that the Gunners were set to enter contract talks with both players. There has been little sign of progression where those talks are concerned and time is of essence with Sanchez and Ozil’s contracts due to expire in 2018. If either side fail to reach an agreement, or if Arsenal fail to land a major trophy once the season ends, then the possibility of one or both players leaving becomes very real.
If Arsenal were to lose either player it would come as a massive blow to the club’s reputation and chance for further progression.
Sanchez and Ozil are both in their prime and are key players for club and country. While the German is arguably the best player in his position and Sanchez is still coming to terms with the regularity of his new role, Arsenal need Sanchez more.
When comparing the two and what they bring to the club, Sanchez hits more marks. The Chilean’s form so far this season suggests that Arsenal’s wait for a long-term heir to Thierry Henry has ended. Sanchez provides much of the same power, pace and drive as the Frenchman and has showcased his clinical touch as well. One could argue that Ozil’s presence behind him is why he has been so effective in this role but there’s nothing to compare unlike the differences between Sanchez and Olivier Giroud up front. Arsenal have a few players who could play in Ozil’s position while arguably providing similar statistics but none can match Sanchez’s talents. Ozil is standing in the way of a few players, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere among them, who could eventually move on if they find a better opportunity elsewhere.
A look at the statistics favour the Chilean as well.
In their time at the club, considering only games in the Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup, Sanchez has 53 goals and 30 assists in 109 games. Ozil has 29 goals and 47 goals in 137 games. Both players had their injury spells and runs of poor form but these statistics showcase two points. Sanchez is a much more productive player who has also spent the majority of his time behind the striker as Ozil has. The Chilean is also much more durable than his teammate, having played only 29 games less than his teammate, about half a season, despite joining a full year later. Ozil has shown signs of increased durability but Sanchez is already ahead in that game as shown by his quick return from injury during the November international break.
Neither player is bigger than the club, and if Wenger really wants to stick to his guns then both may leave. That would be a mistake.
In a perfect world both players would stay and do so in such a way that won’t upset the balance Wenger wants in his dressing room. Sanchez may not yet be considered a world-class striker like his teammate in attacking midfield but those strikers are hard to find, or are beyond Wenger’s taste as far as cost, while are many quality attacking midfielders around. His redeployment centrally has led to the increased dynamism in Arsenal’s attack. There certainly won’t be a replica of Ozil, but Arsenal can surely find a player of the requisite quality to replace the German.
If it comes down to a choice, then it is Sanchez who provides a much bigger need for the club in the short and long-term.
All statistics courtesy of ESPNFC
We’re halfway through the group stages of the Champions League and the Premier League are yet to receive their usual dressing down by the media. Well, Manchester City are sure to get an earful in the next couple days after the loss to Barcelona but we’ll get to that later.
As things stand Arsenal, Leicester City, Tottenham and Manchester City are all in a decent positions to progress from the group stage. Leicester are, of course, the surprise of the bunch with three wins out of three. The last time all English teams made it out of the group stages was the 2013/14 season in which Chelsea made it to the semifinals and Manchester United made it to the quarterfinals. A similar return wouldn’t be too disappointing given the respective pre-tournament doubts about Leicester and Tottenham.
Right now the most likely opponents, meaning those in first or second in each group, are Paris Saint-Germain, Napoli, Besiktas, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich, Monaco, Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid, FC Copenhagen, Juventus and Sevilla. Other teams within touching distance in third place include Borussia Mochengladbach, Benfica, Porto, Bayer Leverkusen and Lyon. Admittedly, it is easier to see who will progress after four rounds but even that isn’t a given. The Premier League clubs wouldn’t face each other in the Round of 16 regardless of position or seeding given they are from the same league and who knows what form they or their opposition will be when the tournament returns next February. While the current standings means each team would face some unwanted opponents should they reach the knockout rounds, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus and Atletico Madrid stand out, it would be hard to fully count them out for a variety of reasons.
Leicester have, as expected, benefited from being a top seed as champions of the Premier League and were put in a manageable group. While their domestic form leaves little to be the desired, Claudio Ranieri’s side has produced some professional performances their first time on the European stage. Progression is expected at this point and there’s a high probability they will be seeded again after finishing first. As ESPNFC’s Iain Macintosh pointed out, the club’s focus on European football is admirable but a Champions League trophy to follow-up last season’s Premier League is out of the question. Leicester could certainly compete with many of the teams still in with a chance of progression but their preseason losses to PSG and Barcelona are indicative of what would occur should they face the elite. A soft draw could lead to a Cinderella run but this side’s inexperience and lack of real quality in midfield will be their undoing. That’s not the case for Tottenham.
With two home games remaining, Tottenham could very well end up first in what is currently a very tight group. Even if they don’t, their intensity and quality will be enough to unsettle any of their more illustrious opponents. Spurs want to join the elite in the Premier League and part of that will be showing they can compete on multiple fronts. Mauricio Pochettino’s squad now has some decent depth even if they don’t have the Champions League experience of Arsenal and Manchester City. Last season’s Europa League run will be beneficial despite the disappointing end and Spurs will hope to do one better than their London rivals.
Arsenal seem to be benefitting from finishing second last season and thus having a higher seeding in the draw. Funny how that works. Paris Saint-Germain, especially this work in progress version, aren’t the most daunting nouveau-riche side to face. If the Gunners don’t pull their usual deer in the headlights performances away against Basel and Ludorogets then the home game against PSG should decide first place. Oh, what a day that would be. This Arsenal side look a lot more focused and efficient up front with Alexis Sanchez leading the line, again, no surprise there, and they may finally get over the Round of 16 hump. We hope. It may come down to how tight things are in the Premier League race in February but this is the trophy missing from Wenger’s cabinet so Arsenal will be expected to give it their all.
And lastly, Manchester City.
The 4-0 loss to Barcelona was a blow, especially when coupled with Borussia Mochengladbach’s win over Celtic, but it’s not the end of the world. Were it not for Fernandinho’s slip and Claudio Bravo’s horrendous decision the game would’ve played out differently, and there may even have been talk of Manchester City finally becoming elite. That didn’t happen but they are on the way there. City finally has a manager to make the difference on this stage in Pep Guardiola. If he continues to get his tactics right as he did against Barcelona, and the players can cut out the mistakes and step up their game, then City have the best chance of the English quartet. A draw against Barcelona at home and win against Mochengladbach in their next two games and second place is all but assured. Of course, those aren’t the targets to set but the minimum needed. This team wouldn’t be huge underdogs against the elite like their fellow Premier League sides.
There’s no telling what’s in store for any of these teams with the group stages not finished but anything can happen. Of course, they could render all the above thoughts useless by failing to progress in the tournament but the odds do seem in their favour. Arsenal and City will expect to progress further given their experience and the quality in their squads. Both Tottenham and Leicester can revel in the fact that they are lesser know quantities, as much as can be in this digital age, and can use that to their advantage.
It’s unlikely that more than one of these teams will make it to the semifinal but stranger things have happened. The Champions League its still in infancy but these might turn out to be a good season for the Premier League clubs.
The are still lots of wrinkles to iron out but one major positive for Arsenal this season is Alexis Sanchez leading the line for Arsenal.
Let’s get one thing out of the way really quickly though. For anyone who says Sanchez is a winger playing as a forward, you’re wrong. Going back to his Udinese days, and the few times he led the line at Barcelona, Sanchez is an attacker, not a forward or winger but capable of playing both quite efficiently. Some of his best work for Chile came when working in tandem with Eduardo Vargas, as a forward, even if Sanchez spent time dropping off out wide or back into midfield as you usually see when the national side plays. Got it? Good.
Now, back to Arsenal.
Folks will want to tip their hats to Arsene Wenger for making this adjustment but that’s a stretch. When Sanchez initially joined Arsenal, Wenger tried the Chilean up front and scrapped the experiment all too soon. He has featured there once or twice since but you would never think that this was the long-term plan for the Professor. Indeed, it was a surprise to see Sanchez start the Liverpool game at forward even with the other injuries and one expected Olivier Giroud to return once fully fit. He hasn’t reached that status yet so maybe that will occur but Wenger always has a preference for keeping a successful side together. So as long as Sanchez performs up top he’ll keep that spot. Does that mean he is now officially the No. 1 forward at Arsenal? That question will be answered as the season progresses.
Regardless, the improvement Sanchez brings to the Gunners in attack can be seen for all. There’s more fluidity, pace, creativity and improved pressing. Not to mention the improvement of the likes of Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott. These are the types of targets Ozil had at Real Madrid, not in case of overall quality or skills, but in Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Angel Di Maria he had that same fluidity etc and not a stagnant, lumbering target man. His growing relationship with Sanchez is a prime example with that and his lovely volley against Swansea, his third assist from Sanchez, could be a sign of more to come the longer they play together.
Giroud has certainly done a job for the Gunners but I’ve always said he was a Plan B forward and not the type to be starting under Wenger. Nor is he one to be relied upon in big games as the manager put it, per the Guardian. He can come on to help change games or even start in certain circumstances to rest Sanchez or play him out wide. Giroud may very well be next in line as it seems new signing, Lucas Perez, is going the way of former No. 9 Park Chu-Young in terms of performances and impact at the Emirates. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen but right now it seems that was Wenger panic-buying, again, to please the masses.
There’s a long season to go yet and Wenger will also have to be careful to not burn Sanchez out as he has the last two seasons, so maybe Perez will get some playing time. If Wenger also decides that Danny Welbeck starts up front upon his return with Sanchez back on the wing then I won’t mind that either. Sanchez is the best option up front but Welbeck provides similar attributes and need a good run of games to solidify himself as a starting striker. There’s still some growing pains to work through offensively, as the Burnley game showed, though that was partly down to Wenger’s lack of rotation, but the signs are promising. There’s still issues at the back and midfield as well so this is by no means a change that will win silverware of any kind.
With Sanchez up front Arsenal are a better attacking outfit and reminiscent of the days when Thierry Henry led the line. Hoppefully in time the same type of silverware will begin to roll in as well.
My Piece for The Boot Room on a possible Lacazette to Arsenal move.(I highly doubt it will happen but the primary source of an Arsenal fan’s sanity nowadays is hope so what the hell)
In the Arsene Wenger era, Arsenal and French forwards go hand in hand. Nicolas Anelka, Thierry Henry, Sylvain Wiltord and Olivier Giroud have been prominent in their compatriot’s plans since joining the club. It seems that this summer, they could be followed by another.
The Telegraph reports that Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette is a now on the Gunners’ radar after they missed out on Jamie Vardy. In truth, missing out on Vardy may actual be a blessing in disguise if a move for Lacazette comes to fruition.
Arsenal have been in need of a top-level forward for the last few seasons and have missed out on a few targets in that time. Gonzalo Higauin and Luis Suarez are the two names that stand out and; while not on their level yet, Lacazette would still be a fantastic signing, and has the potential to become one of Europe’s most feared hit-men.
The Lyon star is only 25 years of age and yet to reach his prime, so Arsenal can expect to pay a premium. The Frenchman has all the hallmarks of a stereotypical Wenger forward – able to boast fabulous pace, techinque, finishing, solid dribbling and mobility. Those are traits that every one of Wenger’s previous French forwards; Giroud aside, possessed. Lacazette has been consistent in front of goal over the last few seasons and possesses European experience as well.
Lacazette had 21 goals and three assists in 2013/14 followed by 31 goals and six assists in 2014/15, while the 2015/16 campaign saw him score 23 goals at the same time as adding 3 assists. He has done most of this as a part of an impressive but youthful Lyon side, and would certainly benefit from playing with the likes of Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez.
Özil would thrive with another speedy target ahead of him, but it is the potential partnership with Sanchez that should excite Arsenal fans. Some of the Chilean’s best performances for The Gunners came when Danny Welbeck started up front for Arsenal. Lacazette would provide the Alexis with a similar partner who would be more productive in front of goal.
Sanchez has played his best when partnering another mobile forward, as he did with Antonio Di Natale for Udinese, and still does with Eduardo Vargas on the Chilean national team. If Wenger wants to get the best out one of the driving forces of his squad, then a move for Lacazette makes sense.
Lacazette has the versatility to play out wide as well if necessary, and that will aid the side when it comes to other line-ups. A starting front four of Lacazette, Sanchez, Özil, and one of Welbeck, Alex Iwobi or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should have more than enough creativity, pace and goal-scoring punch for the Gunners. With the ability to select the likes of Giroud and Theo Walcott instead to suit the opponent or situation, Wenger would have no shortage of options.
Welbeck is; unfortunately, likely to be out half the season, and that makes signing someone like Lacazette even more important. He too can mirror the high-energy game that Sanchez employs and make Arsenal’s pressing game that little bit more dangerous.
With doubts surrounding the futures of Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsenal need an injection of fresh blood. Targeting Vardy made sense, but Lacazette offers a better option for both the future and the present. The North London outfir will have to move quickly though, as interest in the Lyon forward is high. ESPNFC reported back in May that West Ham had a bid for the forward rejected and the same source presented rival club Spurs’ supposed interest in the Frenchman.
Arsene Wenger has made steps, slowly but surely, to fill the holes necessary to get his squad to the level required to win the Premier League. Petr Cech, the essential top-level goalkeeper, was required last summer and Granit Xhaka is soon to join up with the squad to control the midfield. A defender and a forward are still required. The longer Wenger waits to pull the trigger on a deal like this could come back to haunt the Gunners.
Lacazette is reminiscent of many of Wenger’s forwards during his best seasons at the club. His versatility, finishing and overall play would be beneficial for key players and the entire team. He may not fit the bill of a superstar just yet, but he is a top striker and one who can certainly help the club to win the Premier League title.
The first Weekly chatter that looks more into the summer and onwards than the disappointing season that just ended. Well. Mostly. The amount of Granit Xhaka articles about shows just how happy fans are at a big signing. I feel like the rest of the summer we’ll see articles about this player and that but no other move will happen until Wenger signs a young striker and says he’ll solve our problems up front. We shall see.
Do we think he will though?
I always liked Rosicky going back to his Borussia Dortmund days. Definitely wish he could have provided more on the pitch.
You kept a hold of Theo Walcott for 10 years so you may as well do the same with the Ox.
First things first. He’s staying. There’s an infinite contract sitting somewhere on Stan Kroenke’s desk they just haven’t figured out how to tell the whole world yet. Of the changes, three have already been mentioned multiple times. Injuries, buying well in the transfer market and defining the team’s style. The other three are unlikely to happen or don’t really help the club in the hear and now. Arsenal can’t regain its edge with Wenger in charge because he’s lost the ability to motivate and the team isn’t full of strong personalities. Youth is still a big part of the club and I would be surprised if Jeff Renee-Adeilade plays some as well as those mentioned. Lastly, the British project is off track for a reason. The players haven’t fully convinced or have injury issues or both. It’s up to them to fix that.
Useful bit of info for the uninitiated I guess.
Nope. None at all. I’d like Xhaka and Ramsey to start. Ramsey can get back to his preferred position and bring some much-needed goals from midfield especially if we stick with Giroud. Elneny and Coquelin backups with Cazorla there as well. Wilshere mainly backs up Ozil and then the wings might need a new player or two assuming two or more of Walcott, Ox, Joel Campbell, and possibly Gnabry, leave.
Okay. Okay. We get it. He’s good.
Here”s our first get your hopes up target. Except because he’s not a big name not many fans will know about him.
It’s probably going to be mostly transfer chatter as far as Arsenal is concerned for the rest of the summer. I’ve already pushed many thoughts of this season to the back of my mind. Here’s some thoughts for the end of the season.
Finishing above Tottenham is so undeserved .
And that’s why we have no really major trophies in the last 10 years.
We’re shit. We’re shit. Mentally weak. Needed better strikers. Wenger needs to go. Oh, wait. We knew all of this before.
Makes sense. If he announced he was leaving at the end of the season I think everyone would come together as. If he’s staying for longer, well then it could probably get worse.
Based on his recent productivity. No.
Last game of a disappointing season and we’re bringing back the weekly chatter to reminisce on how shitty we were, fanciful transfer news and how shitty we were.
Yes, it means keeping a job for another year.
Don’t need the Manchester City draw to show that.
So, did the author have a cup of tea with Wenger and jot down all these plans on a notebook? All this amounts to is just rumours. The same old crap rumours we get every summer and winter with a few different faces in the mix. I don’t have a probably with coming up with theoretical solutions etc but to say this piece provides an inside track on Arsenal’s summer is kind of ridiculous. Alvaro Morata being pointed out as an option to upgrade the attack says it all. He’s a good player and might come into his own at Arsenal but his recent history doesn’t suggest he’ll do any better than Giroud.
Players, manager, board. Did we miss anyone?
Arsenal tell Alexis Sanchez there’s no chance he’ll be sold as star forward stalls on £180,000 contract
Fun to see how this plays out if its true.
I don’t think he should go to the Euros even if he’s fit but, hey. It will just be showing favoritism to a player who, while clearly talented, hasn’t done much in his career to warrant it even if it’s mainly due to unfortunate injuries.
And then give him a new contract.
Really? Now is the time?
The two players in France are probably the best and most realistic options and that might be a stretch.
Same old story with the injuries. Feel bad for Danny Welbeck though.
It was bad the last time he got it. Can’t be any worse now. Well, it could be.
Basically, we were shitty in front of goal because, oh, I don’t know, we don’t have the quality players that we should have.
Really great read here. It’s not hard to see why the Emirates would have a poor atmosphere when this is becoming the norm.
Nods head. If all goes well for Tottenham this summer, keeping players, managers and good additions etc then there’s really no reason this can’t become a regular thing as long as Wenger is in charge at Arsenal. Spurs lost their heads against Chelsea, a sign maturation is still needed, but the last two disappointing results can serve as further fuel for what is a very motivated side. Playing in the Champions League will make the early season schedule a bit easier as well.