Saturday, 21 June 2014

Sanchez the answer to pace problems?

It's been a fine week of football. A World Cup threatening to wilt away after Cesc's departure stealing the headlines and a pretty dire opening ceremony made me concerned. Were Brazil about to rob us of the greatest footballing event on the planet?

Absolutely not! The football has been fantastic, France have been doing excellent, and big teams are falling. Goals are pouring in from everywhere except Iran, my Fantasy team is doing brilliant (12th in the League as I speak). There really couldn't be a better distraction to keep my mind occupied for the off-season.

Yet, there is Arsenal stuff too. Le Grove revealed we're hard in for Reus and Sanchez. If it's true, it displays remarkable ambition by Wenger. I might have underestimated him. Maybe the FA Cup has given the guy a ruthless edge in the market. Good to see IF TRUE.

I have triple confirmation on Alexis. A good friend deep into the Arsenal community, a confidential transfer source and now Le Grove have as good as confirmed concrete Arsenal interest in Sanchez. To quote Mackenzie McHale from The Newsroom, "It's a completely unbelievable story, but I can't ignore evidence."

I got nothing on Reus, though, and I don't see it happening even if we are interested.

Honestly, I don't know much about Sanchez. I caught a glimpse of him in the World Cup against 5PA1N, and he looked pretty lively. He has pace, of course - truckloads of it. Christ knows we need that now.

Sanchez would fit in like a glove. He, along with Walcott, would be zooming on the wings, enhancing Ozil's creative hunger. I really feel we wouldn't need a striker that badly if Arsene manages to lure Sanchez. He'd be a terrific addition to converting to wing play.

If there's any lesson to be learnt from this World Cup, it's that possession football has well and truly died. I've been saying (for a year now) that Arsenal should be giving wing-play more importance to tiki-taka football. Sanchez would be a massive step in achieving that.

I'm a bit exhausted of repeating my footballing ideology, but I'll say it once more. In a wing-play system, it doesn't matter whether your striker is world-class or not, as long as he can match the pace of explosive wingers beside him and finish neatly. Look at Madrid. Look at Bayern with Gomez.


Real with Ronaldo and Bale made Benzema one of the most feared strikers. Did you see the guy's confidence? He's killing it in the World Cup. Bayern with Robben and Ribery did the same with Gomez, and Mandzukic, to an extent. Pires and Ljungberg (who, sadly, aren't given much credit for their contributions) made Thierry... well, Henry was already pretty legendary, wasn't he?

Point being, Walcott and Sanchez and Chamberlain and Podolski and Cazorla and upcoming Gnabry are bloody exciting options on the wings. Giroud wouldn't match up to their speed - we need someone who can. I'm not even looking for something marquee, even though the Balotelli rumours excite me. I'd be fine with a Loic Remy.

I'm almost confident that Wenger is going for Sanchez, three sources can't be that coincidential. It looks like the manager is targeting pace, which is wise. That would invariably make Ramsey, Cazorla and Ozil the attacking fulcrum of our team.

I don't want to hype things up, but if we pull this off, I'd argue we'd be on an even footing with Chelsea. I still don't think it'll materialize, but I'm heartened to see Wenger go big for once, that too early in the window.

Play the waiting game for now? Sure.

-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz]

Friday, 13 June 2014

Cesc proves that loyalty and trust is a lost virtue in football

Sky Sports didn't have anything, and it was the only news source that I read. It was for that reason that Cesc's departure to Chelsea came as such a massive shock to me.

Cesc has gone to Chelsea. Chelsea. I can scarcely believe it, I refuse to believe it. It feels like a nightmare. It's ten times worse than the van Persie issue. And what's even more striking is that Cesc wasn't an Arsenal player to lose, yet it feels like we have sold him to our direct rival.

Perhaps what makes it worse is his quotes.

"Chelsea is the best choice.
They have an amazing squad of players and an incredible manager. I am fully committed to this team and I can't wait to start playing."

The presence of Chelsea as the third-party is what makes this particularly painful. Aside from comfortably overtaking us in squad and stature, they've replaced their forgone legend with a player who, arguably, should have been our legend.

It stings, and it stings bad. It's like someone extracted your heart from your mouth, heated it in a microwave to 360°, and then served it to my dead body on a bowl of rice. And then have John Terry compose the epitaph. I'm not even joking.

We had our chance; the buy-back and first-refusal clauses could have prevented the transfer, Yet Wenger didn't push the button. Instead he chose to focus on his own squad - a squad that has been devoid of investment since Kim Kallstrom.

Fabregas cannot be absolved of blame, though. It's not like his hand was forced - had he stuck it out, he could have found a more homely club or struck oil at Barcelona. Instead, he chose to join Jose Mourinho and John Terry on the dark side of London. Cesc Fabregas, nurtured at Highbury, parented by Arsene Wenger, playing for Abramovich. How did that not make him cringe?

Cesc is a traitor. In a way, he's the worst of them all. His constant assurances unfounded, his promises to return to the club that gave him everything (apparently), all plastic and shamelessly emotionless. I had said that Fabregas wouldn't dare wreck his PR Image by joining Chelsea, but I wasn't certain of it. Fucking hell, I was wrong.

Wenger should have bought him. Fabregas confirmed that Wenger rejected him, thus indirectly strengthening his rival Mourinho. The only way I'll forgive Wenger is if he uses his funds well. A quality right-back, a reliable DM, backup goalkeeper and centre back and Balotelli up front, and Cesc would be soon forgotten.

But I don't trust Wenger to do the right thing. In fact, I don't trust anyone anymore. Even so, Fabregas' departure taught me a valuable lesson. Loyalty and trust mean nothing in football - maybe even in this cold, dog-eat-dog world. When the chips are down, everyone thinks of themselves. Moralistic laws are shown the door.

And that is why I'm not at all convinced that players like Wilshere and Jenkinson are to stay here for life. Money and trophies have officially obliterated footballistic morals, and Arsene needs to deliver them.

We have a bunch of exciting players that anyone would want to see at Arsenal for the following five years. The British core, Ozil, Szczesny, Gnabry... this is our future foundation. We should lucre them with trophies and money - not hope every player turns a Tony Adams and signs contracts with their eyes closed.

The Fabregas damage is profound, but it isn't irreparable. Buy some quality players, win the Community Shield and all of a sudden, you have a buzzing atmosphere with a team raring to have a crack at the Premier League title. We'd be laughing at this day.

We have seen loyal players turn their backs on us for fatter paychecks and accolades. We've failed enough to know the tonic for success. For once, let's get out there and achieve it. Or three years from now, you might find this blog calling Mesut Ozil a traitor.

Over to you, Arsene.

P.S. Just as I round this up, Arsenal report that Sagna has joined City. I CAN'T DO THIS ANYMORE!!

-Santi (Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz)

Thursday, 12 June 2014

The moment I became a France supporter!

July 1, 2006; the day that bound me as a France follower and a lifelong Gooner for life, hopefully. I'm not one for sentimentality, but I perfectly remember that day.

It was the day France were to face off Brazil in the World Cup quarters, the first World Cup match I ever saw.

I was staying at my mother's friend's house, along with her husband and two children, both of them significantly older to me. That family being Anglo-Indian, they were naturally hard-on footie fanatics, which kind of set the scene for the match. People tend to forget that football is more than watching it on the telly, it's about hanging out with fellow football fans, bickering, bragging and making a day of it.

Anyway, most of the people in the house were supporting Brazil (even my mother, who barely watches football!). Why wouldn't they? Brazil had the aura of invincibility, and were nailed-on favourites to finish as finalists, at least. Having Kaka, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Dida and Arsenal-man Gilberto Silva in the same side was frightening.

Course, my mom knew nothing of this. She only supported Brazil because they were poor. Go figure, a sympathy fan.

But hey, I didn't know anything about football then either. However, watching everyone support Brazil seemed to have a reverse psychological effect on me, and all of a sudden I found myself supporting the underdog, France. I knew that they had barely any chance of winning the match, but I wanted to stand out of the crowd. Besides, I had recognized Thierry Henry in French colours from Arsenal, as I has seen the Champions League Final of 2006, the final that my cousin made me watch. That kind of increased my support for France.

I distinctly remember my mother almost bribing me, telling me that she'd gift me a Brazil T-Shirt if I reconsidered my support. I defiantly refused, more out of intrigue than anything. Why was everyone supporting Brazil, and how did this footballistically iconic side gain everyone's support in a trice? My fear for Brazil grew, and I didn't think that France would have the stomach to beat them.

But screw it.

I chose my side, and I was too stubborn to switch it. I would close my eyes and dig my heels deeper into the ground if need be, that's how stubborn I was. As the teams came out of the tunnel, I understood exactly why Brazil were claimed to be the best footballing nation in the world. They had classy players, and my Anglo-Indian relatives were mocking my choice after seeing their star-studded starting line-up.

Ninety minutes later, and France have just beaten the best team in the world. 1-0 to them, courtesy of a Thierry Henry goal. How symbolic. Imagine the scenes. Imagine the SCENES.

I just sat there, amazed. After the heartbreak of the CL Final of 2006, this was only the second match I had seen, and it had delivered one of the most memorable footballing moment in my life. That Henry goal sealed my love for Arsenal and created a new bonding for France. It was the moment I became a football fan. It almost felt like destiny that I would be an Arsenal supporter and a France fan.

I may be the only football fan in India who holds loyalty towards a footballing nation, as I may be the only football fan who actually liked Pitbull's FIFA song. But what can I say? That goal against Brazil was an important marker in my life. I have an Arsenalish bond towards France, even though I don't know much about the country. Perhaps it was because they taught me that anything could happen in football in swashbuckling style.

This World Cup in particular excites me. I'm naive enough to believe that France have a decent shot at this, particularly because we're underdogs. And regardless of where they finish, I'll be with them when they're at Russia in 2018.

Because that's what football fans do. Football is much more than skills and passes and goals and Ronaldos, it's also about loyalty, honor, pride and sportsmanship. It's about sticking by your side in the darkest days, and it's about wearing the jersey you support of, like royalty.

Bring on Brazil. I can't wait.

P.S. I won't be blogging much on this site, but you'd find a lot of World Cup stuff on Brangled Minds where I'll be contributing. Check that out.

Have a great day, get some Pringles and pizza!

-Santi (Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz)

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Would Serge Aurier, Cesc Fabregas and Loic Remy win us the Barclays Premier League?

The Cesc rumours hotted up on the 31st. Sky Sports, the only source I trust, reported that Fabregas has been made available, and that he'd prefer a return to the Premier League. Even though he's not who we really need right now, only a fool would turn their back on a player like Fabregas.

Also, what went under the radar was an agreement with QPR for Remy, which was apparently done in March. Now, I've already said that the notion of satisfying ourselves with a decent striker, rather than a world-class one is false. But hey, I'm not complaining much. Having Giroud and Remy is tons better than Giroud and Bendtner. I always expected Wenger to buy a crap striker anyway, it's good to see that's not happening.

It also seems like the Serge Aurier deal is done. Some guy took a selfie with Aurier, which he retweeted. Aurier told him he'll be joining us for the next season. And even though his stats are mighty impressive, I'm firmly reserving judgement on this one. It really looks like we've found our right back, though.
Look, don't get me wrong. I think we'll sign Aurier and Remy, but I also think Fabregas will stay at Barcelona this summer. I don't fancy Wenger throwing £30m for sentimental purposes, nor do I think Fabregas would betray millions of Gooners and wreck his PR Image for Liverpool or Manchester United. Of course I'd want him, but mainly because I don't want him to be tempted by Liverpool and United. But if Wenger won't go for it, as seems increasingly likely, it ain't gonna happen.

Even so, let's assume that Arsenal manage to snare Fabregas, Aurier and Remy in this window as their high-profile signings, not to mention add depth in a backup keeper and/or a fourth-choice centre back. Would that win us the Premier League title?

It would get us a lot closer, no question. Our team would be well-equipped to finish above Liverpool and United. With some luck, we may also overhaul Chelsea.

But Manchester City? Nah, it's not happening.

To overhaul City as the best team in England, what we need is an explosive left winger. Santi Cazorla and Podolski are not natural wingers. They become average and inconsistent when pushed to the flanks.

We need pace. Assuming that we buy Fabregas, him and Ozil would want an outlet to spring their passes to. We can't be too reliant on Walcott. Remy, assuming we buy him too, would be a great start. But I feel we'd need one more fast player to get us over the line.

If this were FIFA 14, I'd hope for Di Maria. Realistically, though, Carlos Vela would be a clever buy. He's quick, he's cheap, he'd come if promised a bigger role, and he'd meet some of his old friends here.

Imagine a team with Ozil and Fabregas having Remy, Vela, Walcott and Ramsey to satisfy their creative hunger. If we have two prolific wingers on either side, the striker needn't be world-class. It's a philosophy that I rate higher than possession football.

Real Madrid, with Ronaldo and Bale on the flanks, made Benzema look good. Bayern Munich under Heynecks did the same with Mandzukic. They'll be a terrifying team with Lewandowski next season, come to think of it.

Walcott and Oxlade would be superb options on the right. Vela and Podolski would cause trouble on the left. Remy can match their speed and finish chances convincingly, while Giroud would have more chances to pivot the ball to.

With Rosicky's ageing legs, Ozil and Cazorla would be terrific options to play 'in the hole' for the future. Ramsey and Wilshere would play in central midfield, while Fabregas could play in both positions.

With Wenger committing for another three seasons, I know we're going to see the same failure when it matters. But every title contending team have their baggage, and I'm hoping that purchases of Fabregas, Aurier, Remy and a left winger will cover Arsenal's baggage, that is Arsene Wenger. It is possible to win the league under Wenger, but it depends on our rivals' slip-ups.

Wenger's certain to buy a goalkeeper, a striker and a right back, simply to fill up the numbers. I don't fancy him buying anything more than that, unless he's under severe pressure on deadline day. Calls for a DM could go completely unnoticed this summer, which is why the opinion that spending £30m on Fabregas would hinder our chances of buying a Javi Martinez is nonsense.

Better buy Fabregas than no midfielder at all, right?

-Santi (Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz)