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Not goodbye, just relocating.

Hello everyone and happy… erm… Wednesday. As most of you have probably noticed, there hasn’t been much in the way of general blogging from me recently and that’s because, to put it simply, I’ve been busy. I’m going to uni this year and I really won’t have the time to blog regularly. Fear not though, there’s a solution!

What is that solution you ask? I’ll tell you. It’s Mikel Arteta’s Small Feet! Or to put it better, it’s this: I’ll be blogging when I have time there, with the very talented Tom Pyman and Reece… Simo…something. Anyway, it’s all kicking off there so however you follow this blog, be sure to follow MASF! You can also MASF on twitter @MASFBlog. As always, you can find me on twitter @SavageGooner as well.

Fare thee well chums.

My European Dream Team – Emmet McEvoy

Once again, we’re back for another instalment of ‘My European Dream Team’. A series where young guest writers are invited to write about their European ‘dream team’. The fourth in the series, this time we have Emmet McEvoy who has selected 11 players from across Europe to play together. 

Without further ado, here’s the man himself:

For my dream team I’ve decided to focus on the best young players in the European game. (By young I mean under 25 years of age at the time of writing.) I’ve gone for a 4-4-1-1 formation, relying on the old cliché, ‘attack is the best form of defence.’

Goalkeeper: Wojciech Szczesny

Not the hardest choice. Commanding, superb reflexes, very good in a physical battle. Of course he has his minor glitches, but that’s to be expected for a goalkeeper of that age. He has plenty of time on his side to iron them out and I expect him to go on to be one of the world’s best.

RB: Kyle Walker

A Tottenham player. I know. But I was trying to be unbiased. Last season was his big breakthrough and, I must admit, he impressed me. Good at the back and down the wing, he chips in with goals too (as his goalkeeper in this team will testify, unfortunately).

CB: Mats Hummels

One of the best young defenders in the game at the moment, he reputation enhanced by two title-winning seasons with Borussia Dortmund. He’s particularly good at reading the game, comfortable on the ball and strong in the air as well. An easy pick.

CB: Nevan Subotic

This one was trickier. There are a number of candidates but I’ve gone for Subotic on the basis of his chemistry with Hummels and success with Dortmund. Very good in the air and an excellent tackler, he compliments his defensive partner perfectly.

LB: Jordi Alba

Alba made himself known to a larger audience after some impressive displays at Euro 2012, bagging himself a move to Barcelona in the process. A good defender who’s very keen to attack, chips in with the odd goal and a very good crosser.

RM: Eden Hazard

Not the most popular of players due to his attitude, but in terms of ability he’d walk into most teams in the world. A creative, versatile player with a keen eye for goal, we’ll soon see how he adapts to the Premier League. Nonetheless, an easy choice.

CM: Jack Wilshere

Jack. Boy, did we miss him last season. Classy, creative, gritty, hard-working, a leader even at the age of 20; a lynchpin in the centre of the midfield. His defensive contribution is key in this team. Absolutely top class and was the first name on this team sheet.

CM: Christian Eriksen

One of the game’s most coveted players. The creative force that landed Ajax the Dutch League title last season. Possesses the skill to beat any defender and has a good goal and assists ratio. Expect to see him in the Premier League in the future.

LM: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

OK, I may have been biased here. He hasn’t nailed down a regular spot in Arsenal’s first team but he’s shown he has the quality to play at the highest level. Insanely fast, he loves to take on his man and scores goals as well as setting them up. A versatile player who can play in the centre as well as on the wing. Going to be world-class in the coming years.

CAM: Mario Goetze

The German Messi, according to a certain Mr. Beckenbauer. Another of the game’s most coveted players. Composed on the ball, skilful, bags plenty of goals and assists. Injury cut short his season last year but another player that would walk into most teams in the world. In this team he’ll play the #10 role, just in behind the striker.

ST: Sergio Aguero

Easy choice. He took to the Premier League like a house on fire and his goals played a massive part in Man City’s title win. Deadly from close range, great from long-range too. Likes to run at defenders and sets up goals for others as well. The only surprise is that he’s only 24, it seems like he’s been around forever!

So there we have it. I have a few honourable mentions for the likes of Shaqiri, Reus, Badstuber, Varane who would definitely be included if it was an 18-man squad.

Enjoyed the article? Well, you can follow Emmet on twitter @emmetmcevoy. 

Transfer Rumours: Nuri Sahin

Hello again, Reece Simwogerere here, writing for Savage Gooner blog. Today, I will discuss the possible loan move of Sahin to Arsenal.

Rumours of a Nuri Sahin exit from Madrid have been picked up in the national papers recently. According to various papers, Sahin is set to leave Madrid on a season long loan with his future at the Bernabeu very uncertain under Jose Mourinho. Amongst the big names discussed as possible suitors for Sahin, has been Galatasaray and of course, Arsenal.

Just to give you a bit of background information on Nuri Sahin, he came into the spotlight in 2005 when Turkey Under-17s won the  European Championships that year. Later that very same year, Nuri Sahin became the youngest player to play in the German Bundesliga for Borussia Dortmund and 3 months later became the youngest player to score in the Bundesliga.

2 years down the line, Sahin had struggled to become part of the set-up at Dortmund and joined Feyenoord on loan in Holland. Under former Dortmund coach Bert van Marwijk on loan at Feyenoord, Sahin managed to rejuvenate his footballing career and helped Feyenoord to their first trophy in six years: the Dutch Cup.

Upon returning to Dortmund, his form once again drew media attention whilst he played 33 games, scoring 4 goals and earning 7 assists in the Bundesliga.  The next season was even better. Despite playing 3 fewer games in the Bundesliga, Sahin scored 6 goals and got 8 assists, with his form helping Borussia Dortmund to their 4th Bundesliga (7th German first division) title. With this form, Sahin was voted Bundesliga player of the season for 2010-11.

Of course, soon enough, Sahin was snapped up by Real Madrid, paying €10 million for him. Sadly, under Mourinho, Sahin has failed to find his place in the starting XI. At 23, Sahin is still growing and developing as a football player and a player of his quality should not be allowed to linger on the bench.

Perhaps ironically, this is a similar situation to that circa 2005-07 with Borussia Dortmund. But Nuri Sahin found himself a new lease of footballing life after a loan move. So now, in 2012, Nuri finds himself having to prove himself all over again to a new manager and a new team and what better way is there than a move to the Premier League? [Presuming he doesn’t move to Galatasaray like some rumours have suggested.]

But what makes Nuri Sahin so special? It’s his incisiveness. His ability to make the killer ball. His vision. The list is endless but if you want some examples look here. As a player that plays as a sort of deep-lying playmaker, comparisons could be made to that of a left-footed Andrea Pirlo. And, if you’ve watched him over the past few years, you’d know that sort of comparison wouldn’t be too far off.

He’s skilful, and classy on the ball. He’s got a great first touch and very good when controlling the ball. But, for me, his biggest strength is his range of passing. Despite making only 4 appearances for Madrid in La Liga last season, his passing success rate was 89%. Very good. He likes to play the ball long and high in the air and he’s accomplished at doing so. As for taking long-range shots, he likes to do that too and has the tendency to score the occasional cracker from that. If his vision, and ability to dictate the tempo of a game isn’t enough, it should also be noted how good Sahin is at taking set pieces and free-kicks. He’s excellent when it comes to the art of the dead ball.

If there any weaknesses to Nuri Sahin, it’s that he’s poor in aerial duels. Of all the aerial duels he was involved in playing for Madrid, he lost half. He could certainly improve on that side of things but he’s strong in the tackle and makes terrific interceptions to break up opposition play. In the 4 appearances he made for Madrid in La Liga last season, he made 5 interceptions and 5 tackles.

To conclude, could he make a successful loan at Arsenal? I think he could. I see no reason why he couldn’t. He’d easily be able to fit into our passing game and would be able to play the physical side of things should he play in the Premier League because he’s not afraid to get stuck into a tackle. A loan move to Arsenal could be the move which, once again, revitalises his career and I’d be happy to see him in an Arsenal shirt.

I suppose we’ll wait and see for confirmation of a deal and, fingers crossed, a player of Nuri’s quality will be playing for us.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy your Thursday afternoon. What do you think of Nuri Sahin? Could he make it at Arsenal? Will he even come? Feel free to leave a comment below and you can follow me on twitter @reece_sim. Thank you.

New Season’s Key Players: Laurent Koscielny

Yeah, Savage is still dead on holiday, so you’re only going to get me for the next few days in all honesty. But, on a Tuesday which signals the first day of August 2012, I aim to write an article (nearly) every day until the opening Premier League game of the season against Sunderland on August 18.

Today’s key player is Laurent Koscielny. It could be argued that ever since that forgettable evening at Wembley against Birmingham for the Carling Cup, Koscielny has taken huge strides towards becoming a world-class defender.

At the very beginning when Wenger signed this relatively unknown player from FC Lorient, it seemed Koscielny was doomed. As is the case with most signings of this stature, the fans started asking questions. Who is this Laurent fella? Why is Wenger signing such an unknown? Is Wenger signing another player just because he’s French?

And, at first, Koscielny was proving the doubters right. Inexperience at the top-level let him down heavily. He gave away a number of penalties in his first season. Inconsistency was also a problem, amongst some great moments for him like this tackle on Lennon, and this performance against Barcelona, he was prone to the odd mistake. And, at the very pinnacle of big mistakes, there was the Carling Cup final mistake.

Since then, Koscielny has rarely looked back. His performances have improved dramatically. He’s easily become our most consistent defender – a rock in the heart of our defence.

Stats show that Koscielny is arguably the second best defender in the league, second only to Vincent Kompany, captain of the Premier League champions Manchester City. Koscielny won 65% of all ground duels and 61% of all aerial duels. Testament to both his prowess in the air and on the ground, these stats are only second to Kompany’s. Koscielny also made 85 tackles, 20 more than Kompany and 17 more than closest rival Fabricio Coloccini. Furthermore, Koscielny made 104 interceptions and 9 last man tackles during the course of last season.

It sounds to good to be true, doesn’t it? I assure you, it is true. He made more tackles and interceptions than any other defender in the Premier League.

If all these defensive stats aren’t enough, Koscielny had an 85% passing accuracy last season, pretty decent reading for a defender. Moreover, Koscielny provided one goal assist and scored 3 goals. Equal to the amount of goals scored and assists provided last season by Vincent Kompany.

What makes him such a good defender? He’s quick-witted. And as a quick-witted individual, he carefully analyses and understands where the danger may be coming from and in so doing, positions himself correctly. At 6’1″, Koscielny may not be the tallest defender on the planet, but he’s shown very good aerial presence in the past few years, as shown by his winning of 61% of all aerial duels.

If he’s grown by leaps and bounds in the past season, what will he be like next season? Well, obviously we won’t know until the season starts, but if he continues in the way he has been performing in the last year, he has potential to be the best defender and not the second best defender in the Premier League.

Of course, at 26, Koscielny is nearing his peak at the moment and could very well establish himself as one of the best defenders in the world. But if he does that, he will do it in an Arsenal shirt. And it makes me proud to say that, as you may already know, Koscielny has signed a new deal at Arsenal, thought to be 5 years.

As our first choice centre-back and as one of the best defenders in Europe at the moment, he will be a key player for us next season. But only time will tell. It is important that, as of next season, we continue to do better next season defensively. The 49 goals we conceded last season is a poor amount to concede for a club of our level and if we want to have a title challenge next season, we will have to improve on that dramatically.

Obviously, Koscielny is just an individual and as a defensive unit we will have to improve but I’m sure that with either a bit more organisation between the defenders or a bit of protection from a holding midfield player, we’ll be able to improve on our defensive stats as a unit.

Thanks again for reading. Hope you enjoyed my writing. Once again, you can follow me on twitter @reece_sim.

New Season’s Key Players: Mikel Arteta

Hello again, it’s Reece, here writing in Savage’s absence  where he’s disappeared on holiday in India. I was going to be writing articles any way, but I just thought I’d assure you everything’s OK with Savage. 

So, as the new season draws ever closer (18 days left if you’ve still got your eye on the ball) I thought it would be nice to over a few of the players who could play an important part in a big season for our team. It will be vitally important to hit the ground running as we have Sunderland, Stoke (away), Liverpool (away), Southampton, and Manchester City (away) in our opening five fixtures. We have simply no margin for error in these first few fixtures. The fixtures that undoubtedly set the tone for the rest of the season – on occasion.

To begin with, a player who surprised more than a few people last year: Mikel Arteta. Moving in from Everton for a free of £10 million, the transfer came under scrutiny as a ‘panic buy’, a ‘silly’ move for a player of 29 years old, one who could never have the same effect on the midfield like Cesc did.

And of course, no one would ever really have an effect like Cesc, but that’s beside the point. Those people who scrutinised were wrong, because Mikel had an effect on the Arsenal midfield but he had an effect in his own way. Cesc was obviously more of a playmaker but, since his move to Arsenal, Mikel has moved into the ‘pivot’, allowing the more forward players to cause more damage.

Mikel last season was simply sublime. What he did was make the team tick, he made the team able to keep the ball better, and he became the engine.

What he did in the midfield was wondrous at times: he covered the spaces left by the others – he stayed back and controlled the game in front of the defence, rather than go up.  He linked up play between defence, midfield, and attack which made him incredibly influential in the midfield for us.

Much has been said in the past about his ability to cope with physical play, with more than a few injuries playing for Everton in the past, but with an 82% tackle success rate, it’s clear that he can stamp his authority in the midfield when it comes to physical approach play.

And more on the stats side, Mikel averaged the most passes of all players in the Premier League last season and was the 5th most accurate passer too with an accuracy of 90%. Long noted as a visionary and a creative player, Mikel also created 63 goalscoring opportunities last season. With the most accurate passes made of any Arsenal player last season, Mikel was the player that provided the stability we needed in our midfield.

If none of this is enough, he’s a set piece specialist too. 19 of the 63 goalscoring opportunities provided last season by Mikel were from set pieces. And who can forget that free kick against Aston Villa?

Watching him play, you can see how his close control plays a huge part in his game. With it, he’s able to navigate tight midfield spaces. There’s no doubt that Arteta knows how to play the game of football. He’s intelligent, with great composure and ability to see space and where to move. Key when we need to retain the ball.

And this intelligence draws out the best in players.

If any player was to thrive on Arteta’s presence last season, it was Alex Song. Alex Song, now with more freedom to roam in the midfield, picked up a career best 11 assists in the Premier League last season.

So, Mikel may not be a Cesc or a Nasri but now, with Mikel in the midfield, we have much more fluency. With something like 77 passes a game, on average, last season, Arteta is the heartbeat of the midfield. We seem to have more life in there. And that’s why he’s so important to us.

Thanks for reading. Once again you can follow me on twitter @reece_sim and send endless abuse to me if you like. 

My European Dream Team – Joe Tilley

Now, remember there’s a little series going on where guest writers are invited to put forward what would be their “dream team” consisting of only European players? Well, here’s the third in the series, where Joe Tilley has selected eleven players – all from Europe – to play together in his dream team. 

As you may know, if you’ve been following him on twitter, Joe Tilley is an Arsenal fan. He’s a smart lad. And at 15 years old, I think he’s the chosen one. So, without further ado, I present to you, Joe Tilley’s European Dream Team:

Formation – 4-4-2

Yeah, I’m a traditionalist. My European dream team will be structured with a classic four four two style that seems to be a dying art in modern day football. If it worked for decades before all this tampering and tinkering with formations, why swap now? Anyways, I’m moving off the point. As one of the younger footballing fans, my European dream team will mainly consist of players from the last ten years, so don’t blow a fuse when you see I haven’t included Platini or Cruyff.

GK – Gigi Buffon

There isn’t really any other choice is there? Growing up, there was no room for debate about the best goalkeeper in the world. It was always Buffon and he was so good, no other team in the world could even dream of prising him away for Juventus. It’s only in the last few years with the true globalisation of football on television and in the media that I have been able to appreciate his talents as one of the best shot stoppers in the world and placing anyone else in the goalkeeping slot for a dream team would just feel wrong. Except one Martin Fulop perhaps.

RB – Philipp Lahm

The suitably nicknamed ‘Magic Dwarf’ who is still only 28, is undoubtedly one of the finest full-backs the modern game has witnessed. He combines tough, precise tackling with an impressive ability to attack and score goals a striker would be proud of and he has the enviable habit of producing it in major international tournaments. The Bayern Munich captain, who I’m still not sure of where his natural position is, was in the team of the tournament for both the 2006 and 2010 world cups and has helped Germany develop in to the frightening force they are today. Honourable mentions go to Bacary Sagna, who just missed out.

CB – Laurent Koscielny

So some of my Arsenal bias will seep through a little here, but I don’t believe the affectionately nicknamed ‘Bosscielny’ would look out of place in a star-studded line up like this. The French centre back has improved leaps and bounds in the past year after the horrors of the Carling Cup final to become one of the best centre backs in the league. He is quick, strong and has become a master in the art of last ditch challenges. It’s no surprise Barcelona are rumoured to be interested in his services but thankfully, he looks all but set to secure a three year contract extension. [Since Joe wrote this piece, Koscielny has actually extended his contract]

CB – John Terry

So this will be a controversial one. Off the pitch he may be an adulterer. On the pitch he has been accused (do I have to say wrongfully now?) of racist comments. However, footballing wise, he is a fantastic defender. Regardless of your opinion of John Terry, he always gives 100% for his side and his ability to read and intercept play is admirable. He shines in what is now an average Chelsea defence and I thought he was terrific at the Euros for England alongside Joleon Lescott and no matter how he will be remembered for his off field antics, he will always have to be regarded as a top notch defender. I still despise him though, of course.

LB – Ashley Cole

Again, this could be controversial. The man hated by the majority of Arsenal fans because he ‘nearly crashed his car when only offered £35,000 a week’ isn’t the most popular of figures in football but he is still a brilliant footballer. He is one of the few full backs to consistently deliver for club and country and although he normally makes the headlines for all the wrong reasons, his commitment and ability on the pitch should not be overlooked. He is, in my opinion, the best left-back in the world at this moment in time.

RM – Luis Figo

Before the horrific television advertisements, Luis Figo was actually a half decent footballer. I am lucky to remember seeing glimpses of him at his best and his ability at times was second to none on a football pitch. The ex footballer of the year was the pin up boy for Portuguese football and his impressive career saw him pull on the shirt of both Real Madrid and Barcelona. Skilful, a pin-point passer and at times an incredible finisher. A phenomenal player.

CM – Patrick Vieira

Before his switch to the dark side at Manchester City, Patrick was an Arsenal legend and some of my earliest footballing memories are him running the show in the invincible season. The man who joined Arsene Wenger’s French revolution at Arsenal was immensely talented with a surprising amount of pace in his prime, combined with superb vision and a cracking shot. It’s a shame injuries and fatigue took a toll on his career so early but nevertheless, he was a stunning player.

CM – Cesc Fabregas

Again, of course I am biased but Cesc Fabregas is without a doubt the best player I have ever seen live. He sees thing no one else in the stands, let alone on the pitch, sees and despite the disappointing way he left Arsenal, I will never stop admiring him as a footballer. His commitment and performances never wavered from top class and now seeing him do so well for Barcelona almost makes me feel proud. A poster boy for the current brand of Spanish football and a player I will never tire of watching.

LM – Cristiano Ronaldo

After some deliberation, I opted not to punt for Stewart Downing and instead for Cristiano Ronaldo. I couldn’t really leave him out. As a footballer he has everything. Pace, strength, skill and just as much arrogance to go along with it. Not the most liked player in football but the fact he gets mentioned in the same breath as Lionel Messi for the best player in the world is a credit to him. Since his mega move to Madrid he has come on leaps and bounds and he is probably the biggest factor that contributed to their league win last season. A phenomenal player who will most likely continue to improve.

ST – Antonio Di Natale

I am a firm believer in the idea that your striker is the player whose sole objective to score goals. I don’t think they should drop deep and look to join in the midfield battle. No. In my traditional 4-4-2, strikers will remain as strikers and I don’t think there is any other striker in the world more deadly in front of goal than Di Natale. The man who has 135 goals in 264 league appearances has a lethal eye for goal that all young players should aspire to replicate. Even at the ripe old age of 34, he is capable of changing a game in an instant as he showed with his beautifully taken goal at Euro 2012 against Spain. A great, great striker.

ST – Thierry Henry

Of course he had to be here. The man I worshipped growing up and in my view, easily the best Premier League striker ever. Pace, power, skill, vision, finishing. There was nothing to fault about Henry’s game when he was at his prime. The winger turned striker was the figurehead for a superb Arsenal side in the early 2000s and he scored some of the best goals I have ever seen. His cameo return to Arsenal in 2012 further enhanced his legend status and reinforced the idea that he is one of the best players English football has ever seen. Nothing will ever beat the euphoria created from his returning goal against Leeds. Never.

Don’t forget to follow Joe on twitter @Tilley_96. Hope you enjoyed the article, and enjoy your weekend. 

More transfer rumours; Santi Cazorla, Ibrahim Afellay, Ganso

In recent weeks, as the transfer window (slowly) picks up pace, more and more ridiculous rumours have been coming out. So, let’s evaluate a few of these rumours, shall we?

First, Santi Cazorla has been talked up as a potential Arsenal man. Why has he been talked up as a man for Arsenal? As a replacement for either Andrei Arshavin or Theo Walcott, no less.

If you’ve been watching La Liga for the past few years, you’d have noticed that Cazorla is the star man for Malaga and has been a big player in La Liga for quite a while – most notably for Villarreal. He can play on both wings or through the middle and is known for his outstanding pace. But he’s more than just a fast winger. Cazorla is a gifted man with great vision and anticipation for the next pass to make. He’s got great dribbling skills, and he’s very good at passing. There’s no doubting his talent.

And at 27, Cazorla is experienced. His strength and balance on the ball is incredible too. I’m a huge fan of this player and his talents.

According to the rumours, Cazorla has fallen out with his club Malaga over unpaid wages and we could be able to swoop for him for as little as £18 million. But are we likely to pay that amount of money, I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see if either Arshavin or Walcott leave before our hand is forced.

Ibrahim Afellay has been a rumour circulating for a while now. Probably started because of van Persie’s contract fiasco and this Afellay move was seen as a ploy to get van Persie to stay and play with his national team mate.

Afellay is an attacking midfielder that can play as a winger and has played in central midfield in the past as well. But, the real attraction towards Afellay is how good he is on and off the ball. He’s got a great touch and very good dribbling skills, not to mention, great movement to go with it. He also has the tendency to score goals from his position.

The biggest flaw with Afellay is the amount of injuries he picks up. The last injury he had sidelined him for seven months in a key period when Barcelona needed a winger. Most of the other injuries he picked up were fairly minor but he is injury prone.

At 26, Afellay has a key decision to make: either stay and fight for his place at Barcelona or move on. And at the moment, Afellay seems to be surplus to requirements at Barcelona and may not get many starting opportunities under new manager Tito Vilanova. But regardless of his decision, this is a player in demand because of the way he can change the tempo of games and become so dangerous so quickly in the midfield. According to reports, Afellay could be bought for as much as £8 million.

Ganso is the youngest of the three on cover here. He plays as an attacking midfielder and is known for the vision and creativity at his disposal. Ganso has long been noted as a man with potential and enough to make it big in Europe so inevitably he’s been linked with nearly every big European club going.

As an attacking midfielder, there are few of them going that are as good as Ganso. And the one I’m thinking of is being talked of going to Manchester United for £32 million: Lucas. But Ganso is remarkably good at his age and his passing, awareness, vision, and creativity are absolutely world class. Basically, I think he has the technical qualities needed to make it big in Europe.

But on the bad side, Ganso lacks pace. He’s not the fastest boy you’ll see at 22 and he’s injury prone. And at the young, tender age of 22, it’s always a risk to bring such a player from Brazil to Europe so quickly. There’s a lot to think about with him. But, as if to add a final nail in the coffin, I’ve heard he’s said he is going to stay at Santos but you never know with the media. And at £15-18 million as a price being discussed, he sounds very expensive.

To conclude, I believe that all three players would fit the Arsenal mould very easily if they can settle into the English style of play. They’re all very good at passing, they all have good movement, and they all have the technical skills needed to play at the top level with Arsenal. At once, perhaps Afellay sounds like a very good deal at £8 million but all three have their pro’s and con’s if they were to come here.

Again, thanks for reading my article, enjoy your Monday evening wherever you are and just a reminder that you can follow me on twitter @reece_sim. 

Transfer rumours: Fernando Llorente, Stevan Jovetic, Robert Lewandowski, Seydou Doumbia

One of the many rumours spiralling around the newspapers and the internet: Fernando Llorente to Arsenal.

Llorente scored 28 goals in all competitions for Athletic Bilbao. I shouldn’t have to tell you that’s pretty impressive, especially when playing in Spain for a club of that stature.
And at 6’5″, he has the physicality to play in the Premier League – no doubt about that. What makes him such a good striker, is his killer instinct. He knows where to be to get the goals, and with his height, the goals scored by his head come easily. And as Manchester United found out in the Europa League last season, Llorente is not bad with his feet either. But his strength is admirable, he can literally bulldoze past defenders, especially in the air.

His one weakness, is that if you don’t give him service, he’s very unlikely to produce anything special and is thus, rendered useless. He’s not the quickest man on Earth, he’s not got the greatest ball control or dribbling ability and he hasn’t got the highest work-rate you’ll ever see but he scored 28 goals last season for a reason, he’s deadly in the box and his link-up play is actually quite good.

But, according to what I’ve heard, he has a £28 million release clause. Unless Bilbao are willing to negotiate a price way under that, Arsenal aren’t going to pay that sort of money for a 27 year old.

Another rumour floating around is Stevan Jovetic to Arsenal. He’s 22 and tipped for big things, even being compared to Roberto Baggio on a few occasions. And watching him, you can see why.

Jovetic has got fantastic flair, brilliant ball control and dribbling skills combined with great creativity and ability. Jovetic is not so much an out and out striker but more of a number 10. Impressively, Jovetic is a decent finisher and has the tendency to score the odd goal of great quality and is truly two-footed.

On the bad side, Jovetic’s youth could be a problem. He’s still in development and could easily come to England and fail. Miserably, at that. The one thing I have with him is that even at 6′, he’s not very good in the air and could be better. He’s also not the fastest.

On the key problem: his price. Fiorentina apparently estimate him at €30 million. That’s a hefty price tag and one which I doubt Arsenal are going to pay.

Same height as Jovetic but different kind of player, Lewandowski has been talked about in the columns as another potential replacement for Robin van Persie. At 23, Lewandowski had an absolutely phenomenal season for Borussia Dortmund last year, scoring 29 goals for them.

Lewandowski is more of a complete striker for me. He scores all types of goals in the box, and he’s both strong in the air and good at finishing with the feet. Very often last season for Dortmund, he was in the right place at the right time and very clinical with his shooting. More so than the other two names above, I believe Lewandowski works very hard off the ball and that led to him taking part in a few goals from the counter-attack last season.

Incredibly, for me,  Lewandowski is not so good at holding the ball despite his height and strength in the air. Another key thing is how his passing lets him down, and at Arsenal, you need to be at least half decent at passing.

According to rumours, Lewandowski is likely to cost upwards of £20 million.  A half-decent price when you come to think of it, but once again, I don’t know how likely we are to spend that kind of money.

Another transfer target according to the papers is Seydou Doumbia.

Seydou Doumbia is 24, and at 5’10” tall, he’s the shortest of the names on discussion here. Doumbia scored 37 goals for CSKA Moscow last season, a hefty total. Doumbia is a complete powerhouse. He’s got a ridiculous combination of pace, strength, and dribbling ability all-in-one. Defenders find it hard to get the ball of him, considering his strength, and he’s got pace to burn and he’s very good in the air. He’s quite literally a defenders nightmare.

As for weaknesses, Doumbia is not a man with many weaknesses. From what I’ve seen by watching him, he’s at least decent with most aspects of his game. He works hard to get into the box, he’s brutish and he doesn’t seem to give up.

As for price tags, I’ve heard everything in the range of £15 million up to £26 million. Interesting figures, all in all.

Will any of these strikers be signed by Arsenal? That’s the real question. I have no idea, you never know what goes on with the clubs transfers, and you never know what will happen next in the transfer window. The biggest thing for me is, with the acquisitions of Giroud and Podolski already made, does Arsene Wenger want to make any more moves for strikers?

Any way, thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy your weekends. Feel free to leave comments below with your thoughts and you can follow me on twitter @reece_sim.

Premier League After 20 Years.

It was sometime last week as I was doing my European Dream Team that I realised it’s been 20 years since the Premier League’s inception. Of course, it’s been a full 5 months since it was celebrated but I wasn’t writing for this blog at that time, so since I’ve got nothing better to do and there’s a gap to be filled, I think it would be nice to go over some of the great players that the Premier League has brought to us over the years.

Dream team:

This is in a standard 4-4-2, a formation known around the world and mostly used in England.

Goalkeeper: David Seaman

With over 400 appearances for Arsenal and winning 4 FA Cups, and 3 First Division/Premier League titles, it’s clear the man is an Arsenal legend. But why have in the team? Because he’s simply the best. In ten Premier League seasons, Seaman completed 130 clean sheets. 130. A stunning feat.

Right-back: Gary Neville

It may hurt a lot of us to admit this but Gary Neville was the best right-back of his generation. His partnership with Beckham on the right-flank was at times devastating, his defensive work was even more impressive. And with 8 Premier League titles, 3 FA Cups, and 1 Champions League medal to his name, how can you argue that he’s not one of the greats?

Centre-back: Tony Adams

Mr. Arsenal was simply peerless in defence. A true legend. Defensively, he was near unstoppable. He was well-disciplined, brave, strong. Everything you need and want in a defender and for nearly 20 years at Arsenal, he gave his all, no matter the ups and downs. I don’t think there’s anything I can say that can bring justice to this man.

Centre-back: Sol Campbell

One of the best centre-backs I’ve ever had the honour of watching, Campbell’s key strength was how athletic he was. For such a big man, Campbell could move his body, and his feet whilst remaining powerful all the same. Perhaps the strongest and best tackler I’ve seen in an Arsenal shirt, Campbell had to be in this team.

Left-back: Ashley Cole

Cole was a key member of the Invincibles team of 03-04 for a reason. Not only was he a fantastic defender, who could take on any winger that challenged him down the line, but his awareness and knowledge of when and when not to go forward and attack was instrumental in that team. Apart from Denis Irwin, I couldn’t think of a single player that could challenge Cole for a spot in this team at left-back.

Right-midfield: Cristiano Ronaldo

Undoubtedly the finest player to have graced the Premier League in the past five, maybe even ten years, Ronaldo dazzled defenders in the league. How did he do it? Simple. The man’s a beast. He has remarkable athleticism for a guy that tall, he has flair, skill, technique, strength, aggression and raw talent which shows almost every time he plays. To add to this, Ronaldo’s height gives him superiority in the air and means that he has scored some great headers. And if that wasn’t enough, he’s a free-kick specialist too. You want more? He can finish with both feet and scored a total of 81 Premier League goals. And after becoming the world’s most expensive player costing Real Madrid £80m, Real can still wonder if they got this man for a bargain.

Centre-midfield: Patrick Vieira

The engine, the powerhouse, the legend himself. A simply remarkable player, Vieira matched power with grace for the Arsenal and almost immediately became a key player for our team. With 279 appearances for Arsenal and 29 goals, he’s a legend. Perhaps, it’s slightly ironic that he beat his well-known rival Roy Keane to make it into my team.

Centre-midfield: Paul Scholes

I’m going to be honest, there are few players – whichever position – that I admire as much as Paul Scholes. Just a wonder to watch, he was the complete midfielder. His passing is something that is always noted, and rightly so, his passing was seemingly always accurate. Watching him, he just seemed to be able to do anything. Whether it be the perfect pass or whether it be scoring goals from all over the pitch, Scholes knew how to do it. I think it’s just a shame that the England national team failed to use Scholes correctly when they had opportunity to.

Left-midfield: Ryan Giggs

20 years in the Premier League and counting, Ryan Giggs could not be left out of such a team. I’d say it’s even more incredible that, like Scholes, Adams, and Neville above, Giggs has played for one club and one club only over the years. For twenty years, Giggs has looked to be playing without ever tiring. Never stops running, never stops giving his all for the team, always keeps possession well and keeps going. Over the years, his playing style has evolved to suit his age, and he’s become a playmaker but his class has always been there as well as his technique. There was only ever going to be one player for this position, and that was Giggs.

Striker: Alan Shearer

An unbelievable centre-forward if ever I’ve seen one, Shearer, as we all know, is the leading goal-scorer in Premier League football. And you don’t become leading goalscorer by accident either. Standing at 6 foot and with a large build and physical strength, Shearer would have been a handful for anybody trying to defend him. He was able to hold off defenders with relative ease, as well as work as a target man providing the ball for a striker to work off him. But Shearer was no slouch. As well as incredible ability in the air, good for scoring headers, Shearer was great with his feet too. With 260 Premier League goals, the man was a great finisher, often with both feet. He poached goals from everywhere, whether it be a free-kick or penalty or a one-on-one, Shearer would be on it time and time again. Shearer is a classic striker and a Newcastle legend, so of course he had to be in the team.

Striker: Thierry Henry

“Thierry Henry could take ball in the middle of park and score a goal that no one else in the world could score”. That’s a quote from Arsene Wenger on Henry. And, you know, it sums up what Henry is all about. He’s the king. The legend. He was so cool and composed on the pitch playing for Arsenal, he was classy. I love that about him. One-on-one’s against the keeper, you knew there was only one man who was going to win it and that was Henry. And then, his blinding pace allowed him to beat defenders with ease, allowed him to get in behind the defence and cause damage. It’s what he did best. He scored goals consistently every season. And spectacular ones at that, because that’s what he did. The man was a genius, a god even. Thierry was the special one for our club. So special, he beat even Eric Cantona for his position on the team.

In 20 years, the Premier League has established itself as the best, most entertaining league in the world. It creates the most revenue, it’s famous worldwide and it’s provided us with the most thrills, shocks, frustrations, and beauty of all leagues worldwide. There is no greater league than the Premier League. After 20 years, we can truly say we’ve seen the greatest managers – Jose Mourinho, Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger – and the finest players – whether it be Jaap Stam, Steven Gerrard, or Marcel Desailly. But none of this would have been created without the fans. The ones that turn up on match day to support their team, the ones that spend money on the merchandise, the tickets, etc. The ones that sit at home, cheering as if they were there at the stadium. It’s these people that make football tick, you can’t forget that. So thank you to the Premier League for 20 years of great football, we’ve seen controversy in the Mario Balotelli’s and Eric Cantona’s of our world, we’ve seen outstanding goals with Dennis Bergkamp against Newcastle, we’ve seen tears with United losing the title on the final day to City, we’ve seen Invincibles and we’ve seen our share of the unexpected with chickens, cats, and lots more making a pitch invasion. Here’s to another 20 years of the world’s greatest league.

Feel free to comment below with your thoughts and you can call me a closet Manchester United fan on twitter via @reece_sim.

Robin van Persie apparently not travelling with the team to Asia

It’s a gloomy afternoon in Britain. The rain is pouring down, the sky is grey, and I can just about say no-one is happy. This, allegedly includes van Persie as we all know. And today, on the gloomiest of days, news was revealed by the BBC that van Persie will remain in England whilst the rest of the squad travels to Asia.

Now, if you’re to believe the BBC – and quite often, they are believable – Robin van Persie will instead work on his fitness back at Colney – our training base. Of course, as with any other news associated with Arsenal, this has split the fan base in two. There are people who believe this is the right way forward, and there are those who think this is the wrong thing to do.

On the people who believe it is the right thing to do, they believe that this means the whole saga stays away from the footballing side of things in the meantime and potentially, we could see Robin’s transfer made quickly and effectively behind the scenes.

On the people who believe it is the wrong thing to do, they believe that this means it proves any player can call the shots over Arsenal. That any player can basically shout the odds and get what they want.

Which side am I on? I think leaving him here was the right thing to do. It’s best not to let this drag on. I’m guessing that what’s going on behind the scenes, is Arsenal are negotiating the sale of Robin. And that’s the right thing to do. We don’t want what happened last year with Cesc and Nasri to happen again, we want a sale to be made quickly and for our club to move on.

According to rumours, Arsenal also dismissed three offers from Manchester United, Manchester City, and Juventus respectively. So, something is certainly going on behind the scenes, it looks like a sale is imminent.

However, if a sale is not going to happen, this is obviously the wrong thing to do. If Robin is going to put in 100% when playing for the club, they should take him to Asia and allow him to play.

But, in general, I think we’ve learnt lessons. I’m sure a sale agreement will be reached and I’m sure Robin won’t be playing for our club next season. But let’s see what happens in the next month and a half.

Thank you for reading again. Just to remind you again, you can follow me on twitter @reece_sim.