Long term Cazorla replacements

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The Arsenal November curse (if this really exists) seems to have struck again, with no win in 3 games. Although this year it hasn’t been as bad as past seasons, I prefer to think of it that we have played three top sides and not lost. One worrying thing which has been highlighted though is Arsenal poor performances, lacking any fluidity going forward from the back. Can this be linked back to the injury to Santi Cazorla?

His last game was in the 6-0 win against Ludogerorets, since this game I cant remember a match that Arsenal have been that convincing. We have had a poor 0-0 draw against Middlesborough, Giroud saving the day against Sunderland and Man Utd late on, a laboured 3-2 win against Ludogerorets and draws against Spurs and PSG where we were outplayed. Cazorla’s absence may not be the only issue, Ozil’s poor form and Sanchez fitness issues could also be a factor.

Wenger has also hinted that Cazorla is this years Wilshere/Rosicky/Diaby or Vermealen as he doesn’t know of an exact return date from injury. Couple this with Cazorla turning 32 next month Arsenal need to start looking elsewhere for his long term replacement. See below my thoughts on potential options:

Jack Wilshere: (Current Side: AFC Bournemouth – Loan – Age: 24)

I personally think we have missed Wilshere this season, ironically he hasn’t had an injury yet at Bournemouth and is putting in great performances week in week out.  He would be starting alongside Coquelin for me in the absence of Santi.  Would it be a risk to put all our eggs in the Wilshere basket going forward? If he can stay fit (BIG IF) he’s the guy to make us tick in the absence of Santi.

Leon Goretzka: (Current Side: Schalke 04 – Age: 21)

Another German midfielder off the conveyor belt. He fits the build as to what Arsenal require from a midfielder. Primarily a defensive midfielder, but a goal scoring one. At 6’2 in height he has the power Arsenal lack in midfield, age is on his side, he has captained Germany at younger age groups and he also has the ability to get forward and grab important goals. His passing and movement are a bit in question compared to the likes of Cazorla but this is something that can be worked on. His natural ability to control a midfield would be a huge bonus for Arsenal.

Koke: (Current Side: Athletico Madrid – Age: 24)

A well known player in European football, Koke has a very similar game to Santi Cazorla. Being comfortable in a deeper midfield role but also very technically sound. His knowledge of plays and vision is similar to that of Xavi Alonso. Such a signing would be a statement, the only question is if he would want to leave Athletico Madrid, if so it would be close to £50mil.

Manuel Lanzini: (Current Side: West Ham – Age: 23)

A bit of a surprise inclusion into the list of potential replacements to Cazorla but in my mind an able replacement. He has experience of the league and living in London and we have seen how much of a talent he is, at 23 he will only get better. Like Cazorla he is able to play in both the attacking positions or a deeper role. We saw in the Arsenal game away at Upton Park last season how he bossed the midfield, not with strength and power but with a clever football brain. The only downside is that West ham made his loan signing permanent at the start of this season, so there would be no sale unless its a outlandish price.

My choice would be to assess Jack Wilshere’s fitness at the end of the season and possibly giving him the chance to take over first.

What Are The Expectations Now?

Firstly I have to say, CAN WE PLAY IN MANCHESTER EVERY WEEK!. Again we went there with many people doubting that we could win, and we won. We put in another of those well drilled performances, where we defended as a team and broke on the opposition.

This is Arsenal’s best tactic. When teams attack us we usually have enough pace to hurt teams through counter attacking. When teams defend deep against us we sometimes find it hard to break teams down. Defend deep is what Man Utd did do at The Emirates. This time it was a must win for them so they gave it there all in trying to win. Much of our good play was down to our midfield axis of Santi Cazorla and Coquelin. This is definitely a partnership to be developed.

Man Utd are not the side they once were, but beating them at their own backyard is always fun. I love our rivalry with them, this year its as if we have once again over taken them. Lets hope it continues.

So this win leaves us in the semi final of the FA Cup, probably facing another season in the top four and also probable elimination from Europe. I think the new target should be to win the FA Cup, finish as close to Manchester City and possibly win the game in Monaco. The later will be hard but I feel we can achieve all three. What do you think?

Combined Man Utd & Arsenal XI (Fifa Rankings)

We had a great debate at work today over who had the better team Man Utd or Arsenal. A colleague of mine stated that Man Utd have better players than Arsenal and would have more in a combined XI. I decided to put this theory to the test and make the XI based on Fifa 15 player ratings.

The up to date ratings were taking from SoFifia.com who provide uptodate player ratings as well up to date player potential rankings. (Its a good site to compare players according to ratings). Players who have more than 1 position were taken with their best position only (so both Ozil and Di Maria can only be counted as attacking midfielders not wingers etc). It made for pretty interesting reading.

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GK: There is no doubting this one. David De Gea wins this hands down. Even I will admit he is the best keeper in the league. His rating of 85 is only 1 being Courtois

CB: The two Arsenal centre backs win this hands down. Both have a rating of 82, there closest competitor at Man Utd is Marcus Rojo who only has a rating of 79. Not surprising that both Arsenal centre backs are in as they have a great defensive record together. They were both part of a defence that won Szsesney the golden glove award.

RB: Debuchy wins this position with a score of 80. This is better than Man Utd’s best right back rankings (Rafael 77).

LB: Gibbs was again part of a tight defence last season and wins this close battle over Luke Shaw: 77 rating v 75. Credit where it is due, Shaw is young and has the potential to be one the worlds best. But we are looking at currently who is better.

DMC: This is a tie between Blind and Arteta. Both players have 79 points. Arteta has had very little football this season due to injury, yet he has still an equal rating with Man Utd best defensive midfielder who plays every week.

CM: The centre midfield position had many candidates to play here but all the top ratings in this position were Arsenal players. Ramsay was the best of the lot with 82 points, closely followed by Wilshere and Rosicky. The closest Man Utd player in this position was Herrera but even with 2 injuries he would not make the side.

AMC: For some reason Di Maria is listed as an attacking midfielder in this list. That is where he scores the highest points. He is equal with Ozil as an attacking midfielder. It is worth noting this season that this season Di Maria is slightly ahead of Ozil in terms of goals and assists. He has started 23 games scoring 6 and assisting 9, while Ozil has started 16 games scoring 3 and assisting 3. Also note that Ozil had a so called bad season last season, yet he he reached double figures in goals (11) from midfield and 20 assists in his first season in the premier league.

Wingers: Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanches score the highest in these positions. Valencia the highest challenger from Man Utd. Bot Cazorla and Sanchez are in the top 5 wingers in the league. Note that Theo Walcott has a higher rating than Valencia.

Strikers: Manchester United definitely have the better goal scorers. That is reflected in the fact that RVP and Falcao both score highly in the Fifa 15 ratings list. Rooney is also only one point behind. Again like De Gea there is no argument that Arsenal are better up front.

Arsenal = 7

Man Utd = 2

Tied = 2

Five reasons for Arsenal to be positive

Its seems just a few weeks back that it seemed like doom and gloom for Arsenal this season. How quickly things can change. I still think there is a lot more to see from Wenger and the squad but overall its more positive than it was. Here are five reasons why every Arsenal fan should be positive at the moment:

1. Positive injury news + New Squad Players = Strong Squad

With Ozil, Koscielny, Giroud, Theo and Ramsay all back in recent weeks, our squad looks strong again. Now all we are missing is Wilshere, Arteta, Debuchy, Welbeck as well as the always injured Diaby. Add our two new defensive signings Bielik and Paulista to this and we are starting look at a balanced side. Lets not forget the recall of Coqulen who has been fantastic since his return.

2. We have our pace back

With Walcott back in the side we are getting ever so close to seeing the fastest attacking line in the history of football. Welbeck, Sanchez and Walcott. Supplemented by The Ox, Bellerin and Ozil all of whom are not slow. Counter attacks are back!

3. FA Cup could be on again

With Chelsea, Man City, Spurs and Southampton all going out in a crazy Saturday afternoon the path for FA Cup glory has opened up slightly. Man Utd, Liverpool, West Ham and the rugby team who call themselves Stoke are still left in. All good sides but none of them are in the Champions League like us. So in my eyes we should be favourites, but it all depends on the draw.

4. Players are stepping up now

We have seen different players stepping up. Be it Santi Cazorla and Coqulen vs Man City or Rosicky against Brighton, it is not all down to Alexis Sanchez every game. With Ozil, Walcott back now squad rotation should see all our attackers rested.

5. Champions League is back next month

Champions League knockout games are what club football is all about for me. I have grown up not knowing what it would be like to support a side that play in the Uefa Cup (Europa League now). Well all apart from that one blip seasons where we didn’t make it out the second group stage of the Champions League. Yeah you may recall we lost in the final of the Uefa Cup that season.

Night like these are what separates us from the likes of Tottenham or Liverpool. I look forward to the double header against Monaco. Be warned they have seen a marked improvement in form since the draw. We should be wary of them. I fell we still can win though.

Why didn’t we send Flamini to Charlton?

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Yesterday’s masterclass just reminded us that Wenger still has some magic. It is another question if he still can come up with such a performance over a prolonged period now. What it has done is to give everyone hope again.

Walking into work after a big game felt so good. Lets hope it continues. For me there are more questions to be answered after yesterdays showing.

1. Will Wenger still invest in a defensive midfielder/defender?

2. Will Ozil and Wilshere ever get back into our best XI?

For the first question I feel that Coquelin is adequate for what we need. It was the kind of performance that signalled to everyone in football that he can lead a midfield as well play a disciplined defensive role. I hate comparisons but an early comparison when he first broke into the Arsenal squad a few years back was made to Makelele. Yesterday I felt that he was playing as if he was Matic or Roy Keane. Yes I know it is silly to compare.

He adds so much more than Flamini and also adds power to what Arteta lacks. It also has to be said that Cazorla and Ramsey helped him out a lot also yesterday. I hope Wenger buys another defensive midfielder as great teams need to good ones.

In my opinion Arsenal do need another centre back. A title competing side will always need four. I do not count Monreal as a valid option at centre back neither the injured Debuchy. Lets hope one win does not club Wenger’s judgement in this window.

As for the second question, it is clear we now have a squad. Players like Ozil, Wilshere, Rosiky, Welbeck and Walcott are perfect to have on the bench. For me Santi Cazorla and Oxlade Chamberlain have done enough for the time being to keep thee players out the side. All these options are great news for Arsenal. When everyone is fit, I feel we have the best attacking force in the league.

What is clear is that I am again excited for the league to restart. On a lighter note I heard a fan on the radio today asking why we never sent Flamini on loan to Charlton as both Song and Coquelin have both come back better.

Realistic Arsenal January Transfers

Logo-Arsenal As with most seasons it seems that we are short of quality in key areas, these are the same areas that Arsenal fans have been calling to be filled for the last five seasons. There could be an argument to say that Arsenal need a dominant player through the spine of the team. This being a poacher upfront, a dominant midfielder, combative centre back and a trust worthy goalkeeper. Lets forget strikers for the time being as Giroud, Welbeck, Sanchez and Walcott can get us through this season. The wingers when fit are the best options in the league, if fit Theo, Sanchez, Welbeck, Ozil, The Ox and Santi Cazorla make these up. I personally think we need a goalkeeper, but Ospina is a steady option for us until the Summer. Martinez is a good back up keeper while I feel Szczesny will be kept until the summer where he will probably start to look elsewhere. The pressing positions are at CB and DMC. The needs are must so big money may have to be spent. Lets not delude ourselves WE WILL NOT BE GETTING HUMMELS or EVEN A PLAYER LIKE GODIN THIS JANUARY!

CB Options:

1. James Tomkins (CB)– (Surprised?) It is clear we are after Winston Reid but Tomkins is the real star here. He is the ball winner in his partnership with Reid. Tomkins would be the long term replacement for Mertesacker. We should not let what happened with Gary Cahill happen with Tomkins as he has the potential to be of a similar quality. Very low chance of this happening.

2. Winston Reid (CB) – It is very unlikely that Wenger will pay over the top money for a player he can get for a free in the summer. So it will be a test of West Ham’s nerve. I don’t think they have an issue with just letting him go for free, especially if they can’t get their replacement in. If we do not get him in January I think we will be seeing him in the red of Man Utd or Liverpool instead next season. A good player who would improve us greatly. he would be the cover we need when Koscielny is injured.

3. Nacho Fernandez (CB/RB/LB) – He is a good defender who plays at Real Madrid, he  has had little game time. That is not surprising considering the players who he has in front of him. A defender who is primarily a CB but can play anywhere along the back line. One of Jose Mourinho’s boys that he promoted up from the youth system. With a bit of game time he could be a gem of a premier league player. He has one international cap to his name and is pretty highly rated. He is also a more realistic option to purchase over Varane (who also struggles to get into the Real Madrid side).

4. Philipe Mexes (CB) – This would be at least ten years too late, just like we missed out on a young Vincent Kompany we sort of missed the boat on Mexes. He is now 32 but could still be a value signing in January, bringing lots of experience. He is also French and may be looking for one last pay day. I would love this to happen but again do not see Wenger go for a stop gap option. Mexes would definitely mix it up against the likes of Stoke.

Other CB Options: These are probably more likely to happen – Howdes, Perrin. We have been linked with these players pretty heavily so who knows. Nastasic at Man City could be another option but it might be hard for them to help us out.

Defensive Midfield Signings:

1. Adrien Rabiot – He has had a season ravaged by injury so far. But watching him last year there is defiantly a quality player there. At only 19 years old this would be a long term signing, but one Wenger would relish. Rabiot is tipped to hold the French midfield in years to come with Paul Pogba. Despite his slight frame he actually adds defensive cover. Wenger do it!

2. William Carvalho – I will be honest, I have not seen much of Carvalho. All I have seen is bits and bobs of his game against Chelsea. This is not really enough to go on, but saying all that everyone else seems to think he is the real deal. Including his club who have slapped an high value on his head. Lets see more of him to judge.

Luxury Signings For The Summer:

  • Juan Quintero – We do have a lot of attacking midfielders at the club but lets not forget the injuries we have every season. This kid is quality, he should be made to shadow someone of Santi Cazorla for a season and eventually take over from him.
  • Jackson Martinez – It was this time last year that his name cropped up when I wrote about us signing him. We should still make this plan a reality in the summer. Just so no other rival team can snap him up.
  • James Milner – Many people dislike him, but at the age of 27 he still has many many good years ahead of him. Whats better is that he could be available on a free transfer who would say no?
  • Chuba Akpom – Not a new signing but someone who should be treated like one next season. If we do not enter the market for another striker he is a perfect number 3 striker for us.

Cazorla, Ramsey & Gibbs – Players of 2014

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When looking back over 2014 there has to be mixed feelings for Arsenal fans. We started the year top of the league and were the best side in the tail end of 2013. We also ended the year badly in the Premier League, currently sitting way off the title contending pace (Even if injuries are effecting our position). The good thing about 2014 was that we broke the trophy drought and won two trophies (You got me, I count the Community Shield) as well as securing our usual Champions League place.

Another positive is the fight shown by the players over the year. After being humiliated by all our rivals we still ended the season with more to show than Chelsea, Liverpool, Man Utd and Tottenham combined.

When thinking of our best player of 2014, my vote would have to go to Santi Cazorla. This may not be most peoples choice of players but I will explain why I feel he slightly edges out Aaron Ramsey and Kieron Gibbs (Yes you heard right).

1. Santi Cazorla: He was the catalyst for the FA cup win. Scoring the first goal against Spurs in one of his best displays of the year and the all important first goal in the final. He also played his part in the Liverpool game. If he had not scored the free kick in the final I believe Wenger would now be sitting in Paris. He has also finished the year on a high with lots of goals of late and assists. This is when Ozil, Ramsey, Wilshire are all out injured. We have also seen him drop back a bit deeper where he put in lots of shifts. Still bugs me that he doesn’t take all our set pieces. #Worldclass

2. Aaron Ramsey: This year Ramsey became a man. For a while in the 2013/2014 season he was looking like the best player in the league. A lot of his good work came pre January although he did carry his form over. Injuries robbed him of being the man of 2014. The FA cup final winner and scoring again at Wembley in the community shield marked his transformation. With Ozil and Sanchez he is now a go to man.

3. Kieran Gibbs: It is hard to judge Gibbs when he plays with a make shift back four. When Koscielny plays he is a much better defender. He saw a better year in terms of injuries and was part of the 3rd best defence in the premier league last season. At times he has made errors but he has also made big saves. One that springs to mind is the clearance in the FA Cup final. That would have killed us. I also remember his late goal in the Champions League this season. He has also been recognised by England. #BestEnglishLB  

Others who were close:

Ozil – Had a bigger impact than people think this year

Sanchez – Love him but he has only been with us since Septemebr

Koscielny – One of the standout CB’s in the league, injuries have cost him

Have your vote as to who is Arsenal’s man of 2014 and don’t forget to comment: