Is Arshavin the man to hand Arsenal European glory?

One of the most frustrating aspects of last season was Andrey Arshavin’s lack of involvement in the Champions League. Despite signing for Arsenal in January, the Russian was unable to take part in European games because of his involvement for Zenit St. Petersburg in the group stages of the Champions League.

This season though, Arshavin is available to help Arsenal’s European bid and Arsene Wenger believes this could be crucial to the team’s chances of success and just what they need to upset the odds. The Gunners boss says that the 28-year-old can ‘make the difference’ for Arsenal in Europe.

As we all know, Arshavin has been very impressive since joining the club with many predicting that the current campaign will be a hugely successful one for the former Zenit man. Can this conclude with Arshavin lifting the Champions League trophy though?

Well, much could be decided after tonight’s game with Celtic. Arshavin is set to start for Arsenal at Celtic Park in the first-leg of the Champions League qualifier, a game where many expect his quality to shine through.

Wenger himself admits that Arshavin ‘can turn up at any moment’ and make something significant happen. In fact, he could end up being one of the main differences between Arsenal and Celtic. The Scottish club don’t have anyone with Arshavin’s quality and Wenger knows it.

It seems as though Celtic manager Tony Mowbray knows it as well. The Bhoys boss describes Arshavin as a ‘typical Arsenal footballer’ who is ‘very gifted, bright and intelligent’. Mowbray went on to admit that he ‘sat in awe’ of the Russian while watching his four goals at Anfield last season.

Arsenal are by no means a one man team though and Wenger was keen to point this out. He finished by saying that the target is to ‘develop the team play and not focus too much on individuals’.

Regardless of this though, considering the views on both managers, it seems as though all eyes will be on Arshavin this evening as Arsenal head to Celtic Park.

By Thomas Rooney

Was Man City Adebayor’s first choice? Loyalties exposed by Sir Alex

Player loyalty is a quality which is not always apparent in football today. The case of Emmanuel Adebayor, one good season, hold the club to ransom, and then leave whilst blaming the manager and fans is a brilliant example of what fans don’t want to see.

According to Fergie who has been sniping at City for the last few weeks, Adebayor stooped even lower while in negotiations with Man City; trying to get offers from Man Utd and Chelsea.

“At the last minute, from what I can gather, either Emmanuel Adebayor or his agent phoned us after they had agreed a deal with City and then did the same with Chelsea. He was desperate to get to either Chelsea or us.”

“When someone offers you that kind of money, it’s a big attraction to people nowadays. That is the reason they have gone there.”

If this is true it shows you the lack of loyalty Ade has for any club. Man City offered a lot of cash so he went, no more reason than that. I’m sure he would have much rather joined a club which will be playing European football next season. Personally I think £25 million is a great price for him, as long as the money is reinvested in the team.

The fact is that we have several very good forwards at Arsenal, the best of which is Robin Van Persie, if he can stay fit, then he has plenty of options to partner him, Bendtner, Arshavin, Eduardo being first in line. Adebayor wasn’t our best striker, his departure should benefit the club. Ferguson’s comments have only exposed him for what he is.

The big question – will Arsenal miss Adebayor?

Whether you are happy with it or not, there is no getting away from the fact that Emmanuel Adebayor’s transfer to Manchester City is the main talking point as far as Arsenal news goes right now.

The Togo striker completed his £25m switch to Eastlands over the weekend to leave some Arsenal fans wondering why Arsene Wenger has chosen to sell one of his top players under a month from the start of the season.

What is the general consensus though? What do Arsenal fans think about the sale of Adebayor? How will Arsenal respond to his absence? Will Wenger look to bring in a replacement?

Basically, there are two sides of the fence to sit on. First up, you can argue that Adebayor was far from his best last season, meaning that his transfer is no great loss at all. During the 2008/2009 campaign, Adeabyor’s commitment was questioned and he only managed 16 goals in all competitions.

Nevertheless, these are 16 goals that Arsenal will have to find elsewhere in the coming months and this will form the basis of the ‘What is Wenger doing?’ argument. Regardless of commitment issues, Adebayor was still one of Arsenal’s biggest players who – on his day – could win a game for the Gunners.

Therefore, the fact that he has joined fellow influential players Alexander Hleb and Mathieu Flamini – who left the Emirates last summer – out of the club could potentially be seen as a bad move. Arsenal missed the presence of these two last season and they it is entirely possible that they will miss Adebayor this season.

What side of the fence are you on? Personally, I think that it could end up being a good thing for Arsenal. The fact that he agreed to move to Manchester City suggests that he wasn’t 100% loyal to Arsenal and if this was the case, then the squad is better without him.

Nobody wants a player that doesn’t want to play for the club as it can be extremely disruptive. Perhaps Wenger agreed with this and made a decision some time ago that Adebayor would leave. Then, to get £25m to make this happen, makes the deal even more sensible.

The only issue is whether Arsenal will replace him and if so – who with? Arshavin, van Persie, Eduardo, Bendtner and Walcott provide Wenger with plenty of attacking options, but perhaps something extra is needed.

What do we think Arsenal fans? Can Arsenal benefit form Adebayor’s sale?

Can Arsenal win the Premier League with the current squad?

Arsenal will go into next season believing they can win the Premier League. This has to be the case. They are a huge club who have won the title before, so why shouldn’t they aim for the highest prize possible in English football?

The reality though, is that no trophy has been won in four years. With this in mind, have Arsene Wenger’s current squad got a Premier League title in them? Can they overcome the power of Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea and win the league?

Before we answer this ourselves, it is worth highlighting the views of Manuel Almunia. This is because the Arsenal keeper has revealed that ‘youth doesn’t give you titles’, suggesting that Arsenal’s youngsters cannot win the league this year.

The Spaniard then went on to say that in order to go ‘a step further’ and win the Premier League, the squad needs to be ‘braver in big games’ and that the club needs to ‘make extra effort’ to make the team more competitive. Basically, he thinks that youth on its own isn’t quite the answer.

To be honest, I can see what Almunia is saying here. He believes that Arsenal can’t keep using the youth tag as an excuse for failing to achieve major honours. Yes, Wenger has a young squad, but they need to stand up and be counted. They need to show that they are wise beyond their years.

Cesc Fabregas is a classic example of what young players at Arsenal should aim for. At just 22-years-old, he has become one of the main leaders of this Arsenal team and acts like one of the most experienced members of the squad.

He thrives on responsibility and he loves to lead by example. For someone of his age, this is quite extraordinary and extremely valuable to the Gunners. What Wenger needs next season though is for more players to take on this role.

Theo Walcott, Denilson, Alex Song, Nicklas Bendtner and Gael Clichy are all young players, but they need to start maturing beyond their years if Arsenal are to win the Premier League. They need to realise that they are not only at Arsenal to develop as a footballer, but to win trophies for the club.

As for the answer to the initial question – Can Arsenal win the Premier League with the current squad? – it is yes. As long as a couple of key individuals raise their game and take on that extra piece of responsibility, there is no reason why Arsenal can’t go on a good run and conquer all.

What are your thoughts on this and Almunia’s comments? Can Arsenal’s youngsters win the league next year or is it going to be another season of development?

By Thomas Rooney

Martin Keown and Steve Bould – Where are they now: Part 3

We have come to the last part of our ‘Where are they now’ feature and today we will be focusing on two of Arsenal’s greatest ever central defenders Martin Keown and Steve Bould. What did they achieve at Arsenal? What type of players were they? What have they done since leaving? What does the future hold for them?

It is fair to say that Keown was one of the most solid centre backs of his generation. Often taking the ‘no-nonsense’ approach, Keown would use his pace and tremendously powerful tackling to be a thorn in the side of every attacking player in the country.

The former England international signed off his Arsenal career in style as well as his last season was the ‘invincible’ campaign when he and his team went unbeaten throughout their 46 Premier League games. It was a fitting end to a tremendous career where Keown won six major honours.

As for what he is up to now, well we occasionally see him working as a pundit on BBC Sport. Often alongside Lee Dixon on MOTD2, Keown offers his views on all things football and normally talks a great deal of sense.

There is the possibility that Keown will move into coaching eventually, but after he reportedly turned down the chance to join Tony Adams at Portsmouth, it seems that he is happy on the BBC Sport sofa for now.

As for Steve Bould, the one time Stoke City defender was an integral part of the ‘famous four’ that helped George Graham’s Arsenal keep so many clean sheets in their time. Bould’s excellent defensive ability and cool head helped him make over 300 appearances for Arsenal, winning seven major honours along the way.

The final of these was the FA Cup in 1998 when Arsene Wenger’s men completed the double. Age wasn’t on Bould’s side at this point, but he still played his part. In fact, his chip that set Tony Adams on his way during the victory that secured the Premier League title will be remembered forever by Arsenal fans.

After leaving the club, Bould had a brief spell at Sunderland where he was made club captain by Peter Reid. He helped the Black Cats finish 7th in the Premier League before injury forced him to retire from the game.

These days though, he is back where he belongs, with the Arsenal. Bould returned to the club in 2001 in a coaching role and is now the coach for the Youth Team. In this role, his reputation as a coach has grown rapidly and there is a distinct possibility he could become a manager himself one day.

This completes the look at David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn, Tony Adams, Martin Keown and Steve Bould. All of these players made a huge impact at Arsenal and it seems a safe bet that they will remain part of the club for years to come.

By Thomas Rooney

Read more: Kaba Diawara: Wenger’s Bargain Buy that Never Made it // Tony Adams: Where is he now? // The Famous Back Four: Where are they now?

The Famous Back Four: Arsenal’s defence – Where are they now?

The close season is a time to take a look into the history books and reflect on what Arsenal have achieved. This doesn’t mean that we are going to take a look at the most recent season though. I think the ‘two players short of challenging again’ and the ‘injuries hurt us’ arguments have been done enough on the blogosphere.

What I want to do today is go back some years and take a look at arguably the best back five that ever graced Arsenal football club. Let’s remind ourselves of David Seaman, Nigel Winterburn, Lee Dixon, Tony Adams and Martin Keown. What did they achieve? Where are they now?

David Seaman – After signing from QPR in 1990, Seaman went on to become a true Arsenal legend. He may have had his moments along the way (Nayim and Ronaldinho!), but there is no hiding from the fact that he won 8 major trophies with the club and made over 500 appearances along the way.

These days, he isn’t up to a great deal. There is the odd television appearance where he is interviewed about Arsenal and England matters, but other than that he appears to be keeping himself to himself and enjoying family life.

Nigel Winterburn – Arsenal have had many excellent left backs in their history, but Winterburn has to go down as one of the best. He served the club for 13 years with great success, winning 7 trophies along the way. His tackling ability, aggression and energy was superb during his time at the club and it is a shame he only won a couple of England caps.

As for what he is up to now, well he still works in a broadcasting capacity for the club. In fact, he is regularly on our TV screens giving his opinion on all things football. He did have a brief coaching spell with Blackburn last year, but when Sam Allardyce took over, he was asked to move on. Overall, it seems likely that he will pursue the pundit’s path rather than the coaching one.

Lee Dixon – This right back made an incredible 619 appearances for Arsenal over a 15-year period that made him one of the most respected defenders in the game. His consistency, loyalty and defensive ability ensured that he was a favourite with the Arsenal faithful. He was also
threatening on the break though and managed to net 28 times during his career at the club. Dixon won eight trophies with Arsenal, the last of
which was the league title in 2002 just before his retirement.

In terms of life after football, he has been very busy indeed. As well as playing golf regularly, he has pursued a number of business interests, including one with TV Chef Heston Blumenthal. Elsewhere, he is a regular as a pundit on Score, Match of the Day and Football Focus. His analysis of games can often be seen on the BBC Sport website as well. Overall, it is fair to say that he is doing OK for himself since retiring from football!

So, that’s it for this article. On Friday, I will be taking a look at Tony Adams and Martin Keown. I might even glance an eye over what Steve Bould is up to these days.

Until then, what do you make of what these players have done with themselves since leaving Arsenal? Which of them was your favourite player at the time?

By Thomas Rooney

Read more: Kaba Diawara: Wenger’s Bargain Buy that Never Made it // Tony Adams: Where is he now? // Martin Keown and Steve Bould – Where are they now?

Would we be happy with Barry at Arsenal?

We all know by now that the close season means one thing – transfer speculation galore. Throughout the next couple of months, Arsenal will be linked with a host of players, the moves for which will probably never materialise.

This is part and parcel of the media keeping interest in football high when there aren’t many significant games. It starts of as a bit of harmless fun, but when Sky Sports News continue to talk about ‘their sources’, it can get extremely annoying.

Anyway, where am I going with this? Well, it seems we may have some transfer speculation with a bit of substance. Don’t be surprised if it drags on throughout the summer, but unlike so many – this one seems realistic. Gareth Barry is reportedly interested in a move to the Emirates.

The Telegraph wrote a piece this morning which claims that the Aston Villa midfielder is holding out for a move to Arsenal in a bid to participate in regular Champions League football. Liverpool are also tracking his progress after missing out on his signature last summer, but it is being suggested that Barry would rather join Arsenal.

Would we want Barry to join though? It is thought that Arsene Wenger would need to spend around £12m on the England midfielder, who has one year remaining on his contract at Villa Park. Is this a good deal for Arsenal? Personally, I think that Wenger could do a lot, lot worse.

Ever since the departure of Mathieu Flamini last summer, Arsenal have been crying out for a holding and battling midfielder player to do away with the problem of being light-weight in the centre of the park. Barry – who Wenger has watched several times over the few months – could be the answer.

Often when a player is linked, I try to picture what role they would play in the team and Barry fits the bill in my opinion. Playing alongside Fabregas, he would look very much at home. It’s hard to say who he could emulate, but I see him as an Emmanuel Petit type figure.

This is purely me speculating though and I would really like your opinion on this. Is he the type of player you would like to be watching at the Emirates? Could he add something extra to the midfield? Which former player could he play a similar role to?

Looking at this initially though, I think it would be a good signing. A midfield of Walcott, Barry, Fabregas and Arshavin sounds pretty good to me. I guess we will just have to wait and see how this one develops.

By Thomas Rooney

Are Wenger’s comments a sign that he is nearing the end?

Arsene Wenger has been a busy boy in the last couple of days. In the lead up to tomorrow’s game against Manchester United, the Arsenal boss has made a number of uncharacteristic comments that suggest he might just be cracking under the pressure.

As has been mentioned in pretty much every Arsenal related article over the last week or so, the Gunners have not won a trophy since 2005. For this to come to an end next season, you would have thought that Wenger would want to keep hold of his best players, invest in some new ones and continue to get the backing of the supporters.

Well, if you think this is the case, you may be wrong because Wenger has put all three of these notions in doubt. He has done so in such a manner that I’m not convinced all is ok in the world of the Frenchman.
Anyway, let’s get on to what he said.

Speaking about Emmanuel Adebayor’s future, Wenger said that ‘all of the big clubs will want him this summer’ and that he wouldn’t hesitate in selling the striker to another member of the top four.

Carlos Ancleotti – who tried to sign Adebayor for AC Milan last summer – is favourite to take over at Chelsea and it is thought that he will try to get his man once again. Considering Wenger said you should ‘never say never’ because Arsenal have already sold a player to Chelsea – Ashley  ole – this shouldn’t be ruled out.

Next up on Wenger’s agenda was to speak about how much money Arsenal would spend this summer. Many have called for the Gunners to buy more players like Andrei Arshavin to assist in the quest for silverware.

However, the Arsenal boss has said that he will ‘manage within his own resources’ as he only believes only ‘one or two players’ need to be added in order for his team to be competitive in all competitions.

This is fair enough as he doesn’t want to put the club’s finances at risk. However, he was being very defensive with these comments about his transfer policy and will probably refuse to budge on it. No matter how long the team goes without a trophy.

The final subject on Wenger’s hit list was the Arsenal fans themselves. He said that the home crowd have been too quick to jump on the backs of players this season and created a ‘negative environment’ inside the Emirates.

The Frenchman praised the ‘fantastic’ away fans, but said that sections of the home crowd have created ‘negative vibes’ which have had an adverse affect on the confidence of some players.
Wenger finished by saying that this Arsenal team needs genuine ‘fans of the club’ to come to matches because this season, the coaching staff has had to work too hard on maintaining confidence and energy levels ‘against the odds’.

So, there you have it. Wenger has had his say on many things. A lot of these opinions could upset Arsenal fans, but it seems these comments were made with this in mind. That’s why I raise questions about Wenger’s way of thinking right now.

Will there be a relationship problem between Wenger and the fans if Manchester United run out comfortable winners on Saturday? This may not be the case with Wenger and Arsenal, but the moment a manager publically criticises the fans, it is normally the beginning of the end.

By Thomas Rooney

Theo signs new deal – what can he achieve at Arsenal?

The main news concerning Arsenal this morning is the revelation that Theo Walcott has committed his future to the club by signing a four-year-deal worth £60,000 a week.

Walcott Djourou and Fabregas at Arsenal

This news was expected, but is still very good to hear. Since joining the club back in 2006 from Southampton, Walcott has made a significant impact in Arsenal colours and has firmly established himself in Arsene Wenger’s starting eleven.

In total, he has made 103 appearances for the club and has found the back of the net on 14 occasions. Speaking about signing a new deal, Walcott said that he was ‘absolutely delighted’ to show his loyalty to the Arsenal cause.

The England international went on to say that he is ‘so happy’ at the Emirates because he is working with the ‘best manager in the world’ in Arsene Wenger. Walcott was also very thankful to everyone who had helped him get to ‘this point in my career’.

One of the final points that Walcott made was that he anticipated ‘many successful seasons ahead’ and this is the point I wanted to touch upon today – what can Walcott achieve as a player? Just how good is he?

By the time his contract runs its course in four years time, there is no doubt that Walcott will want to win some trophies with Arsenal. There is only so long he can be an integral part in the ‘potential’ of this team.

In fact, should Walcott start to perform like a world-class player on a more consistent basis, it could lead to some of the other Arsenal youngsters to kick on. Therefore, the team as a whole can become more serious about challenging for major trophies.

So, in my opinion, Walcott is integral to Arsenal’s future. He is one of the most talented youngsters in the team and his rise could coincide with the team’s rise. When he is in the starting eleven and on form, Arsenal are a better team. This could be even more the case in the coming years.

How good is Walcott though? When you compare him with Cristiano Ronaldo, is he at anywhere near the same level? Possibly not. However, he could be as important to Arsenal as Ronaldo is to Manchester United. They are different players, but he can be as influential.

Opposition teams need to fear Walcott every time they play Arsenal. He needs to become the man that they put two players on in an attempt to halt his progress. Then, players such as Andrei Arshavin can run riot elsewhere on the pitch.

There is no doubt that Walcott was disappointing in the two games against Manchester United. This may well be down to his lack of games, but I would still like to have seen more from him.

The next couple of seasons are crucial to Walcott’s future. He needs to show just how good he is on a more consistent basis. He needs to be in contention for the PFA Players Player of the year every season and he needs to help Arsenal progress as a team to win more trophies.

There is plenty of pressure on Walcott’s shoulders, but he can handle it. Show us what you’ve got Theo. You are the future of Arsenal Football Club.

By Thomas Rooney

Which of these five players would you like to bring back to Arsenal?

When people talk about Arsenal at the moment, it is always regarding the future. How will the current team progress in the next couple of years? When will Arsenal be ready to challenge for the title again?

As much as I am not fed up with this talk (because it highlights the huge amount of potential this team has), I thought it would make a change to take a look at the past instead. Let’s take a look at five players from the past and decide which one we would like back.

One thing to remember for this is that these players would be coming back to Arsenal at their peak. Not as they are now – at their best. It is an exercise in which the current crop could do with some help more than anything. Without further to do, what are the five choices?

David Seaman
Some argue that Seaman has never been replaced. He made 566 appearances between 1990 and 2003 and is a true Arsenal legend. Would his ability to lead from the back be valuable in the current team?

Dennis Bergkamp
Quite simply, Bergkamp is one of the best players to have ever played for the club. His vision, his passing, his finishing – the man had everything. Imagine him amongst the attacking threat Arsenal already possess!

Thierry Henry
The first of our five that is still playing now and arguably for the best team in Europe. Henry is another player that will be spoken about in many years to come. His pace, his skill, his influence over his team mates. The man was immense.

Tony Adams
On a number of occasions this season, people have criticised Arsenal’s defence. They have lacked leadership and authority at the back according to some. How about a certain player who made over 650 appearances for the club to steady the ship?

Ian Wright
Wrighty was one of the best goal scorers the club has ever seen. He notched 185 goals during his time at the club and was a firm fans’ favourite. Would you like to see him alongside Adebayor or van Persie?

So there you have it – over to you now. Each of these players would make valuable contributions in the current team, but which would you like to see back the most?

Personally, I find it hard to look past Mr Bergkamp.

By Thomas Rooney