Posts Tagged ‘Samir Nasri

16
Jan
09

Hull v. Arsenal preview and Wenger’s Transfer Targets

Good morning kickers, I have the day off and the whole family had a good sleep in. So that’s why the late blog.

Anyway, Wenger ran the gamut today, talking about transfers, rumors, Kaka, and erm, who is that team we play tomorrow? Oh yeah, Hull City, god, they suck don’t they? This should be an easy game, like playing Stoke, or Fulham, it’s almost like having a game in hand, right?

Am I forgetting something?

Anyway, here are the highlights of Wenger’s exclusive pre-match interview.

Defensive Balance Helps Them Grind Out Wins

I believe that as long as you keep a good defensive balance, and don’t concede a goal… you have always a chance, since you have so much possession, to score one.

This pretty much sums up Arsene Wenger’s footballing philosophy over the last two years: keep the ball and eventually you’ll score. He talks about “defensive balance” but when you watch the games and see Clichy and Sagna effectively providing the only attacking width on the team, “defensive balance” is a lie. Well, maybe not a lie, but at least it’s a Wengerism. I think when he says “defensive balance” it means “Clichy and Sagna are free to go forward and as long as we have one or two players who stay near the half-way line, the team is balanced.”

The problem is that the team isn’t balanced and Wenger doesn’t even see it. He’s asked about the possession stats against Bolton and he admits that Arsenal’s 77% possession was a record for them. Morever, Arsenal had 680 some passes in that game, most of which were sideways.

This is a function, Wenger says, of the fact that teams who feel insecure about their league position are trying to secure their place in the table and do so at all costs. Wenger says that right now you’re going to see a lot of these 1-0 wins for the top four teams against lesser opponents until March when things start to “open up a bit.”

There’s a real logic here in that last bit, I’ll admit, but only if some separation starts to happen at the bottom of the table. If the whole table stays bunched up like it is then this same 10-men-behind-the-ball (the Aston Villa playing style) tactic will continue to prevail.

None of which changes the basic argument that all Gooners have been having for the last year: should we shore up defense or offense.

I’m saying both. What say you?

Nasri in the Hole

He [Nasri] is a player who likes to go left, right, and is very versatile… and has a lot of invention, with the ball. [But also] Samir is incredibly quick, because he is as well very good on the ball. So, he uses more the second aspect of his game than the first one. His runs off the ball can be deadly, but he likes so much to come to the ball that he doesn’t use his pace to go in behind the defenders. We are trying to balance his game.

I think we all sort of knew the first thing about Samir, but I haven’t seen any evidence of this super pace that Wenger claims. Worse too is that Arsenal are in desperate need of runs off the ball, and getting in behind defenses.  So, in the hole or not, Arsenal need Nasri to start balancing his game without the ball.

Irregardless, I like Nasri in the hole: which sounds really gross.

Bring on the Vela

Most people who watched the Bolton game credited Vela with changing the game and of course, the big question, then, is “Since Nasri plays in the middle, Diaby is shite, and Vela is a game changer, why doesn’t Vela play more?”

Wenger says that he was reticent to use Vela early in the season because he felt Vela wasn’t physically ready for the rigors of an EPL match. He’s ready now to start using him more because he feels like the player has come along greatly. I got the sense that we’ll see more Vela over the next few months, both out of necessity and because Wenger sees him growing and becoming a man, or as he puts it “a different animal.”

Transfers

The big question on everyone’s mind is who are Arsenal going to buy? With the second question being, how close are we to signing Andrei Arshavin?

To the second question, Arsene flat out said, he isn’t talking about it and we are not close to signing Arshavin. Arsenal are in negotiations with Zenit but that is all.

I firmly believe that Arsenal’s only hope for signing Arshavin lies in Man City landing Kaka. Because if City don’t land Kaka, they will certainly look elsewhere for a playmaker and Arshavin is pretty much the best option out there. There is no way that Arsenal could outbid City nor could we come close to satisfying Arshavin’s wage request so they would win that contest every time: Champions League football be damned.

Fortunately, the Kaka deal looks more and more likely, despite the protestations of the player. The transfer fee is reportedly up to £108m which no club could realistically turn down. That amount of money would buy a whole new team of decent talent, pay off 1/3 of a new stadium, and basically ensure top flight survival for several years.

Throw in that the player is supposedly being offered £100m in wages (60% of which would go to him, after taxes) over 5 years and really, this is an irresistible offer isn’t it?

That leaves us with Arshavin, and the boss says that “nothing has fallen through and we are very positive” which I’m taking to mean that the racist assholes at Zenit are stringing us along until they can get a better offer. If nothing better comes along, then on the last day of the transfer market, Arsenal will… maybe get the player. Maybe they’ll just have him killed or whatever they do in Russia. Wenger as much as admitted that this deal will probably happen on the last day.

Arsene did admit that he’s in for other targets but flatly denied that we are in for Hangelaand and Bullard from Fulham and Diakate from Lazio. YAY, three more targets we can put to bed!

Who will play against Hull?

Wenger ruled out Gallas and Silvestre due to injury and there is a test today for the others — basically the test is for Song, who is like a new signing if he comes back.

Eduardo scored a hat trick in a closed door practice but Wenger is not ready to throw him back into a game quite yet.  He’ll play on Tuesday in a reserves game and Wenger will assess the situation then. I may have been off on my assessment that Eduardo will return in February and we might see a cameo against Cardiff at the earliest and if not, then Everton almost certainly.

As for the tactics that Hull might employ Wenger sees a Hull side that came in to Arsenal and played a 4-3-3 but who have lost a ton of confidence and are starting to crack. Given Phil Brown’s dust-up with Kinnear the other day, I have to agree that the pressure seems to be getting to them and so I fully expect Hull to play a 9-1-1.

It’s funny, but you know who Phil Brown reminds me of? Alan Pardew. Hull City’s form right now reminds me of the form West Ham suffered late in that season as well. If you remember that 2006/07 season, though, Arsenal were beaten at home by West Ham 1-0 after they had been beaten earlier in the season and were looking for revenge.

It will take massive concentration to avoid that kind of slip again tomorrow.

Conclusion

Late kickoff tomorrow and the game is on Fox, so I’m going to be doing the liveblogging thing. This means no early blog here tomorrow, but join me here at 9:15 PST for comments and general fun. See you then.

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29
Dec
08

Best/Worst of 2008 #5; Hleb out, Nasri in

The transfer window opens on Thursday and we all know what this week holds; a week of speculation about Arsenal’s transfer targets. I’ll put that information at the end of the post for those of you who are interested but really it’s just speculation and please take it with a huge grain of salt.

Instead of just talking about transfer targets or how Steven Gerrard should be banned for life for his part in a bar fight (that’s a joke, kids) for the rest of this week I want to do a top five best/worst Arsenal year in review. One a day, like vitamins for your football mind, starting with the #5 best/worst story of 2008 and culminating in the #1 best/worst story. One more thing, the reason that the stories are both best and worst is because as I was thinking through each of these, with only one exception, even the best stories had a negative component. So, they are best/worst — you’ll see what I mean.

#5 Hleb out, Nasri in

I don’t know about you, but by the time that Alex Hleb raised a hand to Graeme Murty and got sent off — the last act of futility in a career at Arsenal that defined the word — I was well and truly done with Alex Hleb.

Now, before you get all nostalgic and claim that Arsenal could use Hleb this year, “Arsenal need some width!” you might claim. Let me remind you just how bad Hleb was: this was a guy who had 25 shots, SHOTS not shots on goal but SHOTS, in all competitions in his last year at Arsenal. Of course it’s nice to have a guy on the team who passes the ball but Hleb took passing the ball to a whole different level: he routinely passed up wide open shots in order to pass the ball to a teammate.

To his credit Hleb did have a career high 11 assists last year, but it took him two years of utter futility to reach that apex.

Arsene sold him, to his dream team (where he rots on the bench), and used the money to bring in a guy who has almost all of the same qualities that Hleb had. Arsene bought Samir Nasri.

The difference between Hleb and Nasri is glaring: Nasri already has 32 shots, 4 goals, and 2 assists in just 17 games, Nasri took all the corner kicks and set plays on Sunday (and he was able to clear the first defender which we haven’t seen in a long time), and Nasri’s most important quality is that he plays on the left and actually provides width to this Arsenal team. If you remember, Hleb always, always, always dribbled the ball into the middle of the park — I can only guess he did that because he’s was not capable of playing in a cross.

But the best part about Samir Nasri? He scores game winning goals in big matches. I mean, his second goal against Man U was, well… Hleb could never do that.

So, in his first year Samir Nasri has already shown himself to be a better player than Alex Hleb, a great addition to this team, another coup by the Professor, and the #5 best/worst Arsenal story of 2008.

Transfer Targets

HA HA

I saw a story that said Arsenal are going to buy three Newcastle players: Shay Given, Charles N’Zogbia, and Steven Taylor. I’ll admit that I’m no fan of Almunia but Shay Given? Hmmm… I’m not a very good judge of keepers so I’m inviting you all to comment on this rumor. Given or Almunia, who would you pick and why?

N’Zogbia has been linked to the club before and nothing has ever come from it. He’s a pacy little winger and I think he would be a good addition to the squad even if he is really struggling this year. After all, a guy can’t get any assists if he doesn’t have any targets! Of course, this could also be the press doing the age old “link every French player to Arsenal” trick, so grain, salt, etc.

Honestly, I don’t know anything about Steven Taylor except that he’s tall, he’s a defender, and he plays for a team that has allowed 32 goals.

Does this make any sense to anyone? That Arsenal are struggling defensively and they are going to bring in the keeper and defender from one of the worst defensive teams in the EPL?

The other target that I hear is the every day transfer speculation that Arsenal are going to sign Andrei Arshavin from his racist ass club. Zenit wants at least £20m for Arshavin which is an insane fee for any player, much less a player who’s only acheivement this year is one good game in Euro 2008. One little problem with this rumor is that Arsene told Canal + that thinks Arsenal don’t have the money.  Make what you will of that, I haven’t had enough coffee to figure out how a team that made £20m or so in profits last year, keeps saying that the club and the Highbury redevelopment are separated, and who’s board members insist that the boss has all the money he could ever need, suddenly doesn’t have any money.

Right, that’s it for today, tune in for the #4 top story of 2008!

11
Jul
08

It must be a mirage…

Ugh… I played 90 minutes of 5 a side last night for the first time in two weeks and then went out after for drinks so, you’ll have to forgive me if I’m a bit “knackered” this morning.

Naturally, last night’s topic of conversation turned from how much we all suck at football to how much Arsenal sucks and will probably finish in 20th place because they refuse to spend any money to buy players or spend any money on keeping players. My loyal readers know that this perception is simply untrue, Arsenal have the third highest salary in the EPL, but tell that to your friends — as I did last night — and they will look at you as if you have lobsters coming out of your ears or flat out deny you your truth.

But even the most stalwart and informed Arsenal supporters have to admit that they have been at least a little bit frustrated with the lack of signings during this off season.  Maybe it’s lack of money, maybe it’s Wenger’s hubris, we hear all kinds of things, but whatever the excuses I see a lot of frustrated Arsenal supporters asking for a signing.  I can’t really blame you, I feel it too.  No matter how little I think of Hleb, truth be told, he will be missed.  No matter how highly I think of Theo, he cannot fill Adebayor’s giant shoes.  No matter how much I trust Arsene Wenger, Flamini cannot be replaced by simply sticking Diaby in there.  And no matter how rose tinted my glasses, I have to admit that I have serious reservations about Song’s ability to step up to the plate and be the world class central defender that Arsenal obviously need.

Part of me does feel strongly that Arsenal need some quality signings: a true wing player (like Ljungberg), a true rock in defense (like Tony Adams), and a midfield stopper to at least give Diaby some competition for his spot.

So, it is with great pleasure that I say: Arsenal have signed Samir Nasri.  Nasri’s a young, talented, physically gifted player who is already saying all the right things. For example, when asked where he sees himself in the lineup he said

I am an offensive midfielder. I like offensive, technical and quick football, exactly in the style of Arsenal. I hope I will integrate myself quickly in this team and bring everything I can to Arsenal and its fans. I can play in the centre or on the wing. During my career, I have played behind one or two strikers or on the left, or the right hand side.

The perfect Wenger signing; technical, quick, (French!) and adaptable.  Welcome to Arsenal, Mr. Nasri.

04
Jul
08

Happy 4th of July

It’s a big day here in the Pacific Northwest as Tacoma reprises its role as host to the traveling wooden-ship sideshow known as “Tall Ships.”  This means the normal 4th of July waterfront celebration/annual drunken riot is going to be brewing all day instead of kicking off late at night.  Add in the fact that it’s a Friday, that fireworks are now illegal, and we’re slated for a crummy cloud covered sky thus dampening the grand finale fireworks show and this should be the best 4th of July ever.

Mirroring our dour local celebrations, Arsenal are letting off some wet firecrackers of their own in the signings realm. “The Nasri Signing” isn’t going to happen for at least 10 days, the Senna signing is right out, Hleb has become persona non press report due to the long shadow cast by Andre Arshavin, and Adebayor is mulling his future so there’s no news there either.

I have no idea what makes Adebayor think he has any control over his future: last I heard, he’s still under contract with the club.   He can complain and maybe even not give his best when selected to start (which would hurt both him and the club) but he signed a contract, there isn’t much deciding he gets to do.  Arsenal, on the other hand, are the ones who get to decide; should they sell him now for £24-30m or hold on to him for another year and sell him on for more!  I think they ought to keep him.  Arsenal reportedly only paid Monaco £4.2m for him 18 months ago.  Now, if Barcelona legitimately offer £30m for the player, that’s an annualized rate of return of 225% and a total return of 615%.  A return of 225% per year on any investment is quite impressive and, according to my calculations, means that next year he’ll be worth £67.5m! I say Arsenal hang on to him for another year and then sell him for £67.5m which would be a total return of 1,507%.  Not a bad bit of work.

In real news, Ljungberg is featuring at the number 11 slot today in Arsenal’s all time top 50.  I loved Freddie; his tuft of red hair, the goals in the FA cup (especially the finals), his constant movement, and the way he defended from the front made him a crowd favorite.   He was one of the players that really made me love The Arsenal and it was a nice trip down memory lane to read his Arsenalography.   Check it out if you’re bored, or just jonesing for football.

You know what else you should do if you’re bored?  Watch all 10 installments of these “Bad Boys” videos.

Bad Boys International

And just plain Bad Boys (Britain)

I found them vastly entertaining and a refreshing reminder of what English football used to be like.  Thank god those days are over.

See you tomorrow.

23
Jun
08

Welcome Samir Nasri

It’s all but official: Arsenal have signed Samir Nasri from Olympic Marsielles for £15m.  Whoa.  £15m is a lot of cash but it does look like Arsenal have finally gotten a true wing player and, moreover, he looks like he fits the Wenger bill: young, technically gifted, mobile, and malleable.

Good luck kiddo!




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