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Arsenal Midfield Trio Sign New Contracts

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I always believe that for every disciplined effort, there’s a multiple reward. That was a tenet I lived with for as long as I can remember and I proud to say I’m living that dream.

This can also be applied in the beautiful game and you can look no further than a player like Aaron Ramsey. The bloke arrived as a youngster in 2008, preferring the Gunners over Manchester United and with players like Cesc Fabregas pulling all the strings, Ramsey had the best platform to learn.

After his slow introduction to the thick of things, Ramsey grew in confidence and in time he displaced Denilson and Abou Diaby till that ill-fated moment at the Britannia Stadium when he suffered a double fracture. The injury brought his progress to an abrupt halt and it took a couple of loan spells in lower division sides before he returned to stake his claim for a first team berth.

The departures of Fabregas and Samir Nasri took its toll on Ramsey and he was plunged into the action to play as the club’s newly found creative hub. In his new role, Ramsey struggled for fitness and form and he lost his place to Tomas Rosicky as the Gunners surged to a third place finish.

Despite his on the pitch turmoil, Arsene Wenger kept his faith with his Welsh protégé and handed him a long term contract with his fellow Brits, and some Gunners, who thought they knew better, expressed their disapproval of handing a player in poor form a new deal.

This season, a beast was unleashed from the Welsh Dragon and he went on to score 13 goals in 27 appearances, averaging a goal in two games. His impact on the pitch has been exemplary and it’s not just his goalscoring exploits, Ramsey has also raked up assists, tackles, interceptions and the whole nine yards, making him a very complete footballer.

The tale of Santi Cazorla is one that brings a lot of happy memories. He certainly hasn’t reached the heights and great standards he set in his awesome debut campaign but it would be attributed to the fact that he has been displaced from his natural position by the acquisition of Mesut Ozil.

In his first season with the Gunners. Cazorla was a class act, scoring 12 goals and handing 12 assists, endearing himself to the hearts of the fans worldwide.

In Gedion Zelalem, the Gunners have a gem that is bound to shine like a star and his time will come sooner, rather than later. His performances in the Asia Tour was a firm reminder of his qualities and the Gunners are eager to see the Young German strut his stuff.

The club has announced that these aforementioned players have signed new contracts to extend their futures with the club.

Arsene Wenger expressed his delight as well,

“Cazorla and Ramsey are absolutely key players for us, and this news is a boost to the whole club. Gedion is very young of course, but he has shown already that he has fantastic promise, and we all look forward to his development with us”

It’s heartwarming to see that a lot of players have signed long term deals and it’s going to be beneficial to the overall morale of the team.

I wish the midfield trio all the best in their future endeavors.

Sayonara.

Santi Cazorla: Thoughts on his Hot and Cold Form this Season

12/13: Arsena 2-1 Aston Villa - Santi Cazorla

Santi Cazorla’s performances were so consistent in his debut campaign with the club and he notched up a career-best 12 goals and a boatload of assists in the course of the season. According to WhoScored last season, Cazorla fired 115 shots, created 96 chances, attempted 86 dribbles, was fouled 50 times, made 184 crosses, passed the ball 2,471 times with a pass completion percentage of 86.8 percent.

His omission from the 2013 PFA Team of the Year bewildered Arsene Wenger, but it didn’t matter because the Emirates faithful knew that they had finally found a true replacement for the departed Cesc Fabregas. Santi Cazorla was a joy to watch last season and in as much as many Gooners have endeared Tomas Rosicky to their hearts, he spent a considerable chunk of the 2012/13 campaign on the bench due to Cazorla’s imperious form. Cazorla’s versatility has also seen him displace Lukas Podolski on the left on several occasions with Jack Wilshere moved further up the pitch to hone his attacking prowess, which is still a work in progress.

It was expected that Santi Cazorla was going to build on the good work he had done last season but he didn’t do really well when he came off the bench in Arsenal’s opening day home defeat to Aston Villa. After creating an assist against Fulham and a good outing in the North London derby, Cazorla suffered an ankle injury that sidelined him for five weeks.

On his long-awaited return from injury, Cazorla became a different player and his influence wasn’t seen in the games he played. Just went we thought he had reached his nadir, he put up a breathtaking performance against Liverpool, scoring a wonderful goal after his initial header hit the post.

Arsenal's Cazorla scores a goal against Liverpool during their English Premier League soccer match at the Emirates stadium in London

Shortly after the Liverpool game, Cazorla played so poorly in subsequent games and he couldn’t even stay on the pitch for 90 minutes as he was always replaced. In the turn of the New Year, Cazorla picked himself up and started playing some good football. After a good performance against Cardiff, Cazorla scored Arsenal’s opener in the FA Cup third round clash against Tottenham.

However, he followed it up with a rather timid performance against Aston Villa and his woes were compounded when he gave the ball away further up the pitch which ultimately led to Christian Benteke’s goal that put his team under intense pressure. This weekend, Santi Cazorla has popped up again with a Man of the Match performance against Fulham, scoring the goals that put the struggling team to the sword.

As you’d expect from a coach oozing class, Arsene Wenger was quick to praise the diminutive Spaniard,

“He was out for a long time at the start of the season and had some injury problems. After that he had an ankle problem and only recently, since mid-December, has he come back to his level.

“When you play in your opponents’ half, in the final third, he is one of the players who can create something special, either through his passing or through his finishing. He is two-footed, and that makes him very dangerous.”

This season has shown that patience is required with some players as they aim to bring their best form as the campaign progresses. Jack Wilshere was having a torrid time on the flanks and many Arsenal fans didn’t want to see their poster boy on the first-team sheet but since Aaron Ramsey’s unfortunate injury, Wilshere has been drafted to his favored box-to-box role and we have seen how much his performances have drastically improved.

Even after his massively disappointing performance at the Etihad Stadium, Nacho Monreal has also showed signs of improvement, and when Kieran Gibbs suffered an injury, the Spanish full-back has gotten a consistent run of games and we can all see how well he’s doing.

It’s good to see Santi Cazorla score his third goal in three games which brings his tally to four for the season and I hope he can build on this weekend’s performance because the Gunners will be reliant on him and his teammates to come up with the goods when the chips are down.

Sayonara.

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Rating Arsenal’s Midfielders in the 2012/13 Season

The Matadors of Arsenal’s midfield

In the yesteryear, Arsene Wenger lined up a formidable 4-4-2 formation that had the right balance in defense, midfield and attack.

Using the Invincibles of the 2003/04 season as a classic example, the defense had rock-solid personnel that instilled fear in opposition forwards, the midfield had a mix of doggedness, aggression, panache, flair and creativity and the attackers smashed in goals with ruthless and clinical efficiency.

As the years went by, Wenger changed his approach, fixing his focus on his team’s technical side, which involved passing the ball around intricately before unlocking defenses with that killer through ball for a teammate. With this approach, the manager sacrificed a striker to accommodate an extra midfielder, thus the 4-2-3-1 formation came into fruition.

Wenger used this formation to bring out the best in his prized asset, Cesc Fabregas, and his 19 goals as well as numerous assists in the 2009/10 season epitomized the fact that Arsenal had resolved its football around its Spanish creative hub in midfield. After his flirtations with Barcelona, El Capitan departed North London but the formation remained intact.

Soldiers come and go but the barracks still remain intact, I presume.

Deploying Aaron Ramsey as the creative outlet in the 2011/12 season with Mikel Arteta and Alex Song providing the fulcrum was regarded as a failed experiment as the Welshman became a lightning rod for vitriol from the Arsenal faithful. Tomas Rosicky’s renaissance was a bright spark in a relatively dark campaign and a third place finish was meant to pave the way for good things to come.

This season, the Gunners acquired the services of Santi Cazorla and to everyone’s surprise, Arsenal made their second major sale, when Alex Song joined Barcelona, rather their bench, for £15 million. Song’s shock departure caused a stir but with Arsenal not bringing in any replacements, Arteta took one for the team, curbing his attacking instincts to become the team’s primary holding midfielder.

As the season progressed, Cazorla became the team’s creative lynchpin while Abou Diaby and Arteta provided the pivot supporting defence and attack. Diaby had his trademark injury layoffs but players like Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky and Francis Coquelin put in decent shifts while Jack Wilshere made his comeback from a lengthy injury.

This is the third installment of a four-post series focused on Arsenal’s performances in the 2012/13 season. I’ve already published my ratings on the performances of the goalkeepers  and defenders but today’s post is focused on Arsenal’s fulcrum in the middle of the park.

Feel free to share your comments.

Abou Diaby – 15 Apps, No Goal, One Assist

Abou Diaby’s career went downhill after that horrific tackle in 2006 when Arsenal visited the Stadium of Light. After seeing different specialists all over the globe, Diaby finally managed to get some preseason games under his belt  and it was widely believed that he was going to realize his potential with a consistent run out this season.

He began the campaign in the curtain raiser against Sunderland (home) and his physicality was highly welcome when the Gunners visited that Rugby playing lot. After his Man of the Match performance against Liverpool (away), everyone ran out of superlatives for the midfielder and comparisons between him and Patrick Vieira came in faster than Usain Bolt’s 100m Olympic World Record.

He was largely disappointing in Arsenal’s away draw against Manchester City (away) but when we thought that Diaby was going to get an extended run of games, he suffered an injury and was sidelined for a considerable chunk of the season. The lanky Frenchman finally made his return in the home fixture against Manchester City and his rustiness was glaring as he struggled in the game. His poor form continued in the Chelsea loss (away) and he was dropped from therein.

His hot and cold season continued when he followed up an outstanding performance against Stoke (home) with a rather disappointing outing in the nervy win over Sunderland. (away). His season came to an abrupt end when the club announced that he had ruptured his cruciate ligament on his knee and he’s to be out for nine months.

As they say, a picture speaks more than a thousand words

What’s the point of having a Lionel Messi in your team if he cannot play. In my honest opinion, I feel very sorry for Diaby but its high time the club cuts its losses with the Frenchman, as he cannot be banked upon to stay fit when his services are needed.

Rating – 4/10

Francis Coquelin – 22 Apps, No Goal, One Assist

After his stellar performances as a utility player last season, many had hoped that this would be the year of the Coq and with Song out of the equation, everything seemed to be in place for the young Frenchman to finally make his breakthrough. The midfielder featured sparingly in the Premier League but got run-outs in the domestic Cup competitions as well as some game time in the Champions League.

As for his performances, the midfielder didn’t light up any fireworks and his sporadic amount of games didn’t help his cause either. Coquelin managed to play 90 minutes in only five games this season with his remaining appearances being bit-part roles as the season progressed.

Till this day, I’m still struggling to understand his introduction for Olivier Giroud when Arsenal needed a goal against Aston Villa (away).

With Schalke reportedly linked with the midfielder, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t jump ship this season.

Rating – 4/10

Aaron Ramsey – 47 Apps, Two Goals, Five Assists

If words could kill, Aaron Ramsey would have been in the other realm.

He battling hard to come back to playing football after he was Shawcrossed but replacing the departed Cesc Fabregas in the attacking midfield role was a big burden for his shoulders as he struggled with form and fitness. With Santi Cazorla given the mantle of creativity, Ramsey had to make do with a place on the dugout as he appeared as a substitute in his first five games this season.

Like last season, there were games when Wenger tried to make Ramsey a jack-of-all-trades but he still a master of none. However, he put up a very decent shift when he was deployed as a right winger in the 1-1 draw with Manchester City (away). Abou Diaby’s unfortunate and untimely injury in the game against Chelsea (home) afforded Ramsey a chance to get more games under his belt.

He marked his return with a delicious chip against Olympiakos but thankfully, no famous figurehead gave up the ghost.

Jack Wilshere’s long-awaited return to the team saw Ramsey spend some time on the bench but the lad always put up good shifts when he was summoned. He supplied an inch-perfect assist to Theo Walcott in the 1-1 draw against Everton (away) and a neat assist to Gervinho in the win over Swansea (away).

Unlike last season where Ramsey tried to over-complicate things by being too stylish on the ball, he kept things simple this season and this improved his game. According to WhoScored, Ramsey had a pass completion percentage of 88.3 percent in the Premier League and he also created 44 chances for his teammates. His carefully-weighted pass against Everton (home) certainly caught the eye but Olivier Giroud’s wayward finish couldn’t match the excellent buildup.

Since his return to the squad in the holding midfield position, Ramsey became a refined player and worked in tandem with Arteta, balancing defense and attack. His performances were so good to the extent that he was voted as Arsenal’s Player of the Month for the month of April, which is a welcome return from the same fans that rained curses on him in the past.

Ramsey ended the season in full bloom, I certainly hope he builds on this.

Rating – 7/10

Tomas Rosicky – 16 Apps, Three Goals, Two Assists

Tomas Rosicky was one of the best things that happened to Arsenal in the tail end of last season.

After suffering a niggling injury that halted his progress for his nation in Euro 2012, the Czech midfielder went under the knife and didn’t make any appearance for the Gunners till the winter, and to be honest, he wasn’t missed. The fans had been wowed by the excellent Santi Cazorla, and with his age becoming a factor, a few felt it was high time for Little Mozart to call it quits.

In Rosicky’s first full game this season, he put up a Man of the Match performance in that dead-rubber game against Olympiakos (away) that ended in defeat. He featured sparsely after that game but he came to life in spring when the Gunners visited Munich to rock the football world with that spirited victory over Bayern.

With Jack Wilshere out injured and Santi Cazorla drifted to the left, Rosicky had more games under his belt and was instrumental in Arsenal’s win over West Brom as he scored a well-taken brace. He also supplied an assist to Theo Walcott in the league match against Manchester United.

With Wilshere failing to regain his form after his return from injury, Rosicky continued his extended run of games till the end of the season. At the age of 32, Rosicky is living on borrowed time but Arsenal fans can be thankful for Little Mozart as he delivered when he was summoned in the business end of the season.

Rating – 7/10

Jack Wilshere – 33 Apps, Two Goals, Six Assists

14 months out of the beautiful game.

For a player like Jack Wilshere that’s known for his passion and zeal for the game, it must have felt like an eternity. With Robin van Persie leaving for Manchester United, the No. 10 shirt was vacated and it seemed as if Lukas Podolski was odds to take the jersey but it was specially reserved for Wilshere and he expressed his delight in being bestowed with the honor.

When he made his long-awaited return against Queens Park Rangers (home), every touch was appreciated by the Emirates crowd as they saw their No. 10 strut his stuff for the first time. Things turned sour for the Englishman when he received his marching orders against Manchester United (away) but he learned from those events and scored a goal against Montpellier after some good work from Olivier Giroud.

He continued to put up stellar performances and the assists were flowing in as well, with some defense-splitting passes against Newcastle (home), West Ham (home) and Liverpool (home). The English Press sang his songs in the wake of a high-profile friendly against Brazil in Wembley, and he didn’t disappoint with another magnificent outing for the Three Lions.

Amid all the justified hype around the midfield maestro, things turned very sour when he suffered a thigh strain against Sunderland. Arsenal had harbored hopes of the midfielder playing the home clash against Bayern, so the club doctors had to work their magic on Wilshere.

Wilshere was on the end of some rash challenges against Sunderland

Wilshere played the game against Bayern and even supplied an assist on the night but he and his teammates were powerless as teh Bavarians outclassed Arsenal at the Emirates. Wilshere missed the second leg through an injury and he never rediscovered his form afterwards, with uncharacteristically appalling outings against Norwich and Everton.

He was replaced by Rosicky and made a couple of substitute appearances towards the end of the season. It’s believed that he requires a surgery this summer to fix up an injury but it’s good to know that Wilshere’s performances weren’t unnoticed as he was nominated for the 2013 Young Player of the Year award alongside Christian Benteke, Romelu Lukaku, Danny Welbeck, Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale.

Rating – 7/10

Mikel Arteta – 43 Apps, Six Goals, Six Assists

With a pass completion percentage of 91.5 percent, Mikel Arteta ranks among the best passers in European football. With Thomas Vermaelen promoted to the rank of captain, Arteta assumed the mantle of the Verm’s second in command and he led the troops whenever the Verm wasn’t available.

With Alex Song leaving for the sunshine of Barcelona, Arsene Wenger tasked Arteta with an unfamiliar holding midfield role, and he excelled admirably in the role this season. In 34 Premier League games, Arteta made 108 tackles, 97 interceptions and 2,750 passes with 2,517 passes reaching its intended target.

Arteta also had the coolest of heads from the penalty spot, converting spot kicks against West Brom (home), Wigan (away), Norwich (home) and Reading (home). He will forever rue his late penalty miss against Fulham (home) that was the difference between three points and one.

His influence on the pitch was unrivaled and I must confess that my heart skipped a beat when he was forced out of action with an injury in Arsenal’s game of the season against Newcastle.

Rating – 9/10

Santi Cazorla – 49 Apps, 12 Goals, 16 Assists

Arsene Wenger was puzzled to know that Santi Cazorla didn’t make the PFA Team of the Season and he’s not alone on that argument. Arsenal fans have been blessed with the sheer brilliance of Santi Cazorla in his debut campaign with the club, and he’ll probably be a good pick for the signing of the 2012/13 season.

The Spanish magician has been a model for consistency this season and he’s the only player in the team that has managed to play every Premier League game thus far this season. The manager also spoke about how Cazorla has surprised him this season with his consistency and amazing fitness levels in a physically demanding league like the Barclay’s Premier League.

In my honest opinion, he has been a joy to watch and in as much as many Gooners have endeared Tomas Rosicky to their hearts, he has spent a considerable chunk of the campaign on the bench due to Cazorla’s imperious form. Cazorla’s versatility has also seen him displace Podolski with Jack Wilshere moved further up the pitch to hone his attacking prowess, which is still a work in progress.

His ambidexterity is a stuff of legends. Like the great Pavel Nedved in the yesteryear, Santi Cazorla can release a surface to goal missile from both feet with consummate ease.

12 goals and 12 assists in his debut Premier League campaign is no mean feat and it’s fair to say that Cazorla has exceeded every expectations. According to WhoScored, Cazorla fired 115 shots, created 96 chances, attempted 86 dribbles, was fouled 50 times, made 184 crosses, passed the ball 2,471 times with a pass completion percentage of 86.8 percent.

Even if he failed to be recognized by the FA for his amazing exploits this season, you don’t need any soothsayer to tell you who Arsenal’s best player is this season.

Rating – 10/10 #Shikenah

So there you have it, the penultimate posts focused on different playing positions in the team. The final post on the attack comes up next.

The voting sequence for the 2012/13 End of Season awards is still ongoing, so feel free to make your votes count in the polls.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal Announce Profits and More on Santi Cazorla

12/13: Arsena 2-1 Aston Villa - Santi Cazorla

Chelsea’s loss to Manchester City threw the race for the final Champions League spots wide open, and a team that was running away with the league at the start of the season are now in danger of losing further ground on the coveted European spots, as the man on fire, Gareth Bale, inspired his team to a win over West Ham that made Tottenham leapfrog Chelsea to third place.

You certainly wouldn’t rate the West Ham vs. Tottenham clash as one of the best matches of 2013, but Gareth Bale proved to the football world how high his confidence levels are right about now. However, he’ll be a player to watch in Sunday’s North London Derby and you’ll have another chance to see Arsenal live.

Chelsea will have a keen eye on the proceedings in White Hart Lane as one of the two great North London clubs are odds on to drop points, much to the delight of the Western Londoners with the Blue kit. According to Football.co.uk, Chelsea’s Gary Cahill has revealed that his team is fatigued.

For a team that has a manager who rotates his players more than the amount of times women change their hair, I shouldn’t expect fatigue to be a determining factor for Chelsea’s slump. In my honest opinion, I feel that the players aren’t motivated enough to work their skins off for a manager with no future at the club.

The Blues didn’t really look out of sorts against Manchester City but Frank Lampard’s penalty miss went a long way in changing the complexion of the contest. Had the Blues snatched an away win, the Citizens would have waved goodbyes to the league title while the West London side would have gotten some breathing space from the two North London teams directly behind them.

In a strange twist of fate, Chelsea is just two points ahead of Arsenal and they still have very tough fixtures against Manchester United and Tottenham in the run in to the final Champions League spots.

From an Arsenal perspective, things are looking all peachy and creamy at the moment following Santi Cazorla’s brilliance in the crunch encounter against Aston Villa. Paul Lambert’s inexperienced side were taught a footballing lesson by the Gunners but the home team showed off some frailties that were exposed yet again.

Despite the fact that Santi Cazorla rightly earned his place in the back pages of the tabloids, questions were asked of Arsene Wenger’s side and they decided to be pretty good in some while failing miserably in others.

On the bright side, Jack Wilshere was on song, Nacho Monreal created a game-winning assist and Santi Cazorla proved to be the difference between a point and three with his vital match-clincher.

On the bad side, Olivier Giroud had a stinker in attack, Theo Walcott was back to his peripheral and frustrating self, Arsenal made things really hard for themselves, Wojciech Szczesny committed a howler for the equalizer and to top it all off, Abou Diaby got injured.

Carl Jenkinson has stated that the win has been a confidence booster for the team (via Arsenal.com) and his teammates are looking forward to Sunday’s clash with Tottenham. Carl Jenkinson’s manager, Arsene Wenger, also expressed his pride in his team’s response to what he termed as a difficult week (via Arsenal.com).

He also stated that the race for the top four is going to be tight and he took out some time to lavish praise on his Spanish diminutive magician, Santi Cazorla,

“Santi has been absolutely tremendous for us. Today was a very important day for us and he delivered. Great players deliver when it matters. Santi Cazorla is a great player.”

If there was any player that was going to salvage a victory for the Gunners when it seemed as if a draw was on the cards, it just had to be Santi Cazorla. Besides arriving in the box to score two well-taken goals, the Spaniard was ubiquitous in midfield and was at the heart of everything good as Arsenal launched wave after wave of attacks on Paul Lambert’s team.

To make his day in the office absolutely perfect, Cazorla had surpassed his personal best for a season in terms of goalscoring, as he scored his 10th and 11th goals in a quite remarkable campaign for the star. His previous best was the nine goals he managed for Malaga last season.

Like Arsene Wenger, Cazorla’s teammates also ran out of superlatives for his outstanding contribution in his last Arsenal outing. Ze Big Friendly Giant, Per Mertesacker, has hailed him as the perfect footballer (via Arsenal.com), while his compatriot, Mikel Arteta, has shared his views on the threat Cazorla poses while he’s on the left hand side (via Arsenal.com).

With Santi Cazorla dominating proceedings on the pitch, the Gunners have had some activities off the pitch as well, as the club announced its latest financial results (via Arsenal.com),

“The club has no short-term debt and continues to have a robust financial platform.

“The figures show a profit before tax of £17.8 million. This was driven primarily by player sales of £42.5 million.

“Football turnover dropped from £113.5 million to £106 million as a result of four fewer home fixtures compared to the same period last year.

“However, overall operating profits from the club’s property operation increased to £1.9 million versus £0.5 million in 2011.”

The report also confirms the extended partnership with Emirates which will be worth up to £150 million. This comes in addition to deals with Airtel and Malta Guinness and additional sponsorship linked to the pre-season tour.

Arsenal have announced half-yearly profits of £17.8m for the six months up to the end of November last year. Arsenal’s cash reserves also increased by £7m to £123.3m.

When you look at these figures initially, you may want to bring out a smile but believe me if I tell you that these profits were funded by the sale of Robin van Persie to Manchester United for £24m.

This season, the club has burnt an excess of £40.9m from the acquisitions of Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla, Nacho Monreal as well as tying six core British players to long-term deals. The figures show a profit before tax of £17.8 million. This was driven primarily by player sales of £42.5 m.

This ultimately means that if Robin van Persie and Alex Song remained at the club in addition to the new signings, Arsenal would have recorded a loss of £26.6m.

With all these figures shown everywhere, it would also be shocking to know that Arsenal’s current wage bill stands at £155m in contrast to rivals, Manchester United (£162m) and Chelsea (£171m).

When I think about the outrageous amount of pounds paid to deadwood like Sebastien Squillaci, Denilson, Andrey Arshavin, Marouane Chamakh, Nicklas Bendtner, Andre Santos, Park Chu-Young and Johan Djourou, it boils me to know that these players are tied to long term deals without producing any output to the club presently.

Squillaci and Arshavin have contracts expiring at the end of the season thankfully, but the other players in the aforementioned list are shipped out on loan with Arsenal still paying a considerable chunk of their wages.

When it came to the point where the club was to hand a contract to players who deserve it, such as Theo Walcott, it took forever and at some point, many Arsenal fans feared that he’d join the exodus away from the club.

At this point in time, there’s a cloud shrouding Bacary Sagna’s future and if the Gunners don’t give him a deal he feels he deserves, he might just opt for the petro-greens of a club like Paris St. Germain for instance.

We claim to be a club all about the profits yet we somehow manage to sell our best players when they’ve reached they have reached the climax of their careers.

Gone are those days when Arsenal sells of a player after so many years of service and it’s pretty shocking to know that Arsenal’s “oldest player” in the squad is Lukasz Fabianski that joined the club in 2006.

Folks like Ivan Gazidis tell the world that there’s money to spend but this financial results clearly show that after Wenger bought his attacking trio of Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla, he was probably told that he had to sell to balance the books.

While many Arsenal fans were happy to see the back of Robin van Persie even if his sale to Manchester United was a bitter pill to swallow, the sale of Alex Song for no just cause remains an aberration and you can’t be blind to state that our midfield has fared very well without him.

That’s yer lot for today.

Sayonara.

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More on Cazorla’s Dive, Wilshere and Transfer Speculation

Act I: The Invisible Touch

Act II: The Olympic Diving Audition

Act III: Hitting the turf like a sack of potatoes

Act IV: Arteta asks Myhill if he wants some ketch-up for this CHIP

Arsenal’s win against West Brom was marred by this act committed by Santi Cazorla. Before sharing my thoughts on this much-talked about issue, let me share some words culled from the great Arseblogger himself,

But first: the dive. Yes, it was one. No, it’s not nice. But I’m going to think of a number between 1 and 100, where 1 is the least shit I give and 100 the most, and see if you can work out which one I’ve picked. Does it make me a hypocrite? Probably. Again, I refer you to my give-a-shitometer and the needle is, unlike a certain winless Premier League manager, barely twitching.

All of a sudden, our cuddly ol’ Spanish magician, Santi Cazorla, has developed two horns, a tail and he wields a pitchfork no different from Poseidon’s trident. As expected, West Brom’s Steve Clarke grabbed his flaming torch and is ready to burn Cazorla down,

“There was zero contact, it wasn’t even close. I am not sure what the referee saw. It was a bad decision for us and obviously changed the shape of the afternoon. It could have been a nervous afternoon for Arsenal, at 0-0 they hadn’t created too much.”

When Liam Ridgewell dived like a player that had been shot with a sawn-off shotgun in West Brom’s 4 – 2 win against Sunderland, I’m pretty sure that Clarke kept his mouth shut. Karma’s a bitch, I guess.

Apparently, diving has become a bit and parcel of the game and Arsenal has been on the end of some fictitious dives that led to penalties as well.

Taking you down memory lane to this concluded season,

High-profile diving specialists like Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez conned the referees into giving them them penalties. The backlash wasn’t as expected and the world as we know it didn’t come to an end. In defense of Cazorla, Wenger has apologized if it wasn’t a penalty (medicine after death), but he stated that Cazorla told him that he had lost his balance. His compatriot, Mikel Arteta has also stated that Cazorla is no diver.

Former Premier League ref, Graham Poll, has come out from his lair to give his opinion on this issue. The world-famous ref that handed a player three yellow cards in a World Cup published a column revealing that Cazorla should be given a three-match ban, using the words Arsene Wenger stated in the wake of a string of diving performances from Manchester United’s Ashley Young,

‘If an obvious dive is punished by a three-match ban, the players would not do it any more. I would support it. It has to be obvious diving.’

Well that’s Mr. Poll’s opinion and as I always say, opinions are like arseholes, everybody has one.

Apart from Cazorla’s diving shenanigans, Arsenal’s win against West Brom had its fair share of positives. Wojciech Szczesny kept a clean sheet, Thomas Vermaelen’s form improved, Mikel Arteta got his penalty groove back and the Ox put up a much-improved performance.

The stand-out performer on the day was the resurgent Jack Wilshere. He was ubiquitous in midfield and he has forged a good understanding with his Spanish midfield counterparts, Santi Cazorla the diver and Mikel Arteta the penalty misser. Wilshere’s surges of energy and drive played a key role in Arsenal dominating play and he has stated that he’s getting better with each passing game. The youngster also lavished praise on Arteta’s performance, stating that he’s a great dude on and off the pitch.

Arsenal’s Holy Midfield Trinity

Arsene Wenger was obviously happy for Wilshere’s performance as well, and he stated that the old Jack Wilshere is back. The Wilshere that dominated a midfield that had Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta on the 16th of February, 2011, the Wilshere that wasn’t afraid to have a go at the entire Stoke team in the ground were Aaron Ramsey’s leg was snapped like a twig, the Wilshere that deservedly won the 2011 Young Player of the Year award.

Yeah, that Wilshere.

However, Arsenal still needs to take a cautious approach with the lad. He’s just returning from a lengthy lay-off so he still needs to get some much-deserved rest due to the physical demand of the Premier League, and I’ll be cross if he features against Bradford City tomorrow.

A fit Wilshere keeps Ramsey out of the team but I’ll like to see what happens when Abou Diaby returns to full fitness, that’s if he ever returns. Diabytes is an ailment that has no real estimated return date and it’s a disease peculiar to a fragile, lanky Frenchman called Abou Diaby.

With the January transfer window just around the corner, the media Vultures have been swarming round Arsenal, linking a host of players in and out of the Emirates.

Starting with potential departures, it has been reported that Bacary Sagna has become a target for the free-spending Paris St. Germain. We’ve heard some stories about Sagna being unhappy with his recent contract situation, and it’s believed that he’s headed for the exit door. PSG is a team that would could make Arsenal an offer they can refuse but we can only hope that the Arsenal hierarchy would do what’s best for the club – holding on to one of the best right backs in the Milky Way, Bacary Sagna.

On arrivals, the list is endless but I’ll take my pick from the pack.

With Arteta being the only recognized holding midfielder at Arsenal (no disrespect to Francis Coquelin and Emmanuel Frimpong, they’re not there yet), it is believed that Wenger seeks to delve into the transfer market to seek a natural replacement for Alex Song. The Daily Star has reported that the Gunners are seeking to make a swap move for Zenit’s Igor Denisov, using Andrey Arshavin as bait to see the deal through. Elsewhere, the Sports Campus has reported that the Gunners want to swoop in for Bayern Munich’s Luiz Gustavo.

Unlike Luiz Gustavo that has featured sparingly for the Bavarians this season, Denisov wants pay-parity with new signing Axel Witsel, which has made him to become a disgruntled figure in recent weeks. I’ve seen both players strut their stuff in the Champions League but Luiz Gustavo would suit Arsenal’s play better than Denisov. He’s a very technical holding midfielder that reminds me of Gilberto Silva.

In attack, Arsenal have been placed on alert as Newcastle’s Demba Ba has stalled in signing a new contract with the Magpies. There are also emerging reports that the Gunners are battling with AC Milan for Lyon’s Lisandro Lopez’ services.

However, there is a bit of speculation that has been making waves recently. Soccer Souls have reported that Arsenal has agreed personal terms with Schalke’s hitman Klass-Jan Huntelaar with a winter move imminent. Wenger has been a long-term admirer of the Dutch predator and his arrival at the Emirates will be regarded as a great piece of business, judging from his goalscoring exploits in recent seasons. Competition for places with a superstar like Huntelaar will also bring out the best in Olivier Giroud.

Then of course, there’s more talk on Thierry Henry’s imminent arrival as well.

It’s time to pull the plug on this post.

Sayonara.

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