Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Solution: More Red Cards!

First off, my apologies for the lateness of this post. I know I have this immense fan base that I must be attentive to, but I also want to keep up-to-date on this for my own purposes and I don't like when I lag behind. It was a busy weekend and I didn't get the chance to finish watching the match until Sunday morning, but I still could have found a way to throw the post up in a more timely fashion. I'm still making it back from where writing is a more natural thing that I want to do as opposed to a task I set for myself, but that's not an excuse for being lazy. So, sorry for delay and the (mostly unnecessary) explanation but again, I wanted to say this for myself as well as the benefit of anyone who actually reads me. Which, if the followers list is to be believed, is two people (read: if you do read this, please follow the blog). Now, on to the match.

Arsenal went into the Bolton match not only desperately needing the points to try to make it mid-table and at least pace the leaders, but needing to prove something to themselves, fans, and critics. Robin Van Persie said after a winnable Blackburn match that it was frustrating the team wasn't winning those types of games, and here was another one. After an opening day drubbing of Queens Park Rangers and a highly entertaining 3-2 loss to Manchester City, Bolton has looked less than quality, capped by a 5-0 loss to that other Manchester team that we shall not mention. Arsenal had everything they wanted: a team sliding down the standings coming into the Emirates right when Arsenal had something to prove... and for the first 45 minutes, it looked as if they were going to give away this opportunity too. First of all, credit to Bolton. They defended very well, putting ten men behind the ball and daring Arsenal to break them down. They kept the Gunners' attack at arm's length so that even though Arsenal dominated possession, there were almost zero quality chances. If I remember correctly (and I may not be, just for full disclosure), Arsenal did not put a shot on goal in the first half, with the closest being Van Persie's free kick that whistled just wide. So, credit to Bolton. They had a solid game plan and executed it well. However, this also speaks to Arsenal's attacking drop off from last year to this year more than anything else.

Let's just get this out of the way: Arsenal no longer have Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. This is the elephant in the room, this is the point that dominates all others. If you think that Arsenal should have done a better job in the transfer market replacing those two players, you make a very reasonable point and it is a valid criticism of what Arsene Wenger did this summer. But even with that being a valid criticism, it by no means eliminates the fact that Arsenal no longer have Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. Over the last three years, Fabregas has 51 assists in all competitions to go along with his 31 goals. He already has 5 and 4 this year for Barcelona. Where are you supposed to pick up that kind of production without severely overpaying for someone like Wesley Sneijder? Last year in his breakout year, Nasri had 15 goals and 5 assists in all competitions and he's already put up 4 assists with Manchester City this year despite getting a very late start to his training with the team due to the transfer saga. Numbers aside, these two were the most creative players in Arsenal's side all of last year. When Fabregas and/or Nasri didn't play, it showed. The team had no shape, the build-up was slower, the passing was off, everything was slightly different. Arsenal will eventually have to adjust to this. Cesc Fabregas isn't walking through that door, and so on. But this early in the season, this is the obvious reason why this team isn't playing like they did last year.

There is more to it than just Fabregas and Nasri leaving, however. I honestly believe that losing Gael Clichy has been a serious blow to Arsenal's attacking game. I take a lot of flack from one friend in particular for this belief and it is possible that I make too much of his abilities. But one thing I always had faith in over the last couple of years was Arsenal's play down the left. Not only is Clichy an excellent crosser, but he always seemed to fly forward at the right time and recover when he needed. I'm not saying that he was the best on the ball defender in the world, but he always did well when jumping into the attack and that is something that is sorely missing right now. The reason I will allow that I may be making too much of Clichy is that there is such a considerable drop in talent from him to Kieran Gibbs. That drop may be from an A- to a C+ or from a B to a D, that scale is up to you. Either way, it's painfully obvious that Arsenal has no threat coming forward on the left and it shuts down an avenue of attack that used to be exploited all the time. Bacaray Sagna is still great at working with Theo Walcott down the right, but it's just not enough. Perhaps losing the last member of the Invincibles was a bigger deal that people thought.

The biggest problem not concerning the departure of old stars is obviously the injuries and suspensions that Arsenal have been forced to deal with. Since the start of this season, the following players have all started matches for Arsenal: Wojciech Szczesny (thank god he's started all of them), Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Johan Djourou, Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson, Armand Traore, Andre Santos, Bacaray Sagna, Alex Song, Emmanuel Frimpong, Francis Coquelin, Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky, Andrei Arshavin, Theo Walcott, Gervinho, Yossi Benayoun, Samir Nasri, Marouane Chamakh, and Robin Van Persie. That is twenty-three starters and that does not include the Carling Cup match (where lesser used players are usually given a chance to make their case for playing time) or any substitutes in any match. How is a team supposed to develop cohesion and a sense for how to play with each other when the starting line-up is rotating so much due to who's available? Things are starting to settle into place somewhat with Mertesacker, Koscielny (until Vermaelen gets back), Sagna, and Gibbs (hopefully Santos or someone else gets a chance) in the back, Arteta, Song, Gervinho, Walcott, and Ramsey in the middle, and Van Persie up front. But that's not set in stone either due to new injuries to Gervinho, Walcott, and others. The bottom line is that this team needs to play together for a bit before it can be expected to be firing on all attacking cylinders. Unfortunately, they do not have the time to figure things out for much longer.

That's the bad news to explain why Arsenal haven't been looking as dangerous on the attack as they can. However, there is some good news and the good news that specifically came out of the Bolton match was the play of Van Persie. After making those statements about the team needing to step up, the captain did just that himself and had his best game of the season. I'm on record as saying that Van Persie is not an elite finisher and doesn't have that "scare you" factor that top-flight strikers have, and I still hold to that. But this was a match in which Van Persie played to the best of his ability by being constantly involved and finishing the opportunities he had. After narrowly missing the free kick earlier in the first half, he was consistently involved rather than fading out of a frustrating match as he is want to do. Then he opened up the second half with a goal. Granted it was a goal that the Bolton keeper should have stopped, but he did everything in his power to put it in and he was rewarded. His second goal was more impressive as he put a deft touch on a cross from Walcott directly into the back of the net to solidify the Arsenal lead. This wasn't a brilliant strike or a crazy bicycle or anything like that. This was a striker who did exactly what he needed to do to put the ball in the back of the net. And if he can focus on doing that going forward, Arsenal will have the threat that they need up front.

This "good thing" is going to sound more hopeful than like logical analysis, but it still remains true. Once Bolton went down to 10 men, Arsenal looked like they could have put in five plus goals and nearly did. Arsenal dominated play, were carving up Bolton around the penalty area, and basically had their way the entire second half. Yes, I know that Bolton went down to 10 men and of course they also needed to press forward at times since they were already down a goal before going down the man. But it was still heartening to see the floodgates open once Arsenal got the break that they needed. No, it's not everything but when you're having attacking woes, any kind of progress or momentum is a good thing. Just like a shooter in basketball or an individual striker in soccer, sometimes you just need to see the ball go in the net for your confidence. After that, anything can happen. And for Arsenal, here's hoping it does.

Lastly, I'm going to introduce something tentatively titled "Game Notes." I was thinking something more punny like "Bullet Points" but even I can only take so much of that. Basically, this is going to be a section where I make a couple of notes about the match I'm responding to in particular. That way if I go off on some tangent like my childhood heroes or the state of sports media for the majority of the post (which would make it more than a tangent I suppose, but whatever), then you'll still have a couple of observations about the match to look at. So, without further delay:

Game Notes:

-Gervinho's final touch on the ball is still maddening. In the 7th he was sprung by Arteta on a beautiful through ball, only to touch it way too far out in front and have the keeper sweep it away. I'm not asking for goals every time he touches the ball, but it would be nice if he at least got some shots on goal, or balls played directly to the person he's aiming for, or anything that keeps me from slamming my hands down on the couch while shouting "Gervinho!!"

-Ramsey does a beautiful job of keeping possession for Arsenal when the pressure is on, but very often he does so by retreating all the way back to the center back rather than finding a square pass or making a quick turn and feeding the wing. In fairness' sake, I haven't analyzed every instance closely enough to know whether he could make any of these other passes, so it's entirely possible that the extreme back pass was his only hope. It's just something I've noticed and I'm wondering if teams are going to start to bring pressure on him from the front more in order to stall attacks.

-I know that Koscielny is, well, Koscielny and he hasn't played long with Mertesacker in the back, but the marking simply has to get better. Szczesny was forced to make a brilliant diving save in the 2nd minute after there was a breakdown in the middle. If the keeper hadn't been at his best, or if the striker has finished perfectly, Arsenal would have been down a goal inside two minutes and this match would have been drastically different. It's a common refrain with Arsenal but the defense has to be better.

As always, Go Gunners.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Work in Need of Progress

After the draw last week in Champions League, I wrote about the need to adjust the expectations for this Arsenal team, how fans couldn't expect them to challenge for the Premier League this year and how this was a team that needed to be thought about in terms of potential for the future. The intended point was that while us Gunner supporters should root for the team this year, as well as comment and criticize about the state of the team, things should be framed within the context of this being a young team that needs to grow and gain experience before the most lofty of expectations could be considered. It was in no way meant as an excuse for the kind of embarrassing performance that we saw on Saturday against Blackburn.

This is the nature of punditry, as I am coming to realize. Much like politics, the little things are blown up to be bigger things and in general, it becomes a matter of matching your research to your thesis and not vice versa as it should be. Much of sports commentary in this day and age is about making as much noise as possible and presenting as polarizing an opinion as possible in order to draw attention and therefore popularity. Skip Bayless has made a living off of being a douche bag for years now, as has Colin Cowherd, though at least Cowherd has interesting opinions to go along with the doucheyness. Douchiness? I'm surprisingly unsure of how to spell that. Anyway, this type of style is probably best done in a humorous fashion because then, depending on the ability of the writer, the over-the-top criticism blends well with satire or being a hilarious dick. The guys at Kissing Suzy Kolber absolutely nail this with the Peter King takedowns (which itself was birthed by the brilliant Fire Joe Morgan) while posters like elpresidente from Boston Barstool get the dick part right but don't quite get to the funny. The general point here is that there isn't a lot of room for an expectation that a reader will look at an article or listen to a point and think "I don't necessarily agree with that idea, but I see what he's going for." It is much more likely that someone is liable to immediately attack a writer or commentator for one sentence in a five-hundred word piece in order to build the strawman that that critic will be honor-bound to rail against.

It is with this atmosphere in mind that I use this post to both clarify what I said before and showcase some (hopefully level-headed) criticism about this Arsenal squad. I did say that perhaps thinking the Gunners would be the champion of champions at the end of the year was a it premature, and I meant that. And I said, either in so many words or outright, that Arsenal wasn't one of the best teams in Europe any longer and wasn't going to compete for the title this year with the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester United, Barcelona, and so on. However, this is still the team that finished fourth in the EPL last year and was in the top two until a season-ending tailspin. This is still the team that has qualified for the Champions League for 14 straight years. This is still Arsenal FC, dammit. So a fan would be entirely justified in being more than a little upset that this team gave up four goals against a Blackburn team that finished just 4 points away from relegation last season and had yet to win a match this season.

Granted, Arsenal had some bad luck. There were two own goals on deflections in this match and one of the other Blackburn goals was from an offside position (only slightly, admittedly, but it's at least worth mentioning). And if this was the first time anything like this had happened, you would shrug your shoulders, say "damn, that was a crazy one," and move on to the next match. But this was already established as a pattern and it reared its ugly head again. Arsenal had the early goal so that they were in the lead before the 15 minute mark. They had the halftime lead 2-1 so that all they had to do was stay ahead of an inferior team for one half of soccer. And they couldn't do it. Not only did they happen to give up those three(!) goals in the second half, but it was the way in which they did it. They did it by playing at less than 100%. They did it by ceding possession too often and making too many mistakes. They did it by lacking the killer instinct that every great team needs to have. And in the end, they paid for it. This isn't the kind of thing you can shrug off any longer. Robin Van Persie said after the match that it was frustrating that they weren't closing out these games that they needed to close out. And he's absolutely right. So since he's the captain, I would hope that he does something to try to change the attitude of his team. Because they can't keep doing this and expect to make the Champions League, and that would be a true failure of this team. As always, Go Gunners.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Adjusted Standards

Going into the first fixture of this year's Champions League, a fan of soccer most likely had certain expectations. Soccer is one of the sports where home advantage still matters, with teams having to travel all over Europe in order to play their away matches. Good teams can be expected to draw when they're away from home and then get their wins in their home stadiums. Great teams are assumed to be able to win anywhere against lesser competition. If Manchester United travels to the Ukraine to play, people expect them to win, as they should. The best teams beat the average teams regardless of home field advantage... or at least that's how it should be. This week saw Man U draw at Benfica (pretty reasonable considering the quality of Benfica), Manchester City draw at home with Napoli (poor result when you're claiming to be a contender for the title), and Inter lose at home to Trabzonspor. What the fuck is a Trabzonspor? So perhaps we have unrealistic expectations of our teams. Even the best clubs can lose or draw in adverse conditions, or when they're feeling nervous, or when they... I don't know, get scared to death of random Turkish sides? Maybe we need to temper our expectations and realize that the dream scenario that we want will not always happen just to please us.

Guess what Arsenal fans? I'm not-so-subtly directing that statement at you. We have become accustomed to expecting everything from our team and while of course I still desire excellence, I'm not sure that such expectations are valid anymore. For the last several years, Arsenal has been a youth project with the components to be great. But of course they haven't quite gotten then. But whatever the reasoning behind why they haven't (and the various theories out there are the stuff of soccer pundits' wet dreams), Arsenal is in a different position now, much different from even a year ago. Last year the Gunners were a potential title winner that just had to overcome their youth and attitude to seize opportunity. But then they lost their effective left winger. And then their captain and creative force. And then their most dynamic playmaker. All that was left at the end was an incredibly young team who lost their most pivotal components. Is it any wonder that Arsenal was expected to finish behind the two Manchester teams, Chelsea, Liverpool, and even Spurs depending on what crackpot you were listening to? Now, I'm not saying that this should be accepted. That we should be fine with Arsenal being a less than dominant squad. It was just a week or two ago that I was arguing about how Arsenal was a big boy and should spend/act like a big boy. I don't want that kind of thinking to go by the wayside... but I also see potential in the future as opposed to the present.

Look at this year's Arsenal squad. I mean really look at it. Tell me how many end-of-the-line starters they really have. Van Persie? I mean, he counts, but he's not as elite as he'd like you to believe. The midfield right now is Walcott, Gervinho, Song, Arteta, and Benayoun. Tell me which of those players you'd want on a top of the line club. Don't get me wrong, I like Walcott and Song. They've been good players for Arsenal for the last couple of years and I've learned to gloss over their flaws in the name of loyalty. Walcott can't cross for his life and Song loves to take terrible challenges, turn them into cards, and turn them into being unavailable for his team. But what do they do after that? For defenders, they have Vermaelen (if he's healthy), Mertesacker now (work in progress), Sanga (who I admittedly love), and ?????????. I say ?????????? because I refuse to believe that Kieran Gibbs will ever play soccer again. To be honest, I like the backline, I do. But is it a championship line? That's the question that stops everyone. So out of the entire lineup, we have a striker we like, but isn't the best; a midfield that has potential but isn't there yet; and a defense that might actually be good if opponents couldn't rip through the left flank. I like this team. I really do. But I like it. I don't trust it. And that's what makes me think about the rest of this year.

I want this year to turn out well. I want it to be an EPL championship when Man U's youth crap's out. I want it to be a Carling Cup championship when Laurent Koscielny learns to speak Polish. I want it to be a Champions League championship when everyone pulls through as a team and plays to their ability. I really do. But I think that for this year, the best case scenario is a young team that figures out how to play together and has some limited success. I'm not wishing this to be the case because I of course root for everything. But as a logical fan, if this expectation was granted, I couldn't possibly be upset. When Arsenal went to Germany, I was ready for them to lose or weakly tie. Instead, I was heart-broken by the late goal that brought Dortmund back to a draw because of how Arsenal played. Is that fandom, or is that logical readjustment? I have no idea, but I can't wait to see them play again. As always, Go Gunners.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Fucking Calm Down Greg, It's Swansea

As I was watching Arsenal limp through the second half against Swansea with their 1-0 lead, I couldn't help but this "this is fucking Swansea. Why isn't Arsenal up by at least two goals by now?" Alternative to the two goal lead, I would have accepted Arsenal dominating possession and peppering the Swansea area with shots and stringing together intricate passing combinations. But instead we saw Swansea start the second half on the attack and stay relevant in the match as time went on. Look. I wouldn't say that I'm a demanding fan. I've spent the first part of this season supporting Arsenal and Arsene Wenger when things were decidedly not going their way. I was understanding of the suspensions and injuries, and I was understanding of the long transfer sagas of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas that were holding up the team's progress and cohesion. But I watched the match today wondering how on earth Arsenal wasn't man-handling the newly promoted Swansea side that has yet to score a goal in an EPL match and is almost sure money to be relegated again this year. Granted, many of the problems still lingered in this match. Thomas Vermaelen and Jack Wilshere were both out with injury. Alex Song and Gervinho were still suspended (thankfully this was the last game for each). Arsenal were missing more than a third of their squad, so it could be understood if they were not in full form. But come on. Compare the depth and talent of Arsenal's squad to Swansea's and make a legitimate argument that Swansea were more talented. I dare you. With that kind of disparity, why wasn't Arsenal putting up a 3-0 win at home like any top team would?

I have this theory. It is of course completely original and can be proven scientifically, like all good sports punditry. The theory is basically this: Arsenal lacks a competitive killer instinct. They did last year and thus far this year, that problem remains. Look at the best teams in the EPL this year and how they performed today. Manchester City 3-0 over Wigan. Manchester City 5-0 over Bolton. These matches weren't in question, and they shouldn't be for good teams. Instead Arsenal not only won just 1-0 but they failed to control the match in the second half and gave up entirely too many good chances to Swansea , even in injury time as the announcers were talking about what "this win" would do for Arsenal.

Sidebar: if you can think of anything more infuriating in sports than announcers claiming a victory for your team before the game is actually over, I'd love to hear it. I watched the Giants give up 28 points in seven and a half minutes last year. Nothing is over until it's over.

This shouldn't be news to Arsenal fans, as this was a major complaint about the team last year as well. At times, it seemed like Jack Wilshere was the only Arsenal player who cared that they were playing below their abilities and it was frustrating to watch. Today, it was Emmanuel Frimpong of all people who seemed to be the only player getting pissed off about the fact that Arsenal was just running out the clock rather than passionately playing to get another goal. You know, playing as if they were having fun playing soccer, working towards the main in-game goal: scoring a goal. Too often Arsenal sits back and dutifully runs out the clock on a game rather than pressing forward to put a match out of reach. And that seems completely contradictory to the way that soccer should be played. I've played random rec league games when you realize that you're better than the other team. You're up 2-0 and you know that you can get more and everyone fiends for it. People press into the attack to try to get their goal. People receive the ball and immediately pick their head up looking to go forward. People get excited to get back onto the field to play the match out. It's like a fever that infects anyone who plays.

I understand that you can't do all of that in professional soccer. If you press too hard then you get caught out of position and the other team can counter and score. A slim lead becomes a loss, etc etc. I get it. But if pressing so hard into the attack that you show your neck to your opponent when they counter is one extreme, then what Arsenal does must be at the opposite end of the spectrum. It's all very businesslike, very "ok, we have what we need so let's get out of here." Where is the passion for playing the game? Maybe they're weighed down by the constant scrutiny. Maybe they have the yips from their past experiences in failing to produce at the level that fans want them too. Or maybe they just don't have the heart to carry themselves all the way through a match. But look at how Man U and Man City play. They smell blood, like sharks in the water. Even better, they look like happy sharks who not only smell blood but actually want to pursue their victim, rather than sighing and following along out of necessity. Arsenal needs to develop that attitude so that they don't give up all the points they gave up last year. With what has happened so far, they'll need every point they can get. As always, Go Gunners.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Missed Opportunities in the Market

The transfer windows have become a special time for Arsenal fans. Not exactly a holiday, but instead a semi-annual stretch of optimism that turns into worry that turns into frustration that turns into panic that turns into rationalization. Think of it as a night out at a bar. Arsenal fans step into the building brimming with hope and the conviction that this time they're going to find exactly what they need. Early into the night they start to worry a bit though. "Wasn't this supposed to be easy, a sure thing? Why hasn't anything happened yet?" As time winds on, they get frustrated with the entire enterprise and the self-loathing sets in. "Of course it wasn't going to be different this time. We never get what we want, why on earth should we expect to?" Then they realize that it's almost last call and that desperation sets in. "Oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit gotta find someone, anyone, need to fill the void in our souls (and at striker)." The next morning you're making Marouane Chamakh breakfast trying to convince yourself that he's your solution to all your problems up front. It's just an awkward and embarrassing affair for all involved.

For those who are unfamiliar, the transfer windows in soccer are kind of a combination of free agency and the trade deadline in American sports. There are two times during the year (June-August and then January) when clubs can actively try to acquire players that are currently under contract at other clubs. Of course some players are available during this period as completely free agents, but this is rare as most teams do not want to see valuable commodities walk out the door for nothing. And that's the kicker. Rather than swapping established players, draft picks, or minor leaguers to make these transactions work, soccer uses straight cash. If Team A wants Player X to play for them next season, they will need to pay Team B a "transfer fee" just to lure the player away. Then they'll have to come to terms on a contract with the player in addition to the fee they've played just for the permission to sign him. For example, in 2009 Real Madrid paid Manchester United £80 just to be able to sign Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo's contract was then six years at €11 per year. In other words, Real Madrid paid in the neighborhood of $325 million to sign the best player in the world. Granted this is an extreme example, but the principle is the same. Pay the team in order to sign the player.

Arsenal has a history of buying low and selling high in the transfer market, often acquiring young players, developing them into much better players, and then selling them at a much higher price (if they do decide to sell them at all). For example, Samir Nasri was originally purchased from Marseille in 2008 for £12 million and then sold to Manchester City in 2011 for £25 million. Though Arsenal fans were loathe to lose Nasri at all, Arsenal made out well in these transactions. Essentially, they made £13 million by having a player star and score important goals for their team. Not a bad deal at all. That is the frustration for Arsenal fans though: the focus on money and turning a profit with every step the team makes. Of course this is good business, but fans would have loved to see the team, you know, actually fucking keep Nasri instead of getting good value for him. The attitude is displayed in transfer purchases as well. The team in general, and manager Arsene Wenger in particular, is always talking about how they won't overpay for someone or how they're looking for the right value or how if they find a £20 note on the ground then maybe they'll actually buy a top flight defender. It's frustrating because as a fan, you see the problems that the team has and you want management to do what it takes to correct things rather than look for the cheapest solution. That's how you make money, not win titles.

Take Arsenal's purchase of left back Andre Santos. Certainly he must be an upgrade over the dynamic options that are Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson, or Bacary Sagna playing out of position. But let's also be honest with ourselves: he's a 28 year-old who was playing at Fenerbahce before Arsenal bought him. Chances are that if he was going to break out and step up his game, he would have done it by this point and be playing for a more notable squad. Perhaps he really liked Turkey and wanted to stay, and perhaps he will be a great addition to Arsenal. But he was far from the best available option. Jose Enrique signed earlier in the transfer window with Liverpool and would have been an absolute delight marauding down the left side. Arsenal paid £6.2 for Santos. How much more would Enrique really have cost them? By saving money, Arsenal upgraded their squad, but not to the extent that they could have if they had been slightly more aggressive.

You can see it in the names that Arsenal was linked to, but never went through with buying. Chris Samba, Juan Mata, Phil Jagielka, Keisuke Honda... the list goes on. Arsenal liked all of these players but didn't want to spend the money. Now instead of Juan Mata, they have Yossi Benayoun (on loan too). Instead of Keisuke Honda, they have Mikel Arteta (depending on how you view Honda's would-be role at Arsenal). Instead of making a move for a truly big name like Sergio Aguero, they settled for Park Chu-Young. Or you can look at it this way. Instead of spending the money to keep Cesc Fabregas, they have Arteta. Instead of dishing out the cash required to keep Nasri happy, they had to bring in Benayoun. This is what happens when you refuse to spend money. You don't have to be Manchester City and overpay every mediocre striker that you bring in. But you do have to have the balls (and wallet) to truly go after the good players.

Don't think that I'm completely hating on what Arsenal did. Arteta should be an interesting fit as a creative middie, especially with Jack Wilshere reported to possibly be out another three months. Per Mertesacker is an excellent addition to central defense and though I would have rather seen Chris Samba, Arsenal's back line is now in very good shape, save the questions at left back. Chu-Young and Ryo Miyaichi are players I don't know much about, but seem to either have strong potential or good experience. And prized youngsters like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joel Campbell could come up to be the next big stars. I just hope that if that happens, Arsenal will keep them. As always, Go Gunners.