How to beat Bayern Munich – by Arsene Wenger

STEP 1: Sign a world-class goalkeeper, capable of stopping Robert Lewandowski one-on-one. AKA Petr Cech.

Check.

STEP 2: Rally up the team with a “nothing to lose” attitude, by losing first two group games meaning we have to win this one or we’re effectively out. (Circa away legs in Munich in 2013&14 where we won 2-0 and drew 1-1 after poor first legs).

Check.

STEP 3: Tell the press you’re going to come flying out the blocks from the start to get an early goal. Do the opposite. Leave Bayern and Guardiola surprised by deep-lying defensive tactics.

Check.

STEP 4: Play only the counter attack. Surrender possession. Defend as a team.

Check.

STEP 5: Turn Coquelin to fully passionate and determined. Allow for big challenges, shouting at team-mates, keeping everyone organised, and celebrating like a fan.

Check.

STEP 6: Make religious 70th minute substitution where Walcott and Giroud swap places.

Check.

STEP 7: Put all the big guys in the box and sneak a cheeky winner.

STEP 8: Score. With any part of the body. Doesn’t matter how they come. I always rated Giroud.

STEP 9: Keep a clean sheet.

STEP 10: Remind Bellerin he is faster than Douglas Costa. And Alaba. And everyone else on the pitch for that matter.

STEP 11: Get Ozil another goal in another big game.

STEP 12: Be the first manager to have beaten both Pep Guaridola’s Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

Check. Check. Check. Check. Check.

 

Can Arsenal Really Win The Premier League?

Arsenal mustered up a performance that will live long in the memory against Manchester United last weekend, winning 3-0 in style with a dominating performance, both offensively and defensively. But does this win make a statement that they truly are title contenders?

It is widely known and regularly reported that Arsenal have not won the Premier League for 10 years, since that famous invincible season. What’s more though, is that they haven’t really competed for it in so long either, despite never finishing outside of the top four. However, on the back of 2 successive FA Cup victories, are Arsenal finally ready to mount a proper challenge for the biggest prize in domestic football?

Arsenal are a sleeping giant

Arsenal are a “sleeping giant” according to Graeme Souness, who believes that Arsenal should be on the same level as Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Real Madrid, as one of the biggest forces in European football. I am sure that many fans would agree, and simultaneously love to see Arsenal reaching such heights, but before they compete for the Champions League, they must surely be able to compete for the Premier League.

In the words of legend, Thierry Henry, Arsenal “must win it this year”, as the Frenchman doesn’t think they will have a better opportunity than they do now. Chelsea’s atrocious start to the season sees them lying around the bottom of the table with just two wins from eight. While Liverpool and Tottenham have the same struggles as usual, Manchester City look like the only team who will pose a real threat to our dreams, having seen off the only other real contenders, Manchester United, with relative ease at the weekend. However I am wiser than to completely write United off at this early stage.

They must win the Premier League this season

The form of the Premier League teams in Europe goes a long to show how poorly our home nation teams are playing this year, compared with the biggest in Europe. We play in the most competitive league, but it appears not the best. And with that, it shows how none of the teams in England have really taken the initiative in the league. Even Man City have struggled at times without captain Vincent Kompany, or other members of their spine, resulting in us sticking fairly close to them for now. No doubt they will be favourites for the league, though.

Yet it is this struggling from which all teams are currently suffering that makes this our best opportunity to win. As Thierry said, “They must win the Premier League this season”, because you know that next year, these other teams will expend a huge amount of resources in order to comeback. Something Arsenal won’t do in the same way.

We can all agree that Arsenal have the basis for a great team, but time and time again they have fallen just short. They have been a nearly-team, a near miss. For years now, pundits and fans alike have cited certain positions in need of improvement. Today though we are finally starting to see things lining up. Theo Walcott and Francis Coquelin appear to have come to our saviour in those pivotal central roles, however a lack of cover for them could prove a big problem should injury strike.

With so many games to be played, rotation will be key to our success. We remain in every competition, for now, but face a huge uphill battle to stay in the Champions League as we reside bottom of the group after embarrassing defeats to Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiacos, with two games against Bayern Munich to come next.

Yet could our failures in the Champions League, work out positively? We saw Liverpool come close to winning the League two season ago, when they did not have to play in Europe at all. Similarly Arsenal finish the season strong regularly, once they have been knocked out of the Champions League, in the Round of 16.

Perhaps exiting the Champions League at the group stage for once, would allow the team to push on for the Premier League, without having to worry about resting players, rotation, or fatigue, as much as normal.

While this would be a positive out of a shambolic Champions League campaign, I do not condone us going out with ease, and I believe we should push for the maximum points we can to try and qualify for the next round, because this is the Champions League we are talking about after all.

To win in a big game is always a statement, we are in it, we are two points off the leaders. I hope the result today will give us belief, and ambition to fight for it.

-Arsene Wenger

To take an impartial outlook on the situation, I believe Arsenal can win the League, but Manchester City have to be considered favourites for it. They have the experience and mentality for it, whereas thus far this season Arsenal have lacked the consistency needed. They would need Man City to show similar inconsistencies.

Arsenal’s chances of winning it would be greatly improved were they to be knocked out of the Champions League, but that is not something I want nor hope to see; especially with this coefficient problem, and all the English teams looking fragile at best. Plus those Champions League nights at the Emirates against some of the world’s greatest are some of the best nights of the year.

The final variable will come down to Arsenal’s biggest enemy. Injuries. Keeping the likes of Sanchez, Ozil, Coquelin, Walcott, Cech, fit. We will need our star players to play and deliver week in week out.

Arsenal not giving up on Benzema transfer

Arsenal are not ready to give up on their hopes of signing Real Madrid star, Karim Benzema, after a summer full of transfer rumours linking him with the club which have thus far only left Arsenal fans disappointed and wanting. 

However, The Guardian and The Telegraph have both reported that Arsenal and Arsene Wenger are still holding out to try and secure a deal for the 27-year-old, perhaps in a fashion similar to which Mesut Ozil was signed on the last day of the 2013 transfer window for a club record £42.5m.

Real Madrid manager, Rafa Benitez, has already publicly stated his desire to keep both Benzema and Bale at the club next season, and Wenger has also claimed that there was nothing in the rumours; yet it is a transfer story that just won’t go away, and for the optimists among us, you must think there is something in these non-stop stories.

The Frenchman has not travelled to Munich for the Audi Cup with the rest of the Madrid squad, after an apparent “training injury” which is also Ronaldo’s reason for missing the pre-season tournament.

It is believed that Benitez is looking to try something different with his squad after a relatively unsuccessful season (by their high standards) from Madrid, in their last campaign.

This was seen on Tuesday night as they defeated Tottenham 2-0, with Gareth Bale playing in a central role. Something he has specifically asked for according to reports in Spain.

If this is the case it could leave Benzema out of the starting eleven, and a move away from the Bernabeu could be on the cards.

Furthermore, it is unlike Madrid to not make a big signing during the transfer window, and this year they have yet to splash the cash as we are so accustomed to seeing. A striker could be on their radar, and if Benzema were to leave you would have to imagine it would be.

There is still a way to go in this transfer window, despite the season starting on Sunday, and as we have seen an innumerable amount of times in the past, a lot of the action doesn’t happen until late on.

Arsene Wenger will surely have something, or someone, up his sleeve.

Walcott contract talks still unresolved

Theo Walcott - Singapore

Theo Walcott has yet to put pen to paper on a new contract at the Emirates, but still has two years left on his current deal after he signed on for three and a half years, eighteen months ago, a saga that was also overly drawn out.

However the 26-year-old is hopeful of staying at a ‘special’ club and is looking forward to what could prove to be a big year for the team, he believes.

“My agent has talked to the club.

“I enjoy playing for this club, so I am just letting them crack on with things and I’ll continue playing football.

“We’ll just play the waiting game and see what happens but I’m sure it won’t be long. This squad, for me, is one of the best I’ve been involved in. I want to be part of that.”

Asked whether he would be happy if the talks carried on past the start of the upcoming campaign, he added: “Definitely. It’s not in my thought process at all.

“You don’t want to dwell on it, you want to play well and, if it happens, it happens.

“I won’t let that delay the way I’m going to be playing this season. I can’t let that affect me, I want to do well for this club.

“It’s my first pre-season for two years now, so I want to work hard and get fit.

“It’s a really exciting year for myself personally and I think this team can go very far.”

Adding: “I’m always going to be judged on goals. I’ve been very happy with my goal record when given the opportunity, that is all I can do.”

Arsenal are reported to be in the market for a striker, despite a strong end to the season from Theo who continued his goalscoring form at the weekend, scoring the opener in a 3-1 win over Everton to win the Barclays Asia Trophy.

The strikers names most recently being mentioned are those of Karim Benzema and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, having already missed out on some targets there is not a wealth of proven talent left to select from.

So is it vital that Arsenal sign a striker in order to compete for the major trophies?

Sanchez to miss start of season

Alexis Sanchez is set to miss the start of Arsenal’s season, having been given an extended holiday following his Copa America triumph on Saturday evening. 

Sanchez played a further 6 games for his country since the end of Arsenal’s season, leading them to a first Copa America title in 99 years, where he scored the winning penalty against Argentina to ruin Messi’s chance of winning a major tournament with his country.

This run of games for Alexis follows what had already proved a physically challenging first year in England for the Chilean, where the game is more intense, and he barely missed a kick in a season where there are no Christmas breaks.

Having said that, Sanchez lives to play football every week, and he certainly didn’t look too tired when he sprinted three-quarters of the pitch in the 105th minute against Argentina in the final, only to just miss out on finding the net in what ended up as 120 minute bore-draw.

But Arsene Wenger is renowned for looking after his players, and as Mesut Ozil and Per Mertesacker were given additional time off following their World Cup heroics last summer, Alexis is set to receive the same treatment this time round from the manager.

The 26-year-old is reportedly due to return to training on the 27th July, giving him less than a week back with the other players before they take on Chelsea in the Community Shield; and just under two weeks before the Premier League season kicks off.

The rest of the Arsenal squad who were not involved in the tournament, returned to training yesterday, as they look to prepare for what will hopefully be a season full of promise, and finally a real title challenge.