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August 2021

We’ve added four players so far this summer. Find out who is in, with the first Untold match preview of the season

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By Phil Gregory

So it’s a new season but the story is very much the same as what has gone before: a smattering of injuries, and a “will they, won’t they” around Cesc and an attacking midfielder. Such is the life of an Arsenal fan, but we’re a courageous lot, we’ll put up with our cracking football and financial stability and plug away in the title race once again.

In an entirely unrelated note, Arsène is looking very dapper in his Arsenal anniversary shirt. The bigger talking point however, is the ongoing saga around both Nasri and Fabregas. The first thing to bear in mind with these situations is that we know very little, and have to rely on what is said to the media, which in itself could be smoke and mirrors.

Nasri featured in pre-season, unlike Fabregas, but due to the nature of the latter’s injury that dogged him most of the season it wouldn’t surprise me if he genuinely was recovering. If that is the case, the biggest concern must be his fitness for the upcoming season: even if last season’s injury problem is sorted, the lack of a pre-season will leave him at risk of the minor muscle pulls and tweaks that we know all too well he is vulnerable to.

Nasri on the other hand seemed more of a clear cut case until the last few days. Originally, it was “he will not leave this summer, even if he goes on a free next year” but with apparently City upping their interest to £23m, Nasri is not in the squad for Newcastle despite playing over a half for France in midweek.   He could be ill as stated, but to me it doesn’t look positive.

At £23m, City are overpaying: £23m with one year on his contract, what is he worth with four years left? You’re getting into £50m, “best player in the world” territory and while Nasri is a dangerous player, that is an exaggeration. With £23m pocketed, I feel confident Wenger could replace him with a player of similar ability, capable of slotting into the first team fairly easily, with just the usual integration and adaption issues to work through but a long term deal to show for it.

The key issue here though is one of value. We all know Wenger looks for value in the market, and I think he is lambasted for it when he should be lauded, though that is a debate for another time.

The fact is that any club that Wenger approaches will know he is over the barrel of a gun. If £20m is quoted for someone like Hazard, I feel Wenger would have to pay it, whether or not he feels the player is quite worth £20m.

Normally I would be against this overpaying as if you do it once, in the future you have a weaker bargaining position – the selling club know that you have a precedent of caving in, so dig their heels in. Here though, I feel some lip service needs to be paid to the fans (a course of action I again disagree with) and a signing would be needed to improve the frankly dire atmosphere at the Emirates stadium on match days and more importantly, instill some positivity into the dressing room.

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Such a signing could bolster morale and turn a negative situation into a positive. Even though the course of action taken (overpaying, bending to the fans a little) is something I’m completely opposed to, if Arsenal were to lose our two most creative players and not replace them we’d be looking at another 08-09 season, which wouldn’t be evidence of the club constantly moving forward.

Anyway, enough on the transfer saga, let’s move on to the Newcastle game. We all know what (who) happened there last season , so I’m quite keen to know who the referee is this season. No doubt our resident referee analyst will have all the info and numbers for us to digest. Wenger said that “we conceded two penalties in very special circumstances” which is an interesting way of putting it, to say the least.

(Note from the Editor – Dogface and I have been desperately trying to find out who the ref is.  It looks as if the EPL is deliberately holding back on this information.  Maybe they are more afraid of what we were doing last season than we imagined – Tony)

Anyway, back to where I started, injuries. Jack Wilshere is in a protective boot which is a worrying sign for an injury that seemed minor. Hopefully it’s purely precautionary: Wenger said in the press conference that it is a short term one, so fingers crossed.

Diaby is expected back in September, and will offer welcome depth to our midfield. Everybody else is described as more or less match fit, with key names such as Walcott, Van Persie and Vermaelen back. Kieran Gibbs too is fit, and I hope he stays that way this season as he could establish himself as Arsenal and England’s first choice left back if he fulfils some undoubted promise. Remaining fit is surely key for the young man and indeed Arsenal this season.


Sagna Koscielny Vermaelen Gibbs


Ramsey Rosicky

Walcott Van Persie Gervinho

Once Fabregas is removed from the midfield equation and Denilson’s loan is taken into account, we find ourselves short of numbers in the middle of the park. While Diaby is expected back soon, the talented Frenchman’s fitness can never be taken for granted, especially without a pre-season behind him this year. Rosicky is an able and experienced stand-in – I much prefer him in central midfield to further forward, on the flanks – but the drop in quality is there. The Czech international however is someone the fans seem to have turned on in recent times, so it could be an opportunity for him to remind them of his quality.

Szcznesy is surely going to remain as number 1 until Fabianski gets an opportunity to stake an alternative claim, which is a very healthy state of affairs. I’m hugely keen to see the central defensive partnership of Vermaelen and Koscielny. The former fits the role of our Vidic (he comes from Serbia, he’ll f*****g murder ya, goes the chant, though exceptions are made when he is marking you in the recent  Community Shield, of course!) in our defence whilst I hugely rate the intelligence of Koscielny’s play, the young Frenchman is ideal to tidy up behind our angry Belgian. Gibbs and Sagna are the likely fullbacks.

Song holds the midfield, with Ramsey and Rosicky in front. Gervinho comes in for Nasri on the left, with Walcott on the opposite flank and Van Persie through the middle. This evening, every Gooner should unite and say a small prayer for the continued fitness of Van Persie (I’m only half kidding…). The Dutchman is, for my money, the best striker in the Premier League and he’ll show it this year if given a fully fit season to rack up the goals and assists.

We’re already at a million words so I’ll be brief now. Newcastle seem largely in disarray, though they probably say the same about us. Half the squad were barred from the USA for their tour, and they seem to have sold or are trying to sell all of their best players. I don’t think that they’ve got a leftback now either, so you can only imagine what the spirit is like in the dressing room.

Arsenal are depleted, but we have enough to get a good result. Three points is the best remedy to an uncertain  pre-season and I’m travelling up to the game so woe betide any away fans who aren’t behind the team!

Newcastle v Arsenal is the repeat of our very first ever league match.  Read the match report and player details here

47 comments to We’ve added four players so far this summer. Find out who is in, with the first Untold match preview of the season

  • I am fascinated as to who is going to be on the bench. For the other three new names (Ryo, AOC and Jenkinson) it might be too early, but if Ryo’s permit is all done and dusted I would think we might see him appear.

    Frimpong must also be on the bench, so in the case of an injury in defence we have a cover – with Song being able to drop into the back four, with Vermaelen able to go to left back as well.

    And I would like to see if Miquel is making the bench too.

  • adi

    Wenger stated that ryo is currently in japan, working out his permanent visa. Once that is done, maybe next weekend we might see him in action. I think its more likely that we will see frimpong making his prem league debut tomorrow though.

  • One more point Phil – we also have Arshavin and Vela available, even if Ryo, and AOC are not included, although I see on that both are listed in the first team and have numbers.

  • Simon Bailey

    Guardian says Peter Walton is reffing this match.

    apparently Ryo made Feyenoords season last year. my dutch mate who is fanatical about feyenoord is gutted he got his work permit.

    It’s almost upon us. 24 hrs and we’re at it.

  • Notoverthehill

    Tony you need to keep up-todate.

    Ryo is in Japan acquiring a permanent visa according to the “gaffer”, Mr Wenger.

    Does anybody know if Mr Wenger is called “gaffer”???

  • Arvind

    Its good to be back .. really. Its really good to be back after that miserable summer of uncertainty and doom-sayers taking over the Internet. Its just gone mad by the way(again).

    Want to bet we’ll do just fine and compete as usual?

    I think we’ll beat NewCastle as the team will want to show that they have gelled well and there is life despite key players not playing and they too are pretty good.

  • bob

    Peter Walton? THAT Peter Walton? Dogface, just send in the same pre-game prognostication as his last malfeasance. Walter, time to copy and paste. If it’s him, well, well, well…not.

  • Woolwich Peripatetic

    Funnily enough I was just thinking that Nasri’s transfer money, if it goes through, could sort out our CB situation quite handily.
    On the matter of tactics, we all saw against United that Ramsey dramatically alters the way we play if he takes Cesc’s spot. It would seem that we will move from the fairly static offence we’ve had for the past few seasons (post Henry) to the more dynamic offence the youth team has carried on playing.
    An interesting point is that without Cesc and Nasri, Arsenal’s options in midfield are:
    Song, Diaby, Frimpong, Wilshere, Rosicky, Ramsey, Lansbury.
    Our options upfront would then be:
    RvP, Chamakh, Gervinho, Walcott, Ryo, the Ox and Afobe.
    Which is roughly fifteen players competing for six positions on the field. Against a long ball team it would be possible to select six players where the shortest would be 5’11 and not lose too much control of the game in midfield or attack, something we’ve not had for a while.

  • Barca

    Arsenal will be first 3 in the league. This is the turn around season and they always do well in adversity. The supporters should stand by the manager in good times and bad. There will be a trophy in the cabinet. All the team needs is the fans support.

  • Arsene Wonka

    Lets be positive:

    One of our best performances of last season was the 2nd half against Man United. The team that started that half

    Sagna Djourou Koscielny Clichy
    Song Wilshire
    Walcott Ramsey Arshavin
    Van Persie

    No Nasri, No Fabregas. Swap Clichy and Arshavin for Vermaelen and Gervinho and you could have the team for tomorrow.

    Also the team for the first half a gainst Newcastle – NO NASRI


  • Woolwich Peripatetic

    Agreed. Gervinho is better defensively than Arshavin (who I managed overlook – I suspect that happens a lot to him 😉 ) but Gibbs is not as sound but offers more going forwards than Clichy.
    Crudely it would appear our offence is going to try to drag the opposition upfield and then fire diagonal balls in between FB & CB for runners to collect at speed.

  • Dec

    Suppose it would be ‘Le Gaffer’ then?
    Perhaps only if Joey Barton was signed.

  • bob

    If that Joey Barton were signed, it would surely be Le Goofer.

  • bob

    Woolwich Peripatetic,
    “Funnily enough,” you say, “I was just thinking that Nasri’s transfer money, if it goes through, could sort out our CB situation quite handily.” Do you that mean we could finally afford your James Tomkins?:)

  • bob

    tawanda chidemo,
    try not to hold back next time. just chill mate, the darkest hour is just before the dawn. grace under pressure, the only way we can see this through…

  • walter

    Well it could have been Dowd…. :/

  • bob

    Or the Webbmiester to try to put the nail in Le Coffin!

  • Rog B

    @Tony talk is of Vela going out onloan to spain again..?
    @Arsene likewise, lets be positive

  • Dark Prince

    No ref preview 😛 😛

    Anyways, regardin our squad, i think if we keep Cesc and add a defender, then we’re good to go….

    But i guess neither of it will happen, unfortunately

  • ak47

    at bloody last. it begins. not completely ready for the ref decisions yet but i know we’l be challenging. id like to see arshavin in rosickys spot, i think he’s more creative and has arguably a better shot.

  • Byo

    All I have thought about all off-season is how the team will coalesce for a new season- I have very high hopes. I for one am glad we’ve moved on from Cesc and Nasri saga. No one is bigger than our club.

    This may be a bit off-topic. But my research recently revealed that the Nasri saga dates back to the late 80s when AW managed at Monaco: bribery in French football/Marseilles/Tapic/jail, and how Primorac blew the whistle on them! So the Marseilles people are now taking their revenge on AW.

  • bob

    So you’re saying that Marseilles interests turned Sami’s head to decide to leave now, rather than stay on a year? Would you spell it out in more detail?

  • Byo

    @Bob: I apologize if I was not too clear. Tapic was a money man at Merseilles in the 80s and Nasri is from there. I checked with a friend who follows French football, and he confirmed the Nasri saga has more to it.
    No the article which I linked from mjostadium is written by Ben Lyttleton has nothing to do with Marseilles interest today. I actually linked to read one by Simon Kuper on managerial appointments, only to find this. Check it out.

  • RedGooner

    Im not sure I can be to positive about this summers activity if they both do leave.
    Lets face it Rvp and Walcott both next summer will have one year left on their contracts and if something doesnt improve we face another summer of will they wont they stay.
    That to me is poor management and they should have been tied down this summer to new contracts.
    The magic roundabout has to stop sometime.

  • bob

    Byo, there’s no link showing up. Try again please.

  • Byo

    Bob, Go to, link to article by Simon Kuper(takes you to mjostadium). Go down page and link article by Lyttleton. Kapish?

  • if fabrigas goes we still have the heart of taking the trophy and we have to take thiago al cantra let play with one heart

  • nasri leave arsenal but you will regreat like henry be with the gunners for life

  • bob

    Ok, capisco! I’ll have a look. I hope there’s something explanatory, as my fertile little brain was starting to think the forbidden thought that silent stan flew in to protect his investment and insist that Sami be sold for big money now, rather than Arsene save face and lose him to a free transfer. There seems to have been a change of course thenabouts, but perhaps there’s a “French Connection” at Marseilles (as that movie showed!) More to come and cheers!

  • walter

    We have added another one: Joel Campbell is confirmed on this evening.

  • Woolwich Peripatetic

    Moronic pundits comment:
    “it’s hard to see who will be providing the assists without Cesc or Nasri…”
    That wkuld scare the crap out of me, as an opposing manager. Closely mark Ramsey and RvP will tear you a new one. Mark RvP and Wilshere will put in through balls for Walcott and Gervinho.
    That was the secret of the invincibles, stop one devastating player and you leave too much space for another one.

  • walter

    Even more moronic if you think of the fact that Nasri only gave 1 assist last season…

  • bob

    Woolwich Peripatetic,
    Surely I’ll be on your growing list of morons for asking, but, honestly, have you any strategic/tactical ideas about how we’ll deal with the bus parkers without someone of Cesc’s creative passing? with the set pieces without reinforcements? of the exploitation of our inexperienced left side?

  • Gunz

    Here’s the link for the article BYO mentions:

  • Woolwich Peripatetic

    I’d have to class myself as a moron, or rather, I’m somewhat ignorant. I worry about Cesc at Barca, he might give the ball away too much for Guardiola’s liking. I think paradoxically our youth teams have been working out how to deal with packed defences without Cesc for several years now. It’s about trust. Instead of moving the ball to someone (as Barca do) you move the ball into a gap and hope that one of your team mates gets there first.
    Our front wide men have to look to stay onside then collect a diagonal ball or let the no 9 drift ‘offside’ then dribble him ‘onside’ and then cutback for a tap in. Our signings point to this tactic, combined with a defending from the front approach.

  • bob

    Tony and Walter,
    The piece about Nasri’s agent having it in for Arsene and Primorac is important, squeezing Arsene for blood money (at a time when, according to the Independent, that Silent Stan supposedly insisted that Sami be sold now, rather than let Arsene risk his free departure next summer. Still Arsene will get a lot of stick for this, so it’s worth a look and some in depth defense of the man.

  • bjtgooner

    @ Gunz

    Interesting link. If I remember correctly Nasri did miss a few chances in the Carling Cup final.

    @ Phil

    Good article. When Gervinho signed it initially looked as if he might be a replacement striker (to replace Bentner). However, playing on the left wing/midfield he would be an excellent replacement for Nasri. It may take him a few months to fully adjust to the EPL but Gervinho looks very promising. If Gervino is officially considered a Nasri replacement then if and when Bentner departs one would hope he is replaced with another striker.

    For the Newcastle match our midfield choices are few in number. So just now our midfield is at its weakest. The situation will improve when Wilshere and Diaby recover and when Cesc is replaced.

    There have been conflicting stories about buying a centre-back. Assuming one is purchased and Cesc is replaced with a quality player the squad would be in reasonable shape for the new season – provided replacements come quickly and provided the squad has not been mentally scarred by the Cesc and Nasri transfer soap.

    The press, media and many bloggers have written us off for this season. It has been a ghastly summer so far but there are grounds for optimism for this season – lets hope for a confidence building start against Newcastle!

  • addi


    Typically the way you ‘park the bus’ is by sitting deep and narrow in either two banks of 4, or one bank of 4 and one of 5, but always staying compact to limit the space in between your dense lines of defenders.

    Last season I think one of the fairer criticisms of the side was that we tried to work the ball laterally in front of defences like this too slowly. Probing for openings, but rarely moving the ball quickly or decisively enough to actually force one.

    Cesc had a wonderful range of passing but his instincts were often to play a safe sideways ball out to one of the fullbacks in order to retain possession whenever he didn’t see an option for an obvious killer ball (the caveat to this being that the option for an ‘obvious killer pass’ to cesc would be impossible if not invisible to 90% of pro footballers).

    Getting back to your question (finally). The easiest way to force openings in a compact defence is to stretch them across the pitch. This generally involves moving the ball very rapidly (or directly) from one flank to the other, and not allowing them enough time to shuffle their compact formation across the width of the pitch. Ramsey is definitely not on the same level as Cesc just yet, but one thing he certainly has going for him is that he is slightly more direct by nature, and more inclined to spray a long diagonal pass towards the corner.

    We’ve also added a number of natural wide-men this summer, which was an area in which I felt we were lacking last season. Hopefully Gervinho, Ryo et al, will be able to help us switch flanks more quickly and stretch opponents, as well as providing targets for early balls out wide, and supplying crosses from the byeline (as a centreback it is far easier to attack a cross that comes from in front of you than one that comes from behind you).

    The other way to stretch a compact team is vertically. This involves drawing them up the field and would probably necessitate playing a deeper defensive line than last season (which will make it harder to keep possession the way we have in recent years) but the pace of Gervinho, Ryo, Ox and Theo could potentially make us devastating on the break and a much greater threat from counter attacks than we have been in a while.

    All theory of course, but I for one can’t wait to see how Arsene sets us up in Toontown tomorrow.

    IMO, defending set-pieces is more a matter of organisation than physical stature or natural ability so hopefully it is something the coaching staff have been addressing over the summer.

    I’m not sure what can be said/done about our left-back position. It seems that Arsene is putting his trust in Gibbs and Traore, and while I must admit to a few doubts about the strength of that position, if he makes it work it certainly wouldn’t be the first time Arsene has pulled a world-class left-back out of his proverbial hat.

  • bob

    Cheers, you taught me a lot!

  • Abhishek Kumar

    Hi Addi

    I remember someone on this blog telling us the importance of Barca playing short passes near the halfway line. He told us how this strategy helps to stretch the team and create gaps. So what he said was that this was a very patient way to attack by looking for chances rather than attacking all the team and loosing the ball in the process.

    Would like to know your views as this had really struck me at that time.

  • Arvind

    @Abhishek: Accurate short passing anywhere (in an attacking sense) is dangerous IMO. The reasons are:
    a) You dont lose the ball that often so the opposition can’t hurt you
    b) You frustrate the opposition no end, invariably leading to a rash challenge and a booking
    c) If people don’t concentrate all the time they will surely but surely get sucked towards the ball. [This is important in this discussion]

    Now think of this – If Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets are all playing tippy tappy for fun with Messi dropping in to midfield as well a) and b) are automatically achieved. This results in the opposition trying to double team them..thus obviously leaving space behind.

    Now there are many people who can play the killer ball in Barca and plenty of runners as well. So the moment a gap is slowly worked open, there is invariably a through ball (again short) out wide which will lead to the RB and LB getting forward.

    Again there will be people sucked towards the ball to prevent a cross in .. its at this time that the midfield of Barca gets to the final third and the rest is history because you have so many great strikers who can finish with half a second at their disposal.

    Its one reason why a player like Denilson had great games against them; his whole game is based on interception and less tackling.. just like Barca. And that’s also the reason why Arsenal come closest to beating Barca a lot of times.. because they understand that style and play it reasonably well themselves.

    @Addi: Please feel free to add to this as the original question was addressed to you and not me 🙂

  • Woolwich Peripatetic

    Most EPL teams will not commit more than a handful of players, typically no more than two, to attempting to regain possession from us, so stretching play vertically with short passing doesn’t work. With the liberalisation of the offside law, goal hanging could be a very effective tactic but reduces the options for passing.

  • I’ve put up Dogface’s pre-match commentary now, but please do continue this discussion here, or there. I learn so much from debates like this; indeed I learn far more about football when this sort of debate goes on here, than anywhere else.

    Thanks everyone, really appreciate it.

  • bob

    addi, Woolwich Peripatetic, Arvind,
    you’re doing folk like me a great teaching service with your patience, sweep and nuance in sharing your knowledge. it’s much appreciated and allows us to think/analyze and oh yes, opine much better going foward. that many thanks.

  • addi


    Absolutely agree with most of that. So much so that I’m going to repeat most of it for emphasis 😉


    I’d say Barca’s style is almost inimitable. I could embark on a whole essay detailing what I believe have been the keys to their success over the last few years but instead I’ll try (and fail) to keep it short.

    Firstly, they don’t tend to encounter the same rigid defences in La Liga as we see week after week in the Premiership – although they aren’t quite Barca, the Spanish national side stumbled against the Swiss in the group stage of World Cup 2010 when they were unable to force an opening in Ottmar Hitzfeld’s classic ‘deep and narrow’ defence. Also, lets not forget that we were largely successful ‘parking the bus’ in the Nou Camp until Busacca decided to send RVP off for daring to have a shot… and if you listen to most commentary we don’t know the meaning of the word defence…

    Secondly, while they cycle possession and probe with short passes, they tend to rely on tireless and extremely intelligent movement off the ball to pull defenders out of possession, which opens space to play the killer ball into. Messi’s ‘false 9’ role is the classic example. He lines up as a no.9 (lone central striker) forcing a centre-back to take responsibility for marking him, but he then drifts deep or wide forcing his marker to follow him out of position or rapidly reorganise the whole defence, handing off responsibility to a midfielder (and leaving the two central defenders marking empty space). He did this to TV5 for Ibra’s second goal against us at home in 2010, in that situation Xavi was on the ball, Vermaelen committed to staying with Messi as he drifted deep but Xavi simply flicked the ball into the space TV5 had been occupying moments before allowing Ibra through to score:

    Granted, we weren’t trying to park the bus in that game but I think it illustrates how they use the constant movement of their forwards to pull a defence out of shape rather than trying to pass their way through the lines every time.

    Thirdly and finally, I believe that their ‘Tiki Taka’ is primarily a defensive strategy. They are very happy in the vast majority of situations to casually move the ball around, recycling possession and taking very few risks by refusing to try and force openings where they don’t obviously exist. This has two benefits, they run their opponents ragged forcing them to chase shadows, but more importantly, they completely negate their oppositions attacking threat. You can’t score if you don’t have the ball.


    Very true, afterall if a team are determined to sit on the edge of their box and refuse to venture forward there’s not much we can do to force them out. However even teams of neanderthalic anti-footballers have to commit men forward for corners and long throws at some point, and the pace and width of our new signings may well make us more dangerous on a fast-break in these situations.