Wild American Gooner

When Sports Are More Than Just Sports

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The Calm Before the Storm

Good morning all. Today is the calm before the storm World Cup wise. We get the third place match tomorrow and the final Sunday, but today we have to wait. I don’t have much time today so that suits me just fine. But all day, I’ll be thinking about this weekend. It’s going to be fun.

Yesterday was quite a day for Arsenal supporters, and frankly I still can hardly believe that happened. We signed Alexis Sanchez… It’ll take a while for that to sink in. It seems strange that he took number 17, given that Nacho Monreal was currently wearing it. The options weren’t great for numbers, with 13 and 18 being the two best available, so you can see why Sanchez wanted something better. But what does it say to Monreal about his importance that his number was just given away? I guess there’s no way of knowing if he gave it up willingly, but it can’t be a good sign for the Spanish left back. Hopefully this doesn’t signal the end of Monreal’s time in an Arsenal shirt.

Hopefully there will be more good Arsenal transfer news to come in the immediate future, and now that Arsene Wenger has proved he can buy someone before the end of the window, everyone will be expecting big things. There is still a need at right back, center back, defensive midfield and goalkeeper, so this shouldn’t be the end of Arsenal’s spending. If Wenger plays his cards right, Arsenal could be a feared side come late August.

On a different front, the Red Sox won their second straight game in walkoff fashion yesterday, beating the White Sox in extra innings after Koji Uehara had blown a save. These last two games have been ones the Red Sox wouldn’t have won earlier in the season, but it would seem naive to consider everything fixed after two games. There are still lots of issues offensively – Jose Quintana had a perfect game into the sixth for the White Sox – and there’s a rapidly rising concern about the bullpen. Two walkoffs could help change the momentum and improve the vibe in the clubhouse, but in order to make a second half run, they’ll need to start hitting. Three hits in 10 innings won’t get you too many wins.

However, it is a good sign that the team hasn’t given up after the A.J. Pierzynski dismissal seemingly signaled that the front office was throwing in the towel on the season. That the players still have each others’ backs says a lot about the character of this team. We knew it was strong last year, but nobody seemed to be stepping up this year. It would be wise to try and ride this momentum out for as long as possible, but I don’t see it lasting much beyond the all-star break. However, if the Red Sox can make a legitimate push in the A.L. East in the next few weeks, maybe they can be buyers at the deadline after all. There’s no telling what will push the players’ buttons in times like these, but maybe the fear of getting traded or released could be the needed motivation.

It isn’t always pretty, but at least the Red Sox games have been more watchable in recent days. If there’s any more Arsenal news today, I’ll have some analysis, but otherwise, it’ll be a pretty quiet day. Thanks for reading.


Arsenal Get Their Dream Man – Welcome Alexis Sanchez

Today is a landmark day for Arsenal Football Club, as Arsene Wenger has won a worldwide battle for a dream transfer target, getting Alexis Sanchez in a compelling move from Barcelona. Alexis Sanchez was a true star at the World Cup for Chile this summer, and coming off of a very successful third season at Barcelona, one in which he scored 19 league goals along with 10 assists, he was a valuable commodity. Seen by new Barcelona coach Luis Enrique as surplus to requirements, Sanchez had his pick of places to go, among them Liverpool and Juventus. Once other teams got involved, many Arsenal fans feared his transfer story would go the way of Gonzalo Higuain’s. But in recent days, it became clear that this time was different. And this afternoon, Arsenal confirmed that Sanchez is a Gunner.

As many people saw at the World Cup, Sanchez is a useful player indeed. He isn’t your typical striker, but his movement and pace are smart enough that he can more than hold his own up top when called upon. However, his best positions or Arsenal will likely be on the left or right side of attack. He has the speed to get in behind the full-backs, and having successfully played a similar role for Barcelona, he has learned how to make the diagonal runs in between the defenders. He has a rocket of a shot, but has also scored a lot of clever goals with finessed efforts and chips.

The player who will benefit most from this transfer is Mesut Özil. With Real Madrid, the German superstar was at his best alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and other pacey players who could continuously make intelligent runs from the flanks. Özil could sit deeper, finding the perfect ball to thread in between the defenders. With Theo Walcott out for much of the year, Arsenal’s record signing had nobody to play those type of balls to, and had a tougher time creating chances. Olivier Giroud certainly wasn’t making those runs, and neither were Lukas Podolski or Santi Cazorla from the left. But now Sanchez will be there to run in behind, and with Walcott soon returning to fitness, defenders will be downright scared of leaving any space behind them. Sanchez is an ideal signing to bring out the best in Özil.

The other area that Sanchez can help tactically is that he’ll be another head to aim at in the box when Arsenal look to cross. Sanchez has showcased his ability to get to the back post in recent years, which is something Arsenal have been without. And with more bodies to cover in the box, Aaron Ramsey might find more space to make his late runs forward. Podolski and Cazorla certainly possess great abilities in the attacking third, but neither player was eager to get in behind. As such, the midfield got overcrowded at times, with no options beside Giroud at which to aim crosses. Sanchez’s abilities to be both the creative force in midfield and the hard-working finisher should make Arsenal’s attack significantly less predictable.

Sanchez’s arrival may not be the only signing up front this summer, but his versatility could allow Wenger to focus the rest of his transfer energy on other areas. Behind Olivier Giroud, Arsenal now can play Sanchez, Yaya Sanogo and Joel Campbell in addition to Walcott and Podolski on occasion. And with an abundance of attacking midfield talent, Arsenal possess an incredible front 5. The lineup of Giroud, Sanchez, Walcott, Özil and Ramsey should scare everyone. That Cazorla, Podolski, Tomas Rosicky, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere won’t all be good enough to even make the bench if everyone’s healthy shows that Arsenal’s depth in this area is tremendous. Everyone will need to work harder for places in the side, and that can’t be a bad thing.

There are still moves to be made to shore up the defense, with the potential Mathieu Debuchy arrival looking likely, but today’s signing of Alexis Sanchez sends a message to the rest of the Premiership that Arsenal will be a force in the attacking third this year. And as none of Sanchez, Özil, Walcott or Ramsey are older than 25, this will be a potent side for years to come. I can not believe Arsenal got this deal done so quickly, and with a nearly full preseason to get acquainted with his teammates, Sanchez should be firing in no time. This is a great day to be a Gooner.