Wild American Gooner

When Sports Are More Than Just Sports


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Premier League Predictions – How the Table Will Look

After more than two months of posting at least once a day since this site’s inception, I am taking a week’s vacation with my family, and won’t have access to my computer. I’ll be back writing a week from Tuesday. Hopefully the brief break from the blog will keep me fresh heading into the fall. However, I will post my prediction for Saturday’s Arsenal-Crystal Palace game on Twitter (@MrMcGinnis94), so check for that.

Between now and next Tuesday, a pretty major event is happening. The Premier League opens play this weekend. We’ve all been patiently waiting for this since May. The World Cup helped shorten the summer, but it still feels like it has been ages since Arsenal finished up their season. And for that one brief moment as all the games kick off on Saturday, nearly every single fan across the globe will be smiling. Because Premier League football is back.

Once the games begin, anything and everything will happen between now and next May when the champion will be crowned. As Ian Darke says, there will be a few million talking points. It’s going to be fun.

Here are my predictions for how the table will look after all 38 games are played.

EPL Predictions

1. Chelsea – Chelsea are loaded this year. If Diego Costa is half of the player he was a year ago, the Blues should be scoring at a record pace. I think the pairing of John Terry and Gary Cahill will be found out by Arsenal and City, but the absurd amount of talent Chelsea has in the midfield will see them dominate against everybody else. The title may come down to who drops the fewest points against the Stoke City’s of the world, and I think Jose Mourinho will have his team prepared week in and week out.

2. Arsenal – I am certainly optimistic this year, as I firmly believe that Arsenal has the talent and depth to lead a sustained charge for the title. Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Özil, Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott will be lethal in the final third, and there will be goals scored at will. Defensive issues late on will keep Arsenal from winning the title, but they’ll be right there until the final day.

3. Manchester City – City will see their throne taken from them this season, as I feel they’ll have much of their attention focused on a run in the Champions League – I think they might reach a semifinal in that competition. They’ll appear disinterested at times in the league, and they’ll drop key points against lower level opposition. They have the talent to win the title handily, but I think they’ll disappoint.

4. Manchester United – After a terrific preseason, Louis van Gaal’s men will top the table at the end of September, led by a revitalized Wayne Rooney. But once United starts playing top sides – don’t be fooled by any early success against inferior opposition – they will struggle, with the defense left exposed. They will be much improved from a year ago, but their goal should be reaching the top four, not winning the title.

5. Liverpool – Luis Suarez will be sorely missed, as the Reds are a Daniel Sturridge injury away from having a crisis up front. Rickie Lambert is not at the stage of his career when he can be productive twice a week, and he’ll struggle to adapt to the rigors of a Champions League campaign. Their journey in Europe will end up doing more harm than good. I think they’ll end up in a fight with United for fourth.

6. Everton – The Toffees have strengthened through retention this summer, and expect to improve on a wonderful campaign a year ago. Romelu Lukaku should be near the top of the goalscoring charts, and I think Ross Barkley is ready to take the next step. They are one piece away from the top four in my eyes, but they are capable of beating anyone on their day.

7. Newcastle – Newcastle will be a much improved team from a year ago. If Alan Pardew has his head in the right place, he could lead this side to a place in the Europa League. I think Emmanuel Riviere will find immediate success scoring goals, and Jack Colback and Cheick Tiote will form a fierce pairing in defensive midfield. They should be a fun side.

8. Tottenham – Count me as one unimpressed with what Mauricio Pochettino has done this summer. I can’t wait to see Spurs dismantled by Liverpool at the end of the month. Pochettino will have the team playing better by December, but I think they’ll struggle at the beginning of the year in defense. They won’t be anywhere near the top 4 come May.

9. Hull City – Hull is a team capable of making the leap this year. In keeping last year’s upstart team together, and bringing in a few new faces, Steve Bruce has had a very successful summer. They have an excellent midfield, and I expect Nikica Jelavic and Tom Ince to be scoring plenty of goals by the end of the year. They will be a team to watch.

10. Swansea City – I think it will take the Swans a little while to adapt to their new style under Garry Monk. But ultimately, they have the talent up front to comfortably finish mid-table. Between Gylfi Sigurdsson, Bafetimbi Gomis and Wilfried Bony, they have an awful lot of options in the final third.

11. Crystal Palace – A candidate for most to go down in their second season back with the big boys, I think Palace will continue to make strides under Tony Pulis. The defense should be solid once again, and Frazier Campbell has been added to bolster a static attack. It will be up to him and Marouane Chamakh to determine just how far up the table Palace can go, but they’ll be well above the drop zone.

12. Stoke City – Mark Hughes began to turn Stoke into a watchable side last year, and he finally was able to bring in players to fit his system this year. Ex-Barca man Bojan Krkic will represent a new era of Stoke football. They won’t be as near to the relegation zone as some expect.

13. West Ham – Sam Allardyce will have his side comfortably above the relegation zone, but improvement over last season will be hard to see at times. He has made moves to make the side a little more dynamic going forward, but don’t be surprised if Big Sam reverts to old ways come February.

14. Sunderland – The Black Cats were sensational towards the end of last season, but I don’t see that form carrying over to this campaign. The aging defense will be leaky. And while Jack Rodwell is an improvement in midfield, Steven Fletcher will struggle to produce goals as a lone striker this year. Connor Wickham’s involvement could be crucial to survival.

15. QPR – ‘Arry is back in the Premiership – I really dislike that man. But QPR has more talent than both of the other promoted clubs, and should stay up. The back three with Rio Ferdinand and Steven Caulker should be strong enough to get the necessary points for survival. However, Charlie Austin won’t cut it as an EPL frontman, and Redknapp will need to buy a striker in January.

16. Southampton – The Saints have lost an awful lot from a side that made the leap to the top half of the Premiership a year ago. They’ll struggle this year. But don’t be surprised when the next wave of youngsters start making a positive impact. They will be in the relegation zone on Boxing Day, but they’ll finish in safety.

17. Aston Villa – It is worrying how little Paul Lambert has done to improve the team. He brought in a few experienced squad players, but Villa will still be lacking in many areas. They are another Christian Benteke injury away from relegation.

18. Leicester City – Despite a strong preseason, the going won’t be easy for the newly promoted side. They might hang around until the final day, but they’ll be back in the Championship next year.

19. West Bromwich Albion – After flirting with disaster a year ago, West Brom will be right back in the thick of the survival fight from the start. They may have strengthened their defense, but I just don’t think they have the talent up front to score enough goals.

20. Burnley – When your strengths going into a season are fitness and teamwork, it could be a long year. Their high press style will be pleasing for neutrals, but the lack of talent will see the Clarets down by April. Danny Ings is a name to watch though.

Who do you think is going to win the title this year? Are you worried about your team getting relegated? Please comment below.

 

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Another Match, Another Trophy – Player Ratings for Arsenal’s FA Community Shield Triumph

There wasn’t nine years of waiting this time. Arsenal dominated from the opening minutes in the FA Community Shield against City, and rightfully lifted the trophy at the end of the match, winning 3-0. While it may not be the most important silverware, it is still a trophy nonetheless. This game should be yet another lift for the entire club, boosting the morale even more in a wonderful summer. When the Premier League opens next weekend, Arsenal supporters can feel rightfully confident.

I don’t have much time to write today, so I’ll save most of my analysis tomorrow morning. But I have to say it was a terrific day to be a Gooner. Arsenal look a devastating side going forward, and all day, Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey were creating chances and finding space. Manchester City were missing a lot, especially in defense, but Arsenal certainly look a side on par with the reigning Premier League champions. It could be a fun year.

Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud scored three good goals, and Arsenal were comfortably on the front foot for much of the game. With the German players arriving back on Monday, Arsenal are in a great place as the season begins.

Here are my player ratings for Arsenal’s FA Community Shield winning side.

Plater Ratings (1-10)

Yaya Sanogo – 7/10 – The young Frenchman didn’t look out of place in the starting XI in the first half, doing a little bit of everything up top. As always, his movement was quite impressive, and while his tendency to stray offside needs to change, his pace was a nuisance for Manchester City. His assist for Ramsey might have been a tad fortunate, but it was Sanogo’s run that put Arsenal in that positive position.

Alexis Sanchez – 7/10 – Sanchez looks like he’s going to fit in seamlessly. Some of his ideas didn’t always work out, but whenever he got on the ball, Arsenal looked threatening. He may have only played a half, but he put in a great debut performance. You have to think as he gets more comfortable with his teammates, he’ll only get more dangerous.

Santi Cazorla – 7.5/10 – It was rather fitting that Cazorla scored the opening goal after a summer in which he’d been generally overlooked. The little Spaniard put in a great shift on the wing, as his movement and passing was excellent. His goal was superbly taken after cleverly letting the ball run across his body. Cazorla’s got a lot more to give this year, and his willingness to track back could make him an attractive option on the left wing.

Aaron Ramsey – 9/10 – Ramsey’s late first half goal was emblematic of his performance on the day. He made it look easy, scoring from only a few yards out, but so much more went into the goal. He made a run from half field to get into position to receive the ball from Sanogo, and deftly chipped the ball past the first defender before firing it into the far corner. Ramsey was everywhere on the pitch, always choosing the right runs to make and finding the right balls. It looks like it will be another banner year from the Welshman.

Jack Wilshere – 7/10 – Wilshere didn’t have a standout game, but he was quite effective in the midfield, linking up well with everyone around him. Whether it was releasing pace down the flanks, or simply keeping possession, Wilshere had a good day. Defensively, he did well in his own right, putting in a couple of decent challenges.

Mikel Arteta – 7/10 – Arteta put in an admirable shift in his usual defensive midfield role. He was composed on the ball, linking up well with his fellow midfielders, and never strayed too far out of position. Against Yaya Toure, Arteta held his ground this time out. Many don’t think he can be on the field if Arsenal want to win a title, but Arteta could well prove everyone wrong.

Kieran Gibbs – 6.5/10 – Gibbs had a lot of success getting forward in the first half, and combined well with Cazorla all day. He struggled a little bit with Jesus Navas on the wing, but there were no disastrous moments. At this point in his career. Gibbs will be counted on as a consistent, top of the line left back.

Laurent Koscielny – 6.5/10 – In only one half of action, Koscielny put in a decent shift, tracking City’s runners nicely. With Chambers pushed a bit forward, Koscielny was always there to clean up anything in behind. His one on one defending was also impressive. Let’s hope it wasn’t an injury that forced him off at the half.

Calum Chambers – 7.5/10 – Chambers seemed a lot more comfortable intercepting passes and stepping higher up the pitch rather than defending one on one closer to goal. He is clearly still learning the center back position, but overall, he made a bright start to his Arsenal career. He made a couple of clearances with his head, and was quite effective picking off any loose passes from City in the final third.

Mathieu Debuchy – 7/10 – Right from the start, Arsneal’s new right back was bombing forward and sending in crosses towards Sanogo. He and Sanchez seem to have formed a quick understanding. Defensively, Debuchy made an excellent block from a Samir Nasri shot in the first half. He should have done better with a header early in the second half, as he was caught a bit flat footed, but Szczesny was there to save Stevan Jovetic’s effort in the end.

Wojciech Szczesny – 7/10 – The Arsenal keeper put in an assured display at the back for the most part. He had a quiet first half, but when called upon the the second half, he was there to stop shots and claim any crosses. He was quick off his line and confident in the air. He made one questionable decision on Jovetic’s header, and didn’t reach a corner late on, but overall, Szczesny looked good. He seems inspired to play the sweeper role this year, and hopefully he didn’t concuss himself late on.

Substitutes

Olivier Giroud (46th) – 7.5/10 – A wonderfully taken, albeit slightly deflected goal highlighted a great performance from the Frenchman. Still lacking ffitness, Giroud only played the second half, but it was a successful afternoon. He held up play nicely, and showed off his strength on the ball. He should be fully fit soon.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (46th) – 5.5/10 – The winger came on at half but didn’t make much of an impact in his time on the field. Much of his work was on the defensive end, and while he let his men get by him a few times, he was usually quick enough to get back in position. He’ll be disappointed not to have gotten on the ball more.

Nacho Monreal (46th) – 6.5/10 Back at center back, Monreal was solid in the back next to Chambers. He handled the strength of City’s frontmen admirably. Who would have expected Monreal to be confidently taking the ball off Yaya Toure in the box? It was a much better performance from the converted left back.

Mathieu Flamini (67th) – 6/10 – Flamini will have wanted to start the game over Arteta, so it was notable that he started the match on the bench. And when he came on, he was pushed ahead of Arteta, showing that there is a clear pecking order at defensive midfielder right now. He got in one good position going forward, but overall, it was a pretty quiet appearance from Flamini.

Tomas Rosicky (70th) – N/A – Rosicky made a 20 minute cameo in place of Santi Cazorla, and looked confident on the ball. By that point though, Arsenal weren’t sending many men forward, so there wasn’t much for Rosicky to do.

Joel Campbell (85th) – N/A – Campbell made a late run out at Wembley, but didn’t do much more than run. He nearly got on a ball in the final third , but wasn’t quite quick enough. He’ll be happy enough just to see the field.


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Who Should Be Arsenal’s Next Captain?

With the exit rumors of current club captain Thomas Vermaelen heating up by the day, and with a mysterious injury keeping him from training, it seems inevitable that Arsenal will be looking for a new skipper soon. It’s entirely understandable that Vermaelen wants out (I wrote about that a little ways back here), but it’s also understandable that Arsene Wenger wants to keep him around as cover until a replacement comes in. The situation is not ideal.

I get that it’s been a bit of an embarrasment to hold the captaincy while on the bench, but Vermaelen owes the club one last duty as captain of the famous club. He needs to be at training right now so that he can be there as cover for Per Metesacker who has still yet to return from his post-World Cup holiday. There hasn’t been much said about how serious Vermaelen’s injury is, but as the club captain, he should at least be around the club right now, either on the pitch or as a spokesman. His absence when he is still needed signals the need for his removal from the captaincy.

However, I feel it would be unfair to strip him of his captaincy while he still is an Arsenal player, as up until this summer, he handled the ignominious demotion extraordinarily well over the last eighteen months. He could have spoken out against Wenger publicly, he could have demanded a transfer, and he could have thrown the dressing room into shambles. But instead, he put his club above himself, and said and did all of the right things while he was on the bench. It could not have been easy. So were Arsenal to hand the captaincy to someone else while Vermaelen still was on the roster, it would be an unnecessary slap in the face to the Belgian. And Arsenal is too classy for that.

At this point, the only solution is to wait out Vermaelen’s exit before naming a new captain. There might be a game or two when Mikel Arteta will have to lead out the side before he officially leaves, and there might even be a final appearance by Vermaelen himself should he regain his fitness, but it’s the right course of action. By the end of August, the Belgian will be gone, and Arsenal will be able to turn the page.

That then begs the question of who the next Arsenal captain should be. In my mind, there are three obvious candidates and a handful of other players who could be surprise picks to wear the band. But this is not a choice to be made lightly, as the club will have seen its last three captains leave the club in recent years on less than ideal terms. In my opinion, Wenger needs to pick a player who can hold the captaincy for years to come.

For me, that should rule out 32 year old Mikel Arteta from the running. However, due to his current status as vice-captain, he would seem in many ways to be the most logical choice. Arteta is the prototypical Wenger player – a pass-first midfielder converted to a deeper role – and is clearly a favorite of the boss. But given his age and Arsenal’s desire to replace him with a younger, more natural defensive midfielder, Arteta might find himself in a similar situation to Vermaelen in a year’s time. I don’t think anybody wants a repeat of that. So the only way I would give Arteta the captaincy is if Wenger thinks his obvious choice is eyeing a younger player for the job but doesn’t think that player is quite ready for the responsibility.

The next option would be Per Mertesacker, the current number three as captain. The big German defender has been Wenger’s deputy in the dressing room since his arrival, a player who goes around to collect any fines. Were he not held in high esteem by his teammates, that duty would be impossible. He also holds authority on the pitch as a vocal presence in the back. And when things go south, Mertesacker has his head in the right place – think back to when he chastised Mesut Özil for not acknowledging the traveling fans at Manchester City after the painful 6-3 loss. Few have the respect necessary to be able to do that. Seemingly as Arsenal’s first choice center back for years to come, the big German would be a great choice as captain. His vocal leadership style would harken back to the older Arsenal captains, and everyone would be better for it.

The third, more complicated option would be to give the band to Aaron Ramsey. While he is only 23 years old, he has already been captain of the Welsh national team for a short period, and he clearly has the leadership abilities necessary to do the job. Ramsey is indisputably Arsenal’s most indispensable player at the moment, having grown tremendously as a player in the last year. Handing him the captaincy would be a gesture to acknowledge that importance, and it would be something that might keep him from wanting to leave the club anytime soon.

While he wouldn’t be the vocal leader that Mertesacker would be, Ramsey could be of the Cesc Fabregas mold as captain, a role he’d surely grow into with time. Having given him the band in preseason, Wenger has realized the Welshman’s importance to the club, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him leading the team out permanently. And I must say, his new beard makes him look regal enough for the job. The only hesitancy is that Ramsey struggled with the burden when he took over the job for Wales, but he was much younger then, and had to deal with the death of his coach Gary Speed at the time. It was a big ask for Ramsey at the time, and while he handled everything admirably, it clearly weighed on him on the field.

Beyond those three, there are a couple of other decent options. While I don’t think Wenger will choose Tomas Rosicky, I think it would be a terrific choice, if only for the short term. Rosicky is Arsenal, and he does everything right on the field. He is a terrific example for all the young players at the club, and giving him the captaincy would be the ultimate sign of respect for the veteran Czech midfielder. He probably doesn’t play often enough to merit the job, but nonetheless, he’d be a great choice. The other option is Jack Wilshere. For years now, he has been mooted as a future Arsenal captain. But his immaturity off the pitch and recent struggles on it suggest he is not ready for the job. If Wenger wants Wilshere to be captain, that’s where I think he should go with Arteta for now, so that he can give the young Englishman some more time to mature. Laurent Koscielny, Santi Cazorla, Mathieu Flamini and even Mesut Özil could all be options as well.

When Vermaelen’s exit is confirmed, Wenger will have a tough choice to make. But he has a lot of solid options on a team that has found a nice mix of personalities in the dressing room. Personally, I would like to see Mertesacker or Ramsey take over the captaincy. If I had to guess, I would think Wenger will go with Mertesacker, but you never know. And as far as vice-captain, it would be awfully harsh to take that away from Arteta should he not be selected for the bigger role.

Who would you like to see as Arsenal’s next captain? Please comment below


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A Magnificent Display From Arsenal – Player Ratings From the Emirates Cup

The pitch was perfect, the new Puma kits looked surprisingly good and Arsenal was back at home for the seventh installment of The Emirates Cup. While many in attendance would have been disappointed when they saw Alexis Sanchez wasn’t starting, they were treated to a dazzling offensive display from a host of others. It ended 5-1 to the Arsenal, but it could have been even more.

If the first half of today’s game against Benfica was any indication, this is going to be a really fun year. The starting lineup wasn’t your typical Arsenal side, but it was full of hadr-working, pacey players full of drive to get forward. Unlike many Arsenal teams from years past, they were ruthless in the final third as well. The flicks and turns were gorgeous all day, and they came from just about everyone on the pitch. It felt like someone was finding acres of space every minute.

Arsene Wenger will sleep very well tonight knowing how much offensive talent he has at his disposal this year. Yaya Sanogo and Joel Campbell showed themselves to be more than capable of contributing this year, and of course Aaron Ramsey was back at his best. Even young right back Hector Bellerin put on a show going forward.

The inexperienced defense still looks far from in mid-season form, and it’s worrying that there still aren’t enough center backs to form a true back four with only a week before meaningful games. But the makeshift defense held firm when it mattered for the most part, and they did magnificently when they joined in attack.

My internet connection was rather poor, so I thought I was going to miss the game, but at the last second, I got things working. And I was sure glad I did, as this display has made me giddy with optimism going into the season. Even though the commentary on the feed I was watching was in Spanish, the play on the field did all the talking I needed to hear.

Player Ratings (1-10)

Yaya Sanogo – 10/10 – Four goals in front of the home crowd before the 50th minute was exactly what Sanogo needed going into the season. All game, he showed off what a talent he can be, picking up the ball in deep areas, holding up play excellently, making pacey runs in behind and then cleverly finishing anything that fell his way. None of the goals were from any great distance, but few will care. What an amazing performance. Let’s hope we see a lot more of that wonderful celebratory dance.

Joel Campbell – 8.5/10 – Much like Sanogo, Campbell did exactly what he needed to do today, scoring a well taken volley and contributing all over the field. He did well in possession in his own half, and combined excellently with Bellerin and Ramsey throughout the match in the final third, looking to take on defenders with skill and pace. While he squibbed his two easiest shots, his composed volley into the back of the net showed everyone his quality. This performance should earn him a place in the squad going forward.

Tomas Rosicky – 7/10 – Playing a little deeper than he normally does, Rosicky picked out a number of wonderful passes. He wasn’t directly involved in many of the goals, but he did quite well on the day in an hour of action.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 7/10 – In only a half of action, the Ox created a number of chances with a variety of passes in the final third. Whether releasing Sanogo on a long through ball, or delicately flicking the ball to Ramsey on the edge of the box, he showed how effective he is in possession.

Aaron Ramsey – 8.5/10 – Ramsey looks ready for the new season, picking up right where he left off. With clever turns and imaginative chips, Ramsey set up a couple of the goals, and easily could have assisted one or two more. He popped up everywhere on the pitch, and was always in the right position. It’s scary to think he could get even better this year.

Mathieu Flamini – 6.5/10 – Flamini covered the inexperienced defense behind him with aplomb in his hour on the field. He was comfortable on the ball and made a couple of key tackles. He is showing no signs of aging.

Kieran Gibbs – 6.5/10 – As always, Gibbs was a menace when he got forward, and he helped set up one of Sanogo’s goals. But defensively, Gibbs wasn’t at his best today, as he could have done better on the Benfica’s goal. He also lost possession cheaply in his own half once which could have proven costly.

Nacho Monreal – 5.5/10 – The left back filled in again at center back and looked very uncomfortable. Composure is a vital part of being a center back and Monreal had little of that in the early going. He left large spaces at the top of the box and was trying to do too much when he got on the ball. He improved as the match went on, but he is a long way from being Premeir League ready at the new position.

Calum Chambers – 6.5/10 – In his unofficial Arsenal debut, Chambers didn’t have too much to do defensively. His positioning was solid, and certainly compared to Monreal, he looked a natural at center back. He also played a couple of nice balls from the back, and seemed eager to bring the ball forward when he got the chance.

Hector Bellerin – 8/10 – Bellerin was magnificent going forward today, combining with the midfielders time after time to get into space down the right. He also had one sensational run through multiple defenders that showcased his skill on the ball. Defensively, he has a little ways to go, as he was caught napping on the goal, but he played a starring role in Arsenal’s offensive clinic today. The young Spaniard may have earned himself a place in the squad with this performance.

Damian Martinez – 7.5/10 – Martinez wasn’t able to keep a clean sheet, but overall, he had a good game between the post. He was called upon to make a couple of saves throughout the match, and he was up to the task. His shot-stopping has gotten a lot better in the last year or so.

Substitutes

Santi Cazorla – 7/10 – Cazorla showed off some skill in the final minutes, and in general looked quite good off the bench. He was all over the field and showed off his two-footedness with a wonderful left-footed corner that nearly resulted in a goal.

Jack Wilshere – 6/10 – Wilshere didn’t make much of an impact in his half an hour on the field, but I’m sure he will be ready to go tomorrow. It was notable though that he was used in a deeper role than Coquelin.

Mikel Arteta – 6/10 – Arteta was quiet in his half-hour cameo, but he looks ready for the season. Expect him in the lineup tomorrow.

Francis Coquelin – 7/10 – Playing a role higher up the field than he normally does, Coquelin put in his best display of the preseason. He was quick to the ball, and picked out a couple of nice passes. He was quite unlucky to hit the post in the final minutes.

Ignasi Miquel – 6.5/10 – Miquel did next to nothing defensively, but he hit the bar with a header off of a Cazorla corner late on. He and Koscielny will partner in defense tomorrow.

Chuba Akpom – 6.5/10 – The young striker was deployed on the right in a brief substitute appearance, but he still was able to showcase his pace by getting onto a couple of through balls.

Alexis Sanchez – 6.5/10 – Taking the field to thunderous applause late on, Sanchez’s appearance was more notable for where he played than how. That Wenger chose to play him in the central striker role instead of out wide could say a lot about the manager’s plans for the new signing. Sanchez was pretty quiet in his brief cameo, but it was wonderful to see him in action.

 

 


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A Brutal Performance at Fenway and Chambers’s Arrival at The Emirates

Good morning, all. This will be a brief post, as I didn’t get much sleep last night coming back late from the Red Sox game. The game itself was pretty horrible, as the Red Sox trailed 2-0 before registering an out, and proceeded to surrender nine runs in the 6th inning. While I had fun at the game with my friends nonetheless, it was noticeable that the mood has changed at Fenway in recent weeks.

As recently as a week ago, the players still believed in themselves. So even though they lost a lot of games, it was evident that they were frustrated because they knew they could and should have been doing better. But last night, the players seemed to acknowledge that this is a lost season. There was no energy anywhere on the field. Players were taking weak swings and heading to the dugout with their heads down. And after Clay Buchholz struggled once again, Felix Doubront came into the game and promptly allowed 6 ER on 6 hits without getting through the inning.

I don’t normally boo any Red Sox, but I booed Doubront a little bit when he came out of the game. He more than anyone else has taken the I feel sorry for myself approach to the losing. Having lost his starting spot, he should have focused on stringing together quality relief appearances in hope that he’d earn his place back. But instead, he has whined and moped. When called upon, he hasn’t been ready to do his job. And that is unacceptable. This dreadful outing may well have earned him a permanent mop-up job, as he continues to prove he isn’t cut out to be a top of the line starting pitcher. He also might have pitched his way out of any other team’s plans on the trade market.

The crowd also had a different feel than it normally does in late July. The seats were impressively full all game given the Red Sox’s poor record and the threat of inclement weather. Even when the Blue Jays were up double digits, the fans were still there. However, it was the Blue Jays fans that were the ones getting their team fired up. The Sox faithful didn’t have much to cheer about, but they were all content to stand and sing about how good things are in the 8th inning down 13 runs. Nobody was starting chants or getting into the game much at all. It’s good that crowds are coming to Fenway, but they need to be more involved in the game. And for the record, I think “Sweet Caroline” should only be played when we are winning.

Once the game got out of hand, I started thinking about how it was probably my last time seeing a bunch of these guys in a Red Sox uniform, so I made sure to give big hands to Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava when they batted in the late innings. While it’s now inevitable that drastic trades will be made, I’ll be sad to see some of my favorites go.

Now to Arsenal news. Depending on who you believe, Arsenal have either signed 19 year old Southampton right back Calum Chambers for 12 million pounds or for up to 20. His value on the market will have been driven up because he is English, but overall I think this a good signing for the future. He sure didn’t come cheap, but given his obvious talent and versatility, he should prove valuable quickly.

There is no telling when the spending will stop for Arsene Wenger this summer. Who would have thought he’d have bought four quality players before the end of July? Chambers will be labeled as a right back, but I think Wenger envisions him as a future holding midfielder or center back. For now, I assume he’ll be the backup right back, but I expect him to challenge for time in the middle by next year. I haven’t watched him play much, but I was quite impressed with his play against Arsenal last January.

He is a big guy, big enough to play center back, and I think he makes a good extra option at the position. While I still would like to hold on to Thomas Vermaelen at least until Per Mertesacker is fit again, Chambers could be an adequate option alongside Laurent Kosciely in the opener against Crystal Palace if need be. Because he’s only 19, he could still be filling out his body, and in a year or two, he could become a much more physical specimen.

This transfer also has a huge impact on current Arsenal right back Carl Jenkinson. Everybody loves Carl because of his love for his boyhood club, but he needs regular playing time in the Premier League to reach his potential. With now two other legitimate options at his position, Wenger will surely be looking to shop Jenkinson. I would love to see him loaned out with the idea of bringing him back next year if he impresses, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him sold. For me, it will depend on where Wenger believes Chambers’s potential lies. Should he believe it is at right back, Jenkinson should be sold permanently. But should it be somewhere else, Jenkinson must be loaned out so he can come back a better player.

The acquisition of Chambers is very much a buy for the future, but he has a place in the squad immediately due to his versatility in the back. I am excited to see him play for Arsenal. Hopefully there’s one last signing coming, but if not, it has been a terrifically executed transfer window by the boss. And lastly, I offer my condolences to Southampton fans. It can’t have been an easy summer.