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Alexis. F***ing. Sanchez.
Anth, the Arsenal, Sydney
Football. Bloody Hell.
January 14th, 1995: An eight-year-old me is excited to be at Highbury to see John Hartson and Chris Kiwomya on their debut.
19 years later and we've signed Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez in consecutive summer windows.
Football. Bloody hell.
Dane, North Bank
Turn The Beat Around
This morning I awoke to the wonderful news that Alexis Sanchez has been confirmed as Arsenal's first signing of the summer.
However the stranger occurrence for me (yes stranger than Arsenal signing a top player in July) is the song I haven't been able to get out of my head since, namely Gloria Estefan - Turn The Beat Around (we've signed Alex Sanchez)
Anyone else? No, just me? Right.
This Is Our Year!
Can I be among the first Gooners to take on the mantle from Liverpool fans by saying the signing of Alexis Sanchez means it could be our year. Obviously still a long way to go before the start of the season and the close of the transfer window, and I'm as surprised as anyone that we've completed such a good bit of business so early on, but a couple more decent transfers in to strengthen the squad and I'll be very happy with Wenger's work. Didn't think I'd be saying this a couple of months ago.
How many weeks till the start of the season?
Ricky T, excited Gooner, sarf London
Sanchez Signing is Huge
Arsenal's signing of Alexis Sanchez is absolutely monumental; the biggest single transfer in English football since Robinho arrived at Man City and ushered in a second period of footballing hyperinflation. As much as I hate to admit it, Arsenal finally mean business. Ozil's arrival last summer could be seen as being more significant but Sanchez confirms that it wasn't just a one-off, and that Arsenal's financial muscle was much more than the pipe dream that most fans thought it to be and most Arsenal fans pinned their future hopes on. Gone are the days of Arsenal selling before they buy, and in some cases being forced to sell their best players to reinvest in the team (Van Persie, Nasri etc.) after they grew tired of Wenger's apparent lack of ambition. Arsenal are now a club, rather than just a manager or a few select players, to be feared.
Of course, big-money transfers do not ensure success and Wenger will still have to address several recurring issues, with the impression that the squad is mentally fragile still there. However, Arsenal are now in a much better position than they were even 18 months ago to rectify this and the confidence such transfers bring could perhaps rectify some issues on its own.
Furthermore, the effect that this will have on the rest of the Premier League is also huge. While City and Chelsea can still more than easily compete financially with Arsenal, Liverpool, even with £75 million burning a hole in their wallet, will somehow have to replace 31 goals and 13 assists. Man United are undergoing a massive squad rebuilding process while Spurs and Everton seem to have hit some sort of glass ceiling. The teams around and even above Arsenal last season are thus clearly falling behind as Arsenal surge forwards. Liverpool have the opportunity to keep pace this transfer window but, judging by the current players being rumoured/signed, the very best players still don't consider Liverpool to be the ideal destination with Sanchez a case in point. United need to rebuild an entire defence and create a midfield so, even with Van Gaal, they're in no real position to go chasing third and above whilst the other two (sorry Spurs/Everton fans) are not capable of attracting players of the calibre that the others could regardless (even without the Champions League, United were able to sign Mata last January and Herrera this summer and Liverpool signed Suarez and Sakho who could all have easily played for teams in the Champions League). This season Arsenal, City and Chelsea could all easily run away from these teams.
Whether that would be a good thing for the league is a different matter but, either way, Sanchez shows that Arsenal are back and properly this time.
It's Really Sodding Exciting
With the signing of Sanchez (one I'm slightly gutted about, since I was really hoping we'd get him and Di Maria), Arsenal are looking to be an interesting proposition this next year. All they need is a quality striker, but I'm hopeful for them. There's a few good cheap French lads out there.
So with Arsenal, a strengthened Chelsea, City with their silly squad, and United with a new manager overhauling ours, and maybe Spurs and Everton (and possibly Liverpool even without their one man team) buzzing around too, can we start talking about the Premier League being the best league in the world again?
We may well end up not having the best team in Europe by the end of the season (though I'd fancy one of ours to win the CL), but we certainly have a lot more contenders.
I'm really bloody excited for this season.
Wasn't Ozil A Game-Changer?
Alexis Sanchez is a 'game changing' signing?
Wasn't Mesut Ozil a 'game changing' signing?
The only way they can change their game is if they replace the tactical dinosaur at the helm. Time and again they are amongst the challengers, then they have a few injuries and they finish fourth.
This is purely down to Wenger's tactical inflexibility. With key personnel out, he never considers changing styles to compensate for the players he has at his disposal.
I'm putting my balls on the table here. Sign all the great players you want, lads, you ain't winning the league with Wenger ever again.
Kris, LFC, Manchester
(Not in any way jealous that Arsenal got Sanchez. No siree. Nuh-uh. Nope.)
Feeling Sad For Cesc
For the last week or so it has been a very rewarding time to be an Arsenal supporter. Not only have we signed Alexis Sanchez, but we are also rumoured to be in for Sami Khedira and Loic Remy. It is very easy to say that this is what all Arsenal fans have been waiting for. Well, almost all Arsenal fans.
However, during the euphoria of the Puma kit launch I saw on a picture that one Cesc Fabregas had liked the video on Instagram and I immediately felt terrible for him. A footballer idolised by his adopted club three years ago now lacks identity and is merely one of Jose's mercenaries now, but in so many ways he was the catalyst for the "better times" which started with the Mesut Ozil signing. Cesc Fabregas was the one thing that kept all Arsenal's fans hopes alive during a difficult period and I think that notwithstanding his Chelsea move he should not receive a similar reception to van Persie and Nasri at the Emirates, as his story was more one of tragedy than betrayal.
Arsenal will hopefully sign one or two more top-class players and hopefully challenge for the title this season, but spare a thought for Cesc and how sad the consequences have been of his decision to return to Barcelona in 2011.
Albert T, Cape Town AFC
Team of the Tournament
Dutch Aren't Minnows
A lot of revisionism in yesterday afternoon's mailbox. Since when were the Netherlands painted as some plucky minnows that came from nowhere to appear at a World Cup beyond expectations? Such quotes as 'he took this group of Dutch players further than any other coach could take them' and 'he took a team many/most expected to go out in the group stages to an unlikely semi-final' are either making a huge leap or quite simply wrong.
The Netherlands went into the World Cup as second favourites to advance from Group B behind Spain with all the bookmakers I looked at. What should really have been written was 'some people saw Chile as dark horses to advance from Group B at the Netherlands' expense'. To portray them as a team that most people expected to go out in the group stages is plain wrong.
Quite aside from that, it's worth pointing out that a) apart from the Spain match, the Netherlands have been favourites to win every game they've played, up until the semi-final and b) following the Spain match, they became the fourth favourites to win the trophy. By contrast, after Costa Rica beat Uruguay, they were still fourth favourites to win the group.
Now, I think Van Gaal has done pretty well. I do not see him as a genius or an extremely lucky manager, and that's largely because I'm a rational person that is capable of thinking that the answer lies somewhere in the middle. The Netherlands were impressive against Spain and Chile but they were disappointing against Mexico and Costa Rica. To suggest a semi-final appearance was improbable or unlikely is really stretching things in my opinion. Before a ball was kicked, perhaps, because Brazil were likely second round opponents. Once their route to the semi-final was seen to be Mexico and Costa Rica however...well, perhaps better to imagine the reaction if they hadn't made the semi-final.
Just be thankful you lot aren't journalists. Mediawatch would have strung you up by your balls. As it is, looks like it's been left to me and I've had a great time doing it. I might even go as far as to save the nonsense you've written today and send it back to the Mailbox if United are sixth in November.
I'm going to take umbrage with a line from JB (MUFC)'s email from yesterday:
'Sir Alex Ferguson is probably the greatest coach of our time and even he didn't win every tournament. What he did was get a team of decent players to play to their maximum potential.'
I'll agree that Fergie got the most out of his teams, but he got the most out of some damn fine players and typically had one of, if not *THE*, largest bankrolls in the league the majority of his career. Even after Chelsea went Chelski a large slice of that impressive wad was shot in order to catch up to the big boys.
Though I am American, I grew up with relatives all over the north-west and even as a little kid, I remember tiny little nuggets like Fergie buying Cantona from the previous year's title team for over a million pound (back when that was a lot of money), and the scouse whinging at the red mancs for 'buying the title'. I've never thought it was much coincidence that Fergie's first title coincided with the dawn of the Premier League and came a year or two after that stock market float.
I'm noticing this more and more, a growing pocket of United fans are starting to act like plucky little Gooners. I recognize this syndrome because I grew up knowing old scousers and they wrote the book on that kind of revisionist bullplop.
You guys have been able to buy just about whoever you wanted for over 20 years. No matter how poor you may cry, Oliver Twist you are not...
Ian, LFC (The rest of the mail was good, though.) Hartford, CT USA
PS The debate over entertainment vs sport makes me yearn for the halcyon days of scouse maths and net spend debates, dios mio!
Shoot-Out Alternatives (Part 427)
I'm not going to go over the bore-fest that led to one of the least tense shoot-outs I can remember, but I wanted to start a debate about shoot-outs given the refusal of two Dutchies to face the music. Couple of ideas:
1. Each team removes one player every five minutes of ET, leaving six on the pitch at the end. Players left on would be obligated to take the first five pens to stop defence-minded managers playing for pens and resting their best players. Think of the space! Attack-minded managers would be rewarded...hopefully
2. Use stats (boring, I know) so that the game goes to pens only if some pre-determined measure isn't hit e.g. one team has five times more shots on goal than the other...it would reward attacking behaviour and stop teams shutting up shop and playing for pens.
Thoughts? Any better ideas?
Dan James (Does Lloris signing a five-year deal count as a new signing?)
Just Sodding Practise Penalties
Thursday afternoon's mailbox had a mail countering the idea that confidence counts for anything and saying that 'the players that miss penalties are usually the players you expect to miss them'. The following players are among those who have missed a penalty in a World Cup shoot-out: Socrates, Platini, Stojkovic, Maradona, Donadoni, Pearce, Baresi, Massaro, Baggio, Crespo, Albertini, Cocu, R. De Boer, Valeron, Shevchenko, Lampard, Gerrard, Trezeguet, Alexis Sanchez, Sneijder. Clearly being a world-class player, a penalty specialist, or both, is not enough to take a World Cup penalty successfully.
Equally clearly, it's useless to have the confidence but not the ability (Vlaar, Batty etc). That's why it's important to train taking penalties. You can't simulate the pressure, but at least you're simulating part of the experience. Not practising penalties because you cannot simulate the pressure is stupid.
The perfect penalty-taker needs to have everything - the technical ability to hit a good penalty, the right mental state (confident but not overly so, determined, and not weighed down by thoughts of the importance of the game or consequences of a miss) AND the physical ability to have enough energy after 120+ minutes to execute the technique well. The physical fitness element is often overlooked but is equally as important as the other two. That probably explains Germany's excellent record as their players usually have a good combination of physical, technical and mental strengths.
James (Germany's six penalties in Euro '96 vs England are the most perfect set you can ever see) Geneva
It's The Same Ball!
In response to Simon, the World Cup ball is the same as the Champions League ball just with a different pattern! Same structure and material.
And there's been loads of thunderb*stards actually. Cahill and Jones come to mind straight away.
I agree marketing a new ball every year is ridiculous but it has had no effect on this World Cup. I hate FIFA as much as the next guy but they realised their error from 2010 on the ball and rectified it.
I sound like an twunt in this email but there you go.
Dave P, MUFC
Stop The Crying
Whatever happened to the granite-jawed man's man staring his inner conflict down without emotion. Ever since Gazza blubbed (because he was bonkers, not because he wasn't afraid to reveal his emotions) it's de-rigeur on the pitch whenever anything goes b***ocks up. Sorry, but those wretched Brazilians howling to the moon after that game was as pathetic as their display on the pitch - as if getting a tear-on gave them an excuse. Now Neymar's getting in on the act and I want to throw up.
I want my football idols to be tough nuts in and out. Stop crying, man up and honey, put the kettle on.
Man Wants Horse
I had a dream last night that I was out with friends (I didn't actually know these people but in the dream we were BFFs) at a pub and I saw Neymar with Holly Valance getting all comfy in a corner so I walked over to ask for a selfie and it turns out we were in a hot air balloon.
Neymar started going mad and throwing Holly's drink at me for daring to ask for a selfie at which point Holly turned into Maradona and slapped Neymar right in his chops.
I woke up then.
My girlfriend dumped me last night too. Could these be connected?
Ryan (Free, single and looking for a horse to get on)