William Saliba: From Loanee to Creating First Team Rivalry (008)

With Hector Bellerin set to depart from the club this summer, has Mikel Arteta finally realised the young talent we possess to replace him and potentially take the number 2 shirt? If the rumours are true, the France U21s captain has already agreed a new deal to extend his contract after positive talks before the US tour. Saliba has been sent on three separate loan spells to develop his skill set and Mikel Arteta is now adamant that Saliba is part of his first team plans for the upcoming 2022/23 season. Many Arsenal fans, myself included,  are relieved for the new Gabriel/Saliba/White rivalry, as it seems the days of Mustafi/Sokratis/Holding are long gone.

Following a phenomenal season for French side Olympique Marseille which saw him being named as Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year, and being awarded a position in the Team of the Year, it is an exciting time to see yet more young talent come up through the ranks. He played a total of 55 matches for the French side and managed to assist in keeping 20 clean sheets. It is clear that Saliba’s strengths well outweigh his weaknesses; what he lacks in his leap and aerial duels he makes up for with his versatility at being able to play RCB and LCB, his incredible passing accuracy, and his recovery speed which enables the team to play high-line on and off the ball without hesitations defensively.He finally made his second debut, and played fantastically, in the friendly against Everton, and if his performance in that game is anything to go off, he will be providing a much-needed rivalry with Gabriel and White for the CB position. His performance against Orlando City in a sloppy 3-1 victory was outstanding; following 35 minutes on the pitch, he had a 100% pass accuracy and won 100% of duels.

Saliba’s passion for Arsenal is clear, as he said in a recent interview: “When I was on loan I watched every single [Arsenal] game because when I was there some players weren’t. I watched the games to see how they played, so when I was back it would be easier to play with those I hadn’t met before.” and “It’s important that the fans are behind you, and I like it very much. I can’t wait to give back to them.” It is undeniable that he wanted to make his mark on the first team and is now finally being given a well deserved chance. This is reinforced by his rejection of the interest in several clubs, especially OM, who were expected to put in a decent offer to buy him following his success on loan, especially with the team having qualified for Champions League football in the upcoming season. The fact that Arsenal were his boyhood club also adds a deeper level to his passion and commitment to the club, something we have seen more of in the last season with Ramsdale’s celebrations, the success of our Hale End Graduates, and most recently the signing of Zinchenko from Manchester City, who grew up supporting Arsenal.

I think it’s safe to say that Arteta has proven the Twitter trolls wrong with this one, as he received a lot of backlash for sending Saliba out on so many loans, but he has clearly got it right as the player has matured well beyond his 21 years and will hopefully have a seamless transition into the Premier League and our first team. Saliba has developed into a calm, natural leader on the pitch and it is exciting to see what the future holds for him at Arsenal.

Written by: Abby Goodson @_abbygoodson

Martin Odegaard: The Rightful Heir To The Arsenal Captaincy? (007)

The Arsenal captaincy has come as something of a curse to those who it has been dispensed to over the past decade. Gone are the days of Tony Adams and Patrick Vieira, the archetypal heart on your sleeve, vocal leaders barking orders to their teammates to see them through the game, in fact, since Cesc Fabregas it is hard to say an Arsenal captain has even held onto the role long enough whilst playing regularly to ‘lead by example’.

Tony Adams reigned supreme as Arsenal’s captain for 14 years, the sort of commitment the role has lacked ever since…
(Ben Radford /Allsport/ Getty Images)

It is hard to forget the unsavoury endings that our best and most recent captains have had with the club: whether it be the aforementioned Fabregas moving to Barcelona in a display of petulance with his World Cup winning Spanish teammates, or, more recently, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s move to Barcelona after being frozen out by Mikel Arteta, or worst of all Robin van Persie’s sweet talking on the phone with Sir Alex Ferguson landing him a move to Manchester United, winning the club their most recent Premier League title back in 2013 and performing emphatically, punishing Arsenal in the process.

Robin van Persie shattered Arsenal hearts with his move to Manchester United, disrespecting the captaincy in the process. Image: 2012 Manchester United FC

Even without transfer drama or disrespect to the club, Arsenal have had an array of captains quite literally unfit for purpose. From 2012 to 2018, club captains Thomas Vermaelen, Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker played a total of 4,032 Premier League minutes, for comparison Chelsea captain John Terry played 9,913 Premier League minutes in the same period! In fact, despite often deputising as captain and having a great reputation amongst Arsenal fans, in his only full season as official Arsenal skipper, Laurent Koscielny racked up just 1,330 Premier League minutes, however the Frenchman’s name won’t just be mentioned for a lack of game time…

As well as fitness issues and transfer heartbreaks, who can forget the other endings to the Arsenal captaincy in the Emirates era? We’ll start with William Gallas shall we: the man signed from Chelsea and sold to Tottenham, what could go wrong there? Gallas was captain for the entirety of the 2007/08 season, however tensions started to bubble beneath the surface after a collapse at Birmingham City, where he stropped, sulked and eventually sat on the pitch long after the final whistle whilst the rest of his teammates walked off. This event snowballed and after remaining club captain into next season, Gallas gave an interview which proved to be the final nail in the coffin, where he publicly questioned his teammates ability and mentality, giving Arsène Wenger no choice but to strip the Frenchman of the captaincy, leave him out of squad for the next game and fine him two weeks wages. Simple!

Another Frenchman who deserves a small mention here is none other than Laurent Koscielny, a man who played through physical pain plenty of times in the latter stages of his career for the club and received adoration for it. Koscielny swapped Arsenal for Bordeaux after almost a decade and over 250 appearances at the club, no animosity – oh wait he’s taken his Arsenal shirt off and thrown it on to the floor in his announcement on Bordeaux’s official Twitter account… moving on.

William Gallas experienced an eventful time as Arsenal captain, and his emotional nature often made the role seem unserious. Image: PA

Lastly comes Granit Xhaka’s time as Arsenal captain, which was a short and complicated one. I felt and still feel for Xhaka in many ways, but to put it simply, Xhaka was made the main captain in manager Unai Emery’s infamous ‘leadership group’, which was actually made up of five players, although it was always unclear what exactly was going on here. Regardless, Xhaka seemed and still does in many ways seem like a natural fit for a club captain – a strong speaker who is captain of his nation, rarely injured and never afraid to defend his teammates. However, after criticism from Arsenal fans throughout his whole stay at the club to this point, some which crossed the line to abuse, an uninspired Emirates began running out of patience, cheering as Xhaka was substituted against Crystal Palace whilst drawing the game, bringing the Swiss to boiling point, culminating in him gesturing at fans to boo louder and telling them to “F*ck off”. Under pressure boss Emery took an almost immediate decision to strip the captaincy from Xhaka and instead give it to Aubameyang, who only ever received the armband as he was far and away our best player despite never really being suited to the role.

Granit Xhaka reached a point of no return as Arsenal captain after the events which unfolded against Crystal Palace…
Image: DAZN via Le Grove

Alas, here we are today, and since Aubameyang’s departure, Kieran Tierney, Granit Xhaka and former striker Alexandre Lacazette have all shared the armband but now it is time for something more permanent, a moment I have dreaded in recent history – often the beginning of the end for a player at Arsenal.

As we have come to expect during Arteta’s tenure as Arsenal manager, the process of who will be next captain will be decided diligently, and this culture of captains who aren’t fit for the role should be coming to an end soon, in line with the rest of the cultural reset Arteta wants to instil at London Colney.

Rather than pretend that there are no rumours or leaks on who may be awarded the captaincy next, in my opinion the candidates in the current squad are Tierney, Xhaka, Martin Ødegaard and Gabriel Magalhães. Recent reports linking Ukrainian Oleksandr Zinchenko to Arsenal raise my eyebrow, as he seems to be a leader in every sense of the word, although I’d be doubtful that a player would walk straight in and become captain – regardless, like all the other players listed above, armband or not they will provide leadership.

Kieran Tierney has long been a fan favourite to be next captain and is no stranger to wearing the armband, although his inconsistent fitness provides a stumbling block to making this a reality.
Image: @iF2is on Twitter

Looking at those names, it is easy to make a case for all of them, but one name stands out to me completely. There are pros and cons for all, and there are certainly cons with this choice, but I believe the next Arsenal captain will be Martin Ødegaard – and I think this is the right choice.

The initial reaction I read amongst fans when Ødegaard was linked with the captaincy was one of disappointment, a belief that he is a little too much of a luxury player for the role and could struggle when the chips are down – a sentiment I share to a degree. I think what is important though is breaking down exactly what is required from a captain, and for me it would be these qualities:

  • Experience: Either as a captain or in football generally – no situation should fluster them.
  • Communication: This goes without saying – your teammates must understand your commands and be able to access you, so for me your goalkeeper should never be your captain.
  • Availability: As discussed earlier, availability is the best ability especially as a captain, as this creates a bond between you and your teammates, providing clarity and consistency in your leadership while avoiding confusion.
  • Footballing IQ: A captain should be able to lead a press, tell his teammates where to be late in a game, tell his defence to push up a yard – the small details make a big difference.
  • Squad role: A captain doesn’t have to be your best player by any means, but having an important role in the squad helps to ensure consistency – much like availability does.
  • Relishing the responsibility: Captains are required to do far more behind the scenes than fans ever appreciate, countless meetings, being a link between the players and manager or simply listening to your teammates’ issues.

Despite having rough parameters for what I’d like to see, there really is no right or wrong way to captain in the modern game, at least not just put into the cliched ‘vocal leader’ or the ‘leader by example’ boxes. So much more goes on behind the scenes as a captain, even down to the respect a player has in the dressing room. France’s World Cup winning team of 2018 is a great example of this: Hugo Lloris captained the side, yet the man with the powerful speeches gearing his squad up for battle was Paul Pogba, but this did not detract from what Lloris brought to the role. Players aren’t just looking up to one figure in their dressing room anymore – different characters bring different characteristics.

Ødegaard might not be the archetypal leader, but he is certainly the best fit in the squad. The Norwegian was named captain of his country at just 22 years old, and has captained the team in his 18 appearances since then – a squad composed of players of all ages and levels of experience. Norwegian boss Ståle Solbakken praised Ødegaard’s maturity when appointing him captain: “There was a feeling I had after conversations with players. We think Martin has lived a long life already in European football,” Solbakken said, with Ødegaard relishing the opportunity, who responded: “It comes with an extra responsibility both on and off the field. I’m ready to take that.”

With all of this praise from within the game, we must also note the feeling from the fans, and from the outside looking in, Martin Ødegaard appears to be a huge voice in the dressing room and a massive influence on the pitch – such is his role in the team. From my seat at the Emirates last season I watched Ødegaard orchestrate the game with the ball at his feet as much as I did when he was out of possession: constantly scanning, organising his teammates and leading the press. He is capable of changing a game on his own, providing a moment of magic to change a lacklustre performance into a strong one, and to inspire his teammates to improve their performances. This X factor that the Norwegian possesses is something that cannot be taught, and indicates Ødegaard having a strong mind on young shoulders. He pictures the game two steps ahead of the rest, anticipating well and reacting sharply, and above all he really does seem to care, a quality you would expect from any player, but as Arsenal fans will know, does not always transpire from everybody.

Martin Ødegaard has proved a reliable choice for captaincy and has earned the faith of Mikel Arteta, he continues to captain the side in pre-season.
Image: Football London

I certainly have reservations about awarding the captaincy to Ødegaard, concerns that mainly regard mentality and consistency. As joyful a player as Ødegaard is, Arsenal’s #8 has the tendency to drift into a different world when the occasion or atmosphere gets too much. Much like his flair-laden Emirates forefather in Mesut Özil, he is unstoppable in the right flow, but if that flow is interrupted for whatever reason, the result can be catastrophic. Once the mental side of Ødegaard has begun to wobble, the technical side is quick to follow, eliminating his ability to change a game with the ball at his feet, or organise his teammates pressing. A few big examples of this came last season away at Crystal Palace, Tottenham and Newcastle, where the nine points dropped ultimately cost Arteta’s side Champions League football.

Ødegaard was outfought and outthought in Arsenal’s all or nothing game at St. James’ Park in May.
Image: Modular Phone Forum

This leaves me wondering: is that the difference between a good captain and a great captain? Is that enough reason alone for Ødegaard not to receive the armband?

However, the more pertinent questions are: who would be a better fit? Does the armband even matter that much anyway? Could giving Ødegaard the extra responsibility and importance dissolve these concentration issues altogether?

Ultimately all other players mentioned prior to be put forward for the captaincy have glaring issues themselves, from Tierney’s unreliable fitness, to Xhaka’s reluctance to take the armband back full time after previous misdemeanours, or Gabriel’s lack of fluent communication with the team… Or indeed that after summer reinforcements are made, all three of these players may find themselves far more heavily rotated than before.

As for the captains importance in the modern game and more specifically at Arsenal, whilst I think it is important you have some kind of chain of command at a football club, and it clearly is a decision that needs to be carefully considered to provide the required stability, in this Arsenal side, I’m more confident than ever that the official captain will be entering the pitch with ten more around him. The lack of egos and the feeling of every single player and member of staff pulling in the same direction at the club has real significance, and the environment Mikel Arteta and his team have nurtured allows for fans to feel comfort over decisions like this and in moments of adversity. Arsenal last season found a rhythm, and developed into a team who are not only capable of producing great football (albeit still with a way to go), but will not be pushed over or bullied. This type of mentality from top to bottom at the club will prove far more important than the negligible differences between the candidates for captaincy.

Arteta’s team has a bond that has been lacking at Arsenal for many years, this puts far less pressure on the captain acting as a single ‘saviour’…
Image: GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images

With that being said, one decision will have to be made, and you did not read this for me to sit on the fence. I must preface my closing choice with the wildcard that is Granit Xhaka, simply because I feel he should have never had his captaincy stripped in the first place. Whilst I understand Emery’s decision under pressure, as well as Xhaka’s disciplinary issues at times, he is accustomed to the role and acts as a model professional, although I accept avoiding an official return to captaincy for Xhaka is the smart decision. My choice, despite his major flaw, remains Martin Ødegaard, as one thing that is certain is that he ticks all the positive boxes, is vitally always in the starting XI, and therefore acts as an anchor for the rest of the players to work around. He is used to the responsibility of being a captain and is very clearly one of Mikel Arteta’s most trusted players. With an atmosphere and unity so strong at the club, the decision becomes more a case of who ‘makes the most sense’, and the answer is Martin Ødegaard, who I’m excited to see blossom into the role if he is trusted with the responsibility.

Written by: Joe @JoeWritesftbl

The Florida Cup Series: Pre-Season In The USA (006)

Pre-season 2022 is about to really get underway in America. After a promising start in a 5-3 win vs FC Nürnberg, which saw a brace from our latest signing Gabriel Jesus, and an absolute worldie from Elneny, we can hope to see more of the same in the US, where the boys are travelling to today. 

We will be competing in the FC Series, a national expansion of the Florida Cup. First with a friendly against Everton, where our boys can hope to put in a dominant performance against the Toffees who narrowly avoided relegation last season. Then, the FC games against Orlando City and Chelsea. This will be a good opportunity to see how our new signings merge with the squad and to get a first glimpse at Arteta’s possible starting XI for the first game of the 22/23 campaign. It will also be interesting to see what Arteta’s plans are for leadership, with current rumours suggesting Ødegaard will become Arsenal’s next captain with Tierney and Ramsdale also taking part of the leadership team. 

Personally, I’m excited to see Tierney and Tomiyasu back on the pitch after injuries which left them out of the squad for large parts of last season, two players vital to our plans if we are to succeed next season. It will also be interesting to see Jesus’ creative play as we’re finally gifted with an established number 9 again! It will be interesting to see how partnerships form between  him and Nketiah, Martinelli, Saka and Smith-Rowe. If his performances are anywhere close to the one against FC Nürnberg, we’re due to have a very exciting season ahead of us. We can expect lots of goals and a growing partnership with Nketiah, who I think really stepped up when he was called on at the end of last season. Another one to keep an eye on is Matt Turner in goal after a less than desirable debut; it will be interesting to see how he responds to a disappointing start to pre-season with Arteta supposedly bringing him in to play in Europa League games next season to help with squad balance in a packed out first half of next season. And of course, it goes without mentioning our other two exciting signings, Marquinhos and Fábio Vieira who will be eager to play and show what they can offer on the pitch as they start their Arsenal playing careers. 

I’m also interested to see who amongst the academy players will be given minutes to push on for first team football next season, with Okonkwo, Walters, Patino, Oulad M’Hand, and Balogun all getting minutes in the Nürnberg game. Pre-season is the perfect opportunity to see our young talents be given some game time with the senior squad in order for them to develop their game. Hopefully this season we will see Patino and Balogun get a break through into the senior squad after Balogun’s successful loan to Middlesbrough and Patino having a handful of memorable cameos at the end of last season. Overall, this pre-season looks to be an enjoyable one with much talent coming from the academy and new signings. 

Written by: Abby Goodson @_abbygoodson

If Not Raphinha, Then Who? (005)

It wouldn’t be a transfer window without our beloved club giving us some textbook drama. Year
after year, Arsenal seemingly chase players who never had any intention to come to North London.
Back in the day, it was Benzema, Higuain, and M’Vila in more recent years it’s been Draxler (shudders), Aouar, Vlahovic and now Raphinha.

As of writing this article, Raphinha is all but certain to join Barcelona. It’s said that the Brazilian’s Dad is good friends with Ronaldinho and has always dreamed of seeing his son at the Camp Nou. So much so, that Raphinha is willing to reject advances from any other side, regardless of wage packet, to secure this move. Alas, this scenario has left us winger-less, but not hopeless. The window is still young and there are around two months left of time for Edu to pull off a “madness.” Let’s have a look at who we could get as a wide forward instead.
Here are three alternatives for Raphinha.

#3 Pedro Neto

Pedro Neto has 3 caps for Portugal

The forgotten wonderkid?

Last season, Pedro Neto only made 13 appearances for Wolves after spending the first half of the campaign out with a severe knee injury. In essence, he’s lost a season of development but at just 22 years of age, Neto is still one of the brightest prospects on the market. But he is just that, just a prospect, a talented one, but still just a prospect. To date, his best goalscoring campaign is just 6 goals, a tally that would hardly move the needle for an Arsenal side chasing Champions League football.   

Having just signed a death row contract, Pedro Neto would cost upwards of £55m, making him another potential sizeable investment for Stan Kroenke. If the Gunners were willing to spend £65m on Raphinha, would they be willing to do the same for Neto? We’ll soon find out.

#2 Moussa Diaby

Diaby averaged 1.9 key passes and 1.8 dribbles per game last season

Perhaps the most expensive option on this list, Moussa Diaby has announced himself to the world in recent seasons. Last season, the Frenchman finished the league campaign with 13 goals and 12 assists in 32 games, averaging a goal contribution every 111 minutes.

How would he fit in at Arsenal? Well, it’s clear Mikel Arteta has added versatility as a criterion for recruitment this summer. He’s looking for players that can be competent across a number of positions & roles. 

On the face of it, Diaby is a pacey winger with buckets of raw potential but he’s more than that. He’s well suited to either flank and consistently loves to carry the ball up the pitch and run at defenders but in other scenarios, he likes to get in behind full-backs. It’s this variety to his game that would make him a valuable asset to Arteta’s Arsenal. 

It’s rumoured that the 22-year-old would cost no less than £60million. 

#1 Serge Gnabry

Serge Gnabry has won 12 trophies with Bayern Munich

Unfinished business? I think so. 

They say destiny waits for no man and I truly believe now is the time for Serge Gnabry to come back home. With one year left on his contract and the player feeling unloved in Munich, where better to go than home? 

When he left North London in 2016, most people, including Arsene Wenger himself, knew we were losing a gem. Several sparkling cameos showed us all that he had the potential to excel under the bright lights. 

Since leaving Arsenal, the German has produced 10 goals or more every season. Throughout his time at Bayern, the 27-year-old has directly contributed to 104 goals in 171 appearances. Not only has his output been world-class, but his improvements in technical security, creativity and decision-making have made him the complete package. 

Unlike the other two candidates, Gnabry is the finished article that wouldn’t need much refining. However, the minimal assimilation time would come at a cost, as the Gunners would have to break their wage structure for the homecoming of a century. 

He left as a kid and would return as one of the best wingers in world football. Your move, Arsenal. 

Written by: Arsenal Presser @APresserV2

Arteta Out? A Look Into Fan Culture at Arsenal FC (004)

After an undeniably tumultuous season, this transfer window looks to be the biggest in Arteta’s time as manager at Arsenal. While some fans argue he should have been fired months or even years ago, what appears to be the majority of Gooners now believe that Arteta is the right man for the job after an unbelievable change in the club atmosphere and fan culture this season.

After a century of games in charge, Arteta can boast a higher success rate than the legend Arsène Wenger, having won 54 games in comparison to Wenger’s 51. This was accomplished with a squad that wasn’t of Arteta’s own choosing and most of which have now moved on from the club, with Arteta proving himself with his major rebuild focused around Hale End graduates and younger players, such as Smith Rowe, Martinelli, and of course our Starboy Bukayo Saka. For the first time in a long time, it felt as if we really had a team to be proud of. The signings of Aaron Ramsdale and Martin Ødegaard added to this ‘Teamgeist’, and you cannot deny that Ramsdale’s celebrations have been a highlight this season. 

Even in the 2021/22 season Arteta proved himself after we looked set for 8th place (if we were being optimistic), having started the season with three straight defeats. Despite the odds we managed to claw our way to 5th place without a real striker after the Aubazette era came to an end with both players unfortunately losing their form this season. His decision making skills with the integration of Martinelli and Nketiah into the first team squad are, in my opinion, a big reason for this, with both of them proving vital, especially Nketiah at the end of the season. These were controversial decisions when Arteta first implemented them, but his faith in his young squad inevitably paid off with the progress made this season.

As well as his controversial decisions of playing a very youthful team, Arteta has faced a lot of backlash for his prioritising of clearing deadwood instead of making new signings. This brings me up to the present day, with Arsenal being uncharacteristically active this early on in the transfer window. I for one am excited to see how this window plays out, with the signings of Marquinhos and Vieira already announced, Jesus’ announcement now supposedly imminent and the prospect of seeing Tielemans and Raphinha in our starting XI next season, it really feels as if us Gooners have something to look forward to. It feels as if we will avoid the familiar scrabble for players we don’t really want at the end of the window to fill gaps that should’ve really been filled much earlier.

However, I’m not blindly Arteta In. This season will be huge with us being favourites to win the Europa League and really needing a return to finishing in the top 4. If this doesn’t happen I struggle to see how Arteta’s future at Arsenal will be guaranteed after he seems to have been entirely backed this transfer window. Having said all this, I truly believe this season will be a good one for us Gooners with so much new talent to look forward to and the best club atmosphere in a long time now Arteta and his team finally have the support of us fans.

Written by: Abby Goodson (@_abbygoodson)

What Makes The Perfect Central Midfielder? (003)

Last season Arsenal narrowly missed out on Champions League football after finishing 5th with 69 points. They were beaten by Tottenham Hotspur (otherwise known as Harry Min Son FC) who piped the final Champions League spot finishing ahead of us with two more points. 

The demise of Arsenals final few games were all too familiar with the 2018/19 campaign which was also concluded with the same outcome. With Arsenal finishing 5th and Tottenham finishing in 4th with, yes that’s right, 71 points.

However unlike Unai Emery’s Arsenal who missed out on Champions League football by a measley 1 point. Arteta’s men suffered an embarrassing end to the season with defeats to Tottenham and Newcastle which settled the seasons long lasting 4th spot debate. 

With a variant of explanations for how Arsenal managed to “bottle it”, many argue that it was the absence of the highly influential Thomas Partey which proved too much for the gunners to continue producing positive performances and in turn positive results. 

Since losing him to injury against Crystal Palace on April 4th, Arsenal went on to lose 5 out of their final 10 games including the Palace fixture. Upon further analyses on the 5 defeats, there were clearly massive holes in the middle of the pitch which was identified and exploited by Brighton, Southampton and Newcastle, with the Spurs fixture being decided by questionable officiating. 

Since signing for the club, Partey has suffered a number of injuries which has hindered the teams performances on the pitch. Particularly his midfield partner Granit Xhaka, who despite striking up a positive partnership, couldn’t replicate the level of performances that put him in the good books of most Arsenals fans. With the absence of Partey and his reassuring presence, Xhaka instead received 10 yellow cards, 4 of which were given in the last 10 games of the season.

Filling in the gaps with the premature Sambi Lokonga didn’t help the situation either as Xhaka found himself trying to execute both his and Partey’s role at the same time. With Sambi often finding himself either overwhelmed by the occasion or simply not experienced enough to make the right in-game decisions, this inadequacy in midfield cost Arsenal 3 crucial games against Crystal Palace, Brighton and Southampton which should have secured Champions League football. 

However, this lack of experience in midfield was soon to be fixed with the re-introduction of the invisible man, also known as Mohamed Elneny. He surprisingly turned up with some influential performances, giving Arsenal  3 memorable victories against Chelsea, Man Utd and West Ham. However, this good run of form was bound to end as it did against Tottenham in the North London Derby where exhaustion had caught up with the Egyptian.

Overall, the injuries coupled with a lack of adequate cover in central midfield has created a demand for another starting central midfielder to play alongside either Partey or Xhaka. If we’ve learnt one thing from the “failures” of last season it’s finding out what makes the perfect central midfielder. It only cost us Champions League football after all. 

With a host of highly influential players being linked to Arsenal, it will be pivotal for Arteta and Edu to recruit the right individual. This individual will need to be versatile enough to play alongside both Partey and Xhaka. The new central midfielder clearly needs to be of the right age as consistency will be key if we are to replicate positive performances throughout the course of the season. The player needs to be able to read the game well, knowing when to press and when to sure up the defence. The range of passing as well rate of accuracy needs to be a strong characteristic. But most importantly, this individual needs to have a strong presence in midfield, making the opposition aware of who they are up against. And this will inevitably lead to the execution of other important aspects to a central midfielders game such as linking up well with creative midfielders and attackers, making powerful advancing runs into the final third, exploiting empty spaces across the centre of the pitch and more. 

Should Arsenal get THIS appointment right, we should have no problem finishing in the top 4, right?

AFC Monty Signs For The Arsenal Therapy Podcast (002)

AFC Monty signs for The Arsenal Therapy Podcast on a long term deal, making him the first and only signing for the renowned podcast group. He will join Farhan and James as they continue to add depth and quality to the starting lineup.  

Despite missing out on the upper echelon of European Football, The Arsenal Therapy Podcast were determined to add an additional voice to help make sense of all the madness in the upcoming season. Thursday nights will inevitably add to the growing frustrations around the red half of North London so it will therefore be beneficial to have a third voice for the much needed therapy. 

After making the eagerly awaited announcing on Twitter “The Arsenal Therapy Podcast are looking for a BRAND NEW Co-Host to join @gunnersince96 & @JamesPayneAFC on the weekly show” on Sunday 22nd May, it took the team only ten days before landing on the versatile AFC Monty.

On signing for The Arsenal Therapy Podcast, AFC Monty made the following statement “Super excited to join like minded Gooners, happy for the opportunity to speak about Arsenal. I’m a realistic but positive Gooner. Hopefully my opinions can spark a debate and my insight can answer any doubts”.

He arrives with an array of experience having followed the club for 20+ years. Whilst attending a number of high profile games at The Emirates Stadium he picked up the nickname “The Lucky Charm” as he is yet to witness the Gunners suffer a league defeat. His semi-photographic memory (can’t remember words on pages) will also prove to be a valuable asset as the team looks to strengthen in the analysis department. He also has a number of contacts in the football industry, making him a valuable asset during the transfer windows. 

The Arsenal Therapy Podcast was first launched by Farhan in 2020 to help ease the growing mental strain of following Arsenal during the 2020/21 season. He was soon joined by James who brought a fresh positive perspective and helped to add a layer of comfort during a turbulent time. This soon blossomed into a harmonious partnership as they grew the brand and invited many esteemed guests like Elliot Yankee Gunner, Chris Wheatley, Simon Collings, Moh Haider, Arsenal Presser, Tom Canton, Harry Symeou and others.

Despite it being off-season, the team will continue recording weekly to give their thoughts and opinions about all the activities at London Colney. AFC Monty will make his debut in the next episode which will be available to listen to on all major podcasting platforms including Apple Podcast and Spotify via Anchor. 

On behalf of all The Arsenal Therapy Podcast listeners, welcome aboard Monty!

The Arsenal Therapy Podcast – An Introduction 001


Welcome to The Arsenal Therapy Podcast, a dedicated show about a club I love, Arsenal Football Club. This is an introduction where I explain why I am starting this podcast and what I hope to achieve in recording these episodes. 

You can follow me on Twitter & Instagram