Giles Grimandi exit underlines Arsenal overhaul

The exit of Arsene Wenger and the subsequent hiring of Unai Emery as his successor was widely recognised the symbolic changing of the guard desperately needed at Arsenal. In truth, though, the overhaul had started at the Emirates Stadium long before then.

Indeed, much has changed around Arsenal over the past 18 months or so. The club has implemented a new structure, with Sven Mislintat the most high profile appointment made in preparation for Wenger’s departure. The former Borussia Dortmund chief now has more power than anyone else at the Gunners, but influence is spread across a whole team of figures.

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Now, it emerges that Giles Grimandi is set to leave Arsenal. The former defender was a key figure in the Wenger camp, overseeing the club’s scouting operation in France, where the Gunners sourced many of their best players over the years. Grimandi played a significant role in the creation of the club Arsenal became under Wenger.

This is why his exit is so symbolic. Arsenal, in every way, are moving on from the Wenger era. They are implementing a new, more comprehensive infrastructure that will see them become the modern football club. A scouting overhaul will help them do that. They have already made progress when it comes to scouting Germany, where a number of new signings have been sourced over the past 18 months or so.

And yet while Arsenal are doing their best to move on from the Wenger era, they are rediscovering the identity that made them so successful under their former manager. Emery has brought back the brand of exhilarating, dynamic football that hasn’t been seen seen at the Emirates for years.

When it comes to scouting as well, Arsenal are seeking a return to the ways of old. In the mid 2000s, there was no club in the Premier League better at scouting talent. The Gunners managed to keep up with their rivals through shrewd moves in the transfer market. They rarely spent big, with the £12 million signing of Jose Antonio Reyes standing as the club’s transfer record for years.

Arsenal have already flexed their scouting muscle by finding Matteo Guendouzi, signed for around £7 million from Lorient. To keep up with the likes of Manchester City and Manchester United, they will need more like the French midfielder. The Gunners, it seems, will become increasingly dependent on their scouting system.

Great progress has been made at Arsenal over the last 18 months or so. Most will focus on the way Emery’s team are playing this season, exciting fans once again, and most importantly, winning. But the real marker of progress can be found in the off-the-field detail. Grimandi’s exit is just the next part of the process.

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Why Thierry Henry will fail at Monaco and could be gone by Christmas

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Thierry Henry has had a miserable start to life as coach of Monaco after no wins in his first six games in charge. It wasn’t supposed to be like this and the script was supposed to be written a little better for the French footballing legend, but that isn’t the case and it seems clear why Henry’s time at Monaco is already numbered.

Let’s be clear of course and first focus on why Henry is up against it. And that is easy to answer given the quality that has been sold from Monaco in the past few seasons. That is why the club were in the bottom three when Henry joined and former coach Leonardo Jardim was sacked, even though he won the title in 2017 and broke the PSG stranglehold on Ligue 1.

But the main reason Henry is in trouble is because he is a great player. In his playing days at Monaco, Juventus, Arsenal and Barcelona we remember a player that attacked and scored many fantastic goals. Especially at Arsenal and Barcelona he was encouraged to play beautiful free flowing, quick paced attacking football. And that is his downfall as a coach, because he wants the same from Monaco. With the squad gutted though this is impossible this season, what could have been possible two years ago where indeed Monaco were scoring for fun.

Henry needs to work on defence if Monaco are going to stay in Ligue 1 and if he is going to keep his job. Truth is though is that it isn’t in Henry’s DNA to concentrate fully on this department, after all he was a natural attacking player who was then turned into a deadly striker by Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.

It seems that Monaco’s nightmare under Henry will be set to continue because he will have the belief that this team can fight their way out of trouble- which simply isn’t true and they will more than likely continue to leak goals. They have conceded 8 goals in their last 2 games without reply, and both were at home.

Their next game is away against Caen in Ligue 1, a tricky side and a tough task. But then it doesn’t get any easier for Henry as his side will travel afterwards to Spain to play Atletico Madrid in the Champions League. With the likes of having to play Borussia Dortmund, Lyon and a derby in December against Nice, Monaco surely look doomed. It may not even be a case of Henry being sacked but of him simply leaving. Henry simply wasn’t ready for such a job that was laced in nostalgia. Recovery at this point would be the greatest achievement of Henry’s career.

In praise of Tottenham and England forward Harry Kane

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Harry Kane yet again is proving that he is one of the worlds top strikers this season and the Tottenham Hotspur and England forward deserves some praise.

Kane was released as a player at Tottenham once Gareth Bale was sold to Real Madrid and he quickly stepped up to the plate, produced performances and scored goals, many crucial.  Though some fans were still wondering if it could be true that when one great player in Bale was sold that another would emerge so soon. That’s why when Kane aged 22 netted 31 times in all competitions in 2015 some fans still thought he could be a one season wonder.

That attitude of course has since changed as Kane has scored an incredible 150 goals for Tottenham in just 229 games. Kane is already 5th in the clubs all time goal scorers and is just 116 shy of Jimmy Greaves who scored 266. The fact that Kane is averaging 35 goals a season in all competitions would mean that Greaves record which has stood for more than 50 years could be broken within the next four. In Europe he only needs one more goal to be the clubs all time leading scorer in Europe. In short no one expected it from a player that had been rejected by Arsenal and even Tottenham once upon a time but he has been phenomenal.

And yet even this season the critics have sharpened their knives because he went 3 games without scoring a goal. The demands on the modern footballer can be quite bewildering. But nothing to Kane’s credit seems to faze him and he has still scored 6 goals from 12 games in the Premier League, and is well on target to hit 20. And in all competitions he has netted 10 times from 16.

And it’s not just been for club where Kane has been on form. He won of course the golden boot for England at the World Cup this past summer scoring 6 goals. And at the weekend sent England to the semi finals of the UEFA Nations League with his winning goal with just five minutes remaining against Croatia.

Wayne Rooney said last week that he expects his goal scoring record for England to be beaten by Kane. Kane currently has scored 20 goals from 35 games and Rooney with the record scored 53 goals in 120 games. Indeed after 35 games Rooney had scored 14 goals six less than Kane, although Rooney was 21 and four years younger than Kane.

It just seems that Kane is one of the best forwards in the world and certainly the best England forward since Wayne Rooney. Personally there is nothing to question Kane on, however he still has zero trophies to his name, something that he will want to change soon.

Diego Simeone needs to leave Atletico Madrid

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If you look at this decade alone and name 5 brilliant managers surely one of them has to be Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone. The Argentinian has been in charge of Atletico since 2011 and has achieved some incredible results with the perennial underdogs.

In a league such as La Liga that contains the two best teams in world football in Barcelona and Real Madrid his achievements with the club cannot be underestimated. He has won 7 major trophies with Atletico which includes the title win of 2014 and the team have got to 2 Champions League finals- both lost to their eternal nemesis Real Madrid. But in Copa del Rey’s and the Super Cup they have also exacted their revenge. They have knocked Barcelona out of two Champions League campaigns and this season have already beaten Real Madrid 4-2, and let’s not forget their 2 Europa League titles.

Under Simeone Atletico are experiencing their greatest achievements and no matter what happens he will go down as a legend with the club. And he still has pulling power- that’s most of the reason that French World Cup winner Antoine Griezmann has stayed with the team, even when Barcelona have come calling and would easily spend £100m on the player. Simeone has made Atletico believe that they are invincible and for the most part his fantastic managerial tactics have been spot on. However after 7 years, which will be 8 years in 2019 in charge, is it time for Simeone to leave the club?

At just 48 Simeone does have time on his hands, at least another 20 years at the top but surely if he doesn’t leave Atletico soon he could become the forgotten man. He has won everything with the club apart from the Champions League, but he has nothing left to prove, and yet he still searches for more trophies. It is clear that he wants to add another Spanish title to Atletico’s history and of course make up for the two final losses in the Champions League. But he should be free to walk if he so chooses.

The time feels right for Simeone to branch out at pastures new. The Premier League has shown hints of wanting him to coach over there, how Manchester United perhaps could use his services right now. Arsenal were reported to be interested a few seasons ago but that has gone with Unai Emery in charge now. Over in Italy there is Inter Milan who have struggled since Jose Mourinho left the club in 2010.

If Simeone wants to be known as one of the greats, well you can’t do a Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger anymore. It makes sense to leave and prove your worth elsewhere. What is sure is that the lucky team that gets the pleasure of working with him, will surely benefit, and yes it could well be the saddest day in Atletico Madrid’s history when he finally does decide to leave, but leave at one point he must.

 

Unai Emery’s Arsenal are losing pace with the favourites in the Premier League

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There is no doubt that there has been such an uplifting feeling at Arsenal this season, in with the new and out with the old, has seen fans feeling super refreshed about their team. This campaign has already seen the Gunners claim a 10 game in a row batch of wins and the club have remained undefeated in any competition since August. Under new manager Unai Emery the good times seem to have returned to the Emirates, or have they?

After tearing up the league table and claiming a succession of away wins, something that Arsenal under Wenger really struggled for last season the club seem to have hit a wall. Slipping back down to 5th place and currently out of a Champions League position they have drawn their last their last 4 games in all competitions and their last three in the Premier League. The Gunners last win came against Leicester when they won the game 3-1 on October 22nd.

These recent draws have knocked the stuffing out of the team and they are 3 points behind Tottenham in 4th and a massive 8 points behind league leaders Manchester City. Whilst it is true that nobody was realistically expecting Arsenal to challenge for the league, the question should be why not? As we have seen from Maurizio Sarri- also his debut season in the Premier League and yet Chelsea are in 3rd place, just 4 points behind the current champions.

This isn’t to discredit Emery, who has done a fine job after a tough and shaky start that saw his tenure at Arsenal start with 2 losses. But that can be overlooked given that they had to play the last 2 champions of the league in Manchester City and Chelsea. Fans can point to their recent and decent 1-1 draw against Liverpool of proof that this side are getting better and playing better than Arsene Wenger’s team last season.

But of course football is all about moving forward and to do so and keep your job you have to do it rapidly. After 12 games this season it is interesting to see that Arsenal have 24 points. Last season under Wenger at the same amount of games they had won 22. So yes there is an improvement of sorts but for now it is so minimal.

The good news is that the team are playing a different kind of football and are playing with much more confidence, in the long run if Emery is given the time this is a great sign. For now though it might be better if some fans and press in the words of a certain Larry David, curbed their enthusiasm.

Shoots of hope for Everton at the top six

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When Everton travel to the top six in the Premier League, it’s usually a foregone conclusion. To say the Blues have an appalling record when taking on the league’s top sides would be an understatement. In their last 57 away games to the top six, they’ve managed three wins. They haven’t won one of these games since 2013. That was a 1-0 victory over David Moyes’ Manchester United.

In the five years since that glorious evening, they’ve faced the top six away 26 times and lost 17 of them. Last season was the worst they have competed in these games for some time with a 5-1 loss to Arsenal, 4-0 defeat to Manchester United and 4-0 demolition at the hands of Tottenham alone.

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Juan Mata would be a shrewd signing for Arsenal

The last time Arsenal lured a player away from Old Trafford, it resulted in a player of their own heading in the opposite direction. The signing of Henrikh Mkhitaryan in January was widely viewed to be a shrewd one for the Gunners, making the most of a bad situation. They were always going to lose Alexis Sanchez, with the Chilean’s contract up at the end of the season, and so this saw them at least get something for the want-away forward.

This time, Arsenal are looking to lure Juan Mata away from Manchester United, according to reports, and they won’t even have to send a player of their own in the opposite direction as part of a trade. Mata, just like Sanchez was at Arsenal last season, is out of contract at the end of the campaign, meaning he could soon be a free agent. The Spaniard will be able to talk to other clubs from January.

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Counter reports claim that United will offer Mata a contract extension to ward off any interested parties like Arsenal, but a move back to London could appeal to the former Chelsea playmaker. There are reasons to believe that the 30-year-old would wish to leave Man Utd for the Gunners.

Unai Emery is building something at the Emirates Stadium, with Arsenal rediscovering their identity over the early part of the season. Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho’s Man Utd reign appears to be crumbling around him. Mata hasn’t always found his best form under the conservative Mourinho and so Emery could get the best out of him as he enters the twilight of his career.

Arsenal are once again a team that places emphasis on technical ability and use of space, and that is something that would suit Mata. He would also find a place in Emery’s team on the right side of the attacking line, where the Gunners are currently lacking. Or he could be used in a more central role, where there could be a position to fill if Aaron Ramsey indeed leaves the club at the end of the season.

Mkhitaryan has struggled to rediscover his best form since making the move to Arsenal from Man Utd in January, with some fans even calling for the Armenian to be dropped from the team in recent weeks. There have been glimpses of his relationship with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, his former Borussia Dortmund teammate, but nothing sustained.

Some may argue that Arsenal should be looking to sign up and coming talent rather than ageing stars like Mata. The point could also be made that Emery needs speed on the right wing, not the tactile vision and passing of Mata. But it’s rare that such an accomplished player becomes available for free. Arsenal should take that opportunity if they are presented with it.

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Henry has what it takes to succeed at Monaco

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When former Barcelona star and Arsenal legend Thierry Henry was appointed as Leonardo Jardim’s successor at Monaco, hopes were high that Les Monégasques could kick on and get their awful start to the season firmly behind them. Last season’s Ligue 1 runners-up had looked listless and devoid of much in the way of effort, and so Jardim’s departure unfortunately seemed more a case of when, rather than if. Henry would then return to the club he left for Juventus in 1999 to take the reins as the new man in charge, with the hopes that the optimism could sharp be brought back to Stade Louis II and the side could start to climb back up the table. If a title tilt was beyond their grasp, at least they could have a good go at getting as much ground back as possible. Surely?

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If West Ham sign Samir Nasri will they be taking steps backwards?

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Samir Nasri looks set to join West Ham after his UEFA ban will stop at the end of the year. But is this a step in the right direction for the Hammers?

Nasri lit up the Premier League with stints at Arsenal and Manchester City but this was almost a decade ago and now he is 31. For sure the French international still has quality in him, and could play at a good level for at least the next three seasons. But quite clearly he hasn’t been at his best for a good 3 years and this led City to loan him out to La Liga side Sevilla.

The imminent signing for West Ham does make some sense but ultimately feels hollow at the same time. What does come to mind is that Nasri has worked with West Ham  manager Manuel Pellegrini before at City, and they enjoyed success together. It is obvious that Nasri has time for him and this means that West Ham will be getting a player that will fight for the club and play good football- the question is when will that honeymoon end?

West Ham have been in this situation countless times before, where they have signed really good players past their prime. These players have mostly given out a great debut month only to fade after the rigours of what the Premier League does to a player who is not 100% committed. The only real flair player that worked at the club was Paolo Di Canio and even though he left the Hammers as a club legend he still encountered some criticism and lack of form.

What West Ham need are younger players in the mould of a Nasri, not players that have seen their best days. Nasri is also asking for a reported £100,000 a week, but with his age together with him being out of football for almost a year he should be going in lighter than that.

With long term injuries to the likes of Andriy Yarmolenko and Jack Wilshire it seems that West Ham are going to take the risk on Nasri. And on the face of it it’s hard not to blame them and yet with a new stadium, cash injection on players and Manuel Pellegrini at the helm it does feel that this signing warrants a step backwards for a club who would have made the same choices back in the 1990s, where they diced with and did get relegated on several occasions.

 

Granit Xhaka mistake not reflective of midfielder’s season so far

Arguably, it was the worst result of Unai Emery’s short reign as Arsenal manager to date. The Gunners have made progress under their new coach, but until this weekend their results had followed the form book. They’d lost to Manchester City and Chelsea, drawing with Liverpool, whilst beating the likes of Everton, Leicester City and Fulham. This changed on Sunday, though.

The 1-1 draw against Wolves was a poor result. Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have exceeded expectations this season following their promotion from the Championship, but nonetheless, as a team with top four aspirations Arsenal must have expected to have brushed them aside, particularly at the Emirates Stadium.

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As things turned out, the Gunners were lucky to even get one point, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan scoring late on to salvage things. Emery’s side were left chasing the game by a mistake from Granit Xhaka, whose decision to dummy a ball allowed Ivan Cavaleiro to score the opener for the away side.

This certainly wasn’t the first time that the Swiss midfielder has been a target for the Arsenal support. Generally speaking, Xhaka has failed to live up to his billing since making the move to North London from Borussia Monchengladbach two and a half years ago, but he delivers something of a free pass this time.

“He has a big commitment with us and also character,” Emery explained after the match, defending Xhaka for his error. “His performance with his quality is good for us. We need everybody. For me and for the team, we need more consistency. I think the most important thing is to build with confidence and creating little by little with very big work. I think we are doing it and Xhaka is doing this also.”

Emery is right to stand up for his player given his performances so far this season. Xhaka finally looks comfortable in his surroundings, clear in his role in the Arsenal team. Alongside Lucas Torreira, the Swiss international has given the Gunners a solid midfield partnership. He is crucial in the way Arsenal have come to play under Emery, driving the ball forward into the final third where the likes of Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang take over.

Xhaka is just one of the players at the Emirates Stadium who looks to have been rejuvenated by Emery this season and one mistake, albeit a costly one, shouldn’t mask the progress that he has made. Arsenal finally have a structure and a system, and Xhaka is thriving in that environment.

Lessons must be learned from Arsenal’s home draw against Wolves, but they must recognise how far they have come in the space of just a few months. Xhaka mustn’t be too hard on himself because he has shown more than enough this season to vindicate his place in the side. Cut out the mistakes and he’ll be fine.

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