Fiorentina defeat sparks Wenger-AC Milan rumours

AC Milan failed to score for a third consecutive game, as Fiorentina grabbed all three points at the San Siro, courtesy of a long-range strike by Chiesa. As if Gattuso wasn’t already under immense pressure, the defeat has fueled Wenger rumours.

As Lazio won their game against Cagliari last night, the Rossoneri were forced to get at least a draw in order to keep their spot in the top four. Beforehand, the stats were certainly in Milan’s favour as Fiorentina hadn’t won a single game away from home this season, while they had lost their previous three games at the San Siro.

However, in spite of this, Gattuso’s men dropped three important points, in a game which should’ve been handled better. The Rossoneri had great control defensively, though they failed to create a decent amount of chances up front. The best chance fell at the feet of Calhanoglu, whose effort was cleared off the line by Milenkovic.

Out of nowhere, after Gattuso had switched to a 4-4-2 formation, with Calabria as one of the central midfielders, Chiesa tried his luck from distance. The youngster’s effort turned out to be the guests’ first and only shot on target of the game, and unfortunately for Milan, it ended up in the back of the net.

In other words, in a defensive aspect, you could argue that Milan got unlucky. However, looking at the big picture, the Rossoneri deserved a draw at most. Fiorentina did well to shut down Milan’s only real threats, mainly Suso and Higuain, and Gattuso’s men simply failed to respond.

As a result of dropping more points, rumours have now surfaced regarding the future of Gattuso. According to TuttoMercatoWeb, should the former midfielder get sacked, then it’s very likely that Milan will bring in Wenger as the replacement. In fact, as added by Italian source Panorama, the Rossoneri’s CEO Ivan Gazidis contacted Wenger already after the Europa League exit, asking about his availability.

The next two games (Frosinone and SPAL) will be crucial for the future of Gattuso. On paper, Milan should have no issues with these teams, although with the crisis that they are in, you simply can’t tell at this point. It’s clear that we will need to see a reaction from the players, not just for the sake of keeping Gattuso safe, but also to prove their own worth as they’ve seemingly hit rock-bottom in terms of confidence.

Two wins to end the year could turn out to be very crucial ahead of the break, also because the teams above and below are starting to pick up points consistently, as wasn’t the case in the previous rounds. Many opportunities have been wasted as of late, but it’s not over yet, as hopefully will be shown by the players on Wednesday evening.

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Emery keen to banish the last vestiges of Wenger’s regime

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After what appeared to be years of moaning, Arsenal’s long-suffering support finally got their wish.

After 22 years of innovation, change and bringing the Gunners kicking and screaming into the modern era, Arsene Wenger was gone.

What, in the end, was a blind belief in a certain way of working, had become stale as a new, younger and more dynamic breed of coach eased their way into the Premier League. Continue reading

Coquelin’s rise in the Arsenal side vindicates Arsene Wenger’s youth philosophy

Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin has shone upon his introduction to the first-team this season, and it’s come as a great surprise for the supporters, while also vindicating manager Arsene Wenger’s philosophy as a coach.

With a growing treatment table of midfielders, as well as Mathieu Flamini & Mikel Arteta being out of contract in the summer, many felt the Londoners were going to shop for a commanding player to help nullify the threat of the opposition in the shape of Sami Khedira (Real Madrid) or Blaise Matuidi (Paris Saint-Germain), but instead the answer to their problem was right under their nose.

Francis Coquelin, 23, was on loan with Championship side Charlton Athletic this season, but was recalled by Wenger to come into the side during the injury crisis. He’s since made seven Premier League appearances, averaging a tackle or interception every 11 minutes.

Talks about a new contract are said to be in the offing following the Frenchman’s rise in the first-team, and his manager has been full of praise, saying: “I saw that he made huge improvements in training, and since I have played him, he is doing well. He is a very young player. You look just at what happens on the pitch. Win the ball and make a good pass, in his position that is important. We have offered him a new deal.”

The Arsenal boss also said Coquelin would likely be the answer to the club’s alleged need for a holding midfielder, and Wenger’s ethos has to be praised as a result. Signing a Khedira or Matuidi standard of player would set the club back more than £20M in today’s market, so having Coquelin – who has been at Arsenal since he was 17 – is a perfect option for them.

Wenger has been criticised for his faith in the youngsters, but he’s currently been vindicated for trusting his signings, rather than needing to spend high amounts on European talent. There was a question if Coquelin would be ready to be thrown straight in the deep end, given he was playing for Charlton earlier this campaign, but if your philosophy revolves around youth players, eventually the time has to come to give them a chance – something Wenger will always do.

The French midfielder could now become a mainstay as Arteta & Flamini’s successor, which has effectively cost Arsenal next to nothing.

Wenger displays new-found tactics

Arsenal earned an impressive 2-0 away to Manchester City this weekend, which saw the Gunners having just 35% possession. Arsene Wenger’s men had a gameplan from the start to nullify the threat of City’s creative players, and it was very successful with David Silva and Sergio Aguero enduring quiet afternoons.

It’s not often that the Londoners allow so much possession to any opposition, with Arsenal normally synonymous with playing a high defensive line – and their players pressing in the opponent’s half – but this time the backline sat deep, and the midfield followed.

Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina was hardly called into action during the 90 minutes, and the centre-backs were barely breaking a sweat due to how organised the Gunners were. Manager Arsene Wenger was full of praise for his side’s discipline, and believed they controlled the game to keep City at bay.

“Our defence has been questioned a lot (this season). The target was to put it right, and to win a big game away in the league. (We showed) great unity, solidarity, togetherness and compactness in our team. We had the consistent discipline for 90 minutes that’s needed in big games, and we looked in control away from home. Finally (we‘ve) got a big win in a big game away from home,” he said.

The most pertinent question Wenger was asked in his post-match interview was why it had taken him so long to adopt this obvious tactic in the big games. The 65-year-old was cautious with his answer, insisting he’s played defensive in the past, but this really was a new-look to Arsenal that hadn’t been seen in years.

Arsenal have been on the end of thrashings in recent years against the elite clubs in the Premier League, with Wenger naming offensive-minded teams to try and match their opponents. It simply hasn’t worked time and again, but their new approach did the job perfectly.

Parking the bus and staying in the game means any half chance that went their way could be pivotal, and they were awarded a first-half penalty that Santi Cazorla scored from to give the Gunners the lead.

The last time Arsenal won in the league at the Etihad Stadium was 2010, and now many will be paying attention to see how often Wenger looks to play defensive again. Supporters had been crying out for the Londoners’ boss to finally adopt a ‘park the bus’ method, as humiliating losses had become too hard to take.

Wenger back in fashion?

With Arsenal just two points adrift from a top-four place in the Premier League after 16 games played, were the supporters too quick to request the sacking of manager Arsene Wenger?

The long-serving Gunners boss has been under pressure in his position, after the London side ensured a slow start to the campaign. But a recent 4-1 victory against surprise package Newcastle saw them back on track to finish in a Champions League spot.

A lot had previously been made about Arsenal’s lack of wins against sides in the top-half of the table, but wins against Southampton and Newcastle have silenced their critics of late, and they are welcoming back a host of key players to boost their chances of achieving their objectives too.

Mathieu Debuchy and Olivier Giroud have recovered from their lengthy injuries and have already influenced results upon their return. Laurent Koscielny is expected to be back in action in the New Year, which means Arsenal will be even stronger at a crucial point in the campaign.

Supporters were perhaps guilty of getting ahead of themselves this season without paying attention to Arsenal’s injury list and games to play that could see them climb up the table. The Londoners still have plenty of work to do, but victory in their next game could well see them in a top-four place as they will have hoped at the start of the campaign.

It’s easy to forget that Arsene Wenger is still without the likes of Mesut Ozil (knee), Theo Walcott (groin), Mikel Arteta (calf) and Jack Wilshere (ankle) from the first-team, pivotal players from the previous season.

Arsenal are also into the Champions League last-16, and have been given a favourable draw against French Ligue 1 side AS Monaco, so things are looking up for the Gunners. They have a break from European fixtures, which will mean players are given adequate rest in between fixtures, so injuries shouldn’t be as much of a problem for the next two months either.

Recent form has been impressive, with three wins from four Premier League games to gain ground on the sides around them. It hasn’t been the best campaign, but it’s far from their worst considering how many other teams have also been dropping points.

Currently sixth, two points off fourth, favourable draw in the Champions League last-16, while facing Hull City in the Fa Cup third round, Arsenal have a lot to play for this season. Were supporters too quick to jump on Wenger’s back?

Is new Walcott deal a sign of new Wenger approach?

With Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger publicly revealing the club are in contract talks with Theo Walcott, despite the long-serving player’s having another 18 months to run on his deal, why wasn’t the Gunners boss so eager to renew the deals of his former stars – most notably, Robin Van Persie, Thomas Vermaelen and Bacary Sagna?

The Gunners boss has previously let the contracts of many important players run down to the last 12 months, which caused friction between both parties leading to an exit, as the players in question were coveted by big clubs offering long-term deals by comparison. Arsenal’s stalling of contract talks made up a lot of players’ minds in the past.

Wenger was forced to cash in on Robin Van Persie at the start of the 2012/13 season, as the Dutchman’s deal was up the following summer. Even last campaign, Thomas Vermaelen and Bacary Sagna both refused to sign new deals with the club and left to Barcelona (£10M) and Manchester City (free) respectively, as their contracts were up at the end of the campaign.

So when will the Arsenal manager learn to do his deals early? By letting contracts run down, Wenger risks losing more and more players in the same fashion as he has done in the past. It was certainly strange that the Londoners have been so keep to pin down Theo Walcott’s future too, considering the England international has only just returned after an 11-month injury layout.

Walcott has never uttered any displeasure with the club, and in fact was recently full of raise for Arsenal for all the hard work from the club’s medical staff that has gone into making his return to action this year. The 25-year-old has been with the Londoners for eight years after signing from Southampton. In the Premier League, the only clubs arguably better for a career move than Arsenal would be Manchester City and Chelsea, and neither side are interested in his services, so is there any risk he’d leave?

There’s little chance of Walcott moving abroad either, and not just due to his recent recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament injury. The Arsenal forward has only recently become a father, so he would be very reticent to move his family away.

Are the supporters in their right to be angry at the club for inconsistency regarding contract talks for players?