Captain Ashley Williams left out of Wales squad

Wales captain Ashley Williams has been left out for the squad for the crunch Euro 2020 qualifier against Azerbaijan next month.

Whatever you do, don’t read this hungover fan fiction

Hello everyone. It’s Sunday and I stayed up too late drinking too much Woodford Reserve Rye and playing tunes.

Sometimes I like to fool websites by saying ‘Yes, I will take your survey’ when prompted but then I leave the pop-up window open for days. I like the imagine it’s sitting there thinking ‘Any second now they’re going to give me the answers I crave’ but I never do.

Did you see that Arsenal legend Denis Suarez has signed for Celta Vigo? He says, “My goal is to do my best to help Celta Vigo grow and to get the club back to where it belongs, which is Europe.”

It’s already in Europe mate. And even if it wasn’t, if it was in central America or Australasia or Micronesia, you’re not strong enough to pick up an entire football club and move it to Europe. You couldn’t even kick a ball for Arsenal, and now you’re talking about lifting a stadium? You’re not Thor. I’d say the whole Marvel universe would be a lot less inspiring if Denis Suarez was Thor.

Did I ever tell you that there was a guy in my school called Thor? Seriously. He was well ahead of his time. There are too many Johns and Mikes and Daves in the world. We need more chaps called Thor and Beowulf and Steve Dallas.

Alex Iwobi scored the winner for Nigeria last night against Cameroon in the African Cup of Nations. That means his participation in the tournament continues. Have a look at the goal. Arriving deep from a central position. Arsenal in need of an Aaron Ramsey replacement is it? I suspect we’ll see a lot more of this next season. I like Iwobi, but he is also the ‘cost effective’ Ramsey replacement.

Speaking of the Welsh Jesus, is anyone else going to watch Juventus more closely this season? I know I am. Not because I particularly have any interest in them. I do have an Italian friend who works for them in their security team but he’s actually a Livorno fan so I reckon if it came down to it he’d let the team get massacred. That’s taking things to an extreme though and I don’t want to do that. What I mean to say is that I hope Ramsey clatters Cristiano Ronaldo at some point. Like, absolutely decks him like he did with Robin van Persie in the Arsenal dressing room some years ago. But this time, on the pitch.

It’s the 93rd minute of Juventus at home against bottom of the table Sassuolo. Ramsey has scored a hat-trick of overhead back-heelers, while Dybala and Higuain have also scored a couple each. The visitors are down to 9 men and Juve have a 17 point gap over second placed AC Milan after just three games of the season (the Ivan Gazidis effect). Ronaldo drives into the box, the defender looks at him, and he falls over like he’s been shot with high-powered rifle. VAR is consulted. PENALTY!

Ronaldo grabs the ball. Puts it on the spot. Backs up a couple of steps. The sweat is glistening on his not at all botoxed brow. The keeper couldn’t give less of a shit if he tried. He actually tries by not moving at all. Ronaldo spanks it into the bottom corner and wheels away in triumph. His neck muscles are twitching like Harry Redknapp’s face. He takes off his shirt and throws it in the air, then flexes like he’s just scored the goal that has won the World Cup of the Universe of All Football Ever of All Time.

He strikes a pose which says ‘LOOK UPON MY NIPPLES YE MIGHTY AND DESPAIR!’, and as much as the general public try not to gaze at his teats, the LED lights he’s had installed in them just attract their eyes. There is no way of not staring at Ronaldo’s rock hard titties. People are vomiting uncontrollably. There’s no stopping it. His teammates go over to congratulate him because they are contractually obligated to do so. Failure will result in a fine, being dropped, and disapproving glances from the Portuguese in training.

One man remains unmoved, however. One man stands aside, unwilling to participate in such a grotesque display of obsequious worship. That man is Aaron Ramsey. Ronaldo, smothered in the embrace of 8 other Juventus players because Wojciech Szczesny has the excuse of being far away and anyway he’s smoking a Benson and Hedges in the goalmouth, looks around as if something in missing. He sees. He notices. He looks at Ramsey. Motions. Gestures.

His expression says, “GET OVER HERE AND BOW DOWN AT THE ALTAR OF RONALDO!”. He is slightly concerned. This shouldn’t be happening. This insubordination shall not stand. He’ll have words with the car makers about Ramsey. If he won’t show the correct amount of reverence then the former Arsenal man can go somewhere else. But then his facial expression softens as he sees a smile on Ramsey’s face as he moves towards the celebratory huddle.

Ronaldo shrugs off the others. This is it. This is the moment where the world knows they are all his minions. Supplicant to his lustrous, oleaginous torso. He holds his arms out, like Alex Song thinking that a trophy is being handed to him, expecting a warm embrace. Ramsey smiles, throws his arms wide as if he’s about to deliver the hug of all hugs, a smile on his face like ‘Oh you … you’re the best …’, and at the moment of contact pulls back and delivers an uppercut which takes Ronaldo off his feet and leaves him flat out unconscious on the pitch.

The crowd go wild! Ramsey is mobbed by everyone. Juventus and Sassuolo players alike. Arsenal realise their folly and bring him back immediately as player manager and we go on to win the Premier League three times in a row as the Welsh Roy of the Rovers fulfills his destiny.

The End.

Have a great Sunday!

Monday waffle: New kits, midfield transfers and young players as revenue generators

Today is July 1st. Welcome to a brand new month. July is my favourite month with four letters. It goes – July, June. That’s the pecking order for me.

I’m excited because today is the day when we get to see our new Adidas kit. I wonder what it will look like. Nobody knows. In this day and age to keep something under wraps is difficult, but they’ve been watertight. In seriousness though, I am considering a purchase. A home shirt with Pires 7 on the back? An away shirt with Senderos 6? Who knows. I will make my decision at the point of checkout.

Today is also the day when Aaron Ramsey is no longer officially an Arsenal player. His contract expired on June 30th and although we all know already he’s joined Juventus, I thought it was worth mentioning. Not because I want to bring up the fact that we’ve let a fantastic player leave for free, but because he’s one of my favourites and I want to start my week with a bit of suffering.

I also wonder what we’ll do to replace him. Because we do need to replace him. At the moment, the centre of our midfield looks a bit lightweight. We have Granit Xhaka, Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira. The latter two have been on international duty all summer. Guendouzi with the French U21s, and Torreira the Copa America. Uruguay got knocked out over the weekend, so he’ll now go and have some time off. After a long season in which he played a lot more than he was used to, he’s got some serious recharging of the batteries to do.

I am aware that we also have Mohamed Elneny, but given the fact he played just 379 minutes of Premier League football last season, you can make the assumption he’s not a player that’s particularly highly regarded by Unai Emery. So the gap which already needs to be filled because of Ramsey’s departure is widened by the fact the head coach just doesn’t rate one of the players we have, so there’s work to do in that department.

Over the course of the summer we’ve been linked with various kinds of wingers, and a few defenders, but very few central midfield players. Will that change now that it’s July 1st and because we’re about to launch our new kit we have an actual shirt to display the ALL the new players in? Let’s see. I note that one of our reported January targets, Christopher Nkunku, is about to sign for RB Leipzig, so that’s him off the table. Nevertheless, I’m sure our tip-top recruitment team have somebody much better and much more cost efficient lined up, so don’t worry.

So, to summarise – all we need to do in the next few weeks is bolster our defence so that we don’t concede as many goals as we did last season; decide on a back-up keeper to understudy Bernd Leno; strengthen the midfield considerably; and add exciting attacking wide forwards to provide service for our two strikers. Oh, and get rid of some of the players we don’t want even though nobody really wants them because they’re not that great or they’re being paid massive amounts of money which make transfers to other clubs prohibitive.

They say that ideally new players should arrive in time to have a good pre-season to settle in, get to know their new club and teammates – perhaps also a new country and a new language. Pre-season is almost upon us. We’ll be off on tour next week, so the clock is ticking.

Just a mention of Aaron Wan-Bissaka who, over the weekend, joined Manchester United in a deal worth around £50m. He only made his debut for Crystal Palace in February 2018, so in a very short space of time he’s become one of the most expensive defenders in Premier League transfer history. The relevance of this to Arsenal? Well, we’ve seen some young players leave us in recent years for fees which really don’t look that great when you consider the market.

I realise there were other factors at play, but selling Serge Gnabry – named Bayern Munich’s player of the season – for just €6m rankles. Stories over the weekend suggest that The Jeff, who we sold to Angers last summer for just £1.5m with a 10% sell-on clause, is attracting bids of around €20m for his services. As we’re about to enter into a period where it appears that quite a number of our young players are going to be given playing time, perhaps we’ll also see an improvement in the deals we do when players move on.

Wan-Bissaka’s value very obviously increased with playing time and the fact he took his chance when given the opportunity in Palace’s first team. As much as we’d like to think otherwise, some of the young players we hand chances to next season won’t quite make the grade, but appearances, exposure and raising their profile beyond that of promising U23 prospect should increase their price as and when we look to sell them. Perhaps it’s a bit disheartening to think of them as assets, but that’s the reality.

For a club which proudly trumpets its belief in a self-sustaining model, this is the very essence of that. Produce young players, develop them for your first team, and if they’re not up to that level then you sell them. It’s not new or any way incisive to say we have to get better at doing outward deals, but as part of what looks like it’s going to be an incremental rebuilding process, the opportunity to give young players first team chances next season could also have financial benefits.

Right, that’s that for this morning. James and I will be recording an Arsecast Extra this morning. As always, if you have questions or topics for discussion, send to @gunnerblog and @arseblog on Twitter with the hashtag #arsecastextra – or if you’re on Arseblog Member on Patreon, leave your question in the #arsecast-extra-questions channel on our Discord server.

That’ll be available around lunchtime. Until then, cheers.

Released player list scratches old wounds and gives some summer insight

Morning all, a very quick Saturday round-up for you.

Yesterday the club revealed its released players list, and while there’s nobody on there who is surprising, we can read a bit into some absences. Petr Cech, Aaron Ramsey, Danny Welbeck and Stephan Lichtsteiner are the senior players on it. Two are veterans, one of whom is retiring, while the other two remain a salutary lesson about how not to manage contracts.

If we’d sold both last summer, I think we’d have brought in at least £50m, but we chose not to. It’s not something we can pin on Unai Emery, that’s not his job, he was brought in as Head Coach, and there were other people at the club who were responsible for allowing the contracts to run down and also letting them go into their final year without resolution.

If I’m being extremely kind, I’d say they took a gamble on Welbeck and Ramsey enjoying life under a new manager and being convinced during the course of the season to put pen to paper on new contracts. That despite the fact there was the Mesut Ozil evidence that putting yourself in that kind of position only ever really benefits the players because they have you over a barrel from a negotiating point of view.

Another mitigating factor might have been the fact they wanted some measure of continuity in Emery’s first season in charge, experienced players who knew the club and having made five signings they felt that having to replace another midfielder and a versatile forward was too much to contend with – even with the extra money they’d have generated via sales.

In truth though, I blame it all on Ivan Gazidis. He was CEO, this happened under his watch and when he should have been making big, difficult decisions, he was in cahoots with AC Milan. He told the board there was nothing to the stories, we then had something approaching a transfer saga – for a goddam waffle-chatting, nonsense-talking, spin doctor businessman – and nothing got done because his focus was not on Arsenal, it was on getting out of Arsenal.

If anyone wants to set his legacy in stone it’s the £350,000 a contract he pushed through for Ozil, the worst swap deal in footballing history when we brought in Mkhitaryan for Alexis Sanchez, the departure of our highest scoring central midfield player of all time to the Italian champions FOR FREE, and an experienced England international going for nothing in a market where Dominic Solanke fetched £19m for Liverpool in a season where he made no Premier League appearances for them, scoring a whopping no goals. He continued that goal scoring consistency at Bournemouth, adding a further zero goals to his tally.

If I ran into Ivan Gazidis in the local market, I’d be sorely tempted to buy a large fish and give him a sound thrashing with it, running him out of town like you would a scraggly vagabond who has been stealing clothes off people’s washing lines.

Anyway, I have sidetracked myself. Back to the released players, and there were some young ones too. Julio Pleguezuelo has signed for FC Twente, while Charlie Gilmour and Cohen Bramall are now free agents. Good luck to them as they look for new clubs.

What else can we glean from this list though? Well, one name not on it is Nacho Monreal, which probably tells us that the story from earlier in the season about taking up the option for another year on his contract is correct. It was due to expire this summer, and although there was never an official announcement about the extension, his absence from the list of players at the end of their contracts tells us he’ll be with us next season.

Or, of course, we could sell him. Maybe that’s the influence of Raul Sanllehi who is fed up of Gazidis letting players leaving for free, and regardless of the market value of a 33 year old left back we’ll take whatever we can get for him because every penny counts. My suspicion though – and it is only that – is that our plan for the summer is to buy a new left back, keep Monreal as back-up and an experienced head from which a young player might learn, and see what we can get for Sead Kolasinac.

We signed him for free, therefore any transfer fee = profit, which could help finance the purchase of someone like Kieran Tierney from Celtic – a player who has been on our radar for some time now. We then have another year to source a Monreal replacement. As an aside, I did enjoy the snippet in El Mundo Deportivo about how Barcelona, in their search for a left-back, got good reports about Kolasinac, but not good enough for them to make a bid. It’s almost as if the club that had no compunction in signing Alex Hleb and Alex Song have learned a lesson or something. What a shame.

Also, as we ponder what to do about right back until Hector is fit – AMN to continue? Splurge on Meunier from PSG? – let’s not overlook the fact that Carl Jenkinson still has one year left. He is the last man standing from that British Core that was so trumpeted a few years ago. It was a good idea at the time, you could see the logic in it, but although there was plenty of talent and potential, injury and inconsistency were what ultimately defined that little project. Either way, I welcome the Corporal starting our first game of next season and keeping Raheem Sterling in his pocket at the Etihad.

If you haven’t had a chance to listen already, there’s an excellent discussion on the Arsecast this week about Emery, the summer, the rebuild and lots more. All the links you need to subscribe and listen are below. Have a good one.


Gunners confirm Welbeck departure

Arsenal have confirmed the departure of England forward Danny Welbeck, who leaves the club at the end of his current contract along with goalkeeper Petr Cech and defender Stephan Lichtsteiner.

Giggs urges referees to take players off the field if Wales suffer racist abuse

Ryan Giggs says referees must be prepared to take teams off the field should Wales players suffer racial abuse during their Euro 2020 qualifiers with Croatia and Hungary.