The end is nigh. Nine Premier League games remaining. What are we after?

March 19, 2014

I cast my mind back to the final stretch last season, and we were in a battle for Top Four. For the sake of this discussion, I’d like to put aside the hunt for Trophies, and delve deeper into what there is to look forward to.

Following the loss to Spurs a year ago, momentous events followed. Principally, was the cementing of the partnership between Mertesacker and Koscielny. This was in tandem with a new found restraint from our Full Backs who proceeded to show more discipline.

What was laid in those final nine games, were the foundations of a new defensive stability that continued to serve us so well into this seasons’ campaign.

Apart from the sunny Spring time fixtures, the meeting up with chums and the inevitable excitement that any game of football brings, I wonder what little gems lie in wait.

Injuries present opportunities, and the largest recipient this season has been The Ox. He has benefited from injuries to both Aaron as well as Theo. Might the remaining fixtures see him finding a definitive starting position for next season? Talking of definitive positions, we have the Jack issue.

Looking across the midfield, I still wonder who is the No 10 of choice. I understand there is a fluidity in this area, but with all the injuries to key players, I certainly don’t know how my First XI would line up. I have a feeling we will begin to see the real Mesut emerge as the midfield pivot around which all that is good orbits.

I can also see Gnabry getting more playing time, and have a gut feeling he is one of those players that will rise to the top very quickly. Remember the Aaron of last season, and we see how certain players can suddenly blossom.

Like the pairing of Kos and Mert, it can be an unforeseen partnership that emerges, and this can happen in small couplings anywhere on the pitch, which is why I see a possibility of this between Mesut and Serge.

Now, how about some dark horses. Kellstrom and Diaby, who peaches informs us is at altitude not skiing. With Aaron returning, how will the midfield set up?

With some mouthwatering encounters around the corner, there remains much fun to be had. Who knows where we end up, but I reckon, as with last season, there are surprises in store outside of the results themselves.

Prior to the Spurs game and the wonderful blast of a goal from Mr T. Rosicky, I would have liked to see a couple of long rangers, but another one or two wouldn’t hurt. Oh, and is there any chance a genuinely quality free kick specialist might emerge in the mould of Noddy Talbot? That would be long overdue and a real bonus.

The one thing I’d like to see more than anything over the remaining fixtures would be a new found venom from the true fans towards the early leavers. A mass mocking, naming and shaming, a Faceoff Campaign, anything. Some suggestions on how to deal with this, my biggest beef, and a real solution would leave my season ending on an even higher note.

Written by MickyDidIt


Surgery, Victory, Injury, Jittery

January 17, 2014
 

 Last Friday:

  Walcott turns down a quick fix

The news came that Theo had opted for the most risk free treatment for his ACL injury. It is also the treatment that will keep him on the sidelines for the longest time.

Theo will undergo a patella tendon graft which is thought to offer the best long-term guarantees after a gruelling period of rehabilitation. Using a synthetic tendon could have got him back in time for the World Cup but there is a risk of the body rejecting it. Likewise with using a tendon from a dead body. He could have chosen to use a sliver of his own hamstring but as his game is based on speed his hamstrings are vital.

Arsene Wenger said;

“Theo is handling it as well as you can when you have had such a shock because he is mentally strong, he’s very balanced as a person and he can put it into perspective. We know that he will have the dedication and serious attitude to come back as strong as ever”.

Diaby suffers new set-back

Arsene Wenger says he is unsure if Abou Diaby will play for Arsenal this season after he suffered a new setback in his rehabilitation.

Diaby, who has been dogged by injury trouble during his time in north London, has not played for the club since last March after damaging his cruciate knee ligaments.

The Frenchman was expected to return in the next few weeks, after having extensive rehab in Dubai, but Wenger says he is nowhere near ready to come back; ‘His recovery is going very slowly,’ said Wenger.

‘Will he play again this season? I don’t know. He is still on a long-term recovery programme.’

Diaby has told supporters at a recent charity event that he hopes to be back on the pitch shortly, but Arsenal are no longer giving a predicted return date for the midfielder.

 

 

Saturday:

A predictable win for the Chavs over Hull City saw us toppled from the top, temporarily we hope as a win against Villa on Monday would see us bounce back regardless of City’s result against the Magpies on Sunday.

More Morata speculation, the loan deal could be on again as Real Madrid, after initially ruling out any departures during January, may be willing to let him go “later in the month”.

A bit of late news, and by late I mean two days late, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain played the first half of an U21 match against Fulham on Thursday evening, he came off at half-time in a pre-planned substitution, it was the lad’s first action since getting injured on the opening day of the season against Aston Villa. Now it seems that he could be on the bench against the same opposition on Monday.

Oh! And I forgot to mention, Eisfeld scored the only goal in the win over Fulham.

Sunday:

Arsene Wenger compared Oxlade Chamberlain to Steven Gerard, speaking on www.arsenal.com le professeur said

“At the moment he is still in formation. It is good for his education as he plays left, right and centrally when needed. After [the age of] 23 or 24 you settle in a definite position”.

“He will be deeper as he has a good long ball, penetration from deep and a good quality to distribute and penetrate individually. Certainly he has the same qualities to Steven Gerrard.

Now I may not have Wenger’s insight but to compare the gracefull, pacy, youngster to that lumbering carthorse “Stevie G” is just a bit unkind.

Monday:

All the results are in, the calculations have been done and the outcome has been tabulated, Arsenal drop to third in the table but with the chance to bounce back by beating Villa later in the day.

Kieran Gibbs announced on his instagram page, whatever that is, that Theo had a “successful” operation on his knee and is recovering in hospital.

Team news, Monreal came in for Gibbs, Flamini, Wilshere, Cazorla, Ozil and Gnabry mixed it up in mid-field while Giroud mixed it with the Villa centre-backs.

Tuesday:

Wilshere drives Arsenal back to the summit

A goal by Wilshere followed by one for Giroud, from a Wilshere pass, just seventeen seconds after the restart, was enough to take us back to the top of the table despite a second half goal for Villa.

Injuries to Nacho Monreal, possibly a fractured metatarsal, and Tomas Rosicky, a broken nose, were not good news and both players could be out for a while.

Bacary Sagna, whose contract expires in the summer, is set to renew talks over an extension. Sagna’s preference is to stay at Arsenal and finish his career at the club but the best offer so far is two more years at about the same wage £70,000 per week. Sagna has never agitated for more money or for a move away but feels his loyalty and experience deserves some recognition. Come on Arsenal, give him three years and a raise, you know it makes sense!!

Two more players in negotiations are Tomas Rosicky and Per Mertesacker, can we afford to pay them more or can we afford to lose them?

From The Evening Standard:- Mertesacker made his 100th appearance for the club against Villa and has come to epitomise this galvanised Arsenal. He is the organiser-in-chief, the debt collector and, last night at least, every inch the captain of this team.

The Germany international provided composure amid the chaos. He knows the importance of maintaining Arsenal’s advantage at the top of the table and developing that ruthless efficiency required to win major honours.

Contract negotiations? Just get on with it Mr. Laws!!

Wednesday:

More recognition of the vital part Per Mertesacker is playing in Arsenal’s so far successful season came in an article in The Telegraph. Together with Laurent Koscielny the pair have brought a “perfect blend for solidity” Arsene Wenger has often in the past described Arsenal’s defending as naïve, yet no team have conceded fewer goals (19) or registered more clean sheets (nine) than Arsenal this season. The statistics behind the centre-back partnership of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny are even more compelling. Monday’s 2-1 win against

Aston Villa was their 28th completed game together and, in those, the club have registered 20 wins, eight draws and 16 clean sheets. Also very much to the point is the fact that we are unbeaten in those 28 games.

Mertesacker and Koscielny have formed a natural partnership. Koscielny’s speed and athleticism have often covered for Mertesacker’s lack of pace, although the German’s organisational skills have been perhaps the biggest single factor.

While they both remain fit and available our title challenge should stay very much on track.

Any chance of signing Schalke’s Julian Draxler were scuppered when it emerged that the 20 year old has damaged his ankle ligaments and will be out of action for up to three months.

Thursday:

Le Professeur revealed the latest fitness situation ahead of Saturday’s three o’clock kick-off against Fulham.

On Theo Walcott’s surgery…
It went very well. The damage was real in the knee so he will have to take the needed time, so let’s not be hopeful that he will go to the World Cup – that is not possible. But overall his long-term future is very positive. It’s about being fit for next season now.

on Monreal and Rosicky…
Monreal looks a doubt for Saturday, a big doubt, because he twisted his foot on the kick. It is not the bruise, he turned and twisted the ligament. Rosicky had surgery with a general anaesthetic for a broken nose in two places. With a mask he may be available, but we have to monitor it closely.

on Arteta (calf), Vermaelen (knee) and Ramsey (thigh)…
Ramsey and Arteta are both out for this game. Vermaelen too. I personally believe the three will miss the Coventry game as well and will be available after that.

on Bendtner (ankle)…

He has a little chance to make Coventry. But in all probability it will be after that.

Thanks to

www.arsenal.com for permission to reproduce the above.

Jack Wilshire is to appear alongside Lionel Messi in the 2014 advertising campaign for Pepsi.

Arsenal will red and white shirts with white shorts and socks, the ‘keeper will be in all green for Saturday’s match. The referee will be Lee Probert who drew this comment from Wenger after officiating in the same fixture in January 2012 when Johanne Djourou was sent of and Arsenal lost 2 – 1. “The referee influenced the game completely the wrong way in my opinion,”

That’s it for another week.

Norfolk Gooner.


Midfield squad ……. is it good enough?

March 26, 2013

Here is my outlook on the midfield hope you enjoy it .

Oompa loopmas

Abou Diaby. Average player does his shift some games other games he’s just unreliable and prone to giving the ball away.

Should he stay or should he go?

Tomáš Rosicky.  Great player but he seems to have lost his way since the injury set back, can be unplayable at times but this season we have not seem him at his best.

Will he sign a new deal or will he be wanted elsewhere? Let’s not forget he’s getting older and we have players like the Ox who can play on the wing.

Mikel Arteta (vice-captain). I like the man from Spain, he’s a grafter and a gifted player when he feels like it .

His form has been a little patchy this year but he does his best for the club.

Jack Wilshere. Wonder boy jack is one of the best English players in the England squad when he’s not injured and he does an amazing job in midfield for Arsenal.

We’ve got to keep him – for a lot of us on here, he’s the next to wear the captain’s armband.

Aaron Ramsey. Love him or hate him, I personally think he’s doing his best. Yes he’s a youngster, but he can spot a pass and he can score a few and he’s one for the future.

We must keep him .

Santi Cazorla. Excellent, fantastic footballer and one of the players of the season so far he works hard and he can cross dribble and shoot and he’s gives 100% every game – another player who like to score.

Francis Coquelin. Not seen much of him as he’s a bit part player and is often used as a sub. When he comes on he does very well and I’m sure some Spanish clubs will be after him in the future.

Andrei Arshavin. I liked the Russian with the basin haircut, he has lost his way or he can’t regain his place in the team I can see him leaving in the not too distance future .

He will always be remembered for his one man show at Liverpool a few seasons ago .

sheep pic

MIDFIELD PLAYERS ON LOAN !.

Emmanuel Frimpong. This pong would not be out on loan, I’d recall him, he gets some tackles in and he is not scared of any player and he’s built like Mike Tyson .

What AW will do with the pong we will have to wait and see.

I’ve friends who are Wolves fans, he went there on loan before he had an injury and the wolves fans loved him and chanted his name every game.

Ryo Miyaichi. What a waste of money simples, buy him then loan him out, will he ever play a first team game in the Premier League.

Denílson. He looks to be enjoying his loan spell back home and can’t see him returning now or in the future but again I liked him when AW played him and he used him a lot.

I have not included the Ox or Theo as they play up front more than midfield but those two are another who in time will be a fantastic acquirement for Arsenal in the future.

What’s your opinion on the state of our midfield?

Sheep Hagger ™.


One nil to the Arsenal ……

February 10, 2013

So another great game for the neutral but another nerve jangler for all of us. I had a thoroughly enjoyable day watching the live screening of the game at the home of football, but I have also decided that being an Arsenal fan likely takes some years off your life .

So what did we get from Arsenal in this game? Firstly the players seemed to be up for it from the start, and we didn’t have to suffer with waiting till the second half before we started playing. We started to create a number of clear cut chances, but as each one went begging you started to feel it was going to be one of those days. To be fair Mignolet was in superb form, and how often do we watch an opposition keeper put in an almost man of the match performance against us? What is it about us that seems to bring out the best in these keepers? Is it the way we attack? I am sure it doesn’t happen so often with the likes of Utd and the Chavs. That is a question maybe some of you out there can shed some light on.

We continued to press and were treated to some awfully inconsistent refereeing. There was a very strong shout for a straight red on Cattermole and I counted 2 maybe 3 Sunderland fouls in the passage of play that led up to Jenkinsons first yellow card. How we didn’t get a free kick before this I do not know. Anyway the faithful at the Ems were in no doubt how they felt about it. I think this was definitely a case of the ref being a homer.

Jack picked up where he left off for England and continued to pull the strings while Walcott continued to work the keeper without finding the break-through. Finally, on 36 minutes, the goal arrived that we had deserved. A now trademark surge of pace from Jack taking 3-4 Sunderland players out of the game resulted in a lay off to Walcott who declined the chance to shoot and cushioned it off for Santi whose powerfull low shot finally broke the deadlock. It is as well that he scored otherwise I would imagine there would have been many agitated fans questioning why Walcott didn’t shoot himself.

cazorla sunderland

Refreshingly after the goal we continued to try and attack and kept a high tempo to our game, which I prefer as I don’t think we do killing a game off well. We continued in this way into the second half, but we weren’t having it all our own way and Sunderland threatened at times. Fortunately Szczesny started to replicate the form of Mignolet from the first half. Jack picked up an injury on 50 minutes and went off to be replaced by Diaby. It didn’t look too serious and we can only all hope that is the case.

Then came the pivotal moment when the tricky Sessegnon took on Jenks whose sliding tackle was a fraction from getting the ball and only suceeded in taking Sessegnon down. You knew what was coming immediately with the way the ref had been, and he showed the second yellow without even taking a moment to consider. In the cold light of day if you look at Jenkinson’s 2 yellows then independently they are both justifiable yellows. The problem again comes with the consistency and had we had a deserved free kick earlier in the game it maybe wouldn’t have led to the passage of play that saw Jenkinson get his first yellow.

Rasp and I had discussed a point after the first yellow earlier in the game, and had both agreed that there was a strong possibility that he would collect a second yellow and get sent off. I think MON exploited this and likely told Sessegnon at half time to get at Jenkinson. Should AW have forseen this and replaced him earlier? His options were limited as I believe Kos, who was on the subs bench, had a problem before the game when warming up. It would have left the only realistic option of Moving Sagna out to FB and bringing on Miquel at CB. Should AW have used this option?

We still had about half an hour to go and you knew it would be back to the walls stuff. Fortunately, for once, we did this well and ground out the result with the help of some world class saves from the big Pole. Even at this point we still showed some attacking intent and had some great opportunities on the counter-attack to get the respite of the second goal that my nerves and chewed to pieces nails deserved. Rasp had his head in his hands at times while Peaches was a picture of stoicism. I still think she was partially mesmerised from seeing Bobby Pires but at least by this time she had stopped being all giggly. It was great to see Goonermichael as well and he looked a picture of being cool calm and collected.

Rasp and I continued to fret like nervous wrecks and there was end to end chances in a frantic finale. Walcott hit the post after a great through ball from Cazorla while both Giroud and Cazorla had chances they put just over the bar.

We saw it out and as they say 3 points is 3 points and I was able to relax and reflect at an enjoyable day in the club class section of the Ems with some of the AA gang.

On to the ratings.

Szczesny 8.5 joint MOTM

Showed us the world class keeper we would all like him to consistently be. Solid throughout with some excellent reflex saves.

Jenkinson 5.5

I don’t want to be too harsh as I like Jenks and he always gives his all but some inexperience showed through today. He hasn’t had much game time and you wonder if this is affecting him because when he was playing regularly earlier in the season you didn’t feel he would make the mistakes we saw today. He will still become a good player for us.

Sagna 8

Deputised well at CB and the old Mr reliable was more on show today.

Mertesacker 7.5

Didn’t do too much wrong all game and it was a solid performance.

Nacho 7.5

Solid and unfussy game from our newest signing today

Arteta 7.5

Nothing spectacular but kept us ticking and I can’t remember any mistakes from him.

Ramsey 7

Was having a solid game and could have had a couple of goals, but he seems to have an error in him, and we were lucky not to be punished when he needlessly surrendered possession in a dangerous area.

Wilshere 8

Those trademark runs driving at the opposition defence are a joy to see and get me on the edge of my seat. It was from one of these that the break-through came. Fingers crossed the injury is not so bad but Jack probably needs a game off anyway. I almost had him as joint MOTM again and some may feel that to be the case.

Cazorla 8.5 and joint MOTM

There wasn’t much to choose between him and Jack but the goal and that he continued to be the creative force once Wilshere was off just saw him pip it for me.

Giroud 7

Could have had a couple. He wasn’t too bad but it didn’t really come off for him today.

Walcott 7.5

Also could have had a couple and was unlucky when hitting the post. He always made the keeper work and his instinctive link up play with his team-mates is getting better and better.

Diaby (for Wilshere 50 mins) 6.5

Nothing great but nothing bad either.

Miquel (for Walcott 87 mins)

Not enough time to really form an opinion.

Written by GoonerB


Gunners to Ruin Graham’s Home Debut?

February 9, 2013

Time to move away from the Young Jack eulogising and onto some proper English PL football, and there are few grounds more suited to a return to earth than the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland is a fine town with a fine history. It has one of the lowest incomes per head in the UK and yet almost 40,000 people go to watch their home games (5k more than Spurs!) They love their team and their football.

Martin O’Neill has had problems getting the Black Cats to gel. Rarely have I seen a more frustrated figure on the sidelines because whatever one thinks of MoN, he is a passionate man and gives his all to his clubs. Many moons ago Gooners were calling for him to replace Mr Wenger – insanity runs deep amongst our fans.

Sadly, Sunderland fans are not getting to see much artistry on the pitch (apart from the opposition). They are struggling for goals and rely more on sweat than inspiration. The huge fee paid for Fletcher  and the signing of Danny Graham is an indication of their need for some fire power and gumption ,though I have long admired both Sessegnon and Larsson. It is always good to see an ex-Gunner who has been Wengered succeed and Larsson has had a fine career – shame he likes to score against us!

After a short injury-free period we have players queuing for the treatment table. Late fitness tests on much of the defence means Raddy’s line-up could be drastically affected. There is also a fear that Theo was limping after the Brazil game.

Runners & Riders:

sunderland v arse

Given the amount of time our Internationals were on the pitch midweek, we may well see some changes.

Diaby could start as his stature is important defensively, but who gets dropped? Dare we play without Pod and have a 4 man midfield with Santi taking the left side attacking berth?

It will be interesting to see how Monreal copes with Adam Johnson who is finally showing some form.

Todays explorer: Sir James Clark Ross (1800 – 1862). You may think it is cold outside, particularly if you are going to the game but today is almost tropical compared to the norm for Sir Ross; an Arctic and Antarctic explorer in the days of wooden ships. As a young man Ross went North with his Uncle, Sir William Parry to search for the fabled North-West Passage and here he fell in love with polar exploration. Upon promotion to Captain he took his ship, the Erebus, to the Antarctic which he surveyed extensively becoming, at that time, the furthest South man had travelled.

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I name this picture The Ross Icon

Sir James discovered Ross Bay,  James Ross Island, the Ross Sea, the Ross Ice Shelf, Victoria Island, Mount Erebus & Mt. Terror. He returned to England a hero, dying in Blackheath at the age of 61.

On paper we should win this game. Should the defence stay focussed and disciplined we will be fine, but they will not get the easy game they had vs Stoke. With Danny Graham playing his first game at the SoL, Sunderland will be looking for 3 points. But so will we….


Can Wenger teach tactics? Swansea preview.

January 16, 2013

What a strange season it has been and who can predict how it will end? Could we win the FA Cup? Why not, we have done it before and what is more, the last time was in Wales following a drawn game which must be a good portent.

We haven’t done very well against Swansea this season, have we? If ever there was proof of Rasp’s opinion that The Arsenal are not as good as the individual components of the team, those two games are it …. how many of the Swansea first team would get into AW’s starting eleven? Probably none, yet they outplay us because they have a better team ethic. Why should this be? Answers on a postcard to Emirates Stadium…..

That said, tonight is an opportunity to dampen the rising negativity with a handsome win. There are injuries (of course) but nothing too serious and we have our secret weapon back, you know the chap, that lanky fellow who looks like PV4, has some of his silky skills and vision but is as fragile as a €30 champagne glass (I didn’t mean to break it darling, it slipped out of my hand) and who tackles like blancmange. Diaby will start and will have a stormer.

The defence know about Michu, they know not to give him space. The midfield know they have to battle and work non-stop to compete with Swansea’s work ethic and the attack know movement and pace are the best way to unpick a quality Swansea defence.

We have all the weapons needed to win tonight but the over-riding and currently missing quality is teamwork. Victory Through Harmony, please.

Runners and Riders:

001a

Perhaps Ramsey will start ahead of the mighty Vassiriki Abou as he gave a very good cameo performance on Sunday, but AW loves the big man and will be desperate to give him pitch time. The only other question is whether AW will rest players ahead of the Chelsea game. Given that Dean is to referee at the Bridge, and that the FA Cup is our only realistic chance of silverware, I hope he plays his first choice 11.

The Laudrup as AW successor narrative will continue; here in Copenhagen the talk is of Laudrup returning to Real Madrid when Mourinho leaves at season’s end. I doubt this because he has yet to actually win anything as a manager. Laudrup has potential but you need more to take on the RM job. However, I can see him at Arsenal who require a  young manager committed to playing attacking football with a proper team ethic – much like Swansea.

A freezing day lends itself to warm weather explorers: William John Wills (1834-1861). Wills alongside Robert O’Hara Burke (1821-1861) became the first people to walk across Australia (South to North). The expedition took almost two years and was fraught with difficulties, they got lost, ran out of supplies  became ill, and on the return journey were saved by aborigines. Unfortunately (!), one of the expedition shot and injured an aborigine who then abandoned them. From that time their fate was sealed and both men died of  exhaustion and thiamin poisoning. Wills was just 27.

Such was the fame of the Burke & Wills expedition that both stamps and coins have been issued commemorating their adventure.

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The Full Set sported by Brave Men

We can and should win tonight. I will be looking for some tactical awareness from Mr Wenger’s team. This is an important match. A trip to the South Coast awaits.

Midweek night games in deep mid-winter are the best and I envy those lucky enough to attend. Shout us to Victory.

COYRRG

Big Raddy


Is Defence Our Best Form Of Attack

January 10, 2013

We have been a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde team over the last number of weeks, sometimes looking like the most prolific attacking team on the planet and at other times looking like we don’t have the foggiest idea how to open up the opposition.

To make matters more confusing the vast contrast in performances often happen when very similar teams have been fielded in two separate games, and have often included combinations of Arteta, Wilshere, Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud, and Walcott or the OX all in the same team. This is not an insignificant attacking line up especially when combined with our traditional overlapping full-backs. This combination of players should really give any top side in the world a headache in defence, but have at times even struggled to make mid to lower table teams look at all uncomfortable.

When you look at the above names on paper it is difficult to understand how they can, at times, offer very little attacking threat. To try and explain it to myself I have considered the contradictory possibility that maybe we are fielding too many attack minded players to make our attack effective. I would obviously like to open this up for debate, but before I do I will explain a bit more what I mean by this statement.

In recent discussions on AA regarding what types of players Arsenal need to bring in, one type of player frequently mentioned is a more powerful defensive midfielder. This is usually mentioned in reference to a need to solidify the defensive aspect of our team, and therefore make us harder to breach, and is a sentiment that I am in full agreement with. Could a more pure defensive midfielder, however, actually make us more effective in our attack as well?

Conventional thinking would state that the more defensive players you play the more defensive you will be, but I would suggest that there are times when too many natural attacking players in the one team can leave us imbalanced, and upsets our shape so that players that should be supporting the attack more are pulled into positions of defence too often. Conversely the right defensive midfield screen can provide a better platform and reduce the need for other players to have to drop back as often.

Our current first choice defensive midfielder seems to be Arteta who more often plays that role in the midfield three with Wilshere and Cazorla. I like Arteta and think he is an excellent and very important member of our squad and am not in any way suggesting he is replaced and pushed to one side. I think he is and should remain a regular and important first team player. He did however come from Everton not as a pure defensive midfielder, and he has obvious offensive qualities to his game also. In many games he plays the deeper defensive midfield role very well and certainly never lacks heart and effort, and is not afraid of getting stuck in.

I have questioned, however, whether in some games he gets slightly exposed because he is not really a specialist in this role. At these times he seems to require more help in protecting the back four and breaking up attacks, and my observation has been that this more often than not drags Wilshere deeper to help cover in these areas.

Some will disagree and see the deeper role as Wilshere’s role anyway, and I would agree that all players need to perform some defensive duties, but for me Wilshere has far too much ability on the ball to be kept too often in a deeper role. He is not the finished article yet but those bursts of pace and ability to surge past people should be utilised in attack as much as possible, and this is where I personally see his long term future.

I remember, as one example, in the Southampton game thinking that we needed to release Wilshere further forwards to support Cazorla and try and get some attacking intent back into our game. It was not Arteta’s fault, but I felt he was a bit under the cosh in that game and he was struggling to screen and protect the back four effectively on his own. If we had been playing a more specialist defensive midfielder out there, who could have more effectively covered the defensive midfield area on their own, would that have released Wilshere from having to help out so often in defence and, if he could have played higher up the pitch more often, would that have seen us start to take more attacking control of the game?

You could argue that it may not have worked out that way and how can anyone really know, and I would agree that no-one can say for certain. It is more an observation and opinion that potentially a more specialised midfield destroyer to break up the opposition attacks would have given the platform for our attacking players to get into more dangerous areas more often. Once we turn the momentum of a game in our favour sometimes it becomes difficult for a team such as Southampton to get a foothold back in it.

For me a top defensive midfielder should obviously be a good tackler with a good physical presence. He also needs to be able to distribute the ball well, but for me he doesn’t need to be a “Bergkampesue” defence splitting passer of the ball, but more a decent passer who can redistribute possession once we win the ball back. I have always felt, though, that maybe an even more important characteristic for a central defensive midfielder is pace. I feel it is possibly even more important than for the attacking central midfielder where good positioning, awareness, quick thinking and the ability to play a killer pass are potentially more important characteristics. The defensive midfielder obviously needs to break up play but also needs to try and intercept and cut out threats from the opposition. The ability to cover ground quickly with pace is for me an important feature to defending well in front of the back four, and it is the one thing that Arteta unfortunately is not blessed with.

Many players are mentioned as being suitable players to bring in and play the defensive midfield role but some of you will be aware that I have championed Vermaelen for the role. Some would argue that he is not a good enough passer of the ball, but again I would question how important that is. He is a more than adequate passer of the ball for me and would have no problem in effectively redistributing the ball when we have won back posession. The plus side of his extra physical presence, good biting tackles and pace over the ground would far outweigh anything else for me. He could be considered as a defensive midfielder or even as part of a back three where he plays as an advanced sweeper.

As a pure defensive screen Vermaelen could likely provide 1 ½ times the protection that Arteta can in games where it may be more necessary, and if it allows us to play the other two central midfielders to take up more advanced positions then we may actually end up with a more potent attack by playing a more defence minded player in that deeper role.

I am not actually suggesting that Arteta is permanently pushed aside in this role. Far from it, I believe there will always be games where we can play him with Wilshere and Cazorla, as we do in our current first choice midfield three. These three for me do seem to be somewhat overplayed currently anyway, and I feel need a bit more rotation. Arteta could even revert to his slightly more traditional, pre-Arsenal, more advanced midfield role at times if TV is played in the deeper role and Wilshere or Cazorla need a rest or are carrying a minor knock. It is all about having alternative options for me and all of these players would still get plenty of playing time but hopefully with the added bonus of avoiding burn out and possible injury.

So what do AA’ers think. Do we need a more specialist defensive midfielder at times and if so who would be your choice? Would the addition of this player only be to make us better defensively, or could it actually have the additional effect of making us better offensively as well by way of freeing up other players?

Written by GoonerB


All I Want For Christmas Is… Abou Diaby (with Batteries Included)

December 7, 2012

Just before the away game at Aston Villa we were told that Abou Diaby would be back in “three to four weeks.”

That game took place on November 24th, you may remember (and who could forget such a thrilling display of attacking football?).

So if we are to trust Arsene Wenger’s assessment of Diaby’s fitness, he is due back at the earliest around December 15th (just in time for Reading away).

For some reason (can’t quite put my finger on it) I am reluctant to assume that the lanky Frenchman will be mending his damaged bits in an accelerated fashion… so let’s forget that “earliest” return date.

In fact, let’s not even buy in to the later date – which would be around December 22nd (Wigan away).

Let’s assume instead that Abou appears all shiny and mended in our big Arsenal Christmas stocking. With all the batteries included so he’s in full working order.

At that point, provided he doesn’t injure himself on a walnut while extricating himself from the stocking, he might well be ready to resume his Arsenal career when we entertain the Hammers on Boxing Day.

I know what the cynics among you are thinking: “who still puts walnuts in Christmas stockings?”

Oh, and: “Diaby has as much chance of being back in three to four weeks as a three hundred pound fat bloke with a red suit and white beard has of fitting down my chimney.”

Well, that’s the joy of the festive season: magical things happen; wishes become real; and for a brief moment in time we all become children again.

The simple fact is that this Arsenal team, which has made such heavy going of a string of recent games, is in need of fresh impetus.

In the first half against Olympiacos on Tuesday night a returning Tomas Rosicky showed exactly what a talented player can bring to the team – especially one who has not been involved in the morale-sapping outings of recent weeks.

Diaby can have a similar effect if (please let it be a “when”) he returns to full fitness at the end of the year.

He can be a frustrating player at times, but he also showed earlier this season how effective he can be against even the strongest opponents. Imagine that man-of-the-match performance against Liverpool repeated in game after game during the rest of the season.

His injuries have made his Arsenal career more stop-start than the Central Line and it’s understandable that many supporters have given up hope of him ever becoming a regular fixture in the side.

The odds must be against him but maybe – just maybe – this time he will come back for real. Maybe all those months and months of treatment, all the surgeries and physiotherapy will finally rid him of the legacy of that ghastly Dan Smith tackle.

You can’t help but feel that the half of the season that runs from January to May is Abou’s last chance to show he can do it.

If his ailments keep him out for all or most of that period surely even Arsene Wenger will have to give up on him.

It would be a crying shame for a gifted player – and for Arsenal. We have already lost the best part of several seasons’ worth of his contributions in his seven and a half seasons with us.

But right now, just like children all round the world, I am willing to believe.

Come on Abou – you can do it!

RockyLives


Narch. Letsbe Avingham.

October 20, 2012

Thank Dennis for that – it’s over .Two weeks of unrelenting football withdrawal. Cold turkey is over and we get our fix this afternoon.

Last time we played the Canaries it was  a roller coaster game at THOF in May; we went one up after 65 seconds, 2-1 down after 30 minutes, 3-2 up and finally allowed Norwich to equalise in the 85th minute. Some bloke scored two for us. Narch played very well but times have changed for the East Anglians, they sit just one point above the dismal QPR having a minus 12 goal difference and only 3 points from 7 games. They have yet to win at home.

History shows we have not lost at Carrow Rd since 1984, however 7 of the last 12 games have been draws.

Norwich: Let us start with their manager. People say (and this includes many Arsenal people) that Chris Hughton is a decent bloke. ……. . Decent Bloke? Which decent bloke plays 300 times for the blue-bellied sheep biters? The man is devil-spawn and guaranteed to take this lovely family club down with the Rangers.  Hughton is so average that Alan Pardew took his job! Nothing more needs saying. Don’t believe me? Check out his record since leaving Newcastle ….. Played 12  won none. And he has a carrot shaped head.

What of his team of flatlanders? Are they a bunch of decent pro’s doing the best for their families and playing honest, open football? 5 goals scored in 7 games tells a story. With just two yellow cards all season it must be said that Norwich are not a team who intimidate their opponents.

Ugly as a Dropped Pie

Who plays for the lovely historic town of Norwich? Well, there is a smattering of ex-miscreants – Bassong & Kane, England’s 3rd choice Mr Ruddy, the hideous but dangerous Grant Holt (sounds like a train station …. two returns to Grant Holt, please). Steve Morison is Holt’s forward partner, born in Enfield plays for Wales and  has a boy named Fenton . The defender Russell Martin was born in Brighton and represents Scotland.  Alan Smith says Wes Hoolahan is a player to watch – if he plays he is a second striker.

Arsenal: We are unbeaten away, scoring freely and defending well (apart from a few set play blips). 7th doesn’t reflect how well we are playing  or how the new boys are adapting to life in the PL.

We have 5 ever present players in the league. Can you guess who they are (without checking)?

The Internationals cost us 2 players, both Theo and Kos are out. Fabianski is out for a few more months. The defence picks itself.

My Team:

Once again, we have a strong bench though Coquelin is out.

Gervinho will be important this afternoon as he seeks to continue his scoring run; his pace and trickery will be of great concern to the Norwich defence. Let us hope he has not been too traumatised by the events in Senegal. I include Ramsey but if Diaby is available he would be the first choice.

Podolski has been a revelation in his attitude to hard work; he has a Mercedes Diesel engine. His ability to drop back and bolster the the left side of defence has allowed us to be very strong in midfield and it is here that we will win the game. I expect Norwich to try and flood the midfield – perhaps not zaparkowac autobus – but nonetheless defend deep. They are at home and surely have to try to entertain and take 3 points.

Further to my shock revelation that there is no way Jack Wilshere will play even a minute today, there is rumour he is in the squad. To play him would be a mistake. AW says he is only 80%, so what is the point?

Whilst you are munching through your cornflakes, let me tell you about the chap below because we like a British hero and fellow certainly fits the bill.

Sir Samuel Baker (great grandfather to Arsenal’s Joe).What this chap did in his lifetime is astonishing. He discovered  Uganda and named Lake Albert, searched for the source of the Nile, was a big game hunter, a fellow of every society known to man, explored on all the continents, was a friend of Edward v11, became Pasha of Egypt, and was a fervent anti-slavery campaigner. He would surely have been a Gooner but died too early.  All this and a fine Beardsman.

An important 3 points today (Yes – I know – they all are). We have to punish teams at the opposite end of the table , we didn’t last season and almost paid the price. There can be little question that Arsenal are the better team, there is only one Norwich player who would get in our squad, let alone our first team (Ruddy). The bookies are expecting us to win at Carrow Rd (odds 4/7)  and as they say, you never see a poor bookie.

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy


The Midfield Conundrum.

October 16, 2012

Sherlock Holmes said that whatever is left once you have removed the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

What has this to do with our midfield? Well,  ….. the impossible is that we will have a fully fit midfield  to choose from, we have physical fragility in spades – Diaby, Wilshere, Rosicky, Ramsey, Frimpong, Coquelin and Arteta have all suffered long term injuries over the past few seasons and there is no reason to think this will change.

And what is improbable? That less than half of them will be fit at any one time. Add in the as yet to be damaged Ox, Arshavin and Cazorla and we have lots of choice, some might say, too much choice. At a time when all three of our Goalkeepers are under the age of 23 and two of them are crocked, it could be said that we lack squad balance – but that is another story and another post.

I would need RA mathematical qualities to work out the possible combinations of our midfield, all I know as there are too many to count on my fingers. Even if we take Cazorla and Arteta as starters  there are 8 possible partners for them. But should they be automatic starters? Is a midfield of Diaby, Wilshere and Coquelin worse? Or  Ramsey, Ox and Rosicky? etc etc etc

Should Oxlade- Chamberlain be considered as a future midfield linch-pin or a prettier Peter Beardsley?

My point is that what is left is the truth and the truth is we have too many midfield players. The skill sets of Ramsey, Rosicky, Coquelin, Wilshere, and Ox are similar – not identical but similar. I would be happy for any of them to start against any opposition, Cazorla is exceptional. We have no player who can replicate the skills of Arteta but should he be injured we will change the balance of the midfield to be either more attacking or more defensive.

What do you think will be our best midfield assuming all are fit? And what do you think it will look like in 2014? My take is:

2012   Diaby    Cazorla     Arteta

2014     O-C   Wilshere  Cazorla   Arteta

Because I believe to maximize the potential in this squad we have to play  4-3-1-2 with Ox being the 1.

The difficulty will be juggling the fantastic talent we will have behind the first eleven. Wages can be a recompense – it works for Nasri, Kolo, Cahill, Malouda, Nani etc but a truly ambitious player will want first team action and many of our squad players are highly talented lads who have yet to fulfill their potential, something I feel sure they will agitate for.

Lost in the Midfield

For the first time  I can recall we have an area of the pitch which is flooded with exceptional talent.  How would you sort it out ? I have no idea but then I am not paid £6m a year.

( pic c/o Didit )

Written very quickly by Big Raddy


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