Monday, 24 June 2013

Let's Talk Arsenal

So I’ve had a long break from blogging – and a combination of factors have lead to this. Uni work initially got in the way but after the season finished nothing interesting has really happened. Of course we have been linked with numerous players over the course of the silly season but the only confirmed signing so far has been a player that fans of Football Manager will have had a quiet smile about – the young Yaya Sanogo. Obviously not the marquee signing we were craving but with his recent goalscoring record he is definitely one to look for.

Moving onto more recent days – it looks like we are very close to signing Gonzalo Higuain. I previously wrote an article about how I do not think a striker is required at Arsenal, however make no mistake about this Higuain will definitely bring a lot to the team. His goalscoring record speaks volumes for his ability to get into the right positions and the quality of his finishing. I do, however feel this acquisition will, unfortunately, cause a few of our younger players to struggle for first team opportunities. Coming from the Spanish league I can imagine Higuain adapting very quickly to the Premier League; thus he is a signing that our fans have been craving for some time – a top quality striker with a proven record in the top leagues.

In other news Tony Adams has declared that he should have been made chairman of Arsenal. Really? Adams? If Adams has shown anything over the past few years it is that he knows very little about top level management. The fact of the matter is that he appears to reek of desperation and sadly unprofessionalism due to his recent outburst to the press.  He may garner some support amongst the more discontented fans but there is sadly a lack of real substance behind what his assertions. As I write this, I grow more and more flabbergasted at Adams’ criticism. How could the man seriously consider himself a candidate for a position which would (theoretically) place him above Wenger? Due to his services to the club Adams had earned the right to be a club ambassador, but unfortunately I can’t see a role like that possible for him anymore. But hey, maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

What we learnt from our night in Munich

After a demoralising defeat to Spurs last Sunday, Arséne Wenger and our club proved their critics wrong by defeating what was a very strong Bayern team. Despite the result we lost on away goals, but surely a result like this could have a huge impact on our season. Here are the things I took away from the match and the implications that they have.

Fabianski and Koscielny looked very good

I know everybody has talked about it – but there is a reason for it.
Before last night’s performance Fabianski looked set to leave Arsenal at the end of the season. Today he looks set to take over from Szczęsny for the rest of the season. Fabianski produced a very solid performance and his handling was in particular impressive. He did make one mistake during the game in failing to latch onto a cross across the face of the goal, but all in all he looked far better than our other Pole in the goal. Furthermore, he looked impressively self-assured when organising the defence - for a man who has previously been criticised for a lack of confidence, this is surely a great thing. I understand that knee-jerk decisions based on one performance are foolish, but surely his performance warrants more chances to prove himself.

With the poor form of Vermaelen, Koscielny was given his chance yesterday and boy did he take it. His defensive positioning was impeccable and he took his goal very well. Not a lot more needs to be said about him, but I would be surprised if he didn’t start the next game.

Rosicky looked distinctly average

The final rotation player given his chance, didn’t live up to expectations. I still think he’s a good player, but unfortunately our Czech midfielder looked, unsurprisingly, out of practice.  Clearly he still has a lot of talent, and was consistently getting stuck in; he had good vision during play, but was repeatedly misplacing his passes and mistiming his heading. He is clearly symptomatic of a lack of match practice; but with Wilshere out for a few weeks, I would expect to see him featuring a couple of times over the next few weeks, and I would expect to see his performances improving.

Defensive organisation was key

Perhaps one of our best defensive displays this season. Don’t let the 25 shots that Bayern took deceive you, despite the attacking prowess in their team Bayern managed to make very few clear-cut chances and most of their efforts were long shots. Credit is due to Koscielny, but the use of a deeper line, a smaller gap between the midfielders and defence, and battling performances by Arteta and Ramsey, also made our defence look much sturdier. 

The willingness to drop deeper was key last night, and we saw a strong display from Mertesacker. Given his relative lack of pace is it surprising that he prospered when the line dropped? Wenger will no doubt look at this and we may see our side playing more deeply in future weeks. Wenger seems to favour the use of the 4-2-3-1 when playing tougher opposition, and despite its favouring defence, the fact that we still managed two goals suggests that it is worth the trade-off.  Finally, Kieran Gibbs returned yesterday and his pace alongside Jenkinson – who continued his impressive form - no doubt also improved our defensive display, as we saw them able to provide cover when defensive line pushed up. 

Wilshere was missed, Don’t worry about Walcott

A major issue was the midfield yesterday, too often the play kept breaking down and as a result we were unable to build any kind of momentum. This is where Wilshere normally enters the play, driving the midfield forward.  This is a minor complaint; if Rosicky’s game had been better this would have gone unnoticed.  This brings me to my second point - the criticism that Walcott is receiving for fading away in the second half is unwarranted. Yes, Walcott was quiet, yes, I wish he could get stuck in properly, but unfortunately that is the type of player that he is. His role is to try to break the offside trap and get behind the defence, to do this he has to generally be near or at the defensive line.  Walcott’s game generally relies on his supply, and yesterday it was lacking. Wenger realised this, and as a result took him off for the slightly slower, but a lot stronger Oxlade-chamberlain who able to get stuck in further down the pitch.  

Best thing for the league

Exclusively thinking about the premier league, I don’t think a better result could have been possible. The players are buoyed by a great result but don’t have the distraction of more CL football. That said, I do think it is a signal of our fall that I didn’t consider CL success to be on the cards from the get-go.  It should be recognised though, that our match this weekend against Swansea will be a complete different game. Being the bigger side will prevent us from being able to take the same approach to the game. Anyway, we’ll see when it comes. 
The memory of when we shook Munich will stay with me for a while.  Let’s see if it can stay with our lads too.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Spurs Lose, Bayern Loom and Get Off The Bould Brigade!

In a great weekend, for Arsenal, Spurs dropped 3 points in their bid for Champions league qualification. This leaves them 7 points away from us and we have a game in hand. Assuming we are able to earn the  points from the game, that leaves us 4 points adrift of Tottenham and 5 off Chelsea - assuming they also pick up the points from their game in hand. With Chelsea and Tottenham still to play we have an assured drop of at least 2 points from one of these teams - and with a tough fixture list it looks like we could well overtake Spurs in the coming weeks. Things are really beginning to look up at the Grove.

As Wednesday approaches, Arsenal fans are growing both hopeful and apprehensive. On the one hand you can never write Arsenal off - nobody could have predicted the comeback we would attempt against AC Milan after being so empathetically defeated at the San Siro. Players keep coming out and saying that we have the quality to do this - and if we show up maybe, just maybe, we can . On the flip side what are they supposed to say, this truly is mission impossible, a backs to the wall job of trying to overcome a huge deficit against arguably the best team in Europe.
Anyway, my personal way of looking at the match is that we have nothing to lose so we might as well get behind our team and hope they give it their best shot. At the end of the day there is no shame in going out to Bayern. 

For weeks now there has been reports of tension between Steve Bould and Arséne Wenger. As people grow irritated with our defending some reports seem to be suggesting that our defensive frailties are as a result of Wenger -growing jealous of the praise he was receiving at the start of the season -stopping Bould from training the squad. As news of Bould's tension with Wenger surfaced, Bould has quickly become a hero to the 'Arséne Out' brigade. Now obviously I - like most fans commenting on the club - do not know what happens behind closed doors at the club, but not for one second do I believe that Wenger would prevent the progression of the club as a result of jealousy. So to you AOB's I pose you the questions -  How much do you guys actually know about Bould's work? Why does his inability to work with his manager endear him to you? 
I know it's pretty clear that I lean towards the AKB brigade; but I am not trying to take away from Bould's work. I simply ask why are Gooners saying that the unproven Bould is great and the proven Wenger is stifling him?

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

A New CB -Are Williams and Albiol what we need?

Recent reports are linking Arsenal with a number of players to solve our defensive issues. Ashley Williams, valued at £8M, is the name that most frequently pops up, but Raúl Albiol has also been linked with the club – amongst others.

Ashley Williams has been enjoying a strong season for Swansea and, at 28, is hitting the peak of his career. Similarly Albiol – with 38 caps for Spain – is amongst some of the best defenders in Europe. Looking at these players and seeing the way our defence has looked in recent weeks, you would surely think that one of these players would solve our problems at the back.

 However, a quick look at the players in our defence hardly suggests a personnel problem. Compare Williams with the Vermaelen of last season, in terms of the ability and attributes they bring to the squad there is not a huge difference. At 27, Vermaelen is hardly past it, yet he has struggled this season. Similarly, Mertesacker is a German defender who enjoyed a huge reputation before joining the club. With 86 caps for one of the best international teams in the world he is no fool, and shouldn’t be treated as such.  My fear is that spending 8 or 10 million on a new defender will appease fans, but not change any of our issues.

An interesting feature prior to Gary Neville’s tactical analysis was the table showing the number of times each team has caught their opponents offside. Leading the table was Arsenal, catching our opposition offside 99 times – hardly suggestive of poor defensive aptitude whilst playing the high line. But then why, oh why, does our defence look so shaky?

Watching the goals we conceded against Tottenham and Bayern I have concluded that the issue lies within our midfield. We are leaving too big a gap between our defence and midfield. Watching the Bale goal, there was literally no pressure on Sigurdsson before he played the through ball.  One of our midfielders – it is difficult to tell who from the footage - was a few paces too far to be able to impact the play.  Furthermore Arteta loses his man – Bale.  Suddenly, in a very quick play, our defence had little time to organise and came up lacking – but this was as a direct result of midfield errors.  If situations like these keep repeating themselves any defence will eventually come lacking. Our first and final goals conceded against Bayern were also attributable to midfield errors. For the first goal Ramsey is unfortunate but, in an attempt to protect Vermaelen, finds himself in a no-man’s land – leaving Kroos unmarked.  For the final goal, Arteta is slow to enter into the defensive phase, and as a result Vermaelen – who is forced to try to protect the goal from Robben - allows Lahm to overlap him – allowing the cross which lead to the goal.

Now I am hardly trying to claim that we have a picture perfect defence. The second goal against Tottenham was clearly created by a defensive issue between Monreal and Vermaelen. I simply cannot see a need to sign another CB – in my opinion we either need to change the style in which our midfield play, or sign a player who is more positionally reliable as a CDM than Arteta or Ramsey.

That’s all for today,

Feel free to leave a comment.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Are wholesale changes needed?

Arsenal fans are slowly starting to come out of the mourning phase for Sunday’s result, but moving forward is difficult when you look at the squad and wonder how we will get out of this sticky situation. Some fans are calling for Wenger’s head, some are blaming the board and others just downright blame the team. Visit any arsenal boards and you will quickly hear people calling for mass changes in the team. Often the cry is for a signing in each key position. Personally, I want to see some spending in this summer, but only 1 or 2 players.

Let me explain why this is the case. I am a strong believer that team chemistry is more important than individuals in the team. This becomes an obvious statement by looking at the league today. Chelsea signed 5 first team players that have featured regularly this season, Man City did the same. Man United, who are taking the league by a landslide have, by contrast, only signed two.

You could put the success of Man united down to better transfers, but I don’t really buy that. The likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar, Demba Ba, Javi Garcia, Maicon and Nastastic are all quality. Player-for-player City and Chelsea are both equal to – if not better than – Man United. Now this year could obviously be an anomaly so I decided to look back a few years. Since 2000/01 season, only two teams have added more than 3 regular first team players and gone on to win the league – the Chelsea team of 04-05 and the Man City team last season. Our team of ‘Invincibles’ saw several players join us that year, but only Reyes and Lehmann were first team regulars.  Maybe not conclusive evidence, but it suggests nonetheless that wholesale changes are unlikely to benefit results massively. Now let’s look at our last two seasons, ones where we have struggled to maintain our status as Champions League shoe-ins. 4 regular first-team players were signed this season and 5 last year (note that I have not counted Jenkinson or Chu-Young). Once again the pattern re-emerges, it is not conclusive, but you can see my point.

In conclusion, this summer my main hope is that we don’t lose any key players.If Wenger really does have money to spend, I hope he buys few quality players over several decent ones. A CDM and RB would do nicely – I’m not too worried about upfront, but that’s just me.

Anyway what are your opinions, What positions do you think need strengthening?
Feel free to leave a comment,

Monday, 4 March 2013

Why it is important to not get on Wenger and the players' backs for the rest of the season

With the defeat to Spurs on Sunday our club faces an uphill struggle to achieve 4th place. Overcoming our 3-1 home result at home to Bayern will be an extremely difficult task as well, so in general this, so called, ‘season of transition’ has been a failure. During this difficult time for the club,people will be quick to question and criticise Wenger. While it is necessary to question the performance of the manager; I fear that the criticism may lead to disappointed booing and signs of ‘Wenger Out’. Though I am not one of those fans that believe Wenger should leave, I can understand why some people feel there is a need for change. However, to those people I say not today!

The fact of the matter is Wenger has clearly covered for the board’s inadequacies over the past few years and, as such, is basically un-sackable. I understand the frustration, but putting up banners and criticising his decisions will not achieve anything. So long as Wenger chooses to be here, he will be in the job. The criticism may be great for letting off steam, but - given that it won’t force the desired change – it is likely to be counter-productive  Seeing Wenger out banners and hearing booing would be disheartening for a squad, who already seem to lack the confidence to consistently play at their best. Wenger appears to be a father-figure for a lot of our players, so the criticism simply adds to their weight of expectation.

Finally, our squad has just lost games to Man City, Chelsea, Bayern and Spurs in recent weeks - they are a squad who are going to be lacking for confidence. Some sectors may not support the management or the board, but I think we can all agree that the important thing for the club is to get to our best possible position this year, so we should rally around and support the team. Let’s get behind the players and leave the criticism for a time when it might actually achieve something.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

What I took from the Spurs match

A disappointing 2-1 loss Spurs culminated in us finishing the game 7 points from them. Here are the things I took away from the match:

Szczęsny is struggling - His performance was poor today. Watching a quality keeper in Hugo Lloris at the other end definitely highlighted his issue. Now there is no denying that our defence was to blame for both goals but there is a point where you look at Tottenham’s one-on-ones, there wasn’t a single time where it was thanks to Szczęsny that we didn’t concede. When Bale scored Szczęsny had the opportunity to sweep up the loose ball but was too slow to react. For the Lennon goal you see that he clearly committed himself too early. In comparison Lloris swept up all the loose balls that passed his defensive line and on many occasions prevented our strikers from getting away a shot as a result. This was one of the clear differences between our team as we both play high lines and both have one slow CB. Now I’m not saying Szczęsny is a poor keeper –For his age he is actually one of the best in the world - but the fact of the matter is that age is no excuse and – due to no adequate back-up - he is currently undroppable. You’ll hear all the pundits say it time and time again but it holds truth that if a keeper has several poor games in a row and has no fear of being dropped it can prevent growth.

Tottenham are not unbeatable – Despite their current run of form I actually think they looked like a fairly average team. A recurring theme this season has been that we have switched off for a few minutes and quickly conceded. Tottenham quickly took advantage of this, but for the first 30 minutes we were by far the better team. After we conceded two goals in quick succession, it was almost plain sailing for them as they could sit back and counter. That said, if they play the way they did today against Chelsea and Man City they will almost definitely lose.

The Jenkinson substitution was a huge mistake – Walcott disappeared for large portions of the game and Jenkinson was the only player on our team that was able to provide any kind of attacking threat down the right hand side. I think the idea was to create an attacking threat by throwing on another midfielder, but unfortunately what kept happening was that Spurs forced the ball down their left (Our right), running down the clock as nobody was effectively protecting that side.  Furthermore Rosicky had a quiet game and our threat down the right hand side was effectively finished as a result of the substitution. Jenkinson was one of the few players in our defence that actually impressed me today and as a result I am beginning to see him being able to become a quality player in our team.

As the game finished I was extremely disappointed and actually put off writing this post to stop myself from slating our attacking options too much. Giroud is clearly in a slump of form and needs to rediscover his shooting boots to show himself as a great striker, his ability to get into positions is still very good but without a final product he will continue to look mediocre. Vermaelen actually looked very impressive at the start of the match making a number of good tackles, but once again a couple of lapses in concentration cost us, and severely marred his performance.  I could continue to give a critical appraisal of our team but unfortunately it doesn’t mean too much. After a result like this it’s easy to get down in the dumps and forget that it is just one game. It does sting, but you have to take the good with the bad.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Are Arsenal going the way of Liverpool?

As the Tottenham tie grows closer many Arsenal fans will be wondering whether the club would be able to recover from losing out on the Champions League. Having seen Liverpool after their Champions League victory in Istanbul it is clear to most football fans that no club is safe from decline. Having won the most prestigious competition in Europe who could have predicted that the club would be struggling to qualify for even the Europa League in 2013? In a similar vein, watching the Arsenal Invincibles you could hardly have predicted that Arsenal wouldn’t see premier league success for at least the next 9 years, and come 2013 would be embroiled in a battle, with their arch-rivals, to see who could qualify for the Champions league.  We have seen a slow decline at Arsenal FC since the move to Emirates – though the 07/08 season promised a lot- and the questions on the lips of a lot of our fans is – ‘Will the decline continue?’

Looking at Liverpool’s situation at the moment is like staring into the eyes of a disappointing parent – you see so much of them in you, but fear turning out like them. For this reason let’s look at a few of the mistakes that have led to Liverpool’s decline into only a slightly above-average Premier league team.

Sales of Key Players- The loss of players like Mascherano, Torres, Xabi Alonso and Raul Meireles has seriously depleted the Liverpool side over the years.  Selling players for huge prices can often be very tempting for clubs – any of our fans can tell you that – but adequately replacing them with the money can be a huge issue.  Take the Torres transfer for instance, Liverpool pocketed £50 million for him, but replacing the striker has been a task which has resulted in a greater outlay than the fee received.  Furthermore, the effect on immediate club performances can be equally disastrous as most replacement signings will require time to settle in. In reality Liverpool were probably actually right to sell Torres – who had requested transfer-listing. The example simply illustrates a point. In truth, the issues that arrived following the Torres sale were mainly due to misuse of transfer funds.  Sales of players like Fabregas, Nasri, Adebayor, Cole and Clichy show that, in this area, we have fallen into the same trap as Liverpool. What is more frustrating is that this season we have lost our best striker and holding midfielder, and now find that we are lacking in these areas. Had we not sold those players last summer the League would probably look a lot better for Arsenal.

Sacking Rafa & repeatedly changing management – Okay we don’t fall into this category and I’m glad. After sacking Benitez Liverpool descended into a whirlwind, with good managers coming and going. Each manager came in and tried to stamp their own brand of football onto Liverpool and all fell to the way-side. In fairness to Liverpool, with the signing of Brendan Rodgers – who is being afforded more patience than some of his predecessors – I think they are realising their mistakes. Essentially, bringing in a new manager with a new style of football can be like signing 11 new players for the team. As the team gets used to playing a certain way – which can take more than one season – results suffer. As results drop a new manager comes in and BOOM! Another couple of seasons of mediocrity. One of the main reasons for Barcelona’s sustained success despite managerial changes is that the new managers have maintained their brand. Looking back to Arsenal, Wenger is sadly coming towards the end of his tenure at Arsenal. I don’t want him to leave but I can’t see him here for more than two or three seasons. When the board does decide to replace him they need to find a manager that can maintain the continuity at the club or we risk going the way of Liverpool. Laudrup anyone? (BTW Swansea are another good example of what I am talking about).

Buying overpriced, English Players – Arguably Liverpool’s biggest mistake was to buy so many British players. As sad as it may seem to say so, English players come at a premium at this level. Why? Well they’re just so damn marketable. Of the fairly regular first team players almost all English players are fan favourites or at least very valuable adverts for our club – Wilshere, Walcott, Gibbs and the Ox. Even Jenkinson is starting to make his way up there. For this reason the prices on English heads are somewhat understandable. The issue that Liverpool had was that they spent far too much on bringing far too many average English players into their team – after a point a lot of the players you are buying won’t have much value in terms of image anyway. Take Charlie Adam who was bought for a steep £9M, he hardly improves Liverpool’s global brand, yet an equal substitute could probably have been bought for half that amount had Liverpool chosen not to choose English.  Now obviously these players were bought for footballing reasons as well, but it seems that the owner’s taps are running dry and quite frankly they aren’t seeing an equal return on the pitch, mainly as a result of Dalglish’s poor spending.
Once again Arsenal hasn’t fallen into this trap, but quite frankly when you are making a profit on player sales season after season it is hard to do so. While we have had our share of flops it is no match to Liverpool’s mismanagement of transfer funds. With such a financially-shrewd board it is unlikely we will repeat the mistakes that Liverpool did, however if reports are to be believed and Wenger does spend, then the coming summer transfer window will be key in deciding whether our club sees a decline equal to Liverpool or is propelled back to heights we have previously enjoyed.
Well that’s all for now,
Feel free to drop a comment.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Dealing with Bale

When Walcott signed in 2006, apparently Arsenal had a choice between signing him and Bale. One of our better players this season, Walcott's performances have massively improved, but his form has been nothing like Bale's showings for Tottenham.  Though he wouldn't admit it, I think this stings Wenger a little inside. Anyway, whether Arsenal are able to get a result on Sunday will no doubt be dependent on Wenger's ability to neutralise Bale's threat. Yesterday, Bale epitomised his importance to Tottenham - single-handedly  bringing down the West Ham team. So the question remains - how can Arsenal deal with Bale?

Now let me be clear here, I'm not claiming to be a tactical genius or that I have a fool-proof method to deal with him. Bale is one of the best players in the Premiership and, as such can tear apart any game-plans a manager might make. That said, there are some key factors that will come into play on Sunday which will determine whether Bale has a stormer or a quiet game.

Jenkinson or Sagna : If Sagna is fit he will likely play. On the surface the experienced Sagna should clearly play over the inexperienced Jenkinson, however in Jenkinson's defence he has played fairly well this season after a difficult debut season with the club. Furthermore Jenkinson's pace is clearly a factor that could play into the game as Bale's own pace will clearly pose a problem to Sagna who, as a result of two leg breaks, has clearly lost a step. That considered I would probably still pick Sagna  - for the first 60 minutes at least. Sagna's experience should not be understated as, against a world class player, a cool head is far more useful than quick legs. Psychologically the concept of facing 90 minutes against Gareth Bale would be far more daunting for Jenko than Sagna, who has been there and played against the best. Jenkinson is fairly tireless and I could see him bombing back and forth for the last  30 minutes in a manner that Sagna simply cannot.This would pose serious problems for the Tottenham defence and would also limit Bale's ability to run forward, as the joint threat of Walcott and Jenkinson would force him to stay back. In the last few games in  particular Bale has really thrived in the final periods of the game - so this could really have a massive impact on our ability to contain him.

Walcott - Obviously it is very important that Walcott tracks back to provide protection to the RB - that's a given - but what is equally important to keeping Bale quiet is the level of attacking threat Walcott poses against Tottenham. Neither Kyle Naughton nor Vertonghen are slow, but neither can match Theo. Given that Tottenham like to play a high line Walcott would have the potential to expose the Tottenham defence. With that in mind, should Walcott succeed in exposing Tottenham Bale would be required to stay back for extended periods. Obviously this is not a given, and would definitely require some luck on our part, as AVB could easily chose to drop the defensive line in light of Walcott's pace and Walcott may struggle to impose himself in the game or may even be played centrally. If (A big if) things pan out the right way for Arsenal on Sunday though, we could see Walcott being the stand-out Southampton graduate in the North London derby.

Arteta/RDM - In the 1-1 game against Manchester United, Bale struggled to impose himself. This was in no small part down to Ferguson's use of Phil Jones as a Defensive midfielder slightly to the right of center. This resulted in a restricted ability of Bale to cut inside, and also provided support to Rafael. Bale struggled as a result of this and posed no serious real attacking threat for any sustained period in this game. The issue Arsenal have in this situation is that we don't have any defensive midfielders in the mould of Phil Jones. Last season Alex Song would have been able to complete the task with consumate ease. Unfortunately due to his sale we are left with the relatively inexperienced Coquelin and Mikel Arteta, who is proficient but unfortunately not at his best in this role. My inclination would be to deploy Arteta in this role due to his calmer head, but unfortunately neither really instil a great confidence in me and an area we might struggle to contain Bale with may well be the inside-cut.

Anyway this is all I can come up with at this moment in time,
Feel free to leave any ideas or opinions in the comments.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Henry, Spurs and Do we need a Striker?

News reports recently seem to suggest that Arsenal legend Thierry Henry is looking to return to the club in a coaching role at the end of his contract at New York Red Bulls. Is this a good thing for Arsenal? Simply put YES! When Henry joined the club on loan last season he certainly made an impact - on the pitch and off it. Walcott in particular has spoken of the positive impact that Henry had on his game last season, and also was key in the contract talks. Being able to talk to a player who has seen and done it all will definitely have a positive impact on the youngsters in our team. And who knows, maybe he could even have a word with Gervinho. Call me a romantic but seeing Henry come home and link up with  Wenger would really add to the family feel that the club has created between the players and staff - one of the things I love about this mighty club.

In other news - Spurs are playing West Ham  tonight - a game I will be intently watching. More for the result than as a scouting mission though. The Hammers play nothing like the Gunners, but, Spurs' approach will be interesting. Will they risk Bale given the virtual 6-pointer on sunday? He is clearly their best player and quite frankly their only real source of goals in recent weeks. Even if Bale does play it'll be interesting to see if Tottenham are able to break down a West Ham team, who despite having an average season, are no fools defensively. Despite them being clear favourites I can see the spuds dropping points tonight and hopefully allow us to overtake them this weekend.

Finally, my main topic of discussion today; I hear a lot of Arsenal fans complaining about our need for a better striker to replace Van Persie. After Saturday's match against Aston Villa there was a lot of criticism of Giroud's performance - and rightly so; he squandered chance after chance and was nowhere to be seen after numerous Walcott crosses. With that said if I was Wenger a new striker would be bottom of my shopping list. Giroud is clearly a good finisher; say what you want about Ligue 1 but no striker could be it's top goalscorer without being able to finish. He has been at Arsenal for around half a season now, and we can often be quick to dismiss players as poor - understandable though, given our history with signing strikers. As a target man Giroud's play depends on his understanding with other attackers in our team. He has been with the team for 6 months. If great understanding was built in 6 months Real Madrid would have won everything season after season for several years now. We should also finally be able to play Joel Campbell who has struggled to gain a work permit, but has looked fairly impressive for Real Betis this season. Chuba Akpom has also made huge strides in the U18s this season; unnecessarily signing a striker like Falcao ( Not that I think he'd join us) would almost definitely end their potential for the first team.

So there you have it folks, feel free to leave a comment on your views.
Lets hope the spuds blow it tonight.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Captain Jack?

With Jack Wilshere being Arsenal's outstanding performer thus far this season and Vermaelen struggling for form Jack the Lad looks set to become Arsenal's next captain. At such a tender age and still developing, the question arises 'Why is Wilshere being made captain?'

Marketability - Wilshere has returned since his injury to quickly become Arsenal's messiah. In a team that at times looks without purpose, fans see him as a shining light driving the team forward. Add to that the fact that he's a product of the youth academy and it's no surprise why he has endeared himself so well to gooners. In recent years Arsenal FC have shown themselves to be very shrewd when it comes to money matters and giving Wilshere the captaincy creates a huge potential for commercial deals involving him and the club.
This is something that Mr. Wenger and the Arsenal board are all to aware of, and I wouldn't be surprised if one the main factors influencing the captaincy is Wilshere's marketability.

Vermaelen - One of Arsenal's most reliable defenders in the 2011/12 season, unfortunately since receiving the captaincy at the end of last season he has looked a shadow of his former self - notably giving away a goal to a certain ex-arsenal skipper at Old Trafford. Contrary to what most people will tell you the Arsenal defence has actually performed well this season, conceding the second fewest goals in the league. This is probably due to Vermaelen's (and Steve Bould's) influence. Unfortunately the captaincy seems to be having a detrimental effect on his individual performances and realistically a poorly performing player cannot expect to retain the captaincy.

Team effect - Wilshere would become an extremely young captain, following in Fabregas' footsteps, and although he seems to be well-liked among the players, it would be naive to dismiss the possibility that some older arsenal players may not take him seriously enough when making decisions. This should only be a minor factor to take into account given that our squad -if nothing else - are extremely professional. On the flip side it may spur older, experienced players to step up as leaders across the pitch - helping Jack in his new role. One place that this would be incredibly useful is up front as often the issue ,this season, has been that our attacks have lacked direction. In my opinion the reason for this is Podolski and Giroud - as they have come in they have needed time to settle in. As most people can attest to it can often be difficult when settling in to become a leader. The change in captaincy would certainly give these two players an opportunity to really step up for Arsenal to aid Jack's transition.

Wilshere himself - The gamble being taken on Wilshere's captaincy in my view is most dependent on this factor. Given that the more experienced Vermaelen has struggled to cope with the responsibilty of captaincy it is very possible that captaincy will have a similar effect on young Jack. That said, Wilshere  has already asserted himself as one of our leaders on and off the pitch this season. At his age the requirement to organise the players will very likely teach him a lot tactically, though I admit there may be teething issues at first.

Other options:
Arteta - Reliable, well respected I would be equally happy with him with the armband.
Mertesacker - Clearly intelligent enough tactically, unfortunately seems too mild mannered at times.
Sagna - Hasn't had the greatest of seasons this time round and looks set to leave. Sadly, a year ago, before the leg break I would have had him down second only to Vermaelen.

Given the positive possibilities I genuinely believe that Wilshere will make the cut as Arsenal captain.Given the nature of the role however, I would like to see how he fares before making the final decision and I would not be surprised if Wenger tested it out in pre-season before making a final decision.