Hello hello, welcome to a place that is in no way related to the words ‘vertigo’.
I want to take a little look at how I think we’ll shape up this season with the squad we have, but before I do I just want to draw your attention to the Manchester Evening News article that lit the blue touch paper of Twitter alight yesterday by claiming that Robin van Persie was on a plane bound for Manchester to talk to United about a deal. Of course Arsenal fans reacted, but what was more amusing was that Arsenal too had a reaction of their own: picturing van Persie training in Germany. I don’t think there is any other way that you can douse a story in cold water than that. I doff my cap to Arsenal and their PR team – not too often have I doffed in that direction this past year i can tell you. The only down side to the story was Sir Alex Ferguson admitting that subsequent bids have been made but Arsenal are proving to be difficult to negotiate with, stating also that Arsenal were trying to negotiate with overseas clubs. I say ‘good’ on both counts there. I would rather keep RvP this season and lose for free next year than right now. The feel good factor is back at Arsenal and we don’t want to lose it by making a rival stronger. Lets hope they continue to keep United at bay.
What the story may have helped with is leaving much of the Arsenal fan fraternity with a more comfortable feeling that what comes out of some sections of the gutter press isn’t really fit to line a bird cage. Having said that, I’m sure the next ‘exclusive’ will have much the same effect as this story had: clicks and hits are all that matter in a rate card world. Don’t bite people, don’t bite.
As for us, I’m intrigued to see how Le Boss deals with his currently selection headache that will befall him come Saturday week. Where does Coquelin fit? Will he be preferred to the natural understudy of Sagna, Carl Jenkinson, or is the Harlow born lad still a little too raw to rely on for the next couple of months? Personally I think he’ll keep his faith in Jenkinson, which means what is fast becoming a crowded midfield trio could see Coquelin struggling for game time. I really rate the Frenchman and hope he isn’t another one that slips through the London Colney net to ply his trade elsewhere. If the rumours of Alex Song’s departure make it a little further than the red tops, I would see Coquelin as a potential understudy for that position long term, rather than the brute force of Frimpong. He’s a cultured ball winner that would slot in seamlessly alongside Arteta and behind a free-roaming Cazorla/Wilshire/ Rosicky/Oxlade-Chamberlain and I think we have a real talent on our hands. He just needs his chance.
The centre of the defence is also another conundrum the Manager must try to unravel, but surely a little easier than a Guardian Sudoko. Mertesacker, Koscienly and Vermaelen will most likely all rotate depending on midweek and weekend exerts, which will inevitably benefit the teams propensity for lengthy injury spells of key players. On the far side (from where I sit) of defence a healthy competition of Santos and Gibbs will provide comfort in cover with a couple of decent square peg options (like the aforementioned Coquelin) available to boot.
The defensive side of the team is pretty easy to dissect; it’s the more offensive element that will leave many an Arsenal fan with a challenge on choosing the starting eleven – which can only be a good thing. Arsenal’s midfield relies on its ability to be interchangeable: Song has defensive duties but often makes forays into the oppositions half and when he does, one of the other two midfielders (usually Arteta) must rotate. It’s a midfield with fluidity that needs the players to be adaptable. That is where Arteta becomes so valuable: his intelligence to spot when to drop deeper was a real asset last season and no more evident was this than one of the goals conceded against Wigan at home when he left the field through injury and we found ourselves woefully exposed on the counter with Benayoun one of the last players to track back. It’s because of that intelligence that I place Arteta as the most important of the three midfielders and surely a must on the team sheet. The attacking element of the trio will most probably be taken by new signing Cazorla, with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Rosicky both also vying for a spot. The benefits of all three are that they are interchangeable with the right wing (and potentially left) position currently occupied by Walcott, who must surely be feeling the heat of his teammates when the curtain rises on 18th August. By my count Theo has no less than four quality players that can lay claim to his position. I actually think this will be a good thing. Assuming he signs a new deal and continues his footballing education at Arsenal, Walcott will know that only stellar performances will keep his position safe in the team and may perhaps be the making of the man. One can only hope.
The left of the trio will inevitably be fought between Gervhino and Podolski and, whilst the German has the ‘shiny new’ factor about him at the moment, the positive pre season performances of the Ivorian will not have escaped the managers gaze. I suspect we might even see Gervhino as the first one out of the blocks on Saturday for the starters jersey, so it will be up to our new recruit to replace him.
Alternatively, if Gervhino proves to be immovable on the left, Lukas could consider the top of the tree as the best possible option to stake his claim. We still don’t know what is what with van Persie and we also have Giroud that will want to take his chance. If the Dutchman stays, we could see a few interesting tussles for top spot in the sharp end of the team.
This plethora of footballing options may cause a nice little dilemma for Arsene, but for us as fans, it is footballing gold. We might even get a sniff of the bosses thinking at the weekend against FC Koln.
Roll on next week. It’s going to be mouthwatering.