Arsenal and Liverpool similarities, as well as Alexis and Suarez narratives, are wide of the mark

Yesterday Alexis Sanchez turned 26 years of age. Aside from making me feel even older, the anniversary of his arrival on this planet all those many moons ago, his birthday also gave Arsène, as well as me now, the opportunity to wax lyrical about our Chilean ace. Not that we need an excuse mind, because let’s face it, he’s been awesome all season.

Unsurprisingly Arsène was full of praise, but also gave us a bit of insight as to how the transfer happened, with a few meetings of players agent and Le Boss whilst in Brazil, followed by a confirmation of interest from the player, transfer agreement from Barca and then a signature.

It all sounds rather easy, doesn’t it? Of course there will have been plenty of complexities around the arrival of Alexis, but perhaps it is a mark of the man, that the transfer didn’t seem to be anything other than simple as pie. For as little as one can gather from the way a player handles himself in public, he seems like a very amiable chap, a trait which can’t be labelled at too many in the game of football that’s for sure.

Perhaps his attitude on the pitch is reflective of the perception of him off it. He is a hard worker, very talented, but humble and appreciative of his origins. It is fitting, then, that we should come up against a Liverpool team that it was fairly obvious would have loved to secure his services in the summer. Indeed, it was the arrogance of people like Phil Thompson declaring “it’s done” when referring to Alexis to Liverpool, that mean that this particular fixture has an air of hopeful symbolism for me as an apprehensive Gooner.

I said on the blog yesterday that I’d been worried about this game since Monday and, whilst the worry still remains, the prospect of seeing Alexis Sanchez score the winner against a team that coveted him as we did will feel particularly juicy. Those from the North West might argue the bright lights of London were the only lure for the player, but when you look at the two respective clubs and how the seasons have unfolded, perhaps there is reasoning in itself for Alexis to choose Arsenal over Liverpool.

I read yesterday that were it not for Alexis, we would probably be in a similar position to Liverpool in mid table and out of the Champions League. Whilst I am not going to try and pull the wool over your peepers and suggest all is fine and we’d be as good if he were not at The Arsenal, gentle reader, I think that such comments do a disservice to the rest of our squad. A squad which, despite our protestations of lack of depth, have been completely decimated by injuries this season.

Liverpool too, have had injuries, but not to any extent that has been experienced by The Arsenal. Only Manchester United and Newcastle can claim to be masters of misfortune in that regard. Nope, Liverpool have had injuries, but their lack of squad depth has just been more plainly demonstrated than ours. Look at their ‘keeper troubles, or their defensive woes, which we’ve both had. But they’ve had the added problem of problems in attack too, which is something you can’t really throw in our direction. So to say that our two squads are relatively similar is a red herring if you ask me.

I think Alexis has been brilliant for us. I love everything about him. But equally I think it is wrong to believe that we are morphing in to ‘Alexis FC’ in the same way that Liverpool were often described as ‘Suarez FC’. We have other options and there have been times this season – like West Brom away – that we have had to rely on other players to get us out of trouble. On that day it was Santi rediscovering his form and Welbeck drifting in from out wide to head home from a central location that saved our bacon.

Sometimes though, I guess it’s just easier to build a narrative if the themes seem to loosely fit. Arsenal wanted Suarez. Arsenal wanted a player with pace, ability to travel with the ball, phenomenal work-rate, etc, etc. Suarez and Sanchez have similar styles. Similar sounding names too – isn’t this all seeming rather convenient? Liverpool wanted to replace Suarez with Sanchez. Sanchez has scored plenty of goals for Arsenal. It all seems to fit together so neatly like one of those wooden Early Learning Centre trains. But you and I know different. We know that our team has been poor, but our reliance on Alexis has not been as obvious as the Suarez factor was for the Scousers last season. That’s why I’m hopeful that we’ll see a better performance than Liverpool’s team tomorrow, because I want the other players to step up. The Cazorla’s, the Welbeck’s, the Giroud’s, all of them need to perform infinitely better than the horror show of last season. We know they can do it. They just have to show the belief. Hopefully the freshness will make a difference too.

There are still concerns over some players, like the Ox, Walcott and Monreal and if we’re completely honest, we can ill-afford any more injuries. But I’m hoping for some good news on The Ox front, because I think him being fit will give us an edge over Liverpool. More on why that is tomorrow in an actual match preview. For now, I’m going to start prepping for my trial run Christmas dinner – got some friends over tonight you see, so Christmas Turkey overload begins now for me.

Have a good’un.

More Micro-blogs: What’s wrong with The Arsenal (continued)?

The theme from yesterday continues, my valued Arsenal compatriot, with another batch of friends, colleagues, co-workers, or generally anybody that will talk to me about anything to do with football. Well, actually, not so much football, as it is 100% The Arsenal.

If you didn’t manage to tune in yesterday then you can relive the thoughts of fellow friends here, or you can scroll below and see what the latest round of colleagues make of the conundrum that is Arsenal. For those that missed yesterday, the background here is that after speaking to many different people about Arsenal in all walks of my life (boozer, online, work, etc), I decided to try and collate a series of responses to the simple question:

What’s wrong with The Arsenal?

I’ve asked contributors to provide just 50 words max, hence the term ‘micro-blog’ (which I think sounds kinda cool, but I’m sure someone will tell me it’s been done somewhere on the internet that I don’t ever visit) and have kept the question as broad ranging as I possibly good. Here is the latest thoughts from friends on what they think.

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Ben Leeder

The key problem with all of Arsène’s squads, post-Highbury is a lack of standout character(s), to compensate for Arsène’s ‘Wengerball’ philosophy. Recently reading Amy Lawrence’s Invincible (A must buy) that side simply lived and breathed on the will to win and push one and other to that required level – I appreciate it isn’t the best example because it’s probably the greatest Arsenal team you or I will ever see, but you get my flow – We’ve seen you you can’t allow this squad (insert any of Emirates era teams) that much freedom when they need so much guidance.

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Jokman

Too heavy an emphasis on attack, tactical ineptitude at the back, injuries hitting us with the force of 2000 Hasselbaink backsides, an obstinate outlook from Wenger and failure to buy a defender in the summer. I still support though. I’m a SUPPORTer.

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Gary Prince

Previous boards self interest, David Dein introducing Stan, the fall out and sale to Usmanov. Giving Arsene total control over football matters with no governance or overall control. A board happy to “make do”.

A manager without question or challenge, refusing to accept another’s opinion or adapt to changing circumstances.

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Dave Seagar

Apart from the obvious injury woes I would say – Don’t pick out of form players hoping they will play themselves into form (AR & SC) Change the policy of FBs being wingers. Let them defend and stay as back 4 and allow Theo, Ox or Campbell to provide pace and width which is the key.

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Block 5 Gooner

You can blame players for poor performances but a whole team? That would suggest an issue with motivation or tactics. Never been a fan of throwing away money but equally having a ‘make do’ attitude is negligent. Then there’s the ‘going AWOL’ tactics. Works most of the time except when we face quality opponents.
It pains me to say but I’m afraid Wenger is the problem.

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Garrulous Gooner

We have heard for many seasons how we lack a commanding presence on the field. I think we require to world-class footballers to make us a real force. A central defensive partner for Koscielny, and a more naturally defensive midfield player. Their intelligence and leadership qualities are equally as important as their footballing abilities; the sense and authority to say to their full-backs and midfield partner respectively “Don’t you leave my side for the next 10 minutes, and then we’ll go from there.” I doubt it’d be in that language, but you get the gist.

Hand-in-hand with in-game management goes flexibility, and, unfortunately, our team currently mirrors our manager in that sense.

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Hannah Feiner (a Legal Bod at my work)

Firstly, what’s right? The hard-work ethic of Alexis Sanchez. The man simply does not give up. Creates opportunity out of nowhere. What’s wrong? Utter complacency. A football team, shockingly, consists of eleven players. They all have a part to play. If everyone had the Sanchez mentality we’d be, well, invincible…

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Mean Lean

50 words? gee thanks Chris.
Truth is, I don’t think there is a simple solution to the question. There are many factors at play here such as Arsene’s style of play which means a lack of a proper pre season hits us more than most. Injuries, lack of defensive options and poor individual form have cost us dear. This squad is better than we’ve seen I’m convinced of that. Whether you think Arsene’s time is up or not, it doesn’t matter too much for me because this squad should perform better than the one that finished seven points off the title last season along with winning the FA Cup

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That’s yer lot. Well? What do you think? Having read the mixture of these views over the last couple of days it’s quite clear that nobody really has a silver bullet on what is going wrong. Football is a clearly subjective topic matter, in the sense that very rarely do we see anything in black and white. For what it’s worth, I do think that Arsene, having accumulated so much power, now has to accept that ultimately he is the one most culpable when we fail as a club. There are always mitigating factors, other issues and elements that are beyond his control, but rarely does much at The Arsenal fall outside of his control, so I think that he is the one that ultimately has to right the wrongs in order for us to be successful this season.

Thanks to all the contributors of the micro-blogs over the last couple of days. I’ll buy you all a pint. Of water.

The Micro-blogs: What’s wrong with The Arsenal?

So, here’s the thing. I try to brain dump my thoughts on to this here blog every day and sometimes it’s rambling and sometimes it’s not too shabby (if I do say so myself). But my views and opinions are often formed by Arsenal-supporting friends. I have a few Whatsapp groups, work, the pub, Twitter and a few other forums. Lots of people, lots of opinions on what on earth has happened at The Arsenal this season. So, in an effort to collate some of the thoughts and thinkings of mates I have had convos with, I thought I’d just do a bit of a brain dump on to this blog so you can see what I’m seeing. This came to me after having a couple of people chat to me (both on and offline) about how Monreal is getting a bit of a pasting. But if I’m honest, I haven’t really seen it. I started to think to myself “what is actually wrong at the moment?” and after pondering it, after writing a few generalist blogs, I thought “why don’t you just ask around?”. So here I find myself.

This is a collation of that thinking into a series of ‘micro blogs’. each micro-blogger has 50 words and is answering the simple question:

What’s wrong with The Arsenal?

Like I say, this isn’t about anything else other than to collate some general views, about what people think is wrong in an overarching sense. If you have a view on the question and want to share then I’m all ears. Keep it to 50 words though!

Over to other’s to give me their two penneth worth. Starting off with a poetical piece…

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Invinciblog

Spinning and spinning in downward spirals
The protégés cannot hear the Master;
Bodies fall apart; the defense cannot hold;
Mediocrity is loosed upon the world.
A Gooner meltdown ensues, and everywhere
The illusion of acceptance is drowned;
The AKBs lack all conviction, while the WOBs
Are swollen with poisonous intensity.

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Rob Woodfin

The balance of the team is the major issue. When we attack we are open to counters & look vulnerable defensively. When we sit back & keep it tight we look short of a creative spark.

The clear issue is simply a proper DM to allow our creators to create & to protect our back four. Subs, or lack of really, pisses me off. Arsène reacts rather than being pro-active.

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Harold (guy who works in my office on the front desk)

I liked your description yesterday. My take would be that any time I’m watching them in recent years, they remind me of Lotus in F1, the brand sounds great but it feels like Arsenal are only there to make up the numbers when it comes to the top four spots. The desire just isn’t there to kick us on to the next level through the right player buys. We are a brand. We are a business. Not a football club.

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RamblinGooner

Apart from the transfer failings it’s the style of play. We’re chasing goals even when leading but, also we’re defending too high up the pitch which leaves us open to the counter. It’s so apparent even smaller teams can work it out.

Time for pragmatism: Go back to basics.

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Ian Howe

Simple, and it pains me to say it, the Manager.  Once a pioneer, Wenger is stuck in his ways, and his stubbornness is a contributing factor in Arsenals failings.  He’s become tactically inept, and in my view, worst of all, he has lost the dressing room. Time’s up.

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Fonky Chris

Arsenal have been in transition for almost a decade, we know this. But now the shackles are off we appear to be making the same mistakes as previous years. I don’t see Arsene as the problem. I think he himself needs management, as David Dein did so well, during our dominant years.

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SheWore

What’s wrong with The Arsenal? How about we start with Kroenke caring only about the almighty dollar? Or perhaps we should look at a CEO who can’t sack his outdated manager? Or perhaps we should look at the supporters who let him get away with it?

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Gooner Oaf

Unfortunately, it might be quicker to answer what isn’t wrong! I love Wenger and what he has done for us, but this season he is accountable for a backwards step. Signings aren’t always the answer, but they might be in this case. January can’t come soon enough!

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Ryan (Burnley fan and mate from work)

Arsenal are victims of their own success. The invicibles of 2004 have set a precedent that subsequent squads have been unable to live up to. The increase in quality at both ends of the BPL table has left Arsenal in a chasm of its own just behind the elite, but way ahead of the rest.

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Hertbert Chapman’s Bust

I think it’s a combination of things. Our rolling injury list, lack of quality players in the market especially CB’s, the integration of five new players, too many players in poor form, Wenger trusting his players too much and not being proactive enough tactically throughout the 90 minutes. But at least we’re not as shit as Tottenham.

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The Daniel Cowan (The actual real-life one! I know!)

If I knew that I would be a rich man indeed. I think there are multiple issues running parallel and creating the situation we are in. The two that are affecting us most are injuries and obdurateness in buying less than “perfect” players for big money however even those issues are externally influenced.

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Kevin Green

Current team – great going forward but need to strengthen behind the front four. We need two warriors in the middle of our spine – defence and midfield. It’s not just about physicality, it’s about leadership, a never say lose mentality. We need players that role model this behaviour.

Maturity in game management is also needed. A lead 20 mins out should be defendable.

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I’ve got a few more people who I’ve asked to share their views tomorrow, so I’ll post them up then.

Cheers all.

C

What’s wrong with defence? No silver bullet

Do you feel like we dodged a bullet by avoiding Balotelli and plumping instead for Welbeck? After Danny notched his fifth of the season, whilst Mad Mario failed repeatedly to get off the mark yesterday, it’s impossible not to breathe a sigh of relief, because I’ll be honest and say I thought he’d have been a great signing at The Arsenal.

Thankfully though we have found ourselves a couple of forwards in Alexis and Welbeck, who look every bit the success so far, so we can only hope that they continue their good run of scoring over the coming months. Because let’s face it, with the rate at which we’re conceding goals, we’re going to need them to keep banging them in just to stay close to the hunt for a top four spot. Which is what leads me to my central point of discussion today:

What has happened to our defence?

This season already we’ve conceded 11 goals in the league. In just eight games. That’s nearly a goal and a half each match and the contrast between the team this season and the one that made a fabulous habit of clean sheets last season is marked. I don’t have a ‘run rate’ of when we’d conceded our 11th goal in the league last season, but I’d expect to find out that we were near the halfway mark in the season when we did. Two goals against Leicester, Everton, Chelski, Dortmund and Hull. The list is mounting and it’s filling me with more trepidation than anything else.

Last seasons success was built on a miserly approach to football matches. We were pragmatic in our play: stay strong and hard to break down at the back, get the lead and never look like giving it away, which was the blueprint for a very good season until March when the injuries and lack of pace up top kicked in. It was the sharp end of the team that derailed our title charge in 13/14, but it’s the defence that has in my opinion, already destroyed our hopes of a first league title in 11 years.

So why are we so different? What has changed about the back four that was there last year but not this? Barring Sagna, it certainly hasn’t been the personnel. Szczesny, Gibbs, Koscienly and Mertesacker have – by and large – been present for most of this season. They were present for a vast bulk of last season too. We all agree (I think) that Debuchy for Sagna was a very close ‘like-for-like’ and whilst he’s been out for a few weeks, it’s hardly been his absence that has caused us to haemorrhage goals with such frequency, has it? And anyhow, our conceding of goals hasn’t all been down the right hand side of our team, so you can’t really point the finger of blame in the direction where Sagna has been.

Most Arsenal fans I know have also been very happy with Chambers too. So why on earth, when individually the players don’t seem to be playing so badly, are we dropping points quicker than a slippery bar of soap? I don’t really understand it. Sure, I have theories, but there isn’t really any kind of insight or evidence to back up my argument. And in football it is very rare that ongoing issues with a team performance come down to one or two key factors.

I don’t believe, for example, that not having a tough-tackling, ball-winning midfielder would have stopped every goal we’ve conceded from going in. As much as the need exists, I don’t think the role of the fabled ‘DM’ played that much part in the second goal for Hull on Saturday. Had our giant German not been caught under the flight of the ball he might have been able to nod that away from Hernandez.

The same goes with another centre half. Had we have kept Vermaelen in the summer, for example, it would still probably have been Per that was caught under the flight of the ball.

So perhaps it is the form of the players? There’s no doubt that Per and Kos haven’t been as effective as last season. Mertesacker was the chief protagonist for goal number two on Saturday in my opinion, but Koscienly has also been guilty of lapses in concentration, like at Leicester (although whether he should have remained on the pitch after his head injury is another question entirely).

When Szczesny suffered his dip in form a few seasons back, many said it was because he was not in competition from any serious number two, a fact I believe he has even alluded to. Is this the case for our two central defenders? Perhaps there’s something in that you know. Both Per and Kos know that their only real competition is a 19-year-old who had made a handful of first team appearances until last season. Thankfully for us, he has hit the ground running and looked a superb centre half, but we all know that when fit, he will step back on to the subs bench.

It’s all very well looking at the problems defensively when injuries set in, but it’s that element of competition that also plays a part in player form, so by refusing to address the defensive issues in the summer, the manager has also made it doubly hard for himself by not providing enough of a stick with which to nudge the central pairing a little when they aren’t quite at their best.

Again, I don’t think that can be attributed as the single reason as to why we are not looking as resolute at the back as we did last season because let’s face it, Per and Kos are professionals and they will be trying their hardest to remain at the peak of their games. I don’t want to accuse both of a lack of incentive, because I don’t think that’s the case, but I do think that sometimes you need as much stick as carrot in any profession.

So is it the formation? Everyone talks about this 4-1-4-1 formation, and how it is costing us games, but the defensive side of the team hasn’t changed shape-wise. We still have a goalkeeper like last season. We still have a back four. And one of our midfielders still sits more deeper lying than the others. There may be questions around the success of the style and change in approach going forward, but defensively we should be the same as we were last season. As much as I am not a fan of the change in style (although I still remain to be convinced that it is 4-1-4-1. It still looks very similar to last season, but with some players playing in positions less familiar to them e.g. Özil), if you imagine that we were as tight defensively as last season, we’d probably have not conceded against the Spuds, City, Hull and Leicester. That’s 12 points instead of four and puts us just a few off the pace of the runaway leaders Chelski.

So to my mind the change in formation hasn’t really affected us defensively. We’ve just not been as good for some reason.

I really can’t work out why we’re so different. Perhaps there is some sort of training regime defensively that isn’t working? I don’t know why we would change a successful formula from last season though. We found something that worked and the manager would surely not have wanted to tinker with that. Would he?

Maybe it’s the World Cup hangover? But Szczesny and Gibbs didn’t go and Koscienly didn’t play all the the way to the final. Chambers wasn’t in the England squad, so it’s only Debuchy and Mertesacker that you could potentially argue have suffered as a result. But again, Debuchy has looked good individually this season, so what, are we putting our defensive frailty down solely to the German and our vice-captain? I certainly don’t think that is the answer and whilst his form hasn’t been amazing, it’s hardly been Rio Ferdinand-esque off the form Richter scale.

I think ultimately what I’m getting at is that there is no silver bullet to explain why we’re all wobbly defensively this season. It’s a combination of factors that aren’t working and as I said in my blog yesterday, it’s just not clicking at the moment. In a way, I wish it was one single factor, because at least then the club can look to isolate, mitigate and minimise the problem as soon as possible. But with so many factors probably contributing, one suspects that we might go through quite a bit more pain this season before we sort ourselves out.

Catch ye’ in the morrow.

Defensive worries lead to schoolyard tactics?

With Arsène taking to the stage at both his press conference and the AGM yesterday, there was a veritable feast of soundbitiness from which we can all pour over this Friday before the game against Hull tomorrow.

First and foremost, injuries, to which the news is mixed. In this age of instant information, most of what Le Boss said was common knowledge by the time he said it, but it’s the Koscienly news that was the most worrying for me. The reason I say that is because there was no return date put on his recovery time and availability. Arsène simply explained the prognosis and said that he has to rely on the player who said he is not ready. Reports this morning from the gutter press are that he’ll face around four weeks out and whilst that is unconfirmed, when you have a club like ours who seem to always underestimate recovery times, it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that there’s a bit more truth to that figure than we’d all like to believe.

Again, like a broken record, it does baffle you how the club did not address the defensive cover issue. It’s a question that was broached at the AGM yesterday and whilst Sir Chips and Ivan were very clear that there is more money to spend after the summers splurge, Arsène interestingly declined to comment. He was probably still feeling from the admission from Sir Chips that the club back the manager when he has a plan and stay out of it when he doesn’t.

Righto. So there was no plan then? That’s a shocking ‘reading-between-the-lines’ admission from the club and Arsène declining to comment doesn’t really help. But there’s nothing really that we can do about it so we just have to hope that tomorrow’s replacement – Nacho Monreal (who has admitted it has felt strange playing at centre half. Yes kids, I’m scared too) – can quickly adapt and prove himself an able body in the heart of our defence.

Anyway, I think we should seriously consider playing a 1-1-4-4 formation at the weekend and see if we can’t recreate a school yard kick-about with a 12-10 score line against The Tigers tomorrow. How awesome would that be? As long as Arsène doesn’t tell his boys to pick the ball up and go in for tea after 60 minutes because James Chester has been calling Alexis names. Jack would probably try and deck him anyway.

I’ve found it fascinating how much time and commentary has been apportioned to the Özil injury, which Arsène again felt the need to clarify the situation regarding him playing on at Chelski two weeks ago. I suppose Arsène probably feels he should have kept relatively schtum about the whole thing, because as soon as it came out the whole world jumped on it in exasperation at why he was allowing a player to play on despite injury. I too had a bit of a rant on the blog earlier in the week and so must hold myself as guilty as charged to my furore over the mismanagement of the injury. Wenger and his medical staff are still culpable for not being overly cautious on a players health, but their failure to act is not as extreme as it originally appeared.

There was even a hint that the injury won’t be as long as we thought, but let’s not imagine we’ll be seeing him back to full fitness much before the Christmas period now, eh?

Still, for all the doom and gloom on injuries, at least we have Diaby back. And Arteta. And Ramsey from Monday. And Walcott probably next week too, who will play in an under-21s game tonight and assuming he comes through unscathed, will most likely be involved in some capacity next weekend at Sunderland one would hope.

Arsène also talked us through the issue on racism in football management, the Invincibles and the Champions League coefficient, but if I’m completely honest with you having listened to the full presser this morning, I am less inclined to go into that stuff in more detail. Not because it is not interesting to talk about, but more because the questions put to him felt to me as if they were just designed to get soundbites out of the manager, not to get genuine insight into football matters. So naturally, the managers response is slightly guarded and you never really get much exciting to talk about.

Later in the afternoon, our boss sauntered his way over to The Emirates for the AGM and did his narrative in front of shareholders and members of fanshare, who will be attending the AGM for the last time, as it will be closing shortly, meaning less access for real fans to attend the AGM via the scheme. It’s a shame, but not to be unexpected, and the cynic inside me was always thinking that the board and Stan probably had an extra glass of Dom Pom after the event had concluded, knowing that future AGMs won’t be nearly as potentially spicy.

The event, by the sounds of it, is a watered down affair anyway by the sounds of it. With few questions taken from the floor and almost all most certainly screened beforehand, it’s a bit of a tick box exercise in corporate governance as it is, so anybody expecting to get any real answers out of these kinds of things is always going to be disappointed.

Patiently waiting for Walcott…and Mesut…

Hooray! A long term injured player returns to the squad, as opposed to being omitted, due to a long-term injury! What a novel feeling it is to be pleased to see players like Theo Walcott back in the fold and taking part in full first team training.

He was a massive blow to have missing for most of 2013/14 due to two long-term injuries, so to have him back in the squad and available for selection is a timely boost, like being given a bottle of Lucozade after running a 10k. He will add yet more depth to our attack and his direct running and finishing will mean we have another option to try. Hopefully he can stay fit and we can finally ditch the whole ‘Mesut Özil out wide’ experiment that everyone is still a little bit baffled about.

Whether Theo will be able to start and have a serious impact for the next month will be debatable though. After all, Jack has spoken about his own recovery from long-term injury and he’s only now finding his form after some quarters of the footballing world questioned whether he’d ever get back to his best. So to expect anything from Theo for the next two to three games would be folly I think.

Still, that doesn’t mean he can’t have an impact and get himself off the mark coming on from the bench now, does it?

One question I saw on Twitter yesterday that I thought was very pertinent indeed, was posed in relation to Theo’s pace, whether or not he’d have the same level of pace as he did before the injury and whether anybody at the club has tested him. Now he’s back into full training I’m sure the fitness and medical team are monitoring closely, but with a player who has had plenty of historical injury worries, I suspect they’ll be über careful with everything Theo does for a while. At least I hope they are. I mean, they have bodged a few players’ returns by over playing them as soon as the return, or not properly resting them. So we’ll have to wait and see how sparingly he’s used.

It’s a shame that with Walcott back, Özil has now disappeared from the team for the immediate future, because upon the German’s arrival over a year ago, Theo was one of the players that profited the most from Mesut’s vision. We have pace in Welbeck and Alexis already to feed from Özil, but Walcott as a wide man loves to play very high up the pitch and look for runs in behind the back four, more so than any other player at the club I think. So I would have love to have seen those two link up upon Walcott’s rerun. Hopefully he can stay fit and when our playmaker returns they can rekindle that understanding that existed when Mesut made his debut at Sunderland last season, when he put enough balls on a plate for Walcott, that he could have dined out on them for a month.

Speaking of Mesut, he’s got a clever little PR team, eh? After the frankly ludicrous rumours of a return to the Bundesliga under Pep surfaced, he took to Twitter to thank the Arsenal fans for the messages and dismiss the Bayern Munich rumour with all the subtlety of a hashtag, using the Bavarian phrase ‘Mia San Mia’ (we are who we are) to message ‘#miasanarsenal’. In this world of reading too much into everything, I think that will do nicely to dispel any rumour and even the faintest chance that Mesut will ever leave Arsenal other than to retire when he’s 38 and having played 350 games for the club and got a bazillion assists. Simples.

Of course in the summer if Bayern were to actually come knocking in a Barcelona-esque fashion, who knows what the reaction of the player might be, but I’d like to think he’s happy and only wants to improve at The Arsenal. And he will.

We’re still waiting for the tedium of the International Break to subside, so there’s not really a lot going on, other than the relief that Welbeck should be fine for Saturday. But then again, is an ‘everything is ok’ alarm (see The Simpsons for reference) really that necessary in this instance? Probably not.

Adios amigos!

Quality fence panels, not for sitting on

I was thinking about writing something about the news that Mesut Özil might be (emphasis on ‘might’. The club have said it’s too soon to suggest how long he’ll be out for) injured until the new year, but in talking about long-term injuries, I’m starting to bore myself, so I thought I’d let someone else have the blogging soapbox for a day and talk about anything they want to.

Step forward Roy, a family friend who first introduced me to the world of watching Arsenal live and who has been a major influence on igniting my passion, much to the dismay of other family members at times I’m sure!

Roy and I had an exchange yesterday on Twitter and I told him to write a blog. So he did! Here’s his thoughts. Tell me what you think. He certainly has an opinion and is not afraid to be somebody who shares it! The title of today’s blog tries to exemplify his desire not to be seen as vanilla in his thinking, so hopefully you enjoy.

Chris

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It is time for all fans to stop this Arsène Wenger immortality (including myself as I have always refrained from criticism), because I believe he has been almost negligent in his transfer dealings for a few years – maybe more! This year, in my opinion, I believe he truly has completely lost the plot. Defenders out before we have even started this international window, (I believe we’re now looking at Calum Chambers possibly injured, which is a massive blow to all concerned), one in Debuchy who I must say looked good until his sad injury. But Calum Chambers’ injury is a big setback for us. He is certainly one for our future, but is it right that he’s been so heavily relied on at such an early stage in his career? In such a short space of time he has become more than just a squad play needing to grow and find his feet, but now finds himself as an integral part of the first team and all of the pressure and reliance that comes with it. Arsène Wenger suggests he can cope and the initial signs are good, but what happens when the inevitable drop in form (inconsistency is part of a young footballers game) occurs? This is not how a supposedly ‘top team’ should conduct it’s business I’m afraid. A top business has effective plans, contingencies, works out different scenarios and is ready for all eventualities. When can we say that has happened at The Arsenal? Don’t even get me started on the “we need just two or three more for back up in defence or defensive midfield” argument, for I fear I will never stop!

After many years of supporting Arsenal, watching my first Cup final in 1969 (when a certain Don Rogers inflicted pain on a young heart probably for the first time. Certainly I haven’t had that much pain since…actually I have…17th May 2006, Champions League Cup final in Paris. A horrid night not only for the defeat but the way we were all treated -mno matter how you travelled the whole place shut down if anyone remembers! Almost impossible to find a bar or nice restaurant and cabs all disappeared off the streets and raining. I digress but you get my feeling of hurt) I have lived through some of the barren years at the club. I understand that football has evolved and I’m not naive enough t think we can win everything all of the time, or that winning trophies is something that happens every year. But what I do believe is that you should give yourself every possible chance of success with the resources you have available. Would you say that we have done that?

That feeling of hurt that I described earlier? That’s now been happening for around four years for me. We have become a nearly team and my/our beloved Gunner’s have failed miserably to ease the same pains that those cup finals have inflicted. Why? Because we are so close. It makes it all the more painful to know you are almost there, glory tantalisingly within your grasp, yet your own restrictions caused by your manager are stopping that final step to greatness.

Yes, we papered over the cracks by a Houdini like escape against Hull and this quietened the fans, to which we were totally looking forward to a rebuilding of the team knowing money was available for Le Boss to spend. Even Piers went quiet. Or did he? Can he? Probably not. But from what I can see that is all last season was – papering over the cracks.

We now have some top quality all round with Özil and Sanchez in, our other very good players around them, and yes Ozil is struggling and I am not that qualified to make brash statements, but he is played out of position and this is completely negated in his original purpose. With the quality we have Özil is a luxury we should be able to afford in my opinion. But we need other players to be able to help make him great. That starts with a ball winner. A quality ‘DM’. Who was the last quality DM we had? Gilberto? Always there, doing a job, we certainly new when he was gone. How long ago was it he was at the club? Seven years? SEVEN YEARS???

**Editor** controversial opinion alert…..

I cannot think of worse defence in all the time I have supported the Gunners. I am not saying they are all rubbish as individuals, but collectively they lack the quality to win us the big trophies and in terms of the first team, the lack of defensive quality players, this is the worst. I may be sounding a little bit like Mr Grumpy here, but I love Arsenal and I’m not one of those moaners for moaning sake, I can assure you. I’m just frustrated because I know we are not far away from disaster in defence. One, or dare I say it two, more injuries in defence and we are Donald Ducked.

On finishing this little rant (thank you for reading by the way!), will it be all too little to late when January comes around? its time we stopped wishing for success and found someone to truly come in and give it to us again. Le Boss was a pioneer in the Premier League ten years ago, but all pioneers have to know their limits and every dog has it’s day.

My six-year-old grandson is a Liverpool fan and when we beat them at home 2-0 he said granddad my heart hurts and it is quite unbelievable the passion football can bring out within all ages. That’s what prompted today’s thoughts and after the last few weeks of that feeling I just wanted to share.

I want Arsenal to be great. We’re a great club, great fans and great history. Let’s hope we get back to our best. And soon.