The evolution of Jack (but maybe not this weekend)

Halfway through the week and we close down on the international break, casting our attention (thankfully) to the Premier League once again, as well as the build up to a massive game at The Emirates against Moneychester City.

Of course, none of us really believed that our squad was capable of going through an international group of matches without somebody important picking up a knock, did we? So it was that Aaron Ramsey limped off against Andorra during Wales’ pointless group stage game against a team that looked more reminiscent of the Vatican Swiss Guard than a football team. I’m sure David Seaman once wore an England jersey that looked like a rainbow had been regurgitated onto his shirt that looked a little like that travesty.

I didn’t watch the game, but have seen some of the still images of the incident and despite what Chris Coleman said about him being ok for the weekend, you can’t help but think that Arsenal are in a better position to judge when Rambo reports back today or tomorrow with them. It feels like it’s almost built in as part of their remit as international managers when players come back to The Arsenal broken and battered around the edges, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Coleman is downplaying a knock that could see Ramsey out of this weekend’s clash. And to be honest, if there’s any element of doubt, we need to be playing caution with players that have picked up knocks, because over the next three weeks we play a host of football matches (six or seven I seem to remember seeing) so we should not be risking players.

If Rambo isn’t risked, it will be interesting to see Jack once again step into that box-to-box role that Aaron has made his own, which will be a continuum of the position that Wilshere occupied (to a degree of success I feel) in the Besiktas game. There’s no doubt that a loss of Ramsey will be a big blow, but when you have players with the quality of Wilshere able to step in and deputise, it doesn’t fill me with the same fears as a couple of injuries to the centre halves would.

It’s perhaps also ironic that Jack, having played as a deeper lying midfielder for England on Monday, will be moved back to a more familiar midfield position if Ramsey doesn’t pass any impending fitness tests. Having spent most of the Switzerland after glow of the match talking about an adapted deeper role, going on to highlight players like Pirlo who he will start to watch videos of over the next month or so, you wonder if both Roy and Arsène have already spoken to him about changing his position in midfield.

Perhaps he is looking at his place for both club and country and seeing his options limited, or perhaps he genuinely sees himself as somebody who can improve and nail down that slot as a holding midfielder, I’m not sure. I’m reluctant to use the words ‘defensive midfielder’ because that’s not what I think he’ll ever be. Sure, he likes a tackle and sure, it’s not the most difficult position to adapt to. You just really need to have discipline and not mind the dirty parts of the game like mopping up after defenders or breaking down impending attacks. But to me that would be a waste of Jack’s talent. He’s a player that can travel with the ball, is good at quick interchanges of pace and passing and that works well in right spaces with opponents who sit deep and defend in numbers. So to give him a position as ball winner and then quickly distributing to some of the more creative talents I think would be a bit pointless.

Or perhaps Arsène is looking at a bit more fluidity in midfield, looking to mix it up a bit, asking the question “do we really need a defensive midfielder?”. When I say that, I don’t mean that there should be no cover or protection for the back four, but rather that the team should be more fluid in the roles it has in midfield. If Jack is pushing forward, for example, why should not one of the other players adapt to become the ball winner and distributor whilst he is pushing forward? Or vice versa if Ramsey is in the opposition box. Perhaps Arsène is looking for players that Championship Manager used to call the ‘complete midfielder’. A 27 year old Mikel Arteta with the ability to sit, whilst also good enough on the ball to push forward, would be a prime example of the type of player that Jack could become. Perhaps, after all of the pontificating, it is actually Jack who is being groomed as the heir apparent for that role?

Who knows. But what I do know is that the next year or two is massively important for Wilshere. He needs to nail down his place in the team and make sure that he can be as flexible and adaptable when called upon as Wenger needs him to be.

Haven’t really looked at what else is going on in The Arsenal world at the moment, but maybe we’ll get a soundbite from Arsène about Danny Welbeck.

Hope it isn’t the media microphones catching him in training at London Colney saying “shouldn’t you be back at Carrington? I thought England training was over?”

Catch you tomorrow.

Tempering the striker euphoria, but only just

Come on, admit it, when was the last time you even mustered so much as a grunt towards an England goal before last night, eh? It’s ok, we’re amongst friends here, you can tell me.

Mine was probably all those years ago when Theo netted his hat trick against Croatia. Since then, I’ve seen countless Eng-ger-land goals and only occasionally mustered a smirk.

Not last night though. Last night I found myself actually cheering as Danny Welbeck lift the ball above the Seiss ‘keeper in stoppage time to pick up his second goal of the night. It wasn’t me who thought it first (although I wish I did), but somebody on my Timeline was quick to point out the actual style of the finish itself, which was – dare we say it – Henryesque. The opening of the body, the little lift over the ‘keeper whilst still keeping the ball relatively close to the bottom of the net, it was all very neat and tidy from a player that we have been told over the last week isn’t really that natural a goalscorer.

The post-match punditry on ITV was of course effusive in its praise of Welbeck, even going as far as to suggest that perhaps he has a new lease of life at a new club and a new role as a central striker, but I’m going to try not to fall into the trap of going too overboard just yet. After all, it’s one game, not even for Arsenal. Welbeck knows the players around the England team far better than he knows his Arsenal teammates, so I won’t be calling on him to bag a hat trick against Moneychester City this weekend.

But for us all, at least, we were treated to a glimpse of what could potentially come to pass. A pacey striker who will get goals in the lengthy absence of Giroud. A ready-made centre forward who won’t have any trouble adapting to the English game.

We must avoid the temptation to go overboard in hailing the second coming of a new messiah, but when faced with the bleakness of an international break, any small bit of positive news can easily be pounced upon in the absence of The Arsenal. I am finding it hard not to get excited for this weekend if I’m honest. I can’t really help it. Despite talking in this blog previously about how sometimes people get swept up in the ‘shiny and new’ and ignore what’s on their doorstep (a feeling that perhaps is shared amongst a few United fans this morning?), the euphoria of a new signing scoring goals and looking the part has that little something extra about it. It’s probably because the possibilities remain endless at this moment in time. As a football fan, you always try to look at the positive possibilities before any action happens. Ask any football fan of any club the week before the new season and their overriding emotion will be one of ‘hope’. The Welbeck arrival has given us all hope that we have found a striking piece to the puzzle that was so obviously incomplete against Leicester over a week ago.

Welbeck had a decent game, but he also showed that he wasn’t the complete article just yet, as he could have had an assist to his name in the first half after a great run was followed up by a poor ball to Sterling. But let’s not dwell on the negative, let’s just look at the positives of the performance, of which I thought Wilshere also came out ok. He wasn’t his best, but he proved effective in distribution and looks like he’s getting better all the time.

But this wasn’t just a night for the English contingent at The Arsenal, as Yaya Sanogo was to prove, bagging himself another goal for the French under-21s to prove that actually, it turns out he does know what to do when confronted by that square box with a white outline and net attached.

Tonight it’s Rambo’s turn in international competition and, having seen most of our players seemingly come through unscathed for this break, the hope is that he doesn’t succumb to the Arsenal international duty injury curse. Saturday’s game will be vital to have him in the team and, with Mesut Özil pulling out of German national duty, the creative spark in midfield could really do without being blunted by losing another one of our star midfielders.

I think I’ll save any more thoughts for today, as from tomorrow the international noises should quieten down a bit and afford us some time to look at Arsenal and nothing else.

You stay super.

Where we want to see ‘Welbz’, plus some Arsène thoughts

Morning you lot, hope you’re coping fine without your weekly Arsenal fix of football, thanks to this wretched international week. It does feel as if it’s dragged on a bit, doesn’t it?

Thankfully, my weekend was preoccupied with the wedding of my brother, so I was able to offset the lack of Arsenal goodness with copious levels of beery goodness. So it was a fine way to ignore all things football because, let’s face it, even the gutter press are still going on about it and still bemoaning the lack of cutting edge and guile the English national team has.

They must be all a-quandary at the moment. I mean, this England team with all of the ‘world class’ Liverpool players that formed the bulk of it in the summer, we’re a sure-fire bet to be successful no? Or could it be that the Liverpool friendly corners of the footballing world have what Arsène might call ‘little bit blinkers’ on?

Who knows. What I do know is there is another one of those qualifiers this evening and England take on the might of Switzerland with their opening group match. I’ll probably watch it, I must admit, but only because of this possibility of seeing Danny Welbeck being given a chance as a centre forward. As good as it is to get a look at our shiny new player, seeing him play on the left isn’t exactly what you and I are interested in, so the timely injury to Sturridge at least gives us the chance to look at him.

Hopefully he has a good game. Maybe I was reading a little too much into his cameo last week, but he looked very lively and confident when he came on against Norway, perhaps buoyed by the fact that he is going to be playing Champions League football this season. Who knows. What I would like to see is plenty of running – or at least attempted runs – in behind the Swiss back four, because that’s what we haven’t had enough of with Giroud leading the line. Welbeck will back himself with pace and as a result he’ll be happier to play as a central striker looking to make runs off the shoulder of the two centre-halfs. For the purposes of my own sanity in watching the tedium that is international football, I think I’ll just pretend that the Swiss central defensive pairing are Kompany and Demichelis, which will start to get me excited about next weekend’s game.

We might even see Arsène at next weekend’s game you know. He’s in hiding from the PR team since Welbeck was signed. I think he’s deliberately testing their patience by globe trotting around the world over the international break. I’ve seen a couple of bloggers over the last week, talk about the fact that Arsène hasn’t spoken about Welbeck yet, speculating about the unusual situation that has befallen this particular signing. I agree that it’s not the norm, but rather than throw my lot in with the conspiracy theorists, I think that the most simplest of explanations is probably the most likely: he hasn’t had time.

I know that might seem like a bit of a cop-out response, but over the last week he has taken part in a charity football match in Rome, been part of a professional football managers gathering (I forget where) in which most of the top managers were present, plus I’m sure he’s been commentating for French TV on Les Bleu’s games over the last few days. Whether or not you feel he should be doing this is a different point entirely. And yes, I’m sure he could just pick up the phone and give the press team some soundbites to use. But we all know Arsène is a man who likes control, so I suspect he will give his interview about Welbeck over the next few days and we’ll all be able to over-analyse every word then.

The only other piece of Arsenal news filtering through over the last couple of days is that Theo is scheduled to return for the Spuds game in a few weeks time. Although personally, I’m not sure if it’s quite ‘news’ given that most Arsenal fans I had spoken to over the last month or so have also said that he’s been targeting that game, so quite why this is suddenly new I’m a little confused over, if I’m honest. I suppose with our luck on ‘little setbacks’, to hear that a player is actually going to be back on his scheduled return date, is actually quite a novel and exciting thing. So on that basis, ‘yay!’ and all that jazz.

Anyway, time for me to clock off for a day, so you have a good one and I’ll speak to thee tomorrow.

Disappointed Mancs is a good thing for is, as Jack bites back

Howdy peeps, hope all is well with you, and that you’re occupying yourself on this football-free weekend? Hang in there, for when we get to Tuesday next week we can start to look ahead at next weekend’s match up against Momeychester City.

As for me, well I’m best man at my brothers wedding today, so I’ll have plenty to occupy my thoughts over the next 24 hours. Not least whether to throw in a little joke about the Spuds at some stage during the speech (I have a captive audience of quite a few of them you know!).

As a result of the impending busy morning and afternoon, I think I’ll keep today’s blog relatively short, which is just as well because there really is very little going on. All we’ve seen from an Arsenal perspective is people linked with United disappointed at the departure of Welbeck (Paul Scholes the latest to comment), or Jack Wilshere defending himself against comments by ‘expert pundits’ like Jamie ‘Camel Toe Suits’ Redknapp.

On the first point, the disappointment by United fans is filling me with more optimism on Welbeck, which is good considering how unsure I was of whether the signing was the right one for us. As I’ve said over the last week I hadn’t watch Welbeck closely enough to pass decent comment, but with United fans upset at his departure and ex-players coming out and saying they feel he should have stayed and Arsenal have a good player on their hands, you and I can only read the disappointment as a good thing. When Silvestre was signed for £750k United fans were sniggering at us that we’d bought an aged centre-half with a peanut looking forehead. We quickly found out why and Silvestre by-and-large turned out to be a massive failure. But the noises from the North West are different this time, so I’m inclined to be more optimistic about this signing from them than the last, and that’s not just because of the price.

As for Jack, he’s bit back at Redknapp talking about how he needs to kick on now and also his injury record, to which Jack has pointed Jamie in the direction of his own career. No doubt Redknapp Junior will have his own say on Jack next weekend at some stage, but we already know that Wilshere is an easy target for the press, as is. Mesut Özil because of his price tag and languid style, so I pay about as much attention to what Redknapp believes as I do to the goings on in the ‘Celebrity’ Big Brother house.

I mean really, what is the world coming to when anybody listens to the nonsensical populist drivel spouted by a failed Liverpool and Spuds player?

The reality is that Jack is in for a challenging season with all of the competition he’s got in his favoured positions, but he has finally had a proper pre-season (helped by the uselessness of the current England team returning home early from the World Cup), so I think he’s going to start finding his form from now. He was one of the best players on the pitch against Besiktas and, given that I saw my Twitter Timeline awash with perplexed tweets about why he wasn’t featured against Leicester, it shows how highly most Gooners saw his performance on that night too. Jack will be given plenty of games to prove himself, but he’ll also not be overworked like he was when he first broke into the Arsenal side, which I think can only be a good thing for him as a player and us as fans watching him in the immediate and long-term future.

Right, that’s that from me today, I’m off to prep for my speech. Ciao.

existing players: does familiarity breed contempt?

Hello Friday, you sexy bitch, you. If only you could offer the promise of Premier League football this weekend it would make you even more lovely. But I understand, it’s not your fault, it’s forces that are a law unto themselves, those pesky individuals at FIFA who keep organising international breaks.

The Arsenal press team know this, which is why they’re releasing Danny Welbeck interviews in a piecemeal fashion. I suspect we might even see ‘Part 3: Danny Welbeck on eating fish and chips’ at some stage over the weekend. Ahh how that’ll be exciting to watch. I guess I should be grateful, because at least we are getting something from the club to sink our teeth in to. That’s much better than radio silence which, oddly, is what Arsene is on at the moment. I suppose he’s still out and about gallivanting around the world and making peace happen through football somewhere, but it is weird in today’s age of mobile phones, FaceTime and email that he hasn’t been able to pen some phrases to give to the official site. Maybe he’s a bit ‘meh’ about the signing? Maybe he’ll be asked at some stage over the weekend and will respond with “well, you all turned your noses up at Zigic, so I just told the lads back at the ranch to pick anybody up who they felt like”, after all Zigic himself confirmed that he was a target for Arsenal as a free transfer option so it must be true, right?

Which leads me to the last dregs of desperation of the hit-whoring football websites that are frantically searching for free transfers that can be linked with Arsenal now the window has closed, to which 38-year-old Mario Yepes from Colombia is the latest to be linked. Captain of his country, bringer of long-hairyness, he’d apparently offer that bit of experience in back up to Koscienly, Mertesacker and Chambers that we need. Which has led me to thinking, with help from the guys that run Arsecast Extra, about how good a player needs to be in order for us to think “hold on a second, aren’t we just better off giving youth a chance here?”. I mean, it’s all very well talking about experience, but if Yepes did sign and can’t keep pace with the frenetic energy of the Premier League, wouldn’t he be more of a hindrance than a help? Monreal may be option number four, or even Isaac Hayden, but at least both will be more au fait with the Premier League.

Given that there are plenty of us looking at the Welbeck signing and wondering if there is an element of ‘BUY ALL SHINY NEW PLAYERS AS THE ANSWER’ at Manchester United, which has allowed us to buy a player who could develop into a very good signing, potentially just because he’s taken for granted at United because he’s been there already. It’s the old adage I guess: familiarity breeds contempt. Is that the danger of what is happening if Arsenal, or particularly Arsenal fans, are looking at a signing like that and not asking the question to themselves: “Is he really better than the options that are there at the moment?”

Hey, I’m not expert, and I paid little attention to Yepes at the World Cup, so I’m hardly going to be able to give you a comprehensive answer. But much like Zigic, when you look at who he has played for last season – Atalanta – and he has been released, surely there is a question to ask as to why he was released in the first place, as well as why he is not good enough for Atlanta, but is good enough for Arsenal (although admittedly as a fourth choice centre half). If we are going to go down the route of looking at free transfers, why don’t we look at Abdoulaye Faye or Zat Knight?? Both of which you’d have to question whether they could actually be any real success at Arsenal.Nope, for me, if i’m honest, I’d rather see Monreal or Hayden given a chance.

Anyway, that’s probably about all I can muster for now, because there isn;t really owt else going on. So I’ll shall catch you on Saturday. Have a good one.

Not even new signing excitement could avoid the tedium

Happy Thursday is wished unto thee, as you like I, battle the tedium that is an international break.

We’re fully into the festering swamp that is internationals now, so there’s no point on looking back and discussing football of weekends past, we just have to keep our eyes on the prize and focus on the visit of Moneychester City to The Emirates on Saturday week.

Last night I made the epic mistake of tuning in to about 40 minutes worth of England Vs Norway and, perhaps surprisingly, found some comfort in the game. The comfort came from the fact that my expectations and experiences of international football have not proven to be false and that it really is a total waste of time. 40,000 people (less than half the stadium) decided that they had nothing better to do in Wembley last night, but by the end of the 1-0 win there will hardly have been any people inside the stadium that would have felt it was a worthwhile journey.

A turgid England was only made more satisfying, for me as an Arsenal fan, by the noises that came from corners of the media saying that Wilshere had a decent game and that Welbeck made a positive impact when he came on for the last 20 minutes. Let’s just hope that all the Arsenal players can come back fit as a fiddle after the qualifying game against Switzerland.

I suppose one positive I can draw from this international break is that by playing a team like City straight after the internationals have finished, we will be playing against players that have also been on international duty, which means there is no additional advantage gained over a team that has had a week to put their feet up. I know that it shouldn’t really matter at this stage of the season, and that having international quality players is what you need in your team if you want to win things, but I’m looking for any sma victories here, so humour me folks.

So we got our first glimpse of Arsenal’s Welbeck yesterday, who looked like he had a spring in his step, if you don’t mind me saying. Perhaps he was buoyed by his transfer and the prospect of finally getting a chance to play as a central striker? Whatever it was, he looked pretty decent and having had his first interview posted on the official site in the afternoon, he’s already endearing himself to fans like me with his comments.

Whilst recognising he spent a lot of time at United, he was very focused on all things Arsenal and the future, perhaps even being slightly dismissive of his past if I do say so myself. And I do. Because that’s what I want to hear and it’s always better to believe what you want to believe, rather than what could be the reality, which includes the fact that having been in the United first team for many years he’ll have been media trained to BBC news anchorman standards.

Regardless of the likelihood that he was telling us what we wanted to hear, it was still good to hear him speak so glowingly about The Arsenal, watching them on TV all the time, admiring the style of football and imagining himself playing for us. What I also liked about his interview was the sense that he already felt part of the club, using the all encompassing ‘we’ to describe Arsenal as a team, the recent history, etc. It’s the little things, you know?

But actually, it’s what he started to touch on (admittedly with the help of the interviewer) when talking about the creative players that we have, that had me getting excited of the prospect of him being a success at the club this season and I the future. He talked about linking up with the midfielders, about getting in behind defences and about using his pace to bag himself a few goals. It was only a year ago to the day that you could look at our team and, Theo aside, wonder how many times the players we had could get in behind defences like the Arsenal teams of old. Now, with the additions of Welbeck, Sanchez and Campbell, there are multiple options with pace as well as Walcott. The hope is that we can use it to our advantage.

I hope he hits the ground running on Saturday week and I hope we see him bang in a debut goal. That would be special and give us all a massive lift.

There’s not really a lot else to report on. It was nice to see Chambers get some minutes on the pitch towards the end of the match yesterday, plus the Ox got another good run out after injury last season and despite the fact he didn’t have the best game in the world, he will need time to rediscover his potency in the attacking third of the pitch so I’m not particularly worried about that. Jack will have also have felt good about getting another decent performance under his belt and, with all of the scrutiny he has over everything he does, it’s pleasing to see he’s essentially ignoring the morons in the media and getting his head down and working towards being the great player he can be. I still wonder how much game time he’ll get when Arteta, Ramsey and Özil are firing on all cylinders in the middle of the park, but it’s a concern for another day so I’ll park any further thoughts on that for now.

That’s yer lot from me today. Stay safe in this bleakest of international breaks.

A reason to watch international football???

Welcome to Wednesday, a Wednesday in which where we’d normally be counting down until the next Arsenal game, we’re thrust into the cruddyness of an international break with only the prospective of pointless friendlies to endure over the next couple of days. Oh, and don’t forget the nervous and worry about players coming back from international duty looking like C3-P0 after he’s stumbled across something he shouldn’t have.

We even had the hilarity of hearing that new signing Danny Welbeck picked up a knock in the last kick of training yesterday. Thankfully Woy has said he’s ok, but wouldn’t it just be classic Arsenal luck if we’d have found out he’s out for six weeks with an ankle sprain or something similar?

Of course I’m being a bit melodramatic, but that’s how I feel about international breaks, that they are designed to cause maximum breakages to Arsenal players. In fact, that’s probably why they call them ‘breaks’ and not ‘excursions’.

Anyway, we got our first glimpses of Welbeck in a new shirt yesterday and I must say I’m pleased. Pleased because it looks like he’s trimmed down his high flat-top haircut a bit and looks a little less like he should be a person of royalty from Bel-Air. It also means the only ridiculous haircut in the team is now Matthieu Debuchy (although Giroud’s loaf comes close), which I can handle if it’s just one of them. We’ve always had one you see, from the grease of Chamakh to the orange head of Ian Wright, there’s always been one nutter when it comes to styling the old barnet.

It’s number 23 that Welbeck will be wearing and I’m sure I’m not the only one hoping his Arsenal career is more akin to his predecessor of that number who played at centre half for Arsenal and England, rather than the one that waddled the wings of The Emirates and Russia only a few short years ago. The important thing is that he hasn’t got the dreaded number 18 shirt; a burden for which somebody really should have told Monreal of some of the players in recent past who had worn that cursed number. T’would be the morally decent thing to do you know.

How are you feeling about the internationals tonight though? Will you watch them? Me personally, I normally swear off them if I can (and when I get the Metropolitan Line home of an evening I really do quite literally ‘swear’, especially with all the ‘ENG-GER-LAND’ fans who turn up), but today I think I might actually tune in to England vs Norway. Roy has suggested that he’ll play Welbeck if he’s fit – albeit only for a limited amount of time – but that’s pretty much the only reason why I’ll be tuning in. You see, I have a reason to actually watch Welbeck a little more closely now, to scrutinise every touch and hope to see positive glimpses of what he could bring to The Arsenal. Before, he was just another dude in a white shirt, but now he’s an Arsenal boy it’s an opportunity to start making snap judgements before he’s even kicked a ball for his new club. It’s weird actually, as I was saying to Lulunix on Twitter yesterday, I literally cannot remember a game in which he has played and how he has played, such is my awesome ability to tune out on any noise from the football world that isn’t related to The Arsenal. The down side of which is that I now can’t really remember what sort of player we’ve got from United. The upside of course, as somebody pointed out to me when they said that Welbeck scored in the 8-2 defeat (for which I was on a plane at the time and so therefore have conveniently never had to watch) at Old Trafford, is that I can erase bad memories of Arsenal pretty darn well too.

We’re great at doing that, you see, us football fans. Forgetting quickly, snap judgements, etc – we’ve got all of that in our lockers.

I suspect he’ll get a maximum of a half tonight, so I’m not really going to be making any instant judgements, because he’ll probably not even start in his expected position for England. He’ll be shunted out to the left wing and will more than likely be less effective. Let’s hope though that he can come back unbroken and quite eager to prove himself against a former bitter Manchester rival in City.

Because it’s the tedium of the international break, there’s very little real other news going on, unless you count the Ox talking about learning from the World Cup experience. I’d wager that he didn’t learn that much by being in a sh*te team and not being fully fit, unless he learnt not to get injured, in which case he’d get two thumbs up from your humble narrator here.

That’s pretty much it for now. I was thinking about delving more deeply into the ‘how the bloody hell are Poldi and Campbell going to get a look in?’ debate, but I think I’ll save that for another day, as I could probably spend half my life pondering that particular conundrum.

Anyway, catch ya laters, potatoes.