Jack to make his own position at Arsenal?

It’s the first of a two day week for me, before I disappear off into the distant and sunny shores of Portugal for ten days, so you’d hope that Arsenal could grant me a bit of news, right?

Wrong. The only real talking point on the official site is Aaron Ramsey’s goal of the season against Galatasaray. What a strike that was, eh? He’s been quoted as saying it’s one of the best goals he’s ever scored and from a ‘purity of strike’ perspective, it’s hard to imagine. On his weaker foot, from about 30 to 35 yards, it was one of those that was scored from the second the ball departed from the Welsman’s laces. A fitting and worthy goal of the season winner, in a season where we’ve certainly had our fair share of them.

Perhaps Jack checked in on the official website for some inspiration yesterday, because he decided that he’d get his England goalscoring account underway with two absolute pearlers against the Slovenian’s yesterday. I didn’t watch the game (why would I? It’s England) yesterday, but I did hunt out his goals afterwards and with those two notched up along with the one against West Brom at the end of the season, has Jack found his range all of a sudden?

It’s a shame we have to wait until August to find out, but since he returned to injury towards the end of 2014/15, he has looked to have an extra bit of spark in his game. He’s displayed some very effective cameo appearances when coming on in the final weeks of the season and when he has started he’s been good for both club and country. With Jack there has always been a question as to whether he can shake off what has become a bit of an ‘injury prone’ tag, but having seen what we’ve all seen from him over the last month/six weeks, my thoughts are moving away from ‘can he stay fit’ and more towards ‘who does he replace to secure a first team spot?’.

I put a thought out on Twitter last night about whether Jack could eventually replace Santi in midfield. Cazorla has reinvented himself as an excellent deep-lying playmaker and his vision and ability to see a pass where others cannot means that it’s worked well for him sitting alongside Le Coq. But he’s 31 now I believe and although I have no desires to see him moved on in any way, shape, or form, I do wonder if there is an opportunity for Jack to take that role.

What does he need to improve on in terms of replacing Santi though? Well, his ability to pick a pass as consistently as the little Spaniard, would certainly be one area. The question I intimated online was whether or not ‘vision’ or the ability to spot a pass is something that can be taught, or whether it is natural, to which the next question in relation to Jack is whether he already has that in his locker. I think – and some also concurred via social media too – that he does, but it is more a question as to whether he can ever do it on a regular basis. In his defence (again, as was pointed out to me via social media), Cazorla has a few years on Jack in terms of honing his radar, so there is time for him to develop. But if he wants to be the type of world-beater we all think he can be, then he’s going to need to up his consistency levels fairly soon, because Arsenal are the type of club now who can’t afford to blood a player in the hope he reaches the highest high.

Another train of thought that came from my discussion was whether he needs to replace Santi as a like-for-like at all? After all, he has different attributes and can carve his own style on the team if he is good enough and has enough impact. Footballers should not be shoehorned into certain types of positional demographics. Sometimes you have players that evolve their own position in a team and do so because they are effective, contribute successfully for the team and occasionally you get one player lucky enough to have the team built around them. 

Gone are the days when footballers are pigeon-holed into a 4-4-2 formation. Fifteen years ago I’d never heard the phrase ‘defensive midfielder’, ‘deep lying playmaker’ or ‘false nine’, so maybe there’s a position out there for Jack to carve his own?

Who knows. Certainly not me. That’s why I’ve just busted out half a dozen paragraphs or so and still haven’t really come to any concrete conclusion. What I do know, however, is that we have a very talented midfielder who could be on the brink of something very good indeed.

Laterz.

Arsenal season review: midfield surplus

hello there you. Are you pleased it’s a Friday and not a Tuesday? I am. It means I get a bit of a lie in tomorrow. Plus my dad promised me a BBQ at his house in the evening on Saturday, so it will be a full day of rest, just got to get through this full day of work.

And what better way to do so than have a bit of an earlier morning ponder on our midfield for the 2014/15 season, eh?

It’s a blog that could probably take me the whole day if I really wanted to go into the minutia of detail on each player, because much like last season, it’s an area of the team in which we’ve had an abundance of players going into the start of the season. Wilshere, Flamini, Ramsey, Cazorla, Arteta, Rosicky, Coquelin, Özil and The Ox; it’s not an area that i’d have told you we needed to worry about too much in August. Plenty of depth there.

Yet Arsenal have an uncanny knack of finding a way of looking a bit threadbare, don’t we, and by Christmas we were all scratching our heads wondering how it had come to this that we were recalling midfielders from loan spells just so they could make up the numbers. Or so we thought.

Step forward the single most ‘surprise package’ player of the season, Francis Coquelin, who has shown the footballing world that sometimes it just takes the right mix of application and fortune to turn a player into a star. He was there for us exactly when we needed him. Hard-tackling, screening the back four and within a couple of games of starting, he was looking every bit the fabled ‘DM’ that we’d all been crying out for since Alex Song decided he was an assist maker and didn’t need to do any ‘dirty work’.

Le Coq loves the dirty work. His ability to win a tackle is brilliant and although many of us still want investment in that area to ensure competition, in my mind he’s earned the right to start the season as number one. Santi rightly picked up the plaudits in the game at The Etihad, but Coquelin was just as important in my eyes, protecting a defence under siege and doing so with a strength that no other player in the squad can do. Think Flamini, version 2007, only Coquelin has better distribution. The Flamster has been reduced to less than a bit-part player this season, which is probably just as well because when he has played he has looked a little bit like a headless chicken with a bit of a chip on its shoulder. We’re beyond the stages of Flamini’s persistent fouling and bookings being funny now; we needed a cultured defensive midfielder and we have one plucked from a loan in South London who does that.

But this season’s midfield story has been more than just that of an unlikely hero in defensive midfield. Step forward another unlikely hero, albeit playing in a different position rather than being unknown, and that guy is Santiago Cazorla. 

When I looked at our midfield at the beginning of the season, I honestly couldn’t see how Santi was going to displace some of the other players in the squad, because Alexis had been bought and was clearly going to take up the wide left position, which Santi has spent quite a bit of time occupying in the last couple of seasons. Jack and Rambo were surely duking it out as the box-to-box midfielders and Arteta and Flamini were the natural choices for the holding role. Santi wasn’t better than Özil as the number 10, was he? Nor does he have the same energy in his play as Rosicky. So he was the player I thought would struggle.

I needn’t have worried too much though, because excellent players can also be adaptable, so I would come to pass that Santi would carve a new role in the ever-evolving Arsenal team as a deep-lying playmaker. And boy, did it ever work. 

Santi is like the Football equivalent of American Football’s quarterback. When he picks up the ball with the players we have in attack in front of him, he can drive us forward, with either a quick shimmy and dribble away from an opposing player, or a sumptuous long ball across the field with pinpoint accuracy. A perfect example of this is the assist he got for Ramsey’s goal against Hull. That long defence-splitting pass perfectly weighted to the Welshman’s feet, dispatched to secure the game but born from the ability in the Spaniard’s feet. I can’t even remember which foot, because both deliver the same result, such is the artistry in those tiny feet.

He’s also shown a defensive side to his game too which plenty of us didn’t know existed. He can get stuck in and even wins the odd tackle and then if there isn’t a quick counter attacking ball on, he can just dribble around half a team single-handedly himself anyway, a lá Moneychester City away.

Ahead of those two we’ve seen patches of form from all other players. Most recently Jack has looked hungry since coming back from injury, but his performance at home to Moneychester City was a thing of beauty and showcased his ability to dictate a game if the circumstances allow. Often those circumstances are injury related and you have to think that – despite saying this every year for the last two – his season next season is an important one as he tries to find his place in the team. Much like Ramsey, I feel like Arsène is desperate to fit Jack in to the team, but unless he can sustain his fitness for longer than a few months, he might find his passage blocked by other players. Just look at Abou Diaby. He is a forgotten man. So much so I didn’t even mention him as an option in our bulging midfield selection at the start of the blog. 

Right now, particularly since Ramsey has reconnected with his 2013/14 form as the season draws to a close, it’s hard to see Jack getting ahead of Aaron in the pecking order if there was a straight shootout between the two. So much like Santi, does Jack have to re-invent himself in order to nail a starting spot? Perhaps. He’s been tried in that deep-lying playmaker role for England, but whether he could displace Santi remains to be seen, because Jack’s a dribbler and I’m not sure he has the same vision as Cazorla.

But hey, the modern day game is about a squad, so that’s what you need in order to compete on all fronts and that is why Jack and the other midfielders will all get an opportunity during different stages of next season.

One player who id love to see more of, but I’m not sure how, is Super Tom Rosicky. Indeed, I’m actually quite surprised he signed a one year extension, because his game time towards the end of this season has been minimal so I’d have thought he’d want to go somewhere to get regular football. He’s good enough. His performances in the FA Cup earlier stages showed that. His goal in the fourth round against Brighton was replayed last Sunday on Arsenal Player and it was a reminder about just how technically sound he is. A cheeky ‘look away’ pass that had Phil Neville frothing at the mouth, then a superb strike a few seconds later to back up his audacity. He’ll play some part in next season, but I’ve got no idea when.

I’ve almost run out of time on the tube this morning and like I said at the start of the blog, I could probably talk until tomorrow about the different players, but before I go I’ll make room for one more:

Mesut Fricking Özil.

Lambasted at the start of the season, accepted as a maestro by the end, our German Number 10 has had the cliched ‘game of two halves’ this season. What clearly now seems to have been a bit of a World Cup hangover that carried in to his early season form, the injury layoff until the new year was a god send for him. He recouped, bulked up and was brilliant until the end of the season. He sees space and passes that no other mortal sees. He draws players near them, then weaves away to find a teammate having given them more room to do their stuff. He was integral to Walcott’s first goal last weekend and an Arsenal team with him in it is an Arsenal team that will always create chances. I love that we have Mes in our team. 

Do we need replacements in midfield? Perhaps. But even if we don’t go out and buy a beast like Kondogbia this summer, I’d still be pleased with our midfield going in to the 2015-16 season. 

Swansea preview: negate a high press and keep an eye out wide

Liverpool’s draw with Chelski mathematically secured the top four for us yesterday, but on a day where QPR were supposed to be giving it the last hurrah by at least holding Momeychester City to a draw at he Etihad, I was expecting better than a 6-0 thrashing. For us, in terms of trying to get second, it’s the worst possible type of score line, because it will probably mean that City’s goal difference is a little bit too far for us to catch up with. Before yesterday it was two – by no means insurmountable – but at eight and with just four to play, I can’t see us matching or beating them.

Ultimately it shouldn’t matter, because second or third means nought but a few extra million by finishing higher up by one spot, but still it would be nice to be seen to have out performed a side built on a foundation of refineries and dollar bills. 

If we do want that second spot it is still within our hands. We probably have to win all of our home games to finish level on points with City, starting this evening with Swansea at home. 

It’s an interesting one for the manager because if he chooses to keep the same XI he’s played over the last few weeks, you’d have to wonder about his desire to engage in any kind of rotation at all unless forced. Swansea represent a side that has performed well this season, have already beaten us on their own turf, but who should have a distinctly ‘end of season, nothing to play for’ look and feel about themselves. I’m not sure we’ll get that, but it’s what I’m hoping for anyway. 

I hope Arsène does rotate. I’d like us to be keeping players like Gibbs, Wilshere and Walcott topped up with match sharpness in case they are needed and that means they need to be given chances to show what they’re capable of from the start. I doubt Arsène will go for any extreme levels of rotation, like bringing in Szczesny, Debuchy, Gabriel, Gibbs, Flamini, Rosicky, Walcott, etc, but one or two of his deck shuffled should still give us enough to overcome the Welsh side.

We know that Swansea will try to retain possession and out pass us. They work on a higher press and try to win the ball back further up the field, where as when they have the ball they build from the back very patiently. It’s worked too. I remember seeing them Michu us a few years ago, then frustrate us last season with a late goal to nab a draw, so we cannot afford to show any kind of lethargy in our build up play tonight. It will be a warm summers evening but none of us want to see sloppy transition from defensive possession to attacking threat. 

To be fair to our current crop, I don’t think we’ll get that, because form and confidence should dictate that we are on it tonight. We’re playing well and all of the players know that competition is intense enough to see any of them lose their place and with an FA Cup on the horizon, there is plenty of motivation for them all.

Swansea will be reliant on Batefemi Gomis to be a threat on the counter and if they go with nippy wide men like Montero and Dyer then I expect them to look to counter us with pace on the flanks. If we are too hung ho in pushing our fullbacks forward like auxillery wingers rather than actual defenders, that’s where we may find an Achilles heel for ourselves.

In the middle of the park they will use Jonjo Shelvey to build up play and providing we offer him little space, it should stifle and frustrate him. If he’s trying pot-shots from 35 yards plus then Ospina should back himself to keep any rogue ones on target out, but it will mean we’ve stifled his supply line and that will do just nicely.

I am hoping for another masterful display from our midfield maestros Santi and Mesut, because these are the sort of games where they tend to do quite well. If Swansea press hard all over the pitch it will mean those players who can operate best in confined circles will be the most successful. So that’s why I’m looking for those two to potentially be the difference tonight. 

Let’s hope so and hope that three points are ours come the final whistle. Come on you reds!

Internal solutions to external questions on transfers; Santi the quarterback

Plenty to talk about today, as Arsene had his pre-match presser and had lots to say on a wide range of topics.

He was asked about doing transfer business early and gave  the standard sort of non-committal answer about not doing early transfer business, but doing the right transfer business, which would surely be all the press could ask for on any question about transfers whilst we’re still in the season. I really don’t approve of the media’s “look what they’ve done, what are you going to do, hmm?” approach to transfers. It’s so ridiculously reactionary and if there’s one thing I’ve learned being a football fan in my time on this earth, it’s that transfers are usually a lot more thought through by all football clubs than the media would have you believe. There’s always multiple factors involved between buying and selling clubs (Le Boss cited the move for Alexis being contingent on the signing of Luis Suarez), but rarely if ever is transfer business bought forward just because another club/rival has made a big statement early in the off season/end of season.

What will be more interesting is how Arsene assesses his existing squad, because the general consensus amongst Arsenal fans I speak to is that we don’t really need a lot. In fact I’m going to go out on a limb here – if we signed nobody in the summer I wouldn’t be foaming at the mouth – because we’ve managed to source solutions internally during the course of the season already. I hate to be clichéd and sound like our Strasbourgian manager, but we have found players that are just ‘like a new signing’ in Bellerin, Coquelin and even to a lesser extent players like Monreal who have upped their game. In that sense, we’re stronger than we were at the beginning of this season and if we restarted the season with this team, I’d wager we’d be a lot closer to Chelski than we are now. There is arguments to be had about the fact United, City and Chelski will all make signings and will all be strengthened, but again without wanting to sound too clichéd, you can only ever play eleven on the pitch and if they buy a host of new players they’re not going to be able to fit them all in to a new team.

Loan players will come back and will need to be assessed. I suspect that Poldi will be moved on, but the futures of Jenkinson and Campbell are less clear. Interestingly Arsene said he would talk with Carl about his future when the season finishes and with the Harlow-born lad already making noises about needing to play more regularly, Arsene spoke about the possibility of another loan deal. Now, apologies for me being all speculative and slightly conspiracy theoryesque, but I wonder if Arsene is looking at Debuchy’s injury-hit season and his age and wondering if in a year’s time Jenkinson might be a better option at right back with another season of first-team Premier League football under his belt. If Arsene had a mind to sell Carl I would have thought he would have been a little more cagey in his response when asked yesterday, but he seemed to be quite open about the fact that next season might mean another loan spell. That says to me that he thinks the right back has a future at Arsenal. As for Campbell, I’m really not sure how he’s going to feature in this Arsenal team. There’s no doubt that Walcott is next in line to play at the moment and he’s not even getting game time, so unless Campbell is ripping up trees in Villareal (He hasn’t scored for Villareal yet I believe, nor registered an assist), then I can’t see how he’s going to play. He signed a new deal in January before going out on loan, but that was surely to protect his value.

So whilst many are looking at a ‘keeper, central midfielder, striker and for some, a central defender (don’t get that one personally myself), I would be surprised to see that many signings.

What I think will happen this week is that Arsene will rotate a little bit. He sort of set up this Monday’s game for that yesterday, by saying that over the last few weeks all of Theo, Kieran and Jack haven’t been at 100% since returning from injury, but they are now at that level, so it just feels like he might give those three in particular a run out. And hey, if that happens on Monday, I think it will be a good thing. We need to keep players fresh and rotated and believing that if they pay well enough, then they’ll get a regular place in the team. Players are all fighting for a place in the cup final too, so I think there will be a little bit more desire to impress if they are given minutes. The fact that Arsene admitted he’s also quite happy to rotate says to me that we might see a bit on Monday. I know there will have been an element of a leading question from the press to get that answer from him, but I still think he’ll try a bit of a shuffle. Just have a feeling is all.

One player who will play, regardless I believe, is Santi the magician. His form this season has been sparkling and I’ve referred to him a couple of times already as the perfect ‘quarterback’ for us. Sitting deep he is able to pick passes that we haven’t had for a while – maybe ever in that deeper lying position, but alongside Coquelin he has been a key component in our success since the beginning of January. Talk of him moving overseas back to Spain at the end of the season is fanciful I think. Arsenal won’t let that valuable asset go. He’s got a couple more years with us I suspect, before he inevitably heads back to his homeland and by then you’d hope that one of our other younger players will be looking to step up to that role in the team by then.

But we can worry about that another time. For now, we have a non-Arsenal weekend and the desire is there to watch Crystal Palace and Chelski beat Manchester United and Liverpool respectively, thereby guaranteeing our automatic Champions League spot next season. See thee soon.

Blessed be St Tott with the gift of three points

Much like Easter, I do prefer it when St Totterigham’s Day is bought forward in the calendar, as it enables us to enjoy it more I think. It was nice for the authorities to see fit to grant a national bank holiday in honour of the occasion.

I spent my St Totteringham’s Day in the garden, doing classic bank holiday tasks of cutting the grass and pulling down ivy from the side of the house, hardly the most thrilling of days. But it was still an enjoyable one by the time my head hit the pillow.

Arsenal saw to that.

I looked at this game, at the form of Hull, wondering whether or not we’d face a side scrapping for their lives and having picked up six points in their previous two games, keen to catch us off guard with a quick start. But as a bit more of a natural pessimist, I vastly underestimated the level of confidence the team has right now, evident even before we scored our first goal.

Arsène named an unchanged squad from the Chelski game and although I had expressed a desire to see us play with more width and pace, I was hardly upset by any inclusion, because the form of every player playing regularly in the team is good now. So after the first ten minutes of near total domination of the possession, I knew that this was a Hull team that feared being overrun if they came at us too strongly, pushing bodies forward that would inevitably leave space for our creative players.

But despite trying to play deeper and not give us too much space, the form of players like Özil and Santi, meant that space was created by movement and quick-thinking. The way we popped the ball around in the first half was majestic. Cazorla – who is becoming the very definition of an American Football-style ‘quarter-back’ – sat deeper with the play in front of him and saw things that even watching on TV, with a better vantage point, I was unable to observe without a replay. To think that this is a little Spanish chap who many thought would not get in to the team this season. Madness.

In front of him an Özil who looks like he’s been sticking two fingers up to the critical English media since he came back from injury, was in fine form, cropping up all over the park and always giving a team mate an option. I haven’t looked at any heat maps, but he covered pretty much every blade of grass, also finding time to make some very good runs in behind the back three of Hull’s defensive line. Accusations of lethargy pointed in the direction of the German are so far off the mark they fall off the page. 

His little flick in the second half though, eh? Vision, composure and the deftest of touches, make him every bit the superstar at Arsenal. Thank goodness we have him.

Not just him though. Thank goodness we have a lot of our players. They entertain us all season and at the moment they do it with a swagger and technical ability that far outdoes any other more ‘pragmatic’ teams at the top of the table. Alexis was on form last night too. The first goal may have been fortunate in the deflection it took, but it was the least his performance merited. He was his usual effervescent self, but it also felt like some of that rubbed off on the other players too. Ramsey will always be Ramsey and will always close down the space to pressurise opponents, but Özil was nicking the ball away through the higher press too, with he result of his interception leading to the free kick from which the first goal came.

The second goal may have also had a slight tinge of fortune to it in the deflection from Brady off Ramsey’s shot, but again the ball from Cazorla and the running from the Welshman to create the space was sublime, so it’s hard to deny such a fabulously worked goal some credit by dismissing it as a bit of a ‘fluke’.

Goal number three had no such hint of fortune though and again the pass to set it up was brilliant from Ramsey to find Alexis in between the defenders and then beyond Harper to touch the ball into an empty net. 

We may have conceded in the second half (a questionable one given that Meyler fouled Koscienly in the build up) to make for a five minute period of a wee bit of jitteriness immediately after the goal, but it is a marked difference in this Arsenal team in comparison with some of its predecessors, that the ship was steadied and the three points secured as we tuned the remainder of the game into a bit of an exhibition match by limited Hull’s chances and retaining possession. As I’ve said on previous blogs, it feels like we’re building for next season, which means that maintaining momentum by winning games is vitally important. Winning yesterday all but guaranteed a Champions League spot next season, but that’s not the benchmark now, we need to be going for more. We need to be picking up enough wins to make others take note for next season, but more importantly we need the players to go into the summer believing that they will win the league next season.

Tis’ the season to be jolly and on this St Totteringham’s Boxing Day we must give thanks to those that made it possible. 

Catch you tomorrow.

Loanees show how fortunes change quickly in football

There’s still another three days before Matchday is upon us and, perhaps unsurprisingly, all is quiet. So quiet, that talk about Cazorla wanting to return to Spain has seen a ripple of interest across the tinternet. Santi grew up near Real Oviedo and has said he’d like to go back there one day before he retires. 

OUTRAGEOUS! ‘CAZORLA WANTS ARSENAL EXIT’ is the story headline I could fire across the blog to see if I can scoop myself a few thousand extra clicks. But we both know that what Cazorla said – he’d like to play for his boyhood club, but it will be difficult to do so in the short term – is something that shouldn’t really surprise anyone. If anything, it’s nice to see a player have an affection for a local team and express a desire to go back and appreciate his roots. I couldn’t imagine something like that being said by a mercenary like…oh, I don’t know…Samir Nasri or somebody like that. 

So let’s have Santi for another three years and then when his star is fading somewhat, but he can still light up his local club, let’s grant him his wish and let him go in peace. That’s my hope anyway. He’s got a few more trophies to try to help us win yet. Hopefully starting with this season.

So yeah, pretty quiet at the moment, so much so that I scrolled into the news archives on the official site this morning, to check out what’s happening with our loanees. The younger players appear to all be getting minutes under their belt, which is always useful from a development perspective, but some of the more senior players out on loan appear to be stagnating somewhat it seems. You know how people say a year is a long time in football? Well nine months is just as long it appears, as you only have to look at both Podolski and Campbell to see how rapidly your stock can fall. Poldi arrived in Italy with a big reputation for goal scoring and a fanfare from the Inter faithful. They had bagged an international champion with a loan deal from another top European team and he would help to steer them towards greater victory. Fast forward from January this year and Poldi is an unused sub against Hellas Verona. 

Poor old Stevie Gooner Oaf, he who so resolutely stood by a player with a fantastic goal scoring record and clear eye for goal, but with little else to warrant his inclusion in the Arsenal or Inter team, is surely on the verge of a return back to Germany in the summer. I’d be surprised if Arsène even sent him a plane ticket as far as London if I’m honest. It’s clear – as the Arsenal team goes from strength to strength – he will not see action in a red and white London shirt ever again. Unless he fancies rocking up at Brentford or Charlton.  It may have seemed a strange move at the time, but it’s hard to argue Arsène’s very sound logic right now. 

We all loved him for his personality and ability to connect with the Arsenal fans, but with each passing match week it appears Lukas is looking more and more like a busted flush.

So too, it appears, does Joel Campbell. Remember how he was the saviour of our offensive problems in the first couple of months of the season? Much gnashing of teeth and exasperated hand gestures were thrown Arsène’s way when he refused to give more game time to the Costa Rican – a player who had excelled during the World Cup – yet he too finds himself an unused sub for Villareal and is at a stage now in which each passing week looks like he’ll probably be moved on permanently. And will there be any return of the gnashing teeth? Doubtful. That new deal he signed was clearly one designed to ensure maximum return on investment from a revenue generation point of view from Arsenal, but once again I doubt you’ll find too many Arsenal fans tutting in the direction of Le Boss methinks, because as Arsenal (actually top flight football fans in general, but we’re only concerned with ourselves so, y’know, what-evs) fans we’re all amateur accountants and a bit of cash for a player out on loan whilst the team is doing fine without him is fine by us.

That’s what victories and success affords you I suppose. Rather than the very convenient “well there’s an option on loan that we’re not even taking advantage of” being used as a sharp stick to beat the manager with, talk turns to how much cash we might get from players out on loan and how that might be invested in the team.

Football is very much a creature of the ‘here and now’ and the old cliches of ‘you’re only as good as your last game’ just serve to emphasise how quickly things change. It’s why the rewards are so high, as are the risks, I suppose. You only have to look at the seemingly inevitable departure of Pelligrini at Moneychester City to see that. So predicting the next generation of talent, of when a player has fulfilled his potential and is ready to become a first team success, is so hard. It’s easy for me, with my ability to forget what I have said six months ago and to seem like the managers decisions are baffling, but for Arsène everything is on record and his mistakes are recorded and replayed by a million eyes. The rise of Francis Coquelin seems obvious now to me (perhaps you too), but if you’d have asked me at the beginning of the season who would make a bigger impact on the first team – Coquelin, Campbell or Podolski – even I with my affection for Le Coq, couldn’t have placed him top of the list. He might not even have made the top two.

Still, at least I’m not the Arsenal manager, eh? Otherwise we’d all probably be in trouble!

That’s enough from me for one day. I have a beautiful sunny day ahead of me that I won’t bother taking advantage of thanks to my role as an office desk jockey. 

Cheerio for now.

horrendous scenes in Italy and Mesut’s high midi-chlorian count

If you could have written a more horrible ending to an England match, would it have been far off from seeing a host of Totteringham players celebrating a goal from the nation with which you were born? That’s what I and many other English-born Arsenal fans had to endure last night, as Andros ‘The Saviour’ Townsend scored an admittedly good goal against a pretty lame Italian team. The scenes then cut to a four-man huddle in which all of Townsend’s fellow Spuddies surrounded him. Not sure if anybody else did; perhaps all of the other players hate the Spuds as much as we do? Here’s hoping.

So that was my evening unfortunately. The Management smirked a little when reminding me that despite my profession that I hate internationals, I still watch them, to which all I had in my locker was “it’s football tho, innit”. But she’s right to a point I guess. I should stay true to my feelings and ignore their existence completely.

I’ll admit there was a bit of intrigue in seeing how Theo would perform up top against the Italians but, given that he was subbed off on 54 minutes having only had a handful of touches, I think it’s fairly safe to say that particular hope was one that was quickly doused with realism very early in the game. He just wasn’t effective at all and although he was strangely played as a number 10, he still could have done more to show for the ball, at the very least. But I still understand that when you don’t play to a players strengths, you rarely get a top notch performance. Theo’s problems of not being versatile enough have been his undoing this season, but last night it was that Woy just wanted to shoe him in to a formation that only works if you have players with the vision to find him peeling off the shoulder of the last defender. I saw Rooney find him with the perfect Theo ball once in the first half and but for a great block it probably would have been 1-0, so whilst we can roll our eyes at the fact he only had 14 touches, we should also roll our eyes at the inadequacy of the Englabd coaching staff not to realise that it was never going to work.

But hey, at least he and Gibbs appear to have come off without any issues and so hopefully we have a decent squad to call on against the Scousers this weekend, with Danny Welbeck apparently even looking like he’s recovered from a knock. All of this means that Arsène has some squad selection choices to make and the official website is running a story on how he does it. Unsurprisingly there is nothing that will stop the presses – choose the team the night before, talk to the medical staff to see if anyone has a col or a knock, see who performs well in training, etc – but it’s still worth 30 seconds of your time to read I think. Even if only to wash away the grubbiness of having to endure international football for over a week.

There’s also a story in which Özil says that he, Alexis and Cazorla see things on the football pitch before they actually happen, in some sort of Anakin Skywalker midi-chlorians count kind of way. Obviously I added in that last bit because I have an unhealthy obsession with Star Wars, but it is nonetheless interesting that Mesut has singled out those two specifically. All three have impressed in different parts of the season and all three are certainly players with more vision than most in the squad. There seems to have been some mention in some quarters of the Arsenal observing world that neither Özil or Alexis have been able to peak as yet, but I put that down to injury or fatigue rather than any kind of inability to play with each other. Arsène places so much emphasis on balance and le’harmony in the side, that I don’t think he’d be playing both in the same side so often if he wasn’t convinced of their combined benefits to the team, so I suspect we’ll soon see both at full flow and firing on all cylinders in the same matches together. It just needs time.

So we’ve managed to wrestle free of the horrible grip of the Interlull and now we can look ahead towards the game at the weekend, one in which it would be amazing to win, not least to make Phil Neville look like a bit of a plum for predicting we’ll not get top four and our form will most likely start to fall apart over the coming weeks. Come on Arsenal, let’s make a plum out of the stupider Neville brother.

Catch you tomorrow.