Sunday, 30 January 2011

January Review - Arsenal

So one of the busiest months in the history of The Arsenal is over and we are still in both domestic cups and 2nd in the league. Not perfect but very impressive. This month has seen us play a staggering 9 times, the most in a month since April 1980 (via @OptaJean). So you would think we would know a lot more about our squad and the fact is we do and it is it doesn’t make good reading. We have a decent squad but sometimes you can think it’s a lot better than it makes out to be. When we lined up against Leeds I was truly impressed with our line up that day but bloody hell they were awful and that was topped by our abysmal display at Ipswich. The fact remains we can probably afford 2 or 3 injuries but anything more than that and we’ll find ourselves in the same position that we ended last season in. I’m sure Wenger has concerns about this and maybe he’ll venture into the transfer market tomorrow........or maybe not.

When it comes to The Premier League and our 1st team our form has been excellent, taking 10 points from 12. Van Persie has hit form and we’ve looked at different side with a good striker leading the line. Robin offers us so much more than Chamakh and Bendtner, something which is reflected in the fact we haven’t even conceded a goal when he’s been on the pitch this month. That could be coincidental but he holds the ball up, allows others to join in play and leads from the front. Other factors around our defensive improvement could be stability. Koscielny and Djourou have partnered each other 7 times this month and we’ve conceded 2 goals in that time. Who says you need to rotate? Not that we have a bloody choice mind.  They found an understanding this month and they can at times prove to be a little shaky but in truth they are really under heavy pressure and they have grown stronger as the month has gone on. That may also be down to our midfield trio of Cesc, Jack and Song. Song has been more responsible in his play, Jack has been the outstanding in his work rate and passing and Cesc has stepped up when needed. Again, these 3 have only started in the same side 4 times this month (all in the Premier League) and we’ve failed to concede in any of those games. So all in all, when it comes to our 1st team regulars we’ve been pretty solid. We are defending and attacking as a side again and it’s amazing what results that brings.

Our keeper situation looks a lot healthier going into February. Interesting to read that Wenger stated Szczesny is our #1 but Fabianski will be pretty miffed after not doing an awful lot wrong before getting injured. Hopefully Almunia departs tomorrow but with Fabianski’s injury status up in the air it’s unlikely he will. So I’ll give him 3 weeks before he opens his mouth and has a rant about being #3 and there won’t be anyone around to back him up.

Overall a good month results wise but it’s just going to take a little bit more endeavour from our backups to prove their worth to the cause.  Too many of them are happy to ride on the back of our 1st team and reap the rewards that brings but we need everyone to contribute if we are to be successful. Remember in 1998 when we played Palace at home and our side was shot to bits due to injuries? Gilles Grimandi stepped up that day and we got a 1-0 win. It proved crucial and it was one of the results people pointed to in terms of our success that season. If this current crop had that pressure on them I’m not so sure we’d get the same outcome.

Now, every game we play I do ratings for the players and I’ll name and shame the best and worst of the month. So I’ll get the worst out of the way first of all.
In reverse order:
3. Denilson
2. Eboue
1. Chamakh

Now I’m not going to elaborate much on those because it’s all to negative but Chamakh has been anonymous for a while now.  He started the season like a house on fire but now AW clearly see’s Bendtner ahead of him. Something is going wrong somewhere and it needs addressing fast.

Our top 3 players of the month:

3rd. Jack Wilshere
He put in 2 terrific displays against City and Ipswich (home). He’s becoming/is vital to our side and he seems to be expressing himself more lately. That pass against Ipswich was fantastic.

2nd. Samir Nasri
Our player of the year so far but he’s now he’s injured we’ll need others to step up. He was excellent on the road this month, scoring crackers at Birmingham and Leeds.  He’ll be sorely missed.

1st. Robin Van Persie
No surprises. 7 goals in 6 games and it could have been more if he didn’t balloon his pen as well. Robin has been slowly reintroduced into the side since return in November but he really hit the ground running this month. He got a nice break with his free kick at Birmingham and he never looked back. It’s amazing what confidence you can draw from a goal like that. Now we need him to stay fit!

Goal of the Month
Bacary Sagna V Leeds
Why does this man only have 3 goals for us when he can hit strikes like this?  Definitely an improvement on his effort at Everton.
Hopefully he can score again on Tuesday when we play Everton. 3 points is a must as always.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Carling Cup Misconception

It has quietly bubbled under the surface with rare outings in recent months. This week though, the world couldn’t resist waiting any longer for the headline.

Arsenal takes the Carling Cup seriously shocker

Then for the countless discussions about:

Our standards dropping
How it’s a sign of desperation that we haven’t won anything since 2005
How we’ve mocked our near neighbours for years about their ambitions in the League Cup.

Now the later is most definitely true but that is with very good reason. That was their sole aim and yes they did take it far too seriously. Does that mean weren’t allowed to celebrate reaching a domestic final? Well if you listen to the enemy we are hypocrites etc. Then again who cares what they think? They are just being annoying to justify their existence.  The fact remains that we have reached the Carling Cup final because our youth development is finally reaping the rewards it deserves. So yes celebrate away for an achievement that other clubs have spent millions on to win.

Now casting our minds back to 2007 and that final in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, the Arsenal players who were named in the squad for Chelsea final in 2007 included:

Manuel Almunia #2 goalkeeper aged 29
Armand Traore aged 17
Cesc Fabregas aged 19
Denilson aged 17
Johan Djourou aged 20
Emmanuel Eboue aged 23

It would have also included Alex Song but he was loaned to Charlton in January 2007 but he still scored in the memorable 6-3 win at Anfield.

Now I’m not naive enough to think Wenger truly believed that every player he’s ever brought through would be good enough for our 1st team but most are given their chance in this competition and remember Justin Hoyte featured all the way through the competition that year and started in the final. The point is inexperience has cost us for years, but now that the same player s that we’ve been using for years are maturing. That has been twisted into it’s a case that we are taking this cup too seriously.  Of the 6 players from the 16 selected that day in 2007, 3 are regular first team players (4 including Song) and 3 are used regularly for squad rotation. Wenger should be getting praised by various sections of the media for bring players on and reaping the rewards. Do the media care that these players started their road to 1st team status by plying their trade in the Carling Cup? Well they never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

More players were to follow in the next few years

2007/8: Gibbs, Bendtner, Fabianski.  Henri Lansbury (mainly as a sub)
2008/9 Jack Wilshere
2009/10 Wojciech Szczesny

Those player between them have amassed 133 Carling Cup appearances

1. Djourou 17
2. Denilson 16
3. Bendtner 15
4. Walcott 14
5. Fabregas 13
6. Traore 12
7. Gibbs 11
7. Fabianski 11
9. Diaby 10
10. Wilshere 9
11. Szczesny 5
11. Lansbury 5

As a result, we have accumulated six 1st team players and six squad players.  Which isn’t bad going, nor is it a sign that we take this cup competition more seriously than we have done in the past. The players are just developing and becoming more equipped to deal with such competitions. I went on record (favourited on particular twitter accounts) to say ‘winning the carling cup would be an excellent achievement’ and it would because of the time invested in our youth programme.  I’m not going to act is if the Carling Cup is a massive achievement because it’s not in terms of Arsenal Football Club, those accolades belong to the Premier League and Champions League but this can only continue to help our side and youngsters develop and deal with bigger occasions. However for the likes of Denilson, Fabregas, Szczesny and Djourou they will see it as a good achievement given that it was in this very competition that they made their debuts for The Arsenal.