The Arsenal Rover’s Revenge On Cardiff

November 30, 2013

Cardiff. Hate the place.  I lived there in the late ’80′s and was visiting my daughter who was in Cardiff Royal Infirmary. I had parked my vintage  ´60′s Rover P5B in the underground carpark and it was stolen, only to be found burnt out not more than 800 yards from the hospital. An act of pure vandalism which has coloured my view of the city ever since.4374975717_b12ba8fb7d_z

Hope whomever torched my beauty suffers eternal damnation (mine was British Racing Green)

Anyway … enough of my personal angst. We play a hopeful Cardiff side today, fresh from a totally undeserved draw with United, they were cock-a-hop and understandably so. This is why I love football – it is so uncertain; we were by far the better side at OT and lost to an off-the-shoulder number from a traitorous cheese-eater. Next week the same team lose two points to a promoted side who cost less than MU’s bench.

No doubt the Cardiff fans will be expecting a similar or better result against our heroes. Could they repeat the defeat of the Northern Oilers? Possibly.

Cardiff have beaten Arsenal twice since 1927! Not a great record though as we haven’t played them in the PL it is difficult to be too triumphal.

Much is being made of Aaron Ramsey’s return to his home club. He hasn’t scored for two games and will be desperate to end his barren spell :-)  Captain of Wales and the best player to come out of the province since John Charles (… of course he is better than  MonkeyBoyo, HairyBoyo Giggs, Madboyo Bellamy, ThickBoyo Rush or FatBoyo Southall), Ramsey is on fire. Not just his goal scoring but his all-round play. I am never impressed by yards run during a game- if it were an indicator of quality we should play Mo Farah – but it does show how involved he wants to be and it is this drive which makes him special. Same with Jack or Flamini or Sagna – they want the ball.

At this point let me show you the interior of the Rover P5B 3.5V8 ……….

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Can you see why I was upset?? (mine had black leather interior)

On another point, can I say how happy I am that TPIG has signed a long-term contract and Merts is in discussions. We need to develop the side and not allow another Fab 4/BSR situation to re-occur. A settled squad is vital – just look at the mons down the road (Mons = Disaster. Derives from 1st WW).

Cardiff: Good but not great players. Among their big summer signings was Andreas Cornelius , a huge 20 y.o. Danish Unit of a centre-forward. Cornelius has been injured but is due to return today. He cost a club record fee of €10m from FC København where he was so popular that over 40% of the shirts sold had his name printed on them! The man is strong in the air and swill usurp our stupid Dane in the national team. (p.s. there is another superb Dane coming through,  Viktor Fischer a left winger at Ajax, for whom a huge future is predicted).

Well organised, very fit, strong in spirit and team-ethic Cardiff will push us but we really should beat them if we find some form.

I will make a prediction: If Malky Mackay stays Cardiff will stay up, if , as is predicted, he leaves for Fulham or Norwich then I am afraid we will return to having just one Welsh club in the PL.

Arsenal: All about team selection – who gets dropped? Arteta and Gibbs are both fit and in the squad, but both Monreal and Flamini were superb mid-week so how can AW drop them? After the debacle that was Santos last season it is such a turnaround to have two brilliant LB’s. How to keep them both satisfied when both have significant chances to go to Brazil IF they get first team games  - very difficult for AW because if Monreal is dropped then what does that do to team morale? Why should reservists bust a gut to get a chance and then when they get one and play an almost perfect game only to be dropped …… you get the point.

Away from home I expect both Arteta and Flamini to start but that means dropping one of our attacking MF’s – actually more than one with the return of Theo.

This is my guess:

cardiff v arse

But, the team could equally include Rosicky (who has been fantastic) Wilshere and Cazorla! The return of Theo to the team will give us more Thrust.

Do you think we can take three points from a team lying in 15th place, just 3 points off the drop zone? If we are to be contenders then the answer must be yes, and it is only that Cardiff have done well against the Big Boyo’s that theres any apprehension. On the other hand they have lost to both Spurs and Newcastle.

It is getting cold and thus time for our heroes to start wearing lycra undergarments and gloves. Not like the old days ….

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Bobby Gould training at Highbury when men were men

written by Big Raddy


January Transfer Targets Pt.1.

October 10, 2013

Transfer targets. This two part post is an attempt to inveigle some of you to give us your ideas of where the team needs strengthening and more importantly, why.

Goalkeeper: We have signed an experienced Italian GK whom no-one knows about nor has seen play as back-up to our two Poles. Can’t see the point in that at the moment. Fabianski is a very good deputy to Szczesny who has been on top form so far this season. Apart from a poor game at home to AV, TPIG has been very good – just what we want to see from such a young keeper developing his skills. His decision making in terms of coming for crosses is a bit conservative (IMO) but he has eradicated most of his “Hollywood” tendencies.

Szczesny’s failings remain distribution, though he is definitely improving. His kicking lacks accuracy and as such he is tending towards the safe option of throwing to the wings in order to create a counter-attack which is fine as we are not a route one team.

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Viviano in training for the Bench

My guess is that Viviano was signed in the knowledge that Fabianski will move on sooner rather than later. Without having seen him play it is impossible to judge but International caps for a country renowned for good keepers is a decent testimonial.

Transfer Target?  No need, though I do accept some people are less than 100% secure about our No.1.

Full Backs: Starting on the left we have Gibbs and Monreal. I would suggest that after Ramsey, Gibbs is our most improved player and fully deserves his call up to the England squad. Monreal must wonder why he signed as he would surely have expected to be first choice given his high transfer fee. But that fee is further proof of Mr Wenger and the BoD’s commitment to creating a high quality squad. Having a player of Monreal’s ability both as left sided MF and LB cover is insurance in case Gibbs suffers yet another injury. Vermaelen has shown he is a capable understudy should both get crocked.

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The New Lee Dixon?

Right Back: Bacary and The Corporal.  Sagna is back to his best and Arsenal must make him sign a contract extension – whatever it costs, because he has AFC experience and is a senior pro, plus he can teach Jenkinson how to become a world class RB. As of today, The Corporal has much to learn; his crossing is poor, his defensive awareness average and his tactical nous lacking, yet, he has huge potential. The man has considerable energy, is a Gooner and clearly wants to learn BUT …… would you be happy to see Jenks start over a long period of time if Sagna gets injured (which as an older gent he is prone to be)? I wouldn’t.  And this is where the genius of Mr Wenger raises it’s shiny pate – we have The Flamster, who is worth every penny of his, no doubt, huge salary.

Transfer Target:  Once again, no need.

Centre Backs: Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen (& Sagna in emergencies). I love The BFG – he has brought a level of a calmness to the defence not seen since …. ermm ….. the last CB who was calm! But the other two? Koscielny is prone to a rush of blood and too often has given away silly fouls in potentially dangerous areas – just look at his push in the penalty area last Sunday. A red card and a penalty already this season is not what we want from what is an exceptional defender. He has pace, superb awareness, hence his high interception count, and is strong both in the air and in the tackle.  Vermaelen is too good a player to sit on the bench and yet his career has been in reverse for almost 2 seasons. I love his rampaging style and his clenched fist attitude but he is so focussed upon winning that he can neglect his defensive duties. Sagna? A decent option and hasn’t let us down but we need a specialist CB. The decision to let both JD and Miquel go out on loan is baffling in the extreme

Transfer Target;  I think we need to buy and buy someone in BFG’s class. If we really are going to challenge for the title we have stop conceding silly goals. One clean sheet in the PL and that against the Hapless Hotspurs is simply not good enough especially considering how well our GK and FB’s are playing. I realise Kozzer is a crowd pleaser and that he gives his best every time he plays but quite frankly, we need better. I would sell TV (even if he is Club Captain) and spend big in January, hoping for the new CB to bed in by March – ready for the CL Final in Lisbon.

Player Suggestion;   Williams at Swansea has been mentioned but I don’t think he is good enough. I want top quality not decent PL. My choice would be  Neven Subotic of Borussia Dortmund. Yes, he would cost a lot but he is only 24 and already played 36 times for Serbia. He lived in the USA (representing them at youth level) and as such is fluent in Americanish. Or better still, how about his more mobile partner – Mats Hummels, also just 24, he is  fantastic player and already an automatic starter for Germany. If he won’t come mid-season, please Mr Gazidis make him ours in summer.

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You heard it here first.

One would have to ask why they would leave BD but, as we know, money talks and the opportunity to join the German Invasion at AFC must be appealing. Buy, Buy Buy.

My next post will concentrate on the other areas of the pitch and who knows, with this excruciatingly long Interlull (©Arseblog) there could be a “Should Paul Lambert be the Next AFC Manager?” post to follow!

written by Big Raddy


The kids did us proud – Match report

September 26, 2013

What can I tell you about our League Cup game against West Brom? Not a lot, just a few comments based on the seven microseconds of coverage the BBC made available, the Radio 5 commentary and a few bits and bobs from the tinternet.

But I can tell you that:

1. We won;

2. The first half was crap;

3. With a squad shredded by injuries, the kids from the Academy Squad featured heavily; and

4. The Arsenal fans were in great voice.

Taken from the away end by chas

Taken from the away end by chas

OK, there are a few other things to say. The most important bit was how the game was won with the kids holding their nerve to prevail in a penalty shoot-out, against more experienced opponents and on their ground. The performance may not have been a slick classic, but winning in those circumstances could be the making of some of those youngsters.

Nicklas Bendtner made his first appearance in an Arsenal shirt in over two years. His reputation amongst fans has gone from bad to worse in that time, so it was sensible for a bit of humble pie to be eaten in the run-up to the game. And from what I saw, while he was certainly no world-beater last night, he was committed to the cause. His reaction when the winning penalty went in confirmed that. And he also made the goal we scored, when he received the ball from Gnabry, turned, paused while Eisfeld’s run opened up a chance and then played in the other young German with a perfect through ball. Well done to Eisfeld for slotting it home, but the goal was the creation of the big Dane.

He should have had one himself in extra time, when Gnabry played him through for what should have been a one-on-one but Bendtner took an age to compose himself for his shot, perhaps thinking the defenders were further back than they were. Unfortunately West Brom’s Dawson was able to catch Bendtner and dispossess him before he could get his shot away. The absence of preseason matches was there on display.

There will be plenty who will take a pop at Bendtner, and God knows he deserves it plenty of the time, but I thought he showed a real determination to contribute. It’s no minor thing that he took the first penalty in the shoot-out, that is taking responsibility.

Another serial under-achiever, Fabianski, had a pretty busy night and did well, making a number of good saves. He couldn’t stop Berahino equalizing ten minutes after we’d taken the lead, but that had more to do with our defenders leaving Berahino too much space when a recycled clearance from a corner was lobbed back into the box.

It was disappointing to hear relatively little being created by Arsenal in open play, though it did sound like things picked up significantly in the latter stages, in particular with the appearance of Olsson, Bellerin and Akpom from the substitutes’ bench. The 17-year old Akpom got especially positive reactions from the Radio 5 commentary team – I’ll definitely look out for that performance once I can see some proper coverage of the game.

A penalty shoot-out felt inevitable from a long way out, not that that alleviated the sense of dread about how the kids would do. That pessimism seemed well-founded, when Serge Gnabry missed our second penalty and the more experienced West Brom players (Reid, Rosenberg and Morrison) confidently despatched their first three spot-kicks. An early exit seemed very much on the cards, with West Brom on the verge of victory. Then Kris Olsson stepped up and scored (just about, the keeper was close), to make it 3-2. West Brom’s fourth penalty taker, Craig Dawson, bottled it, and put his kick well wide. The scores were level and the momentum was suddenly with us.

Next up: Chuba Akpom. The talented lad from Newham, who wasn’t even a year old when Arsène Wenger became Arsenal manager, held his nerve and put his kick away, the scores were level and we were in sudden death mode; the next miss would likely be terminal for that team’s continuation in the competition. And so it was: West Brom cracked again, when Morgan Amalfitano also blazed his kick wide, and now it was us about to kick for the win. We’ve seen plenty of failures in penalty shoot-outs down the years, but it was something of a relief to see an older head for the final kick: Nacho Monreal put his one away without undue fuss, and was rapidly bundled by some very enthusiastic young Arsenal players who’d sprinted form the centre circle.

Celebrations at wba

So there you go, our winning away record was extended to 11 competitive games in all competitions and our winning sequence is now eight games. We are into the next round, and once again we have a tough draw: we will play Chelsea at Ashburton Grove on 29 or 30 October, days before we begin a rapid sequence of games against Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund and Manchester United in the space of eight days. I don’t know whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing to get tough draws in cup competitions, but we’re on a roll, with draws against Fenerbahce, Napoli, Dortmund, Marseille, West Brom and now Chelsea. Still, it’s better than facing Bradford and Blackburn…..

The Arsenal away contingent at the Hawthorns were fantastic last night, they were the loudest bunch in the house throughout. The Radio 5 bods were impressed at their old school refusal to sit down and the fact they had turned out in such numbers for a midweek League Cup game in another part of the country. Well done to Chas & Co, they remained in fine voice in what was, other than the shoot-out, largely a forgettable game and one in which our opponents were often on top.

There may be questions about what the presence in the squad of so many callow members of the Academy squad, and a couple of players most of us expected to have left by now. There may also be questions about first teamers like Mertesacker and Arteta being asked to play up to 120 minutes when we have an important and demanding run of two league games and a Champions’ League game coming up. This fear was made worse when Arteta was substituted, possibly as the result of an injury. Hopefully, that won’t turn out to be true. And fair play to the kids, they did us proud.

I’m afraid I can’t give ratings, I haven’t seen enough of the game yet to make those judgments. But it seems that Fabianski, Mertesacker, Monreal, Bendtner, Hayden, Jenkinson, Bellerin and Akpom all did well, and that Gnabry and Miyaichi had off-nights.

Written by 26may89


1 nil to the football team …..

February 3, 2013

Some thoughts on the game (some of which I have wantonly culled from comments I posted earlier this morning):

1. Arsenal looked laboured at times, but they held their concentration facing a Stoke side that did virtually nothing with the ball but which held its shape without the ball extremely well. We were too often forced to cross the ball, which only plays into Stoke’s hands, even with Giroud up front and despite the fact that Walcott put in a few very good crosses. It was certainly not a pretty spectacle, but that had everything to do with our opponents. I’m just pleased our players and fans didn’t panic, and stayed focused and patient. The substitutions were made at the perfect time, and being able to introduce a fresh Cazorla and Podolski with 25 minutes to go worked very well. It was good to see some genuine squad rotation, with Cazorla and Podolski starting from the bench.

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2. How the linesman even thought there was a possibility of an offside (whether for Theo or the deflection, if it had come off one of our players) is beyond me, it was clearly not offside. Well done to Chris Foy for putting him right. As for the complaints to the officials, both sides were doing it, so Pulis’s whinge about us being out of order is just one more example of his hypocrisy.

3. Begovic would be an excellent signing as a second choice keeper if we did try and rescue him from his purgatory in the summer. And with Butland joining Stoke then, one of Sorenson and Begovic will surely move.

4. Did anyone notice that Shotton (the new Delap) has a special piece of material fitted in his shirt to substitute for the towel he gets to use at throw-ins at the Britannia?

5. You remember that “Same old Arsenal, always cheating” we routinely get treated to by the enlightened souls of clubs like Stoke? It’s funny, when Matthew Etherington (a player I happen to quite like) dived to the floor right in front of the Stoke fans, to earn Stoke one of their very few attacking opportunities, the Stoke fans didn’t complain. And I don’t seem to hear much from Pulis when his rugged, muscular, it’s-a-man’s-game players dive to the ground in the mode of Filippo Inzaghi. Funny, that………

6. The Stoke time-wasting was ridiculous, starting in the 15th minute. Chris Foy’s laid back approach to refereeing is good in many ways, but there are times when you have to get a grip on cynical behaviour like that. A couple of early yellow cards, for example when right in front of the ref, Huth threw the ball away after fouling Wilshere, and the time-wasting would have ended there. And of course, once Stoke were a goal down, they suddenly started doing everything much more quickly. It was funny to see Ryan Shawcross complain in the 91st minute about the speed we were taking a free-kick. Well Sweet Little Ryan, if you hadn’t wasted so much time in the remainder of the game, you might have been able to get more attacks in when you were chasing the game.

7. As the pundit on Arsenal TV said (was it Stephen Hughes?), Stoke deserved nothing from the game and they got nothing. Playing ten men behind the ball the whole game is pathetic from any team, a real admission of weakness, but from a side that has spent tens of millions of pounds and has qualified for European football, it is even more ridiculous. Of course, it’s up to the opponent to deal with it and break it down, which Arsenal did – 1-0 was a pretty measly scoreline given that we carved open numerous good chances yesterday: as well as the goal, Ox, Kos, Giroud and Cazorla all had excellent chances to score. 3-0 would have been about right.

8. Any right thinking person of course hates Stoke and detests Pulis. So it was enjoyable to read that he’s been whining about unfair treatment, and tried to play the “we’re so poor, we can’t expect to win these games” card. It’s been a source of a lot of frustration for me that the journos lap this stuff up, saying in effect that it’s fine for Stoke to play the style they do, even when it verges on the violent, because they’re a poor, itsy bitsy club. The trouble with that theory is that Pulis has spent vast amounts of money. Stoke are about 6th in the list of spenders over the past five or six seasons, yet are allowed to say they are David to our Goliath. It was therefore good to see on newsnow that someone had done some sums and concluded that Pulis has spent £120m more than Wenger. Not a level playfield? On your bike, you prat, you’ve had an incredibly soft ride and, given the resources available compared with the likes of Swansea, Everton and West Brom, Stoke should be doing much better than they are.

9. In recent weeks, the prices sometimes charged for away fans at Arsenal have become a subject of controversy. Here’s a thought: perhaps the prices should be linked to a creativity index, so that the more creative or engaging the opponent, the cheaper the tickets for their fans. So Stoke would still be able to play their desperate version of the game, but their fans would be financially punished for it, while Swansea’s fans would be able to attend for about £3.50. I’m going to start writing to Ivan Gazidis now.

Some rough and ready ratings:

Szczesny: 7 – For staying awake.

Sagna: 6 – Did nothing wrong but didn’t show a lot when going forward either.

Mertesacker: 6 – Did fine.

Koscielny: 7 – Battled well, including pressing in midfield areas, and had a good effort on goal.

Monreal: 7 – It’s impossible to judge from one game but first impressions are good, especially given that he was playing against a side about as far from Spanish football as one can imagine. He was energetic, good with his passing, judicious about his overlapping runs and always seemed to track back. Of course, yesterday was hardly the most testing of attacking opponents, and we’ll have to see how Monreal goes in the coming weeks, but other than one terrible long-range shot he did well.

Arteta: 8 – Great to see him back, he makes such a difference. His tidy passing from deep in midfield is excellent.

Diaby: 6 – Was OK in the first half but tired early in the second.

Wilshere: 8 – Very sharp, often looked dangerous, his thinking was always ahead of his opponent. And lovely to see tomorrow’s England man tell yesterday’s England man, Michael Owen, where to go after the set-to with Arteta.

Walcott: 7 – Pretty dangerous at times, and managed to get behind the defence a few times. But then he was facing the weakest player Stoke have, Andy Wilkinson, so it would have been disappointing if he’d been completely played out of the game. Walcott clearly felt he wasn’t given enough protection by the referee – I’m not sure about that, we’ve seen worse, and it was a Wilkinson foul on Walcott that earned the free kick from which we scored.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: 6 – Had some good moments, especially when he had a shot saved well by Begovic, but overall didn’t manage to make too many inroads on Stoke.

Giroud: 6 – As ever, worked hard, but he didn’t have the same impact in terms of lay-offs etc as he has done. Also made a poor choice to chest the ball for someone else when he had a clear chance to have a header on goal from close range.

Cazorla: 8 – Lifted the pace of the game at the perfect moment and found lots of awkward pockets of space. Should have scored when through on goal.

Podolski: 7 – Typically teutonic energy from Poldi. Got the goal of course, albeit via Cameron’s boot.

Ramsey: N/a

Written by 26may89


A Baptism of Fire?

February 2, 2013

Last time we played Stoke was early in the season, a 0-0 draw at the Britannia. I remember being disappointed by the draw but  more so by our inability to score. How different it is today …

Note the Nil for Stoke. A Nil. This shows that our defence was not breached; that a team of giants could not score from a cross into our goal area. It is now 6 PL games since our last defensive Nil. In those 6 games we have conceded 11 goals – almost 2 a game.

Yet, our Back 5 looks so solid on paper. Rasp has been saying since season’s start that our defence is the root cause of our inconsistency, a point of view hard to disagree with. My early thoughts were that with Steve Bould to educate and train them our back 5 could become the best for many season. BR  had faith in the skills of Santos and was happy with our LB situation.

How wrong was I?

But no fear …. Nacho to the rescue. Rarely will a player start a game under so much scrutiny. Is he the saviour? We shall see, but let us not judge Monreal on this afternoon’s performance; he will need time to bed in and The Orcs are a baptism of fire.

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Nacho Man

Stats: Stoke have only won one away game this season. They have scored 8 goals in 12 away games. They have not won for 5 games. Stoke have never won at THOF. They are Orcs.

Pulis (how I hate typing that word) has created the Volvo 760 of the football world. Big, ugly, efficient and does what other cars do but with far less panache. His brand of football takes the entertainment out of the game. And the supporters …… if they weren’t such a shower of  **** one would feel sorry for them. Not only having to live in a town which under any caring government would be demolished, but having to pay to watch a Volvo 760.

Unknown-1Stoke’s First Team Photo

An Arsenal stat: If the PL was based on halves, Arsenal would be 12th on first halves and 2nd to Man City on second halves. The solution is simple – give the lads some smelling salts prior to kick-off.

Todays team:  Arteta is close to a return but I wouldn’t risk him against The Orcs. Diaby or Ramsey? Ramsey for me – Chief Orc Shawcross is sure to receive his usual warm Emirates welcome.

Thinking about it, the pairing of Shawcross and Huth reminds me of this …

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We have been missing Ox for a few games now. It hurt to see him as an unused sub  on Weds night. We had 20 minutes to finish off an on-the-ropes Liverpool but AW chose not to attack; mistakenly in my view. Ox needs game time and I hope he gets at least 20 minutes today.

Runners & Riders:

arse v orcs

Todays Explorer: George Mallory (1886-1924). Another great Englishmen who deserves further investigation. Huge doubts arise about who was the first man to ascend Everest but recent theory suggest it was Mallory and not some New Zealander. One of the world’s foremost mountaineers he made a number of explorations of the Himalayas before attempting to climb it’s highest peak. When asked why he wanted to climb Everest he responded with 3 classic words, “Because it’s There”.

Mallory died on the ascent, but perhaps it was during the descent and herein lies the mystery – we will never know. Mallory’s body was found 75 years later.

Such was Mallory’s esteem that King George V,  the Prime Minister Ramsey Macdonald and all his cabinet  attended his memorial at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

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May have been one of Britain’s finest but … No Facial Hair, no Knighthood

February is traditionally a good month for The Arsenal. A win today would set up us nicely.

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy


We All Love Nachos

February 1, 2013

So the mayhem is over and we bagged a player. That is one more than many thought we would get, but probably 10 too few for some fans on other websites. I can already hear those keyboard warriors punching in We__er O_t quicker than your David Beckham designer boxer shorts would disappear on a Come Dine With Me evening at Evonne’s.

To be fair Arsene had already expressed his distaste for wholesale buys in this window and had suggested 2 should be the limit, so he was hardly going to make himself look hypocritical and get more than this.

Nacho1

So who did we get. Step forward one Ignacio Monreal Eraso or soon to be better known to us as Nacho Monreal. I don’t know much about him but the early reports sound promising. I am sure in the ensuing AA discussion we will be able to collectively get snippets of information that will give us a better idea of what we have acquired. Peaches has already identified a song for him and I am sure if you all ask nicely the next time you see her she will give you her personal rendition of it.

There has been a consistent theme amongst us all on which areas of the squad we needed strengthening in, and this was one of those key areas. What it means to me is that our left flank will now be very strong with good strength in depth. With the addition of Nacho we have even, in a roundabout way, accrued a new attacking left winger who goes by the name of Andre Santos.

So both flanks look strong now to me, but what about the spine of the team. Up top David Villa was mentioned. Did we need another striker? I am not sure as we seem to be gelling and maturing in this department recently. Attacking central midfield I feel we are well covered in, possibly boasting the strongest in the EPL in this department. I had thought about an experienced keeper as back up / competition to Szczeny. We didn’t get one and I don’t feel the need to throw my toys out of the pram on this one, and am happy to see how it pans out this season. Ditto with the CD’s. I have mentioned the possible requirement of a beast of a CD in the Sol Campbell mould, but am happy again to defer judgement till the seasons end.

The one area I would like to examine a little more is the defensive midfield role. Many of us, if not most of us, and I would include myself in this, have called for a powerhouse of a defensive midfielder. A beast of a man, (I do like my beasts), a midfield “destroyer”. So I thought I would look at what we have already got and what it is that we really all want for this role. What is it we are crying out for?

You could form the impression that we are all looking for something akin to a Marvel Comic Book superhero, with superhuman strength and unusual powers, and I must admit I sometimes enter that frame of mind. However, I do try and step back and ask myself what is it I want and why? I would say that in our 3 man midfield you could set up in one of 2 key ways. The first would be with 2 deeper lying defensive midfielders who can work together to provide a defensive screen. This would leave one predominantly attacking midfielder with a more free role. The second is when you want to have 2 attacking or advanced midfielders with one lone defensive midfielder sitting behind them. That obviously places a higher degree of responsibility on the lone defensive midfielder than you have with 2 deeper lying midfielders working together.

Lets look at the current main candidates who for me would be :-

Diaby, Ramsey, Arteta, Coquelin, Frimpong.

Frimpong has gone on loan so I will not dwell on him and we can assess if he can still offer us something at the end of the season.

My opinion of Diaby, Ramsey and Arteta is that they are suited to playing in the 2 man defensive midfield system but don’t quite have the necessary strengths to play the lone defensive midfield role, especially against better opposition. Just my opinion and I would love to hear from other AA’ers on this.

The player that I feel could offer us the best option in the lone defensive midfield role is Coquelin. Not big enough or powerful enough I hear some saying. The question for me would be, is size and power the most important attribute for this role? Does this player have to resemble Frank Bruno on anabolic steroids? They obviously have to not be afraid to tackle, and be willing to get stuck in. If we all go back some 10 years, how many of us would have claimed Claude Makelele as being the best defensive midfielder in the world at that time, as many of his fellow pros seemed to think. That is all 5 foot 7 inches of him, according to Wikipedia.

I have often thought what is the most important natural physical attribute for this role, and I keep coming back to pace. The ability to cover ground quickly at a moments notice, “nippiness” if you like. I feel that the defensive midfielder plays a role that is more reactionary, in other words they respond to situations as they unfold.

Makelele, as well as reading the game well seemed to be able to quickly get from one point to the next to intercept danger or put in a tackle before the opposition could get the attacking move going. Diaby, Ramsey and Arteta, for me, all share the one characteristic of a lack of pace, that would allow them to play that lone defensive role.

You only have to be ½ second slower from point A to point B and then you don’t intercept or don’t have the chance to get the tackle in and break up play.

Coquelin

Coquelin in my opinion has that surge of pace that the other three don’t. His recent games, until injury, have seen many of us give him some high praise. So my question is, injury permitting, do we already have that excellent defensive midfielder, the one we are all crying out for, sitting there right under our noses?

Written by GoonerB


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