Written by BigRaddy
The Interlull (tm Arseblogger) allows assessment of the season so far, and despite the paucity of games, we have much to discuss.
I would like to start with our esteemed manager. Apart from the GK blip, Wenger has been very good with 3 top class signings in close season. In my opinion the biggest signing of the summer (or of any summer) was the renewal of Mr. Wenger’s contract. To agree such a long contract (4 years) at his age shows an enormous commitment by a 60+ year old and the level of his love of the club.
It should be remembered that AW could have gone to any club in the World and yet has chosen to stay; for all their wealth and glory neither Barca nor Real Madrid have managed to co-erce him away. Ask yourself this, had AW chosen to take the France manager’s position that he was offered, would France have so badly under-performed and would we be one of the top 6 teams in the World (we currently rank 4th in UEFA’s listings)?
In the games so far we have seen nothing new where substitutions are concerned. At Anfield, 2 subs on 60 mins and RvP on at 76 – Blackpool 3 subs within 3 minutes on the hour, and Blackburn, 3 subs , two through injury/tiredness and one to give Jack a runaround as he was annoying AW by playing with his gameboy. I have to say that I have been infuriated in the past with AW’s subs but this season he has changed things when the need has arisen. Taking off two attacking MF’s and replacing them with Vela and RvP at Liverpool was a very positive move and one which eventually brought results.
Mr. Wenger’s tactics have been spot on as well. The first half at Anfield was the template for what we have seen since, the classic Wengerball of possession, changes of pace, overlapping fullbacks and a high defence.
Almunia. Too much has been written about him, but in my opinion he has played as he always does, pulling of some fine saves but being inconsistent on crosses. The Liverpool game encapsulated Almunia – great saves followed by coming for crosses he had no chance of catching and in my opinion a mistake for Liverpool’s goal – I hate to see a GK beaten at his near post, no matter how hard the shot is. That said, he played a blinder at Ewood, and he is our GK.
The new signings are always under the microscope and I believe we have much to be grateful for. Koscielny’s baptism at Anfield was always going to be difficult, yet he passed with flying colours looking confident and comfortable, linking well with TV and covering Sagna when he attacked. The sending off was extremely harsh, though his first yellow for a full bloodied tackle was a delight to see. He is clearly a tough man, to come back after that dreadful tackle by Cole (as deserving a red card as any we will see this season) shows a determination to succeed at his new club. How he would have fared against a fully fit Torres remains to be seen. He wasn’t bullied by Blackburn and more than held his own with the aerial attacks, but he got badly turned by Hadj Diouf (spit spit) for Blackburn’s goal. One mistake in two games for a newbie is very acceptable.
The signing of Squillaci is very good. I cannot recall seeing him play, but the stats are very impressive. A man with huge experience, played in a CL final and a regular International. I believe he will be the first choice CB ahead of Koscielny in the big games. We have definitely strengthened in the centre of defence, by replacing the creaking limbs of Swiss Phil, WG and Sol with younger players with top flight experience.
Our two full backs have had differing starts. Sagna is in great form, both in attack and defence. One could say that he went missing for Blackburn’s goal but if he is to be an attacking threat (particularly with Theo going central), he is reliant on coverage from others. His is an awkward position because of Theo’s attacking skills outweighing his defensive abilities. How does Sagna choose when to go forward? As he is such a potent weapon both in adding numbers on the right side of attack and in allowing Theo to move centrally , his choices have to be perfect. The space behind him has to be filled by Song or Diaby, and he is dependant upon their awareness of Sagna’s forays.
Clichy has been criticised for his continuing poor form and many call for the emergence of Gibbs, but I think he needs more games to re-establish himself as one of the world’s top left backs. He has been turned too often for comfort and his distribution has been poor, in particular his crossing. However,class will out and Clichy is a class performer. Some of his interplay with with Arshavin is excellent as they become an effective team, I love to see Gael with the ball at his feet in a tight situation and with AA in front of him – they contrive to play almost magical football in turning defence into attack. It is also interesting to note that Blackburn were a non-existent threat down our left.
Vermaelen. Excellent as always. What a find this guy is, already the rock upon which our defence is built. Hard as nails, athletic and a fine reader of the game. The Blackburn game was the test to see if we had learnt to defend continual long balls and he led the defence in a manner the great TA would have been proud of. The signing of Squillaci has extinguished my fears should TV get a long -term injury, at last we have decent cover for this wonderful defender.
3 games. Two goals conceded. We look tight and secure and the communication appears to have improved. The only negative is no defender has scored yet.