Nik Bendtner. Should he stay or should he go?

March 17, 2011

Mr Bendtner is a man who creates waves, everyone has an opinion about Nik and for a man who has yet to play a consistent first team role in the Premiership, he attracts an enormous amount of publicity. Why? Perhaps it is his self-belief that rubs the humble Anglo – Saxon mentality up the wrong way or is it his happy swagger and the fact he finds football amusing?

This post is not designed to defend Nik (though in places it surely will), it is my perspective as to whether Arsenal should remain his employer.

I reside in Denmark where Nik is perceived with superstar status. Coming from a small country with a football mad population of just over 5 million, he is the shining star; the successor to the Laudrup brothers, Peter Schmeichel, Preben Elkjær and Johnny Jensen (OK, maybe not JJ)  he is lauded wherever he goes. Front cover of all the society mags, front cover of the tabloids, the face of  advertising campaigns, and the reason why every Arsenal game is shown on Danish TV.

Bendtner was still in Arsenal’s youth team when he received his first International cap, scoring on debut. He had already played in the U-21 World Cup at the age of 17, scoring regularly. He was voted Denmark’s Player of Year at both youth and senior level. He was poached by Mr Wenger at just 16 and made his first team debut at just 18.

Is it any wonder this lad has self-confidence?

The question is, where does he go from here? Has he a first team future at Arsenal, and if not should he be sold?

This season started badly for Nik who had a tough World Cup campaign, picking up a muscle injury before South Africa but considered so important that he played in all Denmark’s games and scored against Cameroon. He came back to Arsenal crocked, was unable to get any pre-season and consequently has had a stop-start season.

However his stats are very good. This season despite only starting 14 games (+ 12 subs), he has scored 9 and had 7 assists. In his Arsenal career he has started 79 games (+71 subs) and scored 45 with 22 assists. These are the returns of a top striker, especially one of a man who only recently turned 23 y.o.

Yet a percentage of Arsenal fans remain unconvinced. How many times do we read of his “dreadful first touch”, his lack of pace or his inability to turn a game? His self-confidence is seen as a negative (which to me seems a ridiculous argument) – he is too big for his boots etc etc.

My concerns lie more with where he fits into the current Arsenal squad.

We have yet to see where Bendtner’s natural position lies. He is neither fish nor fowl. As far as I can see he has the strength to lead the line and yet his passing ability is such that his talents are wasted as a target man. He has the vision to play as second striker but AW prefers to play him on the right when allied with RvP (I have yet to see the benefit of using NB as a winger). He is superb in the air (witness the brilliant header v Orient), yet doesn’t attack the 6 yard line when the ball comes in from the wings. He has fine dribbling skills yet continually tries to beat too many players and loses the ball.  His first touch is inconsistent – compare the first touch for his goal v Ipswich compared to the one in the dying minutes at Camp Nou.

My guess is that Mr Wenger views him with similar perplexity. Our first choice strikers must be RvP and Theo with Nasri or Arshavin completing the frontline. We have a choice of Vela, Chamakh or Bendtner for the bench and rotation, and I cannot understand the signing of Chamakh if he is to be 5th choice striker. As such Nik must be considered well down the pecking order for 2011/12. Will his ego/agent accept this?

How must Nik feel when having scored so many goals on the way to Wembley, that he didn’t get a starting role? Furious, I imagine. How does he feel about the signing of Chamakh when he has yet to be given a proper run at CF? How does a man who believes he is one of the World’s top strikers feel about being on the bench week after week?

In my opinion he has to seek pastures new, though I would be very sad to see him go. I just cannot see where he fits into Arsenal’s future. We need another striker but it is not NB, it is a proper left winger or a fox-in-the-box. RvP’s propensity for injury is the only reason I can see for keeping him,  and even in this case, I would prefer to see Walcott take a more central role. I cannot see NB being prepared to accept al ong-term role as second-string right winger, can you?

So, if it is true that Bundesliga clubs have Bendter as a summer target then I am afraid we should take the money and watch his career blossom elsewhere. My main problem with this being that Danish TV will start to show German soccer instead of my beloved Arsenal. On second thoughts, BENDTNER MUST STAY

Hot News – The Fun Run to raise funds for Arsenal’s chosen charity Centrepoint is this Saturday. There wil be kids and adult events running around the outside of the Emirates from 10.45.  If you’re coming to watch the game in Club level get down there early to be part of the fun. See you there. peachesgooner

Be a Gooner, Be a Giver – Saturday 19th March

One of our young gooners has signed up to do the Fun Run this Saturday for Arsenal’s chosen charity Centrepoint and it would be fantastic if any of you felt you wanted to support her and the charity by donating on her giving page.

The Fun Run will take place at the Emirates stadium this Saturday the 19th March 2011. Centrepoint do such good work for homeless young people in London and Arsenal are hoping to raise £500,000 this season to help fund the refurbishment of a facility in Soho.


Up for the Cup??

March 12, 2011

Lucky Arsenal? This season we have drawn Newcastle and Spurs away in the Carling Cup, Barcelona in the CL, and now Man Utd away in the FA Cup.  I can only imagine Mr Wenger has spent the season walking under ladders and crossing the path of black cats. No-one wanted this fixture, neither Arsenal who are coming off the back of an emotional defeat at Camp Nou nor Man Utd, who are facing Marseilles in an important contest on Weds.

And yet neither manager will give up on this game. In my opinion both will put out as strong a team as injury permits, pride will dictate their actions. However, we are without (I hate writing this …) Vermaelen, Walcott, Fabregas , Song, Fabianski and Szczesny, and United are without Nani, Ferdinand and Park.

The loss of Szczesny has brought about the situation that (almost) all Gooners feared – a run of games for Almunia. Many point out that Manuel had a fine game in Spain and it would be churlish to argue. However, there is a reason why two Poles under the age of 23 are ahead of him in the AFC rankings and that is because Almunia is notoriously inconsistent. It was said at the start of the season by most pundits that Arsenal cannot win the league with Almunia, unfortunately we are about to find out. That said, I am sure he will give his all for the cause (and promote his flagging career). He must be given 100% support.

Having a more reliable defence will give Manuel confidence. We have tightened  to the point where there appears to be some understanding at the back; something missing since Sol left. Who would have thought that Djourou would be the man to come to the fore (apart from GG, and yours truly)?

We still have the midfield creativity problem in Cesc’s absence. Many have called for Nasri to take Cesc’s role, which make much sense. He has the vision and pace to push the team forward and has been given the Captain’s armband (though Almunia will take it tomorrow) which indicates he has the character to lead the team, and character he will need because at OT Fletcher has the licence to kick anyone off the park. Song is a big loss – Diaby plays better when he has the security of a strong defensive midfielder. Will Mr Wenger dare to start Ramsey rather than Denilson? I would take the risk but this is more a reflection of my opinion of Denilson. The Brazilian has much to recommend him, but not at a team at the level of Arsenal. I am sure he will be a huge success in Malaga, Mallorca or Juventus but not at the Grove – sorry.

Up front Van Persie will be chafing at the bit after his infuriating red card, he is playing as well as any time during his Arsenal career.  Bendtner will be desperate to show that with more than 10 minutes on the pitch he can score, but if Nasri and Arshavin are to start I see no place for him. I expect Nik to leave in summer (and I will be sad to see him go), if I was him I would be fuming that having played in most rounds of the Carling Cup and being one of the main reasons we got to the Final, he was dropped for RvP.  Vidic is back for MU which is a huge fillip for them, and a negative for us. Time for Arshavin to rediscover his shooting boots.

Man Utd have been an anomaly; at no time have they looked a title winning team and yet they have led the Premiership for most of the season. With a dull but effective midfield they rely on power rather than guile. What would they give for a young Bobby Charlton? In losing their last two big games they have seen that Giggs and Scholes fading powers are useful but not dependable. Expect a buying spree from SAF this summer –  a GK, a left back (who wants the lamentable Evra?), 2 creative MF’s, and a CB –  Modric, Rodwell, Bale, Cahill, Neuer have all been mentioned. Valencia has suffered from injury and can perhaps become the Giggs replacement, but MU have yet to replace the brilliance of Ronaldo. What they have replaced is Ronaldo’s penchant for acting with an even worse cheat in Nani. – fine player, shame about the histrionics. Rooney has flickered all season, capable of the brilliant but then petulant and obnoxious – once again his career has been boosted by SAF’s influence at the FA. . Berbatov is the PL’s top scorer and yet remains as unreliable as ever – another capable of brilliance or anonymity. His place is under threat from Hernandez who looks a fine signing –  that valuable fox in the box.

Mr Wenger has continually stated Arsenal will fight on all fronts this season, and I expect him to put out his strongest available 11.

My team:

Personally, I expect us to lose; we are not playing with fluency nor with confidence; we usually go down at Old Trafford and we will be forced to play against 14 men (11 players and the officials). Arsenal have yet to score more than one goal in a game at Old Trafford in the PL, so we are unlikely to see a goal-fest. To win we need to score first and force Man Utd to come onto us, thereby allowing Arsenal to play on the counter-attack. And above all, we need a good and fair performance from the referee, Chris Foy.

It is the final game of the season against Man Utd on Mayday which is more important to me and I imagine to both managers –  this is just the Hors d’oeuvre. I would give the Claret- nosed Caledonian (Thank you RL) the win today in exchange for the 3 points at the Grove.

COYRRG

written by Big Raddy


BRING IT ON!

March 8, 2011

What do you expect from tonight? Will we estacionar el autobus? Will we start gung-ho, try to score early and then work on the counter, or try to play keepball and settle slowly? Or do you expect Barcelona to blow us away early and give us a lesson?

All my non-Arsenal friends are predicting that Arsenal will get a hammering tonight and that we were fortunate to win at the Grove. To them I say “ Pish Tosh and a bottle of Pinosh”. Beating Barca was one of the great Arsenal performances and I see no reason why we cannot progress at the Camp Nou.

I have read the suggestion that we would be better off losing tonight; that we cannot win the CL because there are too many English teams in it and it is less shameful to lose to Barca than, say Chelsea. Again I say “pish”. We have beaten the Chavs on aggregate this season, thrown away a win against Spurs and were unlucky at Old Trafford. We are better than Bayern. In fact, the only fear I have is Real. We can win this Cup.

But first we have to get a result tonight ….

One of the key questions to be answered tonight will be which team is most affected by their missing players? Will we be able to take advantage of the absence of Piquet and Puyol without our most effective strike force? How damaging will be the loss of Song? (he is 50/50 as I write, and I am assuming he will not be risked.)

Should Song be out, who should take his place as our defensive shield? In a perfect world it would be Ramsey or even better, a fit Vermaelen. As it is AW has to decide between Denilson, Diaby and Rosicky. I expect Mr Wenger to take a safety first stance and play Denilson, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rosicky get a start in place of Nasri or Arshavin. AW must have been hoping for more from Diaby, who would be ideal if he could just play with more intelligence. Diaby is without question the most frustrating member of the squad; tonight should be a night where he showcases his huge talent but I doubt he can be trusted in so important a fixture.

Wilshere established himself as the coming man at the Grove – I hope he can keep his cool at Camp Nou. His booking for what appeared to be dissent on Saturday was a worry and hopefully not a portent of a young man developing arrogance. Self confidence is an absolute in a player of JW’s undoubted skills, but the glare of the media on one so young can turn heads. I hope AW can keep him grounded. One thing for sure is that Barca will not take him so lightly again.

Our defence is solid at the moment and I am delighted to see Sagna return (though Eboue did well in the first game). This is the best back 4 we have had for 5 years; youth, experience, physical power and ability on the ball. Have we ever seen our CB’s propel the team as we saw JD and Kos do on Saturday?

Upfront we have problems.  RvP is in the squad, but is unlikely to start. In his absence and on the evidence of Saturday, I would play Chamakh as a lone striker. I love Nik but it appears he requires more time than the Barca defence will allow him (though he has scored at Camp Nou). Chamakh has been publicly praised by AW and I expect him to start. The news has just been released that RvP is travelling with the squad – I wouldn’t risk him, but what a sub!  With 20 minutes to go at the end of a tight game, Robin could make a huge impact.

Our most important players? Fabregas and Szczesny. Fab will be so excited about tonight, the opportunity to show his wonderful talents in his home town stadium.  He will control the tempo of our game. What a night for our 20 y.o. GK. To play at his age in what is the glamour tie in World football is unimaginable. He seems to be unflappable which he will need to be. There is no question that he will be by far the busier keeper and should he perform to his highest ability we have a chance. If he freezes, we are sunk.

My team:

My fear is that should we be 2 down at any time in the game we haven’t the weapons to get back into the game. Without RvP in the starting line-up we lack bite – we need a big night from Nasri and Fabregas. If we score (and have the luck) we will win.

Barcelona is home to many interesting chaps.  Picasso, Dali, Jean Miro`, Gaudi, Jose Carreras, Montserat Caballe`, Pablo Casals, Victoria de los Angeles among others, but does not appear to have any proper Rockers. Perhaps it is a weather thing?

Will I be nervous tonight? Will I be envious of Brigham who is at the game tonight? What do you think?

COYRRG


Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners

February 27, 2011

My first post for Arsenal Arsenal was just over a year ago and I sit today writing a Cup Final pre-match. What drought?

And what of this team that today can earn some silverware and stop the ludicrous carping from the media and a few of the fans? Why are we favourites to win a Cup for the first time in 6 years?

Cometh the time, Cometh the Man. And in this case it is Cometh the Men. Arsenal have moved forward as a club in a very short time and the sudden impact of 4 players has given the team a solidity not seen for many a year. Step forward Messrs Wilshere, Koscielny, Djourou and Szczesny. Suddenly we look solid at the back, and have a new and very young spine, one that can take us to glory.

In just a few games our problemic goalkeeping position has found a pillar of strength, our young Pole has shown against the differing attacks of Barca and Stoke that he is the real deal, and likely to be the Arsenal number One for at least a decade.

Djourou was written off by many, nicknamed Bambi for his ungainly style he has had a checkered injury filled career at Arsenal, but now, fully fit. he is established as the first name of the defensive teamsheet. His absence from the pitch at Newcastle led to 4 goals in 20 minutes – can anyone doubt that we would have won the game had he remained on the field? When Koscielny took the field in an Arsenal shirt I was one of many who questioned Mr Wenger’s signing. He looked lost, lacking in height and pace; yet here we are a mere 4 months later and he looks the real deal. I would even go so far as to say that Vermaelen will struggle to regain his place in the team. JD and Kos have an awesome record playing together, they have a fine understanding and both are just 23!! Probably the youngest CB pairing in the League.

And then there is Jack. What can be said that hasn’t been written? In half a season he has become an integral part of the team and forced two regular Internationals to become B teamers. He is always available for the ball when the defenders are under pressure, and with the ball at his feet is comfortable in the tightest situations. The man has genius.

And what of our other players who have improved beyond recognition? Samir Nasri has become a World Class player, a possible Player of the Year and a man who can mesmerise a defender, He can tackle, he can beat a player with pace, he can cross, shoot, pass with precision – he is a pleasure to watch. And he maintains the ability to give a sly dig which is essential in the hurly burly of the Premiership.

Van Persie is playing the best football of his career, Walcott has come of age, The full backs are back to the form they showed 2 seasons ago – Clichy was brilliant against Barca and Sagna has been strong all season.

Cesc is a big loss today, not because we cannot win without him but because if the game gets hairy, he is “the man”. Cesc has developed into the real leader of the team and I am very sad he will not have the opportunity to lead the side up the Wembley Steps. His injury leaves a midfield berth which I would give to Diaby, who is a more creative player than Denilson. He also has the height to cope with the inevitable Birmingham aerial bombardment.

Walcott’s absence opens a space for Bendtner. I like Nik, he always gives his all and despite not being the most elegant of players can be very effective, he is important when defending corners and set plays. Nik’s goal in the semi-final was as good as any seen at the Grove, and in his two appearances since he has had two assists. A goal and an assist would cement his place in the Arsenal fermament. However, Arshavin has been looking dangerous of late and we could play Nasri on the right with Arshavin on the left which allows us more movement than with the slightly ponderous Bendtner.

My team:

With Arshavin and Denilson coming on after 60 minutes

Birmingham are not a team studded with star players, they have lost the creativity of Hleb through injury and will look to play as a tight unit. They are clear underdogs. A midfield of Ferguson and Bowyer are sure to be combative. Should Birmingham win today it will be as a result of a huge team effort whereas we have the individual brilliance all over the pitch to win the game by having one player on fire.

One may wonder why I have used so few words on this Birmingham team. Truth is, I am bored by them – they are a reflection of their manager. Nothing more needs to be said.

The man who really deserves to win a trophy this season is our esteemed manager. Year after year he has had to listen to the same inane question about our lack silverware whilst delivering the best football seen in the Premiership week after week. Like Birmingham our team is a direct reflection of our manager, and I am very proud that our manager is Mr Arsene Wenger.

Birmingham is the birthplace of some of heavy metal’s stellar bands. The wondrous Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and the very Kings of Rock, Led Zeppelin all hail from Birmingham.

We are better than Birmingham in every department – it is a game for us to lose.

COYRRG

Written by BigRaddy


From Messi to Shawcross.

February 23, 2011

Funny old game football. A week ago we were facing sublime skill, at the weekend passion and unlikely hope, and tonight aggression and anti-football. It is a testament to the Beautiful game that all types of football can be encompassed inside 7 days.

We know what to expect from this Stoke team under the tutelage of Mr Pulis, it will be park the bus, long throw ins and long, long balls to test the aerial expertise of our defence.  The midfield will be tigerish putting our skill players under intense physical pressure and yet trying to remain within the rules. Pulis will not be distraught if another Stoke player gets a red card because his defence for any loss will be that Arsenal are a team of foreign pouffs and divers…… “Same old Arsenal, Always cheating.”  Mr Wenger doesn’t speak to Pulis which tells me all I need to know about the Stoke manager.

Lest we forget, Ryan Shawcross is a stalwart in the Stoke defence, an innocent according to his manager, a nice guy who doesn’t deserve the criticisms from fans according to the pandering British press, and an out and out thug according to Aaron Ramsey. I expect to hear a strong vocal “welcome” for young Ryan which will hopefully temper his tackling and remind him that he caused a brilliant young talent to lose a year of his career; though I doubt he has the sensitivity to understand our dislike.

It should be noted that Shawcross is not the only hardmen in the Stoke team – they are full of them. From Carew upfront, to Faye, Delap, Whitehead and Diao in midfield, to Collins and Robert Huth in defence, Stoke are packed with aggression. This will be no easy ride for our artists.

But we have developed the ability to fight fire with fire, and it is some time since we were bullied out of a game. Wilshere and Cesc may be delicate players but they can handle themselves in the heat of battle as can Song and our defenders. Plus we be without the finesse of Van Persie who will be replaced by the added bulk of Chamakh or Bendtner (I would pick Nik who is better defensively).

Sadly Koscielny is out for tonight, a big loss considering the style of Stoke’s attack. Szczesny will have to use his height and strength to counter the Delap effect; I imagine this will be a baptism of fire for him and that our young keeper will not have faced tonight’s type of bombardment, but having come through the Barca game, I expect him to take Stoke in his stride. The inclusion of Djourou and probably Nik B will assist the defence at set plays.

I expect Theo to score the first goal.

My team:

We are on a super run of League form. Apart from the 20 minute madness at Newcastle, Arsenal have been in great shape. Mr. Wenger will be looking for another 3 points tonight and hope that our rivals start to drop points.

Iron Maiden on Sunday and today it is the turn of another of Britain’s great Rock acts, Lemmy from Motorhead, who was born in Stoke in 1945 (can he really have made it to pensionable age?!). Though Stoke’s most famous son is of course Robbie Williams.

COYRRG


Wembley Awaiting or Despair Descending?

January 25, 2011

Who would have thought that Ipswich at home would be our most important game of the season to date? Some may say that beating Chelsea and overcoming our Big 4 hoodoo was vital but a loss tonight is unthinkable, especially for Mr. Wenger.

Ipswich were superb at Portman Rd. They deserved to win and but for a fine Chesney save could have won by more. It wasn’t that Arsenal were poor, more that Ipswich came out with a gameplan which they applied with great determination and skill, and Arsenal didn’t have the cojones to deal with them. One would have thought that our midfield would be quite used to playing against less talented but very dogged opposition, and that AW would have sent out his team fully aware of the dangers of underestimating any opponents.

I highlighted Conor Wickham before the game and he showed why he is so highly rated. I am sure that if one were to check the statistics he would have run twice the distance of Nik B and with far more effectiveness. To see him  – a 17-y-o. – closing down Eboue in the corner and then tracking his run up the pitch was an object lesson to all our players. Hard work reaps benefits.

Ipswich’s central defence was never ruffled nor were their full backs given the grilling one would expect, though to be fair to Nik B and Theo, they didn’t get any decent service from the players around them. Even Cesc had an off day. The side that took the pitch at Portman Rd should have won; it was packed with Internationals (Chesney was the only player without caps) and every player had bags of PL experience – they just didn’t gel. Arshavin and Eboue had stinkers resulting in a very narrow attacking area and no cutting edge.

The old adage “form is temporary, class is permanent” is apt for Arshavin this season. He WILL come good and looked to be determined to work his way back to form last time out. This applies to Chamakh as well, what has happened to our star striker? Can he regain his blistering early season form? Will AW play them, particularly in light of the kicking Nasri got at the weekend and Van Persie’s notorious chocolate legs?  It should be pointed out that we have Huddersfield in the Cup on Sunday and can therefore choose when to rest players.

In view of the importance of this game I would start with the A team, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see the famously stubborn AW stick to his principles of playing some members of his B squad.

 

Tonight Arsenal have to walk onto to the pitch with the correct attitude – losing is not an option.

COYRRG


Which team would you pick?

January 19, 2011

Written by Big Raddy

Elland Road mid-week in January, 40,000 noisy fans up for the Cup, a promising Leeds team looking to cement their reputations; the joys of the F.A. Cup 3rd round.

Being honest, we were fortunate to have the chance of this replay, the very late penalty saving Arsenal from the ignominy of an early Cup exit to a team from a lower division. Leeds outfought us at the Grove, they showed a grit  we struggled to cope with and Mr. Wenger  will consider himself fortunate to have another opportunity to progress into the 4th round. One can say that we played a second team but it remained a team packed with Internationals and expensive recruits – we had the personnel, we were at home, we should have won.

Some of the media around the game is focused upon Walcott’s “dive” admission which showed Theo to be an honest, if naive, young man. The Leeds manager Simon Grayson has called for Theo to be banned for tonight (according the the Daily Mail!). We can expect the crowd to get on Theo’s case from his first kick which will hopefully inspire him, because from the moment Theo came on as sub in the home tie we looked more dangerous.

I like Simon Grayson, he did a fine job with Blackpool, giving Holloway the basis for the team who have recently done the double over Liverpool. His work at Leeds has been nothing short of remarkable. Since Grayson’s arrival Leeds have had unremitting success, gaining promotion from Div 1 and now on the verge of a return to the Premiership, and he has done so without resorting to DirtyLeeds tactics.  Grayson’s star in is the ascendant.

We saw in the first tie how Leeds play. Based upon a very solid central defence and backed by a Schmeichel they work extremely hard. A midfield that will look to harry our skill payers into making rash and inaccurate passes, and fullbacks who have pace (I was very impressed with their right back Max Gradel). Upfront Sanchez Watt will be looking to impress Mr Wenger – but not too much. Beccchio is Leeds top scorer but may be out injured tonight.

What side will Mr Wenger play?  Who knows? Will he play a quasi- first 11 with Cesc, RvP and Theo starting or will he continue with the side that escaped at the Grove? Sagna is back and rested but AW likes to use Eboue in Cup games, and we have an important meeting with Wigan on the weekend. Will he continue with Djourou who played poorly at Upton Park  and surely needs a break? Could he risk playing Miquel? The Nik B / Chamakh combination didn’t work at all in the first game, and Nik is clearly not a right winger. Either could start  – my heart goes with Nik and my head with Chamakh. One player I would be surprised to see is Van Persie who despite having a huge impact recently should be rested and I expect Theo to come on as an impact sub should we need him.

Here’s my guess:

Chesney

Eboue  JD  Koscielny  Gibbs

Song  Denilson  Cesc Rosicky

Bendtner  Arshavin

Bench:  GK? Sagna  Nasri  Walcott  Eastmond  Miquel  Chamakh  Ramsey

This team has enough to defeat any side in the PL let alone the Championship. Should the unthinkable happen, let it be down to poor refereeing or a superb Leeds performance and not lack of application and desire.

Tonight is a tricky tie, one we could easily lose but I see us beating Dirty Leeds, disappointing 40,000 fans, and moving onto the 4th round

COYRRG


To Win the Title, Wenger Must Not Repeat Last January’s Mistake

January 10, 2011

This time last year we were on a long unbeaten run and were beginning to hint at the possibility of a serious title challenge.

There was one glaring problem – we did not have a lead striker.

Robin van Persie was out on one of his trademark lengthy injury lay-offs and Nicklas Bendtner was filling the berth next to him in the treatment room.

The result – Andrei Arshavin as centre forward.

I still have nightmares about some of those games where we played the Meerkat as our CF: his little legs scurrying around among the ranks of Jurassic defenders, those brave but pointless jumps to try and win headers against six-foot-plus titans. Sometimes his only viable tactic was to try and run through the defenders’ legs. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that Arshavin hasn’t been the same player since.

During the January window it was obvious that we needed to strengthen our injury-depleted attack and it was also clear whom Arsene had in mind for the job: Marouane Chamakh.

But the boss felt Bordeaux were asking too much money for the Moroccan international (who had only a few months left on his contract) and preferred, instead, to wait until summer to bring him in on a free.

The rights and wrongs of the Chamakh non-move last January have been much debated so I don’t want to go into them again here. But I do feel that, even if he thought it wasn’t right to bring in Chamakh at that point, Arsene should have looked for other quick fixes to the striking problem. Perhaps a loan deal, or a relatively low-money move for a veteran forward (like when ManUre snapped up Henrik Larsson in 2007 on their way to winning the title).

And so to this year’s January Transfer Window.

This time our problem is at centre back, not centre forward. Our best defender, Thomas Vermaelen, has been out for most of the season and there are real question marks about whether he’ll be back in the short to medium term.

Fortunately Johan Djourou has really stepped up to the plate and both Squillaci and Koscielny have made better starts to their EPL careers than they are often given credit for.

But what if one of those three got badly injured – particularly if it was big Johan? We would be seriously weakened at the back and you would have to doubt our ability to sustain a title challenge.

Yes, we could push Song back into a CB role, but he offers so much in the middle of the park (and has no obvious replacement for that role in the squad) that it would be equally damaging to move him.

So, as they say, it’s déjà vous all over again, only this time it’s a defender we need, not an attacker.

Chris Samba has been mentioned, as has Gary Cahill. Per Mertesacker is being linked with us (I like him a lot but Big Raddy makes the reasonable point that a mid-season arrival should ideally have EPL experience).

I really hope Arsene goes for one of them. I hope he realises that although his failure to acquire a striker last January can’t be said to be the only reason we failed to sustain our challenge, it at least played a part.

To see the same thing happen again would not only be deeply disappointing, it would also be a major faux pas on our manager’s part.

Come on boss. Make that move!

RockyLives


Wenger’s Number One Apologist.

December 20, 2010

Being Arsene’s number one apologist there is a question that has been floating around out there that has been bothering me for a while: why did Wenger play a weakened side against Shakhtar and Braga away? His critics accuse him of arrogance and obstinacy; the fall out of these decisions being that we came runners up and now, unnecessarily, have to face Barcelona.

The excuse I offer will, I suspect, be easier to run with if you have man managed a group of people at some point in your life, I think this is one of the reasons I always agree with Dandan and more often than not with Big Raddy both of whom have had the responsibility for a number of people to a greater or a lesser extent.

Wenger has twenty five players to keep happy which is more people than I have had to man manage so I accept that a lot of what is about to follow is pure guess work; but hey, what is a blog for?

Twenty five professional footballers to keep happy — all at the same time — no easy task in my opinion; some of the more lowest common denominator Arsenal blogs dismiss this by pointing to his six million annual salary but it does not change the fact that the man still has to do the job of keeping twenty five very large egos under control.

Right, having established that, cast your mind back to just before the Shakhtar away game and you will remember that we had maximum points from the three games in our CL group; we had beaten Birmingham 2-1 at home, City 3-0 away and then West Ham 1-0 at home in the EPL – we were, by anyone’s standards, on a roll. Wenger had got the Red Machine humming but the problem he faced, as I saw it, was how to keep everyone content.

Bendtner had made his return against City; successfully getting on the score sheet and doing exactly the same in his following appearance against Newcastle in the Carling Cup. Walcott, being the best player at the club for the first three games of the season, had returned scoring impressively as well against Newcastle and when Wenger was asked if Jay Emmanuel-Thomas was knocking at the door he replied that he wasn’t just knocking he was banging on it with both hands; all this without mentioning Szczesny who, when it comes to demanding first team football, makes the others, including Bendtner, look shy and retiring.

My point is that it was perfectly reasonable to field the side Wenger did against Shakhtar – even more so when you consider we had trounced them only a couple of weeks before at home. Wenger said that he selected a team he thought capable of winning; all perfectly reasonable, but in my opinion it had just as much to do with trying to keep twenty five players happy.

So, all neatly tied up then, the problem I have is that on the other shoulder sits a little devil who whispers in my ear: do you really believe that? Wenger could not lose by playing a so called weakened team: if we beat Shakhtar we were as good as through to the next round but if we lost Wenger would have a more humble, a less demanding, a more malleable Bendtner and Walcott and so he did and still does. A similar story applies to the Braga away game. The other reason Wenger couldn’t lose by making those decisions was because he knew that if we came second in the group no one would blame him if we go out to someone as powerful as Barcelona.

A little something to think about on this long break without football.

Written by London but hey, you already knew that. lol


Theo Walcott – Striker or Stinker?

December 10, 2010

Written by gunnerN5

January 20th 2006 was an exciting day in our history; Arsene Wenger secured the signature of Theo Walcott on an initial pre-contract agreement to sign a professional contract on his 17th birthday. Even at the tender age of 15 Theo was touted as one of, if not the, best youngster in English football and he was now an Arsenal player.

Now here we are almost 5 years and 134 games later (72 as a starter and 62 as a sub) into his Arsenal career. Has he proven to be the potential star we had anticipated and yearned for or is he still a work in progress; or worst still is he a waste of space?

He has provided many fantastic highlights and his speed frightens opposition defenses, but his lack of consistency and sub standard statistical measurements are sadly underwhelming.

His ability to leave defenses in his wake and deliver crosses is commendable, even exceptional, but many of his crosses go astray, along with the possibility of creating good goal scoring opportunities.

How many times do we see him speed up to a defender and then have no idea on how to get around him, how many of his passes go astray;  how many good moves break down because of his poor decision making?

In his 134 appearances, 72 as a starter and 62 as a sub he has totaled 18 goals and 20 assists, if we consider a goal as 1 point and an assist as half a point then he has earned .209 points per appearance.

One would believe that with his speed he would be best suited as a sub coming on for the last 20/25 minutes against tired defenses but the stats don’t back up this theory as  they are almost identical  as both a sub and a starter.

Most of our subs have higher points earned as starters than they do as sub’s which makes sense given the increased amounts of time that they are on the pitch – but Theo defies the logic – why?

His contribution level as a starter is almost the same as a sub and this simply should not be, especially with his outstanding speed. One would have to believe that at least his assists would increase given that we score so many goals in the last 20 minutes – but that is not the case – why?

Sadly I don’t have answers, simply questions, but even sadder it would appear that nobody else has either. It remains a wish and hope situation.

PS.

Since I wrote this I have done some more exhaustive/accurate research into this season’s goal scoring statistics and the results are quite revealing.

I would have preferred to use minutes played but I could not find a reliable enough source so I settled for the combination of games and substitutions to arrive at appearances – not ideal, but still useful data.

It should be of no surprise to any of us that Nasri is number 1 – closely followed by  Chamakh at number 2 – but surprise, surprise Walcott is number 3 – why?

Does that refute all of the previous comments?

The answer to the question is no, as he got all of his points in the first 3 games of the season and in his last 5 appearances he shown his typical inconsistency and earned zero points.

It should also be noted that Sagna has scored more points than Bendtner and that Fabianski has more points than Clichy or Rosciky who just scrapes onto the chart in last place.

All of the stats are EPL only.

Let’s talk.

GunnerN5