So what have we learnt from the pre-season games so far – what has Arsène learnt? Obviously we can’t read his mind but we can draw logical conclusions from his team selections and have a crack at deciphering the coded messages he sends out in press conferences.
These are simply my conclusions based on what I’ve seen in the pre-season games and Arsène’s own words (as opposed to journalists ‘interpretation’ of his words)
- He hasn’t yet decided who will be first choice keeper. I think he is increasingly coming to the conclusion that it won’t be a disaster if we don’t sign another GK – this may be partially driven by the fact that he can’t find a buyer for Almunia and that new Fulham manager Mark Hughes will not want to let Schwarzer go and may even have made it a stipulation of accepting the job.
- Koscielny was always intended to be TV’s centre-back partner and based on his impressive improvement in every game (many said he was MotM yesterday) he could be a great signing. Koscielny is an Arsène type player. He is a very athletic defender and a good ‘footballer’, but his slight stature means that against the more physical teams, he will be overpowered by opposition strikers. For this reason, I think AW was hoping that Djourou would be able to deputise in some games – in my opinion he is not good enough. For a man of his size he lacks aggression. He doesn’t attack the ball in the air in the way TV does and he is not positionally aware in set pieces. For this reason I think Arsène is still looking to sign another CB but is extremely loathe to spend the £10m required to get the likes of Mertesacker or Jagielka.
- Nasri has reacted positively to his World Cup exclusion. His performances have been consistently good in pre-season and his emergence as playmaker has allowed Arsène to take a tougher public stance on the issue of Cesc’s departure for Barça. The recent statements to the Press have been more for the ears of Cesc himself and his message is “We are the ones in a position of strength, its about time you started acting like our captain again and came out in public and committed yourself to Arsenal”
- I believe that the inclusion and performances of Frimpong and Nordveit have been highly significant. Arsène sees Frimpong as a genuine contender to deputise for Song if he is injured or more likely needed in central defence and Nordveit similarly has the quality to play as CD, RB or DM – we don’t know how they will deal with the pressure of top flight football but I have a feeling we will find out this season.
- Arsène will be delighted with his attacking options for the coming season. Although some may have reservations over Koscielny, Chamakh is going to be a huge success – don’t be surprised if Man City are offering £30m for him next summer. Unlike any of our other striking options, he has ALL the attributes required for the job. He is a big strong lad. He has pace and great close control. He has a strikers lust for goals and yet is unselfish in his play. He is better in the air than any of our other strikers. He has quick feet, a better first touch than Bendtner, and is a more composed finisher than RvP.
All the above is pure speculation. It is not written as a criticism of the manager. I think that Wenger, post his partnership with David Dein, has been a great servant of the Board and will continue to spend the club’s money sparingly. The commercial growth of the ‘business’ is still the prime objective. To grow at a time when almost every other club is shrinking is a major achievement and the focus will not change for the foreseeable future.