Several points from Gunner’s win over Swansea

We won the game; we are into the next round, that’s all that matters isn’t it? With morale low in the team and frustration high amongst the fans the win over Swansea was the perfect tonic. There were as many plusses as there were negatives from the game but we have finally managed to break the hoodoo which Swansea seemed to have had over us this season.

I won’t give a match report on the game; I am sure the majority of you watched the game and/or know the outcome however I will discuss some points that became apparent to me from viewing the game.

Wilshere is a class above

jack celebrates

In a season of ups and downs so far one of the biggest boosts to the team is return of Jack Wilshere from injury. He has shaken off the rust, integrated himself back into the Arsenal engine room and is now at the point where he can dominate games. He wears his heart on his sleeve and is Arsenal through and through it is a refreshing sight to see him in full swing. Teams now recognize him as the danger man and target him. Manchester city put that into practise at the weekend but it didn’t break him. As much as I love Santi Cazorla, given his early season form he became a target and at times would play within himself when given the extra attention. Jack has now been receiving similar attention but has managed to brush off the extra attention and still graft it out. Some of the challenges he has been on the end of I am surprised he has got up from many of them but that just shows the steel he has acquired to complement his majestic skill and control. Yesterday Jack put in a man of the match performance which was well deserved despite close competition from Michel Vorm. He drove on the team and was an inspiration leading by example, the icing on the cake was his winning goal to take us through to the next round.

Diaby not broken

It was encouraging to see Abou Diaby starting the game yesterday; after his long layoff he returned to the team on Sunday and managed to play the majority of the game against Citeh with an extra man. I honestly thought that would be too much for his body and so to see him start against Swansea was a nice boost. Could he be over the injuries this season? We’ve been there too many times to be optimistic about that but if he can avoid an absence that lasts as long as the last injury then we will be on to a good thing. His presence in the team provides assurance as he patrols the middle like a big brother to look out for the likes of Wilshere and Cazorla. I hope to see a lot more of the leggy Frenchman for the rest of the season.

Coquelin proves worth

Francis Coquelin earned a starting berth against Swansea, less of a surprise due to the injury to Mikel Arteta. Whether his selection was deemed by default or not the young Frenchman provided an encouraging performance to show Arsene he can be trusted to perform in the absence of first choice Arteta. He hasn’t reached the point where he dominates from defensive midfield but that’s hardly expected when he hasn’t had a run of games yet to sharpen up his craft. His mobility is one of his great attributes and he offers more to his game than just breaking up play. Wenger may not have started him in many games but he has been here and thereabout in the first team squad often utilized from the bench. Arteta’s injury is a worry but Coquelin can use this opportunity to his advantage and prove any doubters wrong and most importantly give Arsene a massive nudge.

Welcome clean sheet

It was nice to claim a clean sheet last night, the soft goals have been creeping in of late and so it was encouraging to have a complete shut out. The defence actually put in a good performance, there were the odd scares but in general the team remained focused and kept the Swansea threat to a minimum. The introduction of Michu in the second half which usually equals a goal against us didn’t materialize; this was the perfect outcome leading into the big game at the weekend. We now have a foundation to build on; Chelsea will offer a far different threat but it is still important we remembered how to stop teams scoring.

Too many chances missed

giroud miss

The one nil score line was not a reflection of the amount of chances we had last night. Although Michel Vorm was on a one man mission to thwart anything thrown at the Swansea goal there were a number of chances that you would expect us to score regardless of who was in goal. It was bordering on the point where you felt it was one of those days and Swansea would probably nick a late goal to rub chilli, sand and bleach into your eyes. Thankfully Jack had different plans but the profligacy was worrying and very frustrating on the night. Possibly we were saving up the accurate finishing for Sunday, I sure hope so, Walcott and Giroud I’m talking to you.

Empty stadium seats

Much fuss was being made over the number of empty seats seen last night. I believe it is being slightly blown out of proportion; in my experience cup replays have slightly lower attendances unless it’s a game against one of the big boys. Tickets go on sale for less time than a standard league game due to the unpredictability of having to play a replay. Add to the conundrum it is cold as hell outside at the moment, a freezing Wednesday versus the comfort of the couch and TV I think there is only one winner. I certainly don’t think the empty seats were some sort of protest from the fans and it is just mitigating circumstances that resulted in the gaps. Seats are paid for so I don’t think the Arsenal money men will be worrying too much. I think this topic is a non story; the commentators just needed something to talk about.

Bartley’s comfortable performances

bartley swan

It’s quite frustrating to see Kyle Bartley perform so well against us over the two third round games. You would half expect him to be torn a new one by our forward line but Bartley put in a performance to make a mockery of our decision to let him leave without giving him a chance. A lot of investment was put into the acquisition and development of Bartley and after his loan at Rangers you would think he would be pushing for a first team place. It may have been impatience on his part but I feel he could have offered something to our team if he stayed. His encouraging performance’s against Arsenal makes the fact we still have the likes of Squillaci still on the payroll a bit of a dampener. I am basing this only on two games and former players do tend to raise their performance against their former employee but it will be interesting to see how the career of Kyle Bartley develops here on in.

Enjoy your day people.

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Walcott and Podolski out of game. Can Coquelin help Arteta?

Can a bad week get even worse on Saturday? That is the question we would all like to know, we don’t want it to come to fruition, not at all but these days we don’t know which Arsenal will turn up against West Brom. The loss to Olympiacos was shrugged off by the manager, he played a weakened team against the Greeks and in all reality a defeat was far from a shock. On one side of the coin the first team were afforded a rest and a chance to recharge their batteries ready for the battle at the weekend on the other side of the coin the players that underperformed against Swansea were given a chance to pamper their egos rather than prove themselves at the earliest opportunity in the next game.

The stats men will be rubbing their hands throwing out all sorts of statistics highlighting how long it has been since we last won and how many games in a row we have lost etc. They don’t care about the relevance of the games just what looks good in their tables and pie charts. Now we receive the news that 1st team players Theo Walcott and Lukasz Podolski are out of the game at the weekend. Surely more ammo to back up crisis talk; all they need to do now is claim Aaron Ramsey will take up the role on the right side of the front three and there will be riots in the streets of North London.

The loss of Walcott and Podolski are massive losses to the team, they do bring goals to the team and goals are required until we purchase a striker to share the goal burden with Olivier Giroud. One thing Arsenal has always been good at over the years is pulling off results when we are at our lowest. It doesn’t have to be against a title rival for us to raise our game; we have received the wakeup call last Saturday, the slap in the face to bring us to our senses, refocus and overcome the pain.

I wasn’t happy with Arsene rushing back Rosicky into the team on Saturday after he only just returned to training within the past couple weeks. He will be vital to our fortunes for the rest of the season and his cameo on Tuesday gave a reminder to those who may have forgotten his importance to the Arsenal midfield. It was good that the manager saw sense and only played him for one half of the game. I want him back, badly but I don’t want him broken within 2 weeks like what has happened to Abou Diaby. Just ease him back a bit Arsene, not too much too soon.

coquelin

One thing I would like to see is for Francis Coquelin to step it up to the next level. He has settled in and established himself in the first team squad, he has been called upon when required but to me he needs a breakout performance in his preferred position to show us Arsenal fans we can rely on him as the holding midfielder.

It has been quite evident lately that the strain of keeping the Arsenal midfield ticking over is taking its toll on Mikel Arteta. He has done an admiral job stepping into the void vacated by Alex Song however it seems he is in need of a break, the problem is who comes in to replace him? Coquelin is young and has potential but for a player whose main position is as a defensive midfielder he has only really been played in that role in cup games. His appearances in the league has been more to close out games in the dying minutes, his defensive mentality is called upon to add protection to the defence/midfield. Yet Wenger has never taken the decision to rest Arteta and replace him with the young Frenchman.

arteta

Coquelin did impress last season when played in emergency positions like at fullback when we had terrible luck with injuries in that position. His versatility was essential and a welcome assistance to the team however in his preferred role we are yet to witness that standout performance, the kind of performance that makes you sit back and think he could make that spot his own within time. Even Emmanuel Frimpong last season at that terrible point at the start of last season managed to pull off an encouraging performance against Liverpool which had many neutral observers predicting big things. Yes he got sent off in the game but he did enough while on the pitch against top opposition to show he has a big game performance in him. The injury has set Frimpong back but if he works hard and gets over the injuries he could get back to that level. Coquelin needs to take advantage of any chance he gets and puts in the kind of performance that makes the neutrals take notice. At the moment he is caught in that void where he is just a squad player, he needs to step up to the level where he is talked about as the future successor to the defensive midfield role.

I’m not attacking Coquelin, I believe in him as a player and as a fan I want him to grow and improve to the level that the fans feel the team is weakened when he is not around. He is still young as I said but given the current state of the team patience is in short supply with the fans. We need cover in all positions in the team; like for like cover that leaves each position in good hands.

Arteta needs a break; Coquelin needs to give Arsene a reminder that he has someone to share the load.

Enjoy your day people.

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Will Arsene need to address right back position? – AFC

With all the transfer talk over the past week or so focusing on the potential strikers, midfielders and centre backs coming into the club it seems one vital area of the Arsenal team has been neglected.  The right back position in my opinion is an area that will require attention before the season starts. I am sure Arsene Wenger has taken this into consideration and possibly has it all worked out already but I believe any decision lays heavily on the developments of Bacary Sagna’s recovery from his fractured right fibula.

The right back area is equally as important an area as any of the striking positions or midfield and we need to make sure we are covered adequately enough in that position. Bacary is the main man in that position and so any right backs during his extended period on the side-lines merely serve the purpose of keeping his seat warm until he returns. And there is where the problem lies, how long can we cope without cover of the same calibre of Sagna?

In the current squad the obvious candidate to fill that void is Carl Jenkinson. My question is whether young Carl can raise his game to reach such heights that we are not calling for Sagna’s return. I believe in Jenkinson’s abilities however I class him more as potential rather than the finished article.  He is Arsenal through and through and would give everything when on the pitch; he loves the club and that is a great motivation for any player.  He is still learning his craft though and still has a few things he needs to work on with his defending.

One thing Arsene Wenger has not been scared of is to throw youngsters he believes in into the deep end and see if they could sink or swim. He certainly did that with Ashley Cole a few years back, Clichy too and last season he planned the same with Kieran Gibbs. Unfortunately for Gibbs injuries certainly disrupted his promotion however he has grown into that role when he has had a run of games.

Beyond Carl Jenkinson there is not much on offer for cover if in the unlikely event Carl also requires time on the side-lines. We experimented with a number of players in the right back position when Carl and Bacary were injured last season to mixed results.

We experimented with Centre backs playing in there. Johan Djourou had a stint there. At the time we had were fully stocked for centre backs and the right back availability was a chance for Johan to get into the team. Although Johan started off ok in that position, he added height at the back and was generally comfortable on the ball he didn’t offer much in an attacking sense to the team which is understandable. He was also suspect against any attacking players who dribble at the defender. He was found wanting a number of times against those types of players. Junior Hoillet, Antonio Valencia and Nani come to mind. In his defence he is a centre back by trade and was doing his bit to help the team by covering at a time when we needed cover.

Laurent Koscielny also had a few games at right back and to be honest was quite impressive there. I believe he mentioned in an interview he has played there previously in France and does not find the position too alien to him. One drawback from that arrangement was that from all the good we gained from Koscielny playing right back we missed his presence and all the positives he brought to the centre of defence. We needed him in the middle more than at full back and in conjunction with Mertesacker’s injury against Sunderland that option became null and void.

The midfielders gave it a try too. Francis Coquelin slotted into the right back position and was quite impressive there however maybe due to the extra sprinting that position involves he obtained a few injuries which were in effect muscle pulls.  In the grand scheme of things Coquelin is a midfielder and that is the position he learned his craft and sees his future so any stint at right back was merely short-term solution. Adaptability is no bad thing and I’m sure he is prepared to play there if ever needed.

Nico Yennaris is another player who is a midfielder primarily but had played a few games at right back last season. He actually played alright in that games but is very raw and would benefit more from a loan spell to aid his development. I would not expect him to be called upon apart from maybe Carling cup games.

One thing that strikes me is over the years we have churned out so many promising left backs yet in the right back position we have tended to always have established more experienced right backs purchased. I cannot remember the last time a young right back has been on the lips of gunners fans as one to watch out for. Justin Hoyte is the last youth player I can recall who broke into fringes of the first team and maybe Kerrea Gilbert but those two players never really fulfilled any promise.

At present there are a couple of names in the youth set up who could possibly make the breakthrough though it is still quite early days for them. The Neymar lookalike Martin Angha and his Swiss compatriot Sead Hajrovic are just names for the future for now. We clearly need to buck the trend and produce some future Arsenal right backs.

In the meantime it’s over to you Carl Jenkinson. Get your head down, work hard over the summer and make that right back spot your own. Well until Sagna is back…

Enjoy your day people.