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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Kyle Bartley joins Swansea. Is project youth failing? – AFC

It’s all happening at the Arsenal now, players are leaving left right and centre. Whilst arsenal fans are still digesting the news of the imminent robin van persie deal to united revealed on Wednesday; news broke last night of the permanent transfer of Kyle Bartley to premiership team Swansea. Hardly the straw that broke the camel’s back but all the same a sign that project youth didn’t bear the gem that all the time and investment warranted.

The scouting team clearly saw something special in Bartley when they plucked him from Bolton youth a few years back, he seemed to be working his way through the ranks at arsenal. He has definitely benefitted from a number of loan moves to improve his game; the most recent gaining big game experience at Ibrox with Rangers. Many thought that would be the high profile experience that would put him in good stead to cope with the demands of representing arsenal.

His promotion to the 1st team this season looked like an indication of a breakthrough season on the cards. The opportunity he had been waiting for ever since joining the club would be realised this season; all be it as 5th choice centre back. Would he have the patience to wait for an opportunity to stake a claim for the starting XI or would the experience of regular 1st team football at the top level with Rangers give him the taste to experience more of that?

It’s clear Kyle saw the latter as the better option and to be fear arsenal fans cannot hold it against him. Regular football in a Swansea team that impressed so many last season how could we convince him otherwise.

You have to question how hard a decision was it for arsenal to agree the deal. Is it that they cannot see the full potential they initially realised when he was first acquired coming to fruition? Have they made a choice between Bartley and Miquel and see greater potential in the Spaniard? Or is it just good will from Arsene to grant Bartley an opportunity for football at premiership level which he could not guarantee at Arsenal in the coming season? Maybe we will never get the full answer but after the departure of promising midfielder Ozzy Oghuzup to Besiktas one does wonder if we are now holding onto the real gems and cutting our losses on the later developers despite the potential they have.

A lot of investment went into many youngsters who never quite took off to the next level at arsenal; players like Vela, Denilson and Bendtner despite their unrivalled talent at a young age have not quite hit the heights that maybe were expected of them. They did of course move up the grade to first team players but the high level of consistency and output expected never quite appeared often enough. They were eventually deemed surplus to requirements and Wenger was prepared to let them go without putting up much of a fight.

There really is a thin line between the benefits of loaning young players out to clubs; it really is the sink and swim test; many go out to lower league clubs and hardly make a ripple at their new clubs. Sometimes it shows that their chances of cutting it at arsenal are heavily reduced if they can’t make an impact at lower level, sometimes a loan move can come too early for a young player and a bit more development is required however the experience in invaluable. Then there are young players that take to the loan move like ducks to water, they really grasp their opportunity and get their first taste of idolisation from fans and teammates. This divides players when their loans are over; they either come back with a fresh hunger and belief they can break into the Arsene’s plans or they return having liked the 1st team experience and yearn for that opportunity elsewhere rather than being patient, playing reserve football and waiting for the opportunities as presented in the carling cup and sometimes fa cup. Additionally after years of assessments the player simply isn’t deemed good enough and informed they can move on.

Over the years I have maybe only seen Bartley play 2 or 3 games for the arsenal and in each one he had produced a gaff that led to a goal. I put it down to rawness at such a young age, he still showed potential and the mistakes which are expected from young players would get ironed out. Maybe those mistakes were becoming repeat offenders? I’m not sure I never watched any of his ranger’s performances and the feedback from others was that he was impressing over there.

Whatever the reason project youth comes under the microscope again, if he clearly wasn’t going to make it why wasn’t he let go a long time ago and if he was deemed a talent why did we let him go so easily (with no doubt a massive selling on fee)? One other factor I forgot to mention was Bartley’s cryptic support on twitter for Ched Evans when the striker was sentenced for rape. He received a major backlash from the fans and eventually back tracked his tweet claiming it was for something else and nothing to do with the trial. Luckily he wasn’t high profile enough for the story to hit the red tops but I’m sure the people who matter at arsenal took note of those events. Support of a convicted rapist does not bode well on the representation of the club.

Whatever the reason I’m sure Mr Arsene will give us the answer one day, hopefully the truth and not the wrapped in cotton wool answer.

Enjoy your day people

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Djourou admits frustration, Vermaelen admits admiration – AFC

So it seems the words from Ottmar Hitzfeld managed to register with Johan Djourou. Earlier this week the current Switzerland manager made the suggestion to Johan that it may be in his best interests to sever his ties with Arsenal in search of more regular football which will in turn enhance his opportunities with his national team.

Over the past season the Swiss stopper has slipped down the pecking order for the centre back position at the heart of the Arsenal defence. Given the continual improvement of Laurent Koscielny, The return to fitness of Thomas Vermaelen and the purchase of Per Mertesacker Johan has found himself as 4th choice centre back.

His performances compared to the 2010-11 season have not been as commanding and assured meaning his progression has stalled.  Add to that having to play out of position a number of times Johan never really got into his stride when called upon. Most players need a run of games to shake off the rust and maybe he never had that to really force Arsene Wenger’s hand in selecting him more often.

Djourou was quoted as saying in an interview with Swiss media “I’ve never played so little and especially not in my own position. If an interesting offer comes, I’ll look at it carefully”. It’s a fair comment from the defender, he hasn’t played as often in preferred position and so he needs to evaluate any opportunities.

What Arsenal will miss out on if he were to move on is his quality as a relative 4th choice centre back. Not many clubs can boast 4th choice centre backs in the same caliber as Johan. You only have to look over at a club like Manchester City and the walking disaster that was Stefan Savic. At times he seemed on a one man crusade to derail the Manchester club’s title charge.

Although Johan may not be as popular with many Arsenal fans; last season the alternative was Sebastian Squillaci, the still quite raw Ignasi Miquel or moving Song out of position to cover. I saw no problem with him as a 4th choice defender though most footballers would not be accepting of being 4th choice for a position when at the age of 25 and a current international player.

I touched on the alternatives for Johan and you have to question whether Arsene has any plans to promote within if the Swiss defender moves on. I do not see Sebastian Squillaci being on the Arsenal books next season; I believe he will be moved on. His time with Arsenal has been a constant downward spiral and even Wenger must realize his confidence will only reduce further the longer he stays at the club. Then again Wenger could surprise us all and keep him around. Ignasi Miquel shows promise but is still a bit raw. He would benefit from first team experience on loan somewhere for a season to aid his development.

Kyle Bartley will be returning to the club after his time on loan with Rangers. Would he be an option for that slot in the team? Despite the turmoil at the Glasgow club young Kyle still managed to play a number of games in the first team and in his fair share of high-profile old firm derbies. Although he may not have always played at centre back whilst on loan he still gained valuable experience and probably enhanced his mental strength for performing at a big club. I suppose Arsene will have a look at him over pre-season and assess whether he has stepped up to the level required to represent Arsenal.

There was some nice news emanating from the Belgian camp this week as our vice captain declared his love for the club and how happy he is there. In preparation for the upcoming friendly against England Thomas is hoping that he will overcome a niggling groin injury to be able to face the three lions.

To hear Vermaelen state: “There will be no transfer for me. I love London. I’ve got a house there, I’m happy there and I don’t see any reason to ever leave the club” It does help restore your faith that players can openly declare they are happy at a club and assure fans how they really feel.

Many times when a player has left his club to join up with their national team they usually have free license to talk about everything about themselves ranging from contract negotiations, how unhappy they are, which clubs they admire to their favorite flavor of ice cream.

Usually the players use it as a chance to vent something they don’t like going on at their club. They aren’t under the press constraints usually imposed on them during the season by their club and so many fall into the trap of revealing too much. The more intelligent footballer’s now realize just because they hold an interview in their mothers tongue it can be translated into English and reported in our press.

So it is definitely nice to hear the positive words coming from Thomas Vermaelen. Not usually the stuff our Red Tops would find headline news but the kind of news that is of interest to Arsenal fans.

Good on him, that’s the kind of loyalty and determination his international team-mate Jan Vertonghen should take note of.

Enjoy your day people