Napoli win showcases strength of Arsenal squad

Given the recent loss of Theo Walcott to his mystery abdominal illness the Arsenal team in recent games appeared to lack the outlet of pace which only Theo could provide. I suppose over time Arsenal fans have become accustomed to the threat posed on the right hand side and the special attention paid to Walcott to nullify his strengths.

When all of a sudden Walcott was removed from the team there was apprehension as to how Arsenal would cope without an outlet on the flanks. How would Arsenal scare teams and get in behind them? Serge Gnabry was drafted into the starting eleven and took the opportunity to prove his worth and readiness for Arsenal duty. With all due respect to the talented German his attributes are more similar to that of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain; Stocky and strong, excellent dribbling skills and the eye for a shot. The obvious pace is used sparingly and the dribbling is more directly at defenders rather than storming down the flanks playing of the shoulder of the fullback.

theo w

In other words the style of play has had to adapt to compensate for less pace on the wings from Theo. Arsenal fans have developed an almost complacent expectation that the right wing is for a pacy winger to stretch teams, if Walcott is not available then an identical player should surely be waiting in the wings to step up when he is not available.

So when the line up to face Napoli was revealed last night Arsenal fans could be forgiven for wondering how the team would line up and where the pace would come from. Tomas Rosicky was drafted back into the team following injury to line up alongside fellow returnee Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, Matthieu Flamini and Mesut Ozil. The starting quintet did their best to dispel the notion that pace is the one and only commodity for success in football.

The quality of the football produced by the Arsenal team as a whole was something to behold. The passing at times was exquisite as each of the midfielders on the pitch so comfortable in possession stroked the ball around with such finesse that at times in the first half Napoli were reduced to mere spectators. They would have been best advised to take advantage of the comfortable seats in the stands at the emirates and join the fans in admiration of the football on show.

gunners celebrate

That Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott were not starters on the pitch during the fantastic display is not an indication that their contributions are surplus to requirements now but a mere indication that the squad as a whole is a lot stronger than people take for granted. Theo and Jack are key players for Arsenal and the thought of them waiting in the wings alongside the likes of Cazorla, Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain is one to trigger an excitement for the team that hasn’t been felt for quite a few seasons now.

The football yesterday was a joy to watch especially in the first half, with Napoli despatched qualification from the difficult group looks ever the more realistic. Despite their defeat in the opening game week of the Champion’s League Borussia Dortmund is still the team to beat for Arsenal. It seems such a long, long time ago that uncertainty clouded over Arsenal on whether they would even get past Fernabache to qualify for the competition proper. The performance yesterday made a mockery of there ever being the possibility of the Gunners not gracing the competition. Arsenal belong in the competition, they are literally part of the Champion’s League furniture and they intend stick around this season.

Enjoy your day people.

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The wing it is for Theo next season.

With the football season done, as much as the fans despise international friendlies the game between England and Brazil was a welcome exception to the rule. The Arsenal interest much like the game against Republic of Ireland came in the form of Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Given the mounting rumours of a done deal the Arsenal interest could be extended to that of Brazil number one Julio Cesar. Oxlade-Chamberlain started on the bench however the game was an opportunity for fans to see Theo Walcott in a more offensive potentially central attacking role for England against a top quality side. Roy Hodgson opted for a three up top formation meaning Theo played in a role he was familiar playing at Arsenal. Roy Hodgson did allow him freedom to drift inside to support Rooney and he also swapped flanks throughout the game with James Milner.

Overall I believe the performance of Theo Walcott showcased the argument that he is not ready to take on a central striking role for Arsenal next season. Not meaning that he can never play there for Arsenal, he can be certainly terrorise certain teams with his pace and it will be a case of Arsene doing his homework on the choosing the right teams to utilise Theo’s pace against in a central role.

In yesterday’s game it is a fair conclusion to state that Walcott played well below his devastating best. With the game finely poised against top quality opposition with no need to commit men forward Theo was faced with receiving the ball with men behind the ball and he struggled to make use of the ball when he had it. It’s in games like this you need your forward to show strength and composure on the ball, be able to hold up the ball and bring others into play instead Theo’s play was hurried, his control was off and on too many occasions he ran into blind alleys. He did manage one clear chance which was superbly saved by the keeper; the angle was closed down and would have required good fortune for the ball to squirm its way in.

theo brazil

Nerves may have certainly played a big part in Theo’s game however it’s the big games you want your big players to step up to the mark, that’s what sets them apart from the rest. Theo has had a good season for Arsenal, the stats speak for themselves and this article is in no way an attack on the abilities of Theo Walcott. However it is a reflection on how Arsenal needs to do business this summer to bring in a specialist centre forward to share the load and create competition with Olivier Giroud next season.

Arsene wenger cannot go into the new season stating the squad has sufficient cover with players that can play in the central role such as Theo and Gervinho. The signs were there yesterday in the Brazil game of what is lacking in Theo Walcott’s game before he can make the full on transition to Thierry Henry mark II.

In my opinion the wing is still the best option, playing with talented playmakers’ that can pick him out when flying up the flanks. Until Walcott sharpens up the parts of his game that do not require pace he may have to wait a while before the fans and the manager take his claims for a central role more seriously.

Meanwhile Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored a fantastic goal when he came on in the second half at a time when England were trailing and looking devoid of any spark to get back into the game. His brilliant snap-shot squeezed past the outstretched arm of Cesar and into the back of the net to take the game to 1-1. He clearly enjoyed his moment on the pitch and showcased his potential to score a goal out of nothing with his equalizer; an attribute that will be very welcome next season at the Emirates. He has signed off from his second season stutter with a screamer, the perfect tonic to take with him onto next season and hit the ground running.

Enjoy your day people.

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Theo Walcott creates a shift in Arsenal history

The moment Theo Walcott put pen to paper on his new contract yesterday it marked a moment in Arsenal history that could be looked back on as a turning point in Arsenal fortunes. The signing is much deeper than securing the services of a promising young player with so many years ahead of him to make history for the club.

Although the signing of Walcott in addition to the five youngsters who penned new deals earlier this season has gone a long way to stabilising the team and securing a British spine of the team for the future it is still the one secured for Walcott that is the most important/significant.

theo applaud

The reason why I am saying this is for the club to retain the services of Theo Walcott taking into account the stage he was at with his contract it showed to the fans that the club was able to secure the services of a star asset who had held all the cards in terms of their career choice.

When the last transfer window shut at the end of August with Theo not signing a contract in many fans eyes, myself included it seems the days of Walcott as an Arsenal player were over. We had been there before in recent times with former captain Robin Van Persie; once he reached the stage where he could talk to other clubs his departure was inevitable.

Much like Samir Nasri before him the players were the ones that had the power over the club in negotiations and dictated proceedings. Arsenal is too big a club to be the ones taking the runner up spot in any standoff with their players. The years haven’t been too kind to the club in the past 8 years meaning negotiation powers have weakened, the lack of silverware has certainly dented the clubs standing amongst other big clubs. Where in the past players would want to play for a club based on their admiration for their style of play and history this has been overtaken by the desire for quick silverware and/or extortionate wages.

All those years back Matthieu Flamini started the trend when he upped sticks and headed for AC Milan on a free; the club has since struggled at times in negotiations to persuade players that Arsenal were going places as their contracts moved rapidly towards the final year.

flamini gooner

This is why when Theo Walcott signed the contract when he was in a position to start negotiations with any club of his and his agent’s choice it could signal a buck in the trend. It sent out a message to all that Arsenal does have the power to hold onto its star players even at its most vulnerable in negotiation proceedings.

Many will mention that the reported wages of £100k are a bit over the top for Theo, maybe they are but sometimes you have to pay that little extra to show your ambition. If Theo was to decide to move on he would have commanded that £100k wage elsewhere with plenty suitors out there so to convince him to stay was a big moment for the club.

To discuss his transition to striker or his recent surge in set piece duties is for another time, right now we need to acknowledge and salute Theo Walcott for surprising a lot of us in committing himself to the club and now focus on moving on as part of a core of players that will take Arsenal forward (hopefully introducing some silverware to the barren trophy cupboard in the process).

Young Theodore James Walcott you may have dragged your heels over the past 6 months but you made the right decision in the end, you will not regret your choice.

Enjoy your day people.

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Nothing goes right on bad day for Gunners

Arsenal doesn’t like doing things straight forward; there’s always some sort of complication that makes an evaluation impossible to bracket as black and white. Tensions are high amongst Arsenal fans; we have been frustrated at the lack of any sort of signings to boost/strengthen the team. We have also spent the last 7 days hearing announcements that Theo Walcott has signed his contract only to discover nothing official from anyone that actually matters in the whole situation. Earlier in the day former player Robin Van Persie again found himself on the score-sheet to take Manchester United 10 points clear at the top, another dig in the ribs of frustrated Gooners.

Everything seemed to be falling in place to put Arsene Wenger straight into the firing line if we did not come away from the Man City game with a positive game, performance and result. Leading up to the game there were some signs that something was slightly skewiff. Firstly the news filtered through beforehand that the game was under threat due to a suspicious package being located outside the Emirates that resulted in the area being closed off to the public. The threat was quickly dealt with however rumours circulated that Mikel Arteta was in fact injured and would not be involved in the game, which was proved right and seemed another strike thrown into the mix before we even kicked a ball. The biggest factor to affect our game and pour cold water over the Arsenal fans optimism was the dismissal of Laurent Koscielny just 9 minutes into the game. A game changer indeed and so early in the match that any hopes of winning the game were heavily reduced. For the record it was a penalty, I would not deny that however the award of a red card is debatable. I could talk until I am blue in the face dissecting the decision of Mike Dean but that won’t change anything.

mike dean pen

It spoiled what had the potential to be a good game and from then on the defeat was an inevitable outcome. The injustice of the red card in a way deflected the rage that was going to be directed towards Arsene Wenger for some of his recent actions, comments and inactivity in the transfer market. You cannot really critique the performance of a team that was handicapped with one less player for the majority of the match.

So from the events of yesterday I have a few points to raise:

Koscielny didn’t help the situation.

koscielny hold

Depending on what side of the fence you sit on he either deserved to go or he didn’t. What was conclusive from the incident was he did have his arm around Eden Dzeko and therefore deserved to be penalised for the incident. If he received only a yellow card we still would have had to face a penalty in the first 10 minutes. All season the team have been conceding unnecessary goals and if converted (in the alternate universe where Koscielny received only a yellow) that would have been another on the list. Our French defender although a favourite of many fans, has a knack of the odd silly moments. He has quite a few red cards already during his spell with Arsenal and I think it’s time that Arsene or Stevie Bould had a word with him on being a bit more aware of the consequences of his action when in the box. We can’t rely on Referees to use common sense in games so the best policy is to not give them any reason to make their rash decisions.

New players are contributing to their teams.

In a so far inactive transfer market for Arsene, fans cannot help but notice that players are scoring for their new clubs. Daniel Sturridge managed to get on the score-sheet earlier in the day with Liverpool, Demba Ba has got off the mark for Chelsea already and looked to have settled at his new club. It’s just a sign to show what kind of impact a new signing could have on the team. I know any new signing  would have been just as powerless as the players on the field yesterday once we went down to 10 men and so my argument doesn’t have much standing but I still believe our current squad has gone a bit stale and returning injured players will not revitalize it. New blood is needed the sooner the better.

Arteta injury means big problems.

The news of Arteta’s injury is not welcome news at all. Arsene has ruled him out for the rest of the month and the question is how do we cope with the loss of our Spanish pass master? Arteta has made the defensive midfield position his own this season and his ever-present season so far hasn’t drawn up the dilemma of where suitable cover would come from. Abou Diaby slotted into the role yesterday however being his first game back after his long absence it will be wishful thinking to believe he can cover until Arteta returns. His body will most likely require some recovery after his shift yesterday, the extra running having to deal with an extra man won’t help at all. The other option on offer is the two young guys could step up to the mark. Francis Coquelin has been on the fringes of the first team all season without ever threatening to oust any of the starting midfielders. With the injury to Arteta, an indication of Wenger’s true belief in the young Frenchman was shown by the manager choosing to play Diaby in front of him. With the games coming thick and fast this January he is bound to get a chance at some point but it’s important to see how he overcomes this first rejection. Emmanuel Frimpong is also back at Arsenal after his loan spell at Charlton and could be in contention for a place; I would expect Coquelin to get preference over the Ghanaian but would not be surprised if he does make an appearance this month.

Walcott performances up front need adapting.

theo v kompany

The longer the contract situation with Theo Walcott continues the more stringent his performances will be critiqued. Once again the young Englishman was given a chance in his preferred position up front but once again he came up short. With a continued run of games he is bound to improve but his contribution in that position needs more variety than just running off the shoulder of the last defender. After the 7-3 victory over Newcastle it was quite clear where Theo’s strengths lied but after that game opposing teams did their homework and decided it might not be best playing a high line against him. This has resulted in him being quite ineffective when he is not running onto long balls. The sending off didn’t help him yesterday as the added contribution of Oxlade-Chamberlain was taken away. There has also been a recent increase in Theo taking set pieces; it does make you wonder if his ongoing contract negotiations are resulting in him receiving special treatment from his colleagues. I think there are players better place to take the set plays and I think he needs to concentrate on scoring goals if he plays as the striker in the team. Once he masters that side of his game then he can expand into contributing to the set plays, you can’t become Thierry Henry overnight after all. In conclusion what I’m trying to say is with all the hassle over the new contract Theo needs to show he has more in his locker to justify the efforts to keep him.  It’s starting to look like Wenger will not spend again and so more responsibility will lie on Theo’s shoulders to prove the managers stinginess is the right decision.

We now face Swansea in the F.A. Cup third round replay this week, our biggest chance for a trophy this season. Let’s hope the Arsenal can get over yesterday’s result very quickly.

Enjoy your day people.

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Underwhelming Transfer Window for Gunners

The transfer window is a period of time in the football diary that excites football fans; it never fails to raise talking points as names get linked with your club. The January window in itself is looked down upon from its summer counterpart as the more desperate window. It’s a last chance for a manager to put right their mistakes in the season, at times it can work for them as a shrewd signing pays off and other times it can backfire and damage team morale.

arsenal new signing

At this moment in time Arsenal fans are sat pulling their hair out whilst waiting to hear of any signings to boost the Arsenal team. We have a history of not going crazy in the January window however this time around frustrations are strong amongst the fans and the demand for reinforcements to reignite a stuttering campaign is high. Arsene Wenger assured fans he will spend in the current transfer window; he also noted that he will make the effort to sign any exceptional players that become available.

We had hoped that transfer dealings would be made early to ensure any new players bed in quickly in what will be a tough month for the team. It hasn’t quite worked out that way, our biggest story of the window so far seems to be the will he/won’t he saga of Theo Walcott and his contract negotiations.

"£1 fish? hmm bargain..."

“£1 fish? hmm bargain…”

We have passed up the opportunity of signing proven premiership goal scorer Demba Ba for a pretty decent £7.5m fee with the manager claiming we have enough in Olivier Giroud. I personally don’t see them as similar players and the addition of Ba would have only strengthened our attacking options. To now sign a player of similar ability would cost double if not even more than that to purchase.

Chamakh and Djourou have moved on making the squad lighter and it can only mean players will come in to replace them in the squad. All the names linked so far seem to be nothing more than rumours; I’m sure Arsene Wenger will surprise us with the players he does bring in. He surely cannot afford to take the opportunity for granted and the players to come in will need to be ready for the starting eleven.

We only need to look at last weekend’s round of F.A cup games to see the boost a new player can bring to a team. We witnessed Demba Ba at Chelsea and Daniel Sturridge at Liverpool getting off the mark for their new teams. Ideally a signing now rather than at the end of the month would be a big boost in our overpopulated January fixture list.

I think for now we can rule out signing Villa, Lopez and M’vila but can expect someone coming in. Don’t raise your expectations too high on a big name as it will only lead to probable initial underwhelming disappointment when we sign someone hardly registered on the radar. That’s not to say they won’t be a success for us but I expect Wenger to do it his way. Whether his way is enough is another story as a disappointing season could well cost the manager his job.

Enjoy your day people.

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