And so a very fine pre-season run has come to an end with a deflating defeat. Again, I should remind everyone that it is still only pre-season and results are not entirely indicative of the squad’s strength. And the points that I will raise later in this very post will point out why there are still more reasons to be optimisstic than not.
Before I begin, let me again go through some of the biggest happenings since my last real post (let’s hope last weekend would be the last time I fall sick for very, very long time) with some of my thoughts.
Jack Wilshere, whose pre-season form has caught the Premier League-watching world’s wildest imagination, has remained in the news with England coach Fabio Capello saying he might consider including him for the World Cup squad next year. I can understand the degree of the hype leveled on this 17 year-old. If I’m English, I would be overexcited too. England has been starved of international success for decades, every new exciting name is being hailed as the next saviour, or the final piece in the jigsaw that will bring back the World Cup. Yet, on top of all these, there is not the slightest doubt that Wilshere is a special talent with an exceptional footballing quality that excites more than the other England stars who broke through at a similarly young age – Rooney, Owen, Gerrard.
However, he is still only young. Speaking of the senior England squad would be way too soon. He must first be allowed to continue his development in less international scrutiny and to first break into the Arsenal first team more regularly. Despite being a Gooner, I never thought the decision of Walcott being brought into the World Cup squad in 2006 was a wise decision. I always thought that slowed down his progress rather than speeded it. His confidence took a blow afterwards and it took him some time to get back on track. Luckily for us, Walcott is a mentally tough lad. Luckier thing is, Wilshere looks the same. Meanwhile, he has been called up to the England U21 squad and I believe he is one of the youngest there so let’s hope he will continue to develop.
Moving on to transfer rumours:
Patrick Vieira – As I’ve stated in my earlier posts, I’ve doubted that he will return to Arsenal and I’ve aso doubted that he will move to Spurs. I’ve been proven right on both counts with him choosing to stay with Inter. It is a strange decision though, as he won’t be playing regularly at Inter and his international chances might decrease due to that. But then again, he probably didn’t have any other offers at hand.
Marouane Chamakh – I’ve stated in my earlier posts that he remains the most likely next Arsenal signing but it doesn’t seem to be close as well. My earliest post of Marouane Chamakh is the most-read post in my blog with it registering some 408 hits in one particular day when this rumour was at its peak. Bordeaux prefers to think of Chamakh as a 15 million pound striker while Arsenal rates him half the price. I think half the price would still be a price that is too good to refuse. He has one more year’s contract remaining and he would then be free. He is unproven outside of France and he is not exactly prolific. As to why Bordeaux is playing hardball makes no sense whatsoever. Arsene was right to stand his ground on this. In fact I would have reverted with a reduced offer (like 4 million pounds or something) to make a point.
In my earlier post of him, I said he was a rather poor finisher but allow me to correct myself. A technically sound player can’t be too terrible at finishing simply because if you can pass, then you can most certainly shoot. However, he doesn’t possess the composure to finish chances that comes his way. And such composure can’t really be taught. I’m a striker, and I know what I’m talking about. But I still believe he can excel in our new 4-3-3 formation playing either flanks of the attacking trio or even be the focal attacking point. He can be a direct deputy to van Persie. Either way, we will see if we eventually get him.
Moving on to more serious matters, our Champions League draw.
There were a lot of talk about the chances of Arsenal meeting Celtic before the draw was made, and I was already having a really weird feeling that it would really happen. When it did, I was surprised that I didn’t really worry about the tie. We avoided potentially bigger opponents but Celtic can of course still prove to be a banana skin. Before the draw was made, a couple of Celtic bloggers were bragging about their performances against Manchester United last season and said they were not afraid of Arsenal. I doubt their bravado lasts when they saw the results of the draw. They forgot they lost their best player Shunsuke Nakamura to Espanyol over this summer. I have the fullest confidence in Arsenal to score a convincing win in this one.
Finally, to the interestig bits of the match we go!
1 – Adou Diaby started.
Arsene Wenger mentioned before this game that the starting line-up would be a huge indication of how the team will line up against Everton on the opening day of the new season. I questioned in my previous post about Diaby’s availability and that we haven’t seen him for more than a half in the first 6 friendly games. He was in the midfield trio with Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song.
2 – Ramsey and Denilson didn’t play.
Ramsey was the one who caught my eye the most in pre-season with his consistency and his incredible growth in strength and confidence. He played a lot of minutes in pre-season and I expect a much bigger role for him this season. But he didn’t play and Denilson was left out of the squad altogether. It was probably to keep them fresh for the season ahead, or it might be that Song and Diaby are Wenger’s first choice midfield duo to support Cesc.
3 – We conceded only when Cesc, Song, Alumnia and Gallas were substituted.
Of course, on top of the 4 abovementioned big names, our first choice attacking trio of Arshavin, van Persie and Bendtner were also substituted meaning chances of chasing the game were a bit dimmer as well. Gallas is our most experienced defender and arguably the best. Song is our first choice defensive midfielder, Alumnia is our first choice ‘keeper and Cesc is our captain. From what I read, we were evenly matched and even have our fair share of chances but didn’t take them. So when we conceded only when these 4 important players were out, then it means we have less to worry about. Do also remember David Villa, whom Real and Barca are fighting over like a pair of little girls fighting over a limited edition barbie doll, came on fresh in the second half and was the scorer of the second goal.
4 – Walcott and Gibbs played their first pre-season games.
I really can’t wait tosee them both being match fit but right now they need matches. They joined late due to the extended break given to them and would need a bit of catching up. I think Walcott will really excel on the right flank of the attacking trio.
I will try to finish up on my first team squad for the season ahead series before the new season start so my next article will be on our midfield trio, the players who should be playing where and how they can contribute to the season ahead. Rosicky is injured again but this is to be expected given he wa out for so long. For those who keep saying he should retire, I think it is premature and if we have waited 18 months to see him playing again, what is another 6 weeks? Yes, it is a blow nonetheless given how good he had looked in pre-season so far and his presence is essential in the absence of Nasri but luckily for us we have more than a few options in this role. I will discuss more about this in my next article as well.
So, before I end today’s post, here is another trademark Son of a Gunner’s poll!