Considering the relative success of ou pre-season; with Arsenal having won 5 of 6 friendlies and drawn the remaining one, scoring 20 goals and coceding only 4; it shows Wenger’s vision in converting our usual 4-5-1 and 4-4-2 formations to the current refreshing 4-3-3 to be another stroke of genius.
However, despite all the apparent positives, there are still some more players we haven’t seen yet in pre-season. And these are all first-teamers I’m referring to. This means, things can only get better. Now let us see who these players are and how they can each contribute to the Arsenal cause this coming season.
1 – Abou Diaby
It probably isn’t entirely accurate to say he haven’t seen Diaby in pre-season for he has featured 45 minutes against SC Columbia. However, that was the only time he played in all 6 friendlies to-date. I must say this is one of the mysterious things of pre-season I could not fathom as firstly, it is clear Wenger rates him highly and secondly, it is clear he would be a much more effective player in the new 4-3-3 formation.
Diaby was mostly deployed on the left the past couple of seasons to the amazement of most Gooners as it was clear be it in attack or in midfield, his natural position has got to be in the centre. When he arrived in 2006, he arrived as a central midfielder. It is obvious despite his excellent technique, he is simply not cut out to be a wide midfielder. With the new formation, he could excel as one of the midfield trio. However, since the Columbia game, we have seen mostly Ramsey, Denilson and Song in the midfield trio for most of the friendly games and of course our captain Cesc when he became available.
I feel Diaby was ineffective in wide positions and he isn’t much of a defensive midfielder as his tackling leaves much to be desired. To put things into perspective, his tackling would make Paul Scholes look like a world-beater in defence. Therefore, he would be excellent if he can partner Cesc in the centre with a tenacious midfielder to cover both of them as well as the attacking trio. The tenacious midfielder job can go to one of Denilson, Song or Ramsey. All 3 not really outstanding defensive midfielders themselves but have the engine and the mobility required to succeed in this role.
Therefore, I remain confident we will see Diaby play much better than he ever did the past two seasons with the new formation. As to when we will see him again, only Wenger knows. He is not injured, so he may yet feature againt Valencia this Saturday, we shall see.
2 – Lukasz Fabianski
We have not seen Fabianski at all in pre-season. He has been the established second-choice ‘keeper and the domestic cups goalkeeper since Almunia became our number one. However, he did not feature in our opening friendly game at Underhill against Barnet, with Vito Mannone featuring instead. After which, we saw the first team left for the Austria tour without Fabianski. Wenger said it as because Fabianski had a small knock and he had expected him to feature in he Emirates Cup but again he was left out of the entire tournament.
Wenger has said that he expects Fabianski to become a world-class ‘keeper in future despite some of his glaring mistakes last season, the worst being that rash rush out which led to Drogba slotting the ball into an empty net in the FA Cup semi-final that lost us the tie. I also mentioned in one of my earlier posts that I feel he should be givena chance to gin more experience and to develop himself because he has the raw talents to succeed and that he is still only 24, very young for a ‘keeper. However, the poll conducted in this blog as shown most Gooners still think he should go.
Is Wenger having doubts as well? I hope not as I really think he can improve. We will know more when the season begins.
3 – Theo Walcott
He has been given a longer break due to his involvement in the England U21s earlier in the summer. Now he has returned and he is all ready to face Valencia this Satuday. There is no dobt in my mind that Walcott can be deadly as the right-sided attacker in the attacking trio of the new formation. Previously, when we were playing 4-4-2 and 4-5-1, Walcott was just effective going forward but much as he wanted to help defend whenever we lose the ball, that just isn’t his forte.
Being part of the attacking trio in the new 4-3-3 formation would mean more chances for himself and being a direct layer, this can only benefit his game. I can’t wait to see him on the right and Wilshere on the left with van Persie as the focal point of the attacking trio. Now that would be mouthwatering! We have been looking good so far without him, but he will add a new dimension to the team with his return.
4 – Samir Nasri
It was unfortunate that Nasri was injured before a ball was kicked in pre-season. Otherwise,we would have been able to see if he can be as effective playing in the midfield trio as he did last season as a left-sided midfielder a la Pires-style. However, his absence probably played a part in Ramsey and Wilshee playing more in pre-season than expected.
Nasri slotted into the defensive midfielder position towards the end of last season. Most Gooners thought it was a really lousy decision thinking he is not strong enough in the middle. However, I would like to bring to everyone’s attention that he had played in the middle for Marseille during his entire time there. His physique is much stronger than most think. He can hold the ball well and he is an intelligent player.
But I must say it was a waste to play him as a holding midfielder simply because we have no one else to do the job. He is much more effective and dangerous as an attacking player and this is why I think he will also suit he new 4-3-3 formation. Let’s hope he returns soon enough.
5 – Carlos Vela
We have yet to see Vela in pre-season due to his involvement with Mexico. This is one player that I’m sure will fit the new formation to a tee. He has played as a left winger/attacker for Osasuna during his loan spell and he was extremely impressive in that role, even nutmegging Sergio Ramos. He returned to Arsenal with Wenger saying he will be a striker in the Eduardo mould. Both are left-footed assasins in front of goal so it is easy to see the comparison there. However, I feel Vela’s close control with hard work is one that will fit into the new system perfectly. I can see him playing as on the left of the attacking trio. Being left-footed, he would be able to dominate that flank and send crosses in as well as take shots on goal after being laid off by the target man. In summary, he will enjoy this role and we as Gooners will be enjoying his performaces. I can’t wait!
6 – Kieran Gibbs
Like Walcott, he was given extra time for a break due to his involvement with the England U21s. As mentioned in my post of leftbacks for the season ahead, Gibbs is an exceptional talent who has impressed in Clichy’s absence. His performances in his first season as a first-teamer has already outshone Traore. However, Traore has impressed during this pre-season and his preformances will certainly give Wenger a healthy headache. I maintain we are extremely well-covered in this area and I won’t be surprised to see one of Traore and Gibbs leave on loan this season. I, though, will want to see both of them remain and fight it out to be Clichy’s undisputed deputy. This will be interesting.
Therefore, with the 6 abovementioned first-teamers to return to the squad, there are more reasons to feel good about the coming season. Let’s stay positive, fellow Gooners!