Son of a Gun!

Musings on Arsenal Football Club by a Singaporean Gooner (Gooner since 1988)

Midfielders for the season ahead August 12, 2009

Filed under: Midfield,Pre-season — Son of a Gunner @ 11:52 am

I had intended to write about Right and Left wingers for the season ahead for my positions for the season ahead series. But seeing that Wenger has been using 4-3-3 all pre-season, I’ve decided to uodate accordingly as well. Today, I will talk about all our midfielders and who should be in the midfield trio.

From what I have seen in pre-season to-date, this midfield trio is pretty interchangeable. The only constant is that the midfielders will remain just behind the attacking trio and the flank players of the attacking trio will fall back to make it a 5 man midfield when we’re not in possession. Then one of the midfield trio will fall furhter back, just ahead of the back four to act as anchor. With that in mind, let us begin:

Francesc Fabregas – Our young captain meteorial rise in the footballing world is the one big positive of the past 5 seasons since the class of the invincibles. I doubt there are many superlatives that wasn’t use on him. To me, he is already one of the world’s finest midfielder. His range of passing is world-class, and while there are many excellent passing players in the world such as Andrea Pirlo and Xabi Alonso, anyone who has been watching Fabregas will know his passing will not pale to these other greats. The amazing thing is, he is still only 22.

Other than his excellent passing and reading of the game, his footballing intelligence is also exceptional. However, besides all these obvious traits, Cesc also has some underrated qualities. Cesc is a fighter, both mentally and on the field. His winning mentality is there for all to see when he bites into challenges even though he isn’t the biggest player. To be able to not only survive in the Premier League but actually excel in it, is admirable for such a young player who isn’t even English. And I’ve always thought his tackling ability is a bit underrated.

The only weakesses he might have are his aerial ability, but he has already scored a couple of headers, and his lack of pace, although he isn’t the slowest player in the world. His quick thinking, excellent positional awareness and pace of his passes completely shadow his weaknesses. Many mention he isn’t a leader, but I think his behavior off-the-field is exempletary and is something the youngsters can learn from. Yes, maybe he isn’t a natural leader but he has the qualities to lead by example. This will be his first full season as captain, here’s wishing our leader all the best on the field – may it be his best yet!

Alexander Song – Alex Song came to Arsenal only with the reputation as the nephew of Rigobert Song. I remember seeing his first few matches for Arsenal in his first pre-season and I thought he was lively and always seem ready to dive into 50-50 challenges.

Since Flamini and Gilberto left, Song became our only true defensive midfielder. He came into prominence in the second half of last sason, and cumulated into a man-of-the-match performance against Burnley, laying that cheeky backheel for Eboue to score. I almost couldn’t believe that was Song in the game, he was dominant in the centre of the park and was technically very sound as well.

If no one else comes in, then surely Alex Song has to start with Cesc. I know Wenger thinks he also make a very good defender (he is even officially listed as a defender in the official website) but I remain unconvinced. During pre-season, he didn’t look comfortable whenever he was moved into defence and if we did move him, then our midfield won’t be as rock solid as if he were there. However, it is worth bearing in mind that energetic, mobile midfielders can also excel in this new formation. So with that, we move on to our next midfielder:

Aaron Ramsey – I’ve said many times that he has really impressed me in pre-season. Ramsey is mobile, has an excellent engine that made him looked as if he has more than a pair of lungs, and has developed physically as well. His box-to-box displays reminds one of a very young and raw Bryan Robson.

He is both-footed and has a mean long rang shot. He has a tendency to try from distance, which is extremely rare in this Arsenal squad and he may yet yield a few goals for us using this avenue. Only 18 years-old, he is already full international. He has impressed enough to start most of the pre-season friendlies and I can’t wait to see more of him this coming season.

Abou Diaby – He joined in the same January window as Adebayor and Walcott and was immediately dubbed the new Vieira due to their similar height, physique, baldness and overrall look. Before he had that horrible ankle injury, I really thought he was a very decent player although his tackling isn’t exactly world-class. Since his return from that injury, he wasn’t exactly injury-free for long periods of time and that has certainly affected his progress.

There is a running joke about how he will play one game and be injured for the next 5 games. And the sad thing is, it isn’t far from the truth. Along the way, he was converted into a wide player on the left and even played up front just behind the target man for a few occasions. Because of this, I think he can adapt easily into the new formation as his natural position is in the centre. And due to the mobility of the team play in the new formation, he may have to go left, right or just able anywhere to fill gaps his midfield colleagues has left behind and yet still blend into the teamplay. He has enough experience playing in those wide positions and he is only 23. Seems incredible but that just goes to show how young he was when he first joined Arsenal. Now, we can only hope he can stay injury-free long enough to learn about his role in the new formation.

Emmanuel Eboue – I featured him in Rightbacks for the season ahead as well but as all Gooners know, he is very versatile. With transfer rumours of him leaving cooling off, I’m actually feeling very relieved that he’s staying. We cannot afford to let him go especially when we are lacking in quality in rightback after Bacary Sagna and he can also fill in at midfield or even as part of the attacking trio.

In midfield he can flank Fabregas on the right but still remain mainly central to keep the balance of the team. If need be, he can also provide useful crosses (we often forget what a good crosser of the ball he is) by drifting out to the right and to provide defensive stability in midfield when we lose the ball. He should adapt well in this role as it shouldn’t be entirel unfamiliar to him, he has played in centre midfield when we were still using 4-4-2 and 4-5-1 before. He is a very useful option.

Denilson – He played the most number of games last season and had a brilliant start to last season when he created quite a few goals and always looked purposeful whenever he went forward. However, he was criticised in the second half of the season when he looked jaded, lost, passed sideways too often and often outmuscled in games. We forget that despite his excellent fitness, he is still only 21 and to be jaded is not uncommon. He is not the biggest midfielder but his exceptional fitness ensured he doesn’t look out of place even when he is playing a lot of games.

Denilson was the Brazilian U19 captain, so he cannot be a bad player. I just feel he isn’t the type of midfield enforcer that Cesc need alongside him. He is more of a Cesc understudy but with the new formation, they could play together with a strong disciplined holding midfielder behind them. He has featured heavily in pre-season but I feel that the new formation would also mean we won’t be seeing him as often this coming season as we did last season, and maybe that might keep him fresh so that isn’t a bad thing at all.

Andrey Arshavin – What else don’t we know about the Russian magician? Myles Palmer (whom I often find ridiculous) of ANR rightly claims he is one of the top 5 players in the world, and I believe that too. But only if he is talking about the top 5 attacking players.

I had meant to feature him in the attacking trip article but I think there will be times that he will play in the midfield trio this season. How he can fit in would be if Cesc and Song/Denilson/Ramsey were side-by-side with Arshavin in a slightly more advanced role behind the main focal point/target man of the attacking trio. This might be seen when we are chasing a game or when we are playing a very defensive side.

However, I think Arshavin is already part of Wenger’s first choice attacking trio. We shall see. One thing we Gooners can be sure is – he will be a player who will have a big say in our fortunes this season.

Samir Nasri – He has started his Arsenal career as a Pires-style right-footed left-sided midfielder and was hugely impressive. Towards the end of the season, Wenger experimented with him in a holding midfielder role to mixed results. Although many criticised this move, I can understand where Wenger is coming from.

Nasri played in the centre for Marseille, and is physically very strong and can hold the ball well. He is also technically very sound to be able to play the kind of fast-moving one-touch football Arsenal is famous for, through the middle. The ony thing that needs polishing is his ball-winning skills. However, I’ve always felt playing him in such a role will stifle his attacking instincts, which to me, are his main strengths.

What I’m trying to get at here, is that he will fit seamlessly into the midfield trio. We will see for ourselves when he returns, hopefully in October. The bad news is, he has had pre-season to adapt to the new formation.

Jack Wilshere – The boy wonder can’t keep himself off the news since his out-of-this-world performance in the Emirates Cup. He is a natural left-footed genius who can play in any attacking role. He plays in the centre for the reserves and in the academy side so he will fit in nicely both in midfield and in attack using the new formation. I believe we will be seeing him quite a fair bit this coming season.

Tomas Rosicky – Out injured after having a very good pre-season is the biggest downside to his comeback so far. However, the good news is his performances in pre-season has shown that he hasn’t lost his touch at all and will be able to fit into the Arsenal system with much ease. The flexibility of the new formation could mean we have the possibility of seeing him, Nasri, Arshavin, Wilshere, van Persie and Cesc all playing in the same team. That simply spells disaster for any defence.

Overrall:
Defensive midfield trio – I would recommend Abou Diaby with Alex Song and Cesc Fabregas in the centre if we want to be slightly more conservative or to put more stability into the side. Ramsey can come in for Diaby if he is not available. Diaby may not be a good tackler but he has the most imposing figure aong our midfielders and Song remains our first choice holding midfield, and he has improved technically as well to launch quick counter-attacks to make our 4-3-3 as fluid as Wenger would have liked.

Offensive midfield trio – If we are playing against very defensive teams, we can try playing two of Samir Nasri, Tomas Rosicky, Andrey Arshavin, Jack Wilshere, Emmanuel Eboue or Denilson with Cesc. Ramsey can be brought in if Cesc is not available.

Current – With Rosicky and Nasri injured, my choice midfield trio is Cesc, Song and Diaby (followed closely by Eboue if Diaby is off injured). This would offer stability both to attack and defence. One reason why Wenger is still looking at another attacking player is because he must know that relying on Diaby and Rosicky to be completely injury-free throughout the season is too much of a gamble, given their histories. It would only take another midfield injury to leave us looking really thin, especially during the peak period where games can be as close as 2 day apart.

Cesc is our captain and his best position remains in midfield, not up front like he was deployed in a few games last season. Song is our best defensive midfielder so my guess is the two will definitely be Wenger’s choice and I think the third player who will start at Everton at opening weekend would be Denilson. Who would be your choice?

 

Final Pre-season friendly: Valencia 2 – 0 Arsenal August 11, 2009

Filed under: Jack Wilshere,Pre-season,Transfer Rumours — Son of a Gunner @ 10:38 pm

Valencia 2 – 0 Arsenal

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!

 

First-teamers we haven’t yet seen in pre-season August 5, 2009

Filed under: Abou Diaby,Kieran Gibbs,Lukasz Fabianski,Pre-season,Samir Nasri,Theo Walcott — Son of a Gunner @ 11:54 pm

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!

 

Emirates Cup: Wilshere magic wins the Cup August 3, 2009

Filed under: Jack Wilshere,Pre-season — Son of a Gunner @ 11:49 pm

Arsenal 3 – 0 Rangers

Following Atletico Madrid’s dull draw with PSG earlier in the day, Arsenal’s game with Rangers became the match which will decide the winners of the pre-season tourament. Arsenal went into the game just one point ahead of second-placed Rangers.

As expected, Wenger made some changes to the line-up from the previous day but stuck with the 4-3-3 formation which has served so well in pre-season. Mikael Silvestre started the game in central defence with Gallas. Clichy started on the left with Eboue on the opposite flank. At the back, we see Almunia for the first time since the Columbia game. The midfield trio was Alex Song, Cesc Fabregas and Fran Merida. Merida must have impressed enough in the previous game against Atletico to have made the starting line-up, and he impressed again. The attacking trio was Jack Wilshere, Andrey Arshavin and Eduardo, probably the three smallest forwards we have used in some time. Robin van Persie was rested for the game.

Let us go through the interesting bits again.

1 – Jack Wilshere wins Man-of-the-Match… again!
Two eye-catching performances and two Man-of-the-Match awards, and two goals. Can anyone believe this boy is only 17 years old, the youngest on the field (probably in the entire tournament as well)? His first goal was an opportunistic one, he got into a favorable position and reacted fastest with a snap shot that crept under the arms of Allan McGregor. The second was heart-warming to see with three teenagers involved. Sanchez Watt chased down a Rangers defender on the left to square the ball for Aaron Ramsey. Ramsey held onto the ball and waited for the right opportunity to drift in a perfect cross for an equally special half-volley by Wilshere into the top corner. I wonder which other Premier League team is able to boast of such a young combination working together to destroy the Scottish champions. On top of the goals, Wilshere was eye-catching throughout. He showed pace, trickery and great upper body strength. During half-time, my buddy Marcus texted me to say he was impressed with Wilshere. He will certainly have a role to play this season, but Wenger is trying to manage expectations showered on the young shoulders of Wilshere. But with the world having witnessed how special this 17-year-old is, how long can he be kept under wraps? I urge caution as much as Wenger because at this age, confidence plays a big part. He has impressed against Europe’s top sides but how he will respond to the rough and tumble of Premier League football is something we have yet to see. He certainly impressed in the entire tournament and played the entire 90 minutes. Wenger said in the post-match conference of Wilshere:

“Of course I am pleased with him. He always had his football [ability] but he has gained some power now. A year ago he had to go across the pitch and now he can go straight. At that age that is normal and you can see that he is comfortable on the ball, he can take people on. You have seen that on both days.
“I don’t know how much he will play. I speeded him up, I put him at 16 years of age in the dressing room and gave him a chance to practice everyday with the first-team players. If I had taken him out of the youth team now you would not have seen what you have seen today. That means he has benefited a lot from special treatment and an acceleration of his education because he plays for one year with the first team. But how many games? I don’t know. The only problem in England is knowing the impatience of the people is that it will be difficult to keep the right pace in his progress.
“Could he play the whole Premier League campaign? Certainly not. He is physically strong because he has a strong body, Jack. It’s difficult to predict.”

We have a real gem on our hands and he is all home-grown! But let us repect his development just as the manager said.

2 – Eduardo is as deadly as ever.
Eduardo’s finishing is as impeccable as ever. When he received the ball from Fran Merida in that position, I knew instantly he wasn’t going to waste the chance. With 5 quick passing players (Cesc, Merida, Arshavin, Wilshere and Eduardo), Arsenal were all over the Rangers’ defence and controlled the game out of sheer pace and skill and teamwork. All are not significantly big in physique (Merida is the tallest and biggest of the 5), but the movement is classic Wenger’s Arsenal. With a player like Eduardo in the side playing in a formation like this, he is bound to score goals. If he stays fit, I expect no less than 20 goals from him this season.

3 – Mikael Silvestre played the entire 90 minutes.
Silverstre actually didn’t do too badly. Although he almost scored an own goal trying to clear a square ball from the right, he worked hard throughout and generally won most of his challenges. Gallas wthdrew from the game with a slight knock with Alex Song coming into defence with Silvestre. After Song partnered Silvestre, that was when we started to look shaky in defence. However, the two chances that were given to Rangers in which Almunia did well both times to save, it was Song who was to blame and not Silvestre. With Wenger thinking Song is a defender and with his unwavering faith in the bald Frenchman, I’m beginning to really believe we are lacking in quality in defence. I mentioned before that it will only take one or two long term injuries to one of Djourou, Gallas and Vermaelen to expose us and two of them were unavailable in the second half today. And with Djourou being rested for the entire game, all three were missing and that was when we looked uncomfortable in defending.

4 – Sanchez Watt and Aaron Ramsey impressed.
Sanchez Watt played for the first time at the Emirates Cup and he showed plenty of desire and graft if not real skill. His involvement in our third goal and Wilshere’s second cannot be underestimated. Ramsey continued to combine tenacity with visionary passing and skill. Players like these simply showed our strength in depth when we are using 4-3-3. I hope to see more of Watt because he seemed to have a lot of potential. Maybe he will start playing in the League Cup.

5 – Rosicky looks fit and raring to go.
Having completed 45 minutes the previous day, Rosicky was brought on for 17 minutes agaqinst Ranger but was straight into the action. Bacary Sagna, who was rested wit Djourou and van Persie for the game, believed Rosicky has a big role to play this season and I believe most Gooners will think so. I had a poll on this and most Gooners feel we have missed his presence very much last season and I believe in that too. His quality will be best suited to 4-3-3. If he stays fit, we may yet see his best form for Asenal.

6 – Traore played leftback again.
Traore continued to impress with another solid performance after replacing Clichy at halftime. His positioning in this position has matured a lot and there was this instance when he raced all the way back to rob a Rangers winger off the ball, held off the challenge with his shoulders and started an attacking move. Slick and strong, I now wonder who will get the nod to replace Clichy if he was out – Gibbs or Traore? Only Wenger knows.

7 – Arsenal won some silverware at last.
It seemed like a long time but the last time we lifted the Emirates Cup, we went on to be geniune title challengers after we were written off in pre-season. Sounds familiar? Maybe it’s an omen for good things coming our way. It is the first piece of silverware Cesc won as captain and many more may it follow!

And finally just a small piece on Patrick Vieira to lead to today’s poll. There are a lot of rumours regarding the possible return of Vieira, and I think that he won’t return due to two reasons:

1) Vieira would want regular football.
We are unable to offer the 33-year-old as much football as he would have liked to be able to stand in contention for the next World Cup. That could have been the reason why he wanted to leave Inter in the first place. He might be a good squad player to have and can provide much needed leadership and guidance in the squad but he might not be contented with a diminished role at the club.

2) The form of the current midfielders in the new formation.
In the new formation, Vieira might not be as effective as before. There is no doubt that Vieira is a good player with a lot of experience and is a winner. But with mobility as the key to the new formation, Vieira might not fit in as well as Wenger would have liked. On top of that, the form of Ramsey, Song, Cesc and even Fran Merida is probably giving Wenger second thoughts about getting Vieira to return. Wenger said of the Vieira situation:

“Patrick is a great player and I have not considered it yet to bring him back. It is a possibility that I have to think about. It is not sure he will decide to join us if I decide to try and make him come. There is a lot to think about. I have no personal problem with Patrick Vieira, I have a huge respect for him and we have good relations.”

On to today’s poll then.

 

Emirates Cup: Arshavin magic wins the game August 2, 2009

Filed under: Andrey Arshavin,Jack Wilshere,Philippe Senderos,Pre-season — Son of a Gunner @ 9:24 pm

Arsenal 2 – 1 Atletico Madrid

Before we go to the match, some depressing news: Philippe Senderos has apparently signed for Everton, according to Arseblog. I’ve mentioned many times in my blog that I feel Senderos should stay as he has the raw qualities of a brilliant centreback and at his age, he is still at the beginning of a long centreback’s career. With Toure having left, it is imperative fo us to keep the defenders we currently have at the club. Without Senderos, we would be left with only Djourou and Silvestre as experienced backup to the first choice pairing of Gallas and Vermaelen. And I’m not sure I’ll even pick Silvestre for my Sunday team.

To the game:

It is such a relief to finally see Arsenal in red, at Emirates Stadium. Such a sight really brought my spirits up as it is a sure sign of just how close the new season is upon us. It has been a dull summer but the opening of the Emirates Cup marks the beginning of a new season.

4-3-3 is once again used with Tomas Rosicky back in the line-up. Although we are without a few key players in the starting line-up as Wenger had to mix and match certain first-teamers to suit the two-day tournament, we still started with a pretty strong line-up. Cesc, Clichy, Arshavin and Eduardo were on the bench, while Alumnia and Vermaelen were out of the squad altogether.

Traore shook out his minor knock sustained against Hannover 96 to start with Sagna on the opposite flank, while Gallas and Djourou started in the centre of defence. The midfield trio was Rosicky, Denilson and the ever-improving Ramsey. The three up front are Van Persie as the target man flanked by Bendtner and Eboue. Let us go into the interesting parts of the game:

1 – Aaron Ramsey started again.
I’ve mentioned that Ramsey has been the one player who had impressed me the most in pre-season and he continued his fine form last night against a top opposition. I’ve always wondered why he seemed to play well against poor opposition but freeze up during a big occasion. I’m glad he started and played really well until he was subsitituted in the 66th minute. He showed a willingness to go into 50-50 challenges and in shoulder-to-shoulder challenges, he often comes off the better. I’m really looking forward to seeing him play more often in the coming season. And can you believe he is still only 18?

2 – Djourou looks the real deal.
In my very first post on this blog, I’ve mentioned that Djourou has everything a top defender need – speed, aerial ability, timely and hard tackling, strength and height. Everything except experience and that bit of defensive cunning that comes along with it. He came back from Birmingham looking a bit rusty incentral defence due to first of all his different positioning in Birmingham, where he played as a holding midfielder. Secondly, he was playing in a team of graft and having come back into a team like Arsenal, he needs time to re-adapt to the speedy game that Arsenal deploys. But he seem to be back to his best now. I still think he should be ahead of Gallas in partnering Vermaelen and they look to complement each other. But I will have no complaints if Gallas plays, as long as all three of them stays fit throughout the season we would be fine. But I maintain, if Senderos really leave, then we are a bit short here.

3 – Arsenal looks compact in the centre of the pitch.
Never thought you would ever read this about Arsenal? Well, I’m surprised too but it seemed like the new 4-3-3 formation really utilises the strengths of the players we currently have. Whenever we loses the ball, Atletico has a lot of problems going past the midfield without using long direct passes. The form of Ramsey certainly helps.

4 – Rosicky doesn’t look like he has been away.
Rosicky had a brilliant game yesterday. As Wenger mentioned in the post-match conference, we still have to be cautious about playing him but he doesn’t look like he is at all rusty. His famous twists and turns are back and his excellent finishing was evident when he scored a fabulou goal, only to be ruled out for offside. If it had counted, imagine what a lift it would be for his confidence as well as the squad’s. I’m confident he will be playing a large role this season, let’s hope he stays fit. Remember, we still haven’t seen Arshavin and Rosicky play in the same team, and that is a mouth-watering prospect! MMMMM MMMM!

5 – Bendtner to be a target man?
Bendtner has played most of pre-season as one of the attacking flankmen, mostly on the right. Last night he played on the left of the attacking trio and did well. However, I feel maybe we can get more out of him if he plays at the focal point of the attacking trio. He has a huge leap and can hold the ball the best out of our existing strikers. He can then lay it off for one of the flankmen to have a crack. I would like to see Wenger experiement with that in a real game with van Persie on the leftof the attacking trio, maybe we can see more goals that way.

6 – Fran Merida is surprisingly good.
I’ve only seen Merida a few times but last night was the finest performance I’ve seen him in. He was confident, composed, and passes well even when he was under pressure. He also seem to be rather strong with his shoulders. We might see him start the League Cup games this coming season.

7 – Clichy is back.
The media has been reporting that he might miss the beginning of the season but it is far from the truth. Clichy is back and he is looking as quick and strong as ever. Barring any mishaps (cross fingers), we should have our first-choice defence at the start of the season and that is essential considering we are having quite a big opening month with some big clashes.

8 – Vito Mannone impressed but almost conceded an embarrassing goal.
I thought Mannone had a good game overrall. Fabianski has still not been seen and I wonder if that is because of his ‘minor knock’ or if Wenger is seriously looking at promoting Mannone. I have a feeling we might be seeing Mannone at or League Cup games this season, rotating with Fabianski. He almost conceded an embarrassing goal when he palmed a Maxi Rodriguez shot up in the air and the ball dropped rght next to the left hand post. As for the goal, he could have done better to close Pacheco down. But overrall, his performance is encouraging to see.

9 – Arshavin = Magician
Andrey Arshavin will forever be in Arsenal folklore having scored an amazing 4 goals against Liverpool at Anfield. Last night, he was once again in sizzling form. His left-footed smash from Fabregas’ cross was assured and crisp. And after we conceded the equaliser, he went out and got us a goal out of nowhere. After watching the replay several times, I’m still trying to figure out just how he managed to hook the ball into the far corner of the net from an impossible angle. There is only one Arshavin, and he is magic. And he did all this in 24 minutes of play being a substitue, imagine what more he could have done had he started. Arshavin + van Persie + Rosicky = GOALS GALORE

10 – Arsenal deserved to win.
Although we conceded a goal, we must look at it as a lesson learnt instead of a weakness in defence. No matter how much of a Gooner you are, you have to admit the Atletico goal was a well worked goal. The pass that split the defence was inch-perfect, and the run by German Pacheco was timed to perfection. I thought Mannone should have done better with the goal by pressuring him more but such things will come wit experience. For example, I think Almunia might have forced Pacheco into a mistake in the one-on-one. However, the way we controlled the game means we deserved to win. And to do so against a top Spanish side is comforting. We looked to have a complete squad on the basis of this preformance but we must not get carried away.

11 – Wilshere was Man-of-the-Match.
Jack Wilshere burst onto the scene at last year’s Emirates Cup where he made Míchel Salgado look slow and poor and scored a brilliant goal against Lehmann’s VfB Stuggart. He seemed to like this tourament as he produced another fantastic performance. He seemed to be free of certain chains that looked to be on him in earlier pre-season games as he looked more concerned about keeping the ball. But in this game, he looked so much more at ease and produced the kind of trickery that we know of him. He gave Atletico Madrid all sorts of trouble and was stretching their defence inside out. He also looks to be quicker than before. Wenger mentioned in the post-match conference of our 17-year-old prodigy:

“He has matured, and compared to one year ago he has more power to take people on. That shows there is big potential there and makes him much more dangerous, he has gained a fraction of power that makes him much more dangerous. When he starts to go past people in the final 20 yards, you can always say there is something special there.

“At that age, unfortunately patience is not the first quality, but he is at a big club and has a chance to compete at the top level. We have to manage that well, the desire and the opportunity to play. The potential is there.”

12 – Sergio Aguero is as good as his reputation.
I’ve heard so much about this young Argentina international and I was hugely impressed with him. He always looked dangerous and he is a very stocky player who can handle physical challenges very well. To me, he looks like a more skillful Tevez. Maybe we can snap him up, he looks like he suits out system. And he’s only 21. Hmmmm… Definitely one to watch out for, I bet in a few years all the big clubs will be fighting for his signature.

Right, with that encouraging win, we are on course to retain the Emirates Cup. I think if we play our game, we should be able to sweep Rangers aside. Although Scottish sides always raise their game against English sides, based from what I saw from their game against PSG, we should be able to defeat them comfortably.

Come on, Gunners! Make sure the cup stays at the Emirates!

 

Pre-season friendly: Hannover 96 0 – 1 Arsenal August 1, 2009

Filed under: Pre-season — Son of a Gunner @ 10:46 am

Firstly, Arsene Wenger paid tribute to Sir Bobby Robson who passed away yesterday. I remember he was once linked to the Arsenal job before Wenger’s arrival and he himself has admitted to having a soft spot for our club. A great manager who an impressive CV, he will be missed in the footballing world. I was really surpised to hear of this piece of news because he never seemed out of football for too long.

And it is heartening to know that John Hartson is recovering well following his operations.

So Arsenal completed their friendly tour with a stopover at Hannover (I mentioned in the earlier posts that it was to be our last friendy in Austria but that was a mistake and I apologise) with a solid win, our third in a row since the Barnet draw. More importantly, Hannover 96 is a much more difficult opposition than any of the three previous opponents. Arsenal managed to keep a clean sheet with Vito Mannone and especially Wojciech Szczesny impressing. Let us go through the interesting bits again:

1 – Arsenal played in the horrendous white for the first time.
If the result is anything to go by, the supersitious would think it brings us luck and back to the good old days of 1-0 to the Arsenal. I still hate it though.

2 – Manual Almunia is rested.
As mentioned above, both the reserve goalkeepers played and I thought Szczesny looked very good. One can tell he still has quite a bit of growing and bulking to do, but he has the basic raw qualities of a commanding ‘keeper. Mannone has to look over his back now.

3 – Arsenal’s formation looks set on 4-3-3
It seems Wenger is expermenting with a new formula during the Austrian tour, utilising his wide array of creative midfield talent in an exciting formation. When we lose possession, it is effectively 4-5-1 with us crowding out the midfield and our younger central midfielders such as Denilson and Ramsey seemed to thrive in this style of play. I must say the player that has impressed me the most is Aaron Ramsey. He really seemed much stronger than last season and he is working very hard in every game. He might be the player to surprise a few people this coming season.

4 – Song returned to midfield, or is it?
Alex Song was impressive when we are trying to win back the ball, he was robust in his tackles and decisive in his interceptions. However, it seemed like he and Vermaelen interchange their positions rather often especially in the second half. Vermaelen tend to play pretty high up the pitch but Song will get back to fill the hole he has left behind if there is a counter-attack. I’m not sure if this is part of the plan or if Song has matured positionally. If it is the latter then Vermaelen would need to work on his defensive line with his defensive colleagues.

5 – Vermalen works well with Djourou.
Vermaelen doesn’t possess the same pace as Toure, but Djourou is the pacy one who can complement Vermaelen. Vermaelen on the other hand, is strong in the air and gives balance to the back four as he is left-footed. There will no longer be awkward clearances on the weaker foot as lon as he is playing. Vermaelen is also a player who loves a crunching tackle and that is fantastic to see.

6 – Eboue played the full 90 minutes.
I thought Eboue was really hardworking during the game and was industrious in his play. Whenever he lost the ball he got back up and got back to work. No more gamesmanship and I was actually impressed with his overrall game. I wish he will stay.

7 – Fabregas looked fresh.
Last season, we didn’t see the best of Fabregas as he was jaded from too many games. The Euros really tire him out and then he was knocked back with a 4 month layoff due to injury. This summer’s break is essential to him and it would have been even better without the Conferderations Cup. He looked refreshed and up for the game and scored a very good goal. I remember some time back he was in a similar goal scoring position having rounded the ‘keeper but put his shot wide. He has the composure now and he is certainly looking good. He will be vital to our success this season. Rival fans tend to forget the real Cesc was missing in the first half of last season, and this is another reason to be optimisstic.

8 – van Persie has matured.
In the second half, he got entangled with a Hannover defender who got it worse and he was shoved in the face by that brute not once but twice. Robin did not even retaliate or complain to the referee. In his early years at Arsenal, van Persie would probably have broken the defender’s nose, or something. Ok, I’m exaggerating but you know what I mean. On top of that, we should remember that he was the first player to console Gibbs fllowing that infamous slip against Man United last season. His captain’s armband after Cesc was taken off, is well-deserved. He also looked much stronger physically and that can only aid us.

9 – Traore was injured.
He was having a pretty good pre-season and putting in some solid performaces and impressing with his crosses. I’m not sure if he will be out for long but Silvestre came in for him yesterday. Silvestre actually did well. With Gibbs missing the Emirates Cup tournament due to lack of training, one cannot wait for Clichy to return fast enough. We might see him in the Emirates Cup, together with Rosicky.

Ok, that’s about that and it is another good workout. We might see more on how the team will look next season in the Emirates Cup as the squad’s pre-season comes to a climax. We begin tonight against Jose Reyes’ Atletico Madrid. Let’s hope we retain the Cup with some good performances and good goals!

 

Pre-season friendly: Szombathelyi Haladas 0 – 5 Arsenal July 28, 2009

Filed under: Andrey Arshavin,Former Gunners,Pre-season,Thomas Vermaelen — Son of a Gunner @ 11:04 pm

Let us run through some Arsenal snippets:

Thierry Henry is really assuring a permanent place in the hearts of Gooners everywhere with this latest quotes attributed to him, where he said he ‘won’t recommend Spurs to anyone’ and that he is ‘Arsenal through and through’. Just like Henry, I would be shocked and utterly disappointed if Vieira did join Spurs.

Rumours are getting rife with regards to Toure’s future. There are many ‘reports’ in the media which claim a deal has been struck with Manchester City and that an official announcement is imminent. Personally, I hope this isn’t true but I can see why Wenger will agree to such a deal especially if the price is right. With Vermaelen, Djourou, Gallas (who seem to be staying as all early pre-season rumours of his transfer have gone cold), Senderos (who still hasn’t sorted his future) and Silvestre (gasp!), Wenger might decide that he has enough cover especially since the African Cup of Nations will mean Toure’s absence for up to 2 months. But it would be a dangerous move to let him leave when I see no one new arriving. On the surface, it might seem like we are well covered but we should always have 4 top defenders to choose from. Injuries seem to bug us in every position in every season and if one or two injuries struck, we would look back on the day of Toure’s departure with much much regret. Also, as Gooner speaking from his heart, it will pain me deeply if he leaves. I firmly believe Toure did his best for Arsenal and no matter what loss-of-form he endured and whatever mistakes he had committed, he will still be best remembered for his never-say-die attitute and his tenacity is infectious. Any team would be better with him around whether he is used as a squad player or as a first-teamer, and I would hate to see him in another English team’s colours.

Meanwhile, my all-time favorite Arsenal player Dennis the great Bergkamp has heaped praise on Andrey Arshavin. It seems apt that Bergkamp is the one who picked Arshavin as the player to watch next season as they are both magicians who play best in the spot beind the main striker. I’m realy looking forward to the first full season with Arshavin. If he stays injury-free, I believe he will be someone who can light up the Premier League.

Our Mr. Reliable Bacary Sagna has also been singing the praises of new signing Thomas Vermaelen. I hope this is a sign of things to come. So far in pre-season, Vermaelen has shown that he is a very mobile defender and a hard, no-nonsense tackler who possess a huge leap.

Moving on to Arsenal’s pre-season friendly against Szombathelyi Haladas, the 2nd runner-up in the Hungarian top-flight who had qualified for the first edition of the Europa League, but was unfortunately knocked out in the qualifying rounds. Although they are a team from Hungary who just qualified for Europe, they are still a team that proved a much tougher test than the first two friendlies Arsenal had played. With that in mind, our team still did remarkably well with Nicklas Bendtner and Eduardo scoring a brace each and van Persie adding a second-half penalty to pile on the misery for the Hungarian side.

As usual, I will pick out a few interesting points from the friendly:

1 – Kolo Toure led out the team as captain.
Despite the on-going rumours about Toure leaving for Manchester City, he not only started the game but as captain of the side. There is no doubt that Wenger still seem to trust him, or at least want to see for himself if Toure can be the same player of 2 seasons ago. I must say Toure looked much slimer and fitter than last season, or maybe my laptop screen isn’t exactly HD. Wenger spoke to Arsenal TV Online after the game which includes further clue as to Toure’s future. I really ought to subscribe to it. Anyone who can view, please update via the comments section about what Wenger said.

2 – Bendtner has scored a brace in each of the last 2 games.
Bendtner is a player who strives on confidence. He had 15 goals in all competitions last season, I have firm belief now that he had one more year’s experience and now without Adebayor in the side, he’s bound to get more opportunities to shine. I won’t be surprised in the least bit to see him reach 20+ goals in all competitions next season. He has the technique, the size, tenacity and footballing intelligence. Now, he just needs composure in front of goal to be the perfect direct replacement for Adebayor.

3 – Eduardo scored a brace in his first game in pre-season.
Eduardo has a good habit of scoring in his return games. He seemed to score whenever he plays his first game recovering from an injury or from suspensions. This has continued and I am really looking forward to seeing more of him next season. To me, there is no doubt in my mind that if not for that horrible tackle on him by that jerk Taylor, we would have won the league in 2007/2008. The rot began from that tackle. He is another striker whom I expect will get more than 20 goals for us next season. If everyone contributes a bit more in front of goal, the absence of Adebayor will be covered.

4 – van Persie scored 3 in 2 games, 2 of them penalties.
There was a time after Ian Wright left, that Arsenal was bereft of genuine penalty-takers. I bet it is not conceivable that Lee Dixon was our designated penalty-taker back in those glory days, but he really was – just a piece of trivia for new Gooners. But now van Persie looks to be someone who I can watch taking a penalty without me closing my eyes and wishing for the best. Good news, as whatever chances we have, especially with penalties, we ought to put them away.

5 – Thomas Rosicky didn’t play again.
He has only played in the game against Barnet so far, but I think there is nothing to fear as his pre-season training is still very much on track. I expect to see him in the next friendly though.

6 – Jack Wilshere started all 3 friendlies to-date.
I think we can expect to see more of Wilshere this coming season and this is mouth-watering in itself. I genuinely think he is a real star in the making. As long as he keeps his feet on the ground and keeps learning and developing, we have a real superstar in our hands. Best thing is, he is a real home-grown player. In the friendlies to-date, he can be seen playing a very disciplined game, somewhat holding back some of his audacious moves and keeping his attacking instincts in check to avoid losing the ball. I guess the coaches are training him to be more of a team player first and to keep his discipline in his positioning. But I have no doubt Wenger will allow him to roam free once he learns how to be more of a team player, especially when it comes to defending and tracking back. Once he is given more freedom, that is when he will shine.

7 – Vito Mannoe played his first game of pre-season.
He actually did well in the 45 minutes he was involved. But goalkeepers need the competitive experience to really develop. However, I think he did remind Wenger of the player he is that made him the official 3rd choice in the first place.

8 – Gallas partnered Vermaelen for the second time in pre-season.
Will this be the new first choice defensive partnership? It could well be although I still feel Djourou should be given the nod ahead of Gallas. But I see Wenger opting for experience instead and it is with good reason. Gallas is a top defender on his day and playing alongside him can only improve Vermaelen’s own game.

9 – Aaron Ramsey impressed as a box-to-box midfielder.
While not exactly the kind of defensive midfielder we are looking for, Ramsey is someone who can run all day long. There used to be this Iranian national player who used to play in the S-League who was nick-named “man with 6 lungs” for his outstanding stamina. I think Ramsey can match him for that. Ramsey has a lot of attacking instincts while at the same time he tracks back often and nips into tackles. His tackling needs improving but he is slowly getting there. It is also funny to me that his long-range passing seem to be more accurate than his short passes. If he can improve his composure on the ball and hold the ball better, he can be a real menance in the centre of the pitch. He actually reminds me a little of Bryan Robson – Ramsey is a younger, fitter and more robust version. He has the right physical strengths, so expect to see more of him this coming season especially now that Wenger seem to be closing his chequebook.

10 – Armand Traore played as leftback for the first time in pre-season.
Yes, he played as leftback against SC Columbia but he eventually ended up further up-field as the game progressed. In this game, he was leftback throughout the time he was on the field. I must say he really impressed with his robust tackling and his excellent crossing. I’ve almost forgotten how well he crosses the ball and this game reminded me again with that excellent and precise cross for Bendtner to head home. Looks like our leftback position is well covered and Traore can double up as a left winger, and he is more of a natural left winger than anyone else in the squad. When Newcastle almost won the title during the Keegan era, Keith Gillespie and Les Ferdinand were the main reasons why. Gillespie must have crossed millions for Ferdinand to head home throughout that season. Maybe we can create our own unique formula with Traore and Bendtner? One can only hope.

So with the third friendly having gone so smoothly, Wenger must be thinking we really won’t need another signing and that might be worrying in some ways. I still maintain we need just ONE midfielder to make it a complete squad. We might not get that, and if we don’t, it is not the end of the world. We just have to stick it out with our players.

Onward to the next game!

P.S. My buddy Marcus, who is a mad Liverpool fan, has caught the Liverpool game against my country Singapore at our national stadium and was quoted by our local newspapers. Congrats, bro! Enjoy your 15 minutes haha!