Thoughts On Denilson, Bartley, and Campbell

July 20, 2011

Denilson’s finally moved on. I believe all concerned will be happy with that. Those fans who supported the Brazilian will appreciate a fresh lease of life for him. Others who couldn’t stand him must be delighted he’s gone. For Arsenal this opens up a slot in midfield and saves on some wages. For Denilson it is a chance to get his confidence back and an opportunity to work his way into the Brazilian national side.

I believe, just like the Clichy transfer, this one is a win-win. The important issue here is whether he will be replaced by a new player or via a promotion from within. Clichy, based on Arsene’s statement, will be replaced by Gibbs with Traore providing competition and Vermaelen the back up. I think that will be an extremely risky approach even if we discount his inexperience because the English youngster has had some serious injury problems and might miss a big chunk of the season again.

I am not blaming Gibbs for his injuries. And I believe he has the talent to be a top class left back despite some worrying performances during the slump last season. But to start with him as the main man is like challenging fate to a duel. Your luck will never hold out.

Traore is an interesting player but is not consistent enough to be a top four player in a defensive position. If Vermaelen is viewed as a third choice left back then chances of a new defensive player arriving are also slim because any new signing won’t get enough games with Vermaelen and Koscielny likely to partner as first choice pairing.

By the same logic, if Denilson is replaced by Frimpong I expect to see the squad weakened. That is not to say that the youngster is a bad player. I want him to develop and can see the need for giving him some playing time. But Arsenal need at least one more defensive player who is not in the learning phase, and if both Clichy and Denilson are replaced internally the squad will lack balance.

That brings me to the case of Kyle Bartley who had a decent-ish loan spell at Rangers. I was surprised he wasn’t even on the Asia touring party. Does that mean Wenger rates him as fifth choice centre back or thinks he needs another loan? If that is the case the need for bringing in at least one more defensive minded player is all the more pressing.

Considering the fact that Arsene did bid high, given his standards, for Phil Jones, I am inclined to believe he is looking for such a player. But in this transfer window Wenger will have to be a lot more decisive than he has been in the past. I am not in panic mode though, there is a long time to go and these things can take time. Based on past evidence some fans will be sceptical but I don’t see any constructive value coming out of that attitude.

Finally, I want to express disappointment that the Joel Campbell deal is off. Once it was clear that other clubs were getting involved and offering better deals, or at least hinting at better deals (if they’d offered better deals the transfer might have been completed), it would have been a surprise if his father had agreed to the Arsenal offer. They are looking after their own interests and it’s hard to blame them for that. Arsenal too did their best and I’d not admonish the club for missing out on the opportunity. It’s a shame but its part of life in the football world.

Let’s see if the kid was a flash in the pan or has real talent that shines in the U20 World Cup. If he can perform the Campbells will be well rewarded.

Since it wasn’t a priority signing for Arsenal I am not too concerned. But it’s good to know the club are always on the lookout for talented players in all positions. We should not blame them for the realities of the modern day transfer market.

Now I’m going back to waiting and watching.


Another English Team Gets Between Arsenal And Campbell?

July 17, 2011

I have not been interested in most of the transfer rumours doing the rounds (quite literally!) this summer. But a recent story linking Costa Rican striker Joel Campbell to Arsenal, being run by Gunnerblog and Young Guns, got me excited.

Here was a young, pacy striker that I’d never heard of and Wenger was interested in him. He had to be good and I had to know more. Apart from quality articles on the aforementioned blogs and lazily copied reproductions in regular media, I didn’t find much except this piece on La Nacion, which appears to be a Costa Rican newspaper.

The headline I have used is the same that Google Translate provides for that link. It quotes the youngster’s dad saying,

We got another very good offer from one of the great English team, which is just as interesting in the sport to Arsenal, but more economically.

I will meet now with my wife and together we will make the decision whether to give Arsenal the other or wait for the other option or something else.

I am really not aware of how these things work and whether the source is credible or not. If anyone has a better understanding please share it.

A young, unproven striker is not on top of Arsenal’s requirements but I think such a player could fill a crucial hole this season and in the coming years. More than Gary Cahill, Chris Samba, and the likes, I’d want to see this deal go through.


Seniors Still Sluggish But Young Guns Continue To Excite

July 17, 2011

By the time the first half was over I was regretting my decision to wake up at six on a Saturday morning after crashing at two in the night. Arsene picked the same starting eleven that ended the game in Malaysia and their performance was just as erratic and listless as we saw in the previous game.

While there were some moments of individual quality the half will stay in my memory as one where the defence struggled against modest opposition, no offence intended.

Granted this is pre-season and we should not read too much into the performances or the results. Many top teams lose such games on a regular basis. This season Liverpool have conceded 3 goals in both their games in Asia and the Tiny Totts just lost in South Africa. These things happen. Moreover, Greentown are already a few weeks into their season so their fitness levels were much better than the Gunners.

Despite that, there was something eerily familiar with the way Arsenal struggled. Some people might blame the defenders but I thought the problems stemmed from the lack of balance in front of them. It does not absolve the defenders completely but they do deserve better support. Nasri and Rosicky hardly contributed to the defence as one would expect from midfielders in the modern game, we all know Arshavin fairly well, and Vela almost mirrored him on the right flank.

I have mentioned this in the past on a number of occasions – the defence struggles whenever the team fails to impose its style of play (that is not the only reason the defence struggles but it is one of the primary ones). The opposition finds a great deal of time and space when the passing game doesn’t work. Lack of pressing, poor positioning, and lethargic off-the-ball movement from the midfield and attackers made defending easy for the hosts while allowing the Greentown players the opportunity to pass the ball around and find their runners. This put the defence under pressure and even when a defender won the first header, it inevitably fell to an opposition player.

Clearly, this won’t be the case in most of the games that Arsenal will play this season but based on the evidence of recent seasons, I am worried it will happen often enough to cost crucial points and a Cup tie or two.

There were some positives as well. Nasri looked impressive on the ball. He was able to take players on and run past a couple at will. Van Persie had a few good moments and played a big part in creating the goal. Vela showed he has the anticipation and acceleration to be a threat in the box. Frimpong was strong and energetic.

The second half saw the introduction of the youthful starting line-up from the previous game. With Song and Wilshere marshalling the midfield and the young wingers pressing enthusiastically, Greentown were pinned in their own half for most of the second period. The hosts rarely threatened the Arsenal defence as the work done in front of them offered genuine protection.

But for some saves/blocks and a couple of missed opportunities by Theo this game could have been a comfortable win.

With this Arsenal concluded a successful pre-season tour of Asia. I was impressed by the support and would like to applaud the fans in Malaysia and China. Hopefully, some Gooners who didn’t appreciate Johnny Foreigners might develop a better understanding of the level of passion in people who follow the club from afar.

I am not sure if this tour has achieved the same level of rigorous workout that the players used to get in Austria. Time will tell whether that will affect the performances in the opening weeks of the season or not. I certainly will be a bit more nervous about the Champions League qualifier than I have been in the past.

There is still time though. I think the performances in the Emirates Cup and the friendly with Benfica will give us a much better insight into the level and quality of preparations. By then we will also have seen new signing Gervinho in action along with any others that are bought.

An interesting month ahead.


A Comprehensive List Of Arsenal’s Weaknesses

July 15, 2011

I have had this thought in my mind for a long while – to create a comprehensive list of weaknesses of Arsenal as identified by fans, pundits, and others.

This list is not a judgement on the club, manager, or the players. All the criticisms in this list aren’t necessarily valid. I believe most of these arguments don’t hold water upon closer inspection but want to avoid a debate on the merits of each, at least for the time being. Since everyone has their favourite gripes against the club and those working for it, such a debate will go out of control in no time.

I just want to put down everything in one place and see how the opinions compare to it over the course of the season. If time permits I will also try to see how other teams fare against this list. I think it will provide us a good benchmark and some interesting discussion points over the course of the season. So please help me in building this list by mentioning any supposed weaknesses that I miss out on (There are so many complaints that I am sure to forget a fair few of them).

I have broadly classified this into criticisms of Players, Manager, and Board.

Players

  1. Strikers (and others in general) are not clinical enough
  2. Club lacks a 20 goal a season striker
  3. Big stars were never replaced
  4. Players lack a winning mentality
  5. Players lack leadership
  6. Central defenders don’t command their area
  7. There is no organizer in the team
  8. Full-backs can’t cross
  9. Full-backs can’t block crosses
  10. Very few players can attack balls put in the box
  11. Players can’t defend set-pieces
  12. Can’t defend long balls
  13. Attacking set-pieces are wasted
  14. No consistent free-kick taker
  15. Club lacks a world class goalkeeper
  16. Don’t shoot from outside the box often enough
  17. Not physical (big,tall) enough for the Premier League
  18. Lack grit and determination
  19. Some players are lazy
  20. Some players lack commitment
  21. Get injured on a regular basis
  22. Cannot hold on to leads
  23. Cannot counter-attack at pace

Wenger (and staff)

  1. Tactically – Anywhere from weak to utterly clueless
  2. Defensive coaching is poor
  3. Playing style lacks balance
  4. Lack of a plan B
  5. Blind to obvious problems
  6. No/Poor training on attacking and defending set-pieces
  7. Reluctant to spend money
  8. Arrogant
  9. Stubborn
  10. Gives ridiculous interviews/ Makes excuses
  11. Rewards underperforming players
  12. Happy to finish fourth – lacks winning mentality
  13. Prefers tika-taka football and ignores the other needs of the team (many points mentioned under players)
  14. No 2 and others are ‘Yes  Men’
  15. Medical staff cannot keep players injury free

Board/Owners/Management

  1. Greedy
  2. Happy with fourth as long as Champions League money is coming in
  3. Don’t care about fans
  4. New owner(s) just want to make money
  5. Not interested in investing in the club
  6. Sold the club short on commercial deals
  7. New commercial team has not performed

That’s all I can think for now. Please add to it based on what you’ve read over the last season or two. I realize there is a bit of redundancy but I want to err on the side of excess rather than leave something out.

Just so no one gets me wrong, I want to reiterate this is not a list of weaknesses/problems that I agree with. It’s just a collection of top criticisms that I have heard or read in the past two years. Some of these concerns are valid, some are partially valid and others are just a result of the fans’ frustration or borne from the creative minds of anti-Arsenal hacks and pundits.

Of course, if we take some distance and look at this list, it is startling at the very least. How can a team with 23 issues (can increase based on your suggestions) of such magnitude with an additional 15 against the manager and his staff come in the top four of the Premier League with such consistency? Surely others who have spent hundreds of millions must finish above such an Arsenal side, no? It took Man City more than half a billion pounds and three years just to finish three points above the Gunners with so many issues? Why haven’t the Tiny Totts overtaken the Gunners despite doing what many Gooners have been asking for (sacking managers, selling and buying players in bulk)?

As I said I don’t want to judge anyone or discuss any of these points so will leave you with these observations and those questions. I will return to this post tomorrow with an interesting comparison and then again during the course of the season when something relevant turns up.


Youngsters Impress In A Comfortable Start To Pre-Season

July 13, 2011

Arsenal kicked off the new season with the first friendly against Malaysia XI in Kuala Lumpur. Wenger started with a youthful side that included Ryo Miyaichi and Carl Jenkinson alongside established young guns Wilshere, Ramsey, Walcott, Gibbs, and Szczesny.

Chamakh, Song, Koscielny, and Vermaelen were the only experienced pros in a starting eleven that dominated the first half in the now standard 4-3-3.

The opening goal came from a rookie mistake by the defender as he brought down Wilshere inside the box. Ramsey put the spot-kick away with ease after establishing his right to do so with Wilshere who also looked eager to kick-start his season with a goal.

It could have been two soon after when Wilshere found Walcott in space just inside the right corner of the box. The goalkeeper closed the angle well but was lucky not to concede a penalty as Theo slammed it over.

After that the game settled down a bit as the home sided defended better while the Gunners didn’t really show any urgency, rightfully so.

Walcott scored the second in the 37th minute to cap a well-timed run and a delightful pass with a deft finish.

There isn’t much to analyze in such a game but the noteworthy aspects of the first half were

  • Miyaichi’s impressive skills on the ball and his willingness to chase the opponents tirelessly
  • Jenkinson’s ability to close down his man to prevent crosses and his ability to deliver some measured balls into the box
  • Wilshere looking as if he’s picked up from where he left off
  • Walcott to carry his scoring touch forward, touchwood!

On the flip side, I thought Ramsey still looked a bit rusty and needs more games but his class shone through fleetingly.

Arsene made eight changes at the start of the second half as Jenkinson, Miyaichi, and Ramsey were the only ones to keep their place.

It was a surprise to see Denilson playing in a deeper role behind Frimpong who looked bigger than last time I saw him (could be my eyes or mind playing games).

Rosicky started on the right but took a free role and was creatively involved in a number of moves. One such led to the third goal, another sublime chip from Vela. Perhaps he has taken the Lays slogan too sincerely? On a serious note it was good to see Vela get on the ball more often. His movement and touch was wonderful as was his vision when he set up Ramsey and Rosicky, both of whom blasted over when well placed in sight of goal. Nevertheless, he did display a tendency to overcook shooting chances. Arsene has to find a way of eliminating this habbit. If the Mexican has to succeed he needs to know the corners of the goal and has to put his foot through the ball on occasion instead of searching for a cute finish.

Sagna, Nasri, RvP, and Arshavin came on for the final half hour or so as the three starters from the first half and Denilson made way.

The game lacked cohesion even though Nasri got on the ball quite often in a central attacking midfield role. Van Persie played a couple of defence splitting balls but that was it.

Arsenal did manage a fourth in the final minutes when Rosicky headed home a deflected Arshavin cross. That must be a collector’s item.

Even in such a game the defence didn’t look very convincing. I don’t want to read too much into this but two aspects need urgent improvement. Arsene has to find a way of reducing the number of times opponents are able to move from their box to the Arsenal defensive third within seconds. He also needs to sort out the off-side line. Some might also say the central defenders need to do a lot better with their heading, especially Djourou and Squillaci. I am convinced Arsenal will struggle without a key addition to the coaching staff but don’t want to bang on that tired old drum at this stage.

There was an incident in the game that deserves special mention. In the second half, the ref penalized Mannone for holding on to the ball for too long. I don’t think the Italian took more than second or two over the allotted six but the ref seemed a stickler for rules, at least that one in particular. It could just be that he wanted his moment in the spotlight and a chance for the home side or that he hasn’t been spoilt by commentators blaming such decisions for spoiling the game. In all honesty, I’d love to see a lot more of such calls in the Premiership and the Champions League.

On a related note, I want to share the pain of logging into Arsenal Player this morning. I am sure many of you must have been frustrated by a server that quite simply was incapable of handling the demand. Did they really underestimate the fan interest or was this just another technical blooper? Hope they sort it out before the next game. I did watch the second half on Arsenal Player and the quality was impressive even though the stream jumped a few seconds occasionally.

And now for something completely different. The following isn’t related to Arsenal or football but it isn’t often that I fall out of my chair laughing, so thought it was worth sharing,

According to a recent report in “The PseudoEngineer”, Bolivian scientists have wrapped copper wire around Guevara’s body and surrounded him with magnets. This is because he is turning over in his grave so rapidly due to the commercialization of his image that he now powers most of South and Central America by himself. He is thus the most prolific revolutionary in the history of the world, making over 200 revolutions per second.

Source: Uncyclopedia entry on Che Guevara.


Gervinho To Compete With Walcott While Making The B-Team Stronger?

July 12, 2011

The official website had a somewhat uncharacteristic announcement this morning. Usually, we see a player introduced after a transfer is completed but in the case of Gervinho, Arsenal.com tells us that the player has agreed a deal but the transfer is subject to a regulatory process. I am guessing this has something to do with his work permit. Hopefully, it will be sorted soon.

Before venturing into a discussion on the player and his likely place in the squad I just want to discuss this announcement. Why was this rushed? The club could easily have waited till the paper work was complete before making the official statement. Is this a PR exercise or an attempt at placating the fans? At least a start of sorts? I hope it is as fans need and deserve much better communication from the club.

Moving on to the topic of the post, I’d like to join the others in welcoming Gervinho to the club. He will make the squad stronger. Just how much better will depend on the way Wenger uses him, the understanding he develops with other Gunners, and his rate of development.

I have not seen much of Gervinho in the French league but did see his performances in the World Cup last year. He looked like a pacy player with quick feet. I would say his biggest strength is his running, with and without the ball. That should make him a big threat on the wings and on counter-attacks. His movement and speed should also make Arshavin and Fabregas that much more dangerous as they will have better forward looking options.

On the flip side, I am not convinced about his passing or finishing abilities despite his fairly impressive stats for Lille. That’s an area where Arsene will have to work his magic.

On a fast break, the Ivorian’s pace and dribbling abilities will present numerous opportunities for scoring or squaring the ball for a team-mate to tap in. It worked well for him in France. But given the way Arsenal’s opponents play it will be hard for Gervinho to get that kind of space on a regular basis. Nevertheless, the Ivorian should fill in for Walcott better than Bendtner or Rosicky did. He seems more naturally suited to that role than the Dane or Little Mozart.

In the absence of Walcott, the Gunners lacked a direct threat last season. Gervinho is a positive signing in that regard but he will have to work on his game to make an impact in the Premiership.

Gervinho’s weakness seems to be his technique which is not as good as that of top international strikers. Even in compilations on youtube one can see scuffed shots and passes. Pace, positioning, and intelligent link-up play can often make up for this and we have to hope he will not take long to tune into the wavelength of his teammates.

I doubt he will be a part of the starting line-up if Cesc and Nasri stay at Arsenal. Even if Nasri leaves, it’s hard to see Gervinho starting ahead of Arshavin next season as he is not that strong on the left wing.

Consequently, it will be extremely important to see how he reacts to being a substitute for most games. Last year Wenger had a first choice eleven and a B-team (even if that distinction was unintentional). Many of the players in the second string struggled because of lack of games. It could easily happen to the Ivory Coast international. I would like more rotation and better balanced rotation but so far Arsene has showed that he prefers certain players and combinations more.

I am completely ignorant about his defensive contribution/abilities. My guess is that he will be somewhere in between Arshavin and Nasri on that front but I’ll have to see him in pre-season before forming any opinion.

At 5’ 10” he isn’t a very tall player but is physically strong and athletic with a good leap. Those characteristics will come in handy.

To be completely honest, I don’t expect Gervinho to be the man who makes or breaks Arsenal’s season next year. He will be a useful squad addition and will probably produce some breathtaking moments but don’t be surprised if he frustrates more often than he delights, at least in the first season.


Goodbye Gael Clichy, You’ll Be Missed

July 4, 2011

I haven’t had the chance to gauge the general sentiment of the fans about the transfer of Clichy to Man City so I will just share my views. I think this transfer is good for all concerned.

From the player’s point of view, this move will give him a fresh start in a completely different environment where he will get much better defensive support than he did at Arsenal in the last three years. I expect Clichy to thrive at City and perform better than their overhyped acquisitions like Bridge, Lescott, and Kolarov. While the Frenchman might need some time to adapt to the new system, manager, and teammates; I won’t be surprised if he rediscovers the form that got him into the 07-08 PFA team of the year.

For City, it is an excellent signing. They have spent a lot of money on left backs but most have struggled to perform consistently. The Blues from Manchester could have spent three times the reported £7 they paid for Clichy without finding half the quality in the present market. I am disappointed a rival has been strengthened but if Clichy had to go, it is better he went to a club that can afford virtually anyone rather than a club like Liverpool who are also struggling to find the right player for that position.

From Arsenal’s point of view, a change at left back provides a chance to rework the balance of the squad. In my opinion, Clichy had to sacrifice his attacking instincts while playing alongside the likes of Arshavin and Wilshere. Wenger should now pick a more defensive minded player for that role, especially one who can deal with aerial balls a little better than Clichy did.

There are many opinions about the replacement. I am with those who think Vermaelen should be moved to left back. This would make even more sense if Arsene goes out and buys a good central defender.

For all his talents, Clichy didn’t offer enough in the air often ending up on the posts while the team defended set-pieces. If Vermaelen moved to left back and a new central defender of similar quality is purchased, Arsenal will have a much stronger aerial presence in the defensive and attacking third.

Technically, the Belgian is good enough to play the role and has indeed performed admirably in the past for Ajax and for his country.

Gibbs can continue to deputize and can take over if Vermaelen is needed in the centre of defence due to an injury or any other reason.

To be frank, I am saddened by this departure because Clichy was one of those who went about his job without complaining and never made a scene. Others in his position would have found many reasons to whine but the Frenchman was extremely professional and devoted to the club while he was here. I will miss him and will continue to track his career over the next few years. It will be entertaining to see Sagna and Clichy on the same flank on opposite sides rather than the other way around that we have become used to. Hopefully, his best games won’t come against Arsenal.

Goodbye Gael. Wish you all the best.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,427 other followers