Posts Tagged ‘Arsene Wenger’
As the 2010/2011 Premier League season approaches Arsenal fans up and down the Country are feeling a little concerned. Last season it was clear the defence and goalkeeper needed some improving, Arsene Wenger said as much at the end of the season as well as saying he wanted to get any signings in quickly. The Colney creche approach means the new 25 man squad regulations have dealt Wenger a strong hand if he chooses to use it, but will he?
With a couple of weeks to go until the start of the season and most of pre-season behind us Arsenal have lost Campbell, Silverstre and Gallas with only Koscielny coming the other way. I don’t know too much about Koscielny other than the fact he comes from a mid table French club, has no European or International experience and doesn’t look like the beast of a defender Arsenal fans have so longer for. It looks like there still isn’t a solution to the Drogba problem, who will most likely be licking his lips when he sets his sights on Arsenal’s new boy. Those who argue he could hit the ground running like Vermaelen need to consider Vermaelen had played in Europe, played International football and performed week in-week out in a spectacular stadium at Ajax. Aside from Koscielny and Vermaelen the only recognisable centre backs are Johan Djourou and Havard Nordtveit. Djourou spent all last season injured and looks to already have a knock this year, expect Wenger to announce he’s like a new signing shortly, he has all the assets needed to be a great player but needs to stay clear of injuries for a period of time, he can only really be considered a 4th choice centre back this year. The last recognisable centre back who could be considered is Havard Nordtveit who spent last season playing defensive midfield for Nuremberg and has performed well as right back for Arsenal this pre-season, he hardly sounds ready to step up just yet. It leads me to conclude that Arsenal need to sign a strong experience centre back who can hit the ground running, Jagielka, Mertesaker and others have been mentioned but Wenger needs to move soon or he could risk blowing another season.
The other worrying position is between the sticks, after Almunia was shunned at the end of last season and Wenger astonishingly spoke about how he gets nervous before big games it’s amazing that he’s still at the club let alone the chance he could start the season as number 1. The alternatives at the moment are worrying, Fabianski has recieved endless praise and chances from Wenger but lets him down time and time again, Mannone looks fairly solid but rarely gets a chance and then there’s Szczesny who I think is the reason for a lot of our issues. I believe Wenger thinks Szczesny is going to be a star and doesn’t want to bring in a frist choice 28-30 year old keeper because it’ll stall his progress. This is why he seems to be incesantly chasing the aging Mark Schwarzer at Fulham, you’d take him over Almunia but he’s still not great. The worst case would be signing nobody which is looking increasingly likely.
So onto the new Squad regulations and due to the age of the Arsenal squad and number of “home grown” players who to be fair are mostly foreign everyone one of the current 26 players is eligible to play, not only that but Wenger sill has four slots that can be taken by players of any age and any nationality. If Wenger where to use these four slots to sign quality experienced players he’d have one of the biggest squads available in the Premier League. Arsenal fans can only hope Wenger finally patches up the flaws that have plagued Arsenal over the past 3-4 seasons.
Arsenal’s current first-team squad contains 26 players, of which 13 are counted as home grown, and seven are Under-21s.
The breakdown is as follows.
1 Manuel Almunia (May 19, 1977)
2 Abou Diaby (May 11, 1986)
3 Bacary Sagna (February 14, 1983)
4 Cesc Fabregas (May 4, 1987)
5 Thomas Vermaelen (November 14, 1985)
6 Laurent Koscielny
7 Tomas Rosicky (October 4, 1980)
8 Samir Nasri (June 26, 1987)
11 Robin van Persie (August 6, 1983)
12 Carlos Vela (March 1, 1989)*
14 Theo Walcott (March 16, 1989)*
15 Denilson (February 16, 1988)
16 Aaron Ramsey (December 26, 1990)*
17 Alex Song (September 9, 1987)
19 Jack Wilshere (January 1, 1992)*
20 Johan Djourou (January 18, 1987)
21 Lukasz Fabianski (April 18, 1985)
22 Gael Clichy (July 26, 1985)
23 Andrey Arshavin (May 29, 1981)
24 Vito Mannone (March 2, 1988)
27 Emmanuel Eboue (June 4, 1983)
28 Kieran Gibbs (September 26, 1989)*
29 Marouane Chamakh (January 10, 1984)
30 Armand Traore (October 8, 1989)*
52 Nicklas Bendtner (January 16, 1988)
53 Wojciech Szczesny (April 18, 1990)*
Players in BOLD = home grown
* = Under-21 for season 2010/11
(date in brackets is player’s date of birth)
The flag often seen in the background at the Emirates Stadium proclaims: “In Arsène we trust!” A bold statement, but as Arsenal slump to nine points off the pace set at the top of the Premiership and Chelsea and Manchester United ease themselves away again, www.aboutaball.co.uk looks at whether Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger is as much the cause and solution to Arsenal’s problems.
The conundrum was perfectly summed up by Homer Simpson in one episode of The Simpsons when sat at Moe’s Tavern and about to start the umpteenth beer of the night he mulls: “Ahh beer…the cause and solution to all of life’s problems”. Perhaps if one subbed Arsène Wenger for beer, and despondent Gooners for Homer Simpson there might be quite a parallel today.
Right from the outset of this piece it should be pointed out that the recent success enjoyed by the club combined with the flamboyancy that Arsenal play with is entirely down to Arsène Wenger and the rest of his backroom staff, who have instilled a playing ethos that makes the club one of the most attractive in the world.
By almost any measure Arsène Wenger is one of the greatest managers that, not only Arsenal, but the entire English league has ever witnessed. Furthermore whilst recent silverware has been thin on the ground, Wenger’s overall record is still pretty decent: played 772, won 443, drawn 190 and lost 139, a winning percentage just under 60%, and less than one in five ending in defeat in all competitions.
Yesterday’s reverse against Chelsea was in many respects entirely unjust. Arsenal played the best football and dominated much of the match, something that is backed up by the stats in terms of possession, territorial advantage and attempts at goal. Which makes the 2-0 loss all the more difficult to stomach, especially amongst aesthetes of the game. Not that Chelsea won ugly, but Arsenal in many respects played the better football.
Nevertheless the result, which is ultimately what counts, rendered the excellent performance and the largely positive football somewhat meaningless. Having had a day to contemplate defeat perhaps Arsène Wenger would have approached things differently.
The sum of the parts
An attacking line of Theo Walcott, Andrei Arshavin and Sami Nasri is obviously lacking any sort of physical prowess. It’s a point that has been made countless times before, but Arsenal against Chelsea lacked any sort of cutting edge or presence in the opposition penalty area. This meant that any ball into the attacking line had to be absolutely perfect. Cesc Fabregas managed one such weighted pass, which Arshavin volleyed over in the first half, but asking the Spaniard to repeatedly attain such technical brilliance is too much.
The lack of an obvious centre-forward also meant that whilst each Chelsea player looked like they played with a shared sense of purpose, Arsenal seemed occasionally uncertain what they should be doing when in possession. Should the ball go to Fabregas in midfield, to Walcott down the right or instead up to Arshavin somewhere in the middle? Chelsea certainly didn’t lack for that thrust on their decisive counter-attack for the second goal, but somehow one sensed that Arsenal were never capable of springing such a move in reply.
The answer to Arsenal’s problems may have been closer to Arsène Wenger than he realised. Whilst Nicklas Bendtner may not be the most talented player in the squad, what he brings to the team in the absence of Robin van Persie or Eduardo is the willingness to show for the ball with his back to goal. Starting with the Danish forward would mean having to leave an arguably more talented player on the bench, but such is the lot of a Premiership football manager.
Fabio Capello has the courage to play Emile Heskey, despite the Aston Villa forward almost polemically dividing the English football watching public as to his effectiveness in the side. Nevertheless the Italian recognises that whilst Heskey might not be as talented as other strikers at his disposal, the role he performs in the team is no less valuable.
Arshavin has proved that he can make a worthwhile contribution to Arsenal, but not from a centre-forward’s position, a role for which he lacks either the bravery or the movement. John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho has the relatively straightforward task of keeping the former Zenit man in check, where they would have been far more troubled if he could have started from a wider position and attacked balls provided to him by the like of Bendtner.
Sticking to his guns
Wenger has so far stuck doggedly to his guns down the years refusing to adopt a more pragmatic approach to the beautiful game. It has brought Arsenal success by degrees, but in this age of power, so dramatically highlighted by both Chelsea and Manchester United in recent weeks, it may be time to consider a tactical tweak.
In truth, despite the concession of five goals to two of their direct title challengers, Arsenal aren’t that far behind their rivals. Whilst the nine point gap to Chelsea as we enter the final third of the season is probably insurmountable from Arsenal’s perspective there is no reason why they can’t start next season in excellent shape. That would require using the rest of this as an extended test starting each game with at least one dedicated centre-forward be that Bendtner, Eduardo or once fit van Persie, and making the acquisition of a top-quality striker a priority when the transfer window re-opens at the end of the season.
Arsène Wenger stated pre-season that he didn’t feel his Arsenal side were the perceived soft-touches that some thought, and yesterday’s excellent response to going an early goal down proved that. The Gunners have worked on their resilience in the face of adversity, but now must work on this aspect of their play.
If the Arsenal management team headed up by Wenger fail to acknowledge this need, then it may be a while before they are in any sort of position to challenge the duopoly of Chelsea and Manchester United.
Ex-Arsenal beast set for AC Milan surprise, Flamini to Manchester City, Celtic-bound Senderos remaining in Italy?
After reports yesterday that Julio Baptisita’s transfer to Inter Milan had collapsed, it now seems that he could be heading for cross-city rivals AC Milan. If the deal goes through before the weekend, that should add some spice to the derby, due to be played on Sunday night. There’s also plenty of news at AC Milan regarding players with Arsenal connections…
The Italian media were rife with reports yesterday that a proposed deal between AS Roma and Inter Milan had floundered for Julio Baptisita, who spent an inconsistent season on loan at Arsenal from Real Madrid back in 2006/07.
However, after initial suggestions a deal had been complete to take Baptista to Inter Milan, it now seems the deal is certainly off after Roma demanded the permanent transfer of on-loan defender Nicolas Burdisso as part of the compensation package.
It now looks like AC Milan could be ready to step in to offer AS Roma a deal for Baptista, who was once wanted by the club under the management of Carlo Ancelotti whilst he was still at Real Madrid. The move never came to fruition, because Ancelotti ultimately felt that the player wouldn’t bring enough versatility to the squad, a complaint that was frequently leveled at Baptisita during his time in North London.
However, the AC Milan management, now headed up by Leonardo, deem Baptista to be the right sort of player to try and dovetail with the like of Ronaldinho and Pato. Baptista has played a largely supporting role for Roma so far this season making 16 appearances, but only four from the start. Therefore he could represent ideal back-up to Marco Boriello, and potentially replace the departing Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
Another player with Arsenal links who appears to be on the verge of an AC Milan exit is Mathieu Flamini. He has been touted for a return to the Premiership with Manchester City, at least for the time being.
Roberto Mancini has been linked with various central midfielders in the transfer window including Fernado Gago at Real Madrid, but Flamini is available for transfer after failing to recreate the sort of tough tackling, all action performances he regularly used to put in for Arsenal. City are thought to keen on an initial loan deal before deciding whether to take the Frenchman on a permanent basis in the summer.
Meanwhile Philippe Senderos, the final player in this Arsenal/AC Milan collage, looks like he will be remaining in Italy, which conflicts with statements originating from Arsene Wenger yesterday. The Gunners-boss reckons that Senderos is on his way to the SPL, although Celtic have said they haven’t so far made a bid.
That new has encouraged various Serie A sides to take a look at the Swiss-stopper amongst which Genoa and Siena. Both have leaked goals alarmingly this season, with Siena going down to a 4-0 defeat at the hands of AC Milan last weekend, so could be keen on defensive re-enforcements.