Sunday, 31 July 2011

Nasri handed armband -Cesc leave at half time -Defensive frailties (What's new?)

Morning Gooners.

Well it was good to be back at the Grove yesterday. Nice to be back in familiar surroundings with a good crowd, even if they did get a Mexican wave going!

Some things it appears never change. Arsenal unable to take corners which don't get intercepted at the near post; free kicks which actually find the target and make the goalkeeper work and of course defensive mistakes which allow our opponents to score.

Although one positive was the ability to defend set pieces has improved. But I'm not getting carried away. I want to be sure we can do it in a real match and not a friendly.

So to the match and I was impressed with the way which Arsenal started against what I'd describe as a robust Boca Juniors side. I don't think there is any point in over analyzing the match in depth. It shows we're heading in the right direction as we step up our pre-season campaign. As the manager said post match, we played well for 60 minutes and then let our lead slip away, which given the intensive fitness work we'd done in Germany wasn't too much of a surprise.

We saw Samir Nasri - who got a very mixed reception when his name was announced in the team line up - take on the 'Cesc' role in the middle of the attacking three and I have to say I wasn't impressed with what I saw. If the Frenchman is to play in that position for the rest of the season, I hope he grows into the role and becomes more influential because on yesterday's showing he was continuing where he left off last season by being pretty anonymous. Personally I don't think it's his best position. I would much rather see what Andrey Arshavin could do there in a pre-season game. Test out the options the manager has at his disposal during the coming season.

I know some people got upset with the manager handing Nasri the captain's armband in the second half. Personally I don't put much importance on who wears it during pre-season. It really doesn't matter and shouldn't be a big deal. After all, it's only a piece of cloth.

I thought that both full backs had a good game, as did Emmanuel Frimpong in midfield. The Ghanaian had a pretty strong game in the holding role alongside Wilshere first half and Ramsey second half. If he can push on this season, I think he'll offer us pretty good back up to Alex Song.

Gervinho impressed. He showed a couple of ticks which found him room which the crowd were pleased with. And also provided the assist for Robin van Persie to score our opening goal after switching to the left from his starting position on the right.

I thought Carlos Vela did well for Arsenal's second. If we only saw that from him in the Premier League, he would be given more chances by the manager I'm sure. And a fine finish from Aaron Ramsey at the end of the Vela move.

The defensive frailties were there for us all to see. I thought Johan Djourou looked shaky and I don't think you can blame the Swiss international's performance of those around him. He wasn't at his best yesterday and should have been more decisive.

As for the first goal, it was a good piece of counter attacking football. Ramsey lost the ball in midfield and wasn't able to win it back. A pass and a shot later it was in the back of our net.

I'd much rather see our defensive frailties exposed during pre-season whilst the transfer window is open. And knowing the manager is keen on adding to our quota of central defenders, I think this will only reinforce his stance that he needs to buy.

As for the whole Cesc situation. It hasn't moved on since the manager spoke yesterday. He pretty much repeated what he'd already said about the Spaniard's future. It was good to see Cesc at the game. And I don't really care that he left at half time, as the Mail on Sunday report. What difference does it make that he wasn't there for a second half of a pre-season game that he wasn't going to be involved in?

No doubt he'll be back today to see Thierry Henry's New York Red Bulls take on an Arsenal XI. As for his future at the club, that will only change when Barcelona meet our asking price. And although The People are already suggesting he'll record a goodbye message to fans, I think they're getting a bit ahead of themselves there. Still there hasn't been an increase in their £26m bid. So why should we assume they'll be a change in that any time soon?

As for Nasri, the manager has said he has to be "committed" to the club. Does that mean he'll have to have signed a new contract by the start of the season to still be wearing an Arsenal shirt come August 13? None of the journalists followed up on what exactly the manager meant.

There is more football today, and then a week to fill without us kicking a ball. So I think we can worry about our movement / non movement in the transfer market then.

A bit of a transfer round-up. The People report Arsenal's demands for a £15m transfer fee as well as Nicklas Bendtner's demands for a yearly salary of £3m, have put interested clubs off signing him. Arsene Wenger said last night Bendtner was on the verge of leaving the club, though didn't have the name of his destination.

The Daily Star Sunday report on the latest movement over Joel Campbell's proposed move to north London. Whilst the same newspaper has some idle speculation about Eden Hazard and where he might play football next season - I can tell you now, it won't be with Arsenal.

And finally the Sunday Mirror report Theo Walcott could miss the start of the season with his ankle injury after undergoing an operation which will force him to rest for ten days. Not the way we'd have wanted Theo to start the season.

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