Saturday, 16 July 2011

Wenger to sign £14 Lukaku? - Walcott's striking ambition - Juan Mata deal given green light?

Morning Gooners.

Lunchtime sees the Arsenal take to the field for their second pre-season match of the Asia Tour. After the reserves beat Woking last night, I'm hoping the first team will be able to at least match their 3-0 score line and put on a good show for our Chinese fans.

One player who is keen to impress everyone it seems is Theo Walcott. He certainly seems to be determined to push on this season and win something with Arsenal. He's been talking to the media and has made clear how he's like to be utilized as a central striker this season.

He said:
"I see myself as a striker but if I get played up front it will take me a few games to get used to it because I haven't played there for about five years.
"I've been practising my finishing after training. I had a lot of assists last season. I think a bit of everything was in my game."
Last season the Englishman scored 13 goals and provided 7 assists to his team mates. His most  productive season in an Arsenal shirt. But I'm not sure how he'd fit in as a centre forward in the current formation.

I don't think the manager would move Robin van Persie in anyway. And with the way he was scoring goals last season, removing the Dutchman from the system wouldn't make us as effective as we are. I can't see the system changing anytime soon and that could frustrate Walcott. I thought we could have switched it about in the Carling Cup, but that's not how the manager likes to do things. If every team from the under-11s up is playing 4-2-3-1, I can't imagine that changing anytime soon just to accommodate Walcott's ambition to play as a  striker.

He still has room to develop his game. Apart from his pace, he doesn't have many, if any, tricks to beat players. So this is an area to my mind that he could improve on. He himself is targeting a return of 20 goals this season which is ambitious considering he won't start every game and is still injury prone. But I like his attitude. He put in the extra work on the training ground last season and it showed when is final ball improved considerably.

Personally I think he'll find himself fighting for a place with Gervinho - if he ever signs - on the right of the attack this season. The Ivorian has impressive stats and will provide Walcott with stiff competition. That should hopefully make him a better player.

Someone else who would relish the opportunity to compete against any player Arsene Wenger decides to bring in is Thomas Vermaelen. He's told reporters he doesn't want to play left back next season but would happily fight for his place in the team if the manager decided to sign another central defender.

I have always thought that competition within our squad is what makes us as a team most competitive. Players who know they don't have the pressure of another team mate fighting for their spot become lazy and we don't get the best out of them. So for me, Vermaelen is right.

He said:
"The club being linked with other players is a thing you have to deal with when you play for a big club. It's always like that.
"If you know there's somebody behind you and chasing you, then the best comes out in you. If you're a good player you have to handle this pressure. Otherwise you don't belong at this club."
At the end of last season we heard Alex Song talk about the expectation with some of the squad that they just had to step foot on the pitch and the opposition would be beaten. We don't need those sorts of players making the starting 11. You think of the players who are self motivated - Fabregas, van Persie, Sagna, Szczesny, Koscielny, Wilshere - they don't need anyone to kick them in the butt. They go out there and want to win. Too many times last season, especially in the run after Christmas, we had passengers in the team. We need the competition to drive those players to improve themselves. After all, I don't think there is a player at Arsenal who isn't frustrated at having to sit on the bench.

A bigger squad creates its own problems with lack of playing opportunity for the back up players and we saw last season some players come out and moan about that. But I'd rather we had plenty of competition and frustrated back up players than a happy squad winning nothing.

There are stories doing the rounds about Cesc being held hostage by Arsenal according to the mayor of the town he was born in. I wouldn't complain if I had to ensure the lifestyle of a professional footballer if I'd been "kidnapped". And Cesc isn't. It's some motormouth politician who must have had a very long liquid lunch or he's completely bonkers.

As for Barca not assigning the number four shirt to anyone in their squad, I don't think it's been given permanently to another player for a couple of seasons now, so pretty old news.

There is some transfer tittle-tattle to get through. We've made a bid for Romelu Lukaku according to The Sun. The 18-year-old Belgium international has a superb goal scoring record with 31 goals in 71 games for Anderlecht. We've tabled a £14m offer according to the newspaper but his club are looking for closer to £18m.

The Daily Mail say we've been given the green light to buy Juan Mata if we match Valencia's asking price of £20m. There is also talk of the club opening negotiations for 19-year-old Costa Rican international striker Joel Campbell with our man in south America Richard Laws involved in the talks. We'll have to wait and see what comes of that.

Hopefully the club have fixed the teething problems with Arsenal Player and we can watch this afternoon's game uninterrupted. It will be good to have some more football to talk about.

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