Saturday, 15 October 2011

Home form key -Wenger to sell Chamakh? - Walcott can't play striker role

Morning Gooners,

It's amazing how despite the indifferent start to the season we've had, I can't wait to watch Arsenal tomorrow.  It seems ages since the north London derby. The game which really spelt out for us that whilst we're no where near where we want to be, this team certainly isn't as bad as some would like us to believe.

In the next 13 days Arsene Wenger has three home games to prepare his team for the difficult trip to Stamford Bridge. The Grovee is where we've been most successful this term, a stark contrast to last season where it was the place we seemed to mess up our chances of winning the league.

Having only played three league games at home, we won two of those fixtures. The other being the disappointing defeat to Liverpool. However a further two Champions League ties which were both wins and a Carling Cup victory over Shrewsbury sees us with a record of five wins out of six games at the Grove.

Wenger, who looks set to start with Carl Jenkinson tomorrow at right back, believes we can progress further up the table if we get positive results at the Grove.

He said:
"Our home form is quite good so we just have to continue that at the moment. 
"We have been stable defensively at home but Sunderland is a team that has good potential if you look at their players.  
"We had a disappointing result at Tottenham but we have to keep belief in what we do and the way we do it."
We've had a minor set back with the result in the NLD. But before that we were moving forward steadily. Three back to back wins had put some wind in our sails. But we really need to add consistent performances week in - week out before we can truly believe we're out of the woods.

Sunderland will provide us with a test tomorrow and I think that is where our focus should lie. We've got to take one game at a time. A win will start the momentum again. And the atmosphere at the Grove has helped  foster an improvement in the team's performance in my opinion. There seems to be a vibe to me that we're all in this together and rather than in previous seasons where some fans wanted to sit back and want to be entertained. This term the crowd certainly appears to be more vocal and that sort of backing helps the team.

The journalists at the manager's pre match press conference want to know whether we're still in the race for the title or can we finish in the top four. I just wonder if they actually live in the real world. We're seven games into a 38 game season and whilst we wouldn't expect to be in 15th place, that's where we find ourselves. As the manager pointed out, we're eight points off one of the top four spots and other teams are going to drop points this season, so there is no reason not to believe at this point in time we can't turn our fortunes around.

A lot of that hard work will need to be done on the training pitch. I can imagine that the next two weeks before the Chelsea game are going to be intense at Colney. The manager hasn't had a lot of time to work with these players because of international breaks stopping the flow of work being done during training. But Wenger will have chance to mould these players to play in the Arsenal way.

We've seen glimpses of this already. At Blackburn in the first half and the second half against Bolton. But we need to find the consistent level and start turning in some real "Arsenal" performances.

The advantage of having the next two league games at home is that the manager can bed in Carl Jenkinson into the side. Playing in front of his own supporters will him to adapt to playing in the team more comfortably. And Wenger believes the 19-year-old has all the attributes to succeed.

The manager said:
"He has top qualities. His fitness is outstanding, he's quick, he has good crosses and he is good going forward.  
"He needs to adjust a little bit his defensive game. But we are working with him and he is improving."
I'm sure Jenkinson will benefit from playing alongside Per Mertesacker. Having a player of his experience alongside him should only work to benefit the teenager. I was impressed with Jenkinson in pre-season. I think he's shown a lot of signs that he wants to succeed at the club and that determination of character is something we want to see in all our players.

The one issue I do see arising with playing Jenkinson at right back is the protection he's given in front of him. Arsene Wenger's first choice right sided attacker is Theo Walcott and we know how much he doesn't like to track back and help out with his defensive duties.

And whilst Wenger is keen to point out that one of the attributes Walcott has added to his game is his team play, I'm sure everyone who watches him on a regular basis will know he could still do more. Granted he does a lot more than Andrey Arshavin on the other side, who provides as much protection to his left back as a chocolate fireguard.

Whilst we're speaking Theo Walcott, I don't believe we'll ever see him play as a central striker at Arsenal if Arsene Wenger continues to use the 4-2-3-1 formation. He doesn't have the attributes in his game at present to play the lone striker role.

Elsewhere Emmanuel Petit has some views which none of us can disagree with. In the Daily Mail he says we've sold Fabregas and Nasri before it was time for them to leave the club. But in fairness to Wenger, we know he didn't want either to leave.

The Daily Mail also believe Wenger will listen to offers for Marouane Chamakh in the January transfer window. I find it hard to believe that the manager would look to off load a player who is our back-up striker little more than a year after he's signed him. And we know the Frenchman doesn't like to use the winter window to let players leave as we saw with Bendtner last season.

The manager must also be considering what he'll do if Robin van Persie doesn't sign a new deal with the club. Would he then consider 4-4-2 with Chamakh and Walcott?

All the other talk around today is about the manager talking about England. He says he's not interested in managing the national side and that expectation levels around Alex Oxlade Chamberlain should be lowered because whilst he's had a bright start to his Arsenal career, he's still very young and very raw.

That's about it for today. The players are due to take part in their final preparation session this morning ahead of tomorrow's game. Hopefully Tomas Rosicky will pass his fitness test to be included in the squad.
Enjoy your Saturday

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