Monday, 31 October 2011

Wenger to drop RVP? -Has Walcott turned a corner? -Vermaelen to start against Marseille?

Morning Gooners.

This is what Monday mornings feel like after beating one of your closest rivals - something we've not experienced since May - and I'm still smiling from the result and can't wait for tomorrow night.

Looking back on the result, you can't really believe what has happened to this Arsenal team since the start of the season. Arsene Wenger talked about the special circumstances which effected us in August and the effort we exerted in beating Udinese over two legs for our poor performances prior to the Swansea result. And now looking back on it after a run which has seen us win eight of our last nine games, it is hard not to agree with the manager.

If only things could have been so, so different. Had we sold Fabregas and Nasri earlier and signed the five players prior to the Manchester United defeat, perhaps we would have been in a different place right now. But also, would we have shown the same character that has been evident in pushing us up the table had we not have gone through the tough opening fixtures and been on the wrong end of those results.

Many questions which we will never really know the answer to. But we all have to hope that our first away win of the season in the league is the biggest turning point in the campaign so far. Going to Stamford Bridge  is never easy and scoring goals there even tougher. But we showed the necessary character and will to win needed to get a result.

We also saw some mature performances from some of our younger members of our squad. How good was Aaron Ramsey? He is getting better and better each game. Playing against an experienced Chelsea team, it was the Welsh captain who picked off the passes which allowed us to create so many of our goal scoring chances. One of the things we're seeing more and more from him is his will to want to get on the end of balls into the box as well. He wants to score and that's not something that can be said for all of our players.

I'm glad he wants to take responsibility at the end of moves he starts from inside our own half. Of course playing away from home on the counter attack is much easier than trying to break down the barriers of a defensive side who come to park the bus at the Grove. And I think that is still something which Ramsey will  have to learn to do but the signs are certainly positive.

I think the influence of Mikel Arteta and Alex Song behind him have also allowed the Welshman to roam forward and probe defences. Having two experienced players behind him also means that he knows that he can push on into the box and not be too concerned about his defensive duties, although he's not afraid to put a tackle in.

Another player whose inconsistent performances have always frustrated me is Theo Walcott. But on Saturday I thought he had a good game. I think after the opening exchanges he was asked to help more defensively, especially as it was clear that Johan Djourou was unable to deal with both Juan Mata and Ashley Cole on his own.

But this didn't curb his enthusiasm for attacking our former left back who he gave a torrid game, pulling him around the pitch. Arguably Cole is, much as we hate to admit it, one of the best defenders in the league. But he could not cope with Walcott, nor with the trickery of Gervinho when the Arsenal duo switched flanks during the game.

One thing I want more than anything from Walcott is more consistency. He showed why he can be so good  on Saturday, yet this is a rare good performance from him. If he played like this every week, we'd be a much better team. But it was through his own hard work and determination that he found the back of the net with a fantastic near post shot after he'd been bundled over. I just hope the confidence he has gained from that performance can be transfered into every game he plays for the club.

Speaking after the game. Walcott said:
"When you come to Chelsea, score five goals and get a result which the performance fully deserves, it gives you so much confidence in the dressing-room. 
"The atmosphere afterwards was just fantastic and now we are looking to push on in the Champions League." 
Whilst the manager talks of Theo becoming a more "complete player", personally I think he needs to show consistency over every game. All to often he goes missing and that's neither good for him nor his team mates. And that's why I personally find him so frustrating.

Tomorrow night's game with Marseille looks one on paper that we should win. The manager has admitted he is likely to make some changes, especially after a game like Saturday when all of our players gave 100%.

I would expect to see several changes, starting in goal with Lukasz Fabianksi being given a game along with Carl Jenkinson and Thomas Vermaelen in place of Johan Djourou and Per Mertsacker.

Alex Song and Mikel Arteta have played a lot of games recently, so seeing either Emmanuel Frimpong or Francis Coquelin come into the team for one of them wouldn't be a surprise.

Aaron Ramsey could also probably do with a rest. Is Abou Diaby ready to play some minutes yet?

On the wings we have options. So Walcott and Gervinho could be rested and Andrey Arshavin, Tomas Rosicky and Yossi Benayoun would be like for like replacements.

The biggest question of all is whether the manager dares to start the game without the prolific Robin van Persie. Chu Young Park and Marouane Chamakh are Wenger's options. Both need games, so might the South Korean make his Champions League debut after his Carling Cup run out last week?

But with van Persie being in such good form, can he be left on the substitutes bench? The Arsenal captain admitted he's now craving the opportunity to score more goals.

He said:
"I feel I can score every time I go out on to the pitch. 
"For me it’s just the best feeling to have. It doesn’t really matter against who we play, we always create chances so that means I always have a go. Then it’s up to me to score. 
"I’ll miss chances, but I’ll score them as well. To have that feeling is one of the best things in life."
Since the game, some people have compared Robin's celebration to his second goal to a Nazi salute, something the Arsenal captain refutes. Could this be Chelsea fans trying to deflect attention away from their captain at all?

I think the manager will rest Robin tomorrow and start him from the bench. A home tie is the ideal time to blood Park and when we're on a good run, it's probably an appropriate time to do it. We'll get to hear the manager's thoughts on the matter when he speaks to the media later today.

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