Thursday, 3 November 2011

Vermaelen disagrees with spunky -Gervinho issues Hazard plea -Ramsey gives Wenger nightmares

Morning Gooners.

The fall out continues today following the "disaster" which was a draw against Marseille. Obviously I don't believe the result was a disaster at all. We saw from the game two weeks ago the French side were well organised, defended solidly and weren't easy to beat. That time we were fortunate that Aaron Ramsey was in the right place at the right time to score us the winner.

This time round Marseille got exactly what they wanted from the game. A point and a clean sheet. We're still in the driving seat, a point clear of Didier Deschamps' men and four in front of Dortmund with two games to play. Win against the German champions and we're through.

And looking back on the game I think a draw was probably a fair result. They didn't create too many chances and neither did we. In truthfulness I think it was one of the most dull games I've seen Arsenal play this season.

But one positive I did take from it was the fact we achieved a clean sheet with another new look back four, this time consisting of Carl Jenkinson, Per Mertesacker, Thomas Vermaelen and Andre Santos. Whilst we've had our fair share of clean sheets this season (six in 18), it was the first time  that this particular back four had been in competitive action together.

As we know you can please all the people all the time and one person who still believes we need to work on our defence is former goalkeeper David "spunky" Seaman.

Seaman said:
"You look at it and still think it doesn't look that tight at the back. It was not convincing." 
I don't think anyone can disagree with his point. We still need to work on our defensive play. But there are reasons why we haven't looked convincing this season and last. The injury to Thomas Vermaelen when he'd graduated to become the rock in our defence after his first season, meant that since then we've not had a stable back four.

Last season when we went on an impressive run it was because we had a stable and settled defence of Bacary Sanga, Johan Djourou, Laurent Koscielny and Gael Clichy. They played with one another week in, week out for a long stretch and that helped them build confidence. If we can do that again this season we're be heading down the right path.

But vice captain Vermaelen disagrees with Seaman.

He said:

"There is always criticism and complaining about Arsenal's defence. It does not hurt me at all.  
"I am on the pitch to do my best. I am confident and don't care what people say.  
"The most important thing is that we win games. And we have won eight from 10 and drawn one."

Before adding:
"It is not only about defence but the shape of the team, the organisation. That is really important in the game, something we can improve on."
I think that is one thing, our defensive organisation, which has been obvious to those of us who watch closely how we mark up at set pieces. The organisation has been better, led by Wojciech Szczesny who feels he's in a position to order his team mates and physically pull them around so they are marking the right players.

The other area where we've appeared to have been working harder is for our wide players to track back more and Gervinho has been excellent at this. He seems to cover so much ground and get back to help out his full back that I'm now less concerned about us being exposed on the left. The same can be said about Theo Walcott who has certainly become more defensively focused.

And it could be one of the reason that we've seen less of Andrey Arshavin this season, who is certainly less prepared to track back and help his defence. He's described his time at Arsenal as "average" and you have to admire his honesty. He has high expectations of himself and so have we as fans of him. I've certainly expected him to influence games more but we've yet to see him really do that.

In an interview with the official matchday programme, the Russian captain said:

"Speaking honestly, I think my performances for Arsenal have been average.  
"I've done some good things but I don't assess my game on goals or assists – I look at the whole picture. 
"Normally when I'm on the pitch, I take control of a game but I haven't really done that here. I'm an extra tool in the team rather than the main one, so it's been different."
After we saw him perform so well at Euro 2008, I think we were all expecting the same player to rock up at the Grove and leave us wanting more. It hasn't happened and I wonder if that's down to the fact the team was built around Cesc Fabregas rather than the Russian.


Was that a mistake of the manager? Could we have achieved more with Arshavin playing centrally? These are all legitimate questions. Arshavin has never been given a consistent role in the team. Last season he was rotated with Samir Nasri on the left and this season has seen him continue in that role with Gervinho being Arsene Wenger's preferred starter in that position. He's never really had the role he craves centrally.

When he signed for the club two and a half years ago, it was suggested that the Russian was signed as a wow player to get the fans on Club Level, whose seats were coming up for renewal, to sign a new contract to lease their seats for several more years.

Arshavin's performances lit up the tail end of that season and would have convinced some to sign on. Arsenal needed a "wow" player and the Russian provided us with that. But he's never been  central to Arsene Wenger's plans and you have to wonder why the Frenchman signed him unless it was to get those all important Club Level season ticket holders to sign on the dotted line.

What I'd love to see is the manager experiment with his formation, especially in the Carling Cup and FA Cup. This way we could see if Theo Walcott would be any good as a central striker. We could play 4-4-2 and see if we have the personnel needed to play it. We could try out 4-4-1-1 with Arshavin in the role behind the striker. All these could be viable options. Something which the manager might want to consider.

And whilst we're talking about the Frenchman and his forward planning, he may have to really think about what he might do next summer when it appears Aaron Ramsey will be playing for the Great Britain Olympic football team at London 2012.

The Welshman has said he is willing to be selected for the tournament which takes place before the Premier League season gets underway and right in the centre of pre-season training.

Ramsey has been interviewed by Four Four Two magazine and stated his desire to play.

The Welsh captain said:

"If we have the opportunity to play, why not? You're representing Great Britain in the Olympics. Having the chance to win a gold medal doesn't come around very often. 
"Players, if given the opportunity, should go ahead and do it; I don't see what the problem is. I've spoken to Gareth Bale and he's up for it. I think the Welsh are fine with it. It's up to the players."
This kind of talk must be giving Arsene Wenger nightmares. I suppose the saving grace with Ramsey is that he won't be playing in Euro 2012. But what if the likes of Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Kieran Gibbs are called up. We'd lose half our team for our pre-season training camp and that wouldn't help us start the season well.


There's a bit of transfer speculation about and Gervinho has spoken about former team mate Eden Hazard. The two played together at Lille before the Ivorian switched to north London last summer.

And the Arsenal star believes Hazard has what it takes to play in the Premier League.

Gervinho said:

"Hazard is a young player with enormous quality. 
"If he has decided to leave, it is normal for clubs to be interested, as he has the level to triumph in a big league like England. 
"Eden has learnt a lot at Lille, and I believe he could succeed abroad. Where he goes is up to the clubs. But it will be a big operation."
I would certainly like to see Hazard in an Arsenal shirt. Whether we can afford the £30m plus transfer fee along with the wages a player of his quality would demand is another matter.


His signing would certainly send a message to Robin van Persie that we mean business though and perhaps convince the Dutchman to sign on the dotted line.

If you've not had chance to read our latest Inside the Formation post, please do. It focuses on the roles of our central defenders Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen against Marseille and includes their individual performances on video. Well worth a read/watch.




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