Sunday, 26 August 2012

Wenger's best of British plan -Bould's tweaking -Tiote or Cabaye over M'Vila?

Morning Gooners.

Stoke City... Arsenal's nemesis. And a 1:30pm kick off today gives us our first away league fixture of the season. To be honest, I'd have preferred this trip to Staffordshire to have taken place a month into the season when all our new players are acclimatised to the English league.

But it will be a baptism of fire for them. However it is one which will stand the likes of Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla in good stead for the rest of the season. Today's game will be a test. It always is. But I'm sure that these players have the mental strength to win this afternoon.

We've already dropped points last weekend against Sunderland. After a hard week of training as a unit, these players will have gotten to know one another a little bit more and hopefully we will see them gel this afternoon.

I don't expect to see us come alive with several goals. But I do expect it to be a more open game than the one which we witnessed last weekend. Having opened their account last week with a draw at Reading, Tony Pulis' side will want to put on a show for their fans this afternoon. That hopefully will allow Arsenal more time and space to play their own game.

Wojciech Szczesny faced a fitness test yesterday on a rib problem but should be passed fit to play. Lukasz Fabianski will be on the bench after recovering from injury. I don't expect the manager to make any changes from the side which started last weekend against Sunderland.

So I think the starting line up will be: Szczesny; Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Arteta, Diaby; Walcott, Cazorla, Gervinho; Podolski.

The only possible change could be up front if the manager wanted to use the height of Olivier Giroud. He could swap places with Podolski. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is fit enough to take a place on the bench.

Away from the game, the manager has spoken of his desire to increase the number of British players in the side, although he won't compromise on quality to achieve that goal.

Wenger said:

"We still only focus on quality, but for the first time England has produced so much quality.  
"It’s not that I’ve changed. For me, the quality is the most important. My dream was always to produce 60 per cent English and 40 per cent foreign young players."
With the likes of Walcott, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, and Jenkinson making the break-through, there is more of a chance others will as well. And while it is an admirable aim to bring through a British core, we shouldn't forget what foreign players have brought to Arsenal as well.

And we know how the manager isn't a fan of paying the British premium which is tagged on to the price of home-grown players. So if he really does want to change the make up of his squad, he'll have to become less adverse to paying more for a player.

Meanwhile Steve Bould has been speaking about the influence he's had since being promoted to assistant manager.

He told the Sunday Express:

"It says a lot for the youth set up that two of the coaching staff are deemed good enough to work with first team players. 
"Since taking over from Pat we have tweaked a few things but in the end I guess you are judged on silverware, certainly at first team levels. 
"It’s more than exciting, it’s an absolute privilege to be in this job."
From what I've heard Bould and Banfield have been given more of a free rein over coaching and the manager has tasked them with specific duties. It seems as though Wenger is allowing others to coach the team, not something which was seen when Pat Rice was at the club.

I think the influence of Bould has already been noted in the corner kick routine. The front post flick ons which Mertersacker has been trying to emulate were his trademark. And the shape of the team looks more solid.

There is a bit of transfer talk in Sunday's papers. The Sunday Mirror believe the manager will turn his attention to Newcastle's Cheick Tiote in a bid to fill the position in the squad left by Alex Song and use Yann M'Vila as a back-up plan should the Tiote deal not happen.

The Sunday Express thinks we're after Tiote's team mate Yohan Cabaye.

Finally, Alex Song attempts to re-write history in The Sun after his move to Barcelona.

Extra reading this morning comes from Alan Smith in the Sunday Telegraph who writes about his old team mate Steve Bould. The First Lady of Highbury Amy Lawrence talks to Olivier Giroud in The Observer.

That's it for today. Back with more tomorrow.

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