Saturday, 15 September 2012

AOC: "Ahead of schedule" -Wenger to make two changes -Bould's influence examined

Morning Gooners.

Finally we're back at the Grove later for our fourth league game of the season and this one is arguably one of the most important fixtures of the season. I say that for two reasons. In the past we've struggled against promoted sides. This time last year we were scraping a 1-0 win over Swansea (Andrey Arshavin with the goal).

But we drew our home game 3-3 with Norwich in a crazy game at the end of last season and only beat the other promoted side QPR by a single goal by the greedy badger in a 1-0 win on New Year's Eve.

We should be putting these teams to the sword, because every goal will count this season and in the past I think some of our players have underestimated the newly promoted sides because Arsenal should be expected to win these sorts of games. But who can forget that result we had against Hull City not so long ago at the Grove.

These teams have nothing to lose. I would imagine that Nigel Adkins has already planned in his mind that he will be lucky to come away with anything from this afternoon's game. So will set his team up solidly but allow them the freedom to attack. If they nick a goal, then they can reinforce the denfence and try and leave with all three points.

That's why I believe we have to take the game too them and work hard across the pitch to break them down. They've already shown against the two Manchester clubs they've got it in them to cause an upset. Let's hope this team are aware of that and don't go into the game expecting to win.

I'm sure that won't happen. We seem to have a different mindset at the club these days. The players are certainly more focused and it appears more professional in their attitude on the pitch. I think that resonates especially from Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker.

The addition of Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla has reenforced that for me. Two experienced internationals who are very professional about the way they go about things.

And the manager is especially pleased with the way the Spaniard has settled in.

He said:

"Cazorla has gained the respect of everybody very quickly.  
"Cazorla is humble, he loves the game and that is what you want from every football player.  
"They talk on the pitch, don’t need to speak too much, just go on the pitch and show what you can do. That is what he does.  
"He loves the game, loves to play with his partners and that is the best way to gain respect from everybody."

I think the partnership the little Spaniard has created with Podolski is very influential for the team. They both seem to love playing alongside each other and if we can see more of what we witnessed at Anfield where they linked up to create and score both our goals, that will certainly be good to see this afternoon.

They have both shown what can be achieved from hard work and I hope that is rubbing off on the younger players in our squad.

Today will be the first time Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has pulled on an Arsenal shirt to face his former club. I'd expect him to start on the right.

Wenger said:

"He has to forget that it’s his former club and just play. I don’t know if he will start or not. It’s always a little bit special for the guys who play against their former clubs. 
"And I’ve not seen many players who can deal well with that. Sometimes they are absolutely outstanding, or most of the time they have a very average day. 
"You try to assess how big the weight of this special moment will play on their mind. The more experienced they are, the better they deal with it."

I'm sure Alex will be fine. He always seems to take everything in his stride and I don't think today should be any different. It's interesting that Wenger has said he believes the teenager is ahead of schedule. It just proves to me that he really has the determination and drive to be a fantastic player for us.

For today's game I would expect the manager to make two chances. Wojciech Szczesny will probably return in goal, much as I wouldn't mind Vito Mannone keeping the gloves. And the other change I can see him making is in midfield. Switching out Abou Diaby for Aaron Ramsey.

So the team would be: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud.

There are a couple of opinion pieces around this morning regarding Steve Bould's influence on the defence. The First Lady of Highbury Amy Lawrence in The Guardian gives her take, as does Jeremy Wilson in the Daily Telegraph.

There are also the views of Carl Jenkinson on the workings of Bould and new first team coach Neil Banfield in today's matchday programme via the official website.

So far we've made a good start, but I don't think we can really say we've turned the corner until we've played at least ten games. And what I've seen has been very encouraging but I do think it's too early to start jumping to too many conclusions.

That said, I'd take another clean sheet today.

That's it. See many of you at the Grove later and I'll be back with more tomorrow.

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