Sunday, 23 September 2012

Gibbs reveals defensive coaching does happen! -Arteta wants an ugly win

Morning Gooners.

Well the day has finally arrived and this afternoon by 6pm we'll have learnt how far this Arsenal team has come in the very short space of time since the start of the season.

Let's be very clear. This is by no means a must win game nor will it define our season. However it will give us some early indications as to how well we might fair in the league this season. Last term our trip to Eastlands ended in a 1-0 defeat. Any improved result would be a positive in my mind.

We go into the game without our first choice goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny because of an ankle injury. In his place will be Vito Mannone who has kept two clean sheets in his two league appearances this season. I have no concerns over us starting the game with the Italian in goal. He's done well in the games he's played this season and because the defence is better, we've conceded the least amounts of shots on target in the Premier League this season.

I expect our starting line up to be: Mannone, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Arteta, Diaby, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud.

The big best this afternoon will come for our defence and I'm not just talking about our back five. So far this season we've seen the team play as a team. No one has shirked their defensive responsibilities. The team has defended as a unit, which has started with whoever is playing at centre forward and continued through the midfield and then the defence and goalkeeper.

That has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of our four league games this season. The team ethic of playing for one another and everyone being responsible for preventing the ball getting anywhere near our goal.

Kieran Gibbs has revealed that the team are now split up during training sessions and coached as individual groups.

The full back said:

"You look at last season, we conceded too many goals and we knew we had to improve. 
"We just looked at where we were going wrong – and attention to detail comes into it a lot with Steve Bould.  
"He’s very focused on the small things. He played quite recently and we do a lot more stuff by splitting the team into separate training sessions.  
"We are getting a good understanding."

Two goals conceded in five games is a good start and just one of those goals has been scored against us in the league. Arsene Wenger is a clever man. He knew that those 49 goals we conceded last season cost us. This term it's clear we're going to attempt to be very mean and offer the opposition little chance for to score.

I have been impressed with the back four. I think Carl Jenkinson and Kieran Gibbs have come on tremendously and in the centre of defence I have no issues with Per Mertesacker or Thomas Vermaelen.

Today will be their stiffest test yet and I'm intrigued how they'll cope with Manchester City's attacking threat.
It is Mikel Arteta who has adapted so well to playing at the base of our midfield who has said we need to learn to win ugly. If that first ugly win comes this afternoon, I don't think anyone would complain.

Last season we played well and lost the game. Afterwards fans would bemoan our ability to play well but not take three points from the game. This season therefore if the team plays badly and wins, I don't think we should bemoan the way we go about winning.

This team is on a learning curve. Some of the play we saw at Anfield and last weekend against Southampton was superb.I doubt we'll get to see that every week, but if we are going in that direction I won't be too disappointed.

The manager has claimed this is his strongest squad in years and it's hard to disagree in terms of the quality and quantity. While it's obvious we've not got the strongest set of individuals - there are few world class players - what we have instead is a group of players who are all of a similar high quality.

Wenger said:

"Yes [we have lots of options we didn't have before], that is true. Especially in midfield. Centre backs as well. 
"When you think at the moment we have Wilshere who is not playing, Rosicky who is not playing and he was very important for us last year. Frimpong is not playing, Coquelin is not playing, Ramsey too. So we have exceptional choice. 
"In terms of quality and numbers in midfield [it is one of our best squads ever]. For sure."

And this year we'll need to use our squad well and rotate at the right times. I was surprised the manager didn't make a few more changes than the three he made against Montpellier on Tuesday. But his decision was totally vindicated by the result and the difficult second half we encountered.

Some news making the Sunday papers. The Sunday Mirror report the club has yet to resume contract talks with Theo Walcott. Jack Wilshere is targeting a return against West Brom reserves on Monday, October 1, according to the Sunday Mirror.

There are three really good interviews with Arsenal players in the Sunday papers today. In the Guardian Amy Lawrence speaks to Abou Diaby. While Rob Draper of the Mail on Sunday has spoken to Santi Cazorla. And in the Sunday Telegraph, Jason Burt chats with Mikel Arteta.

That's it for today. More tomorrow.

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