Monday, 17 September 2012

Jack's back in full training -Wenger's faith in Szczesny -B&B's work showing

Morning Gooners.

It appears I've woken up this today and there is discussions being had as to whether Arsenal can challenge for the title this season... after just four games. That, might I suggest without wishing to appear defeatist or negative, is just too soon to even be something which we should be considering.

I'm happy we're considered good enough to be talked about as one of the teams who could end up challenging for a trophy this season, but considering the media swings from one extreme to another I don't think anyone should be getting carried away with their talk.

In this current climate you're only as good as your last result and our position in the grand thinking of how this season will end up could be much lower than that of champions after our next two league games. Let's not kid ourselves, the games against Manchester City and Chelsea will give us much more insight into how far we've come than a 6-1 mauling of Southampton.

And I'm certainly not downbeat about our fortunes. We've had a good start to the season, there is no denying that. A win at Anfield, especially a 2-0 victory, is always a good result in my book. Drawing at Stoke and coming away with the feeling we were very much in control of the game is another positive. The only slight blot on our results this season has been the opening day draw with Sunderland but I can live with that given the conditions on the day and the fact the players were still gelling.

I'm glad to see that Arsene Wenger isn't getting carried away. After all the man preaches we should only look at the next game and give our complete focus to that fixture.

He said after the victory on Saturday:

"Last year we were already out of the title race in September so that was difficult mentally. Are we better? We will only know that in the future.  
"I think we have a chance [to be title contenders]. We will know that after 10 games. We have the quality to do it but we have to show how much we want it.  
"At the moment I don’t know how strong our opponents are. We’ve not played against any of the title contenders yet. It will be important to see how we do against the bigger teams."

Our tenth league game of the season is Manchester United at Old Trafford and I think it's fair to say that a quarter of the way into the season, we should know more than we do know about how we'll end up. One thing we already know is that we're  not reliant on one player scoring goals and I think the team collectively have stepped up.

There is no denying selling a world class player who won't sign a new deal to one of our main rivals isn't a huge blow. But there is life beyond the greedy badger and I think this group of players are stepping up their efforts.

The manager has identified a key point - last season we would always try and play through the Dutchman - it would be only natural considering his prowess in front of goal. This season we're not having to look for that ball and as a result playing in a much more fluid way.

I would suggest that Kieran Gibbs has had a fantastic start to the season. His contribution to the team shouldn't go unrecognised and I think we're now much stronger down the left hand side both in attacking and defensive terms than we were last season. He has arguably been our most consistent performer in all four games so far this term.

And it's clear that at some level Steve Bould and Neil Banfield's influence can already be seen on this team.

Thomas Vermaelen has highlighted Bould's work. He said:

"We have only conceded one goal and Southampton did not have a lot of chances. This means the shape of our team is okay. 
"Steve Bould was a centre-back and he has a lot of experience. We have done a lot of tactical work and every day we are working on our shape and organisation. You can see this on the pitch. 
"It is something we need. He brings a lot of experience and has a lot of ambition – you can see that on the training pitch. He puts a lot of effort in."
While the players are the ones putting the effort in on the pitch, it's good to see that work behind the scenes to solidify the team defensively is working. Without being at London Colney every day no one knows what happens on the training pitches.

However Bould and Banfield's work is apparent by the fact we've just conceded one goal and that was the fault of Wojciech Szczesny.

Arsene Wenger has already stated that the Poland international will continue to retain his confidence until he doesn't. We can't make a huge issue about one goal. But eyes will now be firmly watching the goalkeeper's performances. After all we remain unbeaten in the league with Vito Mannone in goal.

The manager will host his pre-match press conference later ahead of our Champions League game with Montpellier tomorrow night. We've already learnt from this morning's newspapers that Jack Wilshere will be returning to train with the first team squad following the team's return from France.

Abou Diaby will be available for selection and it will be interesting to learn whether Olivier Giroud will be given the nod to start tomorrow night.

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

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