Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Wenger's decision was correct -Theo's Bendtner moment -Time to sign attacker up

Morning Gooners.

Well that was more like it, wasn't it? Yes, after going 2-0 up you might have hoped we would have seen out the game and left Germany with all three points. But with the way this current Arsenal team is playing, a draw against a very good Schalke side isn't a bad result.

Lets be honest with ourselves, at the moment this Arsenal team isn't very enjoyable to watch. Despite having what would be classed as some of the most creative players in the league in Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere in the team, we've been flat for a few weeks.

Lots of people including myself thought the return of Jack Wilshere to the team would give us a lift, push us on to the next level. It was clear for all to see at the QPR game Jack was one of the stand-out players on the pitch. He was the one pushing us forward. Perhaps that was the adrenaline pushing him on.

But for me  it's the players around Jack who have seen their level drop. Santi Cazorla hasn't looked the same player since the international break in October, nor has Lukas Podolski. Both players are still finding their feet it seems in English football  As is Olivier Giroud.

It would be nice therefore if we could switch these players out of the starting 11 and give them a breather. Allow them to watch the game from the bench and to learn about the English league. I know that Robert Pires said watching the game from the sidelines allowed him to adapt to the Premier League and get to grips with the pace of the game and the speed in which passes needed to be made.

However with way our squad has been decimated through injury with the loss of Abou Diaby, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Gervinho, and Aaron Ramsey at some point this season, there hasn't been too much of a chance to give the new guys a rest. We've yet to see Tomas Rosicky play a second of football this season - when will he be back in the team?

We've lost the creative spark which has been so recognizable in Arsene Wenger teams. It doesn't seem the manager can pinpoint exactly where this part of our game has gone missing, but after all the recent disappointment, a point against a team who have lost just once at home this season to Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga isn't a bad result.

Of course, had Theo Walcott got any kind of left foot we might have left Germany with a fantastic smash and grab win and be top of the group this morning. But he doesn't and he fluffed his lines much in the same way Nicklas Bendtner did in the Camp Nou two seasons ago.

I agreed with the manager's team selection. Moving Thomas Vermaelen to left back and bringing in our best defender last season Laurent Koscielny to play alongside our best defender so far this season in Per Mertesacker was the right decision. Also giving Theo Walcott his first Champions League start was also the right call, even if he hasn't agreed to sign a new deal.

It was clear that Andre Santos had no right to be anywhere near this team given his recent performances never mind his shirt swapping antics at Old Trafford. And for the record I think the greedy badger knew exactly what he was doing when he took his shirt off just outside the tunnel and how it would look to the Arsenal fans and the media.

Last night we looked more solid as a unit. It was noticeable that Lucas Podolski paid more attention to his defensive duties than he has in recent performances. For large spells of the second half we were penned into our own half and against a good Schalke side did very well to prevent them from scoring. Vito Mannone, for all his faults, made some excellent saves and kept us in the game.

I think the club has to do all it can to convince Theo Walcott to stay. Within reason I think they need to pay him what he wants. For Arsenal to spend eight years developing a player and possibly letting him leave for free next summer seems like madness to me, especially when now it appears he is becoming more consistent in his game - one of the main points which has been made against us keeping him.

As regular readers will know, I'm not Theo's biggest fan. I think there are far better technical football players out there and he still has plenty of room for improvement, but it is clear he has something we need in our team and I think as a football club we should make every effort to ensure he signs a new deal.

If Arsenal Football Club is to be seen by its own fans as exactly that and not Arsenal PLC, the club needs to make a statement of intent and send us a message. Signing Theo to a new long term contract would give the fans faith that Ivan Gazidis and the board aren't stringing out the jam tomorrow line for another two seasons until our primary sponsorship deals come up for renewal.

Giving Theo a new deal is the right footballing decision in my opinion. We cannot keep going on year after year selling our best players - or in Theo's case allowing him to leave the club for free. A line must be drawn and if paying Theo £90k a week is the price which has to be paid then so be it.

Arsenal fans are fed up with a club who charge the highest ticket prices in the Premier League to bring us what has become pretty dull football in recent seasons when they have millions of pounds sitting in a bank account. Arsenal's business is winning football matches and ultimately challenging trophies. It is not to become a feeder club for our richer rivals or to be giving up on a title challenge in November.

When the fans at Reading started singing "We want our Arsenal back" I was unsure what exactly that meant. But in the last week it's become clear that fans want their team to fight, to put in a performance which leaves no questions to be asked of the players and to ultimately win football matches.

I hope last night's performance really was a turning point. We've now got two important home matches to play against Fulham and Spurs. Winning both would go a long way to showing this Arsenal team isn't about to give up on a title challenge just yet.

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

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