Saturday, 20 April 2013

Wenger's praising The Ox -Giroud can only get better -Legend joins training

Morning Gooners.

It's off to south west London for today's must win game. Three points are vital if we're to continue on our course to gain a top four position and exert the maximum pressure on our north London rivals.

We go into the game with a quartet of players having been lined up for late fitness tests yesterday but it appears Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have come through unscathed.

And it's the 19-year-old who has been pinpointed by the manager as someone who has an important role to play in our run in. The attacker has come on in our last three home games and made an impact in each of them. He got the nod on Tuesday night ahead of the more experienced Tomas Rosicky and Gervinho.

"Alex has made huge improvements. He is a very young boy at that level, but what he is doing already is fantastic and he has a part to play in our run-in. 
"He has moved forward a lot this season. Since January, he has grown up a lot and you see there is more purpose in his game. 
"You see it now when he comes on, he has a different stature and he wants to really take responsibility when he comes on which was not always the case. 
"The final ball is much better and his concentration is at a higher level. That is what you learn when you go from a young talented boy to a real performing player."
His direct running at Norwich turned the game in our favour, creating an assist for the second goal. And while the likes of Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla are ahead of him at the moment in the starting line up, it's clear that The Ox offers us something different.

In what has been a difficult second season, he's almost doubled the number of Premier League starts he made on his first term. What he's not done is got his name on the scoresheet as much. He's hit the back of the net twice so far this season compared with four times in his debut season. But as with all young players, goals will come with games and confidence and I'm sure that Alex can work on that.

One of the manager's signings last summer who he's been impressed with in their debut season is Olivier Giroud. The striker has come in for some criticism with the chances he's fluffed in the last couple of games as well as his dip in workrate for the team, which was especially noticeable in the West Brom match.

What can't be argued about is his achievement in front of goal in his first season in English football. When it takes lots of foreign players time to adapt, Giroud has scored a decent number of goals.

"He gave a lot until now and for his first season he is doing extremely well because he has a fantastic attitude, a positive mind. 
"He gives us another dimension with the physical challenges in the air. He has scored 17 goals in all competitions, 11 in the league - for a first season that is quite good. 
"He has good physical potential, Olivier. He wants to play every single game, he has a good basic stamina and he can absorb the games. 
"He can absorb the body to body contact, because he’s a strong guy. I think you will see more from him next season, and there’s a lot more to come from him."
With the manager admitting working with Lukas Podolski in a central position in training, I wouldn't be surprised to see the German deployed through the middle at some point during our final five games. Giroud has plenty to work on and even if we sign another striker in the summer, I think he'll blossom further in his second season.

One player where that's clearly been the case is with Per Mertesacker. This season, for me, he's been our best defender. And having watched him for every game this season, there hasn't been many where he's been "given the runaround by more nimble opponents" as The Sun's Tony Little suggests. In fact the BFG has kept more of those type of players in his pocket because of the way he reads the game.

Wenger said:
"Maybe he is less elegant and the visual impression is less pleasing but he is efficient and intelligent. 
"He combines well with both Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny. They are good partnerships. He is a bit better at positional play. 
"I have three good centre-backs. I can’t be wrong when I make a decision because all three deserve to play."
And today the defensive partnership is likely to continue to be Mertesacker alongside Laurent Koscileny, who are for me - and it seems Arsene Wenger - our first choice pairing when everyone is fit.

With Lukasz Fabianski out, Wojciech Szczesny will retain his place in goal. I don't expect there to be many - if any - changes to the rest of the team. Perhaps the only one being Nacho Monreal in place of Kieran Gibbs

I'd expect the line up to be: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Arteta, Ramsey, Walcott, Wilshere, Cazorla, Giroud.

We've been in good form on the road this season and have the best defensive record away from home in the whole of the league. Let's home we can build on that today.

And finally, it's good to see an Arsenal legend training with our first team squad at London Colney. I hope that Bobby's magic is rubbing off on our younger players. (Picture 23).

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

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