Posts Tagged ‘mannone’

Season Previews 2010/11 – Arsenal

12/08/2010

Arsenal

Last Season: 3rd

New Signings: Koscielny, Chamakh

Key Player: Robin van Persie

Ones To Watch: Jack Wilshere

Needs  A Big Year: Laurent Koscielny

Would Quite Like: A new goalkeeper and another centre back, but in terms of the season a first trophy since 2005.

Prediction: 2nd

Thoughts: TThe biggest story at the Emirates this summer was whether Cesc Fabregas would leave Arsenal and join Barcelona. After a fifth year without a trophy and a particularly spineless end to the season, Arsenal’s captain decided he had had enough and was going to rejoin his boyhood team.

Fine you might say, Cesc had given fantastic service and no one could begrudge him wanting to win things. However Barcelona were clearly not well versed in how transfers work, where if one club wants one of the best midfielders in the world, they have to pay what he’s worth, especially if he still has five years left on his contract.

Still an Arsenal player for now.

Instead, there were two derisory bids, and a daily quote from a Barcelona player about how Fabregas was being held prisoner, had Barca DNA, and Arsenal should just let him go. Seeing as Arsenal were very much in the position of power and Barcelona had spent what little money they had on David Villa, it meant Fabregas has to stay another year.

Is this the most important decision of the summer? Well yes and no. Nobody can deny Cesc’s influence and he had his best season for Arsenal, finishing as top scorer having played an advanced role. This will no doubt continue, as whatever his personal ambitions may be he’s professional enough to still do his best for Arsenal.

However the decision not to have a new goalkeeper in place for the opening day game with Liverpool has far greater ramifications. Yes, there’s still over two weeks of the window left, but despite being linked with the likes of Schwarzer and Marchetti, it is not guaranteed that a replacement will come in.

Crap meets crapper.

Manuel Almunia, for all his faults is still better than Lukasz Fabianski. While they are both the proverbial good shot stopper, neither seems able to deal with the mental pressure of big games and the physical pressure of high balls swung into the box. That Wenger views Fabianski as having the attributes of a No.1 keeper is worrying to say the least.

The lack of new keeper and the dearth of cover at centre-back (Campbell, Sylvestre, Gallas and Senderos out – Koscielny and fit again Djourou in) mean the same issues from last season look likely to rear their ugly head. As an Arsenal fan, it’s most frustrating. Knowing we are so close to winning the league but not addressing the clear issues preventing us from doing it is careless to say that least.

If you consider that they lost all four games against United and Chelsea last season, but were still in the running until late throwaway defeats to Wigan and Spurs, suggests that it only needs a player or two to help with that final step – that player or two being the aforementioned goalkeeper and extra centre back.

Needs to quickly adapt.

The talk emanating from the club over the summer suggests that it’s finally got through to the players what’s needed. No more slacking off when two goals up, no more being bullied by the more physical teams in the league, etc.

I think the impact of Sol Campbell’s half season cameo shouldn’t be underestimated. He came into the squad and showed what it takes to achieve something you want; that there’s no escaping hard work if you want to win. Though he’s left, his attitude seems to have rubbed off.

In terms of the squad, things generally look quite good. Marouane Chamakh has finally joined and should be an improvement on the departing Eduardo. The Crozillian never truly recovered from the horrific injury he sustained and coupled with hypocritical reaction to his dive against Celtic meant a change of scene was probably best. Chamakh is by no means prolific but gives a different option, and should prove useful in tough away games.

Vela stays for now and gets an upgraded squad number but the important news is Robin van Persie being fully fit again (albeit a couple of weeks behind in training). His injury really hurt Arsenal last November. Remember all the talk of how Arsenal could score 100 goals after all the big wins early on? The goals per game ratio went right down after RvP was out. They continued to challenge without him but with Bendtner also out at the time, you had the bizarre situation of Andrey Arshavin playing on his own up front, which was no fun for either player or fans.

Arguably Arsenal's most important player.

The Russian had an average season, nearly always played out of position. I think bigger things are expected this season. The midfield is boosted by Fabregas staying and Wilshere being ready for regular first team football. I would expect him to be ahead of Rosicky in the pecking order sooner rather than later.

Two players who failed to make their respective World Cup squads will be particularly determined to shine this year. Samir Nasri looked very sharp in pre-season and has a previously unseen seriousness about him. Similarly, Theo Walcott will want a season where he doesn’t pick up lots of small injuries. A run of 20-25 games in a row would do him a world of good. If he hits his target of 20 assists he’ll have had a great season.

Bounce back seasons ahead.

Once you factor in Song, Diaby, Eboue, the emerging Frimpong, Denilson and the hopefully returning Ramsey and you have more than enough options.

As discussed earlier, it’s defence where there are issues. There are currently just three centre-backs, at least one more is a must. Full backs are covered with Eboue and Gibbs being the reserves for Sagna and Clichy. Gibbs in particular excites me, I think he’ll be the first choice left back by the end of the season.

In terms of tactics I think Wenger will slightly adjust the 433 of last season seeing how overrun it caused the midfield to be. The benefits it brought to Fabregas and van Persie’s game make it worth sticking with but perhaps a slight switch to make it a 4231 instead with Fabregas advanced behind van Persie and two attacking midfielders/forwards playing either side of them will do the trick.

Arsenal don’t really have natural wingers who can play in a 442. You just get central midfielders or wide forwards out of position. It might be case of dropping an extra player (Diaby or Denilson) back to sit alongside Song with Fabregas ahead of them. Van Persie will be the central striker with any two of about eight players filling the wide roles in the 3.

It worked very well when the Dutchman was fit and the added bonus is Chamakh could take up the role were he to get injured. I would like to see more solid set-ups when playing the big teams as last season Chelsea, Man Utd and Barcelona had much fun drawing us out of position and hitting us on the break. In these games a four or even five men in midfield would work; there is enough pace in the side that the lone striker would never be too isolated.

Yes it is five years since we won a trophy but my players have great potential.

In terms of prospects, despite what many writers are saying, I think Arsenal will improve on last season if they sign a keeper before the window shuts. A simplistic theory you might think but if you consider that a top keeper is worth around nine points a season (that’s three match-saving performances – not unrealistic) then Arsenal will be very close indeed.

A slight tactical adjustment and they’ll be pretty close to that elusive trophy. Maybe even close enough to win it. No new goalkeeper or centre-back and it will be the same old problems and the usual 4th place.

T.

Arsenal

Last Season: 3rd

New Signings: Koscielny, Chamakh

Key Player: Robin van Persie

Ones To Watch: Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs

Needs A Big Year: Cesc Fabregas

Would Quite Like: A new goalkeeper and another centre back, but in terms of the season a first trophy since 2005.

Prediction: 2nd

Thoughts:

The Six Pointer – Temper temper, goalscoring riches & more…

20/10/2009

That was the weekend that was…

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1. Liverpool were beaten for the third straight week and it’s starting to get a bit boring with how often we have to mention how thin their squad is. Of course any team would miss their two best players, not least when those players are Gerrard and Torres, but of all the big four sides they are least equipped to cope.

Dirk Kuyt toiled on his own up front and reminded us all why he has been playing on the right wing instead for the past 18 months. Meanwhile in the middle Jay Spearing was given his Premier League debut and looked a bit lost by all accounts.

Hilariously the jokers at the Liverpool official website gave him man of the match honours which must have been news to everyone else watching the game. Cana and Cattermole once again dominated for Sunderland and just taking a random cross section of national newspapers, Spearing was not even the best Liverpool midfielder, let alone the best player on the pitch.

The white one Jose, save the white one...

The white one Jose, save the white one...

As for the beach ball goal, it shouldn’t really have stood but these things happen. Sunderland fully deserved the victory. Ironically enough it was a Liverpool fan who threw the thing on the pitch in the first place! The title challenge is over, even if they beat Man Utd next week. There is just nothing to fear with this Liverpool team and I can see them losing several more times before the season is over.

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2. Jermaine Defoe needs to keep one eye on his temperament. You can’t be taking players to the World Cup who are liable to get themselves needlessly sent off. Fall out of favour now and it’s going to be very hard to get back in, what with so few friendlies left.

Defoe’s red card also provides a good opportunity for Peter Crouch to cement his claim for a spot in the Spurs starting line up as well as the England squad as Plan B/C. Fortunately for Defoe it won’t be at his expense. For now.

Dum dum Defoe.

Dum dum Defoe.

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3. Since James Collins was sold to Villa, West Ham have failed to keep a clean sheet. That does over emphasise his importance somewhat but when you look at Villa’s form since he joined, it does illustrates that he is a good player.

I had big concerns over Villa’s ability to replace Martin Laursen this season but to be fair to Martin O’Neill he seems to have pulled it off, mainly by signing two players in Dunne and Collins. They exposed Chelsea’s (well, Carvalho’s) set piece deficiency at the weekend and have formed a promising partnership at the back.

Back at Upton Park, Upson has been left to do it on his own (Tomkins is not the finished article yet) and the lack of defensive options has been a big reason why the Hammers have struggled so far this year.

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4. Man Utd were controlled enough against Bolton and are back top. Away games against Liverpool and Chelsea are coming up in the next three matches and we should have a clearer idea of just how good they are this season after that.

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5. David Dunn now had four league goals this season, level with Fabregas for most from midfield. Easily Blackburn’s best player, how their season evolves will depend on him.

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6. Arsenal made heavy weather of Birmingham before eventually completing the job late on. After going 2-0 up they switched to cruise control and started treating it almost like a training match. When Bowyer got one back after the traditional Arsenal goalkeeper fail under a high ball, you could see the nervousness that was so prevalent last year creeping in again.

This was after a spectacularly mis-timed jump.

This was after a spectacularly mis-timed jump. Almunia has taught him well.

Fortunately class eventually told and Arshavin slotted home a nice goal to wrap up the points. Even though I’m not totally convinced by the defence, Arsenal currently have so many goal scoring options in the side that they could well last the distance. In eight games, 27 goals have been scored from 12 different players.

The number of injuries suffered at the Emirates means there’ll never be a situation where everyone is available at any once but as long as four of Fabregas, Arshavin, Van Persie, Bendtner, Eduardo, Rosicky, Nasri, Walcott and Vela are fit at any given time then a sustained challenge may yet be forthcoming.

Simples. Eventually.

Simples. Eventually.

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T.


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