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Thoughts on Sunday’s Performance, Zonal Marking, Defensive Cohesiveness, Midfield Efficiency and Walcott Contract Issues

A really good performance from your side, can really keep you buzzing for a week, or even more at times. And that is exactly the case for me. In fact I even saw the rerun of the game last night, in a more relaxed mood, and was re-mesmerized by our drooling display of passing in the first half.

While such performances do really raise the bar among the members of the team, while also giving them a real punch in the back to go on and do it again, it will be paramount to note that repeating such performances week in, week out should be the norm if we are to land any silverware this season. Consistency has to be the keyword.

As Thierry Henry once said, it wouldn’t matter to him if Arsenal play bad, yet win games, as long as it helps them land silverware. That said, I feel we have a bit more steel to us now, more togetherness, a squad which looks like they get along really well, with absolutely no egos at all. And that is partially helped by the new arrivals of the summer, especially Cazorla and Podolski, and how easily they have bedded into a new environment.

Add to that a very English core, either born and bought up with the club, or players who supported the club in all their childhoods, who know what wearing a cannon on your chest really is all about. I am really impressed with Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson, as they make inroads into sealing first team spots for themsleves.

What is also very pleasing to see, is that we can finally call ourselves a team now, and seperate away from the banter from rival fans, who all thought we were nothing without Lord Robin, our master and savior. Seems like the muggers in the North are biting their own words. Last season, most of our plays ended in feeding the prolific Dutch player, but already 6 games into the season, you can see everyone wants to get into the act of scoring. Even Laurent Koscielny looks like he could play emergency centre forward for us, in the future.

A first glance at the fixture list, when it was released, wasn’t the most pleasant of sights, with trips to Stoke, Liverpool and Manchester City, and a home game against Chelsea featuring among the very first 6 games. However, as most commentators and pundits felt over the weekend, we could be real front runners for the league title this season, with the level of performances shown and the solidity displayed throughout.

I am not sure how many of you will agree to it, but I think most praise should go to Arsene Wenger, who finally looks like he has assembled a formidable team, with class players all over. He certainly seems pleased with the performance on Sunday evening at Eastlands. In his weekly email to the fans, the manager said,

I was pleased with Sunday’s result because a point was the minimum we deserved when you consider what we put into the game.  I was happy also with the quality of our display and our spirit, but I was also a bit frustrated because I feel there was an opportunity to pick up all three points. We had early chances and very late chances, especially when Gervinho missed the target from the edge of the box.Overall I hope that a result like this will reinforce our belief and confidence and reassure us about our potential in this league.

The manager also took blame for the goal conceded, which would have been really great. The zonal marking system was never really dissected into its bare bones as much as the commentator did on Sunday. We saw the early versions of the zonal marking last season, very early on.

In the game against Blackburn, at Ewood Park, it did us in, as we conceded some really cheap goals from corners and put ourselves in danger of conceding even more. To be honest, I too am not a big fan of zonal marking, because first of all, it doesn’t really signify a particular role for any of the defenders. This allows the opposition to pile on their biggest men and take full advantage of defenders, who aren’t ready, and that is exactly what Lescott was able to do.

With players like Mertesacker, and the pair of Vermaelen, who I feel has tremendous jumping ability, and Koscielny, we should put emphasis on man marking and taking more responsibility of situations during corners. Actually I am surprised that Steve Bould hasn’t really made much of a change to that defensive aspect, but I am pretty sure he would be pissed at the manner in which the goal was conceded. Mertesacker and Koscielny sure can expect some extra drills in training over the course of the week.

The manager, in his mail also revealed that Thomas Vermaelen was left out because of a flu. Also, this will give him some time to rotate around his defenders and keep everyone happy. Against Chelsea, it will be interesting who he picks up. It would be a sin to drop Mertesacker, with the way he is performing at the moment. He has looked composed in the face of some tricky strikers like Suarez and Aguero. Laurent Koscielny put in a strong enough display himself, while Vermaelen will surely think he holds an assured starting place.

Laurent Koscielny had a great game and stepped in very well. We have three classy centre backs, and it is a very difficult choice. Koscielny, Mertesacker and Vermaelen – no matter who is left out can feel it is not right.

While I go on about our central defenders, we shall not forget the immense contributions of Carl Jenkinson and Kieran Gibbs. Jenkinson has shown plenty of improvement, and has quite really moved on from some scathing Arsenal bloggers, who believed he will never really live up to the standards at Arsenal. He has a really good engine, and he showed that against City, so much so that Javi Garcia, anonymous throughout the game, had to rugby tackle him to stop him from bombing towards the City goal.

His defensive abilities were also on display, as he frustrated Scott Sinclair into switching flanks. This did Sinclair little benefit, and he switched places with Rodwell to warm the bench at half time. Kieran Gibbs has shown great tenacity so far, in his attack play, having two assists ticked against his name, which does leave him a bit bare at the back. Steve Bould may just be working on that right now.

Mikel Arteta, who captained the team on Sunday is enjoying his new role, as much as the fans are enjoying watching him play. He completed a total of 100 out of 106 passes, at a success rate of 94.3%, meaning the Gunners completed a total of 561 passes, over 200 more than City’s 343. What’s more, the Gunners enjoyed a lot more freedom and time to operate in City’s half, with the inclusion of Aaron Ramsey into the team. I felt, had we started with Chamberlain or Walcott, we would not have been able to dominate proceedings as much as we did.

Playing as a defensive midfielder was a big transition but it is more a mental thing,The boss is convinced that is the best thing for the team and I am, too, so let’s do it.If it works and in games like that where you probably think you need more physical presence but you still create and are able to match the physical ability and the way they play, it reinforces your belief. I am totally happy that is a good way to play.

Now, I know why Wenger did not buy M’Vila or Wanyama and all those overpriced midfielders we were linked with all summer. That’s because, we already have the freaking best defensive midfielder in the league!

Equal praise must go to Aaron Ramsey, who was superb. There was some concern about his confidence, after he captained his country in a 6-1 thrashing by Serbia. But, he has shown great mental strength, in putting a solid performance. His passing was neat and intricate, and he helped Arsenal launch several attacks, through flanks, and even set up a couple of chances.

One player who was slightly peripheral against City was Diaby, and that is understandable. He looked jaded when was removed, and will have a good week ahead of him, to prepare for the Chelsea game. He was honest when he revealed about the dark days when he was out injured for vast periods of times.

If I was in another club I wouldn’t have this chance,I feel a football club is not for injured players. When you come every day it is to train, to play. But when you are out for a long time, it’s very hard to take.You see your team-mates training with a smile on their face and you want that as well. I was sitting on the physiotherapist’s bed.You can feel yourself a bit apart from the group. You don’t contribute to everything that is going on around the team. It is a strange feeling.I have to be honest and say sometimes I missed some games. I watched at home on TV. One year like this, without playing, is difficult.

I prefer to do my treatment away. I asked permission and the manager let me. I went back to France, to America, to the Middle East. You need to change because staying in the same atmosphere, mentally you will explode.It was getting too much. When you do something and you don’t enjoy it, you don’t see the point of carrying on. Some bad ideas cross your mind. I had to keep going.I went through a downward spiral, but I had a really good pre-season and now I am very confident in my body. I am very focused.

Finally, Theo Walcott explained that he would stay on at Arsenal, only if he is offered a more central role in the side. Having scored 11, and assisted 13 from the right wing, he has rejected a new contract worth £75,000 per week.

I’ve played on the right wing and had the opportunity to play up front a bit more so I think it’s about time.Playing up front is important. It’s one of the main factors for me. I signed as a striker. I’ve learnt my trade out on the wing. Hopefully, I’ll get to play up front in the next few games. It’s frustrating being on bench, but it’s one of those things I have to deal with.

It’s not going to happen any time soon. That speculation on the money side of it has never been me. That’s not me. I’m not the sort of person who’s influenced by money.I always make my decisions based on football and only football. Hopefully something can be sorted out. I’ll just wait for the club to get back to us now and go from there.It’s one of those things that happens in the game. If it comes to it, if the club had to sell me, I’d be disappointed but, like I said, hopefully something can be sorted.

Theo Walcott has often divided opinion among the Arsenal faithful, and as the commentator rightly said, he lacks consistency. He can give you games where he is 10/10 and on other days, 3/10, but never a consistent 7/10. I think the problem is much deeper.

While he clearly prefers playing in the centre, the manager feels he would be misusing his gift of pace down the centre. Moreover, Walcott isn’t the kind of player you would expect winning headers and being an effective centre-forward in a league with central defenders, taller than most trees. On the wing, he is now being constantly challenged by Chamberlain and Gervinho.

Chamberlain brings in an extra dimension of physique and skill, which probably makes him a more viable option that Walcott, while Gervinho, has pace and skills to burn. Walcott’s future could never be more uncertain. What he can do best is beat defenders for pace, by getting into pockets of space and we know he can finish.

This will be another problem for Arsene Wenger to handle. Does he keep a player, whom he had once made the most expensive teenager in football, long back in time, and play him up front as a striker; does he retain the player and play him on the wing, both to uncertain degrees of success, or does he let him go.

Walcott’s situation in this shouldn’t be undermined. He has been frustrated with warming benches so far this season, and seen his place being handed to Chamberlain, the new darling of Arsenal and England, but has remained mum on it, which is commendable. All we can hope is he fulfills his potential.

Some team news ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Coventry City in the Capital One Cup. Lots of changes can be expected, as the manager uses all his options, with an eye on the game on the weekend. I would like to see the likes of Arshavin, Santos, Djourou, Coquelin, Squillaci, Chamakh and probably even Giroud handed starts. Some of the above mentioned players need shots of confidence, and nothing better than putting a lower league opposition to sword.We could also see some young blood in the form of Martinez, Yennaris, Eisfeld and the highly rated Gnabry in action.

Jack Wilshere is returning to full fitness and will make his return in a reserves game very soon. The same goes for Emmanuel Frimpong, Tomas Rosicky and Bacary Sagna. Szczesny remains on the sidelines for atleast another 15 days, which means, we will see him only after the international break, in the away game at Norwich City. It will of course depend on how well Mannone would have progresses till then.

That’s it for now. Full preview and lineups of the Coventry clash will come tomorrow.

Jai Arsenal 🙂


About supreetkini

I would like to introduce myself starting with my favourite quote "I don't know whether life is sh*t cos Arsenal is sh*t or the other way round" - Nick Hornby, author, Fever Pitch. Since I started supporting Arsenal, every mood of mine, every bit of my behavior is a reflection of Arsenal's form! Well, that's enough a description to tell you how much I love the Gunners! :D I have my own Arsenal blog,

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