I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the internet can be a frustrating thing. For no particular reason my connection has been playing up for the past few days and that of course lead to a lack of posts since the Fulham win. It’s a shame too, considering how much fun that game was to watch and how well Arsenal played. There’s really no point going into it too much now because every other Arsenal blog has already done so and I’m sure you’d be well sick of it by now.
Just quickly, it was a nice return to form – albeit against a very poor side – and it was great to see guys like Eduardo da Silva and Philippe Senderos play with a confidence that has been a little hard to find at times. I mentioned briefly yesterday that I thought Emmanuel Adebayor, Tomas Rosicky, Alexander Hleb and Gael Clichy were the standouts, simply for their consistent contribution over the 90 minutes.
I was delighted to see the big Togolese striker grab a couple of goals and make some ground on Cristiano Ronaldo in the race for the golden boot. He’s been in good form lately, something that Adebayor attributed to a positive change in his psychology after the match.
“The most important thing is that I feel free now. I am starting most games and the first question I ask myself is not whether I am playing, or whether I am going to start on the bench, but whether I’m going to score.”
It’s great to hear and you really have to give Arsene Wenger credit for it. He’s put faith in the big man when a lot of people have questioned him (thankfully, I’m absolutely not in this category!) and he has been rewarded with some excellent performances and a consistent flow of goals. People will continue to question his finishing but I’d rather have a player who scores one in five chances and creates five than someone who scores one in three and only creates two. Or something like that.
Two of the other players I mentioned were standouts against Fulham, Tomas Rosicky and Alexander Hleb, were deservedly singled out for praise by the manager following the match. Wenger spoke a little bit about their contrasting styles as well as praising the contribution they make to Arsenal’s flowing football.
“Rosicky is more of a Pires-type and Hleb is more for me a guy who attracts people to the ball, and then slides it through. Alex looks like he always slows the game down to speed it up again.”
Rosicky’s comparison with Robert Pires is understandable (although I’m sure everybody would love him to score more goals) and the description of Hleb is perfect. He was such a frustrating player to watch in his first two seasons at the club that it’s remarkable to see how well he has done this season. His dribbling style is so unique and so unsettling for the opposition and like Wenger mentioned, it’s lovely watching him draw in two or three defender before flicking the ball through to an unmarked teammate. His assist for Cesc Fabregas against Liverpool was a perfect example of what he does well but there have thankfully been many other great efforts as well.
Walcott the striker
One player who is perhaps not doing as well as most Arsenal supporters would have hoped this season is Theo Walcott. The Englishman has struggled for form and confidence of late, usually being played out of position on the right-hand side of midfield as opposed to his preferred starting spot up front. Despite this, Wenger has insisted that he is happy with his young player and emphasised that the time he has spent on the right has not been wasted.
“Overall I am very happy with him, I have said many times that he will be a player through the middle, a striker, because the timing of his runs, the quality of his runs is fantastic and he is clinical finisher. The time he spends on the right will help him became a fantastic striker.”
I tend to agree with him. A lot of people have been pretty harsh on Walcott lately but I’m not sure the criticism is fair. Sure, he’s not developing quite as quickly as most people would have liked but he’s shown enough to suggest that all he needs is some more confidence and to be played in his correct position to ensure he turns into an excellent player. At the start of the season I criticised Wenger because I felt he was putting too much pressure on the youngster to perform but thankfully it seems he’s changed his approach. He’s only 18 after all and when you look how quickly the likes of Adebayor and Hleb have improved there’s no reason why he can’t do the same.
Onto the Tottenham game now and Wenger has essentially revealed his starting lineup for the second leg of the Carling Cup semi-final. Due to Senderos’ inability to recover from the damage incurred to his nose on Saturday Wenger explained that William Gallas would have to be drafted into the starting lineup as his replacement.
“We lost Philippe Senderos at Fulham and the injuries before that game are the same. I will use William Gallas because I have no choice but Fabianski will play, Hoyte will play and the players that didn’t play against Fulham will all play. Walcott will feature as well.”
There’s been a bit of confusion surrounding whether or not Hoyte will start in the centre of defence or at right-back and I’m personally hoping he’ll start alongside Gallas in the middle. He probably won’t though and that should mean that Gilberto Silva will start there and the central pairing will be Denilson and one of Flamini or Fabregas, which actually looks quite good. Nicklas Bendtner and the aforementioned Walcott will start up front and given Wenger’s comments about the Englishman’s ability as a striker it will be interesting to see how that pair combines. For some reason I have a little feeling that it might go very well indeed.
It’s difficult to make a prediction on this one because it’s a cup game, it’s against Tottenham and there are a number of selection matters to factor in. Gilberto and Denilson struggled as a pairing in the first leg and I just get the feeling if they play together there again they will struggle again. If Gilberto moves to the back then the central-midfield pairing would have a sharper look about them and that should help the side both defensively and offensively.
My heart says Arsenal will get through this one but my head says they won’t. I’m not sure why, that’s just how I feel. It could go to extra-time and that would mean another late start at work for me (!) but we’ll see how things pan out. Either way, gooooo Arsenal!
What do you think?
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