We beat Fenerbahçe comfortably on Wednesday evening, thanks to fine performances from Tomas Rosicky, Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott.
Mentioning the lack of a credible challenge from our opponents—one of the true juggernauts of Turkish football who are simply having a bad patch at the moment—seems churlish, but it did matter. They were terrible, but we picked them off expertly and Champions League qualification looks assured.
The aforementioned Ramsey was delightful in Istanbul. There was a sureness in his decision-making that ran parallel to his pre-season and pre-injury form. When Ramsey plays well he doesn’t play at light-speed, he recognises space and moves the ball into it, covers the defensive areas intelligently and has to run less. Strong players of this type—ex-Madridista Fernando Redondo is a supreme example—never looked rushed because they predict their opponents moves and navigate away from them without breaking a sweat. Ramsey, although not at this level yet, possesses similar qualities and it is warming to see him making strong steps in the right direction.
A goal will give Ramsey’s and the team’s confidence a lift, as will the excellent scoreline, going into this weekend’s assignment at Fulham, who unlike us, won their opening contest of the season at Sunderland.
There is talk of a defensive crisis at Arsenal. That we only have one central defender currently. That it is not good enough.
Personally I don’t see it. Bacary Sagna is an excellent defender and his best performance last season—away at Stoke (was it?)—was played in this position. We all know he’s not much of an attacking threat, our braided black bull, so we’re not losing anything by playing Carl Jenkinson, who is an excellent crosser of the ball, on the right in a game where we will dominate possession.
I would much rather add a couple of out-and-out strikers to instill more fear up top and take the pressure away from the players behind.
Our defense is flexible and the fact that Per Mertesacker is the only recognised centre-back doesn’t bother me too much. We have excellent depth in both wing-back positions and frankly, I don’t expect us to sign another defender. A defensive midfielder, perhaps—and I think Mathieu Flamini, a player I will welcome back with open arms—can fit this role.
I am much happier with a system that rotates three accomplished central defenders than establishes a first-choice back two with two in reserve. It is more fluid, more adaptable and in the case of injuries or suspension problems, like the ones we are facing now, ensures that whoever plays comes in warm and ready to go, rather than cold after sitting on the bench for two months. I would much rather add a couple of out-and-out strikers to instill more fear up top and take the pressure away from the players behind.
Thus our interest in Karim Benzema intrigues me. If Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez do sign for Real Madrid, as I think they will, it’s a move that seems likely. I would argue that Benzema is an upgrade on both Suarez and Gonzalo Higuain. Giroud looks in top shape at the moment but what he lacks, and will always lack, is that little bit of explosiveness to create something from nothing. Benzema has this and although he has bubbled under the surface at Real, playing support to Cristiano Ronaldo and one of the truly excellent players of this generation, Mesut Özil, he would explode at Arsenal under Arséne Wenger.
If he came in I would be happy with the summer’s dealings. If Angel di Maria, another player much better than his current standing at Madrid suggests, followed I would call us well and truly ready for the season. Even if it did start a week ago.
Back to Fulham though. A win would be nice this weekend, that goes without saying. We don’t need it—I don’t subscribe to talk of needing this or that when it’s blatantly not true—but it would get the ship back on track. Santi Cazorla looked much better in Turkey and he should play a bigger role again at Fulham. He’s a wonderful player, second only to Jack Wilshere (and maybe Laurent Koscielny) in terms of pure footballing potential, and his season starts here.
Finally, a big thank-you to Lefty for kick-starting the blog. I simply haven’t had the energy to keep it going and I don’t think I will be able to write often, but it is nice to have someone to share (or hand over?) the burden to. Bravo, sir.