At the office, every week an item on the agenda is “learnings from the week”, and in most businesses, it’s an important part of their processes for self improvement and world domination…
Down at the Arsenal, we’ve been taught a few lessons this season, without a doubt and when we look back at the start of the season, it’s fair to say that things have improved and there is more discipline and a sense of unity about the squad. We’ve just had a decent run of 7 wins out of the last 8 games, and the big test is against Chelsea this weekend, whereby a good performance and a point would go a long way to understanding where we have come in the last month… but before all of that… the big question is – what have we learnt this week. Of course, by this week, I am referring to the two games, firstly against Stoke and then more recently against Bolton…
Learning #1: Van Persie is very important
Now that is what I call stating the obvious! Quite obviously against Stoke, we lacked a level of sharpness up front and that sharpness came into the game with the introduction of Van Persie. The problem is that Van Persie will get injured and when he does, we need to ensure someone can come in and make a difference or at least ensure we have an attacking threat. The good thing is that Gervinho looks very exciting, so does Park. But so far in the league, it’s been Chamakh who has been chosen and to be honest, he has been worryingly bad.
Learning #2: Arshavin through the middle is better
The performance from Arshavin against Bolton was probably the best all round performance from the Russian in the last twelve months.
He scurried and closed down, he had a turn of pace about him, he looked switched on, he was a threat for the entire game.
“I have to say that the experienced players took charge of the game and made the difference. Andrey loves to play behind the strikers and he scored a goal and gave an assist. He is an exceptional talent, everyone knows that. He loses the ball sometimes because he takes a gamble because he is a creative player.”
His goal was a very obvious reminder to us all that shooting is a good thing… there have been many times whereby we’ve been in a similar position but tried to pass – good to see Arshavin being direct – in all fairness, he is always quite direct and playing in the middle may make him more dangerous.
Learning #3: Vermaelen may get injured again (but is very good)
Vermaelen hasn’t played that much football in the last couple of months let alone the year. He played against Bolton and show moments of defensive magic. However, he got injured and had a calf strain. This is something that we will have to learn to accept and he will be in and out of the team a lot this season. News yesterday was that he has recovered from his injury and can play this weekend…
“I feel great. I trained yesterday with the team and I felt good straight away so I felt confident for tonight. Personally I don’t believe in that [needing games to regain sharpness]. If I come back from injury after a long time I don’t believe in coming back and getting rhythm. I think it is just in your head and a mental thing – if you are a football player you have to be there straight away. That’s why I wanted to play today and I think it’s good. It was a good game for us, we fought hard and it was a deserved win for us I think.
But there is a massive question that all Arsenal fans are asking each other – do we put Vermaelen back into the centre of defence against Chelsea? The partnership of Koscielny & Mertersacker has started to grow and is it wise to break up that partnership?
If we don’t break it up – do we play Vermaelen at left back – four centre backs across the back in Vermaelen – Koscielny – Mertersacker – Djourou – but obviously this will have some affect on our forward play.
Learning #4: Park Ju Young could be the back up for Van Persie
If you watched the game on Wednesday, you will have seen a very spirited performance from the Korean. Arsene took time out after the game to comment on his peformance:
For me I am very pleased with his performance. He had a very, very good game. He has shown intelligence in his link play with others. The quality of his movement was exceptional and his finishing is absolutely fantastic. He has shown tonight that he is a very, very good player. He is ready to play in league games, yes. Compared to the player who played in the first match [against Shrewsbury] where he was a bit inhibited, tonight I felt he played with freedom and has showed what a good player he is.
I’d like to see more of him. If we’re winning a game (and can rest RvP) or need an extra striker, perhaps Park is the answer rather than the somewhat not-so-useful Chamakh…
Learning #5: Chamakh is definitely not the back up for Van Persie
What has happened to the Chamakh that scored 10 goals in 15 at the beginning of last season. Indeed, he went for first choice to third overnight, but still, we have to expect more from an International player who plays for Arsenal on the wages he gets. Arsene did come out with a plethora of excuses about Chamakh’s performance after the Stoke game:
I think he worked very hard. He is running after a goal at the moment. I felt there were two or three occasions in the first half where he was nearly there on crosses and just didn’t get in front of Shawcross. I am pleased with his effort. I think he knows in his mind that at the moment Van Persie is untouchable. Because we play with two wingers it is very difficult to play with two strikers because you are too open in the middle of the park. So unless I change the system it will be him or Van Persie. It is difficult. But he will get confidence by playing games and scoring goals like all strikers.
Arsene says this, but of course, it’s a problem that can’t be solved – well, it could have been solved if Chamakh got a nod against Bolton – he would have gained some level of “playing games and scoring goals” – but it’s obvious that Arsene doesn’t really fancy the player and obvious that he prefers Park – actually, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Park overtake Chamakh in the pecking order…
Let’s hope we’ve learnt from the last week and take our learnings in the next game… the big one…!