Pre-season Woes

Pre-season is an interesting time to be a fan… it’s a time where you’re told not to read into any of the results, and you’re told that “it’s only pre-season”, “the players are gaining fitness”, but in reality, you can’t help but analyse and possible over analyse as there isn’t much going on.

It’s hard to see us go through a season with such a basic defensive set of errors under-mining our season, and throughout the pre-season, it’s reared it’s ugly head again and really makes you ask what is being done about it. Whether it’s Koscielny, Vermaelen, Djourou or Miquel, there is a serious defensive issue at the club. It’s clumsy, it’s hapless, it’s school boy. It’s been with us since the end of the back four that Wenger inherited and despite a great unit when Sol Campbell was around, it was too mentally unstable (Campbell, Toure, Gallas etc) to actually be solid… but you get my drift.

It’s been interesting to see two forward players come in – obviously with the departure of Van Persie, they are very much needed, but it’s also strange to see no defensive re-enforcements brought in. As much as you try and change Djourou and Miquel – can they ever become Premiership players capable of challenging for titles and leagues? Don’t get me wrong, I wish they did – but Djourou is a player who has been with us for 8 years, and if anything, he has gone backwards.

Kitchee 2 – 2 Arsenal

The 2-2 draw with Kitchee was another display of bad defending, and the manager was quite dissappointed:

“I think defensively we looked fragile, especially in the first half. In the second half not so much because we were not challenged. Defensively we have a lot of work to do as a unit to do much better.”

With Steve Bould as the new assistant manager, you’d expect something better defensively – I suppose he’s not had too much time to get his teeth into his new job.

We can take the defensive performances as something we need to work on, something that we will work on and be glad that they’ve happened now – or we can worry that we’re going into another season with such defensive issues. I’m hoping it’s the former and I hope that this material is used to make us better, but it is worrying none the less – worrying because it’s clear that we have two decent defenders in Koscielny and Vermaelen – two decent wing backs in Sagna and Gibbs – our rivals (top 6 from last season) have better players in those positions, with the exception of Sagna who I think is the best right back in the league – players like Cahill, Kompany, Jones, Vidic etc are very good defenders. Outside of our first XI – i.e. our best back four – our strength in depth / back up is very worrying. To see a back four of Santos – Mertersacker – Djourou – Jenkinson would be nightmarish – a repeat of the Old Trafford debacle surely on the cards.

What is the next step? Well, we are in a transfer window, and we have some cash. If we’re offloading Van Persie to Juventus, let’s try and get Chellini in return… Having some options will really help us – if we don’t buy, then we’ll be back in a similar position to last season, and we’ll be undone at some point of the season. Getting players who are better than we have is key and Arsene has always suggested he wants super-quality to add to the team. But when he goes and buys Squillaci and Mertersacker, I am not sure what he really means by it!

The other option is to train the existing players we have – but as mentioned before – can Djourou, Miquel, Mertersacker and Squillaci ever really get much better?

Pre-season + the internet + the games on ESPN = a bad combination.

10 years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to see our pre-season games, I wouldn’t be able to write this blog and no-one will read it – the times have changes, the analysis is ripe. Where we end up at the end of the season determines on whether or not we can sort out our issues, whether we can get better, whether we can improve and have a good start to the season.

At the moment, all I can say is “fingers crossed”.

Til tomorrow…

  • PJ

    A bit a harsh on Mertasacker, if he’s that bad he wouldn’t have been capped so many times for Germany, would he? Agree with everything else though, definitely in need of better defensive back up. Djourou is done for, he’s had enough chances, but would not count out Miquel this early. Gotta sign another quality CB. And Chiellini in return for RVP? I think Juve might just ask us to keep our captain instead!

  • flamez

    i know you cant base all on pre-season, but diaby some players had shockers today, santos the worst culprit but diaby was really poor too.

    thought some of our youngsters were really good though, been very impressed by chuks aneke on tour, looks a very solid passer, strong in a tackle and likes to shoot. thomas eisfeld was good again, gettin another goal, he seems to have great positional sense and draws quite a few fouls too. bartley must surely jump djourou and miquel in pecking order if he carrys on the way hes going too, least he can put in a tackle

  • Bonathan

    i must admit, i am still not convinced by mertersacker. yes, to earn so many caps for germany suggests that he must be good, but i can’t help but think he doesn’t fit into our style.

    we generally try to play a high line but he can’t do that because of his drastic lack of pace. with our style of play our centre backs are often exposed, and that ain’t where mertersacker excells. qite the oppsoite in fact, that’s his weakness. only changing tactics can accomodate him. it’s the same reason he lost his place in the germany side.

    he doesn’t fit into the way germany play these days.

    question is, do change to accomodate him when he plays only, change whether he’s playing or not so that we can adopt a settled style, or do we carry on leaving him exposed in the hope that he finds a highly unlikely injection of pace in his later years?

    the only realistic option is to play a bit deeper. and hopefully bouldy will find an ideal compromise. the question has to be asked though, ‘why did we sign a centre back that would clearly mean having to change our style a little’?

    JD suffers from similar problems to mertersacker, only he has the added problems of falling asleep during games and not being very good at football. hopefully bartly can offer better cover than JD and get above him in the pecking order

  • Bonathan

    ‘why did we sign a centre back that would clearly mean having to change our style a little’?

    of course, we already know the answer to this, he was a few million cheaper than the cb we really wanted to sign, gary cahill.

  • ArseFan101

    Mertersacker was a panic buy.
    He was cheapish and available at the time, but he is too leggy and slow for the Prem and especially us.

  • Patrick

    According to Wenger, Giroud & Podolski won’t be ready for start of the new season as they need to be programmed to do the Arsene way. The keeper still has not mastered the art of not acting as a libro, the left side in poor and lacks everything. The central force is ravaged again by setbacks and injuries whilst the only able striker is on strike. Arsenal is falling apart as wenger was on the touchline barking orders indicating and confirming that the team lacks the gel and cohesion to function as a team and or as a collective force. The warm-up games showed that solidity and confidence is lacking and the indication is not good. Pundits have written off the season before it kickoff!!!

  • himmat

    @patrick – Man City are the only Premier League club that has bought no one so far this summer – and in terms of sales they haven’t brought in any major money either.

    Just to summarise the countrywide scene: Arsenal have bought in two players, Villa four, Chelsea four, Everton one, Fulham three, Everton one, Man U two, Newcastle two, Norwich four, QPR six, Reading six, Southampton four, Stoke two, Sunderland one, Swansea three, Tottenham two, WBA three, West Ham six, Wigan one. (The figures come from – they might not be 100% but you get the general picture.)

    Of course these players range in price from £80m or so by Chelsea, to £27m by Arsenal, £19m by Man U, nothing by Fulham (frees and a loan), etc etc. Again some figures are guesswork (by soccernews not by me).

    So it is approximate stuff, but still, at the moment of writing I don’t think Man C have signed anyone. The boss blamed our old pal Brian Marwood for not getting stuck into the market – and of course there is a long way to go. As we found last season, you can do a lot on the last day.

    But surely Man C, with all the money, can’t be hanging around can they? Well… they are on the sales front for they still have Adebayor, Santa Cruz, Tevez and Dzeko, and that suggests that they are trying to sell these unwanteds before they buy. Which might mean that they are actually looking at the Financial Fair Play regulations, or it might mean that the wily old head-scraper-with-the-boot Adebayor is demanding that he continues to get his Man C salary when he moves.

    The trouble is, when a player gets used to £4 million a year plus bonuses, he can find it hard to take less. Santa Cruz cost £18m and is on goodness knows what of a salary, so who wants to match his salary even if Man C give him away? No one really – and for two reasons. One is he isn’t that good, and the other is that the whole of the football world is changing beneath our feet and it is starting to look like transfers, wages and bonuses might have peaked.

    And at such a point the market in footballers can look exactly like the market in shares, diamonds, personalised number plates and fine wine.

    To some degree some of these items have a value through their use – but even then that value can be highly inflated because the market believes the price will rise forever. But it never does, and so suddenly people think that personalised number plates are actually rather prattish, the stock market is probably fixed by bent bankers, and fewer people are getting married so fewer diamonds are being sold.

    Who is to say that Robin van Persie is worth £5m or £50m? The value in fact is just what someone will pay, and now, leaving aside the special case of Chelsea, everyone is starting to look a little uncertainly at these prices and think, “Did we really pay that much for one player?”

    That doesn’t mean the market has stopped, but I think it has just had its first wobble in many a long year. (It won’t be the first time – in the early days of the transfer market at the end of the 19th century, player values just about doubled every two years as the clubs got the hang of the idea of transfers. Then suddenly there was a dip around 1905, and all the prices went down again. It happens.)

    But why now? Why should football destabilise at this point?

    There are so many reasons that when one starts looking at them, they seem obvious. Each one of these reasons could cause some wobbling in the system. Stick them all together and you have chaos. Probably now, but if not, next year.

    FFP is one reason for the crisis. No one knows if the big boys can ignore it, or if something actually might happen. The huge escalation in prices for not-that-special players is a second. And third, the fact that a player can be poached or can announce in year three of a four year deal that he’s off, suddenly makes the value of players meaningless.

    Fourth, the advent of the billionaire clubs has meant that the non-billionaire funded sides know they can’t keep up, so they need to turn away and try and look for bargains and indeed seek to start running a decent youth system. Worse some of the billionaires turn out to be money launderers, and some are just plain incompetent dodos. Even some players are waking up to the fact that virtually every top player Arsenal “lose” actually makes Arsenal a packet, and costs the buying club a fortune, while the players ends up in no-man’s-land.

    Fifth, the manipulation of the market by agents, the media and non-participating clubs means the market is utterly unstable anyway. I’ve mentioned it before, but agents will tout a player even if he doesn’t want to leave just to get the media to show an interest, which in turn could get the club he’s with to improve the contract. Tell the world Arsenal are after some obscure player in the French league and his price goes through the roof overnight – with other half-baked managers buying the poor sap just because of the rumour that Arsenal wanted him.

    Finally: Rangers and Portsmouth. Those are just two examples from Britain – scout around Europe and there are many more. Somehow clubs thought that it wouldn’t happen, couldn’t happen here. Fraud, false contracts, financial disasters, bankruptcy, quadruple relegation, no players… no, that’s Italy isn’t it? Actually no, it isn’t. Suddenly football clubs don’t look like the place you might want to have your money.

  • paul

    so we are close to offloading the likes of bednter,park and squillaci.let’s hope the club can still get rid of the likes of chamakh,arsharvin,djourou before the start of the season,and bring in a few top quality players.i never thought that bednter suited the way we play.his first touch isn’t the best and when you rely on quick,decisive football in and around the box,then bednter was never going to make it.a george graham player more than a wenger.park as never worked,nor as squillaci who has been awful. that’s the price you pay when you buy in the lower market.can’t see us getting a lot for many of the above so it’s essential the afc board give wenger a lot more money to spend.with the rvp situation dragging on into the fasical of last years problems with cesc and nasri,the club must learn and cut their losses before we are left with the turmoil last day of the transfer window again.finding top quality goalscorers is the toughest job in football because you will never know no matter how good they are how they will turn out.i just think that anyone who plays up top for afc can make no excuse because you will get plenty of chances to score at least 25 goals a season.if rvp goes we must buy another striker to compiiment giroud and podolski.