July 29, 2012
Apologies for the lateness of today’s post but I’ve at least got a decent excuse for once. I was watching the Arsenal.
What a relief it is to be giving that excuse to a bunch of people that I know will be sympathetic to it rather than the usual friends and family who are utterly appalled that I might miss some dull social event for the infinitely preferable pastime of watching my team.
Okay, so it wasn’t all sunshine and roses this morning but there you go. We played reasonably well in patches but a combination of slack defending and profligacy up front meant we could only muster a 2-2 draw against FC Kitchee in Hong Kong.
The defensive lapses are all too familiar and worrying as ever. I don’t expect Steve Bould to wave a magic wand and solve what’s ailed us for a good few years overnight. And by the sounds of it this squad has spent far more time on planes and at Q&As than it has on the training field during this trip so there’d have been very little time to work on things anyway. Plus of course we’re talking about yet another brand new back four which started the game this morning with captain for the day Johan Djourou lining up next to Ignasi Miquel with Gibbs at left back and Craig Eastmond on the right. There’s a fair chance we may never see that particular line-up again.
Still, with only one more match scheduled before the season begins it is a bit of a concern that we still look so vulnerable at the back. It’s the same old story in that we tend to dominate these games in terms of possession but it only takes one break by the opposition and we find ourselves a goal behind.
Up front there was yet more evidence (if it were needed) that Marouane Chamakh is not the man to replace Robin Van Persie. Despite what he may have said last week. We created decent chances and got in good positions but it’s endlessly frustrating to have a frontman who fails to make incisive runs, often struggles to trap the ball and looks scared of just putting his laces through the ball when he’s in front of goal. He still looks like a man whose confidence is completely shot and while if he got it back he still has the potential to be a useful player, we just can’t afford to give him the games that he’ll need to get that spark back.
I fully expect Podolski and/or Giroud to take his place when we return from the tour and I suspect that run of three games may have been Chamakh’s last chance to revive his Arsenal career. I’m sad to say he didn’t take it.
One man who did look in the mood today was Gervinho. Coming on at half time for Ryo he injected some real pace and life in to the side down that left wing. It’s clearly his strongest position and when he’s in the mood he’s a nightmare for a full back. He was back doing what he does best. Skipping down the wing, into the box and then dancing his way along the byline before squaring the ball back. It’s the same trick he was pulling at the beginning of last season and the reason I thought he would prove such a useful addition last year. As we know his form dipped, particularly after the ACN in January but hopefully he’ll be back to his best now and really establish himself for his second Premier League season. If he can play like he did today it would be a massive boost.
Nice to see Eisfeld getting on the scoresheet again. He’s looked strong in his very brief cameos so far and I wonder what Le Boss has in mind for him this season. Could a loan spell be in order or could he get his chance from the bench? With only 43 minutes of first team football to his name you can’t argue with his scoring record. Projected forward I can confidently predict that he’ll score an average of four goals a game for us or 152 a season. Not bad for a young’un.
Speaking after the game AW was quick to praise the quality of the opposition but aware of our own defensive frailties:
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.
We let everybody play today and some players are not yet at the level of the Premier League. It is a learning process. If you don’t do it in pre-season then you never do it – you give them a chance to see what is requested at the top level. I played all of the defenders during this tour to see who is ready and who is not. We have Sagna, Koscielny and Mertesacker at home – three experienced defenders.
Clearly an awareness that there’s plenty of work to be done. The next three weeks could be the most important of the season.
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