August 27, 2012
Tony Pulis sums it up for me.
Tony Pulis running down the touchline in his little baseball hat, beaming from ear to ear as the crowd sing his name. What a day! What a performance! What another victory for the minnows of Stoke City!
I know it’s been a less than impressive start to the season but at least we’re not in that position. At least we’re not so starved of success that we’ll celebrate a nil nil home draw in which we completely failed to create a meaningful attack like we just won the Champions League. I know we tend to laugh at Stoke round these parts but they’ve been in the Premier League for five years now. I genuinely think they owe it to themselves to aim a bit higher.
For our part I thought we dealt with them exceptionally well. You know, apart from the not scoring any goals thing. In seasons past we really have struggled against that lot as we know. Yesterday we controlled the game. I can honestly say it’s the calmest I’ve ever been watching us line up against Stoke City. On set pieces and defending crosses into the box we were strong and surprisingly well organised. Sticking Diaby on Peter Crouch for the endless long balls down the middle was a wise move. He didn’t win a lot of headers but he did enough to make life difficult for the moaning beanpole.
I don’t want to speak too soon because there’s obviously a lot of season to go but the early signs are that Steve Bould is having a fantastic effect on the way we defend, right through the team. The fact that we haven’t scored yet in the Premier League season is almost compensated for by the fact that we haven’t conceded anything yet either. Alarm bells were ringing with the late team news yesterday that Vito Mannone would step in for the injured Woj but the fact is it made absolutely zero difference. Credit to Don Vito who did whatever was asked of him but it says even more about the performance of the team in general that we barely even noticed he was there.
Up front of course it’s hard not to be a little bit concerned. Two games, no goals after the departure of Robin Van Persie was always going to get the media salivating but I don’t think we need to start panicking just yet. It’s hard enough when you add one new striker into an already functioning unit. He may not make the runs that the other forwards expect. He might make the exact same runs as another forward. He might expect the ball on his left foot rather than his right or prefer to delay his run until moments after a through ball is made. Well you can take all of those problems and multiply them by four to the power of four because none of Cazorla, Gervinho, Podolski or Giroud have ever played together before. So it is absolutely inevitable that they’ll take a bit of time to gel as a unit.
The good news is that individually they all show promise. Cazorla? Well frankly the more I see the more I like. First half yesterday he looked by far the best footballer on the pitch (not hard you might argue). And I was pleased with how he coped with Stoke’s ‘examination’ of his capabilities. Yeah, I’m sure he’s been kicked before but maybe not with that much frequency and ferocity and I’m sure he’s been booed before but probably not for an entire match for the oh so heinous crime of having had his ankle stamped. I imagine that was something of a culture shock. Welcome to England, Santi. You’ll find large sections of the media and public actually think this sort of ‘football’ is a GOOD thing. Because it’s a MAN’s game, right? What’s that, Santi? You can’t understand why England haven’t won a major tournament in 46 years? You’re right. It’s a mystery.
Podolski looked a bit fitter than he did last week and I was encouraged by a couple of bursts of power and pace that he showed in the first half particularly. He faded a bit second half but I’m excited to see what else he can do as his fitness continues to grow.
Giroud looked lively at times too, won a few headers in the centre and put himself about a bit. He went down a little too easily under a couple of challenges at a point at which he should have known the ref wasn’t going to give him anything. And he got a lot of stick from the pundits for opting to shoot late on when slipping the ball through to Ramsey could have helped us put all sorts of demons to rest but while disappointed I was glad to see such single minded vision and a striker who’s prepared to shoot. And he really wasn’t far off scoring one of the greatest Arsenal goals in only his first start. So I propose we go easy on him just this once.
As many will be pointing out this morning it took Thierry Henry eight games to score his first goal for Arsenal and Dennis took six. Olivier’s had one start. Let’s give the boy a chance.
Regarding the lack of cutting edge up front, after the game Arsene said:
It is an understanding because you have Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud… one month ago they didn’t know each other. So that will come. There is some work to do on the training ground but you can feel the potential. You can see as well that there is something missing – we are not spontaneous enough in some situations. I am very positive about my team. People will say ‘OK, you didn’t score for two games’ and I cannot deny that. We played against two teams who defend very well as a unit – Sunderland and Stoke. Overall I believe we can be a good surprise in this championship.
On Sky Sports after the match Jamie Redknapp dismissed Giroud and Podolski as ‘not in the same league’ as Robin Van Persie. Which apart from being literally speaking clearly an idiotic choice of phrase is also hugely dismissive of one player who scored 18 goals in 29 Bundesliga appearances last season and one who was the leading scorer in Ligue un. Le Boss said:
I do not listen too much to what people say [on TV]. I listen and I try to see if it is exaggerated or not. I have worked for 30 years on the football pitch every day, and I know what it is to improve a football player and what it is to go out morning and afternoon and try to make a player. Not everybody can say that.
Ahh, but have you been in adverts for Nintendo Wii and Thomas Cook holidays, Arsene? No. So who should we really trust?
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