October 30, 2012
I’m a happy boy today because it’s the Milk Cup tonight and I love the Milk Cup.
What’s not to love? All the excitement of a matchday, and a cup competition at that, but none of the pressure because at the end of the day, hey, it’s only the Milk Cup.
We know it’s low on Arsene Wenger’s priority list so any journos expressing false outrage at his comments at the AGM last week can just can it. What? The fact that we’ve fielded kids and reserves in the competition for the last fifteen or whatever years wasn’t enough of a clue that he doesn’t think this is a particularly important trophy to win? Honestly, that whole imagined furore over the fact that Wenger thinks finishing in the top four is more important than the FA and League Cups really winds me up. Of course it’s more important. ‘Oooh, but he said finishing fourth was like a trophy! It’s not a trophy! A trophy is all shiny with big handles and you can wave it in the air! You can’t wave fourth place in the air.’ Yeah, but you can tempt top class players to your club because of it. So shut up. He doesn’t actually think that you get a trophy for fourth place you know. He’s not mentally subnormal. He’s just using an analogy to express the importance of qualifying for the Champions League. Can everyone grow up?
Of course there’s the usual thrill tonight that we might get to see some of the next generation and the latest young bucks with the pressure of expectation getting heaped on their shoulders are Serge Gnabry and Thomas Eisfeld both of who I would expect to feature. Eisfeld’s talent was clear to see in pre-season and since then he’s continued to play well at reserve level with his happy knack of popping up in the box at the right time and banging in the goals.
Gnabry has gained more attention, partly because everyone loves a young, exciting attacking talent and he’s been stealing the show at U-21 level this year. His recent appearances on the bench have confirmed Le Boss’ claims earlier in the year that he could play a part later in the season and his all too brief cameos have had us all salivating for more. AW says:
He is a guy who can play in all the offensive positions. I think he could even play centre forward. He has a kind of efficiency in his game, and can get on the end of things.
He has big potential, creative potential, finishing potential. Serge is 17 years old and strong for a boy of that age.
It is difficult to compare with anyone. He is not small, he is stocky with good body balance. He glides, he is fluent.
His creativity in the final third is something we’ve been lacking a bit in recent games which will only add to the clamour if he can put in a decent performance tonight but there should be another man on show who’s capable of making things happen in the opposition half. Andrei Arshavin, a man whose Arsenal career has looked to be over a number of times in the recent past is likely to make an appearance following those couple of promising substitute showings of late. He played his favoured role in the middle of the park in the previous round and I’d expect to see him there again tonight, hopefully pulling the strings. He’s probably the most frustrating player I can remember having at the club in recent times, clearly oozing with talent but lacking the temperament and sometimes the fitness to make the most of it. But we saw on Saturday what that talent can bring when properly deployed – a sumptuous final ball that allowed us to finally break down a stubborn defence.
Arsene Wenger was anxious to point out yesterday that Arshavin’s struggles have had nothing to do with any perceived lack of professionalism:
I say that because [his attitude] has been questioned. I don’t tolerate that. If that was the case I would not speak about it.
But Andrey comes in every day and practices well, he is focused and wants to do well. I insist on this, because it was questioned and it is completely unjustified. In this case perception is not reality.
Fair enough. I’ve no reason to question Le Prof’s version of events but it does beg the question – if it’s not his attitude or professionalism then what has led to the alarming and prolonged slump in his form and why has he been virtually exiled from the first team set up? If Arshavin can put in another decent display tonight then perhaps there are yet more signs of life for his Arsenal career. Certainly if he can provide the sort of quality he showed on Saturday he could be a valuable man to bring on late in games in which we’re struggling.
The one position I’m unsure of tonight is centre forward. I expect we might go with Marouane Chamakh but to be honest I hope we don’t. We all know what he’s capable (or not capable) of. Le Boss seems to have made his mind up that he doesn’t want him anywhere near the first team so what do we have to gain by giving him a run out? We may be holding him back for Old Trafford at the weekend but personally I’d love to see Theo Walcott given a run up top. We’ve talked and talked and talked about it for what seems like years but chances for the kid to prove his point have been few and far between. With the CF position in the first team far from settled this would be a great time to see what Theo could do up there.
I’m well aware of Theo’s shortcomings but I have a real suspicion he could wreak some havoc if played up top. He doesn’t have the jinxy, tricksy skills that people crave in a wide man but up front he doesn’t need all that. He needs to play off a defender’s shoulders and cause problems with his pace. With a Cazorla or probably tonight an Arshavin sat behind him prodding through balls that pace would worry any defence and when he does get the ball in a one-on-one he’s actually pretty deadly. Incidentally I think that he’s capable of using these skills to good effect from the wide position too and his crossing has improved immeasurably but if we’re at an impasse in contract negotiations and this is what he wants to seal a deal I think we should give him the chance. It might not work out but on the other hand…
The fact is that Theo clearly believes that’s his best position. He may be right, he may be wrong but if he doesn’t at least get the chance to prove it either way at Arsenal he’ll be off to prove it somewhere else.
It’s a bit of a shot in the dark but I think our line-up tonight will be this:
Jenks – Koz – Dj – Miquel
Frimmy – Coq
Gnabry – Arsh – Eis
I kind of like the look of that. Roll on 7.45.
If You Liked This...
- Wenger wants Gnabry in the first team + Official: Arshavin – Not lazy!
- Another hugely poor decision suggests that Arsenal need to be more ruthless
- Expect changes today – In attitude and personnel + Gervinho’s unhappy homecoming
- Wenger talks new faces. Let’s get them done early.
- Opportunity knocks + I’ve got a wager for you, Samir