Defending, togetherness + Arsecast 210

Time zones, eh? It was a perfectly acceptable time where Mrs Blogs is to send a text telling someone you’ve found a bar with Goose Island on tap. Provided, of course, that you’re sending to someone also in that time zone. At 4.17am it’s a little hard to get enthused by that news, nice and all as Goose Island is.

Then I had a dream about a giant in a yellow sun dress who told me he’d invented something which would feed the entire world and wipe out starvation. It seemed a fantastic invention until it became clear the thing he’d invented made casseroles from the very earth itself and if mankind continued they’d have nowhere left to stand. Most odd.

Anyway, let’s move from that to football and Arsene has been talking a bit ahead of his meeting with the press today. When he last met them, on Tuesday night, he was a bit tetchy and somewhat irritable, and that was only the ones on Carling Cup duty. I suspect the annoying Scottish bloke from Sky will be dying to pore over last weekend’s Blackburn game and Arsenal’s defensive woes.

Speaking to the Arsenal Player last night though, the manager seemed to suggest that a more concerted team effort is required when it comes to our defence:

The modern game is a team sport more than ever because everybody has to defend completely. All the big teams do it. You do not get away with just seven or eight and the rest watching. If you don’t do it as a team it doesn’t work.

Is that an admission that some players haven’t been pulling their weight? He went on to say they’re working hard on it:

We work on it every day when we practice. I believe that we have been solid quite recently – in Dortmund but not at Blackburn. There is a lot to improve in our defensive consistencies.

I’ll certainly agree with the last part, there is a lot to work on and I hope they’re doing that. In terms of being quite solid in Dortmund, I’m not sure I agree. We were opened up like that snow camel that Han Solo belly sliced on the frozen wastes of Hoth and then put Luke Skywalker inside to stop him freezing to death. Our sausagey guts were everywhere and but for Dortmund’s crappy finishing and a clearance almost off the line by Sagna we’d have found ourselves in real trouble.

So there’s a lot to work on but the insistence that it’s the team’s job, and not just that of the back four, is a positive one. You can’t legislate for mistakes like the ones we continue to make but if better defending from the midfield and forward players prevents the opposition getting near our box then any mistakes we do make will be far less costly. And at a time when we’re really going to have find some togetherness, everyone working hard is exactly what we need.

The manager praised the fans for their support, both at Blackburn away and on Tuesday night, but says it’s the job of the team to lift the fans:

I always feel that the vibes have to come out from the team. If the vibes coming out from the team are right, the crowd will follow and support us. So let’s focus on us being right because the crowd feels that.

While captain Robin van Persie is remaining positive:

It is important that we stay positive – that can be hard because everyone is frustrated and we realise that this is our worst start in the league for a while, but we have to stay together, be strong and make sure not to hide or become introverted. We should be proud of who we are and aware that we are only five games in with so much still to play for.

Regardless of how you view where we are at the moment, and how we’ve ended up there, Robin is absolutely right. There is a long, long way to go in the season and a reminder to the players – ‘Remember Who You Are and What You Represent‘ – is no bad thing at all. Their professional pride should be stung and we need to see a response from them tomorrow. So much of football is down to character and confidence. We need the strong characters, the leaders, to drag us out of this mess.

And I don’t just mean on the pitch tomorrow. This is stuff that should be going on all week on the training ground, fostering a togetherness, an us against them attitude, a real focus on doing what’s best for the team. Let’s hope that’s happening and if Robin’s words in public are something of a sign you have to hope that behind the scenes he, as someone who could barely hide his disgust at what happened at Blackburn, is much more forthright. Maybe some players need to realise they’re not special, they’re not anything but guys privileged to wear the red and white every week, and as such need to reassess their own performances and attitudes.

We’ll hear more from Arsene later as he takes his Friday press conference. As of yet there’s no real team news other than we’re likely to be without Benayoun who used his Twitter account to reveal he’d be out for a week or so. I do wonder if that’s something they might put a stop to, guarded and all as they are. And while we’re vaguely on the subject, it was interesting to read the best player in the world now, Owen Hargreaves, talk about how the medical staff at Man United made a complete bollix of treating his knee injury. It’s not just the Arsenal medical team who get things wrong from time to time.

Right then, onto this week’s Arsecast and joining me to talk quite specifically about Arsene Wenger is Alex Fynn, co-author of the book: Arsenal: the making of a modern superclub. As someone who knows Arsene outside of his Arsenal life he provides some very interesting insight into the manager at a time when he’s struggling like never before. There’s some excerpts from Arsenal’s defensive manual, Internet Joe and the usual guff.

You can subscribe to the Arsecast on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes). To download this week’s Arsecast directly – click here (22mb MP3) or you can listen directly below without leaving this very page.

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Also, listen out for a competition in which you can win one of five signed copies (by Alex and co-author Kevin Witcher) of Arsenal: the making of a modern superclub. And if you’re not interested in winning a copy you can buy one directly from the publisher’s website here and using the code ‘rocky‘ at check-out you get the book at a discount price. It should be noted this is a new edition of the book, re-written from front to back, and not just one with a couple of chapters slapped on at the end. It’s a very interesting read.

Right then, updates throughout the day over on Arseblog News, which you can follow on Twitter here for instant notification of new stories, and a fuller preview of the Bolton tomorrow.

Till then.