Morning all, a busy Friday ahead with our last home game of the season coming up tomorrow against Norwich and after a quiet week there’s a glut of stuff to get through this morning.
We’ve been talking all week about how important third place is and the manager is quite well aware of that, especially in light of results in midweek. Sp*rs and Newcastle won to keep the pressure and while Chelsea lost that brings a different kind of pressure, according to Arsene:
What we learned from Wednesday night is that Chelsea is in a very difficult position to get back into a Champions League position, other than through the final. Therefore third place becomes vital.
You want to win the last two games to make sure. We have one advantage – we have our future in our own hands.
It could happen this weekend if results go our way. A win against Norwich with both Newcastle (playing Man City) and Sp*rs (Aston Villa) failing to win would secure third for us. We can’t take that for granted though, and chances are we’re going to have to go the final day of the season and the trip to West Brom, which means making sure we get a result tomorrow.
In terms of the early team news there’s nothing radically different from the squad that made the trip to Stoke, only Abou Diaby misses out and, in news that will surprise absolutely nobody, he’ll also miss the West Brom game. More on that game and the way we might line-up in tomorrow’s blog.
Meanwhile, the boss says that Lukas Podolski has been signed to complement, and take the pressure off, Robin van Persie, rather than as a replacement. He says:
He can fit with Robin van Persie through the middle or on the sides. That is for sure. That was an important part of the decision making. How many times have we been accused this season of being too reliant on van Persie? He can score goals and provide, and he is the class that we want.
Interesting that he’d mention Podolski playing through the middle with Robin, perhaps a change of formation being mulled over? Maybe it’s just to have that option if we need it, we shall see next season no doubt. Meanwhile, the skipper himself was full of praise for the new arrival:
He is a great player and a great character to have around because he’s a winner. When we played against Cologne in pre-season you could see that he’s a winner.
Even though it was a friendly he was doing absolutely everything to win and we are very happy that he’s coming to Arsenal.
Whether Podolski’s signing has any influence on whether or not Robin stays remains to be seen. Perhaps he’s been asking the boss for somebody who can take some of the burden off him and Arsene has duly delivered. Perhaps this is the manager’s reaction to a season in which our wide players have, it would be fair to say, lacked consistency. We tend to be a bit lop-sided as a team as an attacking force, with most of what we do coming down the right hand side.
Podolski’s arrival would give us a real outlet on the left too – which is kind of a return to the way we used to be when Pires, Henry and Cole combined so well down that side of the pitch. Anyway, on paper it looks to be a signing which provides us with better balance as well as giving us somebody you’d feel more confident about scoring than Chamakh or Park do at this moment in time.
As for further signings it doesn’t seem as if anything is imminent, despite getting Podolski done before the season has even ended. Arsene says:
We wanted at least one target to be sorted out early. Now we are in a position where the second part of our signings will be to take care of the players who are injured and to get them back for the start of next season.
I think of course about Jack Wilshere, and about Abou Diaby.
Somebody should keep a LANS count this summer. Again, Jack Wilshere’s return is not like a new signing, it is an existing player returning from injury. That’s all it is. It’s not like anything other than that. It is not like a tree, it is not like a monkey on a unicycle, it is not like a new signing. Yet the manager makes a good point about the size of the squad and it’s one that I think every Arsenal fan is aware of.
We can only name a 25 man squad and when you take into account the current set-up and all the loan players who will come back, we have far more than 25 players. So it’s nothing too alarming or worrying to hear that this is something we’re going to have to cope with when it comes to our transfer business. You would hope that at the season’s end Arsene will assess the squad, see who has contributed and who has not (for various reasons – injury, form, age, lack of talent), and make his decisions about who needs to find pastures new.
There’s an element of ruthlessness required, it has to be said. It sounds as if he’s not ready to give up on Abou Diaby but the harsh reality is that when we have a squad restricted in size it’s a massive gamble to count on him being fit enough to play on a regular basis. Could we more efficiently fill that space in the squad? Anyway, these are decisions the boss and his team will have to make and the more quickly and more decisively we act this summer the better shape we’ll be in come the start of next season.
Right then, that’s about that so finally onto this week’s Arsecast. I’m joined by Amy Lawrence to shoot the Arsenal related breeze and there’s usual load of guff and waffle in there too.
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Arsene’s pre-Norwich presser takes place later, so we’ll get more from him on Podolski and the race for third, coverage and stories on Arseblog News.