I am a bit achey today after playing two games of football in a row last night. We’d played our final pre-season game, and won, only to be asked to fill in when the next team up found themselves without opponents. We won that one too. And our goalkeeper scored. He wasn’t playing in goal at the time though. Still, apparently this searing pain and tiredness is good for ‘fitness’ and stuff. We shall see.
Anyway, the internationals are over. This is a good thing, we can get our players back and focused on what really matters. I haven’t the time or the inclination to round-up who did what, against whom and for how long, but Ashburton Grove has a handy list if that floats your boat. With the Champions League and the Poetic Anal Cup starting soon it means there’s plenty of football to keep us occupied until the October Interlull … throughout which we can complain vigorously.
Now though, back to the real world and Santi Cazorla gave an interview yesterday to El Pais, in Spain, parts of which I liberally translated for Arseblog News. It was nice to see that Sky Sports and Sporting Life have such faith in my Spanish that they took the quotes wholesale for their own versions of the story. It’s not like it’s an exclusive, or anything like that, but they took the same, small part of the article that we featured and used the same quotes, word for word, including the bits where I wasn’t 100% of the direct translation.
Anyway, it would be reasonable to suggest that Sky Sports and Sporting Life are two organisations which have plenty of resources available to them and as such will be quick to honour the invoice I’ll send to them on the advice of the Ginger fella. But that’s not the important part (although it’s the quite funny part), it’s Cazorla talking about his role in the team and while he’s enjoying the position he plays in he said he was a bit taken aback that he was given it. He said:
I love the style of the team. Wenger’s philosophy is to control the game and I like to be on the ball. Furthermore, the boss has put me in a position, second striker, with all the freedom I want to have. It surprised me in pre-season when he put me as the second striker. I’ve come to play on the wings with the freedom to move inside, but Wenger has immediately put me in this position.
I have to say it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Cazorla played some of this season in the more forward positions, left and right of the striker, depending on the opposition and who else we have available in midfield. Perhaps when Wilshere returns he might find himself behind the striker with the Spaniard wide, but for now you’d need to be blind not to see what an impact he’s having and how it benefits the team. And he’s player of such wonderful technique that he adds some safety to our attacking play, if that’s not a contradiction in terms.
For example, the Podolski goal against Liverpool. Cazorla’s first touch on the pass which is fizzed into him by the German is impeccable, but to play the perfectly weighted final pass when running with the ball, having a defender trying to knock him off it and being off balance is just superb. That’s a move that could have broken down in a number of places but Cazorla’s ability was such that he made it happen. I am really excited to see what he’s going to produce this season.
He’s also paid tribute to Mikel Arteta, not just for the help he’s given him in settling into English football and what to expect in a new league, but also for his performances in the new role he’s been given since the departure of Alex Song. Cazorla pretty much confirmed that Wenger wants Arteta to be the team’s ‘pivote‘ (as they say in Spanish), someone who shields the back four but who can also play and retain possession when we win it back. His ability, and willingness, to play his way out of defence has been noticeable in all our fixtures thus far and it’s a measure of his confidence and quality that he can do it when other players might be tempted just to ‘get rid’.
It is obviously early days but his experience and professionalism means he’s settled into the new position really well and perhaps it’s no coincidence that having a player who is more focused on the job he’s asked to do has resulted in three clean sheets. I think Arteta’s job is made a little easier by the fact we have a creative outlet in Cazorla, something which the previous incumbent of the defensive midfield position didn’t have – which isn’t to excuse the fact the centre of our midfield was an easy passage, but more to explain it.
Of course our defensive improvement isn’t just down to Arteta, as a team we’ve been much more aware and focused, but as much as I’m enjoying Cazorla’s attacking ability, it’s great to see a player like Arteta flourish at 30 years of age in a position which isn’t one he’s been used in a great deal during his career. He likes a tackle, he’s aware of what’s going on and where he needs to be, and he’s such an assured passer of the ball that it adds to our defensive stability. Let’s hope for an injury free season.
Other than that, not a great deal going on. Arsene Wenger says that Diaby’s problem is ‘not serious’ and that he could play at the weekend. I suspect, however, that any hint of a problem will see him treated with kid gloves, it is a long season after all.
And speaking of Saturday, the winners of the competition for the tickets to go to the Southampton game this Saturday, thanks to Thomas Cook Sports, are Andrew Tegala and Danielle Menage. Well done to you, I’ll be in touch this morning to get your details. And to the chappy who entered the competition 452 times, you need to find something better to do with your time.