Fulham preview: speed it up, reap the benefits
if the Schalke game was a vague promise of improvement after United, a little chink of silver lining to our dark, doomy cloud, we need the sun to come out a bit today. A home game against a team we should be looking to take three points from provides a good opportunity to get back on course, but then nothing is ever quite that simple with Arsenal these days.
We could turn up and be electric, equally we could struggle and once again fail to click from an attacking point of view. It’s interesting to hear the manager talk about how Podolski and Cazorla, for example, are suffering from a lack of freshness – and he’s also been quite forthcoming on the German’s dip in form, suggesting he’s going to have to knuckle down, work harder and play his way through it:
When you come to England, it’s a shock. In England, you have Rooney, who works his socks off … you have everybody who works hard. There is no room for anybody to work less or you don’t exist. It’s quite interesting to analyse.
And on Podolski’s desire to play more centrally:
I don’t find many players who don’t want to play centrally! Podolski has 101 caps for Germany and 101 on the left. I brought him with the idea that, when needed, he would play through the middle. I like the idea but we will use him where he is useful for the team.
And if it’s all bit Podolski-centric it’s because he was asked about him, but if it’s not quite a public rebuke it’s certainly interesting to see the manager lay down the gauntlet to a player in that way. He talks about the belief he has in him and the talent he has, but the implication that he, and every other player, cannot be founding wanting in terms of effort is somewhat unusual from Arsene Wenger. Not to mention telling considering where we are at the moment.
In terms of today’s team I don’t expect much different from Tuesday. Thomas Vermaelen will most likely continue at left back and Jack Wilshere’s suspension means Arsene’s got a decision to make in midfield. Does he play Aaron Ramsey, far from in ideal form? Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could do the job too, and there’s also the enthusiastic Francis Coquelin who could slot in. I know Arteta has been fantastic as our midfield anchorman, but I just wonder if Le Coq could play that more defensive role and allow Arteta to move forward slightly where he’s more capable of influencing the game.
We then look to those further forward to have an impact and it’s important that Arsenal go into this game with a bit more belief and trust in each other. In yesterday’s Arsecast I spoke with Philippe Auclair and one of the things we touched on was the speed of Arsenal’s passing. When we’re at our best we fizz the ball about the pitch, at the moment the passing is slower, more conservative, and thus it’s more difficult for us to create the little pockets of space we need to break down the opposition.
It is all down to confidence, when you’re not 100% sure of yourself or a teammate then it’s normal to be a bit more cautious, but with the pace of Walcott back in the side, and the wide expanses of home turf to play with it’d be disappointing not to see us at least try and lift our game a level. Olivier Giroud needs better service up front, if we move the ball wide more quickly then we can try and give him that, and it’d be a good time too for Santi Cazorla to rediscover some of his early season form.
As I’ve said before, on paper this side looks a lot better than performances suggest, but we need to see the combinations work on a more consistent basis. As Bacary Sagna says, we need to ‘impose ourselves’ on Fulham, again something we haven’t really been able to do in recent games, but if we start brightly, build some momentum and put them on the back foot then this is a game that we should be able to win.
It’s not easy to play your way out of a rut, and we do seem somewhat stuck in one at the moment, but nothing about top level sport is easy. Nor should it be. This isn’t a team full of kids anymore, they’re not learning on the job, it’s full of experienced players who need to pull together now and show that they’re ready to do what it takes to win games for Arsenal. Fingers crossed we see that today.
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Other than that there’s not much going on. There’s a line in a Mirror story this morning about Abou Diaby being ruled out until Christmas which, if true, is a huge shame, but it also must make us reassess his place in the squad. I think the way we’ve tried to look after him following that horrendous injury has been admirable and nobody could ever accuse us of not trying to do right by him, but if a muscle strained when kicking a ball puts him out of action for 3 months, then I don’t think it’s unreasonable for us to reconsider his position.
His talent is not the question, it never has been, it’s his reliability that’s the problem, and despite a good, full pre-season and the best physical preparation he could have had, we’re in the same boat once again. It’s sad, but maybe it’s time for Arsene Wenger to think again about his situation.
Anyway, it’s a bit of gloomy note to finish on, so let’s hope we see something approaching the ‘real’ Arsenal today and we can enjoy three points come 5pm.