Monday, January 17, 2022

Change in attitude required, Vermaelen spells it out

As United, Sp*rs and Man City combine their pre-season preparations with some US based money spinning, Arsenal remain in their training camp in Austria, pretty much well away from prying eyes and media coverage.

Which is probably why there’s precisely nothing to talk about this morning. It’s interesting, however, to read Ol’ Twitchy say that playing games in the states is ‘not ideal’ as they get ready for their Champions League qualifier. I’m sure over the years Arsene Wenger has come under pressure to monetise pre-season, a lucrative foreign tour could buy you 20 Kolo Toures at 2001 prices, you know.

Yet he feels Austria is the right place for his team to put in the physical preparation for a new season. I wonder if, over the last few months, the work being done in pre-seasons past has been looked at as part of the root cause of our injury problems. I’m not saying it is, by the way, but surely everything must have been examined. Personally, I think we’ve just got a group of injury prone players, I’m not sure there’s a great deal scientific about it.

We play one final game tomorrow evening against SC Neusiedl 1919 who play in the Austrian Regional League East. Like the previous games it’ll be used as an exercise in fitness and match sharpness but it’s one of those games you expect us to score a pile of goals. Then it’s back home and the Emirates Cup at the weekend – by the way, keep an eye out later today for another post which will give you chances to win tickets to that and stadium tours too).

And as the week progresses and the season draws nearer we’ll be waiting to hear news of potential new players. Ideally it’ll be one of those ‘Oh look what’s just popped up on the official site’ transfers, like Eduardo, and not one of those ‘Oh shit, we’re not actually going to sign Mikael Silvestre, are we? We are? Awwww’, transfers like … erm … Sylvester.

And while I think many of us are, as yet, unconvinced by the state of the current squad and its ability to do better than last season, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact there’s still plenty of time to bring in new players. There’s just under three weeks until the opening game of the season and well over a month until the transfer window itself closes. I’m saving my hysteria for the time being, at the end of the day there’s not much I can do about it, but will be practising my running about with my arms in the air shrieking about how the sky is falling.

Thomas Vermaelen reckons we can win something this year, saying:

The spirit in the camp is good. We have a good young group who are very aggressive and want to improve. I think people will always say we can’t compete – it is not the first time. But we have to do what we always do which is work hard and play our own game. Then we can compete.

Interesting quote, for a couple of reasons. There’s a mention of aggression again, following up on that by Johan Djourou, which might just indicate a change of mindset. And second because Vermaelen is one of the players who you could not point fingers at in terms of his workrate and commitment during games. I don’t need to go through the examples again but there are certainly colleagues of his who could do more to match the Belgian and others who give it 100% every time.

That Vermaelen is now speaking out, perhaps becoming another leader in the team is no bad thing either. He may well find himself as the senior man in our back four in terms of organisation and leadership. Last season he would certainly have deferred to Gallas. It was his first season with Arsenal, Gallas was the experienced partner, but he was no leader of men. We need the kind of attitude that Vermaelen shows to rub off on some of the others who seem happy to coast through their careers.

Along with him there are players like Cesc, van Persie and Sol Campbell who want more from their football than a nice pay cheque and managerial platitudes. Trophies, medals, titles, winning things are what they play football for, their ambition goes beyond strolling about every weekend and hitting the clubs in the evening, and I hope their influence this season is pervasive. That’s why, when the manager does spend his money, he’s got to bring in players with exactly that profile. Experienced, quality, winners.

I don’t know enough about either Chamakh or Koscielny to say if they fit that description or not. Time will tell and once things get up and running we’ll get the measure of them soon enough. Even if they’re not top-notch in terms of quality they could very well improve our team if they have the right kind of attitude. We shall see.

As I said, it’s a quiet one. Let’s hope there’s plenty to keep us going this week.

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