It’s an Arsenal free Saturday so we can go through the stuff from yesterday’s press conference at our leisure.
We’ll begin with Nicklas Bendtner’s comments in which he apparently threatened to quit if he didn’t play more games. He’s quoted in the Danish press as saying:
I’m very disappointed that I haven’t played more. I feel I’ve done the right things in the rehab and that I’m in the form of my life. I feel that I’m better than before the injury where I after all was in the line up every time and close to fulfilling my potential.
He’s a funny guy, Nick. The ‘form of his life’ has consisted of a couple of appearances, a couple of goals and a stinking game against Shaktar. To be fair to him he’s not alone in that regard, but still. On the one hand you might look at what he’s said and consider him presumptuous and impatient. We know he’s got more self-belief than most, he’s been saying things like this for as long as I can remember, but on the other hand isn’t it far better to have a player who is ambitious and has a real desire to play than someone content to pick up their wages and coast along.
The manager dealt with it well, I thought, and said:
When you try to convince a player that he has to be patient, then you waste your time. He has a good level of confidence and that is not bad, but you have to justify it on the football pitch.
And that’s the bottom line. Bendtner needs to remember he’s really just coming back from a long injury and despite the fact he feels fitter than he did before there’s no way he’s at 100% just yet. When he gets chances he has to take them. He’s done all right, the goals against Man City and Newcastle in the Carling Cup were a good start but a long way from incontrovertible proof that he should start all our games. I like Bendtner, I think if he works harder he could become a really fantastic player, and that’s what the manager has just asked of him. Let’s see him respond.
The other thing Bendtner has to contend with is Marouane Chamakh who has made a flying start to his Arsenal career. The boss says:
If you look at the number of times he was decisive then if you are not happy you must be very difficult to please. I’m extremely satisfied with the fact I signed him. He is a guy who gets others involved, creates chances and who is collective in the final third.
Eight goals so far this season is a good return from someone in their first season in English football and his form is a barrier, of sorts, to Bendtner getting into the first team. For me, he does the basics better than Nick, his control, the way he holds it up and brings others into play is more polished, but then you’d expect that from a 26 year old as opposed to a 22 year old. I would like to see him be a bit more selfish at times, try a shot from 20 yards rather than cut back and try find a teammate. Perhaps that’s where Bendtner has an advantage, he can score more kinds of goals than Chamakh, but that’s not a criticism per se.
If Bendtner could add a bit of Chamakh’s work-rate and touch and Chamakh could add a bit of a Bendtner’s variety in front of goal (and not the Burnley kind) then we’d have two really excellent players on our hands.
Our other mythical striker, Robin van Persie, has, as expected, been called up to the Dutch squad by Bert van Arsewipe. Arsene says he’ll talk to the Dutch coach to see if they can work something out about Robin playing 45 minutes. I really can’t see any problem with this, to be honest. He needs time on the pitch to regain match fitness and if he’s going to break again it could just as easily happen when playing for us as with Holland. I might not be so understanding on Thursday morning when a seemingly innocuous challenge puts Robin out for the rest of the season decade.
And speaking of injured there’s no good news about Thomas Vermaelen. Clearly they’re struggling to find the source of his achilles pain. If scans and MRIs and getting Dennis Quaid into a spaceship and making it really tiny and sending it down his bloodstream to have a look don’t show the problem then it’s a real worry. I’m sure he’s been doing all the right strengthening exercises etc so all we can do is hope he gets better sooner rather than later. The manager admitting he might have to buy a centre-half in January tells you they’re not exactly confident that he’ll return any time soon.
The boss also spoke about Wojscez©® and his new deal and said Manuel Almunia would not be leaving the club. He challenged the Spaniard to perform and regain his place but there’s no doubt there’s been a big shift in the pecking order over the last few weeks. Almunia is due to return to full training on Monday, apparently, and he’s got one hell of a job on his hands getting back into the team. Even if the boss decides to rotate for the cup competitions he’s got to consider the future of the position and that Wojscez©® played very well in the Carling Cup ahead of a man whose days at the club look numbered indeed.
Stories about our discipline don’t interest me in the slightest. The Fair Play league is, at the end of the day, just a great load of old mongoose’s bollocks. Yes, we’ve had four red cards, just one of them was for a bad challenge. Koscielny’s against Liverpool was ludicrously soft, Song’s was a red card for stupidity and Koscielny’s second was a red card, in my opinion, but nothing more than a sly pull on the Newcastle player’s arm. The manager has vowed to improve discipline which is fine but it should be for the sake of the team rather than any kind of external pressure.
What I mean is that with 11 men we would probably have hung on against Sunderland and taken three points. Being down to 10 put us under extra pressure so we should look to improve for our own sakes, not because some high-horse hack wants to stick the knife in with another tedious article about Arsenal’s ‘red card shame’.
I have been here for seven years, I’m now in my eighth year so I know him very well and I can tell you he is more focused than ever. He wants to win and he wants to prove that this young team can be winners, can be successful. That’s his dream and he’s working very hard for it.
It’s not just down to the hard work of the manager though, it’s down to the hard work of the players on the pitch. I know people suggest that there’s not enough desire in the team at times, that they don’t seem to want to win, but I don’t buy that. I think it’s more a case that they don’t know how to win just at the moment, and one trophy would be a definite stepping stone to more. It’s also why I think the Carling Cup is so important this season, but that’s for another day.
And that’s about that. Back tomorrow with a preview of what’s going to be a very tough game on Merseyside. Until then have yourselves a good Saturday.