Morning all, more snow here in Dublin and today we get a draconian budget on top of that too. It’s like someone giving you a spunk flavoured phlegmshake to go with your poo sandwich. Extremely tired of it all now.
Anyway, at least there’s Arsenal to keep me relatively sane and the man of the moment is Samir Nasri. He reckons he’s in the best form of his career so far, there’s no real arguing against that, but also reckons we need to sharpen up and learn how to keep clean sheets:
It was still in the head, the game against Tottenham. At Aston Villa it was the same thing, but we scored, and against Fulham as well. We need to work on this. If we want to be a great team and a big team, when we are 1-0 up at home, we have to win, and without any scares.
And he’s dead right too. As I said yesterday adding a bit more defensive strength would improve this team a lot. Last season the manager spoke about how it wasn’t possible for a team that conceded as many goals as we did to win the title. At the moment we’re just two goals better off than at this stage last season. An improvement, yes, but marginal. We concede too often. Nevertheless Arsene thinks the defence is strong enough, saying:
I believe we have become stronger as a unit defensively because we feel that recently we have been punished a lot. Against Tottenham for example, you cannot say we conceded goals because they created the chances, it was goals we gave away. But, of course, we want to improve our defensive record. That is needed.
Which is enough to make your head hurt if you stop and think about it too long. Sp*rs didn’t create chances but we still conceded three goals? And that’s proof that we’re stronger? I dunno. I don’t want to keep beating this particular drum but it’s down to the team to go out and prove that they can add some consistency to the defensive side of our game. Our four clean sheets this season have come against 10 man Blackpool, 10 man Citeh, Wolves (thanks to Fabianksi) and the game against West Ham in which Alex Song’s late winner prevented the nil nil-est game you ever did see.
In every other league game we’ve conceded and that’s a worry. Defensive issues remain high on the agenda with the news that Laurent Koscielny could be out for a couple of weeks with concussion. So far there’s been no official confirmation of that but with Arsene meeting the press today ahead of tomorrow’s Champions League game we should get some clarity there. We know Thomas Vermaelen is out until the new year but I did have to laugh at the hysterical way this was reported yesterday. You’d swear we’d lost a player who had been an integral part of this season rather than one who’s been out anyway since the early part of the campaign.
Assuming Koscielny is out for a couple of games, at least, it means Djourou gets a chance to continue. His partnership with Squillaci has looked the most effective this season so hopefully they can continue to gel and, most importantly, remain injury free until we can get the other two back. And it’s been curious to read some of the opinion pieces about the Frenchman. He’s being written off already despite not really doing anything to merit such negativity. I agree he’s had some dodgy moments but not any more than you would expect of a man in his first season in English football and one who has been forced to play much more football than the manager would like.
I would agree that he’s still got a lot of learning to do, and a fair amount of physical work too, but it’s worth bearing in mind if Vermaelen had been fit he wouldn’t have played nearly as much. And we can go back to the fact that this season our defence is not being offered the same protection as it was last season. I don’t just mean Alex Song, I mean that our midfield, our team in general, isn’t defending well enough and that’s surely a factor too.
Anyway, back to Samir Nasri and Bacary Sagna reveals he’s a happier man around the place this season:
He is always crazy. He is a really good guy. He likes to spend time with the players and I think we can feel it on the pitch. He feels well with everyone and even with the team. He fits very well into Arsenal and it shows in his performances.
While he definitely had a point to prove after being left out of France’s World Cup squad in the summer – and at this point he must be very happy about that – the departure of someone he clearly hated might also be a factor. I thought the lack of handshake between him and Gallas against Sp*rs was a bit weird, but whenever I’ve listened to Nasri he’s struck me as a nice guy, thoughtful and intelligent. So whatever happened between him and the crybaby was serious enough to merit that kind of gesture and he’s obviously happier without him around the place. We’re seeing the benefits so long may it last.
Some vague transfers news to finish us off? Janaury is fast approaching, Sky Sports News are already doing rehearsals for ‘deadline day’ on which the biggest move will be some chap from Preston joining Wolves for £50,000, but that doesn’t mean we should live without the rumours. The Sun links us with Blackpool’s goalkeeper Matt Gilks and West Brom’s Borja Valero while we’re also being linked with a 17 year old at Southampton called Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. 17 year old from Southampton, sounds familiar.
Beyond that not a lot else going. As I said earlier Arsene will be holding a pre-Partizan press conference later on so we’ll get team news ahead of tomorrow’s game. A full preview of that very important game in tomorrow’s blog.
Finally today, happy birthday to Mrs Blogs who is no longer two years younger than me, haha!
Now, I’m off to stick pins into my Mother Nature voodoo doll (I’ve just added a plasticine fanny to my Sam Allardyce one) to try and get rid of this snow. Wish me luck.