Saturday, August 13, 2022

Centre-half required + Arshavin, Bendtner thoughts

Good morning to you and welcome to a brand new week.

Cup football is the order of business again as we switch our sights from FA to Carling and it’ll be interesting, having seen some of the players struggle against Leeds, what exactly the manager does on Wednesday night. Will he keep faith and hope that another game so quickly will increase sharpness and see them recapture some form, or will he add a few of the ‘first’ team in from the start to try and get things back on track?

I think he’s going to stay with more or less the same group. Whatever their failings, individually and collectively, against Leeds on Saturday our schedule means we need these guys. As it stands we’ve got 12 games between now and the 26th of February, at the end of which we’ll have either the Carling Cup final or a trip to White Hart Lane. That’s a lot of football and we’re going to have to make full use of the entire squad.

As it stands the squad is looking a little threadbare the back. Sebastian Squillaci picked up a hamstring injury against Leeds and could face a spell on the sidelines. There’s no c0nfirmation yet of just how serious it is but generally even a small strain is two-three weeks out. And as I told you the other day the news regarding Thomas Vermaelen is not particularly promising either.

That means we have a serious centre-half shortage at a time when we simply can’t play the same pairing game after game after game. The manager is now pondering a move into the transfer market, saying:

If we only have two centre-backs then that cannot work with the number of centre-backs we have. If Squillaci has a problem then we must quickly go out for a player.

The usual names have cropped up. Bolton’s Gary Cahill, Per Mertesacker and Phil Jagielka. I think if we are going to sign someone it would ideally be someone who is used to Premier League football. Bolton are trying to sign David Wheater from Boro, Bolton want Carlos Vela on loan, Bolton need money, Gary Cahill plays for Bolton. There’s certainly scope there to do a deal but I suppose it all depends on price.

If you ask me should we pay £20m for him I’d have to say it’s hardly value for money. He’s a decent player who might very well make a step-up when he joins a big club but his reputation and price tag are certainly enhanced by his Englishness. Then again, needs must. Anyway, whoever he’s got in his sights he ought to get moving because there’s too much football to play with just two centre-halves. I know we have Alex Song who can play there but he’s far too important for our midfield to move back, especially as we don’t have a natural replacement for that role.

The other thing to consider as well is that Johan Djourou is still just a few months into a comeback having spent a year out with a knee problem. He’s doing brilliantly but one of the major causes of injury is fatigue and it would be a huge risk to play him without rest. All of which makes you think a signing is not only inevitable but a matter of some urgency (with the caveat that should Squillaci’s injury not to be too serious we have a bit more leeway). Let’s see what happens.

Meanwhile, the manager has backed Andrei Arshavin to come good:

It is not through a lack of desire with Arshavin. He wants to do well.  Every player during a season has strong and weaker periods and he has had a weaker period, then two or three weeks on the bench.

I have no worries that Arshavin will come back into the team, but their confidence does suffer a little bit from that.

As I said yesterday it’s entirely down to him and while I might argue with the manager regarding the player’s desire it would be better for us if Arshavin could rediscover his spark. The relationship is strained at the moment, no doubt about it, but it’s hardly got to a point where it’s beyond repair.

I know there are many who defend him on the basis of his stats. I believe stats don’t tell you the full story at all. We have eyes and can make judgements based on what we can see. However, there’s no escaping the fact he can score and he can make chances when he’s in the mood. Look at the pass over the top for Theo on Saturday. Nobody else in the team could have made that pass apart from Cesc.

Yet he doesn’t look happy and I don’t think it’s down to the fans reaction. He hasn’t looked fully focussed all season and the manager needs to get to the bottom of that. With a sparkling Arshavin we’d be a more dangerous team but at the moment he’s gone flat. Over to Arsene and, most of all, Arshavin to sort this out.

And he’s not alone. The Great Dane, who is more Scooby Don’t than Scooby-Doo right now, also has some work to do. It’s tough to see how he and Chamakh fit into the same side. Arsenal’s front three rotated quite a bit on Saturday, taking turns on either flank and through the middle, but I think, from what we saw last season, Bendtner is at his most effective as the focal point of the attack. It’d be timely to be reminded, and perhaps to remind him, of what he said a couple of weeks ago:

I want to get back to 100 per cent, get back into the squad and take my chances when I get them to prove I should be there

He’s fairly thick skinned, is Nick, he’s been here before and come through it to decent effect, but he’d also be wise to remember that top level football is not an easy game. I’m a brilliant player in my head too. Maybe he’s having some sleepless nights with his new arrival, and it’s a lot to expect a player who hasn’t played much to be razor sharp, but he’ll have chances to put things right and I hope he does that.

Maybe he might get a few tips from Thierry Henry who will be training with us for the next 10 days or so. Some reports say he’ll be coaching the strikers but I’m not so sure about that. Arsene has his ways and methods on the training ground and while I’m sure he’d be happy enough for Thierry to pass on some knowledge and experience I don’t think there’ll be anything quite so formal as organised coaching from him.

And that’s about that to kick off the new week. Plenty more to come. Till tomorrow.

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