Captain Cesc + Saturday round-up

May I *boilk*? I may? Thank you.

Some interesting comments re: Cesc and the captaincy to kick us off today. Arsene feels it has been a ‘burden’ for him this season, saying:

It is too much for him at his age. I believe so. Every difficulty in life will make you stronger, especially when you have a strong character, and Cesc is a strong character. I believe it will make him stronger, but maybe this season it is a bit of a heavy burden.

I think in one way any post-Adams captain suffers from comparisons to him. He was the archetypal leader, the shouter, organiser, a quintessentially English captain. Paddy came after and had the benefit of a great team. Thierry was never really a captain but who else was there? And it was the same thing when Cesc became captain. Gallas, a big mistake in the first place in my opinion, shot his mouth off again and again, and the universal choice was Cesc.

I had no problem with it then and I have no problem with it now. I don’t think he’s a bad captain by any means but perhaps there’s some truth to what the manager is saying. The pressure on Arsenal to win something is now immense. And getting immenser. It is a lot to deal with at 23 even if you are a vastly experienced 23 year old. To suggest our problems could be solved by somebody a bit more shouty rather misses the point, I think.

That’s not to say the team doesn’t lack a bit of direction at times but it doesn’t mean the finger should be pointed in the direction of the man with the armband. It goes, perhaps, to something I’ve gone over on the blog plenty of times before, a callowness to our team. On the one hand the manager says:

I believe that this team has been educated, grown together. The biggest achievement for them will be to win together. They will have learnt their job the hard way.

And much of what’s happened this season has been the hard way. How do you fix it? Arsene gets it bang on here:

We’ll try to certainly bring in some more experience. One of the reasons I took Lehmann back was because he has done it.

He might be spoofing there a bit because the reason he took Jens back was because SZCZ dislocated his finger, Fabianski was out, and the only back-up to Almunia was a youngster. That doesn’t mean the point isn’t valid and it’s the first time we’ve heard him admit, publicly at least, that the talent needs to be augmented with experience. It’s not as if he’s never bought experienced players but he needs to get away from the bargain basement. No more Sylvesters. Experience + quality is required. Experience alone won’t do it.

As for those who state, quite categorically, that Cesc’s head hasn’t been right this season, well, it must be quite amazing to have the power to see inside somebody’s mind. As I’ve said before, it’s worth considering that it was summer 2007 the last time he had a full and proper rest away from football. Season 07-08 > Euros > Season 08-09 > Confederations Cup > Season 09-10 > broken leg > World Cup > Season 10-11. I’m positive this has been a major factor in the injuries he’s struggled with this season and those injuries have certainly had an impact on his form.

All of us need a break from work at some stage, regardless of how well we’re paid or how great our job is. From a purely physical point of view there’s no doubt a summer without a tournament and travel and training will do him the world of good. And while there’s a genuine fear that for some players the reaction to letting another title slip might scar them, Cesc is the kind of player who will, as the manager says, become a stronger character out of adversity.

Meanwhile, Thomas Vermaelen says he’s ready:

I’m fit at the moment, I feel great and, in training, I don’t feel any problems. So physically I feel good. It’s up to the boss, he makes the decisions. I’m available at the moment so I hope I will be back in the squad soon and that is my target.

It’s a bit like turning up at a dinner party, dying for the Beef Wellington, to find they’re already serving the coffee and armagnac. Or Gold Blend and After Eights. I think he’s been a big miss this season, not just from a defensive point of view but he’s one of the leaders, one of the big characters and you just feel with him in the side we might not have capitulated as often as we did. Oh well, let’s hope he’s fit and well throughout next season.

The Mail rather tentatively links us to Newcastle’s Jose Enrique. Has always seemed a decent enough player and there’s definitely a left back on the agenda, I’m told. Of course it remains to be seen how much truth there is in this one. Plus, he’s got the exact same mouth as Manuel Almunia. Seriously, check it out next time you see him interviewed.

Further reading: Johan Djourou talks to the Guardian about football and his rather unusual upbringing. Lee Dixon touches on the experience thing in the Independent.

And that’s about that for this bank holiday Saturday. Time to consider breakfast. Till tomorrow and a full preview of the United game.

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