Morning all, and a happy hallowe’en to you all.
I wonder what John Terry is dressing up as tonight? Slipenstein? Stumbledore? Black Ice-T? Devon Loch? Whatever it is, he’ll be watching Robin fang Persie ease away from him to round the twat in the hat to score.
The warm glow from Saturday remains. Even if we have a game tomorrow, there’s still that good feeling remaining from what we saw at Stamford Bridge. Robin van Persie says he feels he can score in every game, while Arsene puts his recent form down to the fact the captain is, at 28, at an age where he should be approaching his peak. He says:
First of all, though, it’s about his top quality. In Robin’s case, there is exceptional class. But maybe he is the right age now at 28 as well. Now he can analyse quickly the weaknesses of the defence around him. He can take advantage. He knows how to take advantage of the strengths of his partners.
He has scored 28 goals in 27 Premier League games now and still people tell me he is not a centre-forward. How many goals does a centre-forward need to score? He’s a different centre-forward. But he is a centre-forward.
On the one hand I do get it when people say he could play the Bergkamp role, behind another striker. I think he’s such a good player he could play anywhere up front and do well, but at the moment he’s unquestionably the best striker in England and moving him makes no sense whatsoever.
And without moving into the realms of what-ifs and speculation, I have been thinking about his contract situation and from an Arsenal point of view I don’t think it could be any easier: give him what he wants. Whatever he wants, give it to him. If he wants £150,000 per week, give it to him. If he wants that money to be paid into a bank in the Cayman Islands using only used dollar bills, then do it.
If he wants Arsenal to sign some other players in January, or next summer, sign them. Wants defensive coach? Give him defensive coach. Frankly, if he wants Ivan Gazidis to wear a dress and sing the best of Gilbert and Sullivan in the style of Sideshow Bob before he presents the contract, then might I respectfully suggest that our CEO start brushing up on his light opera?
I realise it’s not as simple as all that, that there are many other factors at play here, but it’s amazing to me how many times we have, at a club like Arsenal, had players who are arguably the best in the world in their position. At various times you could hand that accolade to Thierry Henry, to Patrick Vieira, to Robert Pires, you could see that the potential was there with Cesc and now we have a striker whose form at this level of the game is such that only Lionel Messi could stand as a comparison. And Messi is a different kind of player playing in a different position.
With Henry, Pires and Vieira you could argue we got the best out of them before we let them go but not with Cesc and now we’re really only seeing the best of van Persie, a player whose talent has been obvious but which hadn’t fully blossomed for various reasons. This guy needs to be the figurehead of our team for seasons to come and if our pay structure needs to be addressed to do it, then do it. We cannot lose him at his peak. And if there’s even one player in the Arsenal squad at the moment who gets the hump because van Persie’s wages are considerably higher than theirs, they ought to be kicked out of the club for being so unspeakably thick.
Anyway, I would hope that whatever we can do behind the scenes to ensure Robin remains an Arsenal player for as long as possible is being done. He clearly loves the club, he’s relishing the captaincy and the responsibility it brings, and it’s now up to those around him to respond to what he’s doing on the pitch. By that I mean the other players. Theo Walcott spoke after the game on Saturday about how what van Persie is doing makes their jobs a lot easier. Sentiments I can understand but ones which we ought to be cautious of. Everyone has a part to play, it can’t be a case we just give it to Robin to let him do his stuff.
However, as long as we continue to progress, and show we’re a team that can compete, then I think we’ll be in decent shape when it comes time to talk the talk. And speaking of Theo Walcott, the manager has spoken of his improvement after what was, quite probably, his best game in an Arsenal shirt. He said:
Theo has been struggling because we make him work very hard but he has become a more complete player today. He is not a liability any more, defensively. He does his defensive job. At the start that makes you heavy-legged when you win the ball back, and he went through a period when he was working so hard defensively he did not have the resorurces to go forward, but now he has got used to it.
Personally, I think the defensive side of his game is one that could still be improved, and maybe what Theo needs is bit more consistency in general. I think I described him as frustratingly effective a few weeks back and when you look at the quality of his crossing to set up the chances for Gervinho and van Persie (which was a fantastic ball), and then compare with some of the efforts he skies into the crowd from similar positions, then it’s hard to marry the two at times. Still, I hope Saturday’s game will have brought him out of the semi-funk he was in and he can kick on from here.
I mentioned the burgeoning partnership between van Persie and Gervinho but it shouldn’t be overlooked that no player has created more goals for the Dutchman than Walcott. If that front three can continue to gel and become more effective then I think it’s one that will cause most defences problems as the season goes on.
Right, that’s about that for today. There’s a pre-game press conference as there’s Champions League action tomorrow night. All the news from that and full preview of the game on tomorrow’s blog.
ps – I am still laughing at John Terry, I don’t think I’ll ever stop.