Saturday round-up

Hello there, time for a quick Saturday round-up for you.

Arsene’s press conference took place yesterday and there was plenty to talk about with RVP, Mertesacker, right backs and even the Olympics on the agenda. We’ll start with Robin though and there’s the double-sided thing of wanting to rest a player who is playing most of our games, but the fact that said player is scoring most of our goals. Arsene said:

Robin has scored 28 goals in 35 games so you always have that dilemma. On Monday I decide always to rest him and on Friday I play him again. I don’t know about Sunday. We will assess everybody on Saturday morning, then I’ll make the decision on the day. But I will have to rotate a little bit.

I absolutely agree with that but, despite not being a football manager of any description, I’m pretty sure that Sunday isn’t the game in which to rest him. I mean, it might be if we had a credible alternative but right now we don’t. We have Chamakh, about whom Wenger said there was no problem earlier in the week – strangely leaving out the bit where he doesn’t score any goals which, for a striker, is a considerable problem indeed – and Park, whose signing seems to only make sense if we were going to play in a middle-eastern super league, set to face the UAE every other weekend.

I’ve read suggestions that we change formation, go back to playing two up front, using Walcott or Arshavin as the second striker alongside van Persie, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. And it’s not even to do with Walcott or Arshavin but in the modern game most teams play with three in midfield and you’re likely to get overrun. If you look at that game at White Hart Lane a few weeks back, for me the turning point was when they brought on Sandra for van der Vaart, giving them an extra man in midfield which made life more difficult for us.

The bottom line is we’re a club with one striker. A rather brilliant striker, I’ll grant you, but I don’t think it would be unfair to say we could do with better options once you go beyond that one guy. Stoke, like then or loathe them, and I loathe them (have I ever mentioned that?), are a formidable outfit in their humping, heaving, snow on the ball way, with strong, experiended defenders (and a lumbering fatheaded, leg-breaking gimp). Resting our most effective striker makes little sense for this game, especially as he’ll have a full 5 days until we play Chelsea next weekend.

At the other end there were media suggestions that games against Stoke and their vomitous ilk were exactly why Wenger signed the BFG but the boss was adamant his verticality wasn’t the main reason for his arrival:

I brought him here for more than this type of game because I feel he is a good player. He is a good organiser, he understands the game, he is an intelligent player and physically he is getting sharper and sharper in every game.

And he laid down something of a goalscoring gauntlet for him as he expects the team to be more efficient from set-pieces:

I expect some goals on set-pieces from Per because even in Marseille we had nine corners and they had one.

The curious thing was he was asked if this was something we were doing work on in training and pretty much dismissed that saying we didn’t really have time. You never know, Arsene, it might help! Meanwhile, after his storming display in France the other night, Robin van Persie reckons Laurent Koscielny has got it:

I’ve always liked him – he’s strong, quick, physically good, heads the ball well. For me he has everything to be one of the top centre backs around. When you have all those things it just needs a little fine-tuning here and there to become one of the best defenders.

The boss says he has yet to decide between Djourou and Koscielny for right back tomorrow. The more I think about it the more suited Kos is to the position while Djourou’s height might be better served in the middle alongside the Mert. Etherington is a threat down their left hand side and maybe the Frenchman can deal with him better in that regard that the Swiss. We shall see.

And if results have been borne from functional performances of late – not that I’m complaining about that – the manager says that as the confidence returns the style of football will improve. The first 25 mins against Sunderland were something of a reminder of the Arsenal of old, but it also showed us how quickly that confidence evaporates. I don’t think Stoke are a team that you play rings around, it’s going to be another big scrap tomorrow and then we can see where we are. It is is true though, so much of football is confidence and belief, the more that returns the better off we’ll be. More on that game tomorrow.

In other news the boss was asked about the Olympics next summer which will have a football tournament. Ostensibly it’s for Under 23s with each nation allowed 3 older players. Stuart Pearce is going to manage ‘Team GB’ which, I’m sure, would make Arsene even more unwilling to release his players, but given the fact there’s Euro 2012 next summer he was even more dismissive of the Olympics.

The simple fact is this is not a FIFA sanctioned tournament, we’re under no obligation to release our players under any circumstances, and, frankly, if we did, I’d consider it shocking management. Arsene was amusingly scornful about the whole thing yesterday and rightly so.

Finally today, some bonus reading: Tim Stillman’s latest column (if you haven’t seen it already) and an interview with Michael Thomas on We Are the North Bank.

Right, busy day of book editing ahead. I’m going to make a cauldron of coffee. Then off to the Irish Web Awards tonight where Arseblog is up for Best Sports Site.

Till tomorrow.

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