Sunday, September 24, 2023

Mert’s not per-fect. Yet + Theo/RVP contract guff.

Morning to you,

we’re back into the swing of things now and there’s Champions League action to look forward to this week, a crucial game against Borussia Dortmund that can ensure our qualifcation for the knock-out stages. For now though, the post-Norwich stuff continues with the manager feeling a lot better about the team. However, he’s not resting on any laurels just yet, saying:

I am very positive. How much do we want to be successful? That’s what we want to show in the coming months. I feel the team wants it, but that is what is in front of us now.

We are back in a stronger position. Now let’s continue to develop because we need to become stronger to come back to the top.

The progress is obvious. We took 4 points from our first 5 games, we’ve subsequenly taken 18 from the next 7, only that blip at White Hart Lane spoiling things. We’ve won five in a row in the league now and we’re starting to build a good platform for ourselves.

We’re still a long way from top spot but it looks as if there’s a clear top 6/7 beginning to form now with 4 teams on 22 points and then a 7 point gap back to Aston Villa on 15. Naturally enough I hope Villa close that gap tonight as they take on Sp*rs but it looks like the most competitive race for the top four in quite some time. I guess that’s a good thing for the league, if one were to care for the league in itself, and while we’ve still got a lot of work to do how we’ve turned things around in the last 6 weeks deserves credit.

There’s a lot of talk about the defensive solidity we’ve managed to show (not in every game, mind you), but generally speaking we’ve looked a lot better back there. Fingers will have been pointed at the BFG for his error against Norwich but Arsene believes it’s down to adapting to the English game. He suggested in any other league in Europe that would have been a foul in Arsenal’s favour and reckons Per can learn from Koscielny:

It is a different game in England, a very demanding game for the defender. In every second of the game you are really tested with full commitment, and it takes some time to adapt.We have seen that with Koscielny, who played at right-back and was exceptional.

Last year he would not have delivered this kind of performance because you learn that from fighting in every game.

I know it was a bit of a rickett from Mertesacker but that moment aside he had a good game, remains calm under pressure and I think he’s been a big part in our defensive improvement. He’s never going to win any races, and from time to time his pace will be exposed but pace isn’t everything. For example, David Luiz is fast, but would you want him at the centre of your defence?

And the point about Koscielny isn’t a bad one. He had his difficult moments in his first season and he’s a much less experienced player than the German. Plus, I think Mertesacker’s game complements that of Vermaelen and Koscielny which brings balance to the defence. It was a mistake on Saturday but he’s an intelligent guy and I suspect it’s one we won’t see a repeat of any time soon (famous last words, I know).

As usual the issue of Robin van Persie’s contract came up again. Arsene says:

My dream is that van Persie stays until the end of his career at this club. I will do the maximum I can to try to convince him and I hope I will manage to do that.

Which is pretty much what all of us want but from all the indications we’re getting (and the info that’s being leaked to the press by Baby Orange) nothing is going to be resolved until the end of the season. And for that reason, unless something major happens, it’s not an issue I’m going to revisit on the blog. It’s clearly a worry but it’s just one we’re going to have to live with.

My thoughts on it are clear enough, we should give him pretty much whatever he wants to persuade him to stay, as we cannot keep losing our best players every summer, but I think it will come down to how our season goes and whether or not we have a team, come May, that can genuinely challenge for the big trophies.

The same goes for Theo Walcott who was asked about his contract situation and said (auto play video alert):

I’m happy playing football at the moment. My agent will be dealing with my contract. I just want to play football. They can discuss it and see what happens.

Fairly non-commital, it has to be said, but it’s not unusual for a footballer to talk a lot and say very little. Once they keep doing the business on the pitch I can live with the rest. The Walcott – van Persie connection is an interesting one though. Robin has talked it up before and I think I read somewhere that all of Theo’s assists this season have been for the captain (will stand to be corrected on that though).

And despite the fact that Arsene has somewhat clarified the comments he made about his future at the club you would wonder if that might have an impact on contract renewals. The thing is though, he is going to leave one day, and we’re going to have to get on with it. There is always a lot said about players who might follow a manager if they leave the club – wasn’t there much talk of half of Chelsea’s team going when Mourinho left? Most of them stayed and are still there to watch John Terry fall over every week.

Anyway, these are things completely out of our hands, and football wouldn’t be football unless we had something to worry about.

Right, busy day ahead, have yourselves a good Monday. More tomorrow.

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