Defending, tickets + Arsecast 230 with Lee Dixon

The Arsecast, Arsenal podcast

Good morning, Sunday draws ever closer yet we wait for team news. This morning’s Mirror says Koscielny and Gibbs should both be fit but also says that Koscielny has been called up to the France squad when he hasn’t.

Arsene will meet the members of the press today ahead of what is being called the most important North London derby in his 16 year reign. Semi-finals and winning the league at the shithole pale into insignificance because of the importance of three points and the impact a defeat might have. There’s still a couple of days to think about that but I don’t want to ruin anyone’s Friday by going into it in too much depth today.

Let’s hope the Koscielny news is true. I suspect that they’ll be out with the gigantic needles and industrial sized vat of cortisone anyway. He’s such an important player for us now and has been our best defender most of the season. Yet a former Arsenal legend, Lee Dixon, believes the team’s defensive set-up needs some tweaking on and off the pitch. As well as bringing in Steve Bould from the reserves to drill the team defensively (even with some help from Tony Adams), Dixon reckons the team has to work harder when we don’t have the ball, something we touched on earlier in the week here.

Speaking to … er … me for today’s Arsecast, he says:

I just feel that when we do lose the ball there’s too much time goes by between us losing and trying to win it back in an organised manner.

And that comes on the training pitch, you learn that from people telling you, people going through the same routine on the training pitch and getting a way of playing without the ball.

We compared and contrasted our passive, stand-offish approach in Milan with the one we took against Chelsea at home when we pressed them, forced mistakes and won the game 3-1. Such is the obviousness of what it teaches us it should be in the manual entitled ‘How Arsenal should play and how they should not’. Whether it’s down to coaching, lack of the right players, managerial instruction or something else entirely it’s hard to know.

Anyway, for lots more thoughts on the way the way the team defends, or doesn’t, Steve Bould and, of course, the North London derby, make sure you listen to today’s podcast for more of Lee Dixon’s thoughts (including a cameo from his dog!).

Meanwhile, the club have announced a freeze on season ticket prices for next season. Unless you happen to be in Club Level in which case your ticket goes up by 2%, perhaps because of the extra facilities provided at Club Level but still, while all around them is frozen they’re the only area being hit with an increase. Ivan Gazidis called it ‘modest’ but I doubt that will make those ticket holders any happier this morning and it’s hard to understand why one group appears to have been singled out. He went on to say:

We understand the pressure fans are under in the current economic climate and hope this will go some way to helping them. Our season-ticket holders are the heart of our Club and we are recognising their loyalty by holding their ticket prices for next season.

This is the fourth year out of six that we have held season-ticket prices flat against continuing pressure to keep pace with rising operational and player costs.

Considering the circumstances and the general feeling of disenchantment this is a sensible move – yet you can’t help but wonder how understanding the club would be to the economic pressures faced by fans if we’d been having a more successful season. From what I’ve heard there were discussions about increasing ticket prices but I think there’s been a recognition that doing so off the back of a season that is effectively finished before the end of February would have been an impossible sell and a PR disaster.

As it stands I’ve already read many comments from people who say they won’t be renewing for next season, and that is a reality the club is going to have to face. A club with our fan-base and support will always sell a lot of tickets – we can draw larger crowds than any other Premier League club for a Carling Cup game featuring the kids, for example – but watching a team capitulate and lose far too often is a tough sell for the occasional visitor and, more importantly, the corporates who pay huge money for their ‘entertainment’.

Bringing your blue chip business clients to see Arsenal v Metalist Kharkiv in the Europa League isn’t as appealing as seeing Europe’s biggest and best clubs in the Champions League. The impact of finishing outside the top four isn’t restricted to just on-pitch matters and you can be sure it would be felt in almost every department.

And speaking of such a scenario – this week’s Tim Stillman column touches on it fantastically, as well as summing up his own thoughts at the situation we find ourselves in right now.

Right then, onto this week’s Arsecast and as I mentioned earlier I’m joined by Lee Dixon to chat about the week that was and look ahead to Sunday’s game – and you have to say he knows a thing or two about North London derbies. There’s some great stuff about defending in there and how in the dressing room before his first derby Paul Davis, David Rocastle and Tony Adams left him in no doubt as to how important it was.

You can subscribe to the Arsecast on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes). To download this week’s Arsecast directly – click here (26mb MP3) or you can listen directly below without leaving this very page.

[audio:http://podcast.arseblog.com/arsecast/arsecast_episode230.mp3]

As well as that, Lee is training for a 3000km cycle from Olympia in Greece to Olympia in London to raise funds for prostate cancer research. If you’d like to support him in that rather daunting but very worthwhile endeavour, his fundraising page is right here. Get to it.

We’ll have news from Arsene’s press conference and whatever else crops up during the day over on Arseblog News – which you can follow on Twitter for instant updates of when new stories are posted.

And that’s about that. More on Sunday’s game in tomorrow’s blog. In the meantime, have a good Friday.

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