Defending :: Loans :: Arsecast 234

The Arsecast, Arsenal podcast

Morning all.

after waiting 9 days for our game against Everton, there’s no such delay before our next one, tomorrow against Aston Villa. The early news from the boss regarding injuries is encouraging. He says there’s nothing serious, just a couple of ‘bumps and bruises’ since the win at Goodison, which is as good as it gets, I suppose.

We can look ahead more to Villa tomorrow but there’s much to be gained from the midweek win, and the defensive display we put in has impressed Arsene. He says:

To come back having not conceded I am very happy because we have shown signs of mastering situations and not panicking. Especially against a team that is top class on crosses and set-pieces.

That was certainly a feature, we know that Tim Cahill is annoyingly good in the air for example, I don’t remember him winning a single header all night long. And for me, what was most impressive about the way we defended was how controlled it was. Sometimes you can keep a clean sheet with the help of your keeper making great saves, defenders making last ditch tackles, throwing bodies at the ball etc etc, but there was little or none of that against Everton.

Szczesny had little or nothing to do, the back four worked together as a unit, and dealt quite comfortably with everything the home side had to offer. There was no panic, it was assured and confident defending and clearly this back four is now beginning to gel having played a number of games in a row together. While the return of the full backs is welcome and hugely important, at the heart of it is the partnership between Vermaelen and Koscielny, and AW is impressed:

They look solid and I think they have a good balance defensively and offensively. They can both play with the ball as well and for us that is very important for the basis of our game. It starts at the back and they have the quality to do that as well.

Defensively they are not the tallest but they have a fantastic leap and both of them have good pace.

What’s also interesting is that Koscielny has played most of his football at the club as the left sided centre-half, but with Vermaelen obviously more comfortable there, he’s moved over and not looked in any way bothered. I know it’s not like asking him to play in a different position, but you generally find centre-halves will find one side more comfortable than the other – look at Tony Adams who always liked it on the left. We’re seeing a good partnership develop here, but it’s still early days, and Koscielny was quick to praise the defensive ethic of the team rather than see the back four take all the credit:

It’s not just the four defenders, it’s all the team. Robin  made a lot of effort to help us, so it’s all the team who defend and attack, and we did the job very well.

We need to carry that into the next game against Aston Villa.

With Robin’s words earlier in the week about the need for consistency it’s good that the focus is not on what we’ve done, or the results we’ve put under our belts in the last few weeks, it’s on the next game. While it is hugely enjoyable to see us play like this and to have motored our way into third place, we cannot relax for even one second. That it’s in our hands is, frankly, quite amazing considering how poisonous and disheartening it all felt just a few weeks ago, but there’s a lot of football still to play this season and we cannot allow ourselves to be distracted from that.

Meanwhile, two of the most promising youngsters at the club have gone out on loan until the end of the season. Chuks Aneke joins Preston North End in League One, while striker Benik Afobe has joined Championship side Reading. Afobe is interesting, he’s not garnered the kind of hype and expectation that others have, perhaps the injury this season has kept him hidden away a little bit, but he is rated very, very highly indeed.

Moving to a club like Reading, who lie second in the table and will be pushing for one of the automatic promotion spots, will provide him with a good chance to impress and an opportunity to play meaningful games which will only aid his development. This is a team looking to get into the Premier League, there’ll be pressure and expectation in every game, the same way there will be at Arsenal if and when he makes the breakthrough, so let’s hope he can do the business.

And by all accounts his talent is matched by his character, he’s a down to earth lad and will know a good spell at Reading could secure him a place in the first team squad next season. It seems like an age since we’ve had a striker come through the ranks too, so fingers crossed for him.

Right then, onto this week’s Arsecast and to shoot the breeze I’m joined by Goonerholic and The Man from East Lower. Up for discussion Everton, defending, the rest of the season, and an unanswerable question is posed which even this morning has left me bewildered. As well as that I’ll give you the winner of last week’s competition and this week you have a chance to win yourself a copy of So Paddy Got Up, so get listening.

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 (23mb MP3) or you can listen directly below without leaving this very page.

[audio:http://podcast.arseblog.com/arsecast/arsecast_episode234.mp3]

And that’s about that. There will be press conference updates and news throughout the day over on Arseblog News.

Time here for some breakfast, then off to the airport as this weekend the traditional Arseblog rum-a-thon 5s take place. See some of you later, others tomorrow at The Tollington pre and post Villa.

Till tomorrow.

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