Sunday, December 10, 2023

FC Koln preview, RVP to play 45, Bould’s defensive work

Good morning to you,

it’s a pretty quiet Sunday so a very quick round-up ahead of our final game before the new season kicks off in less than a week’s time (hold me). Again, this is just a pre-season game so conditioning and fitness are paramount, but it’s also the first (and last) chance the manager has to use his new players and give them some match practice before Sunderland.

Now, I know it can take time for players to get to know their teammates but that happens naturally during a season anyway. There’s not much to be gleaned from pre-season football and the most important thing is that Giroud, Cazorla and Podolski are here already and, to varying degrees, settled in to the club. The training camp in Germany seems to have been a good idea. There have been no distractions, no media engagements, it’s been all football the vibe coming from the players seems very good.

There are 24 players there and I think he’ll probably give a chance to most of them this evening, unless he’s really looking at this game as a way of blooding new starters and seeing what they can do. Either way, it’ll be our first chance to see the new boys and that brings its own excitement. What they bring to the team, how the fit with their new colleagues, what options it gives the manager etc. I am looking forward to it, I have to say.

Away from Germany and today’s game, The Mail reports that Alex Ferguson is fearful Arsenal will block his bid for Robin van Persie. Apparently he’s upped his bid to £15m but that’s still not enough for Arsene to do business with his old rival. It will be interesting to see what part van Persie plays in today’s game, if any, but whatever happens it will simply increase the speculation regarding his future until we get something definitive from the club. Apparently he’s told Dutch coach Loius van Gaal he’ll be playing at least 45 minutes today, and no doubt Arsene will speak to the press afterwards so maybe we might just get something new.

Meanwhile, Thomas Vermaelen has been the latest player to hail the appointment of Steve Bould and what he’s doing to make us a better outfit defensively. Improvement on last season’s record is absolutely crucial, we let in far too many goals and far too many of those were downright stupid, the stuff that you’d cringe if your Sunday league team let in, so it’s part of his remit to make things better in that regard.

However, Bould’s job isn’t simply to make the defence better but to make the team defend better, something Vermaelen says is being worked on:

He is very focused on details. We have to get the shape of the team right. We have been working on it throughout pre-season and we are focusing on that.

I think having your shape right is one of the most important things in football, whether you have the ball or don’t have the ball. We are working really hard on that and Steve does the job really well.

While it’s fair to say we’ve had some problems with our defence in recent seasons many of our issues stem from lack of defensive discipline in midfield and even from those in attacking positions not doing their bit. If the focus this pre-season is about the team in general being more aware of their defensive duties then that’s encouraging indeed. Perhaps we’ll see evidence of that in today’s game that wasn’t present in the Asia games simply because there had been little time to do that kind of training/preparation with all the travel.

There’s also a measure of expectation from a member of the coaching staff that I can’t remember from any other in recent times. As a famous part of that back four we know Steve Bould knows how to defend and the hope is that experience, the drilling he got from George, is something he can pass onto the current crop. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

Right, that’s about that. The game is on ESPN (not live) and Arsenal Player (live) later but if you want to follow it on the live blog you can do so right here. It’s just a test today, we’ve got a couple of new features in the back end (fnarr) that we need to get right so there’s no chance of registration etc. If you already have an Arseblog premium account you’ll be able to log-in and comment etc, but we can’t do any new registrations today. That’ll all be sorted for next week.

Ok, have a good Sunday until the 4pm kick-off. Back here tomorrow.

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