Hello and welcome to Friday. Another day closer to the big game on Sunday.
We’ll hear from Arsene today as he meets the press but the early team news is that Bacary Sagna misses out due to the knee problem which kept him out of the Aston Villa game last weekend. That means Carl Jenkinson will fill in, and given the nature of the game, his support of Arsenal and, therefore, outright loathing of Sp*rs, we’ll have a fully committed replacement back there.
The other doubt is Abou Diaby who Wenger describes as 50-50. Frankly, I’m not bothered if he makes it or not. I wouldn’t pick him anyway, not as a starter, and he’s hardly the kind of player who has an impact from the bench. I’ve been pretty understanding and patient when it comes to Diaby, but when he trotted off against Villa because he felt ‘something’ in his calf it just showed that we’re carrying him.
Start him and he’s liable to decide himself he has to come off, thus robbing us of a more tactical substitution. On his day he really does look like a fine player, but it’s so rarely his day that when it it is his day there are pigs are soaring through the sky and Satan is ice-skating, listening to his Walkman with the Greatest Hits of Climie Fisher tape he got free with Smash Hits. At this point the only thing that makes him stand out from our other midfielders is that he’s a little bit taller than most of them.
For me the key midfield man, from our point of view, is Santi Cazorla. I think the manager’s got to think about where to play him on Sunday. I suspect he’ll be tempted to ‘deal’ with the threat of Bale by adding another body to midfield, so we could line up with Arteta and Ramsey anchoring, and Wilshere as the attacking part of that trio. That means Cazorla could start on the left-hand side with Podolski on the bench.
That position does him give him some licence to roam and drift into dangerous positions, but we saw Bayern Munich take advantage of his attacking nature when they created the overlap for the third goal. I still think he’ll start there with the manager looking for one of the midfielders to move across and cover if and when we’re faced with that situation. And Arsene has been singing the praises of the Spaniard, not for the first time this season, but focusing on his remarkable ability with either foot:
He is so ambidextrous. I know that he is right-footed but you don’t see a real difference between right and left. I would say for a midfielder, it is absolutely vital to be ambidextrous today. In the education, that is something for the midfielders that we have to make absolutely compulsory at a very young age now.
It’s rare to see somebody as two-footed as Cazorla. I can’t remember which game it was exactly, but seeing him almost score from a free kick with his left foot is incredible. I don’t doubt for a moment that he’s worked on it and practiced with his ‘weaker’ foot, but there’s more to it than that. To be quite that good isn’t just hard work, he’s got a natural gift in that regard.
Some players have it, some don’t. Alex Hleb was a fine passer with both feet (no idea about shooting, I never saw him do that), and obviously you increase your ability to influence a game if, for example, you can find a cross-field pass with either foot. Making youngsters work on their technique and on their weaker foot is one of the basics, but lots of players would rather bend over backwards than use it for anything meaningful.
Look at Tomas Rosicky, who has compensated by using the outside of his right foot rather than his left, while even Jack Wilshere seems remarkably one-footed for a player of his talent. Thankfully there’s enough magic in that left boot to compensate.
But Cazorla is a brilliant example to any young footballer. It feels weird and unnatural kicking with your weaker foot until you practice and practice and practice some more. You might never be able to take free kicks or corners, but you’ve got to do better than swing a leg wildly and hope the ball goes in the direction you want it to.
In other news, youngster Conor Henderson has announced he’ll leave the club this summer when his contract runs out. It just shows how timing and fortune can have an impact on a player’s career. He’d made his way to the fringes of the first team and in pre-season was playing in a friendly against Cologne when he picked up a serious knee injury. He’s never been able to force his way back into the manager’s thoughts since. Maybe he’d have left sooner, but maybe without that injury he’d be on a very different path now. Good luck to him wherever he ends up.
Ok, time for this week’s Arsecast and in preparation for Sunday I talk to Tim Stillman and get a perspective from the other side of the fence. You know, the side with old barrels and tramps giving each other hand jobs. There’s a trip into the wild and all the usual waffle too.
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 22mb MP3) or you can listen directly below without leaving this very page.[audio:http://podcast.arseblog.com/arsecast/arsecast_episode269.mp3]
We’ll have updates from the press conference, and more, on Arseblog News throughout the day. Back here tomorrow with more.