Hello there, and welcome to Friday.
Normally we’d have an Arsene Wenger press conference to look forward to but the boss can’t make it this week because he’s lost his voice. Rumours that he suffered this injury around the same time as Gervinho started finding the net seem unfounded to me.
“No, in the net, Gervinho.”
“Between the two sticks.”
“NO, BETWEEN THE TWO STICKS AND IN THE NET.”
“THE TWO STICKS THAT MAKE UP EACH SIDE OF THE GOAL, NOT THE CORNER FLAGS.”
Anyway, it’s been left up to Steve Bould to give us the updates on team news and so on, and heading into the game tomorrow there’s little new. Both Wilshere and Walcott remain sidelined although they’re both back outside running (someone should run an EXCLUSIVE about that), but neither are expected to be back any earlier than the Norwich game.
What’s interesting to me anyway, and it’s a point I make in today’s Arsecast in the chat with @thegoonerholic, is that even if both were fit, the boss would have to stop and think about whether or not they’d play. As much as Gervinho frustrates, he’s got 2 goals and 2 assists in the last two games, and Walcott’s recent form has been pretty poor. With no goals since Jan 30th, it’d be a risk to bring him straight back in.
Similarly with Ramsey and Wilshere in midfield. The Welshman has done very well, Arsenal have won two of the last three games he’s started. Which isn’t to say we don’t miss Jack, but it’s good to see that the squad, whose depth we bemoan, has eased the burden when it comes to those two players being out.
Interestingly, given yesterday’s blog post, Bouldie has given props to Ramsey for the way he’s come back into form, saying:
Aaron has been fantastic. Seeing him in day-to-day training, he works extremely hard. He never moans, gets on with his game and has done everything he’s been asked to do. He’s physically fantastic and he gives something to the team. I think he’s improving all the time.
He was getting a bit of stick [from some supporters] to begin with and I think he felt that a bit. It takes a big character to come back and he’s come back massively.
I said what I needed to say yesterday so I won’t dwell on it, but I’m all for every single one of our players finding form between now and the season’s end. There’s no doubt that the futures of some are more uncertain than others, but if everyone can contribute on this run in then we’ll be better off for it.
Watching the display against Reading it was obvious that the team has rediscovered some confidence, the way we knocked the ball around was fantastic – and even if you might want to qualify that by highlighting how poor the opposition were, I’d say a good part of that was because we made them look poor by playing well. Bould points to the game against Bayern as the one that reinstalled some belief:
The big thing for us was getting that result at Bayern. I think we’re more or less the only team that’s won there this season so it just gives everybody a belief that we’re doing alright. It was an important game for us.
And perhaps with a tiny little ‘Toldyaso’ hat on, he said:
I think everybody has realised that clean sheets win games a lot of the time. We’ve improved.
The increased focus on our defensive duties has been an important factor, no doubt about it. It gives us a genuine platform to go and win games. Bayern and Swansea both required full concentration from all 11 players, especially when we didn’t the ball. We stayed disciplined, accepted that sometimes it’s not the best idea to try and win the ball high up the pitch leaving space in behind, and we took our chances when they came.
There’s no question that greater application defensively was a huge part of both those wins, but it’s so important that we maintain that for the final 8 games. There have been times we’ve watched this Arsenal team and had Eureka moments. “That’s it, that’s the blueprint!” we cry as a performance brings about a good result, yet a few games later the team seen unable, or unwilling, to do the very things that were so effective. I hope a couple of clean sheets doesn’t alter the way we approach the game against West Brom, or the one after that, or the one after that.
It might be slightly against our nature, but either you evolve or you get gobbled up or left behind. If we’ve had to sacrifice some of our attacking intent is it a bad thing when the last three results have been so good? Arsene and Steve Bould have to ensure that we keep doing the hard work, the rewards will come if we do.
Right then, onto this week’s Arsecast and joining me to discuss a quiet week, and my fears that this might be the last Arsecast ever, is @thegoonerholic. On the menu, Gervinho, Rosicky, Reading and the run-in. There’s Mick Bendtner and 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 19mb MP3) or you can listen directly below without leaving this very page.[audio:http://podcast.arseblog.com/arsecast/arsecast_episode273.mp3]
That’s yer lot, news throughout the day on Arseblog News, back with a full West Brom preview tomorrow.