welcome to Friday. Early team news ahead of tomorrow’s game against Cardiff is that there really isn’t any. At this point there are no new knocks or injuries, Kieran Gibbs comes back into the squad after illness and that’s about that. We’ve got a clean bill of post-Marseille healthy but it was interesting to hear the manager talk about how he needs to use his squad over the next couple of weeks.
We’ve now got 5 games in 15 days before what will be an interminably long week+ due to the Chelsea game taking place on the Monday before Christmas. Speaking after the Marseille game, the boss said:
We have a big programme – I will have to rotate a little bit. We have three Premier League games just before we go to Naples so I’ll have to use my squad well without dropping points in the league, and go there with a very strong team.
I don’t see Saturday’s trip to Cardiff as a game that we can be seen to take in any way lightly. I think the manager will go with his strongest possible team there, but certainly Hull in midweek is one in which we might see some rotation. It’s part and parcel of the game these days, but what’s encouraging for me is that the options we have are good ones rather than having to make-do and mend with players who contribute little.
We’re no longer talking about throwing in a Santos or a Squillaci and hoping for the best. We have the club captain in reserve at centre-half while Nacho Monreal’s performance against Marseille, and his impressive cameos all season, ensure the manager can change things around at the back if need be.
Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla didn’t start against Marseille, Rosicky and Wilshere filling in admirably, and although there are always going to be concerns about fatigue or burn-out with Giroud, our midfield options make the idea of rotation a far less scary prospect than in seasons past.
What I also like about this team is that there is no chance that we’ll go into games against newly promoted sides thinking that victory is ours simply because we have turned up to play and we are the Arsenal. If I could be arsed to trawl through the archives to find the quotes from people like Gael Clichy saying they underestimated opponents in games which cost us points it’d show how the attitude was wrong at times, but thankfully I can’t.
I have no real desire to re-live those kinds of infuriating moments, but they’re worth recalling momentarily simply because there’s no way that kind of mindset is present in this current squad. Even if things don’t necessarily go well in a game, it won’t be because we’re too big for our boots, swelled with hubris (for no good reason, I should add). We have a group of mature, professional players who won’t let anyone get carried away with themselves.
Even our young players aren’t that young and inexperienced anymore. Szczesny has made 125 appearances for the club now, Wilshere 115, Ramsey 170, Gibbs 124. They’ve might have started in sides that didn’t quite have the mental fortitude of this one, but what better way to see the difference? With solid heads like Mertesacker, Arteta, Sagna and Flamini alongside them now, fully experienced men who clearly have a desire to win something and an understanding of how they need to do it, there’ll be nothing less than 100% in preparation and approach to every game.
As I said, it won’t always work. There will be times when things don’t come off, or we simply play badly, but I really feel those days will be the exception rather than a regular reminder of where things have to change. The players who contributed to that weakness are mostly all gone now. And we sit top of the Premier League table, what a coincidence.
Speaking of Szczesny, I’ve spoken about him plenty in the last couple of weeks, and after signing a new deal – as clear an indication as you can get that he’s our number 1 and that the club have faith in him to fill that role – the manager has spoken about how he could become an Arsenal legend. He said:
What I am sure is that he has the potential to be a historical goalkeeper for Arsenal Football Club. That will depend on how much he will continue to focus, to have the desire to be better, to have the desire to put the hard work in.
He’s 23 now, maturing well and hopefully that will continue. I think he might have become a little carried away with himself, but has knuckled down and improved himself to the point where nobody talks anymore about the need for the club to sign a goalkeeper. When you consider that David Seaman was almost 27 when he joined us from QPR, and that Szczesny has already made so many appearances, the future is bright for him and for us.
The manager’s little warning about how he has to have that constant need for improvement and maintain his standards is something I’m sure he’ll take to heart. Maybe a fireside chat with Jens Lehmann would help. He was, even in the final stages of his career, the ultimate professional in terms of his preparation and focus, and if Wojciech can match that he’ll go a long, long way.
Right then, time for this week’s Arsecast and I’m joined by @Goodplaya to discuss Szczesny, Flamini’s sleeves, and some odd game called football that we’ve been playing quite well. There’s some Mick Bendnter and some terrible singing by Mathieu Flamini, as well as your chance to win goodies from our friends at Savile Rogue.
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Right, we’ll have press conference updates and news over on Arseblog News, more here tomorrow.