Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Sunday round-up: Walcott, Coquelin and Cazorla

Good morning to you, and I hope you’re feeling ok on this football free weekend.

I didn’t yet see any Match of the Day or anything, but Crystal Palace were unable to do us any favours yesterday against Man Utd. A late goal saw them win 2-1 but even with that they remain 2 points behind us having played 2 games more. It is still very much in our own hands and, of course, we go there next weekend.

In a very quick round-up of what’s going on this morning, Arsene Wenger has expanded on his recent Theo Walcott comments where he said he’d like him to sign a new contract. Now, he’s suggesting that Walcott is about to enter the ‘golden age’ of his career and hinted that he might even get to play as a central striker.

Being 26 to 32 is the best age as a striker and I wouldn’t like to miss that golden age. He can be transformed. He is naturally gifted to play in this position. I work with him in both situations, as a striker and as a wide player but the quality of the runs is so fantastic with the pace he has.

I could be remembering this incorrectly, but the only game I can really recall him starting as a striker was the one against Sp*rs in the cup in which he picked up that injury. There might have been a couple of others, but I’m not sure I buy this one really. I don’t really see him as a central striker in the system we play, and the manager clearly doesn’t at the moment either, so it sounds like the kind of stuff managers say in public for strategic reasons.

And on Walcott’s future, Arsene said:

He loves the club and I think he wants to stay. Once a player accepts talking to you, that means his first wish is to stay.If then you cannot find an agreement, that has nothing to do with loyalty. I don’t think his desire is to leave.

Of the whole squad he is the player who has played the most games for us.

Except for, you know, this season, when he can’t get into the team ahead of central midfielders in his best position. As I mentioned in the week, it’ll be interesting to see how the manager fills the Ramsey gap if the Welshman misses out tomorrow night. If it’s Walcott, it’s his chance to remind the manager what he can do. If it’s Wilshere, I think you have to wonder about his future.

Meanwhile, some great stuff in the Observer when Amy Lawrence meets Francis Coquelin.

I remember Zidane and a lot of great players saying when you took out Makelele you took out the heart of their team. I think players who play this position don’t want the spotlight. They like to do their job and then they leave the bling-bling for other players.

If I can take away 10% of their defensive duties then they can have 10% more to attack and score goals and win us the game and I’m delighted.

Whatever about a young promising player like Hector Bellerin breaking through, there’s simply no question Coquelin is the surprise of the season. To be honest, it’s hard to remember a player who was so surplus to requirements, and so close to being out the door, coming back and becoming so important.

I guess it’s a good lesson that there really are no absolutes in football (unless you’re talking about Sp*rs of course), and that even now when money and media dictate the terms of the game in so many ways, it’s still capable of surprising you from time to time.

Amy and I chatted about Coquelin on the Arsecast this week, and in particular what his emergence might mean for the summer transfer business. He’s now a crucial part of the team because of the way he plays so, bearing that in mind, how do you cope with his absence? There isn’t really another player like him in the squad so what happens when he’s missing?

Do we go buy a player for the kind of money that suggests they should be an automatic starter, or do we try and find back-up? It’s not an easy one for the manager to decide in fairness, but I have to say I’m thoroughly enjoying players making decisions difficult for him this season. If you’d posted our starting XI against Hull on Monday back in August, people would assume that we were a team in some kind of crisis rather than one performing as well as it has for ages, it’s great.

Finally for today, some good stuff from Santi Cazorla in which he hints he might well be open to extending his Arsenal contract (which runs out next summer).

Right, have a good Sunday. Here’s hoping for some fireworks between Chelsea and Liverpool later, more from me tomorrow.

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