Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Wenger on Koscielny and Perez as PSG looms

This is one of those weeks where there’s barely time to let one thing settle before we have to turn our focus onto something else. The Southampton win has barely been digested and we’re off again, preparing for our first Champions League game of the season against PSG tomorrow night.

No doubt there would have been some rotation anyway, but we should find out from the manager later today what the latest is in terms of team news. The big worry is Laurent Koscielny who got a kick in the eye and must be a doubt if it remains swollen. He looked like he could barely see out of it in the final few minutes of Saturday’s game, so much depends on that.

He would be a big miss if he didn’t make it, especially for the most difficult away game we have in this group, so let’s keep fingers crossed in that regard. His importance to the team is obvious, and he’s drawn praise from the manager for his contribution on Saturday. Speaking about his spectacular overhead kick, he said:

What I liked as well, he made that at 1-0 down. Not when you have scored three or four already and that shows he is a special character.

Koscielny wore the captain’s armband on Saturday, and while he may not be the archetypal shouting and roaring kind of skipper, there’s no doubt that he leads by example. Obviously the goalscoring is a nice bonus on top of what he brings to us from a defensive point of view, but it’s the consistency of the latter that makes him the fantastic player he is. Wenger continued:

He is one of the longest-serving defenders and I think he is one of our best players. When I think about the squad, when you choose a captain as well, you think of one with a good chance to play in every single game and that’s not easy nowadays. He has committed to the club for a long contract and he has always improved every year. Today he is an outstanding centre-back.

The fact that he scored on his birthday was nice. The fact that it was his 31st birthday made me a little bit sad – sad the way you get when you see your dog growing ever more grey in the muzzle. Why can’t he just stay four forever?! As I said yesterday his importance to this side is up there with the best attacking players we have, so fingers crossed he can make it tomorrow night. Surely there’s some kind of protective mask he can play in.

Meanwhile, the boss says Lucas Perez needs to be given a bit of time to find his feet after he found his debut a little bit difficult to make an impact in. I don’t think it was down to him alone to be honest, the team in general didn’t really work as well as it should have, and the service he got from the wide players was basically minimal. Wenger says:

It is not easy as well to start at home, the pressure is there for everybody and everybody has their eyes on them. We have scored goals since the start of the season, but we bought one more striker because we thought we needed one more let’s give him time and not judge him too quickly.

It seems a shame to have to say that at all, but such is the world we live in people rush to judgement very quickly. It can take a while for a player to grow into a team. For a 27 year old striker you’d hope that would happen more quickly than it might for a younger, less mature/experienced player, so let’s see how he goes over the next few weeks.

I would be quite interested in seeing him play with Alexis outside him, and given his pace and ability to play on the shoulder of the last defender, you wonder if he might be well suited to a midfield which contains Granit Xhaka. The Swiss international can create from deep, and that should suit him a lot better than the game on Saturday – particularly in the second half when Southampton sat very, very deep.

Anyway, the team travel to Paris today, there’ll be a press conference later and we should get all the team news and the latest on Koscielny. We’ll have that for you over on Arseblog News throughout the day.

James and I are going to be here very early this morning to record the podcast, so any questions/topics should be sent asap to @gunnerblog and @arseblog with the hashtag #arsecastextra. We’ll have that for you before lunch, so you can have something to listen to as you munch a sandwich, or salad bowl which contains quinoa and pine nuts and wild nettles.

Me, I’m gonna have tomato soup. That’s just how I roll. Until later.

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