I did touch on this whilst scribbling my last post, so I’ll kick off with it this time as it may explain the changes we are currently seeing.
There has, so I’ve been informed, a wave of new thinking among the sports science community regarding the benefits or not of the rest and the rotation of footballers.
This new thinking seems to believe that it’s more beneficial for players to keep playing even during busy periods rather than resting altogether. Now this doesn’t mean starting and playing every game and it isn’t suitable for every player but in general it seems that it may be more advantageous for players to be coming off of the bench for 20 or 30 minutes and keeping themselves ticking over is the way to go rather than putting their feet up. As I say this may vary in terms of the position and physiology of individual players but it may explain the new policies being pursued by Arteta and Mertesaker.
I really enjoyed those League Cup games under Arsene Wenger as we often saw many youngsters given their first taste of senior football whilst our 1st XI got a well earned rest. The funny thing is that on many occasions after a rest our players instead of coming out all guns blazing in the next game after a break, would instead look a bit slow, sluggish and take time to warm up, it was something I never really understood.
Guardiola doesn’t take any game lightly and nor it seems does Arteta and so we may have seen the end of those grand old days when Wenger would rotate virtually the entire team with 9, 10 and sometimes 11 changes in games he viewed less important.
So far Arteta has picked close to a full strength team in the majority of our cup ties and most certainly has all his big guns on the bench. It’s led to some disappointment among those of us who enjoy the youth as we’d expected more youngsters to be involved, more new faces but that hasn’t been the case at all. Therefore, if Arteta isn’t going to give the youngsters the avenue they need for the first team then they need that experience somewhere else thus the 14 (now 13) players from our U23’s being sent by Mertesaker out on loan.
This has left our U23’s looking like an empty pot of tea and a soggy slice of toast and has meant some urgent recruiting was needed by BFG to try and plug the gaping holes in the squad. I quite expect to see more additions arrive in January most of them will be passing through but will hopefully do a job in the meantime whilst our more promising youngsters develop at Ipswich, Swindon and Oldham etc.
To me this goes a long way in explaining the poor results we’ve seen in the U23’s this season; whilst our U18’s, a settled squad, have played to their expected level. We have by the way a great generation who’ve moved up from last seasons U16’s, thought of as the best Arsenal have developed in many years, the opportunities they have in possibly an accelerated move up the ladder into the U23’s might be hugely beneficial to the senior squad in 2/3 years time, so let’s wait and see before we crucify Uncle Bouldy?
Scoring goals seems to be the major discussion point among Arsenal fans at present and there’s no doubt that attack is an area that needs some attention.
Coming up through the academy we have Folarin Balogun a striker who is fast, aggressive, strong, technically sound and has a great eye for a goal but whose contract expires in the summer. Arteta came to the Balogun scenario late in its evolution and is trying to smooth those troubled waters, but it’s not looking as if Flo will sign. Arteta gave Flo his 1st team debut vs Dundalk but as of yet there’s been no progress and we could be losing another Gnabry for virtually peanuts.
Nikolaj Moller was one of those summer signings brought in to reinforce the U23’s, but I suspect that he was someone we’ve been watching for awhile. Only 18 and from the land of Freddie Ljungberg, he is a tall, physical centre forward and he’s already leading the line in the U23’s. His style gives the team something different, a focal point to play off of and although it is very early days he has been compared to ‘I am Zlatan’ which is probably unfair at this stage of his career, but if he is anything like the ‘Great One’ then that has to be something to look forward to.
Further to the above, I’ve since seen some more highlights of Moller in action and he looks very strong, quite mobile for a tall striker and very technical, in fact for those with memories that stretch back to the George Graham era I would say that he reminds me style wise of Alan Smith and Smudge was a brilliant centre forward and a key focus of Graham’s attack, he was key to those teams that won two championships, two domestic cups and a european trophy, so if Nikolaj turns out anything like Smudger then we’ve got a good one on our hands.
George Lewis is from Norway, he’s 20 and was spotted playing in the lower leagues in the land of the Fjords. He has pace to burn and has demonstrated that during the early U23 fixtures scoring at least one goal. Like Moller I’ve only seen snippets of him so it’s difficult to give a detailed opinion but from what I’ve gleaned via Jeorge Bird he’s promising (as is Moller) but also very raw. He’s currently injured and that’s not a good sign.
A bit further down the line Kido Taylor-Hart another tall forward who can fill in several attacking positions and into the 1st year scholars we have the exciting Khayon Edwards and Billy Vigar, both bring different qualities to the table but Edwards from what I’m hearing is the real deal. These lads are 16/17’ish so there’s a long way to go but it’s good to know that they’re coming along.