Arteta/Rosicky DM pivot, Zelalem in hole, Ox & Ryo on Wings? Coventry preview

FA Cup 4th Round

2014

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This is not your usual preview, where most of us are familiar with the opposition, their players, and their style. So, bear with me if I spend a little longer on what we might expect. I asked for this assignment because CoventryCity is my home town club, and despite their well documented off-field problems, I still follow their results and progress keenly.

I would like to open this report up with this link for an insight into their manager’s self awareness, and hopefully through that, allow you a more rounded respect for our opponents on Friday night?

http://www.scotsman.com/sport/football/english/steven-pressley-has-coventry-on-road-to-recovery-1-3273990

So, from the above I think Coventry will play with the freedom that will allow them to be at their very best, even though a victory is very unlikely. That is a dangerous combination, if the Arsenal players simply think they only have to turn up and they are in the 5th round. Coventry will play to the 95th minute and if there is the slightest chink in our application, they will pounce.

Here are a few players to look out for from the team I expect will play for the Sky Blues:

Franck Moussa – Belgian youngster who plays as an attacking midfielder, and scored last weekend with a 35yd rasper in injury time. Very popular with the City fans.

Carl Baker – Now the senior pro in the midfield. Plays out wide, with pace. Skilful; takes the penalty shots, and has got the most assists, with 8 this term.

Cyrus Christie – Young, athletic left back. Likes to get forward a lot. Pacy with it.

Leon Clarke – He is the senior striker of City’s front pair. He scored 10 goals from 14 appearances last season. He is their leading scorer with 18 this season. However, there is talk of a transfer to Wolves, but as they are out of the Cup, I guess he will want to play this game before any move is completed?

Denzel Slager – Recently signed late entry for a start.

Joe Murphy – A very capable ‘keeper on his day, and has been with City for the last 3 seasons. Has made more saves this season than our Chezzer!

Predicting the Arsenal line up is tricky, given surprise injury recoveries, but this will be something like it. They will rest a few seniors, but there will be a solid core:

Ars v Cov

Subs: Szcz; Sagna; Frimpong; Ozil; Santi; Eisfeld; Podolski.

It is a youthful midfield that will not last the 90, but by having Ryo ahead of Gibbs means that latter can monitor the dangerous Baker. In a more 1-4-1-4-1 formation, I think Rosicky will do the prompting, feeding Zelalem to find the key passes to both wide men. Good crosses will suit Bendtner’s better heading ability? Ox and Rosicky can interchange to provide another threat in the central area.

Coventry line up will be something like this:

L.Clarke – D Slager

 

Moussa – Fleck – Baker

 

Christie – Webster – D.Seabourne – Adams

 

Murphy

Subs will include: Midfielder Adam Barton and J. Clarke, defender.

Callum Wilson – Usually the pacy young partner to Leon Clarke, but he is injured and misses the game. Big loss for them.

How the game will be won or lost:

Overall, Coventry score regularly, 55 this term in League 1, with 45 against.

I think they will play the two up front and really go for it. It may be tight in midfield, but they can break equally quickly, and Moussa capable of firing in from any range.

It does mean they will be vulnerable if they go to open, but it should be an exciting game. Their manager will expect them to put in a good effort, so if they lose it will not be because anybody shirked their responsibility.

Well, possession, as always, will be key but it is not the whole story. Coventry will play on the counter and hope to win the ball in midfield. They have pace down both wings, so balls played inside to the dangerous Moussa means any lack of concentration will be punished. With the team above, Arsenal should have the numerical advantage in midfield and I expect them to win this area comfortably enough, but with Ryo on the left, and Ox and the overlapping Jenkinson, on the right, I think less will be played through the middle … unless of course they do play the full senior squad in midfield?

Personally I do not think it will be necessary. I think our strong defence will be too good for the likes of Slager and Clarke. Moussa is a bit of a maverick, so best not let him get any clear shots on goal. Ox and Rosicky helping out Arteta to stop Fleck from getting the ball through middle, and Gibbs is probably the better option (over Monreal) to handle Baker’s pace. Jenks will have to be quick on the other side if he gets forwards himself, but hopefully Ox will be on that side to help out.

Zelalem is my quirky option to start. It should be a game that suits his passing game a treat, and with Ozil on the bench, it can be rectified if he looks like getting overwhelmed. Both Rosicky and Vermaelen are subject to their fitness. With a good break before our next game Koscielny is the obvious replacement in defence. If Arteta is not available, then Wilshere may have to partner Frimpong or Yennaris, as both played in the Under 21’s last time? Therefore if Arteta is fit, I think Rosicky’s better defensive work holds Santi out? Whilst Ozil could start and have a real influence on the game from the start, I think they will save him for midweek?

Zelalem up against Fleck might be a different challenge? I can see Podolski coming on, or even starting, and the switch will take place with Bendtner around the 70th minute. The rest will be score dependent, barring injuries.

Goals should come from Bendtner’s heading at set pieces, and Rosicky and Ox should have plenty of opportunities too. I do not see us keeping a clean sheet, but I think 3-1 to the Gunners, even if it will be late on before it is wrapped up. I will repeat, Coventry will keep it going right up until the final whistle.

So remember we play Southampton on Tuesday and Coventry are a League 1 side:

Q.1 Would you rest some of our key players? If so how many?

 

Q.2 Who from the YouthAcademy would you like to see get some game time?

 

Q.3 What is your score prediction?

Written by: Gerry

Cardiff review: Arsene’s trust in Bendtner pays off

Arsenal 2 – Cardiff City nil — Never a Doubt… 😆

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Having missed the request to write a match preview, I wrote the following hoping that our fearless leader (on holiday in Scotland) might be available for a late post. Alas, it didn’t happen. But still, some of the questions seemed prescient (if I say so myself, and I do… 😉 )

(Preview Title…) Are We Deep Enough to Cope with Injuries and Illness and Rotation as We Enter 2014?

Arsenal, the best team in England in calendar year 2013, begin the new year top of the table but with question marks. Cardiff City, in our home ground, with only a caretaker manager, and coming off a very disappointing late draw vs Sunderland, would seem an automatic three points, but, in the English Premier League, nothing can be guaranteed.

Our most productive midfielders, Mesut Özil and Aaron Ramsey, are missing, as is our workhorse up front, Olivier Giroud. Many have argued that the only reason we’re still top of the table has been the remarkable production of those three players. Can we cope without them and will our offense create the chances necessary to see off a team which might be compared to a wounded animal?

Late reports suggest Ole Gunnar Solksjaer will be taking the Cardiff job. Will the players selected today be auditioning in a merely technical fashion for the new manager or will they be showing that they’ve got the grit and drive to steal a result from a weakened Arsenal team? Finally, the weather to start the year in London appears on the heavy side. It might not be as bad as it was for the Chelsea match 9 days ago and the Cardiff defense is probably not as tight, but our offense has been known to stutter when conditions aren’t ideal. Can we still make chances and goals with our re-arranged attack or will this one be another close, low scoring affair?

Today’s line-up appears a strong one, given the injuries–plenty of attack with both Poldolski and Walcott (carrying a knock?) in there. The bench offers options as well with Bendtner and Gnabry as well as Rosicky and Ryo Miyachi available if we’re still chasing a result. Still, by opting for both Arteta and Flamini as cover ahead of the back four, it appears that Wenger is thinking “defense first.” Can this be achieved against a Cardiff team with “nothing to lose?” Can the offense click without its spearhead Giroud? And I don’t refer only to his hair…

Bergkampesque welcomes your comments on these questions as the match plays out as well as afterwards. Please join us… 😀

Well, that’s what I was hoping to post, plus the (confirmed) line-ups…Instead we had to continue with only Gerry’s match report from the 1 goal victory at Newcastle… So, what transpired? Did any of the questions (above) get answered?

Hmmm…

I could do the minute by minute thing (to remind us of our frustrations) but instead I’ll talk about patterns and try to answer my own questions (comment writers please add yours!…)

The weather WAS heavy and comments on my television feed suggested that there was ample wind to go with the rain. And, similar to the Chelsea match, basic mistakes were on display. An early pattern was set with long (and misplaced) passes to Theo Walcott being the principal area of attack, mostly from deeper lying Santi Cazorla, ostensibly starting from a left wing position. Arsenal appeared happy to cede possession to Cardiff and there was very little pressing from the front, with both front man, Poldolski, and “hole” player, Wilshere, happy to follow Cardiff passes at a trot.

This strategy seemed almost uniquely ill-suited to match conditions but so too did the more intricate passing that seemed on tap as we tired of losing possession with the longer ones. Cardiff time wasting seemed more and more effective with each passing minute and served to subdue the home crowd. That Cardiff were able to draw the only save of the half, albeit a basic one at the near post from Szczesny, did not help to buoy our hopes. As the half drew to a close Poldolski dropped deeper, almost as a midfield outlet while frustrations in basic play from Walcott, Wilshere and Cazorla continued. The dual pivot of Flamini and Arteta were largely untroubled by the Cardiff attack (a single point clearly would have been seen as a huge victory) but we created not a single shot on target in the first period and only 2 corners from which we also didn’t threaten.

I guess I should mention the penalty shout where Wilshere kept his feet as Medel missed the ball and likely got Jack with not one but two swings. The fact that our man kept his feet for the first tackle probably undermined his claim as he fell on the second. I didn’t hear boos as the players left the pitch, but the home support was clearly underwhelmed; 63% possession was the only sign of any sort of dominance. We most certainly didn’t look like league leaders, to my eye at least…

The 2nd period began much as the first: bad weather, bad football from Arsenal. The pitch was taking pace off the ball but it was also lacking in our movement. With little speed (beyond Theo) or size, early calls for the likes of Rosicky and Bendtner seemed obvious.

Wenger, as any oddsmaker would have predicted, allowed the first group to persist until the 65th minute before those subs were made. The supporters, less patient by nature, twisted in the wind (and rain) and tried to create a sense of greater urgency. In the smallest of ways they were rewarded as more of the match was played closer to the Cardiff goal with shots and corners starting to come and fewer balls out of play. Our better play in this part of the match was down our left (Poldolski, Cazorla and Monreal working well together), but still we were constrained to high angled shots. Wilshere also did well from the same side during this period, forcing corners and having a shot hit the post. Still, Cardiff was able to run the clock down whenever they could.

Finally, keeper Marshall finally got a yellow card in the 60th minute for his time-wasting. A talking point was an uncalled handball by Monreal (in the 54th) very close if not in our own 18 yard box. Little Gary Medel, charged with marking the center of our attack got his yellow card in the 58th and was soon after withdrawn, which perhaps was a key. Wilshere certainly looked better immediately. One thing I will say is that the time wasting (very well executed by Cardiff) only served to antagonize the home support. Perhaps it’s a hardier bunch who brave the bad weather after the midnight merry-making (and against the lowly, and lower priced, C-ticket class opponent)?…

When the subs did come the urgency notched up just that little bit more and the increase in size up front and pace in MF made our attack more familiar looking. A clearance from Monreal which Bentdner got an awkward (Giroud-esque?) head to was well cheered as it kept our forward move alive. Frustration, however, continued, with not one but two Mertesacker headers put wide of the left post. Overall, however, there was extra bite in our counters and the threat from the 10 2nd half corners we earned was increasing. Merely having an extra big target (Bendtner in addition to Mertesacker) seemed to stress the Cardiff back line.

Nonetheless, we were still having trouble of our own and as the match moved past the 70th and then the 80th, it seemed we might leave frustrated. Mistakes in midfield didn’t help, even if Cardiff were not very potent when they did occur. Koscielny made a couple of key blocks after Arteta couldn’t get to a loose pass, though the 2nd one lead to a corner and a sequence where Arteta again mis-controlled. Luckily, Caulker’s shot was blasted well over.

The definitive spell of pressure began in the 83rd minute. A cross from Theo to Bendtner looked a sure goal but there was a hint he might have left it for a phantom teammate just behind him. Just before that, the big guy had delivered one himself to Sagna whose looping header was cleared off the line. Overall, Bendtner’s presence up front and solid ball work coming back was having a positive effect. Still, frustration seemed the order of the day as individual runs from Rosicky and Cazorla created danger but only lead to blocked efforts. When Theo blasted over from a difficult angle in the 86th some air went out of the crowd.

Fortunately, there was no giving up in the side and the knowledge that there had to be plenty of injury time wouldn’t have hurt. FINALLY, in the 88th the goal came. An intricate move featuring great control from Cazorla, a layoff from Walcott, a cross from Monreal to the head of Sagna (forcing a save) and a tightly angled first time smash from, of all people, Nicklas Bendtner, and the match was ours!

The irony is that it cost the man who used to wear his weekly salary upon his shirt. Replays showed the Marshall landed on Bendtner’s standing foot, causing what looks like ankle ligament damage. Finally Arsene’s huge gamble on the much maligned forward gave a bit of payback. Such a shame that he won’t get a warm welcome for the FA cup match against Spurs, on Saturday…

One-nil is nice, but two-nil is nicer. In injury time, a long ball from Szczesny (contested well again by Sagna) fell to Rosicky. A controlling pass and quick (and perfect) pass allowed Wilshere to flick onto Walcott, who chipped Marshall. The keeper got a finger to it but only caused the ball to hover for a moment before dropping into goal. A late save by our keeper, the only one seemingly aware that Cardiff were sending in a free kick, preserved the clean sheet. Relief AND reward for 95 minutes of hard work…

So, questions answered or do they remain?

Much depends on the injury situation. Poldolski, unfortunately doesn’t present the commanding (if somewhat technically lacking) figure that Giroud does. Wilshere and Cazorla though industrious seem to lack that little bit of acceleration and physicality which Ozil and Ramsey bring. With Bendtner supplying the winning goal, but then going down injured, our issues in attack remain in the spotlight. He likely benefited from coming on with Cardiff defenders already tired (much as Poldolski did at West Ham 6 days ago) but he may not be available even for late cameos. Clearly, we have nobody to offer us an hour or more as a lone striking option. I probably don’t need to point out that at least the timing is right given that the transfer window opened today. ..

Regardless, we’ll have one more: a cup match against the ancient enemy on Saturday. They will be lifted from their victory at Manchester United but perhaps also content and happy to drop out of the competition. Remember, they still have home and away games to play in the Europa league, as well as teams to catch if they hope to get back onto the bigger European stage. My thought is that Sherwood will have to rotate to see which (if any) of AVB’s purchases might come good. I wouldn’t expect as smooth or spirited a performance as they put on today at Old Trafford. Still, like Cardiff today they’ll come with nothing to lose. We’ll need even more spirit (if not bandages, duct tape and baling wire) to subdue them.

It should be noted however, that all 4 of our “questionable” players played today (3 of them for all 95 minutes). Perhaps the others nursing “injuries” might be a presence on the bench at least. After that one we have another 9 day mini-break for getting bodies healthy before matches that become increasingly more daunting as January passes into February.

All told, while today’s match (and other recent ones…) may not have been easy on the eyes, we got the result without a few of the players who carried us through the early season. The bodies may be weary but the spirit was (and IS) not lacking. If that’s our low-mark, 2014 offers a measure of promise…

Written by: 17highburyterrace

Was that Bendtner and Vermaelen’s last chance?

Where is our Lion of Flanders gone?
Where did our Lion of Flanders go?

Both Vermaelen and Bendtner are at an age now when there is no more time for trial and error. Last night’s game against the Chavs was a brilliant opportunity to show to all of us how they deserve to play in the first team far more regularly than they have been doing, but both failed to take it.

Bendtner appears to play with an air of indifference, or is it just a lack of focus? Giroud is technically not a much better player than the Dane but he just brings focus and work rate; and with those two anybody can get far in life, especially if a bit of talent in something is added. For me, that was Bendtner’s last chance and it is now time to let him go. Sanogo and Akpom should get some more opportunities in the first team from now on.

With Vermaelen there is never a problem with work rate… or maybe there is. Is he working too hard; does he want it too badly? Thomas always plays with full passion and energy and I love him for that. But as we witnessed on many occasion last season, he lacks composure and focus, especially in the bigger games.

As a captain, he should ooze calm and confidence, but often the opposite is the case. I have always felt that Wenger made a big mistake in awarding the Belgian Pit-bull Terrier the captaincy: he is not a captain but a warrior – a first soldier. An Arsenal captain needs to have composure and overview, organisational and communication skills and ability to read/predict the game, and fight till the very last second of the game. TV5 offers us the latter in bucket loads, but the other areas are sadly missing to a large extent.

I reckon TV5 is a good CB to have as a stand in for Koz but he cannot replace the BFG adequately. I am not sure whether being the current ‘third CB in the squad’ is good for him either. Thomas needs to play regularly, and it looks like this will be his last season at Arsenal; he might even be leaving in January. Last night was a great opportunity to convince us otherwise, and although he did not have a really bad game, he just did not do enough to push Koz out of the first choice CB-pairing any time soon. Time to move on, Thomas?

I agree with most fellow Gooners that Jenkinson also did not make the grade yesterday. But he is still young, and we know he only starts to become good once he has played a few games in a row. And to some extent, the same goes for Ryo. Let’s give them some more time before we write them off: they might well still come good.

The two plusses from last night were Ramsey and Santi. The Spaniard seems to be getting fitter and sharper, although he is not completely there yet; and the Welshman showed his strength and confidence during a number of one to one battles with the Chavs’ midfielders, which really pleased me.

There is no need to read too much into last night’s result, though. If we make five changes in the ‘back seven’ (including ‘DMs’ and GK) then we are simply asking for trouble against a team like the Chavs, especially when leaders like BFG, Sagna, Arteta and Flamini are all missing – the latter two through not being available. That also makes me think Wenger did not mind losing the game yesterday, as he would have opted for at least the BFG or Sagna if he had cared for getting a result.

I am glad to have the game out of the way now and we no longer have to play in the League Cup this season. But now it is time to pick up our form and winning streak again by beating the Dippers on Saturday. CoYG! 🙂

 

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Time for Ryo, Eisfeld, Hayden and Olsson to shine: WBA preview

We discussed the options for tomorrow’s line up more than enough in yesterday’s post, and to be frank, I have not got much of a clue who Arsene will play against WBA. Arsene is Arsene and he will do what he thinks is right. I have a horrible feeling he’ll play a lot of regulars and it might backfire on us; the nightmare of Bradford still lingers on in my mind.

I don’t care much whether we go through or not, but I just want us to play good football and give some youngsters a proper chance to shine.

Some interesting points came out of yesterday’s post responses:

  1. Quite a few fellow bloggers don’t believe that Koz and Vermaelen should play together; that either should be combined with Mertesacker, or even Sagna, rather than play as our duo CB’s. Although, I agree that Mertesacker is our first choice CB – a point I have been making for the best part of two years – I still believe that Koz and Vermaelen can play really well together, and I feel strongly that they should start in tomorrow game against WBA;
  2. The cyber-room was also split about who should ideally play as our double-DM pivot, and I agree with the observation by some fellow bloggers that it’s wonderful to have options for these crucial positions now. I, for one, would love to see Arteta and Flamini start a few games together, especially in away games or games against fellow top-teams. This is not to say that I do not rate Ramsey: the absolute opposite is true. Ramsey is doing great and adds a dimension nobody else is capable of offering at the moment. Against WBA I am hoping wise-head Arteta will start with a youngster next to him – either Hayden or Olsson should get a chance as a starter tomorrow;
  3. The other points of discussion were about who should play up front – Akpom or Bendtner – who should play in the hole – Eisfeld, Arteta- and who should play on the wing. The latter seems to become our problem-area this season, with Cazorla, Podolski, Ox, and now also Theo, out injured for significant periods already. We will now need Gnabry to stay fit when we play Swansea and Napoli, and I would not be surprised if he will not be risked tomorrow. This should mean that Ryo will get a start and I hope he will do well. I am also hoping to see Eisfeld, in the hole or on the wing.

Other than seeing us play some good football with passion and focus, and a few youngsters doing well, I am keen to see whether our ‘second string’ – if indeed Wenger gives most of our first team players a rest, which is definitely not a given – can play in the same shape and style as we are now getting used to with the current ‘first teamers’.

I am particularly interested in whether Akpom or Bendtner can play the ‘Giroud-Holding-Striker’ role effectively, and whether Eisfeld will be able to shine in the hole, if indeed he gets a chance there tomorrow.

Hoped for, but not predicted, line-up:

WBA team

All in all, plenty to look forward to. 🙂

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Giroud injured – Who to play: Pod, Bendtner, Sanogo, Akpom or Theo?

Giroud, Giroud, Giroud is on fire: but what are we going to do if he gets injured?
Giroud, Giroud, Giroud is on fire: but what are we going to do if he gets injured?

Among fellow Gooners, the overriding feeling with regards to our current team is that Arsenal are now very strong in midfield, good to very strong at the back, but a bit light in attack.

The big question we are all asking ourselves is what we are going to do if Giroud (knock on your mini-hampton Glic) gets injured.

There will be a new post later this evening, but for the sake of a bit discussion, I would like to ask BK readers to tell us who we should play instead of Giroud and why.

Before you do so, however, I would like to point out that Giroud’s role/contributions in our current team/line up/system of football are as follows:

  1. Giroud’s main role is to be the central attacking hub up-front: he is the pivot to many of our attacking moves and provides his fellow strikers and midfielders with a ‘base’ up-front. For that he needs to be good at playing with his back towards the opposition’s goal, not get outmuscled easily, be able to shield the ball well, have a good first touch and pass the ball accurately. It is fair to say that OG is not the finished article in these areas, but he is constantly making progress;
  2. Although OG will always be judged on his goals, in our current system we should also judge him on his assists, as well as his ability to make space for others and allow them to join our attack. The latter is a lot harder to measure, but is nevertheless key to this role in our current formation/system of football;
  3. As a result, we should look to replace an injured Giroud with a player who can do the same, and not focus entirely on the ability to score goals or produce assists;
  4. Giroud puts himself about across the pitch, is a force in defending set-pieces for us and continuously works hard to put pressure on the opposition defenders and midfielders.

You might believe there are more attributes/aspects Giroud adds to our team, and if so, please share them with us.

But, taking the above into account, and assuming that Arsene will want to continue with our current 4-2-1-3 system as much as possible, who should replace Giroud in case of injury, and why: Akpom, Bendtner, Pod, Sanogo or Theo, or….?

Also, if you would like to make your predictions for the coming season, please go to:

https://bergkampesque.com/2013/09/07/arsenal-to-win-the-treble-manchester-united-to-finish-fifth-benteke-season-top-scorer-southampton-to-win-fa-cup-make-your-predictions-here/

Finally, to support a locally based new band, have a look at this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6i0736Nm5og

Written by: TotalArsenal.

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What to do with Nicklas Bendtner?

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One of the most intriguing footballers is without any doubt, Nicklas Bendtner. The tall Dane is a footballer with a decent amount of talent, and what appears to be a boundless amount of confidence. I say appears to be, as the few highly confident people I know don’t seem to need to tell everybody in the world how great they are (going to be); and I have a feeling that deep down he is not that confident at all. It is all show with Nicklas Bendtner.

But he somehow convinced Wenger, and many others, of his great potential. Arsene gave him a number of chances to deliver on his self-proclaimed imminent greatness. In between ’07-’10, NB52 played 81 league games for Arsenal in which he scored just 20 goals: 0.25 goals per game. In the following three season, he played only 54 games – for Arsenal, Sunderland and Juventus – hitting the net on the inside a meagre ten times.

Bendtner is now 25 and looks totally lost. Life seems to have become unbearably light for him. He is still under contract with Arsenal and, as a result, draws a large weekly salary; and there is nothing for him to worry about. If he had any ambition, any drive, he would already have signed somewhere else, where he can put his sleeves up and works his socks off to somehow get back to playing proper football again.

Instead, he smells the place out like Sunday morning Danish Blue leftovers. A few clubs have put their neck out and tried to sign him this summer, so it appears. But every time his bloated ego, adorned by his preposterous wage demands, stands in the way from giving his football career another go. The man truly does not know any humility and neither does he have any real sense how lucky he is to have made it into the top echelon of football.

After his loan fiascos at Sunderland, and especially at Juventus, only very few clubs will be tempted to sign him up on loan again this season. But I cannot see him move anywhere, and I reckon the Malaga rumours will remain just that.

He has got 11 months left on his contract, and he clearly has made no attempt whatsoever to fight for his a place at Arsenal. So, what is going to happen next with Nicklas Bendtner?

His one saving grace is his international career for Denmark. There still will be clubs out there who will want to take the gamble on him, but it is highly unlikely the haughty Dane will consider them anywhere near good enough for him.

I reckon, if he is not sold or gone on loan before the TW has finished, Arsene should give him ball collecting duties for the squad for the remainder of his contract.

But what would you like to do with our Great Dane?

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Will the uber-confident Szczesny learn from Bendtner’s mistakes?

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Wojciech Szczesny is one of the most interesting characters at Arsenal. The Pole in goal certainly does not lack confidence; some might even say he is too cocky for his own good. Remember the Bob Wilson/Szczesny quote? Bob Wilson: “The loan to Brentford will be good for you Wojciech?”. To which the Pole responded: “No Bob….. I will be good for them.”

However, for a 22 year old he is also very level-headed and he interviews very well. When he was interviewed after his heroic performance against Liverpool last season – especially the Dirk Kuijt double penalty save – he really impressed me with his excellent English, professionalism, calmness, and of course, his uber-confidence.

We all know that on the day, Wojciech can be brilliant, but this season, for the first time in his young career, things are not going great for him. Most of us prefer a cocky, very confident goalkeeper to a more subdued, humble one. Good goal keeping is in the end not just a matter of technical skills; having a strong, dominant personality is also very important.

But it is harder to warm to such a person if and when things are not going so well. Suddenly the arrogance, which seems to go hand in hand with very strong levels of self believe, becomes less attractive.

When Szczesny let in the Aston Villa equaliser at the weekend, I noticed him just looking ahead with no sign of disappointment in himself. It really annoyed me. I would have liked to shake him at the arm and say: wake up Wojciech, you let our team down again, and it is not good enough: own up to your mistake!

The difference with Joe Hart, who also made a mistake this weekend which led to him conceding a penalty, was very big. Hart looked disappointed with himself and showed regret for what he potentially had done to the team. When he subsequently saved the penalty, there was real relief and an outburst of pure joy. I prefer human beings, including goal keepers, to be like that.

But with Szczesny we get mostly one and the same emotion: he always wants to look in control and ooze confidence.  Sometimes, this really works; especially in games in which he is under a lot of pressure, like the recent game against Sunderland, or the mentioned earlier game against Liverpool last season. But in games in which he has very little to do, he has been, at least recently, prone to making costly errors.

In all three recent games against Blackburn, Bayern and Villa he could have done a lot better with the goals we conceded. Of course, preventing goals is a team job and all conceded goals have usually more than one guilty party, but Wojciech played a significant part in them all.

To make progress in life, work and sport, moments of self-reflection are very important. Very self-confident people tend not to do this much, if at all. Yet, a healthy dose of self-doubt and humility is sometimes required in order to learn and improve; to progress to the next stage or phase in life or work. And most important of all is to learn from mistakes.

Another Gunner who has no lack of confidence, and who truly believes he is the best of us all, is the almost forgotten, and no doubt forlorn, Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner. Nicklas totally lacks humility and the ability to allow some healthy self-doubt into his head. The Dane is an ok striker and with hard work and a strong motivation he could even  become a good one. We should not have had to buy Giroud this summer; Bendtner should have worked himself into the first team by now. But his  cockiness prevented him from listening to Arsene’s advice and give everything to force himself into the team.

Instead, he jumped at the opportunity offered by Juventus to come and join them on loan. He has made a meagre nine appearances for Juventus, and probably most of them as a (late) substitute. For many years, he has been saying that once he reaches the age of 24/25 he will be the best striker in Europe, but as he turned 25 last month, we can say now that this is clearly not going to happen.

I feel that Bendtner’s uber-confidence and arrogance is holding him strongly back from becoming a proper, settled striker who makes the best of his footballing career. And what a great shame it is.

Szczesny seems to be more level-headed and professional than Bendtner and I hope he will use this season as an opportunity to learn from his mistakes, and reflect on how he can develop further and become the all-round, quality goalkeeper that we desperately need at Arsenal.

The next few months might become the most important of his career to date.

Written by: Total Arsenal.

If Nicklas could only Bendtner it like Beckham!

I am annoyed with Nicklas Bendtner. In fact, I cannot stand him any more.

With Chamakh being sidelined and brave Sir Robin leaving us in the lurch this summer, I had expected him to give us his all and fight for his place at Arsenal. He told us all frequently how good he is and how he will be the best striker in Europe as soon as he reaches the age of 24/25, and yet he was not up for the fight with Giroud and Podolski to claim the central striker position for himself this season.

Instead, he went on loan to Juventus, where he has played less than 1000 seconds of football until now, has been judged too fat, and is likely to continue to suffer a humiliating period at the periphery of the side-lines (not even on the bench).

Whilst digging up some background information re Nicklas Bendtner, I was quite surprised to see that the handsome pseudo-prince from Denmark has managed to play an impressive total of 157 games for us until now. That is 57% of brave Sir Robin’s total number of games for Arsenal and 15 games more than Adebayor played for us. He managed to score just 45 goals for Arsenal: 0.29 goals per game, and has a career total of a meagre 66 goals in 235 games: 0.28 goals per game.

He just is not as good as he thinks he is. He is okay, not more than that; and it is about time he realises this, so he can make the best of the rest of his football career.

Nicklas suffers from a graceless delusion of grandeur, from uber-confidence; and although, without any doubt, it has got him where he is today, I reckon it is now starting to seriously harm his progress. His strong belief in how good he is – that his ability is innate/inborn – seems to be keeping him from working hard; from doing his utmost to achieve success.

In a recent post for Arsenal Arsenal, I wrote about psychologist Carol Dweck’s theory on how we appear to look at talent and ability from two different angles. I quote Burkeman again, who summarizes Dweck’s theory as follows: “….our experiences of failure are influenced overwhelmingly by the beliefs we hold about the nature of talent and ability – and that we can, perhaps quite straightforwardly, nudge ourselves towards a better outlook. Each of us can be placed somewhere on a continuum, Dweck argues, depending on our “implicit view” – or unspoken attitude – about what talent is and where it comes from. Those with a “fixed theory” assume the ability is innate; those with an “incremental theory” believe that it evolves through challenge and hard work.

The principle idea is that those with an “incremental” mindset are more prepared for, and more resilient against things going wrong, and are more likely to achieve sustainable success. Those with a fixed mindset believe strongly they will succeed and find failure “especially horrifying”.

Nicklas will become 25 years old in January, and I am wondering what is going through his head at the moment. Clearly, things are not working out for him and he needs a change of strategy tout de suite.

I reckon he should take an example from David Beckham. Here is a man with a given set of talents. He is not the best midfielder who has graced the world football pitches, just like Bendtner is nowhere near a top striker. There are some similarities between the two: both are handsome and media savvy, and have had managers in their early careers who believed in them, and helped them develop their talents.

The big difference, though, is that Beckham has an incremental mindset towards his ability and does not have an ounce of arrogance: he always works hard and gives his all, and is enthusiastic about every opportunity, as he knows that nothing is a given. Funnily enough, the same goes for Beckham’s wife, who has also excels in getting the best out of herself continuously.

I rate Beckham highly for that – despite him having played for the horrible Mancs for so long – and Bendtner ought to take his lead. Nothing is more appealing in a human being than him/her making the best of their abilities with great enthusiasm and a healthy dose of humility. Yet, Bendtner seems to arrogantly think he is entitled to success and that it will come to him sooner or later by itself. It won’t.

So, in order to save his career he needs to go back to basics: he needs to start working his socks off again, and achieve successes incrementally. He has to make sure he’ll either get played more regularly at Juventus, or find himself a new loan-deal at a club where he is wanted and can make a real difference.

In my view, he should have transferred to a mid-table PL team this summer, and proof us all, once and for all, how good he is. I am sure, it is still not too late to do that.

But maybe, deep down, he knows he is not that good, and would rather keep deluding himself as long as he can get away with it.

Total Arsenal.