Per Mertesacker to become Arsenal captain next season?
First of all, I would like to say, TotalArsenal our own Bergkampesque skipper has sadly lost a loved one. I want to offer my sympathy and support in this tough time. We are a tight group on this site; Frank (totalArsenal) is always there with some kind words whenever another member reveals some tough moments in there lives. A truly nice bloke, so this is why I have chosen to write my maiden post today to lighten the load on him, and if anyone else has a topic they wish to post, now would probably be a great time to do it.
(Written pre- FA cup final)
Ok, I know this topic has been raised before but I feel it now has gone to a different level. I will explain why I would really like to see the Big F*****g German take the armband in front of Thomas and Arteta (vice-captain) next season.
The moment that has cemented the BFG’s march for captaincy was in the FA cup semi-final v Wigan. When Wigan got a penalty and Gomez scored it, I was very nervous: the thoughts of Birmingham in league cup final came flooding back. The similarities were very close. That day it was a Laurent Koscielny mistake, and this time Per had brought a player down which cost us a penalty .Mertesacker, a Gooner – a man who loves the club – was clearly stressed about this: one mistimed tackle could cost us silver again, another year without . But he fought on kept his composer and gave his all to put it right; and he did so when he popped up in the box as our furthest man forward and calmly guided his diving header into the net like a world-class striker on a training pitch.
For me, that was the moment he totally proved he is the man to skipper Arsenal! You could see the emotion in him as he celebrated, he truly felt the burden of what if that penalty cost us the cup.
Now it’s one thing to try to make up for your mistakes and take it on yourself to put it right, but its a whole lot more special and telling when someone actually does it, as Per did. He will probably captain Germany this summer at the Brazilian world cup. His age and experience are perfect. We have a English- German core in our team now with Podolski, Ozil, Zaleem and Gnabry, and young Eisfeld a promising great young player. I think he will be in our first team next season; by the way, I would give him Kallstroms place next season.
Back to Per; for me the way he responded to his penalty mistake was every bit the leader legend role of a John Terry or Vincent Kompany. He is solid and it does feel to me like the best skippers come from defence: a position where you can read the game and defend your team – he is also vocal.
There is no reason that this should undermine TV5. Easier said than done, I know, and to be fair it will a little, but the manager just needs to say to him that he wants him to be the same way as he is now; he too is a leader and a great player imo. He should continue to be a leader and give his full support, but while he is not in the side Per should captain the team.
Laurent Kosielny has signed a new long term contract so Munich can do one!
This really is great news because it continues to show that the days where we are selling our best players is over!
Kos and Per are our foundation, and while I hope Sagna also signs a new deal, he is ageing and perhaps it’s time to let Jenkinson take over; that said, you do need two very good players in every position, so for me, losing Sagna is still a very big loss. Not to mention that he can cover at CB, to replace Per with a player of equal quality. He does not need to be trained to get up to speed straight away and an external replacement would surely cost at least £15,000,000. That considered, to me it makes sense to just give him a high wage. However, our club is very shrewd with the maths, so surly they must have thought of this??? It seems clear to me, but hay I don’t know all the ins and outs.
Leadership, whether in sport or business, is a fascinating topic. Some believe teams do not need to have one leader; that all can lead together. I guess the latter is true as long as things go well. The football equivalent to the Harlem Globetrotters, from the city with the beautiful horizon, did not seem to need a leader, as trophy after trophy was won with breathtakingly beautiful post-total football. But then Guardiola left and slowly it became clear who their real leader had been; and when Barcelona was being humiliated by Die Lederhosen, home and away, there was nobody who stood up and ordered the troops to fight back.
I am not going to be entirely popular on my own site by stating that Wenger has been quite poor in choosing his leaders for the team, especially in recent times. I reckon this is because he does not really rate the captaincy of his team, as he expects the whole team to lead itself, rather than just one individual doing it.
I also believe there should be more than one leader, so that when things are not going well on the pitch various people stand up and fight for the cause. The best test of our leadership ability is when we play our most loathed opponent in recent history, the Mancs. Last year, the first year of the traitor at Manure, was so poor in terms of leadership, epitomised by Vermaelen’s early, painful capitulation by meekly handing that boy-man the ball on a silver plate.
Two weeks ago, our leadership on the pitch was a bit better, but it still was not brilliant. We played with too much respect for our opponent and did not really play with the belief we would be able to turn things round. Flamini and Arteta did their best to get the troops going but it was not enough.
Watching Mertesacker operating as the captain for Germany made me think again what a fine captain he would be for Arsenal. I have written a few posts over the years stating that Wenger should never have made Vermaelen our captain but have handed the armband to our BFG instead. Vermaelen has become a worse player as a result of the captaincy, as for me he is a specialist rather than a natural leader, who needs to focus hard on his own role rather than also having to think about team management as well. Why he is still the captain is beyond me and can only be explained by Wenger’s apparent belief that it does not really matter who captains our team.
Yet, Mertesacker’s strengths are organisation and leadership and I reckon we would still get a lot more out of him by HONOURING him with the armband. The longer he has been with us the more I believe he is our new Tony Adams, and there have not been many good leaders as Adams has been for us in recent history.
The BFG is not just a brilliant reader of the game and excellent organiser of his defence – just like Adams was; he also has that bit of mongrel in him, that real desire to win and put his heart and soul into every performance. He loves Arsenal and the rest look up to him.
I love all these qualities in Mertesacker and for me it is time to hand him the armband; to make him our captain, our leader. It will give him wings and the team the leadership it craves for.
Apparently, Florentino Perez recently said our record signing was not able to deal with ‘the pressure’ at Real Madrid and that is why he was allowed to leave. Whatever Perez exactly said about about Mesut Ozil’s departure does not really matter to us, but for his own sake, the self-celebrating president would do wisely to make things up with our nr.11 before he has properly burned his bridges.
I truly hope Ozil will be a Gunner till the end of his career, just like our saintly Dennis did once he arrived from Inter. It might become the best yardstick of the club’s growth in stature in Europe if we could keep hold of him, whilst building a truly successful team around him.
I have little doubt that Arsene will move Ozil to another level in the next two years and turn him into an even better footballer.
He will allow him to play in the hole like a proper nr.10, and build a team around him. Yet, Wenger will simultaneously develop Ramsey, Jack, and Ox, and one or two others, into exceptional footballers, which means that the pressure to be the main man will be somewhat spread across a number of players. This is already the case right now, as the likes of Flamini, Arteta, BFG, Cazorla, and to some extent, Theo, Giroud, Rosicky and Podolski co-share the team-leading responsibilities with him.
Ozil looks at home like a frog in a pond, and yet it is clear he is only playing at 70% of his capability, as the telepathic relationships between him and his teammates simply need time to fully develop. The really good thing right now is that we keep winning whilst Ozil, and to a lesser extent Flamini, get time to properly grow into our first team. It is fair to say that the fixtures list has been very kind to Arsenal in that respect, but we deserve it after a number of tough starts in recent seasons.
Of course, we only have to look at Ozil’s current statistics to know that his settling into the team is going hand in hand with producing the goods for Arsenal already: two assists per game is simply magic, and long may it continue. I agree with Wenger, though; the best is yet to come, and this is all to do with Ozil being able to give shape and purpose to the team on a constant basis.
Once that happens, and the likes of Podolski, Cazorla and Ox return to the squad as well, the real party can get started.
I predict that Madrid will be begging on their knees for Ozil to return in two years, and that Perez will come to see the German Wizard’s departure as the biggest mistake during his Presidential era. He might even do ‘a Robben’ or ‘a Sneijder’ and win the CL with Arsenal. Mesut is ours now and here to stay, and he will have the last laugh!
I am really looking forward to the WBA game. I love to see our youngsters combined with our more experienced players and play some fine football in the process; and usually the League Cup does not disappoint in this respect. It will be really hard to predict an accurate line-up for Wednesday, and I am inviting fellow BK readers to give us their first eleven.
Who would you like to start against WBA and in what formation (and why)? Who should captain the team?
One of the positions in our team for which there is general consensus we need to strengthen, is at centre back (CB). Towards the end of the season we found a defensive stability in Koscielny and Mertesacker that hasn’t been seen since Keown and Campbell were shutting out opposition strikers back in the early 2000’s.
These two – Kos and Per – formed a defensive partnership that saw us finish the league as the third best team in the league defensively. All I can say about this, is whatever Steve Bould is doing is working wonders. It’s never easy to come in and teach the same set of players new tactics – especially in one season – and expect to see such progress, but he has pulled it off.
However, Thomas Vermaelen, our club captain, had a torrid season by his extremely high standards. Mistakes plagued his game, and at some point, I couldn’t even recognize the player who barely a year before was the obvious successor to RVP.
That said though, we know how good he is and therefore any calls for him to be moved on are seriously myopic. Then we have Squillaci, who all I’m going to say about him is, thank God he has been moved on. Our final two CBs are Djourou and Miquel. Djourou was loaned to the Bundesliga, and quite honestly, I’d rather he stays there permanently. Miguel is talented but still too young and raw to be promoted to the first team.
This means that we have three functional centre backs. Everyone knows that every top team especially in the EPL needs a minimum of 4 good defenders. This is why we have been linked with a host of defender such as Adil Rami, Matts Hummels, Ashley Williams, Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Martin Skrtel, among others.
I would, however, like to throw a certain defender’s name in the ring; Phil Jagielka.
Jagielka is a 30 year old CB who captains Everton and plays for the English national team. About 3 years ago we were strongly chasing him, but the then Everton manager David Moyes, refused to fold. For me, he ticks all the boxes. He is tall (good in the air), strong, experienced, has a fantastic mentality, a tough but fair tackler, a leader and a fantastic reader of the game. Also for a 30 year old, he is extremely athletic and is in the prime of his abilities. In my opinion, compared to all the players we have been linked with, save for maybe Hummels, he is a far superior option.
I watched him ever since he shut Man Utd out on their opening game, and I must say I am outraged that Rio Ferdinand was awarded a spot in the team of the season, ahead of him. Jagielka was absolutely solid all season and a very big factor why Everton have performed the way they have in the past few seasons. Plus, his consistency is amazing. I watched about 26 Everton games last season and he did not have a single bad game. Not even one. In fact, the more I watched Everton play, the more I wondered why he is not plying his trade in a top four team, because he certainly has the ability. Even when he dons the three lions jersey, his class is there for all to see.
Like I said earlier, Per and Kos have formed a fantastic partnership. This is largely attributed to the fact that the two complement each other. Kos athleticism, tackling, ball playing skills and all round charisma is complemented by Per’s composure, reading of the game and aerial ability. Even by Arsene’s admission, Per is not the tidiest of players nor the best, but he gets the job done. Please note that I am not by any means downplaying his abilities or contribution to the team.
Jagielka performs the same function for Everton except he IS a very good player. He is faster, a better tackler, more energetic, and despite Per’s height advantage, is very good in the air. This is evidenced by the number of goals he scores with his head and the number of aerial clearances he makes. He is also a much more physical player. When you compare Jagielka and Mertesacker, the former comes out on top in my opinion. For me, he would represent a significant upgrade to Per and would form an even meaner defence alongside Kos. He would also push the level of competition for places in that back line up a notch.
I couldn’t tell you how much he would cost if we went in for him, or even if he would be interested in joining us, but with Moyes and probably a few key players leaving, you never know. Plus with the current building we are doing, our strong finances and champions league football, we would have a very strong hand at the negotiation table.
I’d like to repeat that this is all my opinion. I feel Jagielka is the kind of player who would form a title winning defence, and we should really consider taking advantage of Everton’s period of transition, and snap him up.
Written by: Marcus
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It’s been a while since I delivered a post, partly due to the fact that the season is over but mostly due to my ever increasingly hectic schedule. So I felt I should write about what’s been on my mind lately.
Like all Gooners worldwide, it’s going to be a very long month and a half before I get to see my beloved Arsenal play. This is because I can feel that a wind of change will blow our way, and 2013-14 is going to be a season when the respect we have lost over the years will be taken back. For now, though, the transfer season is here and rumours have been flying left, right and centre regarding potential arrivals and departures. Nothing new there.
I have to admit the suspense which comes with waiting to see what moves Le boss will make in the market, is killing me. On a positive note, though, the preseason trip to Asia, the emirates cup and the friendly against city, will afford us a chance to see what the new faces will bring to the squad – and against proper opposition, I might add (the latter competitions more so).
A few days ago, phase one of getting rid of the dead wood in the squad commenced with the confirmation that the contracts of Arshavin, Denilson and Squillaci have ran out, and they have been released by the club. There are still a quite a few names missing from this list, but I digress from my subject matter.
It is becoming obvious that this is going to be a summer where the squad will be virtually overhauled, where more than 5 players will leave and roughly the same number brought in. Call it my 6th sense but I think that’s why the club has packed our preseason like that. Wenger has the ins and outs in mind and wants the new faces to have proper preparation before our new campaign begins. And people wonder why they call him Le Prof.
The main reason for this post though lies more with the outs than the ins. Like I said earlier, the rumour mill is going wild as expected with TV5, Poldi, Rosicky, Gervinho, Koscielny, Wilshere and Sagna all being linked with exits from the clubs. Some of the names on here are ridiculous, or rather, are unacceptable to the Gunners faithful. Wilshere, Poldi and Kos being the three. With some, the fans smile inside and hope that the predictions and links by the media come to fruition: a certain Ivorian comes to mind. Finally there are those who split opinion and this is my reason for writing this post. Obviously I am referring to TV5, Rosicky and Sagna.
It is of no debate that, by their standards, these three had less than stellar seasons. With Rosicky and Sagna injury was to blame and weirdly enough, these two were able to pick themselves up and finish strongly. With TV5, I can’t really tell you why. Some say it is the pressure of being made skipper but ultimately, only he can tell us what changed to cause this loss of form. I won’t dwell on that, however.
As is expected, there is a section of fans AND media which is calling for their heads. More so because they know that in this transfer window, Wenger has the financial capability to replace them. I am here to prove to you that this would be a mistake. A massive one at that.
Axing these three players would not only be insanely myopic, but would have an effect on the team that these critics don’t seem to see. These three are the longest serving Gunners we have. Not only that, they are the most experienced, and at their best are undoubtedly world class.
If you don’t believe me, ask yourself why despite the poor season Vermaelen has had, he is still being linked to the likes of Barcelona. These players have not only football but Arsenal football experience, which is part of a balance that would see us win a trophy next season, if Wenger played his cards right. There is always talk of Wilshere, Walcott, the Ox as the spine of the team, but take away the three mentioned and see the adverse effect it would have on the team.
Their experience is what guides us. These are players who are leaders on the field. How many times has TV5, a defender, scored a winning goal that awarded us 3 crucial points? When we are under pressure, which three players are you assured will remain calm and pull us across the finish line? With the exception of Jack, it is these three. They are also mentors to the younger players and even Jack in all his glory I’m sure would attest to the guidance he has received from Rosicky. In the away tie vs Bayern, Rosicky ran our midfield. Sagna was part of that incredible back four. This is a game that many would have choked. Just ask Barca players.
I am going to come out and make a very bold statement that is sure to cause some debate.
If we sell these three, no matter who we replace them with, there is an 70% chance that we will not win anything next season. At least not yet.
I say this because you cannot replace their experience at Arsenal, the EPL and as footballers in general. They know the workings of the club and league in and out and are core of experience that we need to build around in order to achieve success. Thankfully, Le boss seems to agree with me and is working to ensure that they stay firmly put as we prepare to mount a serious title challenge next term.
I will leave you with something to ponder on. Form is temporary, but class is permanent.
Written by: Marcus.
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Dear Thomas Vermaelen – De Leeuw van Vlaanderen (the Lion of Flanders),
I don’t know what is going on regarding your current position at the club. As it is the ‘silly season’, and you have been on the bench for ten out of the last eleven club games, it is inevitable that rumours will be circulated regarding your future at the club. There might not be a single bit of truth in it, as we are aware of the manipulative, mendacious nature of the majority of the professional football sites and papers.
I hope you and the manager have no intention whatsoever to discontinue your stay at our beloved Arsenal.
But just in case there is some truth in the rumours you could be leaving the home of football this summer, I am writing to you to say: stay put and fight for your place. You are a Gunner and you belong at The Arsenal!
Sometimes it is good to allow a bit of doubt and humility into your life, in order to make progress. The captaincy has not worked out and I reckon this is due to you being more of a specialist than a born leader. We have all come to love you for your passion, tenacity, controlled aggression and fearlessness as our left-sided CB. But since you have become captain, your performances have often been below-par. I believe the combination of having – feeling – the responsibility to lead your defence, and the team as a whole, has diminished your ability to concentrate on your defensive duties, and this has led to a number of painful and costly mistakes.
Yet, we all know what a fantastic kuitenbijter (carves-biter) of a CB you are, and how you always play with pride and love for the shirt. That’s how we’ve come to love you, and it’s what we are all longing for you to return to as soon as possible.
Towards the end of the season, the BFG and Koz were rightly the chosen CB-pairing, and I love both guys as much as I do you, Verminator. But there is a whole summer to get back to your very best, and to give Wenger a proper selection headache for the new season.
This is the time for you to fight: laat ze allemaal een poepie ruiken! You are 27 and the very best years are ahead of you; you are the beast of a CB we all want and need.
First thing to do, is to humble yourself a bit and tell Arsene you don’t want the armband any more – that it is not for you. Wenger can give it permanently to Arteta, or even Mertesacker (my preference). Let others lead the team and/or the defence, and you just concentrate on being the best CB in the PL again.
Thomas you have all the qualities – technically, tactically and psychologically – to become an absolute CB-beast again: the one who treats his opponents like vermin that needs devouring; the one who towers above everyone, and vacuum-cleans everything up in front of, or behind, him; the one who inspires his team by example and score pulsating (late) goals which make us grab all the points.
Come on Thomas, please stay put and fight for your place. This is no time for turning. This is the time to refocus and come out fighting, and to become a footballer in full.
I want to hear the Lion of Flanders ROAR again and to see you play with the passion and power that only you possess.
Ik weet dat je het kan, je moet enkel in jezelf geloven!
Leadership on the pitch is such a prerequisite for being successful, and it is fair to say that Arsene does not always get in right when it comes to choosing the right captain for the team. Adams, Vieira and Van Judas were inspired choices, but Fabregas and Vermaelen were less suitable for the leadership role in my opinion.
Fabregas was brilliant at leading by example but most of us felt something was missing: he was not a naturally born leader, and as a result he struggled with some vital aspects of leadership we were craving for. Fabregas was a more introvert and bloody brilliant creative, attacking midfielder, who needed to concentrate fully on the technical and tactical aspects of the game.
VJ was a very good leader, who could concentrate on both his own job as a central striker as well as the wider leadership responsibilities; and somebody Arsene would have build this year’s team around once more… But enough said about the grey-haired, broody woman with the boy screaming inside of him for manures new.
I could see quite quickly that Vermaelen was trying very hard, and maybe too hard, to be a good captain for us. He struggled with the communication side of things and tried to overcompensate with ‘leading by example’. Unfortunately, his own technical/tactical performances suffered in the process and on more than a few occasions it were his mistakes that led to us losing our confidence, shape and composure, which have cost the team dearly in a number of games.
I reckon Vermaelen is a great defender but just needs to be led rather than lead, and surely he will not be our captain again come next season.
Arteta is doing a good job at the moment and clearly revels in the leadership role, but the question remains whether he has got what it takes to be our long-term captain, not just in the PL but also in Europe.
Below you’ll find an overview of what I reckon a good captain/leader is all about:
Leads by example: not just with good personal performances, but also with high energy-levels/commitment, and a never-say-die attitude. He never spares himself, always gives everything and plays with his heart on his sleeve. He will also stand up for his players and let nobody be bullied by the opposition;
Is blessed with a high level of social-emotional intelligence: he understands what is going in the minds of other players, and is able to support them accordingly, on and off the pitch;
Is extrovert: he is not a constant shouter, but he likes to talk to this fellow players and make himself known when things are not going right;
Is a great communicator with the crowd/fans, and an ambassador for the club. He understands what the fans want and are concerned about, and gives good interviews to the press, by always representing the club professionally and with real passion;
Is a great communicator, ‘liaison-manager’between the players and management.He has got the respect of Wenger, the coaches and the players, and is able to translate messages up and down effectively;
Is a team player/ team builder: he will regularly praise, on and off the pitch, contributions made by others and help the team in becoming a strong unit.
Is good tactically:he has a good overview of what is happening on the pitch and, by talking to his team players, can make minor adjustments to the way the team is playing.
Both Vieira and Adams ticked most if not all of the above boxes, but if I had to choose, I would say that Adams has been our best captain in Arsene’s era at Arsenal.
I reckon, we have a player with plenty of ‘Adamsesque’s mongrel’ in him within our current team, but I am not going to say who that is yet, in order to not steer the discussion too much.
I would like to ask my fellow Gooners who they believe should be our long-term captain from next season onwards, and why?
Looking forward to hearing your choices!
Written by: TotalArsenal.
With a special thanks to JGC for coming up with the term ‘Adamsesque Mongrel’ 🙂
There is no doubt that 2013/14 is going to be a monumental turning point of a season for Arsenal. With new financial deals in place, hopefully a summer of transfer ins rather than outs, and possibly Arsene’s final season in charge, it will be the season that will hopefully see the return of Arsenal to glory.
But in order for us to achieve that, what needs to change?
1 – Sort out the squad by the middle of July, have a consistent first team and timely rotations
One of the biggest issues that I’ve felt has had a huge impact on the club is the fact that our transfers for the last few years are all over the place right up until August. As a result, in the preseason friendlies the squad doesn’t get too much time to gel in. In 2012/13, a large part of the business was done earlier, but for some reason the first team did not really gel in well till late in the first half of the season. In fact, I don’t think we knew our first choice team till late in the season. TV, being the club captain wasn’t performing and yet was played in the hope that he’d regain some form. Poldi, Giroud, Theo and Gervinho all were tried in the CF spot before Ollie took the role as his own. Similarly, I’m still not sure who Arsene thinks is his first choice keeper, RB and LB. Ramsey came into his own in his correct position late in the season after being played in a variety of roles.
Now of course, during the course of a season, players have ups and downs, and the first team evolves. But I’ve had this nagging feeling that our first team hasn’t been what it should have been. With a consistent formation earlier on in the season, the new players coming in hopefully having had time to gel in through pre-season friendlies, and a clear thought out squad with defined back ups, I am quite certain we can start the season in good stead unlike the first two 0-0 draws this season. Also, the fact that Poldi, Ollie and Santi will be in their second seasons, and Poldi hopefully fitter, we should be stronger.
It’s also important for Arsene to be decisive in terms of picking and dropping form/out of form players. That’s another thing I believed let us down till late this season. There has to be genuine competition where back up and first team players will raise their games in order to be part of the playing eleven.
Finally, rotate the squad at the right time. I believe this season Ollie, Santi, Jack (at times), Arteta amongst a few players have been overplayed. This has partially been because there were injuries and partially because there were no viable back up options. That will hopefully change next season, because we finally have a good base of a squad with the strength of character, and with new players coming into improve the set up, players should be rotated so that form is retained and burn out minimized. I kept shaking my head when I’d hear comments in the middle of this season that so and so player was mentally or physically tired.
2 – A strong vocal performing captain
This point is again vital. Ever since I can remember it has been strong performing example-setting vocal captains who dig teams out of holes with the sheer force of their personality. Look back to Tony Adams, Vieira, even Cesc and RVP… these players believed and that belief shone through.
It’ll be interesting to see who Arsene gives the armband to if TV stays. I’m not sure if there’s been a precedent to a club captain being stripped of captaincy. Personally, my vote would go to Arteta. I wouldn’t want to give the armband to Jack just yet. It would put added pressure on him.
Or perhaps if Cesc returns, give it back to Cesc 🙂
3 – Capture the fans imagination, change the press narrative
Think of Arsenal FC, and the narrative over the last few seasons has been about the club’s financial security, selling key players, lack of ambition, sub standard signings, lack of bottle, manager losing the plot, unhappy fans etc etc. There has been little positive news.
Despite the fact that all of us, as fans, have our own opinions regarding the club, we are strongly and unconsciously swayed by the noise from news media, blogs and social media. The narrative we are being fed becomes vital in this regards, because this narrative plays a huge part in the fans going against the club rather than supporting it through thick and thin. Of course, with modern media, the fickleness of all of us has become pronounced. We don’t have patience nowadays. We need everything instantly.
Because of the above, I don’t believe the fans have been excited about the club or particularly proud of the direction of the club. It is hence vital for Arsenal to capture the fans imagination and change the narrative being spewed out by the media. So, Arsenal must make a statement of intent.
The narrative I would love to see for the next season would be “Arsenal mean business”. For this it is important for something monumental to happen. Hark back to the era of the unbeaten invincibles, did we not get excited about that? Hark back to the battles between Arsenal and Man U, despite winning/losing titles. Hark back to Lehmann keeping clean sheets leading up to the Champions League final and the run itself. Hark back to beating Real 1-0 away. Hark back to leading Barca for 78 minutes in the final. Hark back to the 0-0 FA Cup final vs. Man U when we were battered but we won on penalties. Hark back to winning the league in Old Trafford and Spurs. Hark back to Jose Antonio Reyes and Arshavin’s captures. The 4-4 vs. Liverpool. Even the 3-0 vs. Milan last season.
The funny thing is that the memories become less exciting in the last few seasons, so that has to change. My personal favorite way to achieve that would be Cesc returning. Or, perhaps another marquee signing to show we mean business. Or perhaps another unbeaten run… here’s hoping!
4 – Be strong against the top six, and clinical against lower half opposition
We have been quite abysmal this season against the top six, and I felt that has played a huge part in our struggle. This partially for me has been due to the fact that we have had many new players, and partially because of a general lack of belief in the team that we can compete with the top teams. This in particular was most visible in the first half of the season, and partially has come about because of the massive loss to Man U last season. I believe the psychological impact of that loss still resounds, and it is vital that we show the world that we can beat the likes of Man u, City and Chelsea when it matters.
Interestingly, in some of the previous seasons, we did quite well against the top six, but let in draws and losses against lower opposition. This is again something that needs to be guarded against.
We need to be consistent and clinical, and have that collective belief about us and the bit between our teeth. I was unbelievably proud of how we harried Man U in the first half of the game on the weekend, and that is how we need to play consistently. With hunger and intensity.
No fan will complain if that level of quality remains.
Against the top six, pick up home wins and away draws, and we’re laughing! Against the rest, be clinical and finish them off!
5 – Do the basics right and have clear objectives
Finally, I believe that for a large part of this season, we lost track of the fundamentals. The basics are vital, and even a poor team can get a result if the basics are done right. Solid no nonsense defending, making the right pass while up field, and pressing and harrying are things that we can be good at, but struggle to do consistently. If we get these basics right and don’t panic as we are liable to do quite often, then we will be sure to have a solid season.
At the same time, in terms of the basics, the manager and the squad need to be sure about their objectives and priorities in achieving those objectives. For me unless we don’t make the right buys, we are not in a position to challenge for the EPL, so therefore the realistic bet for getting a trophy can only be the FA CUP or the League Cup. The manager needs to know what he wants for the team, and make the right basic decisions to achieve the said. Buying an expensive quality player is just one of those decisions.
It’ll be interesting to hear what you guys think of some of these points and if you feel there can be further things that need to change!
Our team is currently devoid of leadership: nobody is able to take the bull by the horns and pull us out of this pile of excrement.
Yesterday’s game against Swansea was the ideal opportunity to start Arsenal’s recovery, as a win would have taken us within only two points of third position in the league table. A lot of the recent negativity surrounding both the quality of our football and our position in the league would have been instantly forgotten, as the hunt for third would have become our main focus.
However, our collection of eleven players on the pitch never looked like winning yesterday; and more than the result, this is hurting us badly now. Of course, Swansea are not a bad team and their confidence was high; and nothing is better for not feeling fatigue than being on a good run. Swansea deserved their win, but it is also fair to say that we handed it to them by not finding a cutting edge throughout most of the game.
It is absolutely amazing that Arsenal can still look so disjointed and one-dimensional after 15 PL games. I still feel that all our players are working hard to make things happen, but football is a lot more than 11 players working hard and performing their roles as good as they can.
Without any doubt, the most important thing that Arsenal are lacking at the moment is on-field leadership. Everybody is hiding in that respect, or maybe it is just a case of not being able to lead; maybe we have a bunch of players who need to be led by a strong leader with excellent organisational skills. And who is going to do that?
Vermaelen is a fine CB and for me he is our first soldier in defence, but he is not a leader. Any leader would choose Vermaelen in his team, as he would give his all for them, but ultimately he is a specialist who should be left to concentrate on his defensive duties like a pit-bull terrier.
From an organisational point of view, I would prefer Mertesacker to be our captain, or maybe Arteta. Both have a good overview of the game and can organise a team really well. They both could do a far better job in leading the team on the field than Vermaelen currently does.
But I am actually starting to think we need something else now.
We need a new on-field hero: somebody with the energy and drive, the never-say-die attitude, and the ability to rouse the troops; somebody who can re-install belief and purpose in our football, and who understands what it means to play for Arsenal: somebody of the leadership pedigree of Adams or Vieira.
Until recently, I believed Jack is too young for this, but a leader needs to take to the stage when duty calls him.
Jack is the complete midfielder and has the fighting spirit to make things happen; he bleeds Arsenal and also has the required organisational skills to guard the shape of our team and the execution of Arsene’s philosophy of football on the pitch.
It is time for a new hero. It is time for the giant-killer to start wielding his axe at Arsenal. Arsene has got to be brave a make changes now.
“This is no time for ease and comfort. It is time to dare and endure”
Many have argued over the last few days that Wilshere’s red card, last Saturday, was a result of fatigue/ lacking match fitness, and/or that Wenger was to blame for not substituting him earlier. No doubt, he was suffering from rustiness, and Evra overreacted of course for Jack’s second yellow card, but I fully understand why Arsene did not want to substitute one of his very few extroverted warriors on the pitch at Old Toilet.
I have stated on more than one occasion that I reckon our current players do not suffer from a lack of attitude or hunger to win. We have a good bunch of players who work hard and want to succeed, but confidence is low at the moment, as a result of our system not working properly and a few players lacking top form.
Everybody is trying hard to get better, and although this is vitally important; it is not enough.I feel at times we are being too introverted, too quiet, and too nice to our opponents on the pitch.
Without doubt there are new language barriers to be overcome, and as Arsenal are fitting in new players, it takes time for them to gain the confidence again to shout at each other, to openly motivate each other, to come out of their individual shells and command their area of the pitch. A lack of success currently does not help either.
Surely, we will improve in these areas, but we also need a bit more healthy aggression and extravert leadership on the pitch.
At the moment, we have too many players who are just focussing on their own performance; on their own role and responsibilities, and however understandable this is, we need more open leadership all over the pitch.
Arteta, Mertesacker, Jenkinson, Gibbs, and to a certain extent Ramsey and Sagna are by nature more extravert, and therefore communicate more loudly with their fellow players. Szczesny has this too and Mannone is growing in confidence and is becoming clearly more vociferous. Vermaelen, as a player, was good at this too, but as a captain he is struggling both in leading the team and performing his own CB duties to the required levels at the moment.
Against MU we really lacked extravert leadership and more than just a bit of healthy aggression.
Prior to the game on Saturday, Arsenal had collected a meagre six yellow cards and no red cards in nine PL games. I don’t want us to become a nasty team, but getting less than one yellow card per game is telling us something about our levels of aggression at the moment.
As it stands, MU have collected 100% more yellow cards than Arsenal: 18 to 9. We have the one red card now and the Mancs have not collected a red card yet, but that should not come as a surprise… Chelsea have collected 14 yellow cards and two red cards, the Spuds 13Y/1R, Everton 19Y/1R and Liverpool 14Y/2R, and only Fulham, Man City and a few bottom of the league clubs have shown similar levels of disciplinary prowess; or should that be lack of aggression?! For me, it is the latter: we need more bite in this team. Only Arteta has collected more than one yellow card in the PL this season!!
Wilshere sensed this on Saturday and was determined to change it, and just for that I love him.
He will become 21 in January ‘13, but having missed out well over a year through injury, he is effectively only 19; in terms of football experience. Yet, he is simply born with extravert leadership skills and with a hunger to fight and win every time. And he is a definite Arsenal and England captain for the future for me.
He showed the others that sometimes you have to put your foot in, to do more than just your tactical/technical job, and to fight for the pride of the shirt and your own, personal honour. He is clearly also a very good footballer and as a result he will quickly gain the respect of the senior players in the squad again.
With a bit of luck they will follow his lead more and more, and the team will find a healthier balance between good tactical and technical football – which in itself needs further improvement – and playing with the right level of aggression and leadership on the pitch.
I am sure Wenger is sensing this too and, like all of us, he will be praying that JW10 will remain fit for the rest of the season.