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Bale who?

On a day when the nominees for FIFA’s Ballon d’Or is announced, there’s a big chance for someone at Arsenal to join that esteemed list next year. Barcelona may have dominated this year’s award when they have 3 of their own in the top 3, namely Lionel Messi, Andreas Iniesta and Xavi but might have to sit back and accept that an Arsenal player may just sneak into the list this time next year. Samir Nasri has been our outstanding performer thus far and if he can continue in the same way, there’s no reason that why he should not get nominated. Though, his individual performance will have to be matched with team glory.

After scoring both goals which sent Fulham home empty-handed on Saturday, Nasri is rightly getting all the plaudits. Chris Kamara says he has ‘fantastic feet’. Johan Djourou was effusive in his praise and he thinks that even at this performance, Nasri still ‘has several levels left to reach his peak‘. Meanwhile Tony Cascarino believes that ‘no one sells a better dummy than Nasri‘. Bacary Sagna said that ‘Nasri is crazy’ and ‘Domenech is even crazier not to pick him for the World Cup‘.

The player himself believe that his recent form is more down towards his own increasing maturity level. Nasri is allowing things to happen naturally and do not pressure himself to get the goals. That is one thing with these players. Whenever one makes the move to a new club, they always try too hard to impress. Whether that means goals or dribbling runs or assists or saves, they want to make an impression to their new boss as well as the fans. By becoming more relax and just concentrating on working for the team, the rest will come naturally, as is the case with Nasri now. Also because he no longer has stiff necks to stifle him.

With Arsenal you never get all the highs. While one player is thriving in almost every single game that he has played, another is suffering from injury and missing out a big part of the season already. The unfortunate one in this case is Thomas Vermaelen. He has already been fitted with protective boots and according to Arsene Wenger, Vermaelen is a player whom we will not see in any match action again this year. It is a big blow to a player that was almost ever-present last season though he is too down-hearted and is hoping to get back to playing once again.

The Belgian’s absence is not good news for Arsenal, a fact that is strengthen even more by the amount of goals that we’ve already conceded thus far. A total which belies the fact that we are still challenging for the title. I think we’ve been very fortunate to have scored a high number of goals to mask that weakness in defence. Something which Wenger also acknowledges.

We have to stop conceding those goals in games that we’re cruising. It is fine that we keep on attacking to get a bigger advantage in a match but the team must also be defensively conscious. Even when we are leading by 3 or 4 goals, it really does help to keep a clean sheet. Whenever a clean sheet is kept, confidence grows. It also means that players are not only aware of their attacking duties but also their defensive functions as well.

One of the ways to do that is make sure that our players understand their role in the squad. When we’ve been over-run in midfield and the opposition is seeing a lot more of the ball, it makes no sense for our defensive midfielders to bomb forward in support of our attacks. If Wenger is talking about pressuring players higher up the pitch, that surely means the front 3 or the midfield 2 from Fabregas/Denilson/Wilshere/Rosicky/Diaby are the ones pushing further forward and not throwing Alex Song further than even the wide attackers. In which case, Song’s licence has to be revoked.

More tomorrow. Have a nice day.