Aren’t we all glad that it’s finally over. The last round of internationals for the season. Of course there will still be stoppages here and there for friendlies as teams prepares their sides for the upcoming Euro 2012. However, that will a 3 days get-together instead of a full 10 – 12 days break. Time now to concentrate back on club football till the end of the season.
Several of the players have done well with their respective countries. Qualified for the finals (Euro 2012 and ACN 2012) or qualified for the play-offs. Some did not not do too well. Eliminated at the group stage and I can see how that can bother some players. Andrey Arshavin is probably still have not fully recovered since the drop of form that begun with Russia missing the World Cup 2010. There were a few goal scorers as well, those are still still with the club and one who’s not really with us (Nicklas Bendtner).
I don’t think there’s anyone who haven’t read those wonderful interviews of Dennis Bergkamp by Martin Keown. However, if you haven’t, here there are. Story 1, Story 2 and Story 3. Some really insightful stuffs are in those stories. Ajax have collected a wealth of experience to bring their club back to their former glory years. Having the same at Arsenal would certainly make things very exciting.
One thing worth noting from those appointments were the selection of coaching talents from various different position on the pitch and how the current Ajax side are being groomed by specialist in those positions. I’m sure they are working as a collective unit as well but one can only improve when receiving specific coaching from individuals who’ve seen it and done it before.
One of the major worries on the return from any internationals fixtures is injuries. Yet, we are very lucky this time around. Arsene Wenger has already reported a clean bill of health apart from those who are out long term. That, in itself is a rarity for Arsenal Football Club. Usually, we’ll have several walking wounded flying back to London.
The return of Thomas Vermaelen and Abou Diaby to training is a very positive piece of news. We’ve missed the former badly. The lack of organisational skills at the back has left us woefully exposed. The former has not played at all this season and does split the opinions of fans. We may never know if he will rediscover his form pre the leg break but at times when our midfield needed an injection of creativity, someone like Diaby, with that ability to skip past the next player, would have been very useful.
The best news from those returning ones are Laurent Koscielny and Johan Djourou. In recent games, we’ve played Alex Song in the centreback position. I’m right in the camp of those who thinks that no player should ever be played out of position. Of course Thierry Henry was switched from wide position to a central striking one but that is on a long term basis and not a short-term one.
Their return would allow Song to move back into midfield. Whilst I acknowledge that Song has put in a very decent shift in defence and the fact that Francis Coquelin also shone as his replacement, the Cameroon international will add that bit more bit for us in the centre of the park.
There’s talk about Koscielny being shifted to the right back spot. All this probably down to the performance of Carl Jenkinson in the defeat to Manchester United and Tottenham. However, we must not forget that he’s inexperienced and will not learn by sitting on the bench.
On one hand, I’ll be cautious to play him if there are others in the starting 11 who are played out of position. However, seeing as we’ll have specialist centrebacks and defensive midfielder back in place for Sunderland, I feel Jenkinson should get a run. If Matthieu Flamini can excel at left back, I fail to see how the former Charlton player can’t find his feet in his preferred role (with or without Martin Keown’s help).
The exploits of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for England U-21’s has raised expectations, though you can count on Wenger being the first to downplay the hype. Scoring in consecutive age level international games is not something to be taken lightly. AOC has the talent to be one of the best and we risk it all by expecting too much too soon from him. The manager has dealt with situation like this in his entire Arsenal career and I’m sure we can trust him to make the right call this time around too.
The key will be the tiny little details. Tiny as in the concentration and awareness of our positioning when without the ball. Both Aaron Ramsey and Wenger has chose to highlight this point. Either that, or the web publication team chose to focus on that point as a mean of suggestion to the manager. There’s no real mystery as to our deficiency in this early part of the season, it’s our defending.
Not for the first time that we’ve seen how the players and manager are aware of the problem afflicting the squad. Therefore, even though the problems have been spelled out, there’s a chance it won’t change. For once, I hope the realisation turns to be something better for the team.
It’s a welcome return to club football. No disrespect to international football, but I’d rather watch clubs play each other any time (major tournament finals apart). Time to clean the dust of the Arsenal shirt.