A bit of a break before the Monday FA Cup third round tie against Leeds United. After a hectic last one week of football, it’s a welcomed breather for the team. 7 out of 12 points from our last 4 games is not ideal but it isn’t bad either. Could’ve been more had the team not collapse in the last part of the Fulham game.
Any player will tell you that the best feeling to go away on a substantial period of break from competitive football is when the last match was a victory. Now the players have another 10 days to mull over what happened at Craven Cottage. But it is also 10 days for the same players to recover from their holiday exertions. The next game is at Liberty Stadium and it won’t be an easy place to go and get maximum points.
If the latest news is to be believed, that match comes just a week too early for Bacary Sagna. The Frenchman has been pencilled in to return just in time for Manchester United’s visit, 7 days after the Swansea game. Should that assessment be accurate, it is a very good news indeed. To say we’ve missed the right back is an understatement. If there’s one Mr Consistency at Arsenal for the last 3 – 4 seasons, it would be Sagna.
His absence is felt more keenly due to the injuries suffered by players on the opposite side of the field. Playing with a natural full back has hurt our game in the last month or so. Without them, we lacked support from deep and the overlapping part of the game is not present with centre backs playing in that role. The role requires a lot of energy and I now have new found admiration in the way that Sagna goes about his job that non-specialist are seem to be able to replicate.
Of course with this being January and the presence of a transfer window, we get linked with a whole host of full backs. Not surprisingly, all of them are left backs and not right backs. Wayne Bridge, Taye Taiwo and Kieran Richardson are just some of the names mentioned. Why it is so is up to anyone’s guess. I’m of the opinion, it’s more because Andre Santos is out for the longer term while Kieran Gibbs’ continual fitness is a major suspect.
Of the 3 mentioned above, Richardson is probably the only one I want us to get close to. Given that the options we have now are out injured and not being transferred out of the club, it would suggest a loan deal being the only option. That said, I’m not entirely sure that Martin O’Neill wants to part way with the former United trainee, even if for the short period of 6 months. There will be no adaptation period needed for Richardson and it’s not like he has never been in the company of technically sound team mates.
Theo Walcott is another in the news and he has plenty to say about the state of Arsenal’s dressing room. He’s quoted as saying how the atmosphere inside the Arsenal camp has been healthier for the departures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. It is an assertion that has not gone unnoticed among Arsenal fans. The team spirit does look better in recent months that it has been for seasons before.
He doesn’t talk about being a striker in this interview and that itself is refreshing. It doesn’t mean that he’s abandoning the idea of playing in his favoured position but perhaps serves to show his growing maturity. That he’s accepting it for now that he’s a wide attacker and his contribution can come from other positions. Or maybe perhaps, this time around, no one asked him that question.
Walcott’s form has been very good this season. Consistent run of games and lack of injuries are real reasons why he has played so well. It’s never easy to come in and out of a side and be expected to play superbly each time. One can see the improvement in his game and how he has matured as a footballer on the pitch. There’s more variation in his game and his control/touch are getting better.
The last 2 games may not have looked very good on his CV but that’s part and parcel of being a footballer. Everyone of them goes through it. The dry spell or the lack of form. I’m not too worried about it at the moment. If he continues to be this dire in the coming 3 – 4 games then we can start to question him but for now, let’s give him a chance to turn it around.
By his own admission, he knows that he has to keep improving. Of course, it is not only him, it applies to the rest of the team as well. That they need to take some of the goal scoring burden off the shoulders of Robin Van Persie. It’s no surprise that whenever we’ve won the league title under Arsene Wenger, there’s always been 3 or 4 players who got 10 goals or more. The likes of Walcott, Gervinho and Aaron Ramsey has to progressed to contribute to that level. By having threat from all over the pitch, it also makes us harder to contain.
The rebirth of Marc Overmars, Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg. Imagine that.