City Await, Theo Frozen, Poldi Praised
Our biggest test of the season so far awaits at the Etihad tomorrow. Unusually for Arsenal, the vibes before the game are all positive. Whereas last season every big game was preceded by prophecies of the Gunners’ demise, this season there is genuine optimism tempered with caution. Some are even suggesting Arsenal could be outside challengers for the title. How about that.
Certainly victory in the last three games has boosted confidence but so has the unusually short injury list. Jack Wilshere and Emmanuel Frimpong have resumed training while Bacary Sagna and Tomas Rosicky are close. There are no further injury concerns from our Montpellier trip and for the moment, Wojciech Szczesny is the only starter whose involvement in the near future appears unlikely.
Tomorrow’s match is expected to provide answers to our title credentials. In some ways, I think playing the champions Man City and pretenders Chelsea so early in the season is beneficial to the Gunners. We’ve picked up points from the opening four games so there’s a bit of a cushion to go and play freely. If we win, it’ll lift the side even more. If we lose, it’ll be in the knowledge that two of the toughest tests are in the past.
In the meantime, this group of players seem to be enjoying being together. There were some concerns over how the new signings would adapt but both Cazorla and Podolski have made an immediate impact. That’s taken the spotlight off Olivier Giroud as the Frenchman’s lack of goals at present has been made up by others.
It has also deflected attention away from the one situation Arsenal still need to deal with, Theo Walcott’s contract extension. Arsene Wenger appears to be playing hardball with little Theo. Speaking on Walcott’s situation, the manager had this to say.
I haven’t picked him, it’s true, and it’s quite a good question. I still hope to sign him and the next two months will be vital because, after that, the longer this situation lasts the more difficult it is.
Let’s hope we can find a solution in the next two months but the fact he doesn’t play regularly at the moment is right, but it’s not necessarily linked with his contract situation.
Previously on this blog, I’ve highlighted the reasons why it’s unlikely that Walcott will be an Arsenal player next season. That being the case, I think Arsene is right in not affording playing time to the winger. Arsenal will benefit more from giving playing time to players such as Oxlade-Chamberlain who are committed to the club’s future rather than pinning our hopes on Theo putting pen to paper. The Gunners’ made the mistake with Mathieu Flamini and while his last season helped Arsenal in the short-term, his departure left a big void which was difficult to fill immediately.
Of course, Theo would be well advised to look at the present status of Flamini, Hleb, Pennant and Bentley before arriving at any decision. All these players had the attributes to be successful but did not find the conducive atmosphere to further their game. If anyone in the present Arsenal setup is most likely to head down that route of anonymity upon leaving the club, you would have to wager it will be Theo Walcott.
For now though, Arsenal have good options in wide areas. While Oxlade-Chamberlain hasn’t been spectacular on the right-wing, he’s displayed far more willingness to work for the team. Arsene Wenger also has the option of moving Gervinho there or introducing Aaron Ramsey, depending on whether the Gunners need more directness or want to control the game.
On the left, Lukas Podolski is displaying the form he’s shown for country. The German is more powerful than I had anticipated and his determination to win challenges has already contributed two goals this season. After his problems at Bayern Munich, there was some doubt about how he would settle at a big club like Arsenal. Thankfully, he’s played like he’s been with the Gunners for years.
The manager feels this is down to maturity.
When a player goes to a big club when he is very young he cannot always handle it. There might also be someone in front of them whose place they cannot take. Now he is 27. He has [experience] of the World Cup and the European Championship behind him.
Perhaps a young Lukas tried too hard at Bayern. From the day he’s arrived at Arsenal though, he’s looked cheerful and relaxed. His penchant for high-fiving teammates after every good move suggests he loves being part of a team. It’s quite different from the introspective styles of players like Fabregas and Van Persie. Poldi’s camaraderie is one of the reasons Arsenal look like a close-knit unit at present.
Back with the City preview tomorrow. Until then.