Arsenal Depot

A depository for musings on Arsenal FC

Next Gen Lose, Drogba Linked, Giroud Jeered

While waiting for Premier League action to return after the interlull, Arsenal’s U-19 team provided an opportunity to watch some of our up-and-coming talent as Terry Burton’s boys took on Olympiacos in the second game of the NextGen series in Athens last night.

Unfortunately, the match ended in a 2-0 defeat for the Gunners. Arsenal had actually started the brighter of the two sides with both Gnabry and Ebecilio taking shots in the opening 20 minutes. But as the first half wore on, the home team came more into the game and it was a much more even contest from there on.

The second half continued to be a low quality affair but while Olympiacos’ long balls attempts in the first half were being thwarted by Arsenal holding a disciplined high line, their diagonal balls in the second half were beginning to cause problems for Hajrovic and Bellerin. Still, until the opening goal in the 82nd minute, it looked as if the young Gunners would return home with a well deserved point.

It was not to be. A good first save by Reice Charles-Cook fell to a Olympiacos player and the home team took the lead. Where previously Arsenal had looked reasonably solid at the back, conceding so late seemed to drain the confidence out of the youngsters and Olympiacos had the better of the play in the remaining eight minutes. In that time, Hector Bellerin got sent off for a professional foul and the home team managed to convert from the resulting free kick.

Although the result is a disappointment, these kind of games are the ones that will build the character of these young footballers. The experience of playing in front of a hostile crowd, the concession of a late goal and the capitulation afterwards will serve as important lessons for these youngsters. Terry Burton will have his observations on the game as well and hopefully Arsenal’s NextGen will learn quickly and show an improvement in the next away game.

Elsewhere, the transfer window in Europe may have closed but it seems there’s no problem with recruiting players from Asia. Hence Didier Drogba’s unsettled stay at Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua is said to be attracting interest from Arsenal and Liverpool, both said to be keen on bringing the 34-year-old back to England.

With the success Drogba has enjoyed against us in his eight years at Chelsea, I admit it would be fantastic to finally see him play on the side of the good guys. But however enticing that possibility may be, a transfer seems highly unlikely. And it’s not because of sentimentality although Ray Wilkins will have you believe it is so.

For one, Arsenal would have to change their style of play to accommodate the Ivorian’s strengths. For Drogba’s directness to be effective, wide players and full-backs would need to substantially increase deliveries into the box, something Arsenal are averse to doing as it disrupts our passing rhythm and concedes possession to the opposition. Of course, the powerful striker could be very handy from set-pieces and corners. As a super sub late on in games, he could be the difference between a point and three.

The main reason though for this smoke to be without fire is because Drogba’s wages are rumoured to be around £200,000 a week. Arsenal would never fork out that kind of money for a 34-year old who might see only 20 minutes of action every other game. If we had those kind of riches, Robin van Persie would still be at the Emirates. Unless of course Drogba also has the habit of consulting with the little boy inside. And who knows what he might be whispering to Didier.

Of course, these rumours are surfacing because of Arsenal’s apparent lack of firepower upfront. Olivier Giroud hasn’t quite taken off yet and while the former Montpellier man settles in, Arsenal’s options up front are limited at present. Chamakh hasn’t shown any signs of improving form while Podolski didn’t look convincing as the central striker against Sunderland. Neither Walcott nor Gervinho have played centrally before and although Theo may prefer that role, the winger would need a more physical striker playing alongside to be effective.

Having said that, the media is being silly in writing Giroud off after two starts for the club. Unfortunately, to compound his discomfort, the striker had to put up with the genteel crowd at the Stade de France booing him off on Tuesday after an ineffectual display for France against Belarus.

But while he’s missed a couple of good opportunities in front of goal, his overall link-up play, work rate and especially movement has been excellent. Among others, the Arsenal Column has covered this last trait in good detail here. Hopefully Arsenal’s number 12 will find his goal-scoring touch soon enough and in a couple of months we’ll be asking – Drog who?

More tomorrow. Until then.

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