[By our Readers] March In Review: Returning To The Impressive
Written by Renzo on April 12, 2009 14:30
It’s not exactly easy to be an Arsenal fan, is it? Injuries, contract speculations, inconsistency, the ambivalence of the media’s criticism and the gaffer’s rather unorthodox methods of purchasing all contribute to the mess that is being a gunner. But those of us who’ve followed the team these last couple of seasons will already have experienced the annual varying ups and downs and the ensuing headaches. As such the gunners faithful are not easily baffled. It is, however, unusually relieving to witness this redemption of our team, especially when speculations and criticism was as severe as was the case this term.
What remains now is a month of fierce competition in shape of getting the better of Villarreal in the double face-off in the CL, disposing of arch enemies Chelsea in the FA Cup and – perhaps most importantly – keep Aston Villa at bay to maintain the crucial 4th place in the domestic league. Here’s my little list of goods and bads these past weeks plus a short look at what’s ahead:
Consistency: We’re finally beginning to look like a team that’s worth betting on for back-to-back results after spending much the majority of the season as any bookies’ nightmare. And, almost magically, it appears that even if one or two of the players are having somewhat of an off-day it doesn’t affect the outcome of the match as much as it did just a few months ago. Best not to jinx it but it really does look positive.
Finishing: I feel almost certain we’re among the teams with most shots (/on target) this season and luckily we’re still finishing off attacking moves frequently. The vintage Arsenal “wanting to walk the ball over the goal line” agony still peaks out now and then but that fact doesn’t seem to influence anything other than the statistics. We may well be among the teams with the least goals scored from outside the penalty box, but with finishers as deadly as Eduardo and the aerial forces of Adebayor (and occasionally Bendtner) that’s not of any major concern.
Season transfers: Considering his young age and previous experience I think Samir Nasri have shown immense potential this season. He may not always shine equally brightly every time (much on account of his unnatural position) but he certainly possesses many of the qualities required for competing in so many different competitions: he always gives 100%, knows when and how to keep the ball/up the pace and masters deft passes and touches. If he was only allowed to play his favorite position more often ..
Andrey Arshavin pretty much speaks for himself. The chap’s pure class. Completely disregarding his diminutive outline his vision, passing and goal scoring threat renders him a great presence on the pitch. Another very positive feature about him is his unselfishness. When a well outspoken superstar arrives to the team one could fear that he’d consider himself abundantly meritable in advance but this lad wants nothing of the sort. Quite on the contrary he’s been a very beneficial assist provider as well as a master of preserving the speed of any attack. I simply cannot wait to see him in peak condition next season.
Wing-back crossing: For all the hauling I’ve previously given our two flank-torpedos Sagna and Clichy for their dreadful crossing abilities, the lads seem to have picked up on it somewhat. It’s still not up where it should belong but they’re definitely improving. Now we just have to instruct our strikers to not drift out toward the sidelines and participate in the passing but rather position themselves within the goalmouth area.
Unnecessary conceding: This really isn’t a biggie. I somehow just feel that we’ve conceded some unnecessary goals due to simple defensive or marking lapses. Particularly the goals conceded to Hull, Newcastle and maybe even Villarreal could and should’ve been avoided. But in the end our resilience has proven pivotal and vastly inspirational, thereby rendering a couple of errors affordable.
Width in defense: Toure and Gallas, former disagreements notwithstanding, have been a solid constellation in the central rearguard. But at times it does, admittedly, look as though their poor mutual consents get the better of their defensive duties but they’ve shown expert professionalism on the field, thus avoiding any major cock-ups or deep concern. But the problem remains the same: do we have adequate substitutes in the defense? In my opinion: no. Djourou has had some decent cameos but he needs regular first team play time in order to sustain any acceptable form. Kieran Gibbs shows great athleticism going forward but still lacks cutting edge defensive abilities and positioning. And then there’s Silvestre .. Never mind the fact that I’m still hoping Ashton Kutcher might rock up any second yelling “You’ve all been Punk’d!” and that we never bought him in the first place, he’s actually been of absolutely no use whatsoever since joining us.
Sure sure, he somehow kept his nerve against his former employers in one of the greatest games ever (seriously!). However, a solitary decent performance in the course of eight months simply isn’t sufficient to be regarded as any top-flight backup. Joining the already vastly crewed choir I will second the sentiment that we need reinforcements in the defense ahead of next season.
The seemingly inexplicable restrictions of the player’s individual qualities: It’s all in the label, really. Acknowledging the designated contributions Wenger’s personal style of play brings to our games, I can’t help feeling that some of our players dampen their personal attributes in order to support the team’s style of play. But seeing footage (or indeed just having witnessed) players like Nasri and Rosicky coming out for their previous clubs makes me notice how precious little “personal action” they seem to bring to the Arsenal game. Here I’m specifically talking about the two lads’ dribbling and penetrating skills which we’ve seen at immense effect at Marseille and Dortmund respectively.
I don’t recall having seen Rosicky stride past defenders or Nasri dumbfound his direct opponent with a piece of individual magic since joining Arsenal. Now, don’t get me wrong; it’s always – ALWAYS – the team before the player, and if the player’s being deployed in a position that doesn’t encourages these moves, he shouldn’t practice them. But moves of the aforementioned sorts should and can only bring aesthetic excitement to the game in addition to their usability.. Let’s hope that it’s the English football environment and conditions rather than instructions from any position that has reduced these moments of brilliance so dramatically.
So what will it be this year? Another thrilling CL-exit followed by an injury induced capitulation in the FA? Or is it finally our time to shine in the CL by ousting United in the CL-semi to set up a glorious revenge final to remember? As always it’s damn near impossible to predict anything at this stage of the course. Our team has shown steady consistency enough to make progress in the cup-tournaments expectable if not required, and the current run of form in domestic businesses suggests no drop in the table. With the fourth place more or less secured we ought to keep our heads focused on more than just the game ahead.
Our new signings should be a boost to both the beautiful and the effective play, thus limiting the inevitable upcoming transfer buzz to singling out what defensive additions we should expect. And finally, players who’ve taken somewhat of a dip in form or motivation seem to have reawaken and are firing on all cylinders.
Will this be THE season to remember?
A very happy Easter from Denmark