Szczesny on the Spotlight and Pressure Mounts on Giroud
I witnessed an entirely different Arsenal last weekend. The team’s work ethic was superb, individual performances were top-notch and the desire to kill off a Southampton that was more than a handful for both Manchester clubs was a testament of the team spirit that grows stronger with each passing game.
The young fullbacks, Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson, were very impressive and confident with the ball but Gibbs was the stand-out fullback as he instinctively bombed down the left and worked in tandem with Lukas Podolski to drill two crosses that resulted in embarrassing own goals for the opposition.
The center back pairing was stellar once again, but Per Mertesacker’s search for his first Arsenal goal continued as his goal-bound header was saved with consummate ease by Davies. It’s also worth noting that the impressive Laurent Koscielny is still struggling to break into the squad and I’m positive that he’ll get his chance in coming weeks.
The midfield triumvirate were brilliant as Francis Coquelin did pretty well in his first Arsenal game of the season. Signs of match rustiness were showcased on several occasions before his inevitable substitution for Aaron Ramsey that has done better in his cameo performances all season long. That bit of skill he used to clip the ball over Clyne before smashing the post was a pleasant sight, but at least, a celebrity can sleep well at night as Rambo failed to score.
Mikel Arteta’s influence on the pitch was unrivalled and his dink to Gervinho for the third goal was one peach of a pass. The lynchpin of the midfield was Santi Cazorla as he continued to stamp his authority on a consistent basis for Arsenal. Arsene Wenger has been excited by the diminutive magician’s impact, while the Ox has stated that Cazorla’s flamboyancy is a major boost to the entire team.
The way he and Podolski have forged a telepathic understanding at such a short time scale is beyond my imagination and I can only hope for more of the same.
The attacking trio of Podolski, Gervinho and the Ox left their marks on the pitch as the first two players in the aforementioned list received a rousing ovation for their exploits on the pitch against Southampton. Prinz Poldi played a vital role in showing off his strength to create room for Gibbs in the build-up to the first goal and he curled in a sweet free kick that left the goalie for dead.
As soon as that goal went in, I delved into Twitter and a Gooner tweeted that RvP had a boatload of free kicks last season and scored only one (Sunderland) while the rest killed birds in the sky but Podolski on the other hand, has played two free kicks in his fledgling Arsenal career and he has equalled RvP’s feat for the whole of last season.
Gervinho thrived in the pseudo-9 role and had a brace to show for it. The last time Gervinho scored a brace was in his first game for Arsenal in that 2-1 win of FC Cologne last season. Even Theo Walcott came off the bench to grab a goal for himself.
In an evening when everything seemed to go according to plan for Arsenal, there were two players whose performance tainted the entire outlook of the game, from an Arsenal perspective.
The last line of defense, Wojciech Szczesny, recuperated from a rib injury and was drafted back into the squad, replacing Vito Mannone that had done pretty well in his stead. However, with Arsenal firmly in the driving seat after going four goals up in the first half, a simple cross was floated into the box and with Szczesny under no form of pressure whatsoever, he chose to flap at the ball, allowing Steven Davies to disvirgin Arsenal’s goal for the first time this season.
For what its worth, it took other teams four games to get a clean sheet but it took Arsenal games to concede its first goal.
However, Szczesny’s act of complacency has rightly caused a debate for Arsenal’s custodian to be in the sticks against Montpellier but the gaffer has backed his No. 1 goalkeeper by stating that Szczesny will remain his Numero Uno until he states otherwise,
“Wojciech is No 1 unless I change my mind, that is clear. That’s why he came back in goal.
“You cannot change a goalkeeper every time he makes a simple mistake, because then you have three bad keepers. The confidence is needed.
“It’s a special position where confidence is needed. Maybe he put himself a little bit under pressure because he knows [Vito] Mannone played well at Stoke and at Liverpool. I think he played better in the second half.”
I believe that Szczesny will be offered another chance to atone for that error and a commanding performance against Montpellier will go a long way in restoring his confidence as well as the confidence his teammates have in him. Since making the No. 1 position his in 2011, Szczesny put up performances that signalled the end of Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski was also close to the exit door as well.
Per Mertesacker also backed his goalkeeper, following his howler against Southampton,
“It’s his first game after a bad injury so he needs time but he’s very important for us, we didn’t concede a goal this season in three matches so we wanted to stay like this all the time.
“It was disappointing but everyone makes mistakes. We’re a team and we have to stick together especially in such moments. Our goalkeeper is important for us, especially in the next few matches. We’re happy to have him here. That wasn’t our first thought, but our second.
“We have to keep our chins up, especially him.”
This is the kind of team spirit we craved to see at Arsenal, and the togetherness will go a long way in helping this team achieve its goals this season. Yes, Szczesny allowed complacency to creep into his game but he has been given a second chance by Arsene Wenger, a manager that has axed players from the yesteryear following horrible errors reminiscent of Szczesny’s gaff in goal.
Just ask Jens Lehmann and Manuel Almunia, they’ll paint a vivid picture for you.
On the other end of the pitch, Olivier Giroud failed to break his goalscoring duck yet again. He would have had that chance had Walcott played a better through ball to him but it was nothing to write home about. There was so much hype surrounding Giroud’s drought in the build-up to the game as a goal against Southampton would have put him in the same list of Arsenal greats but it was not to be.
Giroud has grown weary about all the fuss surrounding him, and he has stated that he’s unconcerned by his slow start,
“Confidence is so important for a striker, it’s important to keep the faith and to always keep going, even if the goals have not come for me so far.
“You have to always work hard because sometimes when you are a striker you can score every opportunity. You just need to keep concentrating on the game and never give up. I’m confident that this season will be a good one.”
A handful of games have elapsed without Giroud making his mark but Arsenal fans shouldn’t be too disheartened as the club is playing beyond expectations. Arsene Wenger has done his bit to ease the pressure off his striker but it’s left for Giroud to put his head down and do what he’s good at.
Giroud is also going to be on the papers yet again as he’s going to be a homecoming king when Arsenal takes on Montpellier in France. Giroud said that he’s going to relish the occasion and he expressed his delight in playing in the Champions League.
That’s today’s but.
Have a swell Monday.
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