Monthly Archives: September 2012

A Gooner’s Perspective IV: Theo Walcott as a Center Forward?

Can he lead the line?

This summer had its fair share of topsy-turvy activities as Arsenal fans where braced with moments of elation and sadness as well. Some Gunners continued to ply their trades for their respective nations in the European Championships but the transfer market dominated the summer as expected.

Splendid players in the form of Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla joined the club and they’re already hit the ground running, with the exception of the French forward that is still trying really hard to break his goalscoring duck. On the other side of the scale, Arsenal lost its best player to the club’s fiercest rivals, which rightly caused a backlash and eyebrows where raised when Alex Song backed his bags to Barcelona as well, as it came out of the blue.

With the transfer window making a glorious mess of things, other issues had to be sorted out with one of them being finalizing Theo Walcott’s contract, as he was reaching the twilight of his current deal. After weeks of speculation, Walcott and his representatives reached a deadlock with Arsenal, as the £75,000 per week deal probably wasn’t good enough for them.

Walcott has come out to clear the air, stating that it’s not about the greens, but he’ll want to play as a center forward for Arsenal,

“It’s a slow process—my last contract took six months to happen. Hopefully it can be sorted out.

I’ve never said I wanted to go, I’ve always wanted to stay. I want to be an Arsenal legend. Thierry joined the club when he was 22 and I want to become an Arsenal legend like him, playing up front as well, which is a big factor for me.

I’ve played on the right wing and had the opportunity to play up front a bit more so I think it’s about time.

That speculation on the money side of it has never been me. That’s not me. I’m not the sort of person who’s influenced by money.

I always make my decisions based on football and only football. Hopefully something can be sorted out. I’ll just wait for the club to get back to us now and go from there.”

I shared my opinion on this matter in yesterday’s post,

“If Walcott states that the problem has been game time down the middle, I’d like the manager to give him a run-out there to see whether he can deliver or not. Let’s face it, Olivier Giroud is still struggling to make his mark and Gervinho plays like a robot with a dysfunctional chip.

Last season, Walcott scored 11 goals for Arsenal and scored 13 in the season before last. He also had his fair share of assists but we can’t argue the fact that Walcott is certainly a better finisher than Gervinho (and maybe Giroud) but he lacks so many features to function properly as a center forward.

He has devastating pace that can be used to great effect down the middle with defense-splitting through passes from the likes of Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta but the English speedster has serious issues with his decision making.

Walcott has hinted that Arsene Wenger might start him through the middle in tomorrow’s fixture against Coventry City (via the Independent) and he has stated that the move would be a nice gesture by his gaffer. I hope he utilizes the chance so that he’ll be able to give his manager selection headaches, because he’s clearly down the pecking order at Arsenal right now.”

I also did my fair share of reading on this matter, and I’ll urge you to take a peek on Gunnerblog’s post,  as well as posts from Bleacher Report’s Charlie Melman and Vince Siu.

I also took the debate to Twitter with the aim of knowing the Gooner’s perspective on this matter and the response was amazing. Here’s my take on tweets from followers of this blog, @goonerdaily;

@Obitwyce: Definitely should be striking. To all those saying he lacks striker properties, the false/virtual 9 has worked wonders

@ArsenalTopic: i think Arsene should give him a chance in the middle is not that we are doing well there. He might be our new NUMBER 14!

@Wllmzd9: better through the right wing, so we can rotate Gervinho and him

@Gunner11RVP: if the man is adamant he wants to play in that position – give him a chance – he may surprise us

@bolagunner: I see him doing better in the middle thou but Arsene likely to see better than we do

@etyro: I would prefer not to see Theo @ all. Its obvious we don’t need him.

@Kennydenz: how can a player with such bad ball control be demanding to play through the middle, he shld first work on his ball control

@chetmoolar: he still lacks what it takes to be a point man. He can’t hold up the ball, win aerial battles or play with his back to goal

@Bazhead14: Podolski has been playing 4rm d left wing and he still bags goals. Walcott should do same whether he plays thru d middle or not

@Arseblog_Fans: if Gervinho can get a chance upfront who’s a natural winger,why not Theo who was signed as a striker?

@mmayomi: none. On the bench….Ox is way ahead and big headed Gervh has his day sometimes

@TundeAlfred: Striking is not athletics. (Why evils?)

@MasafuJohn: yeah ofcourse. I know he can do better than gervino n giroud, relying on his speed n swiftness

@luketerry1: I’d like to see Podolski go through the middle regularly with ox/gerv/theo either side of him. Saying that I want giroud to be given a prolonged spell to as I think he’ll come good. I’d keep Theo out wide.

@DavidtheGonner: if Gerv has been given a chance despite his poor first touch, then I think Walcott deserves to b given a chance too.#letsbefair

@Laemzy: i think he wld def b more dangerous upfront cos he’s fast n a better finisher…let’s d prof give him a chance!

@daviruz: let’s give him a chance. Walcott deserves it… But itz up to Le Boss in the end

@Offiong187: I’m not sure how many players tell their coaches where they want to play while negotiating contracts. He shd b patient

It also sparked a nice argument between @dhebbur and @Alf_Redd, here’s my pick

@dhebbur: In this present Arsenal team? He’s more suited for the bench

@Alf_Redd: Stop it, he should be tested there, he’s been patient

@dhebbur: He has no right to dictate where he should be played. Wenger sees him in training everyday. He surely isn’t impressed

@Alf_Redd: dictate? He’s pleading and hoping, I’m sure he was promised that position.

@dhebbur: Grandstanding is no way to plead. I dunno about the promise o..maybe he simply hasn’t impressed the promiser

@Alf_Redd: all I’m saying is he deserves a chance, has Gerv impressed enough to be given that role? Well what do I know?

@dhebbur: Wenger knows best… 1. Theo is useless when he’s deprived space. He’ll get more space as a winger than as a striker

@dhebbur: . If he’d signed the contract without all this agidi, he might be the one starting as CF ahead of Gerv. Who knows?

@Alf_Redd: you’ve said it all, Wenger knows best!!!

The tweets were endless but from what you can see, Arsenal fans have a divided opinion on the matter. Some want Walcott to be given a chance, others think that he’s not even good enough for the squad any more.

So what’s your own take on this matter?

Should Arsene Wenger heed to Walcott’s plea and give him a run-out as a center forward?

Sayonara.

You can download the Gooner Daily  BlackBerry App to receive notifications on your Smart Phone when a post is published.

You can follow Gooner Daily on Twitter  @goonerdaily. I’ll follow back

Feel free to visit Gooner Daily’s  Facebook page and click on the like button.

You can also join Gooner Daily’s Mailing List to get notifications of new posts by email by clicking on the Follow button

Post-Man City Ramblings and Walcott Opens Up on Contract Issue

I wanna be like him when I grow up

There’s actually no more time to revel at the point salvaged against Manchester City as the games are coming thick and fast in this gruelling football season. The Capitol One cup is set to kick-off tonight but Arsenal will host Coventry City tomorrow at the Emirates.

As expected, the fans will be hoping to see Arsene Wenger mix things up with the fringe players and a few youngsters coming into the fold. This likes of Andre Santos, Johan Djourou, Seb Squillaci, Andrey Arshavin and Marouane Chamakh are odds on to get run-outs while the fans will also be delighted to see young guns like Thomas Eisfeld and hot prospect, Serge Gnabry strutting their stuff.

Apparently, the loan boys are doing well as Arsenal.com reports that Park Chu-Young got off the mark for Celta Vigo just three minutes after coming from the bench in the Spanish outfit’s win over Getafe. The World’s Best Striker, Nicklas Bendtner, made his Juventus debut over the weekend as he came in as a late substitute for the Bianconeri’s Family Guy character, Fabio Quagmire.

The draw against Manchester City is still fresh in our memories as the Gunners played valiantly at the home of the defending champions and came back to London with a share of the spoils. Arsene Wenger was somewhat disappointed with the result because his side had chances to kill off the contest but he was satisfied with the overall play of his lads.

Had Gervinho wore the same shooting boots he used against Southampton and Montpellier, the outcome might have been different. It’s also worth noting that Olivier Giroud was free on his right-hand side late on, but the Ivorian plays with his big forehead on the ground.

Mikel Arteta was one of the stand-out performers in that game, alongside Carl Jenkinson, Per Mertesacker, Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla. The Spaniard instigated many attacks with brilliant passes that put the Manchester City defense on the back foot.

In the wake of Arsenal’s impressive draw at the Etihad, Arteta has been on the news as well. He started by expressing his delight in his new defensive role at Arsenal and he was proud of the fact that his team has notched up points in tough places (Britannia, Anfield and Etihad, I guess). These are certainly tough grounds to pick up points from and Arsenal has been very efficient and disciplined in their games so far.

Yesterday, my pal, @Dondeonbeke, raised an interesting question whether Arsenal has missed Alex Song since his departure to Barcelona. The responses were balanced with some fans throwing caution to the wind, others hopeful that Arteta could remain fit while the rest were in this mould,

It’s good to see senior players like Arteta rub off their influence on the younger lads coming up and things can only get better for the club if they maintain this cohesiveness and team spirit, which Arteta believes can be good enough to help the Gunners win the Premier League.

In a  somewhat puzzling fashion, Real Madrid’s Jose Moan-inho appeared from his lair in Spain to say some words about Arsenal. Instead of calling Monsieur Wenger a voyeur like he did in the yesteryear, Moan-inho stated that he likes this new-look Arsenal team,

“I’ve always respected Arsene Wenger, it’s normal to criticise each other when managing in the same city or league.”

“I think Arsenal is coming again. I like this Arsenal team. I know they’ve lost some players but I like the way Arsene is building this team and I think they can be a positive surprise.

I like this Arsenal side more than the side of the last few seasons, despite them selling some players. I like them.”

YOUDUNMEANIT (-____-)

Despite the fact that Arsenal has now become synonymous with great new signings, a strong defense, more French gorgeous blokes, the Dark Lord Steve Bouldimort and die-hard loving fans, there’s still a downside, as a certain players in the squad have futures hanging on thin threads.

Andrey Arshavin is one of those players, that arrived in the club like a house on fire on the back of a great European Championships tournament with Russia, then he wowed the fans with his magic, dribbling skills, creativity and goals before entering Arsenal folklore for his amazing four-goal haul at Anfield, a feat that had been previously achieved by that club bouncer turned footballer, Julio Baptista.

However, Arshavin is a complete shadow of the player Arsenal signed in 2009 and he hardly makes the bench in Arsenal’s recent matches. With his contract expiring this summer, Arsenal might be forced to cash in on him in the winter or let him go on a free transfer.

Right now, we don’t bloody care.

But there’s another Gunner that hasn’t been on everyone’s good books after failing to put pen to paper on the £75,000 per week deal Arsenal offered him. Theo Walcott has been a Gunner since 2006 and he has amassed 223 games for the club, scoring 43 goals and supplying 40 assists.

After weeks of constant speculation, Walcott has decided to open up in an interview published on ESPN SoccerNet, where he states that the delay in a new contract has not been about the money, but rather about football reasons:

“It’s a slow process—my last contract took six months to happen. Hopefully it can be sorted out.

I’ve never said I wanted to go, I’ve always wanted to stay. I want to be an Arsenal legend. Thierry joined the club when he was 22 and I want to become an Arsenal legend like him, playing up front as well, which is a big factor for me.

I’ve played on the right wing and had the opportunity to play up front a bit more so I think it’s about time.

That speculation on the money side of it has never been me. That’s not me. I’m not the sort of person who’s influenced by money.

I always make my decisions based on football and only football. Hopefully something can be sorted out. I’ll just wait for the club to get back to us now and go from there.”

If Walcott states that the problem has been game time down the middle, I’d like the manager to give him a run-out there to see whether he can deliver or not. Let’s face it, Olivier Giroud is still struggling to make his mark and Gervinho plays like a robot with a dysfunctional chip.

Last season, Walcott scored 11 goals for Arsenal and scored 13 in the season before last. He also had his fair share of assists but we can’t argue the fact that Walcott is certainly a better finisher than Gervinho (and maybe Giroud) but he lacks so many features to function properly as a center forward.

He has devastating pace that can be used to great effect down the middle with defense-splitting through passes from the likes of Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta but the English speedster has serious issues with his decision making.

Walcott has hinted that Arsene Wenger might start him through the middle in tomorrow’s fixture against Coventry City (via the Independent) and he has stated that the move would be a nice gesture by his gaffer. I hope he utilizes the chance so that he’ll be able to give his manager selection headaches, because he’s clearly down the pecking order at Arsenal right now.

That’s enough for one post.

Sayonara.

You can download the Gooner Daily  BlackBerry App to receive notifications on your Smart Phone when a post is published.

You can follow Gooner Daily on Twitter  @goonerdaily. I’ll follow back

Feel free to visit Gooner Daily’s  Facebook page and click on the like button.

You can also join Gooner Daily’s Mailing List to get notifications of new posts by email by clicking on the Follow button

 

Man City 1 Arsenal 1: Spoils Shared in the Battle of the Etihad

Laurent Koscielny

Sheer Elation

I’d hoped to write a preview for the game yesterday with a catchy title in mind, “Man City Preview: A True Test of Lord Bouldimort’s Black Defensive Magic, but with me going to church earlier than expected, there was no time for the preview.

After witnessing Mark Halsey join the League of Extraordinary Manchester United Referees led by the great Howard “Quatermain” Webb, I was drooling with the prospect of watching my Arsenal give Manchester City a run for their money. Both sides were oozing with quality but it’s fair to say that Arsenal’s opponents had greener bank accounts, a feat Theo Walcott hopes to achieve in the foreseeable future.

The lineup wasn’t surprising but eyebrows were raised when a certain Aaron Ramsey replaced Olivier Giroud in the forward line. Ramsey has put up a series of cameo appearances all season long but Wenger opted for the Welsh captain in this crunch encounter – a tactical move that was worth its weight in gold.

Laurent Koscielny also replaced the Verm to partner Per Mertesacker. Despite having the looks of an assassin that can cause you more pain that Freddy Krueger in your dreams, Thomas Vermaelen succumbed to an Achilles tendon injury ankle injury thigh strain a flu.

Arsenal was hughly impressive in the first 45 minutes and Arsene Wenger’s side had the lion’s share of possession as well. The Gunners almost drew first blood when captain Mikel Arteta executed a delicate chip to an unmarked Kieran Gibbs. With a goal in his front and Lukas Podolski on his right-hand side, the English fullback found neither and a good chance went begging.

Sergio Aguero was given some room by the Arsenal defense and he wasted no time in lashing a shot that was saved by Vito Mannone in goal. Arsenal then switched defense to attack when Aaron Ramsey fed Gervinho with an inch-perfect ball in behind Gael Clichy but Gervinho’s first touch was as good as Chamakh’s ability to find the net, I’m sure you get my drift.

Podolski connected well with Gibbs yet again but the fullback’s cross was erratic, which handed the momentum to Man City with Scott Sinclair instigating a counter attack but Per Mertesacker was on hand to block the ball superbly. That was the first of a million and one interceptions the BFG had in the game.

For what its worth, Mertesacker would have intercepted an angry herd of elephants stampeding through the Etihad as well.

Arteta spread the play to locate Carl Jenkinson with a cross-field ball that saw the young lad burn his reserves of pace before making mincemeat out of Joleon Lescott. His cutback to Podolski was carefully weighted but the German machine killed a bird in the sky with his right foot.

Santi Cazorla wasn’t going to be left out of the party and he pulled the strings in midfield yet again. He almost located Gervinho with a pin-point pass on Clichy’s blind side but the Frenchman showed great recovery to intercept the ball before the Ivorian pulled the trigger. Minutes later, Gervinho spurned another chance from a Ramsey pass.

With the Gunners edging close to halftime with the scoreline intact, a defensive lapse by Gibbs gifted the home side with a corner. David Silva swung the ball into the heart of Arsenal’s defense and Lescott pounced first to put his side ahead. So much fuss was made about Arsenal’s zonal marking in the box but a few fingers were also pointed at Mannone for failing to dominate his area well…where’s Mr. Wojciech when you need him.

Edin Dzeko almost made it two with a swerving shot but the Italian shot stopper did his job well on that occasion.

The second half wasn’t as frantic as the first in terms of the game’s high tempo but both sides pushed hard for the next all-important goal. Abou Diaby dallied with the ball and lost it to a Man City player that launched a counter attack in split seconds. Aguero was on the final end of the ball but he failed to hit the target after some pressure from Koscielny.

Had Aguero invoked the spirit of Didier Drogba, Ashley Young and that chimp, Gareth Bale, to show off some theatrics in the box, Mike Dean might have pointed to the spot.

Arsene Wenger brought on Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud for Diaby and Podolski in his bid to get the equalizer Arsenal truly deserved but Aguero tested Mannone yet again with the Italian equal to the task.

Late on, Santi Cazorla fashioned a chance for himself at the edge of the box but Joe Hart popped up from nowhere with a brilliant save despite having little or no time to ascertain the trajectory of the shot. Cazorla swung in the resulting corner but Lescott’s panicky clearance fell kindly to Laurent Koscielny and the rest they say, was history.

Catch me if you can: Koscielny wheels away in celebration after his shot beats Joe Hart

Joe Hart had no chance in Hell

Both teams pressed on for the sucker punch and it would have been Man City having all the bragging rights when Silva’s corner was headed to safety by the Arsenal defense only for the ball to be sent back into the box by some random City bloke.

Out of the fucking blue, Vincent Kompany attempted an audacious overhead kick that was parried by Mannone but Koscielny almost changed from hero to zero when he lashed his clearance straight at Aguero, whose shot missed by a lick of paint.

With Man City failing to kill off the game, Arsenal had the chance to make it a fairytale ending when Gervinho had the ball on his feet on the edge of the area with minutes to spare. However, the Ivorian had a rush of blood to his big forehead and he blasted the ball into oblivion.

Mike Dean blew his whistle to call it a day but it was a great contest from start to finish. The game had everything you wished to see in a football match. From a Manchester City perspective, the defending champions were pushed to the wall all game long but they still managed to claw a goal from nothing.

From an Arsenal perspective, it was one of those games that made me proud to support this great club. The desire was glaring, the technique was top-notch and Arsene Wenger’s side played like a true tight-knit bunch with each Gunner making up ground to provide support to another offensively and of course, defensively.

Mannone (7.5) had a good game and made some important saves as well. Was a bit culpable for the goal though, as he went for the ball and failed to claim it.

Jenkinson (9.0) put up his best performance in an Arsenal jersey. Watching this kid today made me marvel at Arsene Wenger’s exemplary vision to locate such an unearthed gem and allowed Farmer Emmanuel Eboue to go without breaking sweat. Jenko locked Sinclair in a cage and threw the keys to the stands and he supported the attack very well.

Gibbs (6.5) didn’t really impress me with his distribution in the final third. That’s one part of his game he needs to improve on because he has the pace to get in behind defenses superbly.

Koscielny (8.5) deputized admirably for Vermaelen and showed Arsenal fans what they have missed all this time he was on the bench. Arsene Wenger will have a big decision to make in his center back pairing in the next fixture against Chelsea.

Mertesacker (8.5) read the game intelligently and was more than a match for every attack Manchester City posed. He had his fair share of interceptions as well.

Arteta (8.0) was superb in midfield and his distribution was top-notch.

Diaby (6.5) lost the ball a couple of times and was swallowed up as the game progressed. Fair play to the lad for staying fit all game long as well. C’mon, it’s Abou Diaby.

Cazorla (8.5) was ubiquitous in midfield and was more than a handful for the Man City defense. Arsene Wenger has outdone himself this time with a peach of a signing.

Ramsey (8.0) was very efficient in his play and he supported the midfield superbly as well. It’s good to know that some time in the dugout has sharpened his senses, maybe it’s Gervinho’s turn.

Podolski (7.0) worked tirelessly on the left hand flank in the first half and provided width to the attack.

Gervinho (6.0) had a stinker as profligacy became his watchword. However, it’s also worth noting that he had a better output in the final third unlike the post-AFCON 2012 Gervinho that was a pain to watch last season.

Walcott (6.0) failed to influence the game whatsoever. I’d have preferred to see the Ox in his stead but who am I to question a manager that has made 50,000 substitutions? 😀

Giroud (6.5) executed a few neat one-twos here and there but failed to put himself in a position to let one fly.

Coquelin didn’t play long enough to get a rating.

In Wenger’s post-match interview, he stated how pleased he was with his team’s performance, talked about rotating his center backs and he had nice words for Mannone as well.

So with another impressive offensive and defensive display, Arsenal is fifth in the Log with nine points and they are still unbeaten as well. For those that don’t know,

  • The last time Arsenal faced Sunderland in the opening game, they won the league.
  • The last time London hosted the Olympics, they won the league.
  • The last time the world of lawn tennis witnessed four different Grand Slam champions, they won the league, and
  • The last time Arsenal beat Southampton with a 6-1 scoreline, they went through the next season unbeaten, winning the league in the process.

The signs for a great campaign are here.

Let’s hope that we’ve have the last laugh in May.

Sayonara.

You can download the Gooner Daily  BlackBerry App to receive notifications on your Smart Phone when a post is published.

You can follow Gooner Daily on Twitter  @goonerdaily. I’ll follow back

Feel free to visit Gooner Daily’s  Facebook page and click on the like button.

You can also join Gooner Daily’s Mailing List to get notifications of new posts by email by clicking on the Follow button