Friday Round-Up

So, its one of those strange weekends that comes around a few times a season when we’re not really on the verge of the next match because television money requires that Arsenal take their turn at playing on a Monday night. In most circumstances this is a source of irritation but I think most people would agree that the extra time to recuperate from Tuesday’s endeavours is most welcome.

Last weekend we were the first game of the weekend, meaning that our rivals had to respond to what we managed in our match at Anfield. As it turns out, Chelsea and Spurs both lost meaning that it was just about as ideal as it could possibly could have been for us. This time we’re the last game of the weekend meaning that we’re the ones who are going to have to do some responding.

This weekend the potential is there to consolidate our place in the top four further as well as close the gap on Spurs. After two bad results, Spurs face a trip to Goodison Park to face Everton, which is not really the fixture that you would choose to break a run of sub-par results. Everton are always capable of making it difficult for any team that plays them on their own ground and Spurs being Spurs, they’ll be feeling the pressure of those two defeats. If they do slip up then Monday night is an opportunity not be missed for us against Newcastle.

As for Chelsea, they’ll be taking on Stoke at home. Now under the management of Bob Matthews of course, anything less than three points for them is going to deepen their sense of crisis even further. That of course, would be hilarious for us but also very useful. I think to be honest that Chelsea are going to win and that makes it vital for us to beat Newcastle to maintain our three point advantage over them.

For ourselves there is some positive news injury-wise, it seems that Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey are fit to return to the squad, though one suspects that Ramsey is likely to remain on the bench behind the impressive form of Tomas Rosicky. Theo Walcott should be back in contention and it looks as though Kieran Gibbs, although picking up knocks left, right and centre, will be fit for Monday.

In further good news it appears that Andre Santos is once again fit and in training. It’s likely that he won’t make it for Monday but we’ve seen over the last few games what actually having full backs in the team can do for us in terms of balance and indeed creativity as well (something Kieran Gibbs certainly does deserve a lot of credit for, I really rate his ability to get the team moving from the back). Before his injury, Santos was just starting to show signs of being a very good player indeed. When he first arrived I think he had a lot of adapting to do and his fitness also left a little to be desired but to his credit he stuck to those tasks and when he did pick up the injury it was a real blow to us. Coming into the crucial phase of our league season, it’s a real bonus to have him back.

The future of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is always a subject that provokes excitement among Arsenal fans. Discussion of his best position on the pitch, his place in the starting eleven and so on is a hot topic. A few times, and I can’t remember who it was recently, I’ve heard people compare him to (whisper it) Wayne Rooney in terms of his footballing ability, and obviously not because the Ox has a widely known predilection for prostitutes who are eligible for a free bus pass. Certainly his vision on the pitch, and his ability to remain unfazed by the biggest occasions against players much more experienced than him would seem to have a great deal in common with Rooney at the same age, though Rooney has always been more of a forward and I think the Ox is a creative influence who belongs a bit further back in the lineup.

I remember reading something with Wayne Rooney years ago, in which he said that when he’s on the pitch he only needs to look up and see where everyone is, and then he knows in his mind exactly where they’re going to be in a few seconds time when he goes for the killer pass or the shot. I think you can see that at times in the way he plays (and look, shrek-looking uber-chav or not, he is one of the best players in the league), and I think the Ox has that sort of vision as well. Because as much as he’s skilled and fast enough to go past players, it’s the constant presence of and end result of his play that really marks him out as a quality player. Arsene Wengersuggests that long term, his place is in central midfield and I certainly think that’s the way forward. Sitting a bit deeper on the pitch will allow him that little bit more time, that little bit more opportunity to find that killer ball. And though he is a potent striking threat, I think he’ll get plenty of goals from the middle of the park as well.

Arsene remains cautious with him, saying that he’s not ready to play in that role yet and that he needs to develop more. I don’t see that personally, I don’t think he has any issues playing at the top level of the game and if he were deployed in central midfield I think he’d do very well from the word go, as indeed he did on one or two occasions when he has played there. I’m thinking of Man City in the Carling Cup particularly. However, I’m not Arsene Wenger, and he’s the man with decades of experience and I’m the man who writes a blog in my spare time. I think I know whose wisdom we should defer to. So sort it out Arsene.

Finally for today, it seems no Arsenal blog is complete at the moment without praise for the form of Tomas Rosicky. Today the applause is led by Wojciech Szczesny, who according to Arseblog News says,

“He has been fantastic for the last few weeks now, scored a great goal against Tottenham and was my man of the match in that game,”

“He was great again here and hopefully he can keep going because when he plays like that he is a fantastic player.

“He can take people on in the middle of the park too. I think we dominated the midfield in the first half and he made the difference. He is fantastic.”

Let’s face it we’ve been waiting a long time for Rosicky to find this form, and for nobody will the wait have been longer than the man himself. By all accounts he’d applied himself with great dedication over the years to get back to there he was before his terrible injury and now, finally, he seems to be getting there. His goal against Spurs is right up there with my favourite moments of this season, you could see in his face what it meant when he celebrated it. Now we’re talking about him being on the verge of a new contract, which seems a no-brainer to me, having stuck with him to see him regain this form.

And that will about do it for today. I’m heading off into the exciting world of environmental history from which I shall return a beleaguered and broken man. Take it easy, and enjoy your Friday.

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  • shrek2be  On 09/03/2012 at 10:11 am

    TBH,Rooney has never lived upto that potential he was thought of when he scored that screamer against us at Goodison Park. He was always a star in the making and was compared to Brazilian legend Ronaldo of all people but he’s never lived upto that hype mainly because of his off the pitch issues. What I like about the OX playing CAM is not only is he capable of improving his passing but has the ability which every CAM needs – the ability to go past players and run at them at will. I always felt Scholes lacked the dribbling skills but was incredible in his passing range.

    I think it’s better that Arsene allows him to enjoy the game in different positions and be a bit cautious . The English media is notorious for over-hyping players . Jeffers and Bentley come to mind ,not to mention the various other English could have-been’s. .

    • Leper Messiah  On 09/03/2012 at 11:22 am

      I’m not sure I’d agree that Rooney has never lived up to his hype, the season after Cristiano Ronaldo left them I thought he was outstanding, indispensable to United. I certainly think his off the pitch issues have contributed to him perhaps not hitting even greater heights but I do really rate him as a player.

      As I say, Arsene knows more than me about how to develop players, I just don’t see any sign that Oxlade-Chamberlain would suffer wherever we play him.

  • Michael Sheehy  On 09/03/2012 at 2:53 pm

    I’ve been so happy to see Arsenal play on a Monday night and if we can go into the game knowing others have dropped points it could be another great night.

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