Midfield Goals Required
A very quiet morning even by Arsenal standards this Friday. Planning continues for the coming friendlies and longer term, the season which is now less than a month away. Potential targets get linked, sign a new contract with their existing employers or have their Mr20% deny any knowledge of any interest from Arsenal in a vague attempt at reverse psychology, talking their clients into a move rather than being asked. All the usual stuff.
Of the usual suspects, Werder Bremen have suggested that Ozil could be sold if he doesn’t sign a new contract which if that is the player’s intention at the end of next season, is no skin off his nose. I have doubts that Wenger will even be looking at him all the while that Barcelona are unable to empty the pots of pennies around the Camp Nou to find the missing €50m to make Arsene sit up and listen to them over Cesc.
Meanwhile Joe Cole’s future is not resolved and the same applies to Sol Campbell. You suspect that the players both know where they will be starting the new season, probably the clubs as well but it is being kept from the media and by extension, us. Manchester City are still rapidly trying to make the leap from mid-table obscurity to Champions with a speed that would Usain Bolt shudder, the rationale to their signings seems to be if it breathes, moves and is under the age of 90, sign it.
Conor Wickham of Ipswich Town is the latest tug of love between Arsenal and Tottenham apparently. The fee suggested is £8m which makes him a typical Wenger signing although the belief that the Arsenal frontline is shorn of goals is inexplicable. There is little problem with goals, more keeping the players fit.
Striking options at Arsenal are not limited. Last season showed that the traditional reliance on forwards to score is misplaced, goals from midfield which have been previously scarce returned last time, prinicipally from Fabregas but others were not shy either. In all competitions, the total goals from Nasri, Denilson, Song, Diaby, Rosicky, Eboue, Ramsey, Walcott was 32, 22 in the Premier League. However, that came from a combined total of 197 appearances where the players started. The midfield need to score more frequently than an average of every fifth game for the jump to Champions to be made.
Some were disappointing. I believe Nasri and Walcott should score more than the 5 domestic goals they contributed between them. Nasri had a worse ratio of goals per games than Silvestre in the Premier League, which sums up the paucity of finishing. We know he is capable of better and the problem is perhaps simply one of the team’s overall performances in those circumstances. Vermaelen and Gallas bailed out the midfield to some extent with 10 EPL goals between them.
That may well have been one reason why neither Walcott or Nasri went to the World Cup. Had they shown consistency in finishing, they enhance their overall performances. Flair players who score are at a premium in football at any level; we saw in the Champions League how Walcott could finish calmly under pressure.
Theo has long been criticised for not being selfish enough in front of goal. He has set himself targets in the past of getting 10 or more in a season. This time, he recently said staying fit is a target for this season, half in jest but aware that to realise his long term aim of playing as a central striker, he will be judged on his finishing.
Of course, the midfield is judged by assists as well but for a team which creates as many chances as Arsenal, the number of goals scored should be more. They were on target before Christmas to score over 100 goals before injuries struck with a vengeance. It was then that the goals shipped became more noticeable, more of an issue.
The new season comes with hope, with the painful lessons learned. The players are another year wiser, all with points to prove from last season and that determination will make them stronger for the coming season.