One Of Us Speaks: The Not A Season Preview Blog
Morning all, relatively normal service is being resumed with a troop of outstanding volunteers filling the internet-less breach. Over to the voice of reason, Big Al…
Trying to write a blog to kick off the new season during this week, of all weeks, has been like trying to juggle sand in a hurricane. So I gave up. Nobody knows how we’ll be lining up come the end of August. If we don’t know the personnel, we can only guess the system and style of play.
Still, it’s a brand new day. Congratulations if you managed to make it with your sanity intact. Let’s step outside and see what happened on the surface while we huddled in our bunkers. Don’t worry; it’s not as bad as you might think – the stadium’s still standing, the turf is still green and the ball’s still round.
There are some people for you to meet up there. And it would only be polite to introduce them properly.
Meet Gervinho a bearded Ivorian medallion man, with a hairline that goes all the way up. League and Cup double in 2011. Player of the year for his country, team of the year in France for 10-11. Those who know him do not doubt his ability for a second; Sven-Göran Eriksson charged nothing to sing his praises last week, and France-based journalists, Phillipe Auclair and Ben Lyttleton have waxed lyrical. When we bought Koscielny from Ligue 1 last season it was a bit of a surprise, but Gervinho has been tipped for the top for a couple of years now.
What will he bring to the team? Pace, especially over short distances, speed of thought, movement, no little strength and a shambolic but effective dribbling style, which should all help dismantle a few of those cowardly massed defences this season. He’s a winger who can finish, and dispatch the odd killer pass. We expect to see more of him this season than any of our other signings to date.
Next I give you Carl Jenkinson. A rangy full-back with doleful eyes. He must be the first Finnish player in history to speak with a flawless Eltham accent. In his not so distant youth days he was monitored by us and Manchester United, but suffered a handful of injuries, delaying his first-team debut for Charlton, which only came last season. After eight appearances Addicks fans were sure he could play at a higher level, despite taking a couple of games to find his feet. My Charlton supporting friends don’t like him now, but that’s got more to do with his single-mindedness in joining Arsenal than anything performance-related.
He’s got pace, strength, some of that inborn defensive nous, and can’t fight the urge to get forward – so why should we stop him? One of the best things about him is that he’s a Gooner. I don’t know why that should matter, but it does.
Last of the recruits for now is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – he’s still only 17, but at first glance he could be twice that; until he smiles, and a youthful joy and confidence shines through. His physique also belies his age; he’s an inch or two short of six foot and looks solid. If he were any shorter we’d call him “stocky”.
AOC was intermittently demolishing experienced teams last season. He made enough of an impact as a 17-year-old to be named in the League One Team of the Season by his peers. January was probably the first time a national audience got to see him play, in the FA Cup against Manchester United. It was a typical smash and grab win by ManU, who were total spectators until Southampton tired in the second half.
Re-watchingAOC’s performance that night; he made some powerful runs and clearly has a turn of pace, but perhaps most exciting were his close control, one-touch passing, and the ease with which he switched to a central role in the second half. To my mind, these are the qualities that marked him out as a potential Arsenal player.
It’s hard to tell how much he’ll play. Much of that depends on what happens to our latest Lord Jims, Cesc and Nasri, and how they could be replaced.
So instead let’s look at a couple of the squad players who get a sniff of first team football for the first time this campaign.
There’s Emmanuel Frimpong; a hyper-enthusiastic defensive-midfielder with a great line in slang. You won’t see many 19-year-olds more powerfully built that aren’tindulging in those special shakes. He’s athletic, unbelievably strong and knows when best to make a challenge. Expect cards though, because this boy does not hold back. This tenacity and power is matched with plenty of technique, as noted by Riquelme and Boca Junior’s coach. He has a good touch, and is adept at moving the ball on first-time. His distribution can occasionally let him down when he’s trying to force a pass, but he’ll surely have a strong understanding with Jack Wilshere, having played along side him for the best part of ten years.
Emmanuel will offer backup for Alex Song, and may face some competition from another young’un, Francis Coquelin who got good grades at Lorient last season and has been in Colombia for the u20 World Cup.
This week we got the news that Ryo Miyaichi has earned a work permit. He’s as quick as a bullet train and nimble as Totoro’sCatbus (as I betray my lack of Japanese references). This time last year he was drawing admiring glances from bashful female classmates at high school. Since then he’s broken his leg, signed for Arsenal and helped turn around Feyenoord’s season cutting in from the left-flank.
In less than 24 hours a convoy of coaches will be rolling up the M1. Nobody will know quite who will be turning out in red and white in Newcastle, but that’s not ours to worry about. For the first few weeks we could be fielding a young team, and it’s up to us to give these lads the boost they’ll need, both on and off the pitch. Anything less is a waste of effort.
Never underestimate the role that you can play.
’til Tomorrow (and yes, there will be a post tomorrow)