One Of Us Speaks: Snow, Royal Weddings & Udinese
If Arsène can have a day off to scout players, I’ll have a day off to scour the web. In the meantime, ACLF’s own Elwood, Big Al, is your Arsenal guide for the day…
Part One – Wednesday Afternoon:
Across Europe, earnest looking, and brow-furrowed employees were the ones getting the least work done. If they were fixed to their monitors it wasn’t because they were immersed in their tasks, drawing up spreadsheets or whatever. If it seemed they were deep in thought, they weren’t pondering some crucial workplace decision, business deal or concept.
Like Samir Nasri after January, they were going through the motions – an army of the living dead, discernible only to those who knew and felt the same way. Bosses were blissfully ignorant of the productivity-killing, inner torment haunting their workforce. Others might have remembered some bland conversation in the past, and offered an awkward pleasantry like, “You’re a Gooner, aren’t you? Ooh, big match tonight”.
It was indeed going to be a big match. Even if you’re immune to hysteria, the stakes were quite ridiculous – Pot One of Europe’s premier club competition, or wading through European football’s putrid backwaters with Pulis and Redknapp for company. This was the first Arsenal game in five years to warrant the full preposterous Sky-style promo treatment. A game of potentially earth-shattering importance. If the unthinkable were to hap- no, no; it’s called unthinkable for a reason…
Some gluttons for punishment were no doubt compulsively scanning the news, as if the barrage of uplifting stories at the start of the week hadn’t been enough. By Wednesday morning I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear that Agent Busacca had been reactivated to get the job done for UEFA.
Others were really trying to get something done, but when every topic leads back to Arsenal’s depleted midfield, you’ve lost before you started.
And all the while there was this ghastly background noise, audible during moments of foreboding. It was the dreadful scrape of blades being sharpened. If that unutterably bad thing were to happen there were packs of scavengers waiting, licking their lips, dying to make it worse.
Then there was the build up; on the eve of a crucial match for Wenger and Arsenal, Samir Nasri’s exit couldn’t have been timed any better; revenge by villainous hangers-on and a massive insult to the man and club that helped him realise his potential. Before that we’d had news of Jack Wilshere’s setback, rumours of discord between manager and board, and Wenger’s scandalous two-match ban.
Since I couldn’t avoid thinking about it – what to expect from tonight’s midfield? This past fortnight has seen the emergence of Emmanuel Frimpong as a contender for the first team. At this stage he’s like a devastating weapon hurried onto the battlefield before an adequate testing phase. His very deployment should contravene the Geneva Convention, and despite his formidable power and destructive capability, there’s always a chance he’ll combust, blowing our game plan to pieces.
In defence Vermaelen has looked assured and belligerent at centre-back, reducing the powerhouse Andy Carroll to a quivering wreck, weakly begging for scraps but mercilessly denied. The striker’s biggest contribution to the match was dunking Koscielny and triggering his back spasm.
There have been promising performances across the pitch, but it’s clear that something has been missing; we’ve been forming attacks as usual, but once the wide players are in possession there has been no support. Now, we all wish Theo could occasionally heed that dead end sign before he joyrides down blind alleys but on Saturday, none of our midfielders, the over-congratulated Nasri included, were offering him or Arshavin any kind of early option in the build up.
People have talked about this need for midfield creativity, but it’s not something that can be offered by just one player; the team needs to function properly first. Every passer needs a runner. Against Udinese in the first leg there was a tantalising gap between the away side’s midfield defence – if we can get RvP and our own midfielders to exploit it a little better than last week, we’ll create chances.
Part Two – Wednesday Night:
There was so much promise in this performance.
Yes, we conceded a couple of opportunities in the first half, but – and this might sound bold – Arsenal will not come up against a more intelligent striker this season. To try and avoid scaring us all to death, I held back when assessing Di Natale last week. He is among the most talented forwards on the planet right now; he moves and communicates with his midfield so well, he’d even make Karl Henry look an imaginative passer. How satisfying it was to see his body language change as the night went on.
So it’s even more exciting that players such as Carl Jenkinson were so comfortable, particularly in the second half when the pressure was on. Churlish types are scouring the footage right now to confirm their assertions that he’s not ready. They miss the point. He’s shown enough in his early appearances to suggest he can be relied upon in the event of another injury crisis. And it’s also telling that he was picked ahead of the competent Traoré.
Rosicky, anchored by the immaculate Song and tireless Ramsey, demonstrated why he’s going to be so important, at least until the return of Jack Wilshere. We missed him against Liverpool – he’s an unheralded team player, and with his second half inclusion we got a much-needed injection of experience and technical quality. That’s not to denigrate Frimpong of course, who tenderised them in the first half.
So now our season does have a different complexion. After one result there’s a lot more money and a more coherent team on the back of one of those bond-building nights. Meanwhile, in Gervinho we have a forward who can totter past any defence in the league. If he doesn’t know where he’s going to end up then what chance do they have?
Posted on August 26, 2011, in Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer, Transfer Gossip and tagged Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Soccer, Transfer Gossip. Bookmark the permalink. 436 Comments.