Shrewsbury Town Preview: A Welcome Relief & Defensive Batterings
Shrewsbury arrive at The Emirates for this evening’s Carling Cup tie. Following on from the weekend’s defeat at Blackburn so quickly, this game is a welcomed relief and distraction.
This time last year, Arsenal thumped Tottenham 4-1 at White Hart Lane. A repeat of that scoreline tonight would release some tension. Looking back at the line-up that evening is an interesting exercise. The only survivors that I would expect to see in the starting line-up tonight are Fabianski, Djourou and Gibbs. Possibly Rosicky but Wilshere is injured whilst Koscielny is required in the first XI at the moment. The five others – Eboue, Nasri, Vela, Denilson and Lansbury – are not with the club, either permanently or semi-permanently.
Tonight will see their replacements take to the pitch, some for the first time in an Arsenal shirt. Miyachi and Park will be amongst those in the starting XI whilst Jenkinson, Coquelin and Oxlade-Chamberlain will be hoping for more enjoyable first team adventures. Wenger has promised to remain true to the previously held principles of the tournament with the addition of Frimpong and presumably Miquel to that list.
A summer of the long knives indeed. He needs to be wary though, Wenger is finding that those behind him are still smiling whilst concealing their blades, ready to pounce to the extent that ludicrous suggestions of his final match being his final match at the club.
The manager is fighting though, determined that the season will be put back on track not just by a result tonight but more through improved Premier League performances,
Our season depends now on how well we respond to this disappointment and how quickly we can cut out the mistakes we made on Saturday by giving away goals that we should never give away.
Wenger’s attempts to sign Premier League centre backs were hampered by the fees quoted. Cahill at £18m is excessive but Samir Nasri paved the way for exorbitant fees for those in the final year of their contracts. Phil Jagielka meanwhile, did not ‘expect’ to move to Arsenal, which suggests that Everton were also quoting high figures.
The question of value is subjective. Arsenal have theirs of players, selling clubs theirs and critics of the Arsenal defence are normally always in agreement with the latter. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, Monsieur Wenger.
The problem for Arsenal is the mistakes. Robin van Persie observed that the ‘same mistakes’ are being made, more worrying is that they are generally collective errors involving two or more players. That is a wider, more intricate issue to deal with. Harmony in the dressing room should be left to the Four Seasons cd whilst changing; there need to be some harsh words, one of the infamous team meetings to clear heads and allow new defenders to gel into a solid back line.
The absence of Vermaelen is not helping, he and Mertesacker seem to be the preferred pairing. Certainly he needs to come in and organise the back four, something he may feel empowered to do, certainly more so than in his initial season at the club where Gallas seemed to intimidate him.
Wenger had some backing from George Graham over the defence, mixed with criticism as well,
Some of their attacking play is still the best in the league, and even at the weekend against Blackburn some of their possession play was fantastic. But again the old problems defensively cropped up and they lost 4-3
Graham knows how to organise a defence, surprisingly no suggestion of him as defensive coach yesterday. He has articulated the thoughts of most when it comes to the who’s, what’s and why’s but with no answers, merely the same open-ended questions as us all. In itself, he observed nothing new which was disappointing since he is a man you would listen to on the subject. That, to me, suggests the problems are not going to be quickly solved and only on the training pitch.
Right now, I would settle for a run of performances which were unconvincing but kept clean sheets. That is the way that confidence will return.
As is always the case, the match itself presents the opportunity to forget about the troubles unless they unfurl on the pitch. Hopefully that will not be the case this evening. I would expect Wenger to go with a line-up along the lines of:
Fabianski; Jenkinson, Djourou, Miquel, Gibbs; Chamberlain, Frimpong, Coquelin; Park, Chamakh, Miyachi
It is a young team but with a mix of older heads as well, the vibrancy of youth might well be a welcome distraction. Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.