Avoid Burn Out: Douse The Olympic Flame & Keep RvP Fresh
Ahead of the expected bruising encounter with Stoke City on Sunday, the Olympic Football Tournament has taken a battering from Arsène at his pre-match press conference. According to the manager,
I think it’s good if Great Britain does well at the Olympic Games but we have to find a common sensible solution to the use of the players. I think it’s important for us as well to have our players when we need them.
At some stage you have to decide how far you can go medically for the players to play so many games under so much pressure. I would say there is already no real break because of the European Championship and the Olympic tournament for me is not a real football tournament, for me the Olympics is for track and field basically.
It strikes me that whilst Arsène raises valid points, he might be jumping the gun with Aaron Ramsey as the FAW have, like their Scottish and Irish counterparts made it abundantly clear that their players cannot be selected. Equally, there is a balance to be struck between the England national side and ‘Team GB’; Fabio Capello’s successor will have World Cup 2014 qualifiers less than a month after Olympic Tournament ends.
As England’s older players, such as Lampard and Terry, find their international careers drawing to a close, the national coach will be requiring the services of the younger generation, such as Jones and Smalling, whilst Walcott and Wilshere are too pivotal to the senior squad to be risked, no matter what Stuart Pearce may wish. Personally, if there is to be a decent squad put out, I believe it should be the Under-21 squad. There is enough talent to be drawn upon without needing the services of influential players.
Ultimately Pearce is fighting a losing battler, the desperation that caused him to beg his ‘stars’ to insist upon playing hints at an unedifying summer ahead. Fifa has decreed it is not a mandatory competition in their calendar which means the club can insist that players do not participate. If Arsenal do not ensure all first team squad members remain at the club for the duration of the Olympics, I for one will be hugely disappointed.
A more immediate problem for Wenger is Robin van Persie’s fitness. It is one of those things that leaves you on tenterhooks; the Dutchman has been unlucky – almost beyond words – in this aspect of his career. For the first time though, the choice is down to the manager, a choice complicated by 28 goals in 35 games,
This season he is certainly [the best all-round striker in the Premier League] and, in the last six months, certainly the most efficient. You like Robin because he’s not a typical goal-scorer. When you see him play it never comes to your mind that this guy is a goal-scorer. And then you look at the record and think he’s not only a good player, he’s a top-class goal-scorer as well.
No matter how much passion he may play with, van Persie is aware of his own limitations and his importance to the team. That much of the goalscoring responsibility has fallen on his shoulders is an indictment of the rest of the team . A hint, perhaps, that the worst excesses of Thierry Henry’s latter seasons at the club – pass the ball to the goalscorer, he will do the rest and the rest of the team do not score nearly as many as they should.
Park’s adaptation process to England is taking longer than it should, already his signing is being cast as a Wenger mistake. That remains to be seen but with Marouane Chamakh out of sorts, the forward line is looking somewhat threadbare in terms of goals. It is an age-old refrain but others really need to step up to the plate on a consistent basis.
Key to this season’s travails though is the brutal manner in which confidence has been missing. Creativity, according to the manager, will be ‘rekindled’ with confidence. An extension of that is the creation of chances and their conversion. It tags onto Big Al’s post yesterday.
However, there is a balance to be struck. Recent wins have seen a certain doggedness, a willingness to work harder as a team to snuff out the opposition. It is shaky but this aspect is perhaps better suited to the personnel available at the moment than the free-flowing football of previous seasons. That is not to wish for the turgid football that marked the end of George Graham’s era – a stark contrast to the sparkling football of 88 – 91 and a contributing factor in his downfall – but the obdurate defending allied to Wenger’s desire for passing and movement is a potent combination, one that might serve well as the squad seeks to climb up the table.
For a team rebuilding itself, getting the defence right is a crucial building block. Signs are that it is coming together with the eleven seeking to protect the goal. In itself that is a step in the right direction. Small steps, building blocks cautiously being put into place. Next we’ll be talking of strong foundations. And from there? Who knows.