Gervinho & van Persie’s Potent Mix. Oh, And Bolton.
Bolton arrive at The Emirates this evening for a Carling Cup tie that proves that Fifa and Uefa are not the only deliquents when it comes to the fixture list. The impact and influence of television is not limited to these shores; Uefa play Europa League matches on a Thursday because they destroyed their own perfectly brilliant competitions in a rapacious desire to chase revenues. Short term gain merely serves to stave off the inevitable breakaway by the clubs.
Quite why Arsenal must play tonight is beyond reason; little wonder managers have long used ‘alternate’ sides. Wenger has always been criticised for picking such teams and is a little revisionist in the judgement of his performance in the competition. I don’t for one minute doubt that he takes every match seriously but this is a competition that he freely admits to ranking fifth in a four horse race.
It is one that brings bad memories sharply into focus. The defeat at Wembley still rankles as much for on the field matters as it does for the way in which the a high proportion of the Arsenal end deserted the stadium so quickly at the final whistle. Wenger summed it up,
it will hurt me for ever because we never forget disappointments. “That’s part of life at a managerial level, you do not only have successes but disappointments, too.
It is good to know that the ‘managerial level‘ feels the pain as badly as support, despite the accusations to the contrary. Taking defeats to heart has been cited as a reason that the team takes defeats in crucial matches so badly. The end of The Invincibles run caused the team to stutter, an outcome magnified horribly at the end of the last season, one from which we are still recovering.
That was highlighted by Gervinho after the win over Stoke City on Sunday,
We have rediscovered our feeling for our game – the group is starting to gel and each of us are starting to understand our team-mates and find each other on the pitch.
You can have a bad day. That does not make you a bad team. We’ve gone through a bad moment and a team is like a player. Any player can have a bad game. It often happens.
A little too often in the past six to eight months. But the past is the past. Three consecutive wins has changed the mood and certainly more support for the team is becoming apparent. Such is the fickleness of the fan.
Gervinho has been impressive in his nascent Arsenal career. There is a directness to his game that poses more threat to the opposition; he is one of those players that makes you think something will happen. It is this gap that Theo Walcott has to bridge. At the moment, I feel something might happen when he has the ball, a sense of almost but not quite.
It will come, I am sure, and I found reports that the youngster wanted to talk about a new contract reassuring, a sign that the mood within the club is changing to the more positive. There are those who will argue that Walcott should be further ahead than he is but given he is a regular starter for club and country, he must be doing something right. Too often prejudices against a player blind the critic.
Back to Gervinho. He spoke almost gushingly about Robin van Persie and his contribution to the team. Key for me was the mental aspect,
He is good for us, psychologically. He’s among the most experienced players on the pitch and when he enters the game he puts the opposition’s defence under pressure and that helps our game.
He came on and scored two goals [against Stoke]. He’s formidable and the team needs him. You always have to have leaders in the group and he’s one of them, who drags the team forward.
He’s the captain and his role is to galvanise the group and he assumes the responsibility.
Recent Arsenal captains have not been the wisest choice by the manager, Henry and Fabregas both receiving the armband as a sop to keep them happy. That may have been the case with van Persie to some extent but you can see he is more vocal, a national characteristic. It seems that is being taken positively, long may it continue.
His vice-captain, Thomas Vermaelen, is being spoken of in terms of tonight’s team. Given he returned to training this week, it surely too soon to start although it might be that he makes a twenty minute cameo. Wenger has central defensive options with Sebastian Squillaci returning, that allow him to rest Djourou, Mertesacker and Koscielny ahead of the Chelsea match.
The usual mix of youth and experience will be expected tonight and I suspect the line-up will be along the lines of:
Fabianski; Yennaris, Squillaci, Miquel, Meade; Coquelin, Frimpong, Rosicky; Chamberlain, Park, Benayoun
Park is being written off constantly. Wenger yesterday re-iterated his belief in the player and once more emphasised that his non-appearance so far is purely down to the player settling in. Henry and Pires, the manager noted, took months to settle. Hopefully the change in the atmosphere surrounding the club will help Park to come to terms with a new culture.
A goal or two this evening would be just what Le Professeur ordered.
Lastly, a guest post I have written is to appear on The Arsenal Collective this morning. Click on the link but also check the Memory Bank section for other views.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.