Midfield Can’t Be Left A-loan And Leading Issues
Ahead of the visit of Chelsea to The Emirates this weekend, the news is quite mixed. Seeking equilibrium on scales is not going to work with Abou Diaby‘s 45 minutes of action in a friendly against Oman not balancing out fears over Mikel Arteta’s season being over, by a long shot. Or lead weight, whichever you prefer.
Not confirmed on the official website, The Guardian reports that scans showed ankle ligament damage. This ties in with Arsène’s comments post-Wigan that the injury was not a simple twist. It is a blow but not an unexpected one; at this stage of the season, it is one that the club could do without. His absence will mean a reshuffled pack in midfield, an early thought is that Aaron Ramsey would start but it is one complicated by Benayoun’s absence due to the Premier League ruling on loan players being ineligible to play against their parent club.
The fear of a below-par performance is misplaced; would a player want to be tarred with the brush of what is essentially, corruption? More iniquitous in the loan system is that wages are partially paid by clubs in the same division. Arsenal are as culpable of this with the players loaned out but it is this rather than team selection which is the biggest issue. Making clubs focus their attention on wages is part of the much vaunted but soon to be ill-fated, FFP regulations introduced by Uefa.
Focus though must now turn to Chelsea, who will no doubt be bouyed by their win last night and indeed their recent form. One man at the centre of attention is Robin van Persie, mainly for the wrong reasons this week although it has been refreshing to see a number of journalists recognising his performances by pledging their support for him in the FWA Player of the Season Award. I am not entirely sure that will be enough for him to win that.
For van Persie, his elevation in the game might not come as any surprise. He has always been confident when talking of his abilities, an arrogance brought on by the mastery of his craft. That arrogance is a positive; I do not recall him using it disparagingly toward others but certainly as a motivational tool. van Persie may have taken to the central striker role more quickly than he anticipated but it was question marks over his fitness that mainly surfaced.
Few have been raised over his captaincy. He has displayed leadership qualities which suggest this time Arsène may have got it right in handing the armband to the best player in the squad. In the case of Cesc, it was a sop too far for the young man whose temperament on the pitch was impacted by his unsettled personal circumstance. That desire to return home should have precluded the responsibility given to him. In defence of player and club, they had been badly let down by William Gallas and there were few alternatives. A brave decision would have been to give the captaincy to Thomas Vermaelen but it is understandable that the manager wanted someone who understood the ethos of the club and had it ingrained in his character. Even so, it seems that the decision had more to do with keeping him at the club.
Wenger has long held the view that captaincy is not as important as it is widely held in this country. Fabio Capello certainly underlined that with the England role and I grasp their belief that each player should be strong, be a leader in their own right. Yet if you look at the current squad, you can see as many players who are not leaders as those that are. In that sense, the captaincy is important as a focal point is needed to bring those strong elements together. It is accentuated by Arsenal’s history in the position.
Even in lean times, there has normally been a strong captain. In good times even more so with McLintock, Adams back through to time to Tom Parker. It went awry when perhaps more than ever Arsenal needed it. For the all of his legendary feats, I do not perceive Henry to have been a good captain. Some of that was not his fault with younger players admitting to being intimidated by his reputation. That is not necessarily a problem if one or two make that suggestion but when the number is bigger than that, it is an issue when the captain casts a bigger shadow over the club.
van Persie is helped by the fact that he has experienced players at the back, accompanied by capable in midfield. That combination makes his job easier although there are times when influencing the play from an advanced position is more difficult. Arguably, the clubs best captains have defenders although Joe Mercer proves the exception to the rule.
Whether Arsène actually took much consideration of that in appointing the Dutchman is unknown but the responsibility seems to have been positive on van Persie with his best season in terms of fitness and goals. A return to goalscoring ways on Saturday would be most welcome.