One Of Us Speaks: This Baby Might Take A While To Get Going

Big Al’s investigating his Arsenal DNA; it’s more durable than it’s Catalan cousins…

There’s no way we’d normally want this many new faces in the side. Really, at least two wouldn’t be there at the moment if we could only have a little luck with injuries. That’s not to say that I’m suspicious of the recent arrivals, just that it might have been better if we could have afforded to let them trickle into the team rather than flood our engine.

It’s going to take a while to get this baby going.

What we’re witnessing on the pitch at the moment is the football equivalent of a Trust Fall. You may have done it, or seen it in films. Well, we’re doing the hardcore version; over a coffin-shaped hole full of angry venomous snakes, itching to bite the backside of anyone who slips through the catchers’ fingers. And if the catchers don’t do their jobs? They just get castrated – and then thrown to the snakes.

It looks like we still intend to play one and two-touch football, but this is a style that cannot function without familiarity. If we want to press then our players are going to have to get to know each other first, otherwise the whole exercise will be exhausting and detrimental to the performance of the team.

You can’t expect the Arsenal of old – it’s just not going to happen until these new players get to know the group as a whole, their teammates on an individual level and understand what the manager expects from them. It’s the kind of integration that begins on the training ground, but only in competitive situations are any real strides made. I say this now – it would have been helpful to bring these guys in earlier, but that’s not how it worked out, and it wouldn’t have made that much difference to our current situation.

What you can expect are some moments of individual skill; fleeting hints of brighter months ahead.

So it was encouraging then to see Benayoun wriggle free of challenges and release van Persie so astutely, albeit on the second attempt, for that chance in the first half against Dortmund. And then there’s Gervinho, who was born to bamboozle and confuse everyone and everything in his path. Sadly, even the ones he loves.

How reassuring to see Mertesacker form a bond with the ever-improving Koscielny, and time his own challenges and interceptions so comfortably. The scrutiny on his debut was absurd. Defenders absolutely need time to adapt and become part of a unit. Just thinking back to the early Premier League careers of some of the competition’s best centre-backs in recent years; I remember seeing Darren Huckerby humiliate World Cup winner Marcel Desailly on Match of the Day in 1998, and Vidic looked horribly slow and gauche in his early days at ManU. Our new recruit had all of two training sessions to settle in, and did OK.

Meanwhile Arteta’s one of the most Arsenal-ready players I can recall, firing laser-guided passes to feet and getting into space. But even he needs some time to start adding a little more subtlety to his distribution, putting detailed, bespoke information on the ball for his teammates.

This isn’t a team in its infancy – it’s a teenage side. One that goes down to Camden market to buy tie-dye t-shirts, then returns home to listen to Sex Pistols and Ramones records; full of contradiction and still to find its identity. I mean, what do you guys want to do? Keep your shape and counter, or play a pressing game? Oh OK; some of you want to do one thing and the rest want to do the other.

Oh dear, I’m starting to sound like a low-rent Stewart Robson. Anyway, as I suggested above, time should iron out this kind of wrinkle.

And in the face of all these difficulties things are starting to turn. After the few weeks we’ve had, it’s great that we’re disappointed with a draw against the Bundesliga Champions. And if you get past the chaotic opening 15 minutes Szczesny was hardly troubled. We went out to protect our lead and faced wave after wave of attacks, but they broke against our imperious Franco-German seawall, until that Danny Rose-style volley at the end.

If Champions League qualification was Arsenal grasping the final branch before the abyss, then the last two matches have seen us clawing our way up the cliff-face, scratching into the rock for every bloody point. It’s probably not a good idea to look up or down at this moment; just keep clambering for God’s sake.

Anyway, as our senior side was battling in the awesome arena that is the Westfalenstadion, our reserves were earning a point against Bolton in the equally imposing Lancashire County Ground. Not bad for such a young team, playing against a mix of journeymen and established Premier League talents like Robbie Blake, David Wheater, Stuart Holden, Tuncay and David Ngog.

It’s definitely a result that should be recognised. And this is something that’s important to me; I believe that there’s nothing wrong with drawing attention to the achievements of our younger players. If anything it should help prepare them for the exposure they might have to face every week as footballers in the future.

What I’d like is a more mature attitude towards youth football. That’s to say, we should be able to congratulate individuals for lower level achievement, without trying to extrapolate too much, or make wild predictions about career trajectory. I get the feeling some fans have swung too far the other way; to the point of weary disenchantment with young talent. – perhaps a response to the premature hype that accompanied some of our prospects a few years back.

The average age of our first team squad is probably higher than it’s been for years, but our academy will continue to produce players of immense promise. Now’s as good a time as any to re-evaluate how we relate to youth and reserve level, especially if you’re in need of a feel-good Arsenal story, because you never have to wait long for one when our young guns are involved – as long as you keep it in context.

’til Tomorrow

90 thoughts on “One Of Us Speaks: This Baby Might Take A While To Get Going

  1. I’d expect by early December we should be playing some manageable Wengerball.
    For as long as we don’t break momentum by shipping faulty goals and losing without the right effort I for one will be more than glad.

    I like the new old heads.
    I like the new young blood.
    And I’m itching to see what the “unplayed” can do with the regulars

    Jack & Diaby, Ox & Ryo, Afobe & Aneke, even Squilly & Manuel
    Everyone’s got a part to play
    How they do when their number’s called is the question
    Hope each answers responsibly

    tomorrow: BLACKBURN

  2. vs BLACKBURN (A) 17/09/11
    01 Szczesny
    02 Sagna
    03 Gibbs
    04 Koscielny
    05 Mertesacker
    06 Song
    07 Park
    08 Arteta
    09 RvP
    10 Gervinho
    11 Arshavin

    SUBS: Fabianski, Djourou, Santos, Benayoun, Chamakh, Walcott, Frimpong

  3. This is some post OOU. Better than anything football related I’ve seen in a while.

    Thanks for video link about incentives and performance yesterday. Fascinating stuff…

  4. great piece, always a refreshing dip in the pool of optimisim after spending too long being burned by the rays of negativity the arsenal hating media spouts

  5. just keep grinding out the results the performances will come in due time but we must not fall further behind in the champions league race.

  6. OOU – an outstanding post, great great read.

    In particular, I like and very much agree with:

    “What I’d like is a more mature attitude towards youth football. That’s to say, we should be able to congratulate individuals for lower level achievement, without trying to extrapolate too much, or make wild predictions about career trajectory”

    And your reference to the maturity to the signings made this summer is perfect ancedote. Yossi, Arteta, Mert – while not of the uber superstar status bring so much value in the approach and attitude to the game, that will allow talent to develop naturally. Unfair expectations on precarious young talent can only be detrimental in the long term, IMO.

    A reasoned outlook to the development is critical. The excitement surrounding JET was astronomical, turns out he lacked something that will stop him from being a true Arsenal quality player.

  7. Massive 2-3 weeks for the boys now:

    Shrewsbury, Bolton, Olympiakos offer three home games to form understanding, to develop style, and ultimately by tooth and nail, to deliever 3 victories.

    Three wins on the bounce heading to the Lane, will offer a great great platform for this side to succeed where we have failed in recent EPL games, and beat the Scum in their own backyard.

    4 wins on the bounce, dicing the Spuds at the home, the summer gloom can be left behind.

    We then head to Marseille (tough), Stoke at Home, Carling Cup 4th round, before visiting the Bridge.

    We can really build up a good run of form. Especially as that will see Wilshere / TV nearing fitness.

    Its all about calendar focused mini leagues this season chaps.

  8. Lovely article, OOU. Realistic and upbeat assessment. The playing philosophy remains the same but we are still laying the foundations of it with this particular incarnation.
    We’re in for the long haul here and I think most people accept that because they are very pleased with the commitment and quality of the new signings. That has bought the rebuilding project some time.
    We’d all have liked to see all our new players in for the start of pre-season, but (to paraphrase) you can’t always get what you want, but if you *keep* trying, you get what you need. Or something.

    I also liked what you said about not going to extremes about the youth players, while of course being quietly confident that we will get one or two first-teamers each year.

    @ Henristic | September 16, 2011 at 9:40 am
    It was fascinating, wasn’t it? The findings went against received wisdom, and yet seemed absolutely obvious when spelled out like that.

  9. Good points Big Al. Nicely written as ever.

    There’s no such thing as a low rent Stewart Robson though. He’s the real deal!

    One of our problems currently is the contrast between current performance and those of the near distant past. Take a look at a compilation video on Darius’s site yesterday to see what i mean. Any team that contained Bergkamp, Pires, Henry, Viera, Lundberg- to name but 5- was capable of breathtaking football.

    We are a long way off that standard. Wheels turn.

    Let’s just enjoy the fight.

    Yes, I join Henristic in thanking Fun for that video. Interesting stuff. How ould you apply it to football? Easier to see why large salaries might be counterproductive though, given the nature of the endeavour.

  10. Wenger getting really tetchy with the press lately isnt he? A few digs at the gathered hacks at the press conference yesterday. Apart from those digs there was nothing quotable from le boss. I havent looked at the e-printed press yet but i wonder how many will run with those quotes?

  11. @ consolsbob

    “How ould you apply it to football? Easier to see why large salaries might be counterproductive though, given the nature of the endeavour.”

    I have been pondering the same thing. It would have been helpful if the person presenting the findings had given us an idea of *why* large rewards lead to poorer performance. There was a possible clue in his assertion that you have to pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table – perhaps when you offer massive rewards, the focus becomes all on the money or status or competing with colleagues, rather than the work itself and any higher purpose. Or as you suggest, the focus on the reward creates mental pressure which is counter-productive?

    Perhaps in a football context that becomes a situation where the player is not playing for fun or love of the game and is therefore less inventive and more stressed and less able to make the right decisions? It might mean that a player would be content with being paid less than at a super-rich club, while still earning enough to feel well remunerated, but the relishing the freedom to improvise, and the opportunity to improve his game (mastery) and represent an ideal of how football should be played/represent a club with inspiring core values (higher purpose).

    I think you can see where I am going with this… ha ha!

  12. @ DeiseGooner | September 16, 2011 at 10:59 am

    “Apart from those digs there was nothing quotable from le boss.”

    Perhaps that was the idea! A new tactic with the press, maybe?

  13. FG/Consol
    With regards how the concept could apply football;
    Probably not as much as we’d like for the obvious reason that football isn’t close to being a cognitive endeavour. Recall that their findings showed that the rewards system work well for physical activities.The reality bears that out as well; the best players tend to be the best paid ones, and their ridiculously wages clearly doesn’t affect their performance negatively, if any thing its the contrary.

  14. Wheels do turn CB, and we must always be careful of comparisons between Arsenal “vintages”, especially those 5 players. Teams are different, eras are different, and the challenges also quite different.

    Two things struck me recently. One, that Thierry was such an inspired performer in the Highbury years. When you have such a player it not only raises the level around, but in some ways the Invincible era was the Henry era. Goals win matches. He conjured goals out of many an unlikely situation, as well as more typical striker’s team goals.

    The other is just level of performance and technical ability. In the past decade the EPL level has risen appreciably. There are many ways to describe this, but a simple one is looking at the number of foreign players at lower level EPL clubs, and above that the rise of “super clubs”. Arsenal itself has many players who are full internationals, many of them veterans. I can only vaguely recall the days when the two Argentinians arrived and caused such a stir in English football. another era. Ardiles and who?

    This game has changed incredibly.

    The point is, the Invincibles had a slight advantage, and the rest have caught up fast.

    How would the Invincibles perform in the current era? We’ll never know and it’s probably wrong to speculate.

    Gervinho. He’s magic. The best of African football style I think.

  15. Yes Henristic but the reesearch wasn’t clear if continually increasing rewards for physical activities would become counterproductive in the same way as for cognitive functions.

    You could regard ‘applied’ football skills as cognitive, couldn’t you? Watch Denis play for instance. How much time did he spend honing his outrageous ability?

    To pick up Fun’s point, he wasn’t ridiculously rewarded was he. Money was definitely’ off the table’ though.

    “It might mean that a player would be content with being paid less than at a super-rich club, while still earning enough to feel well remunerated, but the relishing the freedom to
    improvise, and the opportunity to improve his game (mastery) and represent an ideal of how football should be played/represent a club with inspiring core values (higher purpose).”

    To use Denis again, Fun, that might be true for some footballers, the bright, sensible ones. For the Rooneys and Ronaldo’s though? Ego gets in the way and they, as you suggest, become competitive with their peers in some kind of ultimate willy waggling contest.

    Fascinating to try and apply it though.

  16. @fungunner

    Nice post..if footballers do view themselves as artists, then the need to express oneself of course must take centre stage, but the same is true in all walks of life

    For example

    Would you rather work in a small design firm for less as an engineer, where there are long hours and bad pay but mentally rewarding work or a more administrative high paying job in a big corporation?

    The thing is football probably mirrors the world outside football- as in most people preferring the latter…

  17. You know ZP, I was wondering that myself having watched all those brilliant sols efforts in the video.

    We just don’t see goals like that in the premiership anymore, by any club.

    Does that mean that skill levels are down or that overall defensive quality is up?

    More negative skills now I suspect, less of the positive.

    Stifle, not play.

    I certainly wasn’t trying to compare the two sides or eras though, just speculating if the memory of ‘that’ side influences some of our fans and the media too much when they look at our current team.

  18. @consols..

    Nail on the head with the bergkamp example..he was truly the modern footballing exception in almost every possible way…an absolute once in a lifetime LEGEND..

  19. If anyone is interested, tomorrow night it’s possible to see Eden Hazard and Marvin Martin play in a Ligue 1 match. Lille v Sochaux, 21h (20h BST) it’s on Orange Sport channel in France.

  20. Absolutely brilliant CBob. Never thought about that. Negative skills and tactics are the biggest and worst of the growth of modern football.

  21. The findings may not be translatable to football, but I don’t think playing football is mechanical (he said “mechanical skills”, not “physical activities”) or that playing in a match is an algorithm – again the description he gave. The players are not just doing familiar and repetitive tasks over and over again, where the only challenges are doing them more quickly or more efficiently – like working on a factory production line. Playing in a match means making a series of decisions in a series of different situations, continually adapting your behaviour – we talk about having a footballing “brain” for a reason. And, as the presenter said that even using “rudimentary” cognitive skill transformed the effect of monetary rewards, I am sure that playing football would qualify as involving at least rudimentary cognitive skill – understanding and applying tactics etc.

    It is true that the best players in each team are by and large the best paid ones – although strictly speaking this is about rewards rather than wages, ie is extra money always a better incentive than giving a sense of “autonomy, mastery and purpose” to your employees. So I shouldn’t have talked about “being paid” in that sense.
    However, it is interesting that big money signings can flop spectacularly. And how often do you see players play well for a pay rise and then less well as soon as they have it? That could be an example of the model working. As I said, the difficulty I had is that there is no explanation of *why* large monetary rewards are counter-productive – there could be something about football, or team sports, or high-level sport which works against the principle. But the use of autonomy, mastery and purpose as incentives towards enhanced performance could work for a footballer – (could be why flair players like RvP flourish under Wenger or similar coaches), even if the large financial rewards do not lead invariably to poorer performance.

    @ consolsbob
    Interestingly, AW was talking about how the story of the development of football can be seen as a battle between attack and defence, each taking turns to be in the ascendancy, each forcing the other to adapt and improve. When Bergy was with us, perhaps up to the end of the Invincibles year, attacking football ruled – France won the World cup and the European championships, Arsenal and ManU were the top teams in england. Then on the world stage, Greece and Italy and in england Chelsea came to the fore – that was the defence biting back. And then attack took over again with Spain and Germany and then ManU being more successful. Does that work for you?

  22. So the debate brings us back to what we are trying to do to counter the current defensive ascendancy.

    Tippy tappy didn’t work. What is different about our players and potential playing style this season ‘once the baby gets rolling’?

  23. Nice post OOU:

    Blackburn is struggling big time both on and off the field right now so hopefully a good time to play them at their park. Would take any win but a good attacking performance with a few goals to get the engine started would be nice.

    CBOB @ 1:14:

    “So the debate brings us back to what we are trying to do to counter the current defensive ascendancy.

    Tippy tappy didn’t work. What is different about our players and potential playing style this season ‘once the baby gets rolling’?”

    That is truly the million dollar question. Wish there was an easy answer. I would like to see us attack at pace and look to attack the goal before the other club get its defense set rather then the slow methodical build up we have favored in the past few years. That would mean less possession. We seem to be building more defensive solidarity and whatever we do that has to be maintained.

    What do you think?

  24. Consols – I think we are experimenting on 2 fronts. One, a very direct “in your face” type of attack which might be explained by the recruitment of 3Gs, The Ox and Ryo to supplement the pace of Theo. One of our major defeciencies in recent times was the ability to get past defensive walls. The more direct play while not negating Wengerball is more a ruthless direct streak than an “I’ll find a pass through the eye of the needle” kind of play.

    The second area is the zonal marking at set pieces that is being added to compliment the individual and open play defending that we have gotten used to. It was very noticeable for example that Koscielny and Mertesacker were getting to know each other better in the first half against Dortmund. During the second haf, they made better decisions as to when it was time to play a high line and when it was time to absorb the pressure while playing deep. To me, that was an indicator of a tactical awareness that we need more of in order to deal with evolving situations in the game.

  25. Consol,FG
    I’m sure Dennis was one of the better rewarded player in his time.

    Bergkamp’s genius aside, football isn’t really cognitive though, is it? Not in the same way as management, science or technology anyways. I don’t remember much in the presentation about rudimentray cognition. Must watch it again.

    You raised a good point about mechanical vs physical activity. It wasn’t clear to me in the presentation that the reason the ‘rewards concept’ worked for mechanical activities was their algorithmic nature.

    Then again, even assuming that the concept of reward-for-perfomance is generally true, the law of diminishing returns tells us that there’ll be a point for any activity the concept no longer holds.

    I don’t have anything close a proper grasp of these issues, but its fascinating nonetheless…

  26. Great post OOU and tip top comments too.

    Though I would hesitate to state that Arsenal’s brand of tika-taka didn’t work.

    The team that included Ade, pre-injury Rosicky, Hleb, Fabregas and Eduardo (what I call the third Wengarian squad. By my measure we are now into the fifth squad/team, not the fourth) was very effective.
    I remember discussing the change in opponents tactics for the third and fourth squads with OOU before. I definitely have the impression that opponents changed, the all out defence and time wasting shennanigans we see for 90 minutes from many opponents in a hope to rope-a-dope became much more common.

    For me the thread that Arsenal will now change thir style doesn’t really feel right.
    Re-watch last season’s Everton Away game, and then I hope others can understand what I mean. Don’t really have the time for going into that much detail at the moment.

  27. @ Gains69
    I had a check back for the clip I posted and saw your response. Basically, I bow to your superior tactical and technical knowledge (I mean that sincerely) but are you sure that Theo has all the tools *right now* to play centrally?

    @ consolsbob
    Did you mention that it was Arsenal and the Invincibles which prompted the defensive improvements in the PL? I think it was. Many teams would take us on naively and get slaughtered. So they got organised.
    Our new attack will be speedier and more direct, definitely – it has to be, with the players we’ve bought. Closer to the Invincibles’ imperious style – in time. We obviously spent all pre-season working on the new zonal marking, which I prefer and which (touch wood) seems to be working, so this time, till the international break, is the time to get our attack firing. The will is clearly there in the players.
    Having said that, with players like Arteta, Wilshere, RvP, the Jewish Iniesta, Diaby etc, there is a high level of technical skill, vision and passing ability which could result in goose-pimply moments to rival those of the past. I hope, anyway.

  28. Off topic I was looking at net transfer spending over the past 5 years for all the “Big Clubs” and was shocked to see that over the period Arsenal were the only one of the 5 to have actually recouped more than they had spent.

    Club Net Spend 5 Years
    Arsenal -£44,360,000.00
    Chelsea £148,700,000.00
    Liverpool £32,485,000.00
    Manchester City £439,520,000.00
    Manchester Utd £52,750,000.00

    It is truly amazing to me that Arsene as accomplished so much with a team that does not have the financial clout of those around it competing for the same titles/trophies. To think of all the stick the guy gets from pundits and some fans alike and yet the hard and fast facts are he really does produce competitive teams on a relative show string. I want you to keep in mind that Manchester United’s figures include the silly transfer of Ronaldo for 80 million which was a net -64,000,000 banker for Man Utd in the 2009/10 season.

    The commerical contracts set in place with the construction of the new stadium were very conservative and in one sense we are paying for that now as those around us renew theirs at terms much more beneficial (though I shall not included the family handshake Manchester City deal in that).

    With time (always the enemy of the I want now brigade) Arsenal are going to be in a healthy position to challenge those around us for value additons during transfer windows. Arsenal and Arsene are one and the same as is Manchester United and Alex Ferguson, without either the clubs would not be as successful. I cannot see one single manager including Ferguson (whom has always had resources at United) doing the same job anywhere near as successfully as Arsene has, a student of economics and a wonderous tactician of the beautiful game.

    Up the Arsenal.

  29. It’s a mystery that JC didn’t get a work permit, FP. I’m starting to wonder whether we were actually counting on it. Hopefully he can get the caps he needs over the next season. And Bryan Ruiz is better than he looked last weekend – they’d form quite a scary attack together I think.

    Ramsey looks like he’s in training on the site, but I suppose they have to assess him. Either way, if not Saturday he’ll be back next week I’m sure.

  30. Miami:

    The fact that we have recouped more then we have spent when are consistently told that we have significant resources available is a source of never ending frustration. There is no logic to making transfer profits when that money could have improved our chances to end the current “trophy drought” and that is the single biggest cause of fan and media frustration with Arsene. Making a transfer profit is not something to be proud of at this point in our clubs history.

    We are constantly told we have plenty of money available now and yet choose not to use it. When will we open the purse strings, in January, next summer, when the rest of the big spending clubs finally collapse and go belly up, perhaps never? Lots things we do seem to make no sense when the goal of a big club like ours is putting a title winning side on the pitch and we will get stick from fans and media until that changes.

  31. Bill, I tend it look at it from the point of view that Arsenal are ensuring the future of the club. The net transfer spending has helped the club during a period of massive debt and financial instability, it may not be what we all want to see but there is no point in being frustrated. The only way we are ever going to be competitive is once the stadium is no long a burden to the financial bottom line and we all knew it would be for a period of time. 5 years is not our longest trophy drought, and if this helps Arsenal to compete in the future then I have to take it for what it is.

    Arsenal has to be self sufficient because Stan is never going to invest personal funds in Arsenal for transfer activity.

  32. I agree with Miami 100%. That is how it should be seen, not as a frustration. Personally, i am very happy that we are still fighting with the mega rich, using the model Wenger has brought to the club (self-sustainability, in turn, profit). I think it is something to be very proud of. People seem to think of finances for a club in yearly terms. Every time we announce profits, that is money that will stabilise the club further while enabling us to catch up with the big spenders at a realistic rate. We have been catching up with them every year, and if we keep generating that amount of profit, in a few years we’re going to be almost as powerful as those mega rich teams (excluding Barca Real Chavs and Citeh obviously). The massive difference being, that we will have NO debt. In this current state that football is in, that is such a valuable asset to have as a club. Even if FFP don’t make much of a difference, we will be able to spend (if needed / wanted) and it will all be solely from the money generated by AFC. Not royalty or Russian Mafia. That makes me very proud to be an Arsenal supporter at this point in the clubs history.

  33. Thanks for another gem btw OOU.

    And some great and very thought provoking comments form FG, Hen, Cbob et al. Cheers!

  34. OOU – admire your insight and clarity of thought. Your article is a pleasure to read.

    There is no short cut to understanding / chemistry. It is good to see many of the new signings receiving valuable playing time – that will pay the club dividends later in the season.

  35. I can see Wenger introducing a much direct and counter attack system. Possession and passing has not been able to break down defences and gives opponents time to regroup and get 7/8 players back to defend. The goal against Dortmund shows the benefit of quick counter attacks.
    The new make up of the team, with Arteta, Gervinho, Park, plus Walcott and Arshavin, seems to suggest this will be the new game play, with RVP and or Gervinho up front making runs into the box.

    I really can’t see Wenger doing anything different to that, especially now he has started to develop a confident back four and two strong DM’s in Song and Pong.
    Will be interesting to see what he does tomorrow and I’m glad it’s an early KO and I don’t have to wait till 6pm.

  36. CBob: “We just don’t see goals like that in the premiership anymore, by any club.

    Does that mean that skill levels are down or that overall defensive quality is up?”

    That goal by Pires, where he chips it past Southhampton’s keeper from outside the area, is something only truly great players have the audacity to do. Robert Pires was an incredibly good player. I don’t think we’ll see that level of audacity from players anymore due to all the pressure that money has brought into the game.

    With regards to Pires, I followed his career ever since I saw him playing for Metz. I was skipping through the channels on a lazy afternoon and ESPN was showing Ligue 1. I thought, there’s nothing else on so let me watch this game. And there he was, Robert Pires, trotting about in that distinctive style of his, beating players for fun and passing it about masterfully. It’s safe to say I was instantly hooked. Fast forward two or three years and, lo and behold, he was at Arsenal. What an amazing surprise and what a great feeling it was to know that Wenger liked the same player I did. A few years later Arsene Wenger would give me that same feeling when he signed Aleksander Hleb.

  37. Check these videos out. Shows what makes a great player (subjective) tick. Speed, Mental agility, technique etc Facinating insight into a footballers body structure and brain function during play.

  38. Fun, yes I do. I truly believe that Theo has all the tools necessary to play upfront centrally. Here’s why I think the way I do. Theo knows he’s fast and I can guarantee you he feels an immense rush from scaring his opponents with his pace. I’m pretty sure that playing him centrally will bring out that hidden cheekyness and malice that he hasn’t been able to show while pinned to the right touchline.

    As far as tactics are concerned, I think that Theo playing around two slower central defenders, instead of running at a speedy left back, will give us a tremendous advantage simply because he will draw most of the attention to himself and leave acres of space for the players in the middle. Imagine this, play starts to develop, the left back’s got one eye on Theo and one eye on Gervinho. The left back cheats in a little bit to mark Theo and the pass goes out to Gervinho. The left back has to decide whether to stick with Theo or allow the defensive midfielder to step in. If the left back goes for Gervinho and leaves Theo open, Gervinho can pass it to Theo and we’re off to the races. If the left back decides to stay on Theo and let the DM step in then that leaves Gervinho only one player to beat. If he beats his marker and continues his run, he can take it to goal himself or pass it off to the middle where RVP or Wilshere will be waiting. If Theo is left to run at the central midfielders, a good pass or a chip into space gets Theo in on goal. And if he’s in on goal the only way to stop him is to foul him or concede a penalty. This means bookings or red cards, which puts the CBs under even more pressure.

  39. Hahaha! George, if only. I’d be the happiest man if I were paid only to watch football.

    Northbank, the acquisitions Wenger made might be a signal that he’s building the team around Van Persie and his ability to play as a false 9. He bought pure speed with the likes of Chu-Young Park and Gervinho instead of creativity as was the case with Rosicky, Hleb then Nasri. The shift away from having a creative player out on the wing may have just occured. Who knows? This is why I think we’ll end up seeing Theo upfront sooner rather than later. Also, this is why I think Wenger kept Chamakh instead of Bendtner. For all of his ability Bendtner wasn’t a good header of the ball. Chamakh, although shorter, wins the ball more often and scores more frequently from crosses. I think we’ll see a lot more of him as he and Van Persie take turns playing.

  40. I would like to try Theo more centrally, but unfortunately, given our start and the late arrival of so many players without a preseason to work on some of these possibilities, I don’t see us having the luxury of experimenting a great deal right now. The main task is to integrate the new players into the formations and roles our continuing core of players are familiar with, I think.

  41. My bloody link didn’t work, but anyone interested just check on YouTube: Cristiano Ronaldo- Tested to the Limit. It’s in 4 parts, brilliant analysis of the physical and mental attributes needed to be a top class footballer.

  42. Well Theo is still yong, i mean look at cleverly, just broken in at United and hes 21. Theo is just 22! hes still so young and he will still develop so much.According to AW a played does not fully mature physically until hes 23. So Theo will bulk up more over the next year. Hes already bukled up alot over the last two yers.
    This year he looks more aggresive too, positivley aggressive i mean, and thats good. He will play on the side until AW thinks he has learned enogh to adequatly play in the middle. RvP did not establish himself as the main striker until Henry left. Rvp was then what? 25?? theo has ages still. He will go from good england standard to world class ones he gets his favourit position, im certain of it.

  43. George, are you preparing your remarks/question for the Fans’ Forum? Ready to give us a bit of a preview?

    Don’t know why but the ArsenalPlayer is not giving me live video, just audio, just like last Friday, on my MacBook/Safari browser. Never had that problem with ATVO. Is there a simple solution? All I am missing is Robson (!!?!&%$^^!!!) on his “talking tactics” section of the program, so no urgency, but I would like to watch Tom Watt doing his thing.

  44. 6.1 per over – a good chase, not a great bowling attack for India but no KP or Morgan.

    Actually wouldn’t begrudge them a result – nice send off for Dravid, class act.

  45. Miami:

    Based on everything we are told by our club the frugalilty has gone way past where we needed to maintain self sufficiency and it has hurt the club both on and off the pitch. Our business/transfer policies and how it relates to our performance on the pitch are by far the biggest single issue that has lead to fan “unrest” and the media’s constant sniping at the club. It also makes it harder to begin generating those other sources of commercial income. Catch 22. I understand why the whole frugality thing started 7 years ago but its very hard to understand the motivation for what we are doing at this point.

  46. Paul N – thanks for that video. Brilliant memories and it provokes a few thoughts about the current state of play.
    1) Chelsea had just thrashed man U by 5 goals but significantly didn’t go on to dominate Man U for years to come – rather like man U thrashing us by 6 doesn’t mean they will go on to dominate us.
    2) How crap were we from crosses and set pieces in those clips? And that was Dixon, Adams, Keown, Seaman with Petit at DM – just goes to show.
    3) How gutted was the fucking commentator when we scored? Almost speechless and described our goals from Chelsea’s perspective….

  47. I think you have a point, Bill. No, really i do.

    I posted a few days ago about frugality in my life. It becomes a way of life very quickly. An increasing reluctance to fill the pockets of fat, greedy bastards.

    Maybe Arsenal caught the same bug corporately.

    I agree that it has been divisive.

  48. Good stuff. These comments were enjoyable to read.

    Hey Septics, are you ready to get up at 6:30 to watch the Arsenal and feel the intense headache of last nights drinking escapades? I sure am.

  49. When more money is freed up Arsenal will have no problems at all. Seriously, were City and Chelsea marketable brands before and are they now above Arsenal in that regard? I kinda doubt that even with all of their money.

    If the team was still being frugal (as Bill says) then they wouldnt have gone after many of the payers they did. If you dont get the player because the clubs they are at dont want to sell or the player decides to go to another team, can you call that being frugal? I dont think so.

    It seems that the purse is being loosened more and more.

    Steww, I thought the same about the set play defending and also the fact that Chelsea had just killed United.

  50. Agree about the standard of comments today. Very serene as well. I read on here earlier in the week that ACLF was off Newsnow. Doesn’t seem like such a bad thing when nobody feels obliged to reply to people who just want to get attention.

  51. Bulldog George. You sunk your teeth into Mark and wouldn’t let him get out of your grip. I hope our defenders are as tenacious as you tomorrow in Blackburn. Have a great time cheering the lads on.

  52. “It might mean that a player would be content with being paid less than at a super-rich club, while still earning enough to feel well remunerated, but the relishing the freedom to
    improvise, and the opportunity to improve his game (mastery) and represent an ideal of how football should be played/represent a club with inspiring core values (higher purpose).”

    FG, I feel that description fits RVP. I hope it still does despite the Darren Dein influence!

  53. Well, he said some good things and is squarely behind Wenger staying as our manager but he did seem pretty much like what one expects these days from the football media, despite the claim that he is a fan. He thinks we are battling for 5th.

    What I take from this is that there just isn’t any room for a positive pro-Arsene, pro-Arsenal point of view in the media. I don’t mean a cheerleader but a consistent position that appreciates the achievements of the man and the club without having to apologize. That goodwill is gone, that benefit of the doubt isn’t there anymore.

    I think it is worse having Robson on Arsenal productions than inviting the odd journo because at least you have the chance to take the journo to task on the forum.

  54. @Chill
    Luckily I don’t have to get up at silly o’clock to watch a game………… thank fuck cos I’d have no fucking chance, unless I was just arriving home from a night out. But then the bar where I normally watch the game would be closed.

    I reckon Tarentino should re-name his films Chill Bill and Chill Bill 2.

    Good, clean, sensible debate on here today……. it’s how all Arsenal fans should behave, 10/10 everyone, well done. Common sense and a reasoned perspective makes all the difference.

  55. Very good post as always OOU. I also enjoyed FG’s little video and found it pretty fascinating to be honest. It’s just a pity she did not save it for a guest blog somewhere 🙂

    For those watching in the states ESPN2 will be showing the game starting at 7:30 a.m. EST.

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