The international break sprang into life last night with the first round of matches in this double-header. England took the attention – here at least – with an amble in Moldova with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain putting in a bright performance with sharp passing and movement, exemplified in his contribution to Defoe’s goal. England were not tested particularly so it is difficult to judge his progress for the national team and a fair few will not care either, beyond him coming home uninjured.
Theo Walcott found his inability to convince Arsène that he merits a place in the Arsenal starting line-up, has international implications. Mind you, he found in the summer that having a place in the Arsenal starting XI is no guarantee of a place in the England team whilst Oxlade-Chamberlain happens to be able to cover a number of positions across the middle, versatility helping to progress his cause. Perhaps that is food for thought for the older of the Arsenal duo, working on distribution with his left might help his desire to play centrally as well. The successful strikers in the modern game are rarely one-footed, most show that their weaker foot is not as demonstrably different from the favoured shooting boot.
Another player with contract thoughts on his mind appears to have provoked a reaction from the manager. Bacary Sagna’s negotiating stance has pricked Arsène into redefining the summer’s transfer activity. Mindful that the French defender was concerned about the lack of communication over the sale of Alex Song – maybe Bacary was in rehab when that squad conversation took place, no, no, no – Wenger was at pains to point out that Nicklas Bendtner has not been sold, simply loaned to Juventus,
He can do well in Italy. He’s a top player for me, but he’s had difficulties here. You can’t doubt the player’s value though. We believe in him and that is why we only gave him to Juventus on loan. I think he can resolve his problems with us and prove himself. We believe in him.
At one point this summer, it seemed that it was going to be easier to loan the Dane to Weightwatchers for an advertising campaign than move him on to another club. Bendtner was widely viewed as the least bad of the striking options in support of Podolski and Giroud. Arguably, he is too similar to the Frenchman to have a long-term future, presuming that Giroud finds his shooting boots; has Bendtner hidden them behind the lockers at London Colney in a last act of defiance?
The Dane’s ego is often derided but it overlooks that he does have ability, a point the manager understandably laboured. Coming through the ranks with Arturo Lupoli, Bendtner and he were great hopes of a promising future. The last I heard of the Italian he was in the depths of Serie B, which just goes to highlight how promising careers at youth level do not always materialise. That perspective underlines Bendtner’s commitment to himself and technical merits; he just has to concentrate on manifesting that consistently on the pitch.
Of course Arsène rarely criticises a player publicly and is not about to undermine a potential sale next summer by claiming that the Dane is a useless lump but a successful season may yet see the deadwood fight back. Elsewhere, Abou Diaby fired home a cracking finish for France against Finland and a few others were scattered around Europe. As of yet, no reports of injury so we’ll take that as a positive.
Diaby’s performance at Anfield is being rightly praised but it needs to be tempered with a nervousness about his injury record. Criticism of a rehabilitation coach does not invalidate the work of the Arsenal medical staff; after all, they act on the diagnosis they are given by specialists and those medical professionals are not infallible. The point is that it is easy to criticise – almost fashionable – employees of the club and presume that everyone else is right. That is not always the case.
When we are halfway through the season with Diaby performing at a consistently high level, then I think it is the time to become more confident that he is on the road to realising his massive potential. Certainly I do not believe you can question his mental attitude and it was nice for once, to read a player underlining his gratitude to the club for standing by him whilst injury has riven a career, rather than bleating about wanting the club to take a new direction and demanding a substantial pay rise. Perhaps some should take more note of Diaby.