Morning all, 2013 is here and that can mean only one thing: football is back. Arsenal travel to Southampton for talks about signing Luke Shaw and as luck would have it, there will be plenty of evidence to support directors talking, what with a football match going on and all that. Arsène praised the youth production line at the south coast club,
The question of Southampton’s academy set-up is a very good one because they have done a fabulous job. Why? It is down to the quality of their scouting, the quality of their coaching and education. When you look at what Bale is doing, and Walcott. And now they have they players like Morgan Schneiderlin, they have brought some players of top, top quality and they work well. They have fantastic scouting.
It’s his Victor Kiam moment, isn’t it? So good, he bought the entire Academy.
One previous player is relishing the opportunity of a return to Southampton. Theo Walcott, for it is he, has apparently dropped a hint via his agents and a compliant journalist that he will sign a new deal imminently. Except he didn’t say that at all and there is a great deal of supposition in the notion. Yet it is refreshing in that the layers have been peeled away from this deal, that we get to the fruit and find it is still a money tree we have climbed. No positional deflections, no quality diversions. Once more this is around money and based on the figures bandied about in the past few days, I would have said that £95k per week is not unreasonable given the state of football today. Of course, that again is supposition and should there be failure to reach agreement, Ivan Gazidis’ Summer promises of overhauling the wage structure will look incredibly hollow.
Nigel Adkins meanwhile has looked on with pride at the development of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The youngster has played well recently but is not the finished article, nor does he claim to be. Adkins noted,
He is one of the players that came through out system. We are excited watching him play. We’d love him to still be at Southampton, but he is an Arsenal player now and an England international. I went to watch him against Reading the other night and he was exhilarating, with his acceleration to go away, a desire to get on the football. He is a joy to watch.
I think everybody at Southampton is proud of what he is doing now. Everybody at the football club has had a role and a responsibility to play in Alex’s development, but it is down to him as well. He is an exciting young talent.
There have been comments that Oxlade-Chamberlain receives an easy pass when, so the theory goes, his consistency of performance is no better than Gervinho. To me that is wrong; the youngster is criticised for poor performances but the Ivorian receives less leeway because he is more experienced, closer to being the finished article – no player can be considered that as they should continually improve with more experience – than a young man barely old enough to vote. And that is the crux of that issue; the callowness of youth.
Southampton have improved considerably in recent weeks and any thoughts that this is going to be as straightforward an away win as Reading are wrong. The Saints have shown Arsène’s favoured qualities, super mental strength and resilience in response to the relegation battle in which they find themselves. That said, they lost their last home game to Sunderland so it is a match that Arsenal are emminently capable of winning. Tottenham and Chelsea both have routine home games so Arsenal have to win to keep the pressure on our noisy neighbours.
I would expect rotation from Arsène but not too much. The back four will stay largely intact with the even larger Mertesacker returning to the starting line-up for Vermaelen to rest the Belgian. In midfield, I wonder if Arteta is going to be rested today or Cazorla. When I say rested, drop to the bench for a quick breather, Aaron Ramsey taking his place? The more likely switch today is Cazorla and Rosicky. Up front, I cannot see the justification for change, Podolski and Walcott are in good form with the German’s contribution flying below the media radar with their obsession over the England internationals form and contractual plight. The fly in the ointment if you like, is Olivier Giroud and I wonder if Arsène might be tempted into playing him centrally with Walcott on the right?
The line-up I would expect is:
Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Rosicky, Arteta, Wilshere; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Podolski
As it is, continuing the nascent run is vital, the performances will come with the collection of results. The win keeps up the top four immediate aspirations without relying on the failure of others and increases pressure on those who have a track record of crumbling under such intensities.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. To keep you going, there is another New Years Day visit to the south coast at Arsenal On This Day.