Summer 2013 will once more involve a jaunt to the Far East with the club announcing a trip to Indonesia and “further fixtures in Asia“. With no international tournaments of note once the season ends, there will surely be a strong squad travelling as Arsenal seek to consolidate the brand work done in the two previous Asian trips.
As much as Arsène may not like them, these tours are commercially driven and are the club’s lifeblood in terms of exploiting the markets. They lag behind United and Chelsea to some extent. Both of them were active in the Far East whilst Arsenal stayed in their Central European training base for the Summer. They have moved onto the USA and one wonders with that being the owners base, how long Arsenal will resist such a tour? Quite possibly for Wenger, that is one trip too far and with the way the club organise themselves, someone is probably talking about this in the same breath as an Asian tour.
You can understand why the manager might view these events as intruding on his preparations for the coming campaign but there is no evidence that they are in anyway detrimental to his preparation. The biggest impairment to that are international tournaments and this is something which the FA have to collaborate with Fifa and Uefa, working towards reducing the size of the top flight so that players can properly rest before joining up for pre-season training. Less clubs means that the Premier League can introduce a later starting, and consequent finishing, date for a season as well as looking at mid-Winter breaks, maybe after the FA Cup Third Round until the end of January which is when most postponements seem to happen.
It’s a quiet time for the club despite the regular flow of matches. You know that nothing is happening of note when a newspaper mocks up a picture of David Beckham in an Arsenal top with the former England star training with the club to keep fit. It must be really boring at Wapping this week. Midfield – certainly the wide positions – is not somewhere that is suffering from a shortage of talent at the moment. The right side is better stocked with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott, Santi Cazorla in the background for either flank.
Centrally is a different story. It is repetitive, I know, but relying on Abou Diaby is a high-risk strategy for a conservative club. There are, of course, concerns with every player but they are fleeting whereas the Frenchman’s are constant with his body’s recuperative strength a worry for his manager. To that extent, it would be surprising if no additions were made this transfer window and yet not so. Arsène will have been heartened by recent displays from Aaron Ramsey. The Welshman is unfairly maligned, played out of position by his manager earlier in the season and suffering abuse that if it were pointed towards an animal, would bring about a prosecution by the RSPCA. Each team has such a player, one whose name brings an audible groan but that does not make it right, or even alright.
Playing in his favoured central role has seen his form return and Ramsey appears contented with this,
I think I’ve played well in the last two games. That’s pleasing for me and hopefully I can keep myself in the team and carry on. Hopefully I get picked for the next game. I had a meeting with the boss the other week and he explained to me what’s required for this role. I think I’ve done that in the last couple of games and I feel good in myself.
[I’ve been] getting stuck in and winning the ball back, been involved a lot more and got a lot of touches of the ball so hopefully I can continue the form I’m in at the moment. You always have to be wary of the hole you’re leaving behind you, but there are occasions when I can get into the box and one of the other midfielders sits.
I got into the box a couple of times [against Brighton], maybe it didn’t break for me but I got forward and Abou Diaby sat. I can still get forward but I’m a bit more restricted as to what I can do.
It is certainly the role I envisaged he would play in when he signed for Arsenal. Nothing since has suggested he has the pace for that role and it must be dispiriting for the player to know his efforts are unappreciated through performing in a position which is unnatural for his game. Despite the derision, Ramsey has comeback and shown form in Arteta’s absence, sitting deeper to cover other players. Whether it is enough to keep him in the team when the Spaniard recovers is another matter and for this season, probably not. However, as a longer term plan, there is some considerable sense in the idea with the stats supporting his inclusion in a deeper-lying role with high ball retention and completed passing percentages on Saturday a hopeful sign.