If you put antiquated aircraft into service, the likelihood is they will break down. And take a long time to repair. If you happen across a Pappadeux’s Seafood Kitchen at an airport, the Calamari is recommended.
The international break is set to interfere with Arsenal’s progress following today’s visit to The Hawthorns, Arsenal need to continue their scintillating away form to return to the top of the table although a point may suffice if those from the wrong end of the Seven Sisters do not beat West Ham by three or more goals.
For the third time in thirteen games, Arsenal face West Bromwich Albion and seek their third win. Form since the opening day has been an extension of the run which began following the back-to-back defeats against Chelsea and Manchester City; the difference is the performance levels have been more consistent. Instead of veering from the sublime to the ridiculous inside ninety minutes, Arsenal have dominated matches but looked comfortable at the back without the ball, defending from the front.
This afternoon will see that challenged when arguably this season’s most consistent defender will be missing. Bacary Sagna’s hamstring is knacked and Carl Jenkinson will step forward to press his claims to be the French international’s successor. The youngster – at what age do players stop being a youngster – has all the credentials to be so and re-signing Sagna would be a good move not just from the playing perspective but also reminding Jenkinson of the levels of consistency needed, that selfishly, we have become accustomed to. If he hits those levels, he will dominate the right side of defence for club and country because frankly, like Gibbs on the other side of the pitch, the competition in the national squad isn’t up to much.
Key to the form have been previously unsung heroes. One betting offer from Arsenal’s bookmaking partner is gambling that Aaron Ramsey doesn’t continue his impressive form into this game, presumably for fears over the health of several celebrities although that might be something of a new market for them to enter. It’s fairly certain that life would imitate art at some point.
The unsung heroes are getting their own choral support. Ramsey’s ‘rehabilitation’ in the media is complete, Mathieu Flamini‘s contribution being respected and those of Giroud and Szczesny being appreciated. Flamini’s re-signing suffered at the time with expectations, his wasn’t seen as an urgent requirement and he wasn’t the centre-forward that the club had been openly chasing. Injuries offered the opportunity for his immediate inclusion in his favoured midfield position and the Frenchman does not look like ceding his place in the side. His work is being widely appreciated, Wenger referred to it as the “dark arts“, underlining what was previously missing in midfield. To do so hints at a underappreciation of the defensive work undertaken by Mikel Arteta last season which is not the case; it’s just a nastier side missing since, well, Flamini occupied the role in the centre of the pitch five seasons ago. Even then, was he that nasty or has he matured into the role?
It has provided a platform upon which the side has built. Despite not scoring recently, Olivier Giroud has nonetheless been a key player for the side, leading the line. Influential in the goals against Napoli, he has noted this week that criticism flowed freely in his direction but seemingly more in his native France than here. His ethic is appreciated here, encapsulated by the striker,
I don’t need to change the way I am. I should stay the same and my reward is being able to express myself on the pitch as I am doing…The Arsenal supporters can see I always give my best. They recognise that I’m not just thinking about scoring and that, beyond the goals, I try to be helpful to the team. Of course a striker’s job is to score but you must also be able to do the pressing job and set up chances for team-mates. Sometimes we misjudge strikers because we do not see all the work they do.
It doesn’t bother me too much because for the moment I am scoring goals. But the day I start scoring less, I hope that the experts will look at the work I do.
The summer was spent pursuing another striker causing Arsène to quip in midweek that maybe the media need to motivate Giroud more by reporting such matters more consistently. It hides the truth that was evident then and remains so now; Arsenal do not have enough depth up front. To have an experienced, proven Plan B is crucial; it avoids the feeling that Arsenal are hostages to injury fortune, that any dip in form be that during a game or over a series of weeks, is covered. Crucially, it allows the likes of Sanogo and Akpom to learn their trades without pressure, without having to enter the fray as a saviour.
Nicklas Bendtner’s rehabilitation continues with revisionism seemingly incapable of computing that, like all players, we want him to do well when he is in the squad. It doesn’t mean he is a long-term solution though; you suspect that Arsène feels the same and will seek an alternative to the Dane in the next window with Karim Benzema once more linked with a move away from The Bernabeu this morning. Bendtner has ability but has never scored regularly enough to warrant the position as lead striker at the club. Loan spells indicate that the manager feels the same, that he was on the verge of leaving for Crystal Palace on a permanent basis until Demba Ba’s loan move fell through.
It is hard to see the manager changing today’s line-up beyond Sagna. In beating Napoli, Arsenal crushed their spirit with the performance. Overwhelming them at the beginning, suppressing any attacking instinct in the visitors once a two-goal lead had been established and stifling them with efficiency in the remainder of the match. A top of the table performance from a confident side. Albion will be confident following their win at Old Trafford and will not be under-estimated but consistency means repeating performance levels and Arsenal have mastered that this season. They will be put under more pressure today than the Italians managed but that offers the chance for counter-attack and the speed of Özil and Rosicky’s passing is made for such patterns of play. It means that Jack Wilshere will be seen on the bench, Albion have hastily built a smoking shelter for the England midfielder for this afternoon. No doubt his omission will be cast as punishment for his indiscretion rather than recognition of those who cast Napoli to the four winds on Tuesday. Such is the triviality of the press.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.