A weekend that turned out well on the pitch became even better as the results rolled in yesterday. The morning’s back pages talk of European hangovers with only one team victorious following midweek exertions. Of course, Arsenal played like they had a hangover in Dortmund.
Even then, a team without European distractions were the headline makers. Brendan Rodgers offered the template of how to chase the title with one game per week. Manchester United dutifully followed suit before ripping it up. Aloysius was seething following his team’s capitulation in the East Midlands but it can’t have been surprising. Surely that defence is regularly carved open in training? Perhaps it is but put down to attacking prowess. Manuel Pellegrini thought Chelsea approached the clash at Eastlands with a small team mentality. Aloysius’ men played like one.
Still, somewhere the narrative is being created that Arsenal’s point at Leicester is a good one. A shame Neil Warnock wrecked that logic at Goodison Park.
Attention on turns to the visit of Southampton in the League Cup this week. It presents Arsène with some interesting decisions to make, centring around which of the younger first team squad members to promote. The absence of experienced centre backs means one of Mertesacker or Koscielny will probably play with the former seeming the most likely option.
The selection for the starting XI will be telling. Joel Campbell has barely sniffed first team action this season. If he isn’t on the pitch on Wednesday, it’s fair to say he is this season’s Chu Park Young. The spectre of 2011 is shimmering its way to The a Emirates once more.
All this and the lesser-spotted Diaby, seen on Saturday but rarely otherwise. Following his career is the footballing equivalent of twitching. We will become a troupe of Bill Oddie’s.
But this morning Danny Welbeck has taken centre stage. Arsène laid out his path to glory; find your ruby slippers Danny and you too can be swept off to Kansas, sorry, New York. Thierry Henry is a good role model for any striker and at Arsenal, any mobile forward, as comfortable on the wings as in the centre, is at some point going to find that comparison made. Wenger saw parallels between their careers at large European clubs where they were played out of position. I’m sure it was a point that would have been latched into elsewhere, if it hasn’t been already.
It is not saying Welbeck is as good as, just look and learn, Danny and you will find the path to glory. I am not a fan of ‘the next’ sobriquet being adopted, particularly with forwards. At some point Arsène will find his words twisted to alter their meaning. Particularly if Welbeck struggles for goals; “So, Arsène, Welbeck. He isn’t going to be the next Thierry Henry, is he? Is that why you’re trying to sign…”
It’s all too easily laid out. He’s avoided being the next Ray Hankin, the next John Hawley is already bagged by Yaya so Francis Jeffers is next in sights. Far more agreeable to aim low and finish high with these comparisons.
He could be the first Danny Welbeck. Nah, that’s just boring.
I wonder how Joel Campbell feels about it all. On the back of a good World Cup, he arrived at Arsenal in buoyant mood. Has some of that seeped away? His path to the first team is crowded; Arsène has many options and the returning Theo Walcott to include in the XI. With Lukas Podolski turning into Wenger’s preferred option on the left as the minutes drift by during matches, Campbell is competing with a number of internationals with bigger reputations.
He is also the unknown quantity which works in favour to a limited degree, the element of surprise in Arsène’s armoury. If he could get into the pitch of course. Having played centrally for his country – more out of necessity than design – any ambitions to repat that at club were stopped in their tracks by his manager. The wings it is and waits patiently in them for a place on them.
Is that going to happen on the back of appearances in the League Cup? Beyond exuberant teenagers, I’m struggling to think of anyone who has won a first place via this route. Those of you with more time on your hands (or better memories) than I will immediately recall players who gave done so.
It is the ‘curse’ of being a squad player. Destined for what us unclear. If Lukas Podolski had left as he was strongly rumoured to do, one less obstacle stood in Campbell’s away. That presumes Arsène would have followed the straightforward path of like-for-like substitutes. That is by no means guaranteed.
I was surprised Campbell didn’t take another loan (or push harder for a move to Portugal) in the summer. Wenger was less than enthusiastic when talking about the player to British television in the summer, quite possibly having made up his mind already. That’s not yo say he won’t use the player if he thinks Campbell will help win a match. It’s just I don’t think those opportunities will come around very often.