The Emirates Cup, Arsenal’s Peters and Lee moment, as we get to offer a Welcome Home. Unlike this morning’s playlist, you can guarantee that the atmosphere won’t be Hot ‘N’ Nasty unlike Dad’s Jukebox in the right sidebar.
Which isn’t a criticism that can be levelled at Aaron Ramsey whose cute ‘n’ fluffy rating went through the roof after his interview in The Guardian this morning. In common with the theme of maturity evident throughout, the hope for the future, not just that man will be kind to his fellow beast, but that the club – and players – have learned the lessons of the past,
I think especially the back end of last season we improved that a lot, where I did have a few sessions just to recover that bit more. Because I do put in a big shift in games and it’s difficult sometimes, when you’re playing two or three games in a week, to recover fully and go into the game fresh.
I definitely managed myself better with that in the second half of the season. And it had to be done, because I was always breaking down, so we needed to look at something and I feel we’ve done that. Hopefully we’ll continue doing that and it will get me fit throughout the season.
It is becoming more apparent of the positive impact that changes in personnel have made, in theories and actions. Arsenal’s injury record in terms of days was always skewed by Abou Diaby’s persistent misfortune but the most frustrating aspect was always the recurring theme that any return to fitness would always be followed swiftly by a twang or knack. Hopefully those instances will be reduced with investment in the squad allowing for longer recuperation periods, underpinned by improved facilities and support staff.
And money was a central theme yesterday. The ink had barely dried on Lord ‘Arris’ words than Arsène was cleaning up the mess. ‘Arris was apparently prone to hyperbole, as Wenger prepared to carpet the errant director. Rich, yes, but not an unlimited pot, according to the manager. Not before he withered that the media were shallow and money-obsessed; the perfect accompaniment to modern football.
That was after Arsène sought to deflect attention away from the deal for the ludicrously expensive striker that ‘Arris promised the club were looking to bring in,
I think we have enough goals in the squad. What we want is some more goals from some players who are not really strikers and that was our strength traditionally. The players who were offensive and creative players scored 10 to 12 goals – that’s what you need.
Our target is to improve our number, but you as well have examples of teams who have scored 90 or 100 goals and have not won the championship. We want to combine good defensive efficiency with 10 more goals. I believe as well that part of the respect for your players is to focus on the players you have and try to improve and look at the performance.
There’s no argument that you need a balance between defence and attack; it didn’t work out so well for Liverpool’s title challenge when they breached a hundred goals and conceded half that number two seasons ago. Having several players who score more than a dozen times a season has long been a trait of successful sides and Arsenal aren’t far off having that in the squad.
More important though is having players who can step in when the striker hits a barren run as Olivier Giroud did at the season end. That run proved costly with the points dropped against Swansea and Sunderland the difference between second and third place. It isn’t just others stepping up, it’s the need to find consistency in the alternatives. In that sense, questions still exist over Welbeck and Walcott, whose strengths are in the wider positions, drifting into the centre as the flow of the game dictates, rather than leading the line.
And it’s why talk of Lacazette or Benzema won’t die away. Nor will the talk stop even if it is “1000%” certain the latter will stay in Madrid.
There will be stronger Arsenal squad on show this weekend with only Ospina and Alexis to return to pre-season in the next fortnight or so. Arsène noted that unlike Manchester City, the club hadn’t needed to hire another aeroplane to fly back the walking wounded from the tour matches; the squad was intact with only Danny Welbeck warranting mention as a notable absentee. Yes, I know Mathieu Flamini is missing but years ago, the midfielder needed amputation to avoid matches. That or a free transfer to Milan.
The plans for the squad for the coming season became a little clearer. Wojciech Szczesny is going to Roma but only on loan, Arsène noted. He still believes in the Pole even if his popularity rating has fallen as quickly as it rose. Perhaps a move to a new culture and style of football will serve its’ purpose, refocusing his mind ahead of a return to Arsenal. It isn’t hard to argue with the rationale that he will learn more from first team football in Rome and I hope it works out for him. Wenger also suggested Martinez will have a season on loan as well, solving his goalkeeping headache in two easy strokes.
I am not sure that sparks will fly. Lyon and Wolfsburg are tricky enough for Arsenal to have a decent match but ultimately if they don’t record two wins, it will be a surprise. Mind you, that was the case so we thought last summer and that didn’t work out too well against Monaco in the end. A portent of things to come as it proved to be.
The key to the weekend is fitness and match sharpness. Yes, it is a case of ‘three in a row'; three tournaments, three trophies is Arsenal’s current record although unlike the Middlesex Pub Team, none of these will appear in the club Roll of Honours. If the results in these matches mean anything, what interpretations can be drawn from the four goals conceded by City and Chelsea in their defeats this week? Precisely none. It’s a bit of fun for us, a workout for the players, that’s it so enjoy today’s matches wherever you are watching them. And just remember, the real thing is closer than it was a week ago.