New boys impress, Ox, Gerv & Coq, captaincy issues and Nuri Şahin

Despite the fact that I’m in Turkey, the Arsenal bug has followed me and has bitten, so I’ve been unable to resist posting my thoughts on the recent goings-on at the club.

Recently the main talking point, other than you-know-who (I’ll get to him/it later), has been the friendly against FC Köln; Lukas Podolski’s former club of course. Our new German forward started the game alongside fellow new signings Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud, and all three stood out for differing reasons.

Podolski started on the left wing, and at first wasn’t involved all that much as he got to grips with our style of play, but after a brief lack of involvement began to see more of the ball, as he drifted in from his wide position; Kieran Gibbs’ overlapping allowing him to do so.
This feature of their link-up play – Podolski coming in search of the ball and Gibbs taking up the vacated space out wide – saw Lukas score our third goal, and his second; he dropped deep centrally, looking for the ball, and got it, before sending a probing, lobbed ball over the defence. Gibbs chased after it, and Podolski continued his run, converting the pull-back with the type of efficient finish we’ll surely come to expect from the £11 million man.

Earlier the 27-year-old had converted a penalty to make it 2-0, after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had been fouled. It was a confident finish, and perhaps Podolski might be our penalty taker for the new season, depending on the situation with *ahem*… All annoying speculation aside, Lukas had a good game, and looked comfortable out wide and later in a central berth in the second half, before being replaced by… erm, before being replaced.

£12 million man Santi Cazorla (I know, I can’t believe it either) lined up in between Podolski and Theo Walcott in what has been referred to in recent seasons as ‘the Cesc role’. But if his performance today was anything to go by, we might be calling it ‘the Santi role’ for years to come. He did everything required of him in the position – creating in advanced positions, pressing alongside the centre forward, and dropping deep to aid transitions from defence to midfield as well as ball retention.

He looked assured on the ball, and showed the degree of technical ability you tend to expect from a Spanish midfielder. It seems as if he’ll follow in the footsteps of Juan Mata and David Silva in becoming a Spanish playmaker integral to his side. He was at the heart of a lot of good moves yesterday – always offering an option, playing several key passes as we had hoped, and also sending in the corner for the first goal, which was flicked on by Per Mertesacker and nodded home by Thomas Vermaelen. As many said, it was the typical Steve Bould goal.

One of Cazorla’s excellent passes was a simple ball that was played easily between two defenders and into the trajectory of the run of a certain Olivier Giroud, whose shot was saved well by Timo Horn. Giroud had four efforts in target during his first-half appearance, all dealt with well by Horn, and it was the goalkeeper who came out on top of the duel. Still, Giroud can be pleased with his showing. He made good runs to help forge those chances – firstly one in behind the defence to be found by Francis Coquelin; Giroud then sprinted onto the ball and from a tight angle fired a snapshot low at the near post, only for it to be turned around by Horn. The resulting corner led to the first goal anyway, so the missed opportunity didn’t mean much.

Having had another shot saved by Horn after being found by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cut-back, Giroud was slipped in on goal by Cazorla. After sticking out a leg to control the ball well, his powerful curled effort was saved well again by Horn, and was denied for a third time. His fourth missed opportunity was a powerful header from a corner which was tipped over nicely by the goalkeeper, a chance which few could begrudge him for not scoring.

All in all it was a good performance from Giroud – while the finishes weren’t perfect, his all-round play was impressive, as he linked well with his team-mates, acting as a good foil for the likes of Walcott and Cazorla. Indeed, he linked up with both at one point to almost assist a goal, nodding down Walcott’s cross for Cazorla to fire a low driven volley against the legs of Horn from a decent position. Giroud’s hold-up play was excellent too, as he kept the ball well, putting his physique to good use, as well as acting as a reference point for the entire team and pressing well.

So we saw three very encouraging performances from the new signings, with the trio all impressing on their debuts for different reasons, but Francis Coquelin also caught my eye. He was tenacious and good going forward, but was sloppy in his own half – basically everything we see from Alex Song. He was careless on the ball quite a bit last season, against West Brom on the final day in particular, and we saw it again at the Rhein-Energie Stadion. It’s disappointing because he’s a precocious talent, yet, like Song, seems prone to complaceny. Let’s hope it only crept in because it was a friendly.

I must also touch on Gervinho, who put in a good second half performance. The decision making issues are still very much there – he failed to spot Lukas Podolski in a perfect position to complete his hat-trick early in the second half, and later delayed too long before shooting – but it was an encouraging showing from our Ivorian winger. Our fourth was an excellently taken goal by him; he received the ball on the left, deftly nipped past his man, before beating him again and slotting home at the near post with a clever finish. As I said recently, I’m expecting a big season from him, so let’s hope he doesn’t disappoint.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also put in a good shift, with some powerful runs and some clever passes. He played deep in midfield alongside Coquelin, and the two of them often combined well with Cazorla as a triangle. It had seemed a curious midfield three at first, but it seemed to work, with a lot of fluid interchanging of positions. Chamberlain has been ruled out of England’s friendly with Italy (Joleon Lescott has been called up instead – why is nobody tweeting #InRoyWeTrust?) with an ankle knock, but it doesn’t seem anything serious. Hopefully it’ll mean he’s more fresh for the Sunderland game, or at least avoids a worse injury on international duty.

Sadly I feel like I have to touch on the more negative points raised from the 4-0 victory, and for me, the main one was the handling of the captaincy. Personally, I don’t want van Persie being captain at all, but I can understand Arsene not wanting to officially strip him of the armband, as it might lower his value. Still, the situation was handled poorly – no captain was selected for the second half, meaning when van Persie came on, he was already donning the armband.

If, say, Koscielny had been given the captaincy at the start of the second half, the issue would have been avoided, because van Persie wouldn’t have been expected to take the armband when he came on. Instead, it seemed as if Wenger was sure to make a statement by giving van Persie the armband in a situation where he normally wouldn’t have had it anyway. It’s hard to tell what that move meant – or if it was actually down to poor planning, although I don’t think Arsene would have fallen foul of that with such an important issue – because it could be one of a few things. Perhaps Wenger was trying to keep van Persie’s value high, or perhaps he was trying to warn off potential bidders and make a statement.

For me, I don’t think that little stunt – if it was one – would do anything for van Persie’s value, as he surely wouldn’t be expected to take the captaincy from a player already wearing the armband if he came on. Furthermore I’m completely against van Persie being captain in any situation – it’s not just that a captain is supposed to be a leader on the pitch, but an ambassador for the club. Van Persie can no longer do the latter, and there must be question marks over the former too, given his desire to leave the club.

However, I can see Wenger’s point of view – the media would blow it out of proportion if he didn’t receive the armband from whoever might have had it at the beginning of the second half, which might have some effect on van Persie’s value. It sounds a little silly, but perhaps Wenger was right to be cautious. After all, he knows a lot better than I do.

The final talking point before I lift myself from the metaphorical pool of speculation and dive into the very-real pool of the villa in Turkey where I’m staying – yes, that’s my commitment, writing before relaxing – is about Nuri Şahin. We’ve been linked with him for a while, and now AS are saying that his loan move is expected to be confirmed this week – with the Turk most likely coming here to Arsenal. I’ve spoken on Twitter about this, but I have to re-emphasise how thrilled I would be at the signing.

Real Madrid want to loan him for a reason; he’s had fitness problems, and they want him to regain his sharpness and match fitness so he’s ready to play next year for them, so it would be unwise to expect his Dortmund form straight away. But wow, if we could harness that form during the season, he’ll be a brilliant addition. He was superb for BVB in his final season there, as they won the title with him at the forefront, and on that form he would have walked into almost any midfield in the world.

Sadly, Madrid’s is not included in that enormous list, and he suffered there. But his lack of game-time shouldn’t put us off too much – he’s a fantastic talent with the potential to really make a difference for us. He has the clichéd ‘wand of a left foot’, which he uses to spray passes across the pitch – his range of passing is almost Cesc-esque (what a word) – and he’s composed on the ball. He’s not afraid to get stuck in either, so he should be able to adapt well to English football if he does come here. Let’s just hope it’s the Emirates he’s plying his trade at if so.

That’s all from me, although I imagine Saurabh might have something soon-ish for you to feast your eyes on. Enjoy fantasising about Cazorla, Giroud and Podolski firing us to a long overdue trophy…


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17 responses to “New boys impress, Ox, Gerv & Coq, captaincy issues and Nuri Şahin”

  1. westlea11 says :

    Loved this article! Would love to see Sahin come to the Premiership and I do believe Arsenal is the place for him. Pleased to see Gervinho get a mention in this too, I am actually a big fan of his and I am also expecting a big season from his this year

    • Sam Drew says :

      Cheers! Yep, same here. Think he deserves to play CL football so shouldn’t go to Liverpool or Tottenham. Yeah me as well, which is why I’ve got him in my fantasy team. Think he’ll prove a lot of people wrong.

  2. ne says :

    sahin…sahin…sahin…sahin…hope to see him coming in next

  3. Mj says :

    All d 3 new player they really did well, and i expect m’villa 2 follow carzola.

  4. Ruel Carvey says :

    Lovely article, dont think we will be seeing Mvilla looking to go to tot. The team looks good wonder who will be starting next match

    • Sam Drew says :

      Thanks, very kind of you to say! I don’t think he would go there. They don’t really need a defensive midfielder – they have Parker, Sandro, Huddlestone who can all play there. And it’s a mystery alright! Nice to have options though isn’t it? Cheers for the comment.

  5. Kalu says :

    From what i saw arsenal needs sahin, lucas biglia,and dubuchy. The signings played well. All gunners would always pray that ,park to Q P R, B52 to A.C MILAN FOR MAXWELL, come to pass and some other deadwoods like chamack should leave.

    • Sam Drew says :

      All three are positions we need to strengthen; CM (Sahin), DM (Biglia) and RB (Debuchy). Still, I think Debuchy would want to play most games, and Sagna is our first choice. Apparently we’re interested in Angel Rangel, although I’m not sure if that’s true. Maxwell plays for PSG now right?

  6. Garba shaaibu says :

    We ar goin for trophie

  7. Kcosby snr. says :

    With mexes in the team the defence will be;sangna koscienky,mexes&mertersacker,vermalen,midfield carzola,arteta,song,&diaby 2ndhalf,podolski,vp,walcott,2ndhlf,vp for giroud,gevinho for podolski,w’ll crush all foes,that comes by.its another unbeatable season.God bless d gunners

    • Sam Drew says :

      I don’t think we’ll sign Mexes mate, not sure he’s good enough for us anymore. Milan want to get rid of him – he’s their Squillaci/Cygan/Silvestre! Another unbeatable season sounds appealing though…

  8. american gooner says :

    Great article mate! I’d like to see Le Coq and Ramsey step it up a notch this season. And re: Nuri Sahin, he is now well and truly a prospective luxury signing. Hence, Arsene will want it to be on his terms which might not be acceptable to ol’ Mou at Madrid. I’d say we are well stocked in midfield right now and with each passing day I grow more confident of the team. It’s a feeling I have not felt in very many years, we look strong organized and determined. I only hope we don’t go back to square-one by selling Robin and/or Song or even Theo for that matter. All we need now is to keep the current bunch together for the season and we will have some major silver to celebrate come May’13!

    • Sam Drew says :

      Thanks very much! Me too, I think both are very talented but for differing reasons aren’t quite reaching the heights they should be. As for Sahin, I know we have a lot of midfielders, but a lot are unreliable – Ramsey, Wilshere, Rosicky, Diaby, Frimpong, even Arteta was injury prone at Everton. If we can get him on loan, I don’t see why not. He’d unquestionably add to our squad. Would be too good an opportunity for me. Plus, don’t want him going to Liverpool/Tottenham!

      I can’t tell if I’ve got the same new season excited feeling as always, but I am definitely excited. Personnel wise we’re doing great – let’s just hope that translates to results on the pitch. Agree, don’t want us to go backwards again, but I’m still cold towards van Persie, and feel as if I don’t quite care if he leaves. May be a defence mechanism, or perhaps I just feel like we could manage without him. Maybe both. Let’s hope so! Cheers for the comment.

      • american gooner says :

        Of course, I’d welcome Sahin very much, not only cos he’d have chosen us over the other scum but because he will be a genuine asset. My only concern is that he’s had health issues and hasn’t played for a while, so I hope we don’t serve simply as a practice ground for him to go tear it up at Madrid next year. Although my point is moot, considering we have Arsene Wenger taking decisions, I trust him.

        Good point about a few of the current crop being unreliable, I feel we are due for a huge slice of luck when it comes to injuries, I hope this is the year Arsene finally has his full squad available for selection.

        About Robin, I have to disagree mate. I’d be tempted to hate someone who hates Arsenal. I don’t think Robin hates the club. Yeah, he released ‘the statement’ which was stupid, ill-times and misjudged to say the least but deep down he is very much a Gooner, I’m sure. And I do think it is very important that he stays even if it is only until the Jan window, thus giving our new strikers the time to adjust to the league.

      • Sam Drew says :

        True, a loan isn’t ideal. But I’d just find a player of his quality impossible to resist, regardless of situation. I cannot agree more!

        Some of it I don’t think is luck – the players with chronic/major problems (mostly midfielders) are just victims of bad luck, but a lot of our injuries come from relying on the same eleven or so players, because our squad isn’t good enough. Then we have to play the players who aren’t good enough, because the players who are we relied on too heavily, and got injured! I’m positive we won’t see anything like that this season with the squad we have.

        I want to agree with everything you say, I just can’t see van Persie in the same way anymore. Turned his back on the club, so I feel only dislike towards him. I do agree that our strikers need to adjust to the league, although it’s not as vital as it seemed a few months ago. Then, the team was built around van Persie alone, so any replacement would have to hit the ground running and fit in straight away. Now, however, we have Cazorla at the heart of our team, as well as the other new signings, so it’s not quite as vital. Still a good point though.

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