To keep us in Arsenal-related fare over the next couple of weeks I’m going to be keeping an eye on the tournament and anything of interest for Gooners. Without further ado..
This evening saw France play England, with Arsenal’s very own Chamberlain starting on the left of England’s midfield in a somewhat surprise move from Roy Hodgson. While the French bossed the game and dominated possession, Chamberlain impressed on the ball and on one occasion beat two men with excellent feet to create a great chance. At eighteen years of age, the youngster is showing fantastic maturity to step up and perform on the international stage in such a fiercely-contested match (France vs. England is pretty much a derby). Indeed, these performances only build on a solid first season with the Gooners, where he impressed both on the left hand side and even in central midfield versus Milan in a dominant performance in the Champions League second leg. He wasn’t a regular last season, but our Ivorian may need to watch his back next year,and I’m a big fan of Gervinho.
Another Arsenal man was involved versus France, but only as a substitute. Theo Walcott came on late on and interestingly played up front. Most would have expected him to play on the right and attack Evra’s tired legs, but perhaps Roy wanted to keep that flank solid with Milner and try and use Walcott’s pace against the not very fleet of foot French centre backs. Still, seeing Walcott play as a striker was interesting, though I do think his normal position on the right of the attack is virtually that of a striker: he cuts in and plays very centrally as Robin drops deep to tee up play. Then there was Milner rounding Lloris and putting it wide, Walcott would have buried that chance.
Laurent Koscielny is one of only three centre backs in the French squad, so whilst he is not in the line up as it stands, he could well have a big role to play for France should anything happen to Mexes or Rami. Neither of the latter two have been getting rave reviews for their defensive performances. I think, on quality alone, Laurent could be worth a start, though justifiably Blanc is going for familiarity at the heart of defence. It is really important to have defenders who know what each other will do in various situations, especially as centrebacks don’t really function as individuals but as an integrated pair, always acting and covering according to what the other centre back is doing. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of Laurent in future games.
In the interests of fairness, I’ll also take a risk here and point out that, unfortunately for us, Samir Nasri seems to be maturing well and is growing into a key player for both City and France. He improved greatly after an average start with City, and he’s certainly influential for the French team. While £25m was good money for him when everything is considered, I believe that his departure was the one that really messed things up last summer. My impression is that Gervinho’s signing was to allow Nasri to replace Cesc in that central playmaking role where we have been lacking somewhat this year.
Reported Arsenal targets M’Vila and Giroud weren’t involved versus England.
Another game worthy of mention is Russia’s demolition of the Czech Republic a couple of days ago, with one Andrei Arshavin highly influential in that result. The little Russian’s quality is undoubted from his performances with Russia over the last few years and his early Arsenal career, but it is undeniable that he lost his way after that bright start. At one stage, Walcott edged him out of the side with Nasri playing on the opposite flank, and the Frenchman’s departure didn’t open up a place for Arshavin due to Gervinho’s arrival. His recent loan move to Zenit makes it seem highly unlikely that he will return to Arsenal. However, it is plausible that Wenger sanctioned the loan move with Arshavin’s international career in mind: bear in mind at that stage in the season, Arshavin was behind Gervinho, Walcott, Chamberlain and Benayoun for a place on the flanks, so it didn’t represent much of a gamble in terms of injury cover.
That said, hypothetically speaking, if Arshavin’s Arsenal career did resume, I don’t foresee him returning to the flanks. This season we’ve changed tactically slightly: we now have much more direct players on the flanks, perhaps to compensate for our lack of creativity in the middle of the park (to be fair to Arsene, you don’t find another Cesc Fabregas very easily). However, given our lack of creativity, is it plausible that Arshavin could take the attacking midfield role in our side? For me, that position is our clear weakness despite Rosicky’s improvement this season, and a returning Arshavin may be a very good internal solution. Arshavin’s best position is the “number 10”: the striker who drops off and plays deep, creating chances for others, which is virtually the role of our attacking midfielder. My concern with this would be the defensive side of things. Would Arshavin cover the ground the likes of Rosicky do? I don’t think so, so such a move would require a slight readjustment in terms of the other two midfielders’ defensive duties. In effect, instead of having a fairly fluid midfield three, we’d be looking at a fairly advanced playmaker in Arshavin, with two other deeper midfielders providing balance and getting forward alternatively. It could work, but the key is ensuring that the playmaker role is given plenty of attacking freedom: if you put Arshavin in a more typical midfield role the side would lack balance, so offsetting the Russian’s defensive weakness would be the key to the success of the change.
As I say, it is all pretty unlikely given his loan move away to Zenit, but it is a possibility. Whether or not it would work is another matter. Perhaps it could be an option versus some sides in the league, though of course that point leads to questions as to the 25 man squad limit and wages.
I’ll wrap up there for now, and will be back with another post on Thursday, focusing on the Dutch and German matches, though Arshavin may just pique my interest in the Russians again.
Published with permission from Untold Arsenal: Arsenal News. Supporting the Lord Wenger; coach of the decade.