The Gooner Perspective - Same Old, Same Old?
Same old Arsenal. That’s what any neutral would’ve said after yesterday’s friendly against Cologne, Arsenal’s first pre-season game in Europe after Arsenal’s much-hyped Asia tour came to an end last week, where Arsenal’s new signing Gervinho scored the winning goals in a span of 15 minutes.
Arsenal took time to find their feet, with Cologne looking like the team more likely to score in the first few plays of the game. But it took all of 7 minutes for Arsenal to find their feet, Wilshere playing a brilliant ball in for Gervinho to score on his first ever touch playing in an Arsenal jersey.
The second goal came in 8 minutes later, with Walcott playing in a perfect cross for Gervinho to tap in – his second goal in 15 minutes. I think it is safe to say that Arsene Wenger has spotted yet another diamond in the rough, assuming Gervinho manages to keep this form going through the season and stays injury-free. His finishing was clinical, and considering some of our players are better at passing than they are at shooting, having a player who can finish the numerous chances Arsenal create in open play, to play alongside Van Persie, a proven goal-scorer will only help Arsenal’s chances of winning trophies this season.
That being said, Arsenal’s defending was once again, quite poor. Had it not been for Cologne’s wastefulness when they had their chances, Arsenal’s back four would have been punished for playing a very high defensive line, with seemingly no co-ordination as they were caught out of position all too often. Had it been a striker like Darren Bent, or Wayne Rooney up front instead of Podolski and/or Novakovic, we would’ve either drawn or lost that game, and to think that Vermaelen and Koscielny are probably going to be our first-choice pairing, one would have to hope that they use this pre-season to find their footing and create a solid partnership at the back, because it seemed as though they were all over the place in the first half, and this is clearly not a good sign. Our defence definitely needs reinforcements (will talk about this in a bit), but unless all four players work together as a unit, Arsene will have a lot to think about in the last few weeks of August, where he will have the option of bringing in reinforcements.
Now talking about reinforcements, I have firmly believed that Arsenal require another quality centre-back if they are to challenge for the title; a player good in the air who preferably has Premier League experience, and while some people disagreed, I was relieved when Arsene said that “he will ‘certainly’ find a new addition to his backline”, and also said that everyone at Arsenal were working hard on it. He understandably refused to comment on certain players and whether he was interested, but just the fact that he knows that he has to bring in another defender is good enough for me; what remains to be seen is whether he will find someone in the Premier League at the right price, or fish for talent abroad as he has done in recent years.
Besides this, the left-back situation does not look to be settled, considering Gibbs had a terrible game yesterday. There were far too many instances of him running up field and then slowly jogging back, which meant Vermaelen had to cover both the left back and the centre-back position, leaving only 3 defenders in front of our goalkeeper. While Arsenal managed to do a decent job without Gibbs when Cologne were on the counter attack, almost any Premier League club will be quick to pick up on this and take full advantage of his unwillingness to get back in position when Arsenal lost the ball, and this is something that Arsene must fix. Gael did a much better job of getting back when necessary, and Gibbs must either follow suit considering he is a left-back, and not a midfielder or a winger.
I personally am not convinced at all by Gibbs, and while I’m still not exactly sure why Traore did not travel to Germany, I believe that Traore is a much-better option when compared to Gibbs. We’d definitely be better off with a quality left-back, but considering Arsene Wenger’s recent comments about how he’d like to use Vermaelen, Traore and/or Gibbs in that left back position, I’m a little confused about how that would work. Assuming we brought in another defender, would this defender join Koscielny in the heart of the defence, with Vermaelen at left-back and Sagna at right-back? On paper, it sounds good; whether it works, we will just have to wait and see. It all depends on when Arsene brings in his next signing, one can only hope that it happens sooner rather than later.
Back to the game though, Wilshere, Frimpong, Arshavin, and Rosicky all looked sharp, and personally I am glad that Frimpong and Rosicky are back in form, especially the latter considering (to me), he seemed like a world-class player from the time he was signed to the amazing (albeit heartbreaking) 2007-08 season – before his hamstring injury problems which saw him out for one full season. He did not seem at his best last season, but I hope that he will be able to find his feet and get back to his best form that saw him nicknamed ‘The Little Mozart’.
Frimpong was another player who was out injured for a rather long period, but thankfully, his injury came at an early part of his career – he had a great pre-season last time around, he’s having a great pre-season this time as well, and he’s just 19 years old. He will definitely give Alex Song a tough time for a spot in the first-team, which is always good because competition for a place in the first team drives players to improve their performance in training and on the pitch. Denilson moving back to Sao Paulo on loan will help Frimpong’s chances to break into the first team, while obviously helping Denilson to get some much-needed first team football – but if Frimpong keeps this up, Denilson will have a tough time breaking into the first team assuming he stays at Arsenal after his season-long loan.
To sum it up, I think while we’re set in terms of options up front and in the middle (as long as we do not have too many injuries), and with Bendtner seemingly on his way out, Vela must step up to the plate and take his chances, and while he didn’t have a great game yesterday, he has shown that he can be an asset to this Arsenal side when he finds his feet. If anything, the problems in our back four need to be sorted out, and considering Arsenal have a very tight schedule coming up, with Arsenal playing 4 games in possibly 11 days, two games against Liverpool and Manchester United, teams that have will feel the need to prove that their excessive spending was worth the trouble, and two play-off games to enter the Champions League group stage, one can only hope that Arsene sorts our issues out soon – lest we end up with a disastrous start to the season, and remain a team that plays the best football to watch – but with no trophies to show for it.