Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Walcott must improve his form.

It's been a long, hard season yet again. With 9 games to go, you'd have thought that we'd have settled on a proper starting eleven by now, but after the reshuffling ofthe team in the last few weeks, no one can claim to know our best team.

Vermaelen and Szczesny are to notable absentees from the starting eleven right now, as poor form, rumoured poor attitude, and some "mental fatigue", have seen Wenger ruthlessly banish them from the team. This is surely more than just a tactic, but a statement to our key players that noone's place is the team is safe, and that for the last 9 games the players need to up their performances, or face chop.

A player who by now should be looking over his shoulder is Walcott. It been a strange season for Theo. One where he started at pretty much the bottom of the pile due to the contractual issues, but worked his way into the starting line up through consistent performances, and goals. Walcott's great mid season form even led to a short spell in his favoured central position.

Then came his long awaited new contract. Since signing, we've seen the Theo of old. Someone who drifts in and out of games ad often look disinterested. You'd have to be pretty cynical to assume that this drop in performance level since signing his contract was anything other then coincidence, but that doesn't detract from the fact that Theo's current form is a worry.

He hasn't scored since the end of January.
With that spell including extremely disappointing displays against Bayern Munich in both legs and Swansea this weekend, where he was eventually hauled off by Wenger. But its not only the lack of goals, but his chance creation level and involvement in matches has significantly dropped. Whereas a few months ago the quality cross to Giroud that helped open the scoring against Bayern was a common occurrence, nowadays, it seems to be an anomaly.

That assist in Munich does show that the quality is still there. After all, Walcott has 17 goals and 13 assists in only 25 starts this season. An amazing return from any forward player, let alone one who has been thrust in and out the the team and all over the forward line. His new bumper contract means he needs to deliver consistently though, as he is now valued as one of the clubs biggest assets. It also means that he will face more pressure and scrutiny. Lets hope he can respond.

With Wenger showing his ruthless streak in recent weeks, and Gervinho, Chamberlain and Podolski all looking to assert themselves as a starter, there is little scope for failure. We only have 9 games left, and our goal is clear, to win as many of those games as possible and secure 4th place or higher.

Walcott must show he is up for the fight. Come on Arsenal.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Super Santi vital for Arsenal as derby day approaches

Saturday's game truly illustrated the amazing talent of Santi Cazorla, as the Spaniard gave yet another sizzling display of his technical skill, as well as his inner fight, in what is becoming an amazing first season for him.

The 27 year old was the heartbeat of the Arsenal side going forward, and his two goals were exactly what the doctor ordered as Arsenal struggled to overcome their opponents. As soon as the Cazrola signing was announced this summer, everyone was full of excitement. This was perhaps the best, biggest name signing for the past 4 or 5 years.

Its not often that Arsenal's 62 year old manager gets so obviously excited by a new signing. But when you get to work with a player of exceptional technical ability, and who evidently enjoys every second of the game, it becomes hard to not recognise the childish adulation Wenger has for Cazorla.

Speaking following the Aston Villa game, Wenger reflected: “I did not expect him to score so many goals, because there are still 11 games to go so he could get a few more.“For me he is a complete player because he also has spirit. He continued to fight until the last minute even though he was a bit tired.

“He is a good example to follow because every day he is happy to come and play and practice. When he is on the pitch he gives you everything.“He is a great player, which you have noticed since the start of the season. I am happy and grateful he delivered two important goals today.”

The two goals have seen Santi reach 11 goals this term, to go with his 6 assists. For a debut season in the Premier League, its hard to find someone who has made more of an instant impact.

Cazorla has cited the "spanish style" of Arsenal's game as the key reason for his quick adaption, as it allows him to use his passing ability. Saturday saw Santi complete 90% of his passes, just above his season average of 87%, with the vast majority being in the final third.The 27 year old also averages 2.4 key passes per game, a total among the highest in the league.

Today, his Arsenal teammates spoke of their admiration for Cazorla, relishing the ease at which he plays the game.Speaking to Arsenal player, Per Mertesacker said “He is the perfect footballer. He has the technique to score goals and that’s what we need after losing the last two home games."

On a similar note, his fellow countryman, Mikel Arteta picked up on how easily Cazorla has settled into this Arsenal side. “I think he’s been outstanding,” Arteta said. “He’s played almost every game and, the way he plays, he takes a lot of knocks and plays a demanding game physically as well. To adapt to the Premier League in his first year and do what he’s doing, I think we have to clap him. He deserves that.

“I think he [Cazorla] needed a few goals like that. He helped the team to earn the points today. He was outstanding - his overall play as well. He was involved in many areas of the pitch today and he’s a top player."

Cazorla has been deployed predominantly in the number 10 role this year, using his technique, dribbling skills an vision to create numerous chances for the forwards ahead of him.

However, more recently Arsene has pushed Jack Wilshere into a more advanced role, with the Spanish talisman featuring on the left hand side for the Gunners, with the freedom to maneuver his way around the pitch as he wishes. This has allowed Arsenal to gain more potency as an attacking force, with Wilshere and Cazorla illustrating their skills and linking up well together.

Arteta went on to pick up on the strength of the Arsenal line up with Santi playing out wide, saying, “He seems to be comfortable when he plays off the left. He’s got a lot of freedom and he causes problems to the other teams because we can use the extra man in midfield."“I think he’s a player that can make the difference with his ability. I think Jack’s another one of them that has something special that can decide a game or can unlock a door when the game is really tight, as he did today with the ball to Nacho. For us, they are very important players."

There is no doubt that Cazorla is one of our most important players, especially considering that in games where he has been at his best, Arsenal have tended to dominate.Yet, there is definitely still more to come from the silky Spaniard. Despite his impressive tally of goals and assists, there have been numerous chances squandered by the diminutive playmaker, and he could have easily reached 15 goals and 10 assists by this stage of the season.

Moreover, we are yet to see Cazorla dominate in the big fixtures, against the sides competing with us at the top of the league. In fact, many have stated that he has gone missing in these massively important fixtures.

Whilst I personally would not go that far, we are definitely inclined to ask more from Santi in these types of matches. Other than a consolation goal against United at Old Trafford - albeit one which was superbly taken - and a somewhat impressive second half display at the Bridge, we haven't seen enough of the Spaniard, especially considering the talent at his disposal.

However Sunday offers him a chance to make up for all that, in what is going to be the biggest game of our season. A goal against Tottenham, and an outstanding performance to go with it will perhaps write his name into Gunners folklore, as well as giving him the confidence to kick on for the rest of the season and drive the Gunners into next years Champions League.

Come on Santi. Come on Arsenal.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Arsenal 1-0 Aston Villa - player ratings and performance analysis

Arsenal just about did enough for the three points yesterday, as two Santi strikes led them to victory.

My reaction to the game is available here:

Player Ratings

Szczesny 4
Jenkinson 6.5
Vermaelen 6
Mertesacker 6
Monreal 7
Arteta 6
Wilshere 6.5
Diaby 6
Walcott 5
Cazorla 8.5
Giroud 5.5

Ramsey 7
Podolski 5
Koscielny NA

Szczesny continued to struggle. Yesterday's error was his third successive mistake in consecutive games. He is starting to make costly mistakes and need to improve if we are to get 4th.

Jenkinson put in a solid shift at right back in place of the injured Sagna. He put in a great defensive shift, completely nullifying the threat of Agbonlahor. As the game continued, he became more involved going forward and was quite unlucky to get substituted.

Vermaelen is still some way off his best form. He put in a much better performance than against Bayern, but truth be told he was rarely tested by Benteke and co.

Mertesacker was perhaps the better of the two centre backs, but like Vermaelen is nowhere near the top of his game. Came close with a few headers, and seemed quite solid at the back, but rarely tested.

Monreal is continuing to settle with every game. Had some difficulty dealing with Weimann at times who was Villa's main (only) threat. Maybe could have closed down the ball for their goal, but made up for it later. A great cut back for Cazorla helped seal the win.

Arteta continued to put in a solid shift. A great link between defence and midfield, he completed 94% of passes and made 7 interceptions which illustrates his effect on the side. Could possibly become more of an attacking threat, but does his job well.

Wilshere maybe wasn't at his very best yesterday, but was still integral to our attacking movement. Had a few chances to score and possibly he should have scored.

Diaby put in a decent shift before being substituted. He may have picked up another injury which is incredibly disappointing for him. He keeps the ball well, and his physical presence is much welcomed. Sometimes he does slow down the game though.

Walcott definitely didn't have his best game for the club. Seemingly nonexistent for much of the game, he did start to contribute in the last 15 minutes. Was maybe lucky to stay on the pitch though, and can't play like that next week.

Cazorla was simply outstanding for us. Continually found himself with time and space, and constantly created chances. He simply loves playing football and when he's on top of his game he's an absolute joy to watch. Took both of his goals well, and had some finishing been better he could have ended up with some assists. A top game from a top player.

Giroud was somewhat disappointing. He was definitely our major threat, and constantly caused problems for the Villa defenders. Better finishing would have made the game a lot easier. He does tend to have games where he can't score for love nor money, but hopefully he will regain form soon.


Ramsey replaced Diaby with half an hour remaining and continued to show that he is getting back to top form. He injected energy and creativity into our midfield, and even had to put in a shift at right back again. Ramsey is always 100% effort, and possibly should have started the game in place of Diaby.

Podolski was largely disappointing when he entered the fray. Struggled to make an influence on the game and could have done better with some half chances. Needs to improve him form as he will be needed next Sunday.

Koscielny only played the last few minutes so doesn't receive a rating.