Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hope for a new season (?)

Coming back from The Emirates last night, there was a distinct lack of optimism and enthusiasm in the air. Part of me understands why, but another part, the ever-hopeful part, doesn’t. We won our game and kept a clean sheet … given our most recent history, that’s improvement!

So we accept the latter part of last season was nothing short of a disaster. The fans, the players and the manager accept that, but now we have a new season … where is the fresh hope?

Yes we have lost our captain to Barcelona, but this was on the cards all of last season anyway, and I for one will not mourn his departure. We need to live beyond one player, and I believe that the team have the strength to cover for him.

Part of that cover does fall in the arms of Samir Nasri, so his possible departure would perhaps be more costly than that of Cesc, but that is not a foregone conclusion yet.

There is all the talk of transfers from Arsene Wenger, and there is anger and frustration from the fan base that very little has transpired, but I accept the word of the manager and agree with his philosophy that there is no point to buy anyone if they don’t improve the team or squad … and there aren’t dozens of players out there who are available and who are needed by Arsenal. Yes there are talks of bids for strong center backs, and if these haven’t happened, it is not necessarily because Wenger doesn’t have the desire or the money as I don’t believe it is that simple to just snap quality players up (the Cesc Fabregas saga took more than 2 years after all!).

Wenger has said he still hopes to keep Nasri. The option of letting him play out his contract may seem financially reckless, but the cost of not having could be greater if the team don’t perform, and is there a difference in losing potential revenue on selling Nasri compared to buying a new player of his quality? I would say no, and the risk of potentially losing him for nothing next year is a risk worth taking. I am sure this is being discussed behind closed doors, and it is premature for our supporters to be slating one of our best players!

There is a danger that all the negativity currently surrounding the team is in danger of becoming self – fulfilling. The fans need to get behind the team and push them on, especially at difficult times.

Last nights game against Udinese wasn’t a disaster by any means. After all, we did win, and a single goal in the return fixture will almost certainly secure passage to the Champions League group stages.

The opening 5 minutes were superb and the goal contradicted everything that has been wrong with us till now. A break down the wing and a placed cross by Ramsey found Walcott at the near post to tap it in, and Gervinho following close behind as back up in case he missed!

But then what happened? A few more breaks down the wing, and there was no more support down the middle. Aresenal again overplayed the ball in the opponents final third, and at least 3 times that I counted, when there was no way through, we played the ball all the way back to our own goalkeeper! There was only one close chance for Arsenal for the rest of the game, and that was in injury time of the second half.

We were missing (Nasri of course), Van Persie and Wilshere. So while our play was reasonably smooth, this lack of attacking flair can easily be solved by the latter two returning to first team duty, and a return of form for Andrey Arshavin would be more than enough to compensate our lack of penetration.

I take away positives from the defence as well. 180 minutes and no goals conceded with Vermaelen back and a solid display Szczesny in goal give us more hope at the back than we have had for a long time.

Gervinho was impressive up front against Udinese. He showed some speed and strength and skill. With better support from absent players, he will do well.

Rosicky and Ramsey played with confidence and flair, but again could do better with the presence of our lacking world class stars, so there are definite positives to be had.

Its going to be a difficult year, and we have to give our team a chance, so for all the Gooners out there, lay off the team for a while and let them know we are behind them … I believe they can yet surprise everyone.

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