Carling Cup: Arsenal 2 -1 Bolton

So here we are in the last eight of the League Cup, a competition we apparently don’t take seriously, for the ninth consecutive year.

I think it’s fair to say we didn’t stroll though last nights game, at times it was hard work, but the experienced players in an all changed starting XI made the difference on the night. They showed their quality and with a few of them making returns from injury lay offs they even helped, along with a few youngsters, to show that our squad is perhaps slightly stronger than it is sometimes given credit for.

The stand out players for me on the night were Ju Young Park, Yossi Benayoun, Thomas Vermaelen and Nico Yennaris. If you’ve read a fair few other match reports this morning you may well be asking why I’ve not mentioned Andrey Arshavin in that list, or you may well have been at the game and decided yourself that the Russian was the best player on the park. Judging by a lot of the tweets I’ve seen that seems to be the general opinion and whilst Arshavin’s quality was certainly a key element in our victory I still can’t help but feel slightly frustrated with him at points.

To be honest it’s not even his actual football so much, apart from those short passes that don’t quite make it to their intended recipients leaving me wondering if the little fella thinks that either some of our players are a little quicker than they actually are or if he sometimes doesn’t calculate the weight of the pass relative to the distance the ball needs to travel? But as I say it’s not just that, what I have a real bugbear with is the amount of time he spends on the floor. I’m not sure if Opta have a stat for it but surely the midfielder must spend more time on the ground after being fouled and/or falling over than any other player in the league. If you’re not hurt, get up and get on with the game.

I’m aware that all sounds a little negative on my part given we won, again, last night and I certainly don’t mean to it’s just I find it hard to fawn over a player who undoubtedly has so much more to give. But credit to him because he was the catalyst for both of our goals and playing behind the striker rather than being stuck on the left flank obvioulsy suits him, but that’s not really a surprise because he isn’t a winger.. 

Drifting out to the right and receiving the ball from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain the Russian moved towards goal unopposed by the backtracking Zat Knight before drilling a low shot past Ron Weasley-a-like Adam Bogdan and into the bottom left hand corner and put us back on level terms after former Gunner Fabrice Muamba had put the Trotters in front only six minutes earlier.

It took just three more minutes for the Gunners to get in front and it was Arshavin who set up the winner…

The impressive Park had made a few offside runs and as Arshavin picked up the ball and moved forward the South Korean had once again strayed into an offside position. Arshavin held on to the ball long enough for the Striker to check himself and then released the ball for Park to run onto and curl a lovely shot past Bogdan. It was a great finish and a goal the player’s performance deserved.

I know he has only played two games since his move, both coming in this competition, but on the evidence of last night Ju surely storms ahead of Marouane Chamakh in the pecking order. He was always looking to be involved always wanting the ball and whilst a few of his strikes on goal failed to give the Bolton stopper any real trouble it was heartening to see a striker who is prepared to perform his primary function and as long as your attempting to score goals will surely start to flow.

Yossi Benayoun was outstanding in my view, the Israeli has made only three starts for the Gunners since signing on a season long loan from Chelsea on deadline day and this is certainly his best of those performances so far. The former West Ham man worked tirelessly all night, I would wager he covered more ground than any other Arsenal player. Like Park Yossi has found his first team chances limited and whilst he is ineligible to play against his parent club at the weekend he certainly did enough last night to let the boss know he can play a pivotal role this season.

Another plus was the return of Thomas Vermaelen, the man just exudes class as a footballer and crucially a centre half. It’s such a rare problem for Arsene Wenger to have and whilst it’s one of those so-called good problems the gaffer must be suffering a slight selection headache when considering what his first choice centre back pairing will be. Mertesacker has improved with every game he has played in is starting to look assured at this level whilst forming an impressive partnership with Laurent Koscielny, in my view the ever impressive Laurent Koscielny. So the boss has to make three in to two, but that choice may now not need to be made until we play Marseille next Tuesday after Tommy was withdrawn after eight-five minutes last night and replaced by Daniel Boateng. There was some initial confusion after the game when it was suggested the Belgian had suffered a calf strain but it now seems that he was suffering from a touch of cramp and asked to come of as a precaution. Either way Wenger thinks the defender will be a little short for the trip to Stamford Bridge on Saturday, and after two months on the sidelines that shouldn’t be a surprise. You can’t not play for two months and then play two games in a week. We may see him named amongst the subs on Saturday but I really would be surprised to see him start. *Update – It now seems the club are saying he will be fit, in which case a quick return to the starting XI may not be such a surprise after all. Tommy to partner Mertz, with Koscielny moving to RB?

Iggy Miquel gave an assured performance at left-back and Franny Coquelin went about his work quietly but professionally. AOC had a fairly quiet night in relation to his recent performances and Emmanuel Fimpong was not quite at the races before being replaced by Ryo. The Japanese youngster really got the crowd excited but you can still see just how raw he is and we shouldn’t be expecting to see him make massive inroads to the first team in the near future – but all the youngsters mentioned above are exciting prospects we’ll see much more of.

To finish off I just want to mention a player who I thought was brilliant last night and hasn’t maybe received as much praise as he should have…

Young Nico Yennaris gave a solid performance at right back, it is of course very early days and I’m not suggesting he should be coming into the first team on a regular basis as cover at right back during Sagna and Jenkinson’s lay-off’s. I’m not even 100% sure right back is the lads bet or preferred position but last night he did himself and the side proud and certainly didn’t look out-of-place and I look forward to seeing him develop and improve along with the other lads I’ve mentioned above

So another positive night for the club, we’re still not out of the woods but we may have come to a bit of a clearing which allows us to regroup and get our bearings. We’ve seen again the good work the club does at youth and academy level and had a peak at some of the players who could well be first team regulars in a few years, whilst a few summer accuasitions have maybe shown that their signings were a little shrewder than we may have previously considered.

Thanks for reading.

Paul.

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One Ton Dutchman

Apologies for the lack of a post match post yesterday, it really was one of those days which was all made better in the end by toad in the hole (that’s not a euphemism by the way)

I imagine by now you’ve seen highlights, read varying match reports etc relating to our victory over Bolton Wanderers so don’t need me to cover old ground. Essentially the key elements of the game were – We won. We kept a clean sheet. We didn’t have anyone sent off. Robin Van Persie scored his 99th & 100th goals for the Arsenal.

As the title of this post suggests the hot-shot Dutchman is the focus of today’s article.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Robin has joined the ‘100 Club’  and the achievement should not be taken lightly. Look at the company he keeps in that list of seventeen Arsenal legends who have scored one hundred goals or more in the red & white, Joe Baker, Alan Smith, Denis Bergkamp, John Radford, Cliff Bastin, Ian Wright and Thierry Henry to name but a few.

We don’t take the achievements of any these goal scorers lightly and each and everyone have left their mark on the club and will be long remembered and hero worshiped by us Gooners, even if we never saw them play. Eleven of the seventeen men who have hit a ton did so before I was born but I hold them in as high regard as I do Smudger, Wrighty, Denis & Henry (as footballers at least). We certainly shouldn’t think any less of Robin or dismiss his century, the fact that he achieved this feat as Arsenal Captain affords him even more kudos. It seems that the legends of football heroes can be built up long after a player has hung up his boots and in modern terms some players can be labelled heroes and legends without having done very much to deserve it.

Arsene Wenger on more than one occasion now has likened out latest centurion to Lionel Messi. Last year the gaffer suggested that had the player he signed from Feyenoord in May 2004 not been cursed with so many injury problems then he would be spoken about in the same glowing terms as the Argentine genius, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo. After Saturdays exploits Wenger made the comparison again saying: “He is like Messi, because he doesn’t play like a real centre-forward but if you look at his movement he is very intelligent. In tight spaces he can make a difference

That kind of comparison will be dismissed by some, but maybe should not be done so too easily. They are of course very different players particularly the roles the two men play for their respective clubs. Personally I would love to see Robin play a similar role to Messi or indeed be utilised in the kind of partnership that saw Bergkamp and Henry flourish at Highbury. Whilst RVP continues to prove he could replicate his fellow Dutchman it’s the role of record goalscorer Thierry Henry that would be much harder to fill, Theo did his chances no good whatsoever on Saturday.

Robin in the traditional number 10 role could be wondrous, although the player himself has suggested he see’s himself more as a nine and a half.

Anyway I digress slightly…

Whilst Van Perise currently sits in 17th place in the hot 100 he could, form and fitness permitting, make it into the top ten by seasons end. He needs just a further twenty-one goals to surpass Bergkamp.

Much of the focus this morning has moved away from Robin’s on field exploits and is highlighting his apparent reluctance to sit down and sign a new deal with the club, but it is worth considering that the player is currently 28 years old, if he signs a new three our four-year deal to add to the two years he currently has left to run then you have to start wondering just how far up that scoring chart he can get – another 86 and he passes Wrighty and nabs second place. I would imagine that bagging another one hundred and twenty-seven thus eclipsing Thiery Henry may be beyond him but you’ve got to have something to aim for right?

There are two things that are now imperative with Robin, we have to keep him fit and we have to get that new deal agreed. To do the latter we have to show him that committing to the club and signing what will most likely be his last big deal would not be a mistake. So we need to be competing, we need everyone to show the same spirit and fight he did on Saturday and continues to do so every week. He still has another six years, at least, left at the top and that could well mean that his best days are yet to come, to see him enjoy those in the colours of any side other than the Arsenal would be a tragedy, because he is now a true Arsenal legend.

Thanks for reading.

Paul

The new fellas

So as one window closes another one opens, or so they say. Actually it might be doors not windows, but in this case it matters little because it is certainly the summer transfer window that has closed and will remain closed until the winter transfer window opens.

Windows don't open at the grove

Anyway it is neither windows nor doors I wish to talk about today. It’s dust, or rather the settling of it. Because now it has all settled down we can actually get back to the very simple matter of watching people kick a football and more importantly the people we’ll watch kick said football.

By now we all know enough about our early (in Arsenal time) acquisitions Jenkinson, Gervinho & AOC – we’ve even seen them play already. Oh yes, we signed Joel Campbell as well didn’t we, hmm. You know, I get more sceptical about the Costa Rican and the likelihood of him ever playing for the Arsenal with every passing day. But I don’t know why?

Anyway it is the five players who came in post OT that I want to look at a bit more, especially as we won’t be seeing much of them over the next week or so unless you’re willing to find a stream of their national sides games.

The kidnappers have made me hold this shirt

The first to arrive in the wake of the United defeat was Park Chu Young. Or you can call him Chu Young Park or Young Park Chu although he wants us to call him Ju Young Park…

It was actually the eve of Old Trafford that we first started to hear rumblings that we had pinched the Korean literally from under the noses of Lille. JYP had undergone part of his medical with the French Champions ahead of a proposed move with relegated Monaco and was thought to be in a hotel room watching the French version of ‘One man and his dog‘ (Although he assumed it was some kind of interactive dinner menu)

They call him 'Le Cat' in France

Dressed head to toe in black Gilles Grimandi crept into the Korean strikers room and knocked him out with chloroform before tying him up and bundling him into the back of an old Citroen Normale – It was completely needless because Arsene Wenger had only asked Giles to give Park a lift to the airport. Apparently officials from Lille actually did give chase in an attempt to stop the Korean talking to us.

As I previously said I really don’t know much about Ju aside from the fact he is Ji Sung Park’s cousin and he is due to return to his homeland in two years to undertake national service – frankly I can’t possibly base a profile of the man around those two facts. Can I? No..

Well the only other info I have on him is that he is the current captain of the South Korean national side and he has pledged full alligance to the Gunners cause and he was a snip at just £3m.

While he may not be regarded as a prolific scorer of goals he is certainly regard as a player with a footballing brain (which is very different to a ‘footballers brain’ such as those retained inside the heads of Paul Merson, Chris Waddle & Ryan Shawcross). At six foot he’ll add some much needed height to the side but must be wary of heading the ball in case he damages his IQ of 150.

He’ll be contending with Marouane Chamakh for the role of RVP understudy number 1 (if you can call it a competition right now?. I could probably get a game ahead of the Moroccan) now that Nicklas Bendtner has moved to Sunderland on a seasons loan – supposedly the Danes dream move… Of course it is Nik.

Along with Ryo, JYP will certainly help to bring in the cash from the far east but that is not Wenger the economists sole reason for signing either.

Better than Juan?

The next to join the ranks was Brazilian left back Andre Clarindo dos Santos (I’m assuming he’ll just have ‘Santos’ on his shirt?)

Again I know little about him (Am I even qualified to do this?) but what I do know is the amount of experience he brings to the side. After starting his career with Brazilian side Figueirense in 2004 he moved to Corinthians in 2008, either side of loans at Flamengo & Atletico Mineiro, before moving to Fenerbache in 2009.

Whilst at Fenerbache Santos competed with perhaps the worlds most famous left back, Brazilian legend Roberto Carlos. In fact Santos managed to make the left back berth his own and Carlos moved back to Brazil & Santos’ former side Corinthians.

It was during his time with the Turkish side that Santos made the breakthrough into the Brazilian national side. And had mixed fortunes under former boss Dunga. After making in roads and appearing in the Confederations Cup, the pre-curser to the World Cup, in 2009 he was left out of the side that competed in South Africa for the title of world champions a year later.

Since Dunga was replaced by Mano Memezes, after the sides disappointing showing on the biggest stage of them all, Santos has worked his way back into international favour and to date has 17 international caps.

There is no doubting that the left back position was in desperate need of strengthening. You’ll know I wasn’t too disappointed to see Clichy leave us but I was also unsure of Kieran Gibbs ability to make the role his own. It’s no slight on the young Englishman’s footballing ability, it’s just a sad fact that we’ve not seen enough of it due to his persistent injury problems.

With only the now departed Armand Traore as back up, along with the none too popular option of shifting Tommy V across to LB, it was one of the areas of our side most in need of reinforcing. That the club have gone out and signed an experienced Brazilian international to follow in the steps of Sylvinho and Juan (remember Juan?) is impressive indeed and allays some real fears.

Ze German

The third man in was German international giant Per Mertesacker.

All summer long we’ve been linked with Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka, Chris Samba & Scott Dann and at one point or more we we’re supposedly only hours away from signing one or more of them. In truth we had bids rejected for Jagielka and Cahill but I’m not sure how much of a real interest we had in the other two, who will now link up at Blackburn.

Mertesacker has been linked with us on and off for a few years now and I must admit I thought it was one of those lazy stories that journos used to fill column inches. I think that the fact the six foot six centre back has won 75 international caps for Germany tells you pretty much all you need to know about him. To achieve that in just six years is no mean feet and certainly confirms that we do not have another Seb Squillaci on our hands as some have strangely suggested.

As we’ve mentioned he is tall, real proper actual tall and that is something we’ve missed from our back line for a fair while now. His height doesn’t make him just a defensive version of Stoke super striker Peter Crouch, and by that I mean he isn’t just a lanky gawlper, he’s strong and won’t be bullied by Ork like centre forwards. His positional play is as efficient as his heritage suggests and he isn’t a slouch on the ball either.

£8m is a snip when you look at the £15m & £17m Everton and Bolton wanted for Jagielka and Cahill. Imagine if either of them had 75 England caps, fees of £40m upwards would be floated about which is utter madness.

My biggest concern with Mertesacker comes with the Koscielny – Vermaelen partnership in mind. Now I can’t see Ze German wanting to sit on the bench in all but FA & Carling Cup games but at the same time I’m slightly reticent to see the Kozzer & Tommy task force broken up when it is starting to show promise. That said, it was an experienced CB we wanted and it’s an experienced CB we’ve got so I guess this was always going to become an issue but it is most certainly a good issue as opposed to one of those bad ones. We all hate those don’t we?

The next in was maybe the biggest surprise of the five, even when you consider that a hell of a lot of us had never heard of JYP.

Yossi

Yossi Benayoun has joined on a season long loan from Chelsea, and for the most part I think it’s a decent move. We knew we were light in midfield especially from a creative standpoint and the Israeli certainly reduces that weakness.

As captain of his national side it is yet another leader on the pitch and the fact he has played in England for six years means he doesn’t need any time to adjust to the pace of our game. His time here after moving from Racing Santander has been quietly impressive but without really moving any mountains. But it isn’t often that a bad player slips through the Ajax academy and Yossi is certainly not that.

He’ll add that creative guile we’ve seemingly been missing so far this season and while others may differ I kind of want to describe him as a mix between Samir Nasri & Tommy Rosicky. I expect him to create more goals than he scores but he certainly has the ability to get the ball in the onion bag which is a massive bonus.

One for the ladies

If he had been our only midfield signing, then, without doing the man a disservice, I think we may have been disappointed somewhat but he wasn’t because he came in just a short while before the club announced the signing of Spanish genius Mikel Arteta.

Maybe the little midfielder can’t be described as a ‘wow’ signing but it was most certainly the one that got us Gooners most excited on Wednesday.

For as long as Cesc was linked with a move back to Barca Arteta was linked with filling his compatriots boots (So that is forever) but this summer his name appeared to have been omitted from the list of so-called pretenders to the throne until the last few days of the transfer window.

Reports suggest that we first went in on Tuesday with a bid of £4m which was quickly rebuffed by Everton but the Mersey men must have made it known that they were prepared to do a deal because we went back in the following day with an improved bid of £10m. There was a point during the malaise that it all seemed to have died a death and it created a distinct air of disappointment. It was the player himself who pushed for the move to happen and if reports are to be believed he has taken a cut in wages in order to make the move, which speaks volumes of his desire.

Like Benayoun Arteta already knows this league inside out and can make an instant impact in our side alongside Jack Wilshere. There is no doubt that he could slip into the Cesc role with ease but it remains to be seen if we’ll line up like that this season. I would imagine that he’ll take over corner and free kick duty from RVP which will be a relief, mainly because we may now score from set pieces a little more regularly.

He has everything needed to be a hit at the Arsenal as long as he doesn’t suffer any long term injuries. At 29 this is his last chance to have a crack at top level football (sorry Everton) and with that in mind you can understand why he pushed for the move after six years service with the toffees. Oh and of course he brings Mrs Arteta with him…

HELLO!

So in all the fantastic five are just that in my view. They give our squad everything it’s been crying out for and I think they all have a winning mentality and the desire to achieve as much as possible in the game. I am very much looking forward to seeing each and every one of them in the red and white this season. If only the curssed internationals weren’t delaying that.

If you like numbers and you believe they may either back up or destroy everything I have written above then take a look at these stats on all our new signings on the official Arsenal website.

Thanks for reading.

Paul

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