Newcastle Redux, Adebayor’s Future, League Form

Short dull blog entry in the midst of a long dull week

As I wandered aimlessly through my house, bemoaning the lack of Arsenal football, I decided to indulge in a re-broadcast of the Arsenal v. Newcastle match with the help of my trusty dvr. (For the record, if you do not own a dvr, or tivo, you are really depriving yourself of the most influential invention for football addicts outside of newsnow.

Upon completing the match, two particular moments stuck out for me as deserving mention in this space. The first moment involved a side of Arshavin’s game that doesn’t get enough credit. What has impressed me so much about his adaptation to life in the premier league, is his work ethic. We already know he’s a worker based simply on his dedication to learning the English language in preparation for a possible move away from Zenit. But all you ever hear about foreign players coming into English football is that it takes them a season to catch up with the power and the pace of the game. I don’t see Arhsavin having much difficulty acclimatising. Much of this seems to be down to his attitude and approach to the game.

We have already discussed how Arshavin cut short the goal celebrations after the equaliser against Hull in the FA Cup so that Arsenal could get to work trying to win the match. It was a real sign of character and leadership. But Arshavin was almost as influential in setting up Arsenal’s second goal on Saturday as he was in the providing the service for the first. Almost exactly 30 seconds before Diaby fired home Arsenal’s second goal, Arshavin made a nifty run down the left side of midfield. He was ultimately stopped by two defenders and lost possession. Rather than taking the opportunity to catch his breath and leave the hard work for the back four, Arshavin raced back up the field and took possession back with a perfectly timed sliding tackle. Less than 14 seconds later, Diaby scored.

Arshavin’s tackle gave Arsenal the ball back in a good position, but more importantly, allowed us to attack while Taylor was off the pitch with an injury. Our numerical superiority helped open the space between defenders that Diaby ran into before receiving the ball from Van Persie. Had Arshavin not produced the crucial tackle, we would have been unlikely to get another chance to attack an outnumbered Newcastle. It was a turning point in the game and couldn’t have happened without Arhsavin’s commitment. You don’t necessarily notice these things upon first viewing, let alone remember them after the match, but after a second look, it was easy to see the impact. Kudos to Andrei for his spirit. He was kicked and punched all day, but that didn’t stop him from putting in a critical tackle.

The next moment I watched carefully relates to something I wrote about after the match. I suggested that Robin Van Persie had ignored Nicklas Bendtner alone in space with no one to stop him late in the match. I said that it looked like he opted to take on two defenders instead and was subsequently dispossessed. I replayed this moment four or five times today to see what I could make of it. After all, the Dane is known for his ego and his recent poor finishing. It’s not out of bounds to suggest that Van Persie chose to ignore his open teammate. However, after watching the moment again and again, it really does look like Robin saw Bendtner and mis-controlled the ball right as he was preparing to slot it through to him. Not a major story to say the least, but bad rapport between stikers can lead to selfish play that is detrimental to the team as a whole and I’m happy to believe that’s not what was happening on Saturday.

As a final thought about that match, I’m not sure that our finishing was as bad as I first believed. Credit must be given to Newcastle ‘keeper, Harper for some fantastic saves, and to Taylor for some incredible last minute interventions. They really kept the scoreline from getting out of hand.

Finally, we come to the issue of Adebayor’s future at Arsenal. By the end of last summer, some Arsenal fans would have been happy to see Ade leave. He made himself and the team look bad with his on-again, off-again, never-was-on transfer speculation. I was not one of those supporters who abandoned hope for him. I believe he has qualities as a striker that are not replaceable at the moment. Bendtner doesn’t have his pace, and Van Persie doesn’t have his power. Adebayor can also be an excellent passer of the ball in the final third. However, his season hasn’t be spectacular to say the least and some have questioned his work ethic this season. I was fully prepared to give him a pass for his injury and believe that all would be back to normal when he returned.

But the story has gotten a little more complicated over the past few weeks. We were initially led to believe that Adebayor might return to face Roma. Then his return was pushed back to the upcoming Manchester City match. Now we have heard that the Manchester City match is a “possibility.” And yet, there is no news of a major setback in his recovery. I can’t help but wonder what is taking so long and why Wenger doesn’t seem more eager to see him back in the lineup. We haven’t heard any of the speculation or hype surrounding his return that has been ubiquitous with Cesc, Eduardo and even Theo. Now, there are obvious differences between all of those players and Adebayor’s layoff hasn’t been quite so long. But his absence has been noticeable and you would think that his return would be worthy of some standard “we’re very excited to get him back” quotes. And, yet, there has been very little said about him. Now we find out that Adebayor has been called up for international duty with Togo. This is even more bizarre considering his row with the Togolese national team last year. Why on Earth would Togo call up a player that cannot play? Unless, he can, and he will play. And if that is the case, then we should all be prepared for big problems in Ade’s Arsenal future. Wenger would be infuriated and I don’t think the supporters would take too kindly to it given his already precarious position with most of us.

It’s a delicate situation to say the least and one which we should be watching with great interest. My feeling is that if Ade plays for Togo in the next week, then we can probably expect to see him leaving the club in the summer. This could all be idle conjecture of course, but it’s the international break and we’d be nowhere without some idle conjecture this week.

Hope it’s passed the time.

‘Til tomorrow…

About Yankee Gunner

Loyal Arsenal Supporter, Obscure Television Personality
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