Wishere shines again as Arsenal win a Trophy
Maybe it’s not the trophy we were looking for, but it’s a trophy nonetheless. Now we have a chance to get some more silverware to keep the Emirates Cup company.
It seems that Jack Wilshere is determined to give Arsene Wenger even more selection headaches this season. He was even better against Rangers than he was against Athletico. Only a nice tip over the crossbar kept Wilshere from scoring a hattrick of goals. The two goals that he did score were well taken, particularly his neat volley from an excellent Ramsey cross in the second half. He displayed clever footwork, good passing and some moments of outrageous skill as he continued to press for first team playing time this season.
In typical fashion, the English media now want to know not only how much Arsenal playing time Wilshere will garner this season, but when he will be called up to the England squad. All of this is a bit premature, which Arsene Wenger was quick to point out, but there’s no denying his talent and uncanny maturity. He has simply made an undeniable case for first team action this season. As I said on Twitter, if you had never seen Arsenal before and were trying to decide who was the first team regular and who was the out of place youngster, you’d no doubt confuse Wilshere and Denilson. Wenger can point to Wilshere’s age all he wants, but based on the calibre of his play, there’s no denying his ability to contribute to the first team. The only problem for young Jack, is that he plays a position where Arsenal are fortunately blessed with an embarassment of riches.
Overall it was a good game for Arsenal. Again, some reserve players had a chance to play and all the healthy first team regulars, except Van Persie, had a chance to play. Once again, Arshavin proved that he is a cut above as his passing and movement were sublime. He had one chipped pass over the top of the defense, to find Eduardo in the box, that was simply outrageous. My one complaint is that Arshavin doesn’t take the free kicks. I realise that Van Persie takes most of the free kicks from scoring distance and that’s okay with me. But I’m not sure that Cesc should be second in line. Don’t get me wrong, Cesc is our talisman, our captain, and an outrageous talent, but I’m not sure that free kicks are his strength. Considering that Arshavin’s height also makes it highly unlikely that he’s going to score from a header, it just seems sensible that he should take the kicks. We saw what he can produce with free kick deliveries last season, and I see no reason why he shouldn’t continue in that role.
Eduardo was also in good form against Rangers, and his finish for the second goal was typically clinical. It’s refreshing to watch Eduardo. Unlike some other Gunners, you get the feeling that he’s going to convert every scoring opportunity that comes his way. That quality, along with Arshavin’s similarly clinical finishing, are a welcome departure from some of the profligacy we have witnessed in recent seasons. Today, Arsenal seemed at home in the 4-2-3-1 formation and the passing and movement was typically mesmeric at times. It was a solid display by the entire team in easily sweeping aside the reigning Scottish champions.
Once again, it was good to see Rosicky running around, jumping into tackles and taking on the defense. If we can get even 10-15 solid performances from him this season, it will be hugely influential. I’m less concerned for Eduardo after watching him this weekend. He looks strong and confident and the conditioning doesn’t appear to be a problem. If someone had told you a year ago that we’d be coming into this season worried about Rosicky’s health and unconcerned about Eduardo, you would have thought they had it backwards, but that’s indeed the situation.
The only real concern after today’s match is the defense. Once again, the defending was unconvincing, particularly from set pieces. I’m about to say something that will be immensely unpopular but it’s time to say it directly. Something is not right with Gael Clichy. He simply isn’t playing left-back the way he once did. He relies entirely on pace, gets himself out of position too often and overcommits to tackles and interceptions taking himself out of the play and leaving the remaining back three exposed. Even his attacking play lacks conviction. Maybe it’s just pre-season, but we’ve seen worrying signs from Clichy before. His concentration is a real problem and his confidence with his tackling seems to be missing. I’m prone to overreacting, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Clichy’s form is a concern. I won’t be the least bit surprised if Kieran Gibbs pushes Clichy for the starting left back spot at some point this season.
On another front, there’s something that Arsenal fans are going to have to accept; we need Eboue to stay for another season. Mentally Eboue is about as stable as the ground beneath Los Angeles, but he has real quality and provides crucial cover for Sagna at right back. Do I like him as a player? I’m not sure. Does his attitude drive me nuts? Undeniably. But we need him. Selling him now would stretch the defense beyond thin, and we simply can’t afford to do that. It’s another controversial topic, but I think any sensible Arsenal fan would agree that there’s probably not a transfer coming into the team that can provide what Eboue gives us already. If he stays, then we can focus our worries on centre-half and defensive midfield.
Having watched today’s game, I’m now convinced that Wenger will employ the 4-2-3-1 formation this season. Some people call it a 4-3-3, but I just don’t see it that way. Today’s starting lineup saw Eduardo play the lone striker in front of Arshavin, Merida and Wilshere. It seems that Fabregas and Song played behind those three. It seems Wenger is trying to decide if Fabregas is better suited for the support striker role (which I don’t believe), or the deeper midfield role (which I do believe). Having said that, the thing I noticed most about the formation today, is that the players seem to have a lot of freedom to roam. Cesc came forward quite a bit, and Arshavin moved from left to center, and even to the right at times. The movement really was interesting to watch, and I must admit that when the passing game is working, this formation can look really dangerous. I just wonder if the slower pace of buildup will consistently lead to goals during the league season.
It is possible of course that Wenger will employ a 4-4-2 once the league gets underway. All this experimentation with the 4-3-2-1 might be more relevant to our European campaign. But I’m inclined to believe that he will use the new formation in the league considering that we saw it in several league fixtures late last season. Regardless of my opinion of the formation, there is no denying that the players look much more comfortable with it now than they did when we first starting seeing it last season. Now the tricky part for Arsene will be getting the player selection right. That could be even trickier when the new signings arrive. (Let’s be optimistic for once.)
So the Emirates Cup is over, the trophy is ours, and a new young player has made his case to join the ranks. It’s just what we needed, more young talent! All in all it was a successful two day that has me feeling pretty good about the team, but more certain than ever that we’re not as solid defensively as we probably need to be.
It’s a trip to Valencia next weekend, and then the real season begins. We start with a match against a very solid Everton side before the nail-biting, sleep-denying, therapy-causing Champions League “playoff” begins. There has probably never been a Champions League draw more important than this. Once you’re in the knockout stages, you expect a to play a top team. But that’s not what you want when you’re merely trying to gain access to the group stage. We could find ourselves playing against one of the pushovers that we’ve become accustomed to at this stage. However, we could be facing a much sterner challenge. Ironically, we could find ourselves paired with Athletico Madrid. But we’ll leave that for later.
Congratulations again to Jack Wilshere for an inspired weekend. If nothing else, I’m sure we’ll get to see him shine in the Carling Cup this season. Hopefully, we’ll get to see a little more than that.