Walcott - practise what you preach
I don't like the fact that this is becoming a "weekend only" blog at the moment. Sadly there is little I can do about it right now. A fortnight from now normal service should be resumed so please bear with me.
As a result of not being able to post anything during this week I've missed gold nuggets from The Sun journalist Charlie Wyett (such a football expert he credited unused, and black, substitute Sanchez Watt with the assist for Benayoun's goal on Tuesday when in fact it was the white skinned Oghuzan Ozyakup), Joey Barton (Wenger's "no comment" to the question "Did you try to sign Joey Barton?" in his press conference this afternoon was embarrassing) and from Kieran Gibbs.
I just want to make a quick comment on Gibbs' assertion that the statistics show how the team has been playing well, but just not getting the results. Who exactly is the boy trying to kid here? Does he think we are likely to swallow such nonsense having seen the team ship twelve goals in their last two away games? How Arsenal's press office could let such drivel be published on their website is beyond comprehension.
All of which brings me to Theo Walcott, one of our most vocal players off the pitch. I suppose it makes a change for Walcott to not be talking about how he is ambitious to play for England next Summer, all the while forgetting that he should be trying to show everyone he isn't quite so s**t as he appears for the most part when playing for Arsenal. His comments today that the players "must take responsibility" and that they must "defend better as a team" would be very welcome in isolation. However, I've heard this from the same person before. More than once. As ever actions speak louder than words, and Theo's actions on the pitch, especially when it comes to defending, are among the laziest and weakest in the team. How many times do we have to watch the opposition full-back making a two-on-one down Arsenal's right flank as Walcott jogs back across the halfway-line leaving Bacary Sagna hopelessly exposed, and a midfield stretched out in a vain attempt to cover? My advice to Theo Walcott is to shut-up and start playing as well as he talks.
On to the game tomorrow and the team news is that Tomas Rosicky is fit, as well as Bacary Sagna, while Yossi Benayoun isn't. Given the encouraging display of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain against Shrewsbury in the week I would sincerely hope he is rewarded with a place in the squad tomorrow. After Arshavin continued to embarrass himself at Blackburn last week he should find his way back out of the team. The Russian is becoming increasingly frustrating and is really not worth a place in the side (though having said that, most of the players are unworthy of an Arsenal shirt right now).
The Carling Cup saw us line up with a 4-4-2 formation. In amongst the general discontent last Saturday was a feeling that, with new players making no difference to the team, it is finally time to abandon the ridiculously flawed 4-3-3. I know I had a pop at Walcott above, but Wenger's insistence on playing a lad with zero skill wide on the right has done him no favours. A change to 4-4-2 on a permanent basis would aid Theo's game more than anyone in the Arsenal team. Wenger would have options to either play Walcott and Van Persie (with RVP dropping off in to a "Bergkamp" type position) or Chamakh and Van Persie (with Chamakh being an Alan Smith figure in the side). Such a move would also hopefully leave our full-backs less exposed.
On the subject of full-backs it will be interesting to see who gets in at left-back tomorrow. I saw some criticism of Andre Santos after the game last week but I don't think too many who were at the game would criticise him. I thought he looked pretty good on his full debut and was strong in the tackle. He was also very rarely out of position, and chose his moments to bomb forward. I know Kieran Gibbs got a fine headed goal the other night, but all the film I've seen from the game has him way up field, conspicuous by his absence as Shrewsbury got in down Arsenal's left. The other point to be made about his goal is that, while it was very welcome, Arsenal had both full-backs in the final third of the pitch - if that move had broken down we would have been in all sorts of trouble. Nigel Winterburn says that George Graham always told him and Lee Dixon that if one of them went forward the other had to tuck in at the back. That's called organisation. The current team could learn a lot from it.
It goes without saying that tomorrow is a must win match. Gary Cahill will be very keen to impress, you can be sure. The most worrying aspect, for me, is how Koscielny and Mertesacker deal with Kevin Davies. Mertesacker got some stick in the press, and on Match Of The Day, last week and most of it was completely unwarranted. Koscielny was very, very poor last week. There were times when Mertesacker was looking at him in disbelief. The big German is going to find himself under pressure because our wonderful press have decided he isn't up to it - he might prove them right, but it is seriously unfair, though entirely typical of the f***wit journalists of this country (see my earlier reference to Charlie Wyett), to go after him like this. Davies will be his usual physical self and will con the referee time and again by backing in and then falling over to get free-kicks. Arsenal need to be prepared for this and learn how to deal with him quickly.
I'll post a match review on Sunday when, hopefully, we will be three points better off than we are now.