Archive for October 14th, 2011

Red, white, and relieved

9 comments October 14th, 2011

I’m mildly surprised I still remember how to do this.  Blogging, it seems, is a bit like riding a bike: painful and disaster-prone at first, but when you return to it after an absence muscle memory takes over and eases you through.  I’ve been reading the comments since my last blog – frankly, ages ago – and there is speculation as to whether I’m “dead” or merely “a disgrace”.  I’m afraid it’s merely the latter – this blog does not come from beyond the grave.  Instead, I’ve been in hibernation whilst the internationals have bored the living daylights out of anyone foolish enough to watch them.

The major Arsenal story of the international break – the one that almost tempted me in to actually writing a blog – was the outstanding form of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.  After notching four assists in his previous game for the England U-21s, Chamberlain went as far as to score a hatrick in the game against Iceland.  His last competitive match had been his Champions League debut, in which he also scored, after which he was left out of the matchday squad for the North London derby.  Arsene Wenger is clearly determined not to rush his development, and says:

“He is ahead of schedule.  Overall I think he has to add some ingredients to his game that will be absolutely necessary at the top but he has the basic talent – nobody can dispute that.

I am very happy for bringing him here. But of course now we want from him the commitment and the urgency that is requested in the Premier League.

One second of lacking attention defensively can cost you a game. That has changed in the modern game and that is why he is ahead of schedule. I think in the next few months he can add that to his game.”

That’s the second or third time Arsene has mentioned the defensive weaknesses in Alex’s game – though how he can say that whilst continually picking Andrey Arshavin in a similar position baffles me.  Perhaps he’ll be involved in some way this weekend.

The other good news is that our boys managed to come through the games unscathed.  Tomas Rosicky picked up a minor problem, as is his wont, but should be fine for Sunday’s game with Sunderland.  An extra days preparation is a real bonus for those players who’ve traveled to far-flung corners of the world, and should enable us to stave off any post-international fatigue.

Abou Diaby and Thomas Vermaelen, you may recall, were supposed to be fit to return after the international break.  Predictably, they’re not.  Both players are expected to be fit to return in around two weeks, with Diaby pencilled in to make his comeback in the Carling Cup clash with Bolton.

Arsenal have a new absence to contend with – that of Bacary Sagna, who is sidelined for several months with a broken leg.  Arsene Wenger has suggested that Carl Jenkinson will fill the void this weekend, but once Vermaelen returns to action I wonder if Laurent Koscielny might be shunted wide, with Mertesacker and the Belgian in the middle.  I suppose much will depend on how Jenkinson acquits himself over the next few games.

Jinx-hungry Robin van Persie, meanwhile, says he’s never felt fitter.  Oh dear.

As I type this, stories from Arsene’s afternoon press conference are beginning to emerge.  They essentially seem to be the same as the ones I’ve written up above, only with slightly different wording.  Nevertheless, I’ll update you on those and preview the Sunderland match properly over the weekend.  Because Gunnerblog is back.  And football is back.  Sweet, sweet relief.

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Cesc Fabregas
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