We’ve Got a Big Fucking Leader!

September 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

“Yes, a little bit like that. Not the quickest but he uses his brains. He is 26 with 74 Germany caps”

“We have had more quieter defences recently but I think Mertesacker can be a talker.”

“He will come out of himself more, don’t worry.”

– Arsène Wenger on comparisons of Per Mertesacker & Tony Adams

So, after a relatively dismal beginning to the season (3 games played; 1 draw; 2 losses), and the – much-anticipated yet still dreaded – door shutting on the transfer window looming, Arsène Wenger had little time to revive himself amongst Arsenal fans. After an 8-2 thrashing at the hands of Manchester United (which still haunts me to this day), the world was expecting a strong, leading central-defender to arrive at The Grove. As usual at Arsenal, nobody could be sure on who, if a anybody, was going to join. Until, finally, it was announced. Per Mertesacker, the experienced German International, was linking up with the underachieving North London club. However, the ex-Werder Bremen man wasn’t exactly greeted with open arms. Pundits, media, and fans alike were questioning Le Prof’s decision. After all; he’s slow, lanky, and not used to the physicality of our rough & tough Premier League. And, to an extent, those fans were right in Per’s first season. He was mistake-ridden; a liability; rubbish.

Fast forward to 22nd of September 2012, and Per Mertesacker is being lauded for his solid performances against Manchester City and previously, Liverpool and Stoke. Perhaps a bit too premature to say, but our ‘Big Fucking German’ has won over me.

Can Per Mertesacker be our leader in defence?

It’s come as a shock, but a welcome one. At the end of last season, there were only two central defenders we wanted to see in the starting eleven, and they didn’t include Mertesacker. However, at the beginning of this season – when Koscielny was unavailable – Mertesacker has stepped in and been a brick wall in partnership with Arsenal captain, Thomas Vermaelen. Clean sheets against the likes of Stoke at the Britannia, and Liverpool at Anfield, have earned Mertesacker well-deserved praise.

Per Mertesacker, quite unbelievably, is arguably the hottest defender in Europe at the moment. That, honestly, is something I didn’t think I’d be saying/typing at the beginning of this season.

So, what has made Mertesacker so good this season? Well, despite Per’s pace, or lack of it, his positional awareness, reading of the game, passing ability, and, a needed attribute for a defender, tackling has more than made up for Mertesacker’s lack of the old-fashioned attributes of pace and brutal force. His positioning, especially, almost makes you forget the fact that he’s about as fast as a queue at the midnight launch of the latest release of the FIFA franchise (thought it was fitting at this moment of time). On the topic of FIFA; his ‘Sprint Speed’ is 36, which proves that he’s no Usain Bolt as FIFA is always right, right? This season, Mertesacker has also shown off his passing range while playing his way out of danger – the majority being received by Mikel Arteta. His composure, which the 6ft 6in defender wasn’t known for last season, has dramatically improved.

Per Mertesacker isn’t the only Arsenal defender who has had to count on his footballing brain to cover his lack of speed. A certain Tony Adams was similar, which is what makes the quotes from Arsène Wenger (from September 2011) so much more better. As I said before; Arsène Wenger was questioned about the signing of Mertesacker, quite stupidly as we should have learned by our mistakes by then, and even had the audacity to compare Mertesacker and ‘MrArsenal’. Now, the majority are nodding their head in agreement at the possibility of Mertesacker being our next defensive leader. This, if it’s possible, puzzles me even more on how some fans think Arsène is clueless and doesn’t know what he’s doing.

I think this leadership (or lack of it) was shown against Chelsea. ‘Twas the first game Per Mertesacker had missed this season, and you could say it showed. As Gary Neville – who in my opinion, is currently the best pundit on TV – pointed out in his column for the Daily Mail; In those two avoidable goals, Arsenal lacked a leader. A Tony Adams-esque leader, who’ll put his team straight before himself. Laurent Koscielny tried to do it with Chamberlain, but it unfortunately resulted in Chelsea’s first goal. Before the Chelsea game, we had conceded just one goal from a set-piece in 5 games with Mertesacker leading the defence. Against Chelsea; we conceded 2 goals from set-pieces with Laurent Koscielny trying to lead the defence. Basically, Per Mertesacker has grown a voice. He’s the one telling his teammates who to mark or, in the debatable zonal marking strategy, where to mark – which is what we missed on Saturday.

Not only on set-pieces, but in open play as well. In my opinion, Mertesacker and Koscielny/Vermaelen is the perfect partnership. Why? Because Koscielny/Vermaelen possess a decent amount of pace, and like to push forward on times, Mertesacker prefers to stay back; Watch the game to see how it develops. On Saturday, on a few occasions, we were caught a bit light at the back which ultimately led to a silly free-kick being given away and consequently a goal.

The perfect example of a similar partnership; Kolo Touré and Sol Campbell in the Invincible era. While Kolo Touré was more of an erratic/attacking type of centre defender, Campbell preferred to, somewhat, protect him. He stayed back and saved Touré from an Arsène Wenger style hairdryer.

It’s not just the German’s much-improved performances and newly-found leadership skills which has made Arsenal fans take him to heart; Mertesacker confirmed that he’s been a Gooner since 10-years-old after a picture of Mertesacker in an Arsenal shirt as a child started circulating around Twitter:

“England was always my favourite football land and if ever there was a chance to come to this country then it was always going to be to sign for this club [Arsenal].”

“I was at a good club but Arsenal was another step for me. It was my wish to make it happen if everyone could agree.”

– Per Mertesacker on joining Arsenal

For the thrice time of mentioning it; Arsène Wenger was, somewhat, a walking joke when he said that Per Mertesacker could become the “New Tony Adams“, but after one year, the joke is on the doubters, as it seems Our Big Fucking German has all the attributes, characteristics and the personality to become Our Big Fucking Leader after all.

Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed. If so, follow me on Twitter: @InAFCWeTrust

Manchester United or Arsenal – Your Choice, Robin

August 11, 2012 § 2 Comments

via @Lagvilava7

It’s a common and well-known story now – Summer arrives, Arsenals’ star player future in doubt, press go in a frenzy – This year, it was last seasons’ best Premier League striker/player, Robin van Persie. On July 4th, Robin van Persie announced that he had no intention in signing a new contract at the Emirates Stadium because of our “lack of ambition”. Fast forward a month; Robin van Persie has two options – Join long-term rivals Manchester United and be remembered as the selfish betrayer to the majority of Arsenal fans, or sign a new contract at a new-look Arsenal side, help them win trophies and restore a little bit of respect from the Arsenal faithful.

The Robin van Persie saga has been secretive to say the least. Neither Arsenal nor Manchester United have spoken in public on the current situation until recently when Good ol’ “whiskey face” Sir Alex Ferguson soon appeared and spoke of his “interest” in bringing the Dutchman to Old Trafford.

“We have made a bid and they [Arsenal] have been trying to negotiate with other clubs, I don’t have a gut feeling on it at the moment, I must admit. We’re not getting any breakthrough with Arsenal. It’s difficult to say why they’re operating this way. I don’t know what their thoughts are because they’re not giving anything away.” – Sir Alex Ferguson

Whether Sir Alex Ferguson is making his interest known to please the fans, or even if he really is interested in bringing Robin van Persie to Manchester; it will take huge bid to even tempt Arséne Wenger into selling his prized asset to one of his arch-enemies, hence the obvious reason why Arsenal are “apparently” desperately trying to negotiate with other teams – preferably abroad. Who can blame him? After all, Arsenal did finish 19 points behind United last season and during this summer, Le Professeur has been relentlessly trying to shorten the gap between Arsenal and the two Manchester clubs by bringing in Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla with more reportedly on their way. To be honest, I’m quite proud of Arsenal for standing up for themselves and not letting Manchester United simply get their way.

One question left unanswered, however, is where Van Persie fits into the Manchester United team. Manchester United tend to play one outright striker (Rooney) with an attacking midfielder/centre forward playing just behind him. Usually, the man behind him would be Danny Welbeck or Javier Hernandez, but the new arrival of Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund also puts him in contention. With the possible arrival of RVP; it would mean that 3 of those 4 would be sat on the bench. Of course, Robin van Persie would strengthen the Manchester United team, but is an injury-prone (only two years fit), nearly 30-year-old striker worth £20million and perhaps hindering the progress of  their developing Danny Welbeck? I think not.

Personally, I feel that Alex Ferguson is stating his interest in Robin van Persie to please the Manchester United fans so if RVP doesn’t join, he can say “At least we tried”. The earlier quote doesn’t sound like a manager whom is confident in securing the signature of a player.

Let’s look at Robins’ other option – staying at Arsenal. At first, what Van Persie had said was simply unforgivable for most Arsenal fans, including myself. How dare he question Arséne Wengers’ direction and betray us after all that we’ve done for him. However, a month on, and a few more indepth reads of his “Update for the fans”; I’ve realized what Van Persie was actually trying to get across. If you look at his statement, he never says that he wants to leave which was pointed out by a few Arsenal fans who I must give credit to. He simply says that he doesn’t want to commit his future as he’s not convinced by the ambition of the club, which admittedly none of us Arsenal fans have been.

Arséne Wenger’ has opted for a technique that he rarely uses by bringing in quality, proven players which has brought renewed hope to Arsenal fans and hopefully to Robin van Persie, too. The Frenchman has once again pulled out his Magic hat and bagged the signatures of Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Ligue 1 top goalscorer Olivier Giroud for a combined price of £32million. After all this transfer activity and perhaps more to come; it has led Arsenal fans to believe that they have a as good as, if not better squad that Manchester United.

So maybe, after all of the abuse Van Persie has been recieving and the countless amount of times pundits and journalists alike have all but written off the chance of RVP remaing an Arsenal player, he might still be in North London come the beginning of the season. The truth is Van Persie makes us stronger – a lot stronger, in fact. But there’s no point in keeping a player who doesn’t want to play for the club and letting him go on a free next summer which basically leaves us to convince Robin to commit his future. Fortunately, if the “Arsenal insiders” are anything to go by, Robin van Persie is happy and enthusiastic training with the Arsenal squad in preparation of their friendly against Colgone on Sunday. With a  committed and happy world-class forward spearheading our attack, I would seriously consider us as title contenders. Nobody knows what the outcome of this saga will be, but it’s sure going to be an interesting, painful/pleasant one.

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The Forgotten Gunner

July 31, 2012 § 1 Comment

This summer, we Arsenal fans have been continuously speculating on who will/might be brought to the Emirates for the upcoming season. We’ve talked about how we could line up or what formation would fit best for the players we bring in. However, during all the talk we have forgotten about one man who has been tirelessly working hard to regain full fitness and push his way back into the first team – Abou Diaby.

Abou Diaby has been at the club for 6 years now; yet you’d be forgiven for believing that he’s no longer part of the team. He isn’t a new signing nor is he a relatively new member of Arsenal but with all his injury problems for the past few seasons – he certainly feels like one. Although it seems a few Gooners have decided to give up on Diaby. They’ve seemed to have accepted that Abou is not good enough to withstand the hectic and unforgiving schedule of the Premier League and have almost labelled him as “deadwood”. However, Arsene Wenger is remaining hopeful that this is the season that the Frenchman will prevail over the doubts of the fans and contribute to a successful season for the club.

Abou Diaby joined Arsenal from French club Auxerre for a fee of £2million in January 2006. He came as a young and fresh 20 year-old with raw potential. His towering, beanpole appearance and box-to-box style of play made Arsenal fans reminisce of a certain Patrick Vieira. It was reported that Abou Diaby turned down London rivals Chelsea to join the red half of North London; which almost instantly turned him into a well-liked character among the Arsenal faithful.

Unfortunately, just four months into his career at Arsenal – Abou was on the end of a sickening challenge from a frustrated Dan Smith in a match against Sunderland. At the time Arsenal were 3-0 ahead, and just like most players who are losing by a considerable margin; Dan Smith got frustrated and lunged at Abou Diaby which resulted in the midfielder’s career being put on hold for a further nine months.

Since that day, Diaby has only surpassed 20 league games in one season for the Gunners. But during all the physio treatments and hours on the injury table; Diaby did manage a few cameo appearances. I think the one that sticks out in most minds is the appearance against Aston Villa in 2008 where Diaby started off the move with a bit of skill to get away from his marker – passed to Emmanuel Eboue – and made a resolute run from the half way line to finish the move by blasting it into the net. It was a very Vieira-esque type goal. It was these displays that grew affection from the fans; and arguably earned Diaby more of a chance to prove wrong than others such as Manuel Almunia.

An argument that Diaby’s doubters commonly bring up is that he’s another player that Wenger has somewhat spoiled. You have to accept their opinion, as I (a Diaby fan) sometimes find myself questioning why he is on such extortionate wages. Although I do disagree on that we should sell him ASAP. If we went by those same rules on every player that has spent a considerable amount of time on an injury table; we would have no Rosicky, Van Persie, Wilshere or even Sagna. Tomas Rosicky especially is the perfect

example of a player who has come back late in his career and made a difference. Coming to the end of the season when Arsenal’s midfield were (once again) stretched for numbers, the Czech stepped in and played a decisive part in capturing Champions League football and deservedly earned himself a new contract. I think similar can happen for Diaby – he has time on his side being 26 and plays in a position where more often than not – Arsenal lose numbers.

He (Diaby) is the first player who would be on the France team-sheet in midfield when he is fit. – Arsene Wenger.

Diaby recently starred in Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Malaysia XI in their pre-season tour of Asia. If social media is anything to go by, Arsenal fans were relatively happy with his performance; but were probably more relieved that he got through it without any injuries. The 2012/13 season will be the deciding factor in Diaby’s future at Arsenal. It seems that even Arsene Wenger’s long-term, rigid loyalty is starting to disappear with “Le Prof” admitting that he will be looking elsewhere if Abou’s injuries get the better of him again.

The saying “Arsene knows” has never come under such scrutiny until recent times; but I’m sure that all Arsenal fans will come together by hoping Abou Diaby overcomes his injuries and helps Arsenal regain their success in which they so rightfully deserve.

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