In his usual pre-match press conference and Arsenal TV Online interview, Arsene presented us a four course meal with the starter being the match against Plymouth last week, moving to transfers in and out, then to injuries, and for “pudding” the Bolton match tomorrow. Let’s dig in, shall we?
The Importance of the FA Cup
Arsene basically reiterated and expounded upon his statement of last week that the FA Cup is one of the major targets of the first team. Thus, as far as team selection, for Wenger the FA Cup team will be the same team that might play in any Premier League match.
This is a huge boost to players like Ramsey and Fabianski who until now have not been seen as first team players and yet featured against Plymouth on the weekend. There has been a lot of talk in the team about Fabianski pushing Almunia for his starting spot and his featuring in the FA Cup is Wenger’s signal to Almunia that his starting spot in the Premier League is not guaranteed.
Wenger also sees the FA Cup run as a way of strengthening team morale and getting our defensive confidence up. When asked about the 5 match unbeaten run in the context of possibly winning the FA Cup Wenger rightly said
We want not to talk too much now and put performances in and then I believe people will change their minds about our team. They mean business, they are serious, they work hard, and I want this team to be rewarded for that.
Agreed, Arsene, all Arsenal fans want Arsenal to be rewarded for their hard work.
The next FA Cup match will be away to Cardiff and should provide a very tough challenge. Let’s hope the squad are up for it, Wenger seems to think they are.
Arshavin in, no one out… oh and MAYBE another midfielder
I really enjoy watching the actual interviews of Arsene instead of reading about them in the press. For example, when the interviewer said “the other story this month is the transfer window” Arsene got this sly grin on his face before he answered. That’s something you don’t read about in the papers and gives us some insight into the man. Frankly, I kind of think he likes taking the piss out of the speculators, at least that’s my impression with that little smile.
Anyway, when asked point blank where Arsenal are in the Arshavin deal he responded with his normal straight faced “Just like on Saturday, don’t talk too much and deliver on the pitch… At the moment I cannot announce any good news and in this job, as well, no news is good news.” Then he cracked a big old shit-eating grin and said “[I mean] Nothing has fallen through as well!”
When asked again, point blank if Arsenal are talking to Zenit over Arshavin, Arsene said “We are tal… uhh… We are on alert on the transfer market.” And cracked another sly grin.
It’s safe to say that Arsenal are in negotiations with Zenit over the transfer of Andrei Arshavin. This doesn’t mean that it’s a done deal, but that negotiations are ongoing.
Then came the crucial moment, the thing we’re all been talking about — he’s asked “Are you in the market for a defensive midfielder” and he responded with this gem
I believe we have to go first to the priority and then to go for a second target. At the moment, I believe that with the players coming back, and the players moving within the team since the start of the season in the defensive area (Song, Denilson) I don’t think we are in a big need. We are in the moment short because I think we planned at the start of the season to have a player like Rosicky available to play in 80% of our games. He has not played at all and I feel we need someone more in this area.
So, Arshavin is coming in because Rosicky is injured and will be expected to fight for the right wing spot with Theo and company when they all get healthy. While this might be a bit harsh for some, the reality is that with Rosicky and Theo out Arsenal have struggled to find width, which in turn puts a lot of pressure on the central midfield, allows teams to box Arsenal in, and then leaves the defense vulnerable to counters at the back when the inevitable turnover happens. I couldn’t agree with him more, since it’s exactly what I said Arsenal needed a few blogs back (pats self on head).
As for the defensive midfield position, Wenger sees that as a secondary consideration. We all will have to take solace in the fact that at least he’s considering it because when asked if he’s in the market for a keeper he flat out said “No. No.” I suspect he has a target for that spot and is keeping his cards close to his chest. If you have the scratch, put money on Wenger signing someone like Sagna who will come in and give Song and/or Djourou a real challenge for his midfield/center half starting place. Yes, I really did just say that the player could play in all those positions: Wenger always buys utility players, right?
When asked about Kolo he sighed a bit and his shoulders slumped and he responded “No, that’s finished. We will not sell any player at the moment.” So, no one is leaving which, given all the injuries in defense and everywhere else, just makes plain sense. Now, this summer will be a different story.
Kolo and Denilson are available for tomorrow’s match but, as CaribKid pointed out in the forums yesterday, Gallas pulled a hammy in the Plymouth game and along with the thigh injury to Silvestre, both players will be out for 3 weeks. Meanwhile, Fabregas and Rosicky are not expected back until March but Walcott is expected back at the end of February. With Wenger saying that “Walcott is the quickest one to recover because he’s started to run already.”
Wenger hinted at Dudu playing against Cardiff but his recovery is going slow owing to the fact that the reserves team match was canceled this week and so he’s not getting any match competition. Wenger is going to take Eduardo slow and warns everyone off thinking we’re going to just throw him back onto the field. No less than anyone should expect.
Arsenal v. Bolton, Saturday 7am (PST)
On Bolton tomorrow, Wenger is cautious saying that the differences between teams in the league are very minimal and that as soon as you drop confidence or focus, you lose points. Of course, he doesn’t want Arsenal to suffer another setback and told us to expect this Arsenal team to come out strong and not let Bolton get any confidence.
This means scoring an early goal.
Wenger also warned about Davies, that he’s strong in the tackle, strong in the air, strong in the challenge and that we’ll need to contain him. Also with Nolan out Muamba will be left to patrol the midfield and seeing him clash with Song should be rather insightful. I always thought Muamba might make the Arsenal first team but having watched him play for Bolton I can see why he didn’t. Watch that matchup tomorrow and see how Song plays.
Wenger is also wary of Bolton new boy Johan Elmander, saying it looks like he has adapted well to the Premier League and is almost ready to settle in.
There’s a funny slip there at the end, where he’s asked about the Chelsea v. Man U match on Sunday and he talked about Arsenal needing to pick up the three points first and then this would be an opportunity for us to catch up to the “three teams” in front of us. The interviewer reminds him that there are four clubs and Arsene smiles and says “I mean four, four.”
I’m worried that it seems like he’s dismissing the Aston Villa threat outright. They are at least as much a threat to Arsenal as Tottenham was in the 2005/2006 season, so it’s dangerous to rule them out of the top four. Let’s hope that was just a one off slip.
And finally, Gary Megson had a moan in the press about how Arsene supposedly whines about Bolton’s playing style. In the interview I saw, Wenger simply stated that Bolton know how to disrupt Arsenal’s playing style and that it’s important for us to dictate the style of play or else Bolton will basically smash and grab and get away with some points. This isn’t moaning, this is a factual statement.
Nor is it moaning to point out that Bolton have the third worst disciplinary record as a squad and individually they have the top most disciplined footballer in the Premier League (Nolan, who is suspended for this match) and two other players who are in the top of the bad boys club (McCann and Steinsson). That’s not moaning, that’s making factual statements about a team that is a pack of dirty players. It would be like Arsenal saying that Bolton is moaning whenever they mention that RvP is a threat to score goals.
But my favorite moment of every Arsenal pre-match is when Bolton trot out the old “Kevin Davies is the most fouled player in the league” canard. Of course he is! He’s the most fouled player because he’s been the top fouling player in the league since, what, 1903? This is a player who commits, on average, 90 fouls a season, complaining that he receives fouls. It’s incredible to mean to hear them piss and moan about the number of fouls that Davies receives. To give you some perspective, Arsenal’s “Bad Boys” are Denilson (45 FC) and Song (35 FC), both of these players average less than 2 fouls per match while Davies is closer to 3 fouls per match.
All of which is beside the point. The point is that Kevin Cyrill Davies is a cunt and Bolton are objectively a dirty team. It’s not whinging to point that out, nor is it whinging to ask the refs to call the game fairly and to pay attention to the fact that Bolton are a dirty team.
ZOMG this is a long post, Tim.
Meh, it was a cool interview so I wanted to give you the meat of it. You’ll live.
Tomorrow’s match is live on Setanta, which always means a trip down to Doyle’s, so I expect to see a full house tomorrow — if not then I will disown you all. As for the blog, unless there is something special to report I will be skipping the 7am blog and instead give you a Good, Bad, and Ugly right after the match. So, look for a post around 11am PST tomorrow — or whenever it pops into your RSS feed.
One last thing, I’ve gotten a Twitter account for 7amkickoff stuff only (updates on Arsenal football club, etc. I’ll try not to tell you about my toilet breaks) and you should subscribe to my feed, if you’re into that sort of thing.
I’m trying to add the widget to this WordPress page but failing miserably so if you know how to add the widget please send me a PM (tooth.timmy.1each at that Google based email account) and help a brother out.
Right, see you tomorrow.