Quite a few Arsenal players have been in a chatty mood after the important victory over Chelsea on the weekend.
Newly-returned striker Robin van Persie kicks things off today with the admission that he believes the two beaten sides on ‘Grand Slam Sunday’ (what a joke, by the way), Chelsea and Liverpool are not out of the title race yet. Van Persie believes that both clubs have the quality to fight back and challenge, a point of view that I strongly agree with. It’s strange to see so many people, such as Richard Jolly at Soccernet, ruling the likes of Liverpool out of the title race at this stage. After all they’re only seven points off the pace at the moment and I guarantee that if Manchester United were in second, seven points away from Arsenal then there’s no way they would be written off in the same way. They have a strong squad and all it takes is a slip-up or two from the leading pair for Liverpool to be right back in it.
If anything, it’s Chelsea who look likely of slipping away from top spot. Althought they put in a fine performance against Arsenal and may have even snuck a point on another day, signs do not look good with John Terry out for six weeks and the likes of Salomon Kalou, John Obi Mikel, Didier Drogba and Michael Essien all unavailable during the African Cup of Nations. I refuse to write Chelsea out of the title race but with their player situation looking bleak I feel that out of the ‘big four’, they’re the side most likely to slip away a little bit. I would even go so far to say that I could forgive Manchester City for licking their lips at the potential of playing in the Champions League next season. Only time will tell.
Moving on and Kolo Toure has also been vocal about the improvements his side has made in the defensive side of the game, tipping his hat to the attacking players at the club for giving the backline more support through an improvement in their workrate.
“For me I think we’re defending altogether better. It starts from the strikers. They are working harder than last season.”
It’s great to hear and it’s absolutely right. Emmanuel Adebayor is often criticised for his sometimes wayward approach to goal-getting but I have said time and time again that his contribution is more than just goals and Toure has outlined this fact again. Adebayor is a workhorse up front and the pressure that he applies along with other attacking midfielders like Alexander Hleb, Tomas Rosicky and Cesc Fabregas means that the defence often have little to do.
I remember reading a comment that an opposition supporter left on the blog a little bit earlier in the season and they said -in quite a negative way, mind you – that the Arsenal defence was a weakness and the only reason why they were looking so good was that the dynamism in the midfield meant they were rarely tested. In other words, stop the Arsenal midfield and our defence will be found wanting. Now, I do agree with that to a certain extent but I have to say that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Any defence in the world will struggle if the rest of the side don’t put in defensively and it’s clear that the midfield and attacking players are doing everything in their power to support the defence.
A fresh attitude
Along with the attackers efforts, perhaps the key to Arsenal’s defensive stability this season has been the introduction of Mathieu Flamini as the side’s resident ‘Gattuso’. Flamini has won a lot of fans over with his ‘heart-on-the-sleeve’ attitude and will have lost none of them with the recent admission that he is more focused on ensuring Arsenal keep winning over the current month as opposed to signing a new deal.
“I am happy here, but I am a free agent in January. We have so many games in December, so it is very difficult to be concentrated on this kind of thing as we are playing every three days. I am just focused on every game and for the contract, we will see a bit later.”
What an attitude. It’s a far cry from the money-hungry one that players like Ashley Cole show on a regular basis and just outlines the wonderful character this guy brings to the team. I’ve never been involved in the sort of negotiations that football players would get involved with – alas, I’m no professional footballer – but for Flamini to be more worried about getting his head right to help the side rather than worrying about his paycheck just shows what type of guy he is. I know Arseblogger as well as virtually every other Arsenal supporter under the sun wants Flamini secured to the club as soon as possible for as long as possible but after the Frenchman’s recent comments I’d be happy to wait a little longer.
There is a football match to be played today, the Carling Cup quarter-final away to Blackburn Rovers. As per usual, Arsene Wenger will be blooding in the youngsters and that means a multitude of changes from the side that played Chelsea. I’m not even going to attempt to predict the team that starts but I would expect the likes of Theo Walcott, Nicklas Bendtner and Eduardo da Silva to appear. It will be interesting to see whether Lassana Diarra starts after his recent comments about leaving the club; Wenger certainly has a decision to make there. Either way, it’s going to be a tough one and it wouldn’t surprise me if a very strong Blackburn side knocked Arsenal out of the Cup today. It also wouldn’t surprise me if the youngsters cruised through so in saying that, I’ll go for a win on penalties to Arsenal.
Oh, and before you go, check this out. Trust me when I say it will put a smile on your face, if it hasn’t already done.
What do you think?
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