Hello again – hope you’re doing well.
It was quite a day on the blog yesterday as many, many people had their say on everything from the possibility of Arsenal finishing fifth to Arsene Wenger’s team selections to the effectiveness of the Song/Denilson midfield partnership. It was an excellent debate, perhaps the best that this blog has seen in it’s almost two-year existence.
However, judging by the some of the responses to yesterday’s post, I do feel that a few people have missed the point I was trying to make about Song and Denilson in particular. As such, before I move onto the daunting task that is Roma in the Champions League, I just want to clarify what I was trying to say about our current midfield partnership.
First things first I want to make it clear that I am by no means happy with a Denilson/Song partnership in the middle. In my opinion they are both decent players who could develop well if paired with an outstanding partner – someone like Cesc Fabregas – but together they are not a good combination. I feel that neither player has the pace nor the ability to cut through the opposition defence in the same way that the likes of Fabregas or Samir Nasri do and as such pairing them together means our midfield is very defensive and devoid of any creativity.
In a perfect world I would never play the pair together. They are too inexperienced and lack the personality to stamp their authority in the way that Fabregas and Mathieu Flamini did last season. My opinion is that while Song is not necessarily the better footballer, he is the better defensive option of the pair and in a situation where the entire squad was fit my preference would be to see him partner Cesc in the middle. I know people will disagree with me but I just see more in him than I see in Denilson at this stage of their respective careers.
The point I was trying to make yesterday was that given the club’s current situation – with Fabregas and Abou Diaby both out – we have been forced to play both youngsters together in the middle. The manager has to cop a fair amount of the blame for this situation arising, but I’m sick of blaming people for something that can’t be fixed until the end of the season and I’d rather simply talk about what we can do rather than what we should have done.
I made the comment yesterday that I thought Denilson and Song did the best that could be reasonably asked of them against Sunderland; they won the midfield battle. Although they did not run the opposition ragged with their movement and passing they did ensure that we had virtually all the possession from towards the end of the first half until the end of the match.
As a result, it placed the ball firmly in Arsene Wenger’s court with regards to throwing caution to the wind and making the changes necessary to break down a hugely negative Sunderland side. My gripe, as I tried to make clear yesterday, was that the manager did not take this option. He replaced Andrey Arshavin like-for-like with Carlos Vela but waited until just over ten minutes to go before he replaced Song. In my mind, a very poor decision and won that severely reduced our chances of winning the game.
Now these were the points I was trying to make yesterday. Somehow it turned out like I was lording Song and Denilson as the future of the Arsenal Football Club, something I really don’t believe. To be frank I’ve never seen Denilson show that he has what it takes to be a success at Arsenal while although I feel Song is doing reasonably well, he’s certainly not at the same level that Flamini was last season. Improvements could and should have been made in this area both at the start of the season and during the January transfer window. But they weren’t and this is what we’ve got, and I have to say I don’t really see the point in complaining too much more about it.
Anyway, that’s all I’m going to say on that matter. I’m hoping I don’t come across as being too self-indulgent or defensive, but I just feel that this matter in particular requires some clarification. I generally like to stay positive on this blog but I sincerely feel that I’m also not the type of supporter who glosses over the negatives to make life easier. Anyone who has read this blog for a decent period of time will surely agree.
OK so, onto Roma.
To begin with, let me say that I’m delighted that there is football so soon after the Sunderland game. It means there is very little time for any doubts to creep into the squad from Saturday nor supporters’ frustrations to get out of control. It’s also another opportunity for the Arsenal boys to grab a goal, something that has been missing from the last few outings bar the 4-0 win over Cardiff.
My feelings going into this game are similar to those I feel before most Champions League first-leg ties; a mix of excitement, expectation and fear. Excitement because these games are usually wonderful fun, expectation because a positive result will see us with one foot in the quarter-finals and fear because… well… it could be all over for yet another season.
In terms of a contest I feel that Arsenal and Roma are very evenly matched. Although I’ve not seen much of the Italian side this season they have quality players all over the pitch; Doni in goals, Juan and Mexes at the back, Taddei and De Rossi in the middle and of course Totti, Baptista and Vucinic up front. Mirko Vucinic in particular scares me as absolutely every time I watch that guy play he seems to perform out of his skin and grab a goal. I rate him as a top, top player and should he start then our defence will need to keep a real eye on him.
In terms of the players we have available, if I was manager I’d probably go for a 4-5-1 tomorrow despite it being a home game. With Wenger no doubt set to start Denilson and Song in the middle I would probably drop Nicklas Bendtner and go for a supporting cast of Carlos Vela, Abou Diaby out wide and Samir Nasri to play a floating role behind van Persie up front. In terms of getting a positive result I think it’s the only way we can improve the fluidity between our midfield and attack and if we’re struggling to get a goal, it still leaves Bendtner and Eboue *sigh* as options off the bench.
There’s no real point trying to predict the result of tomorrow’s game – the unpredictability of Arsenal’s season renders it impossible – but I would be happy to come away with any sort of win. 1-0, 2-1, I’d even take 3-2. Unlike last season against AC Milan I don’t think a 0-0 draw will be good enough to take back to Italy so I would like to see the boys give absolutely everything they’ve got to ensure they grab a first-leg lead.
That’s all for today though. Here’s to a decent performance and result under difficult circumstances at the Emirates tonight. And if you’re lucky enough to be at the game, much sure the Italians here about it!
Thanks for reading.
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