It’s been a quiet week so far for Arsenal as they prepare for the weekend Premiership clash with Fulham. There’s no midweek game to worry about for Arsene Wenger and his side and for that reason a lot of the comments coming from the club are still focused on the weekend draw with Birmingham. The manager has been quite candid about his side’s performance and backed that up with a very interesting point yesterday.
“We were caught in the feeling, during the game, that it would be easy and that’s a good lesson for us. In 22 games this season we have played well in 21 of them. Now we want to come back to what we really are.”
I guess the thing that’s most interesting about that statement is that Arsenal have not played well in every other game apart from the Birmingham one. From a footballing perspective Arsenal were dreadful in the loss to Middlesbrough and there have been other poor performances, against Portsmouth and Newcastle among others.
The manager is always quick to defend his side when they put in 100% effort and a good performance does not eventuate but judging by these comments he’s not convinced that his side put in maximum effort against Birmingham. Complacency is not something that any manager would want their side to display and it’s clear by his words that it is something he feels Arsenal showed on Saturday.
One player who could rarely be described as being complacent is Gael Clichy. By all reports he was one of the standout performers against Birmingham, however the French left-back was quick to agree with his manager’s assessment of Arsenal’s attitude towards the game. Clichy admitted that he and his teammates were not switched on after half-time for the goal that Birmingham scored despite some clear words of warning from Wenger, but also emphasised that Arsenal have not lost their focus and are looking forward to the task ahead.
“When you concede a goal at the start of the second half from a set-piece, you have to say we were not ready from the off. The boss warned us about that at half-time and so there was really a sense of disappointment. We are still there for the title and we are going to show that against Fulham in the next match.”
The feeling I get from most Arsenal supporters just now is that the boys need to dish out a bit of a belting to Fulham to force the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea and indeed the smaller clubs in the England to sit up and take notice. While I don’t think it’s an absolute necessity I do agree that it would strike some much-needed fear into the little sides. At this point in time there’s no doubt that Manchester United have a psychological hold on the smaller clubs in the Premiership. Indeed, it seems just now like the sides they’re playing are already defeated mentally before they step out on the pitch.
A big win against Fulham could certainly do Arsenal some good. But in truth, any sort of win and a good performance would keep me happy.
English talent on the way
Other interesting bits of news from the past couple of days have all come from the mouth of the manager. For the launch of Arsenal TV yesterday Wenger was asked some questions about the state of the youth setup at the club and came back with the somewhat astonishing response that it may be possible for the club to field an all-English starting team in the future. As he also adds though, for now that’s just not possible.
“Maybe 80 per cent of the academy are English and 20 per cent are foreign. I would prefer to field English players [but] you want the club to be successful. At the moment we thought it was not possible for different reasons.”
The main reason of course is that at the moment English players are far too overpriced. This is an issue that has been discussed in a lot of detail by numerous people over the past few months and it’s not something I’m going to go into now. Although I am Australian and have no real affiliation to the English national team I do feel that clubs do have a responsibility to nurture players of the same nationality of the league they play in, so it’s good to hear Arsenal’s academy has so many young English players. Hopefully this will keep the media off Wenger and the club’s back for a little while.
Last but not least today is the news that Wenger went to some effort to sign David Beckham back in 2004. The approach was made at the time when Beckham was struggling to make an impression in his first season in Spain with Real Madrid but in the end the Englishman decided to stay.
It’s a bit of tale of what could’ve been, I feel. In my eyes Beckham is the only truly world-class player England have produced in the past decade and his crossing ability would have added a new dimension to Arsenal’s game at the time. Given his injuries over the past few years it’s difficult to tell how much of a success he could have become but at the end of the day he stayed in Madrid and speculating is not really worth it.
That’s it for today. Before I go I just want to give another quick shout out to the Arsenal FC Blog’s major sponsor, Arseshirts. For those of you who haven’t checked their site out in a while, they’ve added a new section where you can customise your own Arsenal gear and it’s really quite clever. If you get the chance I’d encourage you to have a play around and see what you can come up with. More tomorrow then.
What do you think?
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