Good afternoon to you all from a very sunny Brisbane and a very chirpy blogger. It’s a public holiday for Brisbane tomorrow so as soon as this goes online I’ll be off to have a few drinks and put my feet up.
It’s a tale of two defenders today as our younger centre-backs compete for a place alongside William Gallas for the first game of the season.
Arsene Wenger has revealed that Thomas Vermaelen – who missed the last three pre-season fixtures with a slight groin problem – is ready to return for the first fixture of the season at Goodison Park on Saturday. Whether or not he is chosen ahead of Johan Djourou is still to be decided and the Swiss centre-back has once again been talking up his chances of making a big impact on the team this season. In his own words he said:
“I signed for Arsenal when I was only 16 so it’s been a good learning process. Centre back is an experienced position, you’ve got all those big players and you can play until you are late in your age, so I think you have to be patient. Now I am 22 and you can see that I have learned a lot. For me that has been fantastic and now it is time for me to step up.”
Granted he stays injury-free I think Djourou is set for a big season with Arsenal. It’s obvious the manager is pinning his hopes on the Swiss stopper stepping up considerably in this campaign and I think he will do so admirably. At this stage I’d suggest he is the #3 centre-back in the club after William Gallas and new signing Vermaelen, but I think the Belgian’s slight injury will hand Djourou a starting spot against Everton and it will be up to him to make the most of this opportunity.
Although I think we have an excellent defensive trio of Gallas, Vermaelen and Djourou I am of the strong opinion that we need to strengthen in either central defence or central midfield to give us the options we need. At this stage Alex Song is our only real option as the defensive pivot of our new-look three-man midfield and I do get a sense from Wenger’s comments that he feels he can do a job at the back as well.
The trouble is that he can’t rely on Song to be both a central midfielder and centre-back without bringing in adequate cover to make the most of his versatility. As such, I still feel a defensive midfielder needs to be brought in to give us more options and depth in the defensive areas of the pitch even despite Wenger’s admission that he is unlikely to bring in any new players before the season starts. While it might not happen before the Everton game I’d wager a hefty bet that it will before the transfer window shuts at the end of the month.
Changing the tune now and Manuel Almunia has been talking about the possibility of him playing for England after Manchester United goalkeeper Ben Foster’s latest injury setup. Rather cleverly, Almunia is taking a softly, softly approach to the option of playing for England with these comments:
“I have to see what people think because it’s not an easy decision. I’m 32 so I don’t want any problems with anyone. This is not a silly thing. You are playing with the hearts of people. It [an England cap] is not something you can buy in a shop. I don’t want to disturb anybody. I want to make everybody happy.”
I think Almunia should be applauded for the way he is approaching this situation. It’s clear he has an understanding of how people are going to react and he’s obviously putting a lot of thought into the decision of whether or not to become an English citizen. Personally I’m not sure if I’d like Almunia to play for England – it would only intensify the media scrutiny, after all – but if he decides it what he wants to do then who are we to stop him?
Anyway, I’m going to leave it there for today. I realise there’s been no guest post today but I felt like we needed a bit of a catch-up and I’ve saved the article for tomorrow. Have a lovely Tuesday then.
Have your say on Djourou, Vermaelen, or Almunia by leaving a comment.