It seems like the entire Arsenal squad has had something positive to say in the aftermath of their seven-goal demolition of Slavia Prague.
The man who has been in all the headlines after scoring twice in his first start of the season is 18-year-old striker Theo Walcott and he had some things to say about being compared to Thierry Henry. Walcott is blessed with the same pace as his former teammate and the second goal he scored against Slavia was typical of an Henry in full flight. Despite this, Walcott was quick to distance himself from the Frenchman and empasised that he is very much his own man.
“People are going to compare the second goal to Thierry but it was my own goal. People are always going to compare me to Thierry – the way I run and everything – but as I keep saying I will be my own player.”
And so he should be. The comparisons with Henry will always exist but as long as Walcott does not feel burdened by them he will continue to develop well. If he can be even half the player that Henry was in his prime then I think the fans will be pretty happy with that. Unlike a couple of readers of the blog, I wasn’t expecting Arsene Wenger to start Walcott up front on Tuesday night and it was just great to see him play so well and grab a couple of goals. It will be interesting to see whether Wenger continues with Walcott against Liverpool on the weekend. I have an inkling that he may revert back to Eduardo da Silva for the unpredictability factor but whoever it turns out to be, I’m confident they can get the job done.
Strikers in a positive mood
The one player who will almost definitely start up front against Liverpool is the ever-reliable Emmanuel Adebayor. The big man had another good game against Slavia Prague despite failing to get on the scoresheet, and spoke about the importance of the team over any one player.
“For me I think it’s one of the best performances we have made, playing the way we did and enjoying ourselves. The most important thing is for the team to win. No matter if it is me that gets injured or like Robin has done, the players that come in have to do something special.”
Regular readers of the blog know how much I like Adebayor and this type of comment just makes me smile. For him to be so happy with performance after a game in which his side scored seven goals and he did not even get one says a lot about his mentality towards the rest of his team. It also suggests that he knows his role in the team is not just about goalscoring, but about working hard to create opportunities for the players around him, something he again did well against Slavia.
Another player who has been waxing lyrical about Arsenal’s squad, albeit before injuring his knee, was Robin van Persie. The Dutch striker recorded an interview with Sport Magazine before his injury and revealed that he believes the current Arsenal team is the best that he has played for.
“The present team is by far the best I’ve ever played in. Most analysis bases quality on status but we have a good young team without status or years of experience. We’re technically tremendously good.”
The way he talks sometimes you get the impression that he’s about to explode with pride about the club he plays for. Even despite the obvious bias, he does touch on a nice point about the tendency for football analysts to judge sides based on their reputation or status rather than the actual quality of the players. When you consider that van Persie came to the club when the likes of Henry, Bergkamp, Pires and Ljungberg were all still part of the side you realise how big a compliment he is making about his current teammates. Whether they can turn their technical ability into trophies remains to be seen but if the side can continue to build on their good start then they have every chance of doing so.
The great goalkeeper debate
One man who is proving more important to the side than many people would have expected at the start of the season is Manuel Almunia. He has played twelve games so far this season and kept a remarkable nine clean sheets during his time in goal, despite constant criticism from his goalkeeping rival and “teammate” Jens Lehmann. Almunia responded to Lehmann’s latest comments and spoke about how much he has been enjoying his time as Arsenal’s starting goalkeeper.
“If I read the papers and listen to what other people say about me and all these things I will turn crazy. I don’t want that. When I’m playing well I honestly don’t mind other things. Now for me life is fantastic and I want to take my chance.”
There are still many people that doubt Almunia’s ability to perform at the top level but after his good performances and Lehmann’s comments there is certainly no reason why he should be dropped at the moment. There is a high probability that Lehmann will be out of the club when the transfer window reopens and if that’s the case then Arsene Wenger will have to bring a third goalkeeper to the club. The big query will be whether or not he believes Almunia has what it takes to be first-choice on a long-term basis and if he not, it will be interesting to see who Wenger brings in.
The suggestion has been made that Almunia could continue as number one for the rest of this season and then Lukasz Fabianski could take over a year later. If that is the case then I doubt Wenger will break the bank to bring in a superior goalkeeper to the other two. If he believes that Almunia isn’t good enough on a long-term basis (as many readers of the blog would agree) and Fabianski is not quite ready yet, then a top notch goalkeeper will need to be purchased. If he brings in a top quality goalkeeper then it could force Fabianski into playing the waiting game for longer than he may have originally expected. Either way, a lot will depend upon Lehmann’s reaction to the recent comments made by Wenger and the performances of Almunia. If the Spaniard can produce the goods against Liverpool and Manchester United in the coming weeks then the picture will no doubt be a lot clearer – and it won’t look good for Lehmann or indeed, perhaps, Fabianski.
What do you think?
Have your say on today’s post by leaving a comment.