Continuity before big signings
In the wake of Arsenal’s excellent 3-1 victory over Portsmouth on Sunday, Brazilian midfielder Gilberto Silva has commented that he believes his club do not have to spend big money to have success this season. Manager Arsene Wenger brought in four first team players over the summer – Lukasz Fabianski, Eduardo da Silva, Bacary Sagna and Lassana Diarra – but all came at a relatively cheap cost as the club actually made more money than they spent. However, Gilberto believes that the continuity in the squad may turn out to be the biggest factor in determining if Arsenal are successful this season.
“Yes Arsenal haven’t spent a lot of money. But we have been playing together for a few years. That makes a difference in the game because we all know each other – if I pass to Cesc he knows exactly where the forwards will be. Other clubs have made very good signings and sometimes it can make a very big difference for them but we just need to concentrate on how we play.”
You really have to take off your hat to Gilberto for these comments. He looked a certainty to be named captain of the team after Thierry Henry’s exit and despite missing out on that honour it is clear he wants to be a positive influence on the rest of the players. When you see the likes of Mathieu Flamini, Cesc Fabregas and Tomas Rosicky celebrating the Czech’s goal against Portsmouth the way they did you just sense that there is a real sense of camaraderie in the current squad, something that may have been wrecked by bringing in a big name player. Wenger’s way is usually to bring young players through so that they learn the Arsenal style and the results in the first six games of this season have given enough indication to suggest that the club can fight for the title this season.
I remember watching the team back in 2001/02 when they went on a phenomenal late run to win the Premiership and how happy I was with the way the boys played as such a team. There was great respect in the way that everyone fit into the side and you could see this by the way that big saves and tackles were appreciated by the forwards and the way that the goals were celebrated by the whole team. There was no player running off beating his chest and yelling at the away fans, it was just a group of friends enjoying their successes together. I think a lot of this changed as Henry became bigger and even more important to the side than he was in his earlier years, but I’m happy to see things returning to the way they once were.
A belated welcome to Diarra
Arsenal’s newest signing Lassana Diarra has revealed that despite the interest from many clubs both in England and abroad, he had no intention to play for anyone but Arsenal. The French midfielder signed a three-year deal on the final day of the transfer window and revealed that he chose Arsenal over the likes of Tottenham and Lyon because it was the only club he would leave Chelsea for.
“I didn’t hesitate because Arsenal was the only club I wanted to join. It was Arsenal or nothing. Other teams contacted me, but I knew what I wanted. Chelsea knew I wanted to join The Gunners.”
It’s obviously good to hear that Diarra really wanted to join Arsenal and you have to put that down to Wenger and the French connection at the club. There were also whispers that William Gallas had a good chat with young Diarra and if that’s the case then I think the captain has done a good job in recruiting a player that has improved the current Arsenal squad. I actually don’t think I’ve ever seen Diarra play so it would be misleading for me give my opinion on the signing but judging from some of the comments by the readers of Blue Champions about him leaving it would seem that Wenger has conducted another excellent piece of business. Below is a particularly encouraging sample:
“He likes to move around the pitch more than a Gilberto or Makelele. He is naturally an all-action kind of player. Even at right back for us he was flying up and down the flank. He is very quick, or at least appeared to be.”
“Diarra has pace, is agile and strong. If you’ve watched him play you’d know he gets tight to opponents and sticks to them. The kind of players fans appreciate, works hard and is actually very good technique-wise.”
“Diarra is a pure talent, he will become a player like Makelele in future. You will see a lot from him in Arsenal.”
Sounds good to me. I think Wenger has shown this season how much he values versatility in his players. At one stage against Pompey there were six players on the field who would consider their best position to be central midfield but the were playing everywhere from right back to left wing. Wenger seems very concerned with ensuring that his players can play multiple positions and the signing of Diarra seems to fit what he wants in a player at this point in time.
When you consider that Abou Diaby is being used more as an attacking midfielder, Diarra would appear to be the only player other than Gilberto that could be classified as a defensive midfielder. Mathieu Flamini is a battler and Fabregas and Denilson are certainly more attacking, so I would think that Wenger is hoping that Diarra can make enough progress to one day challenge for the defensive midfield position at the club. He’s only 22 and that challenge may take some time but all-in-all, I am delighted to see the Frenchman join Arsenal, not because of what I’ve seen from him, but because I trust Wenger’s judgment. It was the same when Eduardo and Sagna joined and based on the quality of their performances thus far I think we can expect good things from Diarra.
The Champions League Draw
I decided to hold back on my thoughts of this until Sevilla played their second leg against AEK Athens but after the Spaniards trounced the Greeks 4-1 away to win 6-1 on aggregate I can now announce that Arsenal will go into Group H in the Champions League along with Sevilla, Steau Bucharest and Slavia Prague. In the post I made just before the draw I mentioned that the weakest combination was probably Benfica, Steau Bucharest and Slavia Prague, so to get drawn with two out of the three is definitely very lucky. In all reality Arsenal should breeze through the group with Sevilla providing the only real test. The death of Antonio Peurta will linger over all of the Spanish side’s matches and in that regard I’m happy we’re playing them now rather than in an emotionally-charged quarter-final. As for Steau and Slavia, they are two of the weakest sides in the competition and if Arsenal can’t get past them then they don’t deserve to make the knockout stages.
Just having a quick look at the other groups, the top two in Spain got a pretty raw deal as Real Madrid were grouped with Olympiacos, Lazio and Werder Bremen whilst Barcelona copped the group of death which also contains Lyon, Stuttgart and Rangers. The Champions League is probably my favourite footballing competition and I absolutely cannot wait for Arsenal’s first game at home to Sevilla on the 19th of September. UEFA Champions League Fantasy Football will also be up and running soon and due to the great success of the Arsenal FC Blog Fantasy Premier League I’ll definitely be setting up a Champions League edition. That’s all for now.
What do you think?
Have your say on Gilberto, Diarra or the Champions League draw by leaving a comment.