Some very good news to kick things off today.
The word on the street that Samir Nasri is recovering well from minor knee surgery and could be back in the squad for our next game, against Bolton at The Emirates on September 11.
The bad news is that as I type that I realise there is still eight days until the next Arsenal game. Bah.
But back on Nasri, his impending return is obviously very good news, although I do hope Arsene Wenger refrains from bringing him back before he is 100% ready. We have absolutely no personnel problems in midfield at the moment and it would be criminal to rush Nasri back when there are plenty of players available who can get the job done.
Personally I think Nasri is going to have a hard job getting his spot back in this team. Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song are both nailed-on starters, Abou Diaby had a terrific game against Blackburn when allowed a more creative role and Tomas Rosicky has been one of the most impressive performers this season, albeit mostly from the bench.
I said before the season that there was uncertainty about the role that Nasri might play in this season and it will be interesting to see how things pan out for him.
Meanwhile our other two major injury worries at the moment, Robin van Persie and Nicklas Bendtner, are both expected to be out for some time yet, leaving the striking duties largely up to Marouane Chamakh. It’s a precarious situation for a new player to be in but fingers crossed his wiry body can hold up.
Turning to the other end of the pitch now and everybody’s favourite attacking defender Thomas Vermaelen has stated that he is more concerned about keeping clean sheets than he is about scoring goals.
“I know the fans are expecting goals from me and I hope I can score some this year but for me it is not the most important thing. It sounds silly but as a defender you are happier after a 6-0 win with the clean sheet than if you have scored one goal but you concede two.”
Which makes sense: he is an attacking defender not a defending attacker like Alan Smith or Park Ji Sung (or some would argue, Nicklas Bendtner) after all.
Vermaelen also goes on to say:
“Maybe for some people they are not happy to hear that but for me the most important thing is to defend and to defend as a team as well, and then we will get further as a team. If we defend first then we can win games. After that we will see.”
It was fairly obvious that defending as a team was our biggest problem last season, so it is good to hear Vermaelen making this sort of comment. As fortunate as we have been to be treated to superb attacking football over Wenger’s tenure as a manager, good defending is the foundation of successful modern football teams and is the area of the park that has needed most improvement in the off-season.
On a personal note, Vermaelen faces an interesting season going forward. Promoted from deputy to William Gallas to the leader in the defensive line, Vermaelen has an opportunity to assert his personality on the players around him and enforce this mentality on his fellow defenders.
He is a natural leader of men and obviously has the respect of his teammates, unlike Gallas before him, so it will be interesting to see how his teammates respond to the inspiring, hard-working Belgian.
One player who could benefit significantly is Manuel Almunia, who always appeared to be on edge with Gallas but shares a far better relationship with Vermaelen. As always, it will be interesting to see how things pan out.
And that is about it for today. I’m off to put a shirt on and grab some coffee.
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