FC Dynamo Kyiv have their own injury worries as they face an Arsenal side with 8 first team members injured. Defender Olexandr Romanchuk suffered a break of both bones in his left left whilst playing in a Ukrainian Cup quarter-final match. Other players absent include Midfielder Miloš Ninkovi?, centre-back Taras Mikhalik and goalkeeper Olexandr Shovkovskiy, however Dynamo can look forward to the return of influential midfielder Carlos Corrêa and his playing partner Oleh Gusev. The one all draw in Ukraine flattered Dynamo in my opinion, and I expect this Arsenal side to complete qualification to the group stages with a focused performance. It is a pity that Dynamo will be the sacrificial lambs as Arsenal seek to inform the world that they remain a force to be reckoned with. The group table is as follows.
|FC Dynamo Kyiv||4||1||2||1||3||3||5|
One victory will ensure qualification and the healthy goal difference, Porto would need two victories to go through as group winners. Arsenal have more than enough quality to obtain a draw in their final group match. My prediction for tonight? Arsenal 3 Dynamo 1.
Tonight will see Cesc Fabregas lead out the side as captain. A great honour for the 21 yr old, and an appointment that appears to put an end to speculation that he will be leaving the club in the next 12 months. I was intrigued by Arsene Wenger’s comments that he does see the role of captain as important. I think that the concept of shared leadership is fine when we are referring to experienced team members, from 23yrs upwards, but given the average age of the Arsenal squad, I have to disagree again with Arsene Wenger.
In fact the more I think about it, the more I see the problems at Arsenal being down to Arsene Wenger’s almost political approach to running the team. I argue this from the same premise that got Willie Gallas into trouble. How can we have the same wage bill as the likes of Manchester United, but without three players costing £30 million? This does confirm that many young players are being over paid in my view for a comfort zone that may breed not only complacency in terms of performance, but also disrespect in terms of discipline.
I recall the likes of Niklas Bendtner making waves, suggesting that if he wasn’t played more then he might seek a transfer. Well this seems a bit rich after his very poor performances, when we needed the strikers to deliver. I then recalled the first Emirates trophy competition when he missed several easy chances. His loan spell at Birmingham hardly lit up the Championship, and my worry is that players like Bendtner have been persuaded by high salaries that they are already superstars. In short they are believing their own hype. Much of those flaws I lay at the door of the manager responsible for the players. In short Arsene Wenger is inconsistent with his treatment of players. The Arsene Wenger doctrine of a “no blame culture” means that we do not dent confidence, but does it encourage players to take full responsibility? recent performances suggest not. Why else would Arsene have persisted in selecting an out of form Denilson and Bendtner…
There have been several acts of indiscipline upon the field of play that I am sure that Gooners recall. The finger wagging of Bendtner in his captain’s face after the head butt from Adebayor. The refusal of Alex Song to respond to the pleas of Kolo Toure during a free kick was another example. In short there are several members of this squad who need a reality check and this must come from the manager. To give some of these spoilt young players more influence by suggesting that they also have leadership qualities on the field of play is in my view flawed. This why I said that I had sympathy for the outburst of Gallas, but to do it in public was very very wrong.
Players of experience they are not, playing for the badge until they drop they will not. They know who they are, and Cesc Fabregas and Gael Clichy are not among them. I fear that until Arsene Wenger abandons this quaint form of egalitarianism, the problems will remain. It almost like a parent that is no longer able to physically punish a child. The parent is left to reason maturely with an immature individual. It is like the lunatics being in charge of their own asylum. So until several members of this squad are convinced that playing for the shirt is the most important act that they must perform when they are selected, then I believe that we will continue to be inconsistent. Talented and brilliant they are, but winners? Not yet, so a little less arrogance and more application is required.
If you take this blog as being another criticism of Arsene Wenger, then you would be right, because unless he reaffirms the principles that lead him to winning two doubles and several other trophies with players who are much younger, I fear that we will miss out on fourth place. However, I have not lost my faith in the greatest manager of this famous club, and neither do I want to heed calls for him to go. I only hope that the respect that he has for Gallas combined with the lack of results on the field, forces him to be much firmer with those young charges who are really not pulling their weight. One thing that we all learn from life, is that sometimes we have to relearn and reapply those principles that gave us success. Perhaps now Arsene has to accept that his faith and loyalty to some of his players was perhaps misplaced and make the changes accordingly.
Fabregas the King.