FTK Blog: Pause for thoughts...

With all this bad weather, it feels like an International break. So that gives bloggers like me a pause for thoughts. On the official club website there is an interesting article. Arsene Wenger is a pretty good judge of the number of points needed to win the Championship as he calls it. Arsenal have 18 games left, a maximum total of 54 points available. Arsene has said that 83 points will be enough this season, so this amounts to 11 wins and 8 draws needed for the title then! Much of Arsenal’s fortune will depend upon the ability of the defensive unit to keep clean sheets. I feel confident about games against the likes of Bolton, Hull, Wigan and Blackburn Rovers, and with our recent form a little more so against the likes of Sunderland, Birmingham and Everton.
That leaves the big games against Man United, Liverpool and Chelsea of course which could be the most likely draws. So we have to win our games against Wolves, Fulham, Stoke and Tottenham to get to eleven. but it is great to be in contention again. We must concentrate upon a focused strategy, and this is where Song’s absence from the team for a month could prove pivotal. Song has proven that he has the defensive antennae to make the holding midfield position his own. It will be interesting to see how Denilson adapts to this as it will prove to us all whether Denilson has what it takes. I am clear about my opinion, Denilson hasn’t got what it takes, he reacts and ball watches, he doesn’t anticipate, and significantly his pass distribution is average unless of course it is a sideways pass. Denilson’s long term role in the team will be decided over the next four weeks.
Tomas Rosicky and Diaby have new contracts and lets hope that their level of commitment does not decrease now that they have financial security. I am also pleased that Arsene Wenger will relax the 30+ veto on one year contracts that will enable Gallas to stay. We need his experience and it would be silly to let him leave the club upon a technicality. What is clear is that we have reduced the deficit of eleven points on Chelsea because whilst we have been winning, they have stumbled but it would be foolish to rely upon the other teams dropping points.
We need to continue winning our games especially at home and most of all we must not drop points against the lower placed teams. Unhappily this Arsenal team still lacks the tenacity and ruthlessness that would enable us to go into these fixtures with the kind of confidence needed for certain victory, and this is mainly because we continue to fail to understand the need for a consistently higher work rate. This is one of the laziest squads that I have seen for some time. The work rate of Song, Bendtner, Vermaelen and Gallas is good but the other team members need to up their desire. I hope that fans will make a lot of noise and lay their part. Happily Diaby works hard too and he puts good pressure on the ball, I believe during the next four weeks he will be very influential in midfield. However as a plan ‘B’ we still need pace down the flanks and until we can get in behind the defensive line of opposing teams, they will be confident to block our passing game by organizing two rows of four blocking the centre.
Teams hope that by parking ‘the bus’ in front of their 18 yard box they will stifle any progress in the final third. This where players like Samir Nasri will have to up their game and make more angled runs around the box with shots on target. I hope that Eduardo will start converting chances again soon following his dip in form. Theo Walcott will have to add passing players to his technique when he returns to fitness, if he is to make progress. I am not a fan of repeated step overs, but my assessment of Theo’s problems is that he gets to close to his marker before trying to dribble pass them. He needs to concentrate on basic dribbling skills with guile and intelligence.
Finally, Patrick Vieira is about to complete his move to Manchester City. He is to be given an 18 month contract and it will be interesting to see how he copes with the pace of the premiership with his ailing knees. Perhaps Manchester City will use him in the same way that Tottenham use Ledley King. I had hoped that he would have played holding midfielder for us, but clearly the player has financial needs that Manchester City will meet. Which leads me to the observation of the premiership teams who are in dire financial problems with their debts. I have to wonder why the Premier League refuses to get its house in order as it is only a matter of time before one of these premiership teams goes into administration.
Portsmouth look certain candidates with the tax man knocking on the doors, but similarly there are apparently similar concerns about the long term viability of West Ham and Hull City. It makes Arsene Wenger’s prudence very wise as we hear that Liverpool and Manchester United are the teams that will have to sell before buying in future. So for Gooners, the transfer market continues to be a waiting game. With no real news, because of games being played by agents and the club. Niklas Bendtner is due to have a fitness test this Friday and frankly I am shocked that Arsene Wenger is making noises that his transfer plans depend on the Dane’s fitness.
The speculation over Carlton Cole is worthy of attention. Is Carlton Cole the one player that would fit into our team? I am not sure, he certainly has the technical skills and finishing that ought to make him a good striker with the kind of supply that Arsenal’s midfield could provide. His first touch is better than Bendtner’s in my view  and he has real pace which is the one area that lets Niklas Bendtner down. He also has good aerial ability, so lets wait and see. I am still of the view that we need a world class striker, but the chaleenge is where to find one that is not cup tied for the Champions League and is able to deal with the intensity and number of games that the final half of the season provides.

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