All my previous post here have been written bent down, lubed up, and hoping Arsene might if I stay loyal enough. No dice though – what has the world come to when you cant get a bugger off a French man? So disheartened, with sacre bleu quickly followed by c’est la vi, I figured to just be honest; no more secret personal agenda. So here is my genuine appraisal of our current squad and where I think we will measure up against the other big 4 this year.
Goalkeeper: Manuel does not fill me with confidence. That said he played a near flawless season last year, maybe could have made more saves, but there were few to no errors and that is rare. Cech used to be a clear but distant third best goalkeeper in the world, but not since his injury. He make mistakes now and in big games. Reina is probably the best keeper here, although he can’t save beach balls against manure. Van der Sar is good, but old. He had a good season last year, but I wouldn’t be ecstatic with him in goal, nor surprised if his job is in jeopardy come the seasons end. Overall the standard of goalkeepers is not what it was when Seaman and Schmiechel were playing. Fabianski looks a very good back up goalie, probably the best in the league actually, Cudicini is not a footy player anymore. Manuel we will have to wait and see on, but he hasn’t failed us yet, if we say that again in a year all will be well.
Defence: Of the big 4 last year, Utd and Chelsea had the best balance, Liverpool were too defensive and we were too attacking. Part of that is a team effort, Liverpool draw so many because they rely solely on Gerrard and Torres for attack, they play that naff right-back Kuyt somewhere nominally near the half way for Christ sake, and that’s when they feel adventurous. We need to be more “mischievous” as Sagna put it, play tactically, close a game out, and alter the tempo more to suit us. Chelsea of course need to play some football, manure are the model to aspire to in terms of team play, that is why they are champions, it is also why I think we should play a more fluid 4-3-3 system.
In terms of personnel how do we look? A little better than last year, but maybe not enough, that is the worry. Song has come through the ranks and looks a quality player. Silvestre has replaced Senderos and if nothing else the experience should help. Djourou looks better also. However the first choice pair have question marks over their partnership, so badly exposed at the end of last season. That said they were superb early last year and Toure was clearly not himself after the ACN, whilst their collective malaise only mirrored that of the team.
Compared to our competitors we look good in terms of depth, less than the Chavs but better than Utd or the kleptomaniacs. Our top line needs to find its form though. (Watch John Terry this season, he is on the slide in a big way.) Again question marks, but Toure and Gallas both on form is a formidable partnership.
Midfield: With everyone fit, I think this is a brilliant, mesmeric unit. Nasri is a better player than Hleb, swagger, shots, end product, and he can look after himself. Rosiky is quality, Walcott is a good understudy and getting better game on game. Diaby is the unknown quantity, but I think he looks special, if the kid stays fit there is a dominant midfielder at the highest level – comparisons to Vieira are obvious, I honestly think they are warranted to. Those injuries are an issue though. Song and Denilson are both very good players and quality back ups.
There are no cloggers in that bunch, but they are young and maybe physically weak without Song or Diaby in the team. This is the area we measure up worst to our competitors at the moment, although time is on our side. This is all about Cesc, to a worrying degree really, but take Ronaldo or Gerrard out of their teams and there is a BIG effect. Chelsea here are stupidly deep, a rough estimate has them paying £1million a week on wages in this area alone. That said, I don’t see us much weaker than last year, only in the Flamini role, but that might not be the case – there is quality there. What we rely on is our team game, the pass and move, if we can add sufficient steel and determination through attitude then the boys will be fine. We need fear no one.
Attack: We have the best strike force in the league in RVP and Ade, each offers something different and are unplayable on their day. Bendtner and Vela are excellent back ups. Vela looks something else he really does, plus eddy is coming back at some point. Torres and Ronaldo have great individual quality, but overall no team attacks like we do. Here we have no worries.
So, there are concerns, primarily can Toure and Gallas work together, but signing or not, neither one of them was getting dropped this year. It says something though that in 5 competitive games this year Manuel has had 1 real save to make, the one on one against WBA. We have to hope Manuel starts adding a few more of those, but I think criticism of him is harsh; wait until he makes an error. (He wasn’t at fault for the Fulham goal, you cannot expect a goalie to come for a ball that low – defenders responsibility.) We need to find some collective steel all over the pitch, although the high pressing since the Fulham game is welcome, with our youth we can run teams off the park let alone the technical stuff.
In my honest appraisal, all the necessary talent is within this squad, what we need to find is the mental strength and maturity to produce in the big games. We wilted when the pressure was on last year, but we got into the big games. I think this will be a great year and that the boys will find answers to the questions asked. Sure a sigining would have been nice, but it wasn’t essential we have all we need within the squad technically and physically, we just need more grit mentally. That may just come, they are a year older, wiser, and hungry from defeat – this is where champions are made, forged in adversity and built on desire. Give the boys a chance to prove themselves, maybe sing up to lads. Peace y’all.