It feels like quite a while since I last jotted anything down on here. It took Per and Tomas before Old Trafford and now I have been snatched away by this wave of sickness that is sweeping through the country. Only Mrs Lean has avoided it in our household so you can just imagine how fun it's been. I haven't had the chance to write my usual match thoughts and given that we play again tomorrow it is probably a little too late to go into any great detail as you've no doubt heard plenty from the vast array of bloggers out there. But I do want to throw a few quick thoughts out there before I move onto another subject.
Boruc gift and Cardiff equaliser
On that Sunday afternoon, I had a familiar feeling yet very different. One team at the top of the table not playing at their best yet being gifted a present from a crazy goalkeeper. Meanwhile the team chasing and desperately trying to claw back some points were winning with seconds to go only to fail to hold out.
How many times over the years has that rather uncomfortable shoe been on the other foot? I would have been cursing Boruc for gifting Manchester United a victory and full of frustration that we did not make another choice the last time we had possession. It is a nice feeling for now that is for sure.
Did Wilshere mean it?
In the 12th minute Jack Wilshere hit the far post before Boruc finally grabbed the ball. My first impression was that it was a cross gone wrong. That evening and the next day pretty much everybody else spoke about how unlucky Wilshere was. I asked if Arsenal fans thought it was intentional on Twitter that evening and 99% of responses thought that he meant to do it. I am a clear minority here and that should be more than enough to convince me that I am mistaken but I don't buy it. Wilshere would rather use the outside of his left foot to pass 7 yards. He often misses the opportunity to shoot when the ball is on his right inside the box so I am struggling believing that as the ball kicked off the surface he thought he would chip the keeper with spin on his weaker side. If Giroud and Özil were not loitering at the back post then maybe I would believe.
Not that this matters one jot mind as I thought Wilshere looked very good for the most part, especially during the first half.
Staying in games
What was most impressive about the entire performance is our defensive side. This isn't anything new and I won't be saying anything original but I think it is worth reiterating. Post International Arsenal football against a form side who have had more rest often equaled dropped points in the past. Cast your minds back to when we were camped in our opponents half, our passing not sharp enough to pierce their stubborn wall and boom! A long clearance has a player running in on our keeper from a wide position, full backs nowhere to be seen and bosh! 1-0 down or an equaliser. We dropped many a stupid point from over committing be that at home or away. These days we look really solid and we keep ourselves in games now rather than being forced to chase games.
Because of this change, I feel we are far more capable of winning a Champions League compared to years gone by. It is a remarkably difficult competition to win regardless of how you play but you need to be able to defend for long periods to win that competition, as we've shown during our end of season run and for most of this, we are able to do that now.
Without wishing to sound churlish or ungrateful, I do miss our quick attacking game. We've probably started more conservatively than any start during an Arsene Wenger season. Would you agree? We've seen glimpses, we've seen a couple of games of it also but most of our victories could be described as professional or doing what we needed to do to win games.
I wonder if some of our defensive stability might shift when the likes of Theo and Podolski are back in the starting 11. We are forced to be a little more compact given that our wide players are all central players by trade. Midfielders rather than strikers. Our game might be more stretched when Theo is wide rather than Wilshere for example.
Will we find out what Podolski is
I am still unsure about what he is and what his role is in this team. I don't think he is first choice for us anymore but assuming he starts out on the left then I am interested to see how he behaves in our system. I know how our other wide players (Cazorla, Walcott and Chamberlain) behave but how does Podolski? A clinical finisher with a powerful shot not to mention his pinpoint low cut backs from the left side of the box but he is drawn to the ball rather than away from the ball like Theo. When Podolski gets the ball after dropping deep is he no Cazorla, Özil or Ramsey.
How will he play now that he has his mate Mesut Özil in the team? Will he cover Gibbs when needed? Has he adapted his game at centre forward? I haven't been convinced so far with Lukas as striker but I'd take him over Bendtner in that role that's for sure.
I am very intrigued by what Podolski has to offer in his second season.
Training must be pretty fun right now with Henry, Pires, Cazorla, Özil, Rosicky and Ramsey. I was talking to the excellent @MoHoopsN5 last season about how great it would be to have some access to training matches on the website. We get the odd few seconds but nowhere near enough. It would have to be edited so we do not see what the team are working on for match days but I'm sure we could get some good action. During members days we get to see the squad train and play matches against each other so unless it is vastly different to normal training then it can be done.
Marseille tomorrow and victory would see us place a foot in the knock outs. I am pretty confident that we can achieve that. Walcott should start I reckon so that will be interesting to have him back ahead of Özil, Ramsey and company.
I will write some more about the game tomorrow.
Update: I went through a whole blog without laughing at a team that have spent £100m only to be ripped apart 6-0! Hahahaha as you were.