A lot has happened in recent weeks and during that time I have not been able to write about the Arsenal, well apart from the usual match day stuff. I think I am getting withdrawal symptoms. So I am making it my mission to get back into it on a more frequent basis. It's my therapy after all.
I am interested to know how Arsenal go forward from here. The Manchester United cup game is a big one for both teams, a real chance to win another trophy for Arsenal and a good chance for LVG to build upon something for the seasons to come.
Only recently we were all praising Arsenal's counter attacking approach against Manchester City and Aston Villa, but defeat to Tottenham in that defensive manner would not have pleased Arsène Wenger one bit. Not only that but the return of Danny Welbeck and Alexis Sanchez will have allowed Arsène Wenger to revert back to the front foot. I also wonder if it was no coincedence to partner Gabriel with Koscielny and not Mertesacker for our last cup game.
I have already waxed lyrical about having Mesut Özil and Santi Cazorla playing from a central position but this is really only possible if you have attacking players who are willing to defend from the front, not as an afterthought but as a necessity. But it is all well and good producing this type of football at home against Championship leaders Middlesbrough. It is another thing altogether to bring that game to Old Trafford, force them back and score first.
We've tried it so many times in the past and have been burnt. I need not remind you of our record against Chelsea and Manchester United but we did not have the squad we have today. The new commercial income has seen us spend more in two windows than we have in many prior, so the gap is now closer on the pitch.
Theo Walcott speaking to the Evening Standard appeared to confirm this approach when he said:
“The manager has put in our heads that we need to start well, particularly from the front and pressurise the ball well."
“Keeping clean sheets will mean we win games because we always know we are going to score goals and we’ve continued to do that in recent weeks.
“Things are paying off for us at the moment so we just need to make sure we take it into the next few weeks.
“You need the fans behind you so getting that early goal settles them and the players down.”
So if we are literally moving towards a team defending from the front then I'll be intrigued to see how Theo Walcott adapts, if he does at all. Like I mentioned above, if you are playing on the front foot then you need attacking players to sprint towards the man in possession and nick it off him high up the pitch. Walcott has never been one for that side of the game, especially over a long period of time.
He is somewhat of a oxymoron. Here you have a big game goal scorer who lives for the chance to run onto a pass and finish past a keeper. And we have found it difficult to score the first goal in those big matches. Yet can you afford to carry Theo Walcott during those transitions when the opposition are launching attacks of their own? Would his tendency to stand off the opposition be detrimental to our chances?
The funny thing is that Theo would be a nightmare for defenders or deep midfielders on the ball because of his ability to close down the player in possession. It is why Alexis and Welbeck are so effective at it, players do not get a chance to settle, find an option and play it. Theo would give those players even less time to make a decision. So let's see if he puts into practice his words.
Before you get the wrong end of the stick, I just want to note that Theo is the best we have at doing what he does well. If you catch my drift. Sometimes we look like a side of playmakers without him in the team. As Wenger said recently, he is world class at making those runs into scoring positions. I also suspect that we are still looking at a Theo not at the peak of his powers since injury. So any critique of him is a little hazy until we see him at 100%
On the flip side having Theo Walcott making those short sharp bursts in between the left back and left centre back with Özil, Alexis and Cazorla on the ball is a mouthwatering prospect. Maybe you could save Theo for games against lesser opposition but I'm sure Walcott wouldn't be so keen on that idea.
Like I said, it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.
Going back to the cup game and all the hoo-har surrounding the lack of transport and so on. I really feel the FA & BBC missed a trick with that one. It would be in the best interests for most concerned if they switched venues to the Emirates. It would mean no travel problems for Arsenal fans and a much easier journey to North London from Surrey than all the way to Manchester for the Manc fans.
*Boom Boom* Oh.. you've already heard a variation of that joke? Never mind.
Back tomorrow with the preview, confirmed line up, Q&A, post game thoughts and post match Podcast. Anything else I've missed??
PS - With Jack Wilshere back in the squad after injury, I thought it be a good chance to leave you with this from excellent musician @RoxyArms
You can check out his website here very good stuff and well worth a listen to some funky stuff.