ED: Christopher Overton takes over the reigns today and gives his post match views
- I had higher hopes than this, but this scoreless draw was a pragmatic result for a team that's not at full strength, full fitness or full form. I think the team will be a lot more comfortable on their own (far better!) pitch before a home crowd in the return leg next week in North London with that same Besiktas side worrying about travel arrangements and fatigue. The good news is that our defense, which has been featuring an entirely new right side and a less-than-fully-fit Koscielny still looked relatively solid with only a couple of nervous moments against an aggressive Turkish side. I don't mind building on our form from the back.
- I know we're not even two-thirds of the way through August yet, but where would we be without Calum Chambers? Hard to believe I'm writing this about a 19-year old, but if he'd actually looked like a wide-eyed 19-year old playing in his Emirates league debut and then again before a very hostile crowd in a Champions League debut in Istanbul, we might be three points worse in the league and staring Champions League elimination in the face. Instead we've started off with a league win for the first time since 2009 and simply need to get a win at home against Besiktas in the return leg to qualify for the Champions League group stages (something that I'm pretty comfortable we'll do). He's not just an amazing talent, he's already shaping up to be a team leader as well. He's not the summer purchase I'd have figured to be writing this about right now.
- Injuries inevitably seem to plague the squad's thinnest areas. I'm sure some of that's selective memory, but it's amazing that the three almost universally regarded positions of greatest need are at CB, DM and ST (more or less in that order) and we've got Mertesacker getting fit and Koscielny struggling with an Achilles tendon injury at CB (with real 4th CB Monreal committed to covering Gibbs' three-week injury at RB); Arteta now apparently with a twisted ankle at DM; and Theo and Podolski not yet back in the team. Reading Wenger's tea-leafy statements suggests that the club won't commit more significant transfer resources unless it's already earned the £20m qualification to the group stages, but one must wonder whether this is penny wise and pound foolish given that we might need players like Manolas or Carvalho to ensure we get past Besiktas to begin with, to mention nothing of a long league and domestic cup campaign that will inevitably test our squad depth in those defensive positions regardless. If we're targeting players at the back as has been rumored, then the correct interpretation of our present injuries is that they have only exposed the shallow bottom of the barrel we already knew to be there rather than shockingly drained water out of a deep tub.
- Regarding Koscielny's Achilles tendon, it's my impression based upon reading about such injuries in the NFL that this is not an injury that can really be rehabilitated as such, unlike a muscular injury for example. My impression is that the Achilles either must be rested or surgically repaired. I seem to recall, in fact, players playing as long as they can on it through the pain until it simply must be surgically repaired, including because they finally "accomplish" its rupture. If I'm right, that bodes ill for Koscielny and the team as this will mean that any playing time he gets this year is tempting a rupture and extended time out to undergo surgery, and in the meantime he'll likely not be at his best. I recognize that we have only scant information about this injury, but can someone confirm whether or not this general impression about the Achilles is true?
- Back to Calum Chambers: he's good. Really, really good. He's only three weeks into this team and he's already barking orders at the back as a 19-year old. That's impressive moxie, and it doesn't look forced to me. I'm already worried about the English media starting to smother him in it's next-great-English-footballer bear hug the way it's done with so many others, including Jack Wilshere. I really hope that we can start him in the squad because we want to rather than because we need to, which has been the case recently. He'll come along fast enough I think, but I don't want to wear him out physically or psychologically, or start having his head turned by stardom (or the buffet) the way his old teammate Luke Shaw has. Of course I say that and now with Mertesacker returning to action he may get pressed into action as cover for Arteta at DM...
- We have a lot of starting players out of form right now, and that's in no small part to a truncated post-World Cup preseason. My list of such players includes (unless I attribute it to injury, or post-World Cup rest) Giroud; Sanogo (might be youth, not form); Ramsey; Wilshere; Alexis (looking close); and Cazorla. Look at that list of names and ask whether it's any wonder why we're not looking fluent in the midfield or incisive going forward; then also remind yourself that Ozil's not in there to help smooth things out.
- Regarding Ramsey and Wilshere, did you notice how the team suddenly looked a bit better and generated one of its best scoring chances when Aaron was sent off at Besiktas? While that added some urgency to the team, I think it also removed one of the primary problems the team has had without Ozil. The Ramsey-Wilshere central midfield pairing simply doesn't work. They're too similar to each other. Both like to make darting runs forward and play quick passes off of teammates on their way to scoring chances in the 18-yard box. Ramsey is better all around than Jack is now, but that fact doesn't help things as that doesn't mean that Jack's any less in Ramsey's way. Indeed, we saw that despite Ramsey being the superior player at the moment, it's better to have Jack alone in the midfield than to have him sharing it with Aaron, even with 10 men! We need both of them in the squad to compete in four competitions this year, and hopefully long term they can learn to complement rather than compete with each other, but something's got to give. In the meantime, Ozil will be back next week and Ramsey's suspension (which we should appeal after that ridiculous second yellow card, by the way) will mean that we'll effectively have to start rotating Jack and Aaron beginning with Everton at the weekend.
- I make his performances against Palace and then Besiktas the worst two of Santi Cazorla's Arsenal career, although I welcome differing opinions on that. It's disturbing to me that they've happened back to back. I'm hoping that it simply is reflective of the squad's overall problems regaining form, especially among forward players like him.
- I like Giroud a lot and find myself defending him continually, but I must say that it gets tiring apologizing for a striker who, whatever his other merits, simply isn't a great finisher. While I'm not sure that the team as a whole would play better were we to magically switch out Giroud for Diego Costa, for example, I do know that Costa would score more goals for us and less hair would be torn out of Gooners' heads over squandered scoring chances.
On to an early and somewhat daunting test at Goodison Park over the weekend!
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