Arsene Wenger was forced to defend some of his recent purchases and “big buys” when questioned by a slightly agressive journalist in one of the Reading pre-match press conferences on Friday morning.
Wenger looked tired and frustrated before the press conference even began, which is probably the result of a testing week in which he has been heavily featured on the back pages of all the major tabloids and in which many fans (and some of his former players) have questioned his ability to continue to manage the club.
In the end, Wenger was rather short with the journalist, who was clearly trying to provoke a response with continued questions about players that we maybe shouldn’t have bought in the last few seasons. Gervinho, Chamakh, Santos, Park and Squillaci are mentioned by name, although there are probably a few more names that could be thrown into the mix.
Below are some of the more interesting moments from the conversation, taken from a transcript of the press conference published in the Mirror. Wenger defends the purchase of players like Chamakh and Squillaci by saying that they are international players who cost him next to nothing (indeed, Chamakh was free). However, this isn’t enough because the journalist then begins to attack our wage bill. Eventually, Wenger jokingly says that Arsenal will sign Lionel Messi in January, although you can be pretty sure that this was just because he wanted to get the journalist to shut up and stop harassing him.
Although I do think that the journalist went a little bit too far and was verging on rude, Wenger needs to be able to answer these kind of questions. He is under a lot of pressure and the questions will only get tougher if Arsenal continue to perform the way that they have been over the past few weeks.
Wenger: “The squad needs just to focus on the next game. Today, I will certainly not talk about transfer targets. We have a strong squad. I believe we have a very strong team. It’s down to us to prove me right.”
Journalist: “Can you understand the concerns of the supporters generally at the moment?”
“Have you see a reaction from the players since Tuesday?”
“I have had groups who had fantastic results who were less serious than these players, believe me. Players who were less focused than this team.”
“And they won trophies?”
“What’s the difference now between this team and other teams which have won trophies?”
“The difference is that we have created a new team. I believe that some players have come in, some players have come back from injuries and we have to show now until the end of the season that we have the quality that I think we have.”
“So are those players hurting if they’re under performing?”
“Of course these players are hurting.”
“If these players are much better are you disappointed with some of the players you’ve bought over the last three or four years?”
“Well, you don’t want to name names do you?”
“You name them.”
“Well, Gervinho, then. Gervinho, Chamakh, Santos, Park, Squillaci. Some of those players were big buys. What’s happened to Park? It’s an extraordinary situation.”
“Who are the big buys?”
“He was £8m.”
“Well, do you feel he is fulfilling his potential at the moment?”
“Gervinho is a good player, yes.”
“Is he at the top of his form?”
“I don’t want to go into individual assessments.”
“But generally are you disappointed with the level of signings? Generally? These players are nowhere near as good, are they?”
“Chamakh was a big buy? He was free. Squillaci nearly free. You cannot say that we have a squad of no quality. They are international players.”
“I could miss from two yards, but Gervinho is not supposed to.”
“You can and everybody can.”
“You have the fourth highest wage bill in the Premier League, behind Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea. Leaving aside however much they cost, Gervinho and Chamakh are earning big money. Are the players offering value for money?”
“Yes. First of all, you don’t know their wages. Secondly, you accuse us of not paying the wages the players want and on the other hand you accuse of giving them the money they want.”
“Can you and will you buy big in January?”
“We will buy Lionel Messi in January and we will surprise you.”
After a relatively decent start to the season, our Ivory Coast attacker has experienced a dip in form, which culminated in a poor performance against Bradford the other night. He may not be a striker, but he should be good enough to play there against a League 2 side.
For that reason, Arsenal fans have been rejoicing today in the news that Gervinho will be absent for a few weeks at the start of 2013 due to his participation in the African Cup of Nations.
He hasn’t been at the club for long, but his poor finishing has been a theme throughout his time here. People will remember this failed attempt to score against Norwich, and luckily van Persie was standing right behind him to tap it into the net.
I’ll also put the Bradford photo up, just to remind you all of his goalscoring ability…
Here’s a YouTube video of his performance against Man City, which was another example of his most frustrating attributes.
But having said all that, Gervinho has some very useful characteristics which could yet help him become a consistent player. He’s got plenty of speed and is by far the most direct player in our squad. If Theo were as good at getting past the full back, he’d be up there with the best wingers in the league. When deployed on the wing, Gervinho can be responsible for creating a large number of Arsenal’s goalscoring opportunities. He’s mastered getting to the touchline and pulling the ball back, at pace, towards the penalty spot.
I think the moaning and groaning at the Emirates hasn’t helped him in the slightest. From what I hear, he’s a quiet player in the dressing room and perhaps one of those most lacking in confidence in his own abilities. If anything, he needs our support more than others. I fully admit that a blog post like this, which has a video and photos of his mistakes, is unlikely to give him confidence, but let’s remember that he probably isn’t reading this!
Last year, Gervinho missed a penalty in the shoot-out during the AFCON final, giving Zambia the chance to win the tournament. He returned from the cup and was unable to reproduce any of the form he showed at the start of his Arsenal career. Hopefully, we will see something different this time – maybe Gervinho will score the winner in the final, and come back to Arsenal brimming with confidence? It may be unlikely, but it’s a far more positive attitude than hoping that we sell him. As poorly as some players have performed in recent weeks, we need to remember that they are still Arsenal players, and we need to support them.
The big news is that Theo Walcott has been ruled out with a shoulder injury picked up in our win over Spurs. However, we do get a nearly like-for-like replacement, with Gervinho returning to the squad after a few weeks out. The same can be said of the left-back position. Andre Santos is suffering from an abdominal injury, but Kieran Gibbs (who was classed as a long-term injury last week) returns.
Theo Walcott & Andre Santos
“From Saturday, we have [almost] the same squad. But one player who will miss Wednesday’s game is Walcott. It’s the injury he got during the game with his shoulder. We have to scan that today and see if there is no damage. He will be out for tomorrow but it should be short-term. We will miss Santos as well, who has an abdominal muscle strain.”
Gervinho & Kieran Gibbs
“The two players coming in the squad are Gervinho and Gibbs.
“He [Gervinho] had quite a bad ankle strain. Kieran Gibbs as well was out for a while.”
It’s good to have Kieran back in the the team; we didn’t look as defensively stable while he was on the sidelines, and Lukas Podolski seems to link really nicely with Gibbs. However, it does mean that we move Vermaelen back into the middle and that one of Mertesacker or Koscielny will have to give way.
Whether Wenger will start with Gervinho or The Ox is difficult to say. However, the fact that we are reaching a busy period that includes a mid-week Premier League game against Everton next week will surely have a influence on the team. You also wonder how players like Cazorla and Arteta can cope with playing every game; one of both of them will have to be rested at some point.
I will start with the good news. Szczesny, Walcott and The Ox could all be in the squad to face Spurs. All three were in the squad against Fulham last week and Wenger’s comments suggest that they should be fine for tomorrow. Szcesny and The Ox did not make it off the bench in our 3-3 draw, but Walcott started and picked up a small injury with 10 minutes remaining. Theo missed England’s friendly against Sweden, but faces a fitness test this afternoon. Bacary Sagna is suffering from fatigue will also have a fitness test. The good news is that we have the more than capable Carl Jenkinson ready to step in if Bacary needs a week off.
Szczesny, Walcott, AOC
“Szczesny (ankle), Walcott (muscle), Chamberlain (hip) – they all have a chance to be in the squad. Walcott came off against Fulham and will have a test tomorrow [Friday]. So will Szczesny.”
“He has a test tomorrow [Friday]. It is just for general fatigue. He’s played three games quickly but before that he didn’t play for six months.”
Now we move onto the bad news. Gervinho is still out with his ankle injury. Wenger says that he might be fit in another week, but knowing Arsenal it will be 2 or 3 weeks. However, what worries me the most is that Kieran Gibbs is now being classed as a “long term injury”, along with Rosicky and Diaby. I am equally confused as to how Rosicky can still be a long-term injury when Arsenal only just released photos of him returning to full first-team training. Doesn’t that mean that he is on the road to recovery?
“He is still out [with an ankle problem]. He has a chance to be fit for next week.”
Rosicky, Diaby, Gibbs
“Of course we have long-term injuries like Rosicky (tendon), Diaby (thigh) and Gibbs (thigh) who are not back at the moment. All the others have little knocks and those decisions will be made on Friday.”
For any of you who are interested, please have a look at my list of what I think were the top 5 North London Derbies. The article was published last year, so you can add the 5-2 win from last season to the list.
Arsenal.com have revealed the latest team news ahead of Saturday’s Premier League game against Fulham. Speaking in his pre-match press conference, Arsene Wenger revealed that although there are no new injury problems arising from our 2-2 draw with FC Schalke, it is not yet known whether Aaron Ramsey has recovered from the groin injury that kept him out on Wednesday night. Wojciech Szczesny and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will also have late fitness tests.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain/Aaron Ramsey
“From the other night we have no big problem. We have to test Oxlade-Chamberlain to see if he can be in the squad, we have a test as well with Aaron Ramsey to see if he can be in the squad.”
“Maybe Wojciech has a little chance to be in the squad because he will play tomorrow [Friday] with the under-21s. If he gets through I might take him in the squad.”
“Gervinho is out, Diaby out, Rosicky out, Gibbs as well is not back.”
”I had Roy Hodgson on the phone, we found a good understanding and a good compromise. What helps is that he is not playing over the weekend because he is suspended, of course. He will have a little breather. Roy wants him in the group to connect the game with the players.
With Wilshere suspended and Ramsey, Diaby, Rosicky and The Ox all injured, Arsenal are really lacking in options in midfield against Fulham. It is fairly safe to assume that Coquelin will start alongside Arteta and Cazorla at the weekend, but I have no idea who will be on the bench. Arshavin can play central midfield at a push.
Arsène Wenger has revealed the latest Arsenal team news ahead of the Manchester United game on Saturday. In his pre-match press conference Wenger was asked plenty of questions about injuries, the League Cup, Arsenal’s defensive problems, Theo Walcott’s contract situation and how the fans will react to Robin van Persie at Old Trafford.
The first thing to talk about is the injury news. The good news is that there are no new injuries following that ridiculous game on Tuesday evening, although Wenger has suggested that some of the players will be rested because we are also playing in the Champions League next Tuesday. There is no mention of an injury to Ignasi Miquel, who was substituted with what looked like a strained thigh/hamstring late on against Reading.
What I think is important to point out is that Olivier Giroud started on the bench and therefore did not play the full 120 minutes against Reading. However, Theo Walcott did and maybe that will come into play on Saturday? We still don’t know if Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be fit for the weekend, and Gervinho is out. Given his current form, we need Walcott to start. Carl Jenkinson, Arshavin and Coquelin also played the full match.
“Gervinho is out for three weeks, we think.”
Szczesny, Gibbs & Diaby
“We have no comebacks, no Wojciech, no Gibbs, no Diaby of course as well. Basically the squad should be approximately the squad we had last week. We have no injuries as well from Tuesday night.”
On the players who played 120 minutes against Reading
“Hopefully they will have recovered by Saturday.
“We do play Tuesday again [against Schalke] so we will consider the global situation and some players will be available maybe more for Tuesday than for Saturday.”
Is the League Cup the New FA Cup?
Wenger was then asked by one journalist whether he thought that, based on the two amazing matches that we have witnessed this week, the League Cup is becoming the new FA Cup.
Le Boss made a few very good points in response to this question. Briefly summarised, Wenger thinks that teams really go for it in League Cup matches because there is no replay and they have nothing to lose. There are no home and away legs and no goal difference to worry about, so nobody is going to play for a draw. Maybe this is something that should have been explained to Coquelin and Giroud before they threw their shirts into the crowd!
Arsenal’s Defensive problems
Given that we have kept only 1 clean sheet in our last 11 games, do Arsenal’s defensive problems worry Wenger? Everybody was quick to credit Steve Bould when we were good defensively at the beginning of the season, but now they appear to be turning on him.
“A little bit – when you are 4-0 down after 36 minutes then you can’t say that it is all well on that front. But as well I don’t believe that it is all Steve Bould’s fault.
“Last night the [Chelsea v Manchester United] game finished 5-4, but it could have been seven as well. Both teams had chances. I believe the offensive quality has improved a lot.”
Theo Walcott’s role in the team and contract situation
Bearing in mind his recent performances (7 goals and 4 assists this season despite only starting 3 games), Arsenal need to sort out Theo Walcott’s contract situation soon. There are people saying that we should let him go in January, but I think that that should be the last resort. We need him at the club. Theo is unhappy at being played in what he thinks is out of position. Wenger seems to agree and admits that there is “urgency” to get it all sorted.
“In our team, we have freedom of movement. Nobody is handcuffed. When we have the ball, we have a lot of freedom to move. It’s important to know where we go, but I think Theo has learnt a lot on that.
“He has good pace, [makes] excellent, intelligent runs, and what has changed with Theo is he’s become a very good finisher. I would take an example of his first goal the other night at Reading. It’s a real ‘finisher’s’ goal.
“I always said it is important that he plays in the right position and that certainly would be through the middle in the future, he showed that again on Tuesday night.
“The positions on the flanks are changing, you need to do a lot of defending. He should be dedicated more to offensive work.
“I’ve not thought about that [losing him], because at the moment I think we will still manage to make a deal with him. There is urgency [about sorting it out]. We want to sort it out before Christmas, one way or the other.”
How will fans react to Robin van Persie on Saturday?
Robin left. Things were said. The fans did not take it particularly well. Wenger is hoping for a respectful reception at Old Trafford, but I think he is slightly deluded!
There is no doubt in my mind that Arsenal fans will give van Persie absolute hell. It’s not just that he left for Manchester United. It’s the way that he left.
“I don’t know [what reception he'll get but] I hope it is a respectful one because he has played for us for eight years, he has done very well for us.
“You want him to be respected. We campaign against discrimination, it was still the case last week so why should it not be the case this week? I don’t know [what the fans will do], I think he will get the reception I hope for.
“Saturday’s game is not about Van Persie. Not for us and I don’t think for him, as well. For us, what is important is the result at the end of the game, and the quality of our performance. We do not even talk about him.”
Arsenal.com have revealed the 18-man squad that will travel to the Madejski stadium to play Reading in the Capital One Cup later this evening. We also have the latest team news from Arsene Wenger’s press conference. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is not fit enough to be included in the squad, while Jack Wilshere and Bacary Sagna have been left out after they played against QPR at the weekend.
Interestingly, there is no Andre Santos in the squad, which means that one of Ignasi Miquel or Jernade Meade will start at left-back. Sebastian Squillaci is also included, but he almost definitely won’t start because we have Koscielny and Djourou, with Jenkinson at right-back. There is no Aaron Ramsey, meaning that Francis Coquelin is our most experienced midfielder unless Arshavin drops back into central midfield (which is possible). We have quite an experienced attack, with Giroud, Walcott, Arshavin and (dare I say it) Chamakh. Andrey put in a great performance against QPR and will almost definitely be in line for a start.
Damien Martinez, James Shea.
Laurent Koscielny, Sebastian Squillaci, Johan Djourou, Carl Jenkinson, Ignasi Miquel, Jernade Meade
Francis Coquelin, Emmanuel Frimpong, Hector Bellerin, Thomas Eisfeld, Nico Yennaris
Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott, Maround Chamakh, Serge Gnabry, Andrey Arshavin
Gervinho - “He has an ankle problem. How long he will be out, we don’t know. He has a scan today (Monday).”
Sczcesny - “He is close, but not ready for the Reading game.”
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - “Oxlade-Chamberlain is not available for this game. He would have loved to play. Apart from that, I don’t think anyone else will be back.”
1) There is no denying it. Arsenal’s attack was much better when we had Robin van Persie. Olivier Giroud was on the bench (why???), and Arsene Wenger decided to start with Gervinho up front and Aaron Ramsey on the right wing. Gervinho was all over the place. He has pace, but when he get through on goal I am never sure that he will finish. There was nobody who I really felt would step-up in front of goal in the way that RvP did. The most natural finisher is probably Lukas Podolski, but he always starts on the left wing. Ramsey did ok, but we would have been a lot more effective with a bit of pace from The Ox or Walcott had they been fit.
2) You can’t afford to gift Klaas Jan Huntelaar so many chances; he missed the first two, but he was bound to score at some point. Unfortunately, Arsenal’s dodgy defending (especially Andre Santos on the left-hand-side) meant that Schalke were hitting us on the counter-attack and getting lots of balls into the box. There was too much time and too much space because Santos was always out of position. Either he was too far back and playing people onside, or he was at the wrong end of the pitch all-together. With 10 minutes left Steve Bould took Jenkinson off and replaced him with Serge Gnabry. 3 at the back against the pace of Schalke was always asking for trouble, and we duly conceded the second goal. Kieran Gibbs is still out for the time being, which is pretty worrying – I don’t want Santos to play against Rooney and Rvp!!
3) Arsenal are no longer in the driving seat in their Champions League group. The next Champions League game in 2 weeks time is Schalke away, which now has added importance. If we lose to them again then we will be 4 points off the top of the group with 2 games left. That said, although finishing second in the group is never ideal, last season we finished top in the group and got drawn against AC Milan. It’s as much luck-based as anything.
4) Despite the poor team performance, some of the younger players did pretty well. I thought that Carl Jenkinson had a good game, although there is a limit to how much you can do without the help of your teammates. Jenko kept Afellay relatively quiet, with most of Schalkes chances coming on the side that Santos was supposed to be dealing with. He also worked the ball forward really well; it’s not his fault that Gervinho was having a bit of an off-game. Coquelin also played well alongside Arteta and Cazorla, but I was most impressed with Serge Gnabry, who came on as a substitute. He made some good runs down the right-hand-side, used a bit of skill, and had arguably Arsenal’s best shot of the game. A pretty good cameo performance on his Champions League debut.
5) There needs to be a serious response this weekend against QPR. If we lose (or even draw) on Saturday then we have no hope at Old Trafford a week later. That would be more points dropped and even less of a chance that we will make next season’s Champions League.
1) As I stated in my post-match article, the international break and a few injuries are not an excuse for losing to Norwich. Chelsea, City and United all managed wins and they had an equal number of players on international duty.
2) This was not a one-off loss; these sorts of losses have not been uncommon in the past few years. Inconsistency has cost us for the last 7 seasons. What was different and most frustrating on Saturday, however, was the clear lack of effort and interest from many of the players. The performance was as far from the second-half performance vs West Ham as you could possibly imagine. In my opinion, it is 50/50 as to which Arsenal side turn up. Either we trot out a 4- or 5-1 win (we always seem to concede…), or we struggle from the beginning because nobody shows up.
3) This was the 4th consecutive league game where we have gone behind and the 8th consecutive game where we haven’t kept a clean sheet. We are still very susceptible to set-pieces and zonal-marking from corners is an absolute disaster. The 3 clean sheets at the beginning of the season (vs Sunderland, Stoke and Liverpool) are a distant memory.
4) Arsenal can’t rely on Santi Cazorla as the get-out-of-jail-free card. As fantastic as Cazorla is, no player can put in MOTM performances every week. If Cazorla isn’t on song (not that he was bad against Norwich) then somebody else needs to step up. The same can be said of Mikel Arteta, who actually won the MOTM accolade on Arsenal.com
5) Gervinho’s wing-play is extremely one-dimensional and very frustrating. He may have scored a few goals playing in the middle, but he looks completely lost in the wide position. Every time there was an opportunity to create something for Giroud, Gervinho would try to run past everybody and inevitably give the ball away. He also apparently doesn’t know how to stay onside. Lukas Podolski is also much more effective in the middle, although not nearly as frustrating as Gervinho on the wing.
6) Olivier Giroud can’t create chances out of thin air. I actually can’t blame Giroud for not taking many shots – he barely touched the ball. Gervinho was refusing to pass and when crosses did make it into the box they were normally quite poor. Maybe it’s time that we revert to a 4-4-2 formation? I think that Giroud would be infinitely more effective if he had a strike partner (enter Lukas Podolski).
7) Vito Mannone only had a handful of saves to make, but he made everything much more difficult than it needed to be. Norwich’s goal could have been avoided if Vito had palmed the shot to either side instead of straight back into the middle of the box. I know that Alexander Tettey’s shot was quite powerful, but still… Mannone also did an Almunia impression when he chased the ball to the edge of the box. I was waiting to concede our second.
8) Alex Tettey’s long-range shot led to a goal. Why didn’t Arsenal try that? The only time that I saw any Arsenal player attempt a shot from outside the box was Mikel Arteta right at the end, and it was probably our best opportunity of the game. All you have to do is get the shot on target – if it’s hard enough then the keeper might fumble it or it will fall kindly to one of your players. Norwich showed us how this is done. Arteta and Cazorla do normally try a few long-shots, but I would like to see them more often.
9) This loss leaves us in 9th place after 8 games and 10 points behind Chelsea – that’s hardly the fantastic start to the season that we needed! Arsenal can’t rely on hanging in there based on consistent Champions League & Wenger’s previous successes. If we don’t finish in the top four then it becomes increasingly difficult to claw our way back to the top. It’s a vicious cycle – you only have to look at Liverpool as evidence.
10) Arsene Wenger has confirmed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is out of Wednesday night’s game against Schalke. AOC only played for less than ten minutes against Norwich before he became a substituted substitute. There is also bad news for Walcott and Gibbs:
“It was a kick on his hip. It is not long-term but he will be out for Wednesday.
“I don’t see anyone new being [back] for Wednesday night. The closest will be Gibbs but he will not be ready. Walcott will not be ready [either].”
We will have the latest injury news after Wenger’s pre-match press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
11) The game was “too intense” for Jack Wilshere’s comeback after 14 months. Jack will have to wait for another week, as I doubt that he will play against Schalke either. However, he did play the full 90 minutes for the U21′s against Everton on Monday afternoon, grabbing an assist for Tomas Eisfeld’s second goal.
“We have to be conscious he has not played for 14 months. I would have brought him on if the game had allowed it today but it was too intense.”
1) The scoreline was much better than the performance. Arsenal were not exactly at their best last night, especially in the first half. Going forward we were ok; we created enough chances but it took until the 42nd minute for Gervinho to open the scoring. However, the midfield was very crowded, Olympiakos closed down very quickly, and we could easily have conceded inside the opening 10 minutes. We were defensively poor, gave the ball away a lot, and we can count ourselves very lucky to have come away with all three points. The second half was marginally better and I must stress that certain players (Gervinho, Podolski, Cazorla, Gibbs, Jenkinson in particular) did put in some good performances!
2) The Koscielny/Vermaelen partnership does not work particularly well. As soon as I saw the teamsheet I was amazed that Per Mertesacker had been left out of the squad completely. In the end, it turned out that Wenger had chosen to start Koscielny because Mertesacker has a bout of flu.
Both Koscielny and Vermaelen have had very mixed starts to the season. Both our centre-backs looked lackadaisical and both players threw themselves into a few too many silly challenges when they were caught out of position or were just not concentrating. Yes, Laurent did grab a late equaliser against City, but he has made quite a few silly mistakes and was poor yesterday evening. Vermaelen needs to stay back more rather than bombing forward at every available opportunity. While I appreciate his enthusiasm, that’s not his job!
3) Despite poor performances from our centre-backs, the full-backs were a completely different story. Both Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson played brilliantly yesterday evening. Gibbs links really well with Lukas Podolski down the left-hand-side and it always an attacking threat. Jenkinson has surprised me this season. When we knew that Bacary Sagna was injured I was slightly worried about the right-back position. However, Carl has been a revelation. He defends really well and his attacking play is equally excellent. His crossing ability in particular has attracted my attention as it is so much better than Sagna’s. Gibbs has earned a call-up to the England squad for the upcoming October international fixtures, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Jenkinson gets his call-up before the end of the season.
4) Gervinho and Podolski work really well together. In particular I was impressed with Gervinho’s goal because it showed a different side to his game. It was a cool and composed finish and you have to give him a lot of credit. His movement is very good and he grabbed a nice assist for Podolski’s goal. Lukas’s movement is equally magical and I am sure that the pair will notch up quite a few goals between them this season.
5) Francis Coquelin needs to step up him game. With Abou Diaby injured for a few weeks and Jack Wilshere not back in the team, this is Coquelin’s opportunity to show what he is made of. His performance last night was nothing special and he has to be aware that he has a lot of competition from Emmanuel Frimpong and Aaron Ramsey.