Evening all. You know, sometimes, football really can be a funny old game for a fan to follow.
With Petr Cech so far being our only major signing of this summer’s transfer window, the Emirates Cup was no doubt marked in the diary by many, as the weekend we’d catch a first glimpse of our brand new world class ‘keeper in action on home soil, with the Czech cast as the main attraction for the tournament.
Yet following today’s 1-0 win over Wolfsburg which secured us our first Emirates Cup since 2010, and yesterday’s destruction of Lyon, the name on everyone’s lips isn’t Cech, but another of this summer’s arrivals at Arsenal – 17 year old Frenchman Jeff Reine-Adelaide.
When plucked from the Lens academy and announced with zero fanfare as one of three new ‘young professionals’ by the official site in early July, few had heard the name Reine-Adelaide let alone seen him play. But boy has that changed over the course of the last two days. Following yesterday’s highly impressive cameo, the youngster made his first start for the club this afternoon and capped off another silky smooth showing with a fine assist for the only goal of the game.
Receiving a pass from Mikel Arteta midway inside the visitors’ half, Reine-Adelaide skipped past a challenge, strode forward and bided his time before passing perfectly into Theo Walcott’s path, who had peeled away to the left. The England man promptly applied a poked finish past the on-rushing goalkeeper to settle the match. Exquisite stuff.
It has been quite an introduction into the Arsenal fans’ conscience for Reine-Adelaide and afterwards Arsene Wenger revealed the midfielder would not be loaned out as he continues his development.
Speaking at his post-match press conference, he said:
He is 17 years old and he looks very promising but he needs to work with us for a year in the first team. To be an adult, to play for the under-21s and to develop. There is fantastic potential there but he will stay with us. I don’t know (how much he will play). I honestly don’t know. But today was a good opportunity to see him. In some situations of course, he has the game of a 17-year-old player but on the other hand he has shown great potential as well and looks very advanced physically for his age, and I’m sure he has learned a lot these last two days.
Arsene also had some warm words for the goalscorer Walcott, who had started the game as our central striker, but grabbed his goal having wandered infield from wide following Chuba Akpom’s introduction at half-time.
Another goal for Theo and I’m not surprised by that because I played him through the middle. I’ve always said that he’s a goalscorer because he has the movement, he has the timing of the run, the speed for the finishing, and he has an eye for taking his chances at the right moments. When he gets into these positions he finishes well. Yesterday he nearly scored when he came on as a substitute, today he scored. I believe that Theo will score goals. He has his own way as well. He’s not an aggressive striker, he’s a mobile striker. He’s the striker who lives from the quality of his movement and the speed of his movement. He turns up in the right spaces in the box and you cannot give that to a player. He anticipates well, he understands quickly and when that is linked with his speed and execution it always makes him very dangerous.
And when asked what he felt was Walcott’s best position, the boss said:
It’s a good question because it’s a complicated answer. I think in all the three positions. If you ask him where he loves to play, I believe that even he will say that it depends a little bit on the period. Sometimes he prefers left. When I’ve played him on the left he likes it as well because if he makes a good run he can score goals as well. In his ideal world he would like to play with a strong guy next to him, a player who is very strong physically, and he play off him. We have so many offensive players which makes that very difficult to combine all of them together.
Which tallies with how I’ve thought we could get the best out of Walcott all along – playing him next to a more physical forward in a two man attack (think Kevin Phillips and Niall Quinn), or from the left (as I mentioned in a recent post) allowing him to cut in onto his favoured right foot.
I just feel he looks far more comfortable on the opposite flank to which he’s most often been deployed in his Arsenal career so far. And I think it was an away Champions League qualifier against Udinese (I may be wrong) a few years back where he raced away from their defence from the halfway line to slot home at the near post, having started his run on the left.
There are a few other examples including a great effort for the England Under 21s, his goal in the League Cup Final in 2007, a finish on the end of a brilliant team move heavily involving Alexander Hleb – the list goes on. The only surprise for me is he hasn’t played from that side more often.
And with that bit of positional opinion, I’ll call it a day.