A warm welcome back. I’m glad it’s Friday but sort of wish it was next Friday in a way. Not wanting to wish my life away or anything you understand, but I wouldn’t mind being able to ⇒⇒ fast forward past this annoying void of club football; the likes of which shall now be known as Cloid ©®™, as in, ‘another f*cking Cloid’s coming up next week dammit, just as Joel had nabbed his 8th goal in three games and was hitting some form as well…’.
And there are plenty of Arsenal players in action over the course of this current Cloid, but to be honest, I haven’t really been keeping up with who’s playing where and all that stuff, so if you’re someone who prides yourself on knowing exactly how many minutes Hector Bellerin was or wasn’t afforded on his first call-up for Spain, then there’s always International Watch on the official site for a comprehensive round-up of Arsenal involvement.
My engagement with Cloid over the next week or so will be restricted to random moments when I’m switching channels and stumble across a game in which players who interest me are playing at half pace, trying to avoid injury and get this this sh*t over with as quickly and carefully as possible. Like earlier this evening in fact, as I discovered Mesut Ozil was in action for Germany as they hosted Poland.
From the little I saw, Ozil was his usual silky self, roaming around playing little passes that seem far from flamboyant, but are devastatingly effective in helping his team control possession and create goal-scoring chances. He was sorely missed at Newcastle despite us managing to win the game I thought, so I’m glad he’s back fit and look forward to seeing him return to our line-up when we face Stoke at Emirates Stadium a week tomorrow.
Elsewhere, Arsene Wenger has been speaking about one of his favourite subjects – mental strength. The boss was obviously responding to pretty scathing criticism of his squad’s supposed psychological shortfalls by Gary Neville on Sky a couple of weeks ago, and suggested not only do pundits need other pundits to provide punditry of their punditry, but that back-to-back FA Cups are proof that there is no inherent mental weakness in the Arsenal dressing room. Speaking to beIN Sports (and transcribed by Arseblog News), he said:
Opinions for me have to be documented. We won the cup last year. You don’t win the (FA) cup unless you are mentally strong, believe me. That’s why I don’t agree with that. You have to respect everybody’s opinion. Pundits are just people who are filmed by a camera and give their opinion and you have to accept that but if a pundit gives an opinion and is not right in six months, nobody will come back and say: ‘well, why did you say that six months ago? You were completely wrong.’ It’s just an assessment and an opinion you have to respect. The modern world, people are informed. People are informed and have opinions but at the end of the day someone had to make decisions. People who make decisions have to be responsible and stand up for their decisions and that’s not exactly the same for the opinion. That’s part of our job, to be confronted with different opinions and to accept that sometimes people are wrong and sometimes people are right. That’s part of it. I disagree of course.
Which is fair enough, particularly when you consider a large portion of what was said by Neville revolved around his belief that Arsenal could not win a title with Francis Coquelin as the defensive midfielder, which ignores the fact that the renaissance of Francis as an Arsenal player was arguably the single most important factor in our superb second half of last season.
Plus the fact that the Frenchman is statistically one of – if not the – best defensive midfielders in Europe this calendar year. The guy’s played out of his skin and barely put a foot wrong. Ironically, Neville made his comments on the night of our game against Liverpool, in which Coquelin’s crucial first-half ball recoveries epitomised what he brings to our team; superb reading of opposition through balls and attacks, pace in chasing back, tackling and tenacity. What he admittedly lacked in that particular game was poise and precision in his passing, but then that could have been said for our entire team that night.
Generally, his passing, both long and short, is brilliant. It was his pin-point, cross-field pass which led to our opening goal in May’s FA Cup Final for instance. And for someone who’s not blessed with gigantic height, his ‘heart’ and ‘desire’ (two qualities presumably adored by England’s assistant manager Neville) more than make up for that. Plus he’s actually very good in the air regardless.
I think when insisting you need two, ten-foot tall, imposing, no-nonsense animals in the middle of the park to win the Premier League, Neville’s forgetting his beloved Man Utd enjoyed the vast majority of their success with Paul Scholes and Roy Keane as a midfield duo – neither of whom were built like Nemanja Matic or Morgan Schneiderlin height-wise.
For me, Coquelin’s fast developing into our own version of Claude Makelele (only with more pace), because the thing that set Makelele apart, was his reading of, and efficient reaction to, danger. Coquelin has shown similar signs of game intelligence and if he can keep it up over the course of a season and beyond, ‘the Makelele role’ may well have to make way for ‘the Coquelin character’, in footballing parlance.
See you on Saturday.