As per usual, the international break came at an inconvenient time for Arsenal, who actually managed to put a winning run together before nations took precedence over clubs in the fixture list. International football seems be something that many football fans shun nowadays. I never dreamed that would be the case, but the fare on offer is generally so poor that it’s no wonder really. Back in the mid to late 70s, England were not such an awful side, but couldn’t even qualify for World Cups. You’d have to say the current England team are nowhere near as talented as most of the teams put together by the likes of Ramsey, Revie, Mercer et al, but qualification was assured long ago for Southgate’s charges in an uncompetitive group and perhaps that’s the problem: even real matches seem like friendlies.
This brings us to today’s game against Stoke. With Burnley winning and breathing down their throats in the race for sixth, Arsenal need to keep the momentum going in the league. However, the Europa League has taken on additional importance lately, so Wenger won’t necessarily want to risk all his stars when CSKA Moscow are next up at the Emirates on Thursday 5th April. I mean, he doesn’t even want to risk his voice, which is apparently why Steve Bould is taking press conferences of late. I wonder what percentage of Arsenal fans believe that Wenger has really lost his voice. They may think he’s lost something, but ‘voice’ might not be the word they are looking for. I, for one, believe it as much as I believe stories about Ozil’s injuries, ahead of tricky, long-distance away fixtures in the Premier League.
However, talking of Ozil, I have to say he is a proper number 10. My definition of a playmaker is someone that can be the best chance-maker at the club, in terms of assists. Ozil is undisputedly that, despite his questionable work-rate. Therefore, I totally believe the story on the Online Gooner about the number 10 shirt being given to Ozil next year.
As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t really see Wilshere re-signing, so that will leave the number 10 shirt for Ozil to take. You never know, wearing that famous number might make the German feel he should run a few extra yards to justify being a successor to the likes of Bergkamp and so on. Somehow, I doubt that will be the result.
Meanwhile, it seems like a dead cert that Wilshere will move on. Although some say the England international could have fitted in to Arsenal’s top teams of the past, I’m not so sure. He’d have been on the fringes of the the title-winning squads of the past, in my opinion. I’d probably give Wilshere the nod over players like Edu, in midfield, but that’s about it. Generally, you need a strong midfield to win a title, but that’s not been heeded by Wenger, hence the drought on that front.
Nevertheless, if Wilshere moves abroad, I can see him flourishing. He has excellent technique and simply needs a good coach to get the best out of him. Staying in England would be a mistake, in my opinion, as the game is played at a 100-miles-per-hour and at a physical level, which may not really suit Wilshere, even though he does his best to adapt to it.
On the subject of midfielders, it was interesting to see that Gilberto reckons only Flamini and Alex Song have ever got close to replacing him as Arsenal’s lynchpin, defensive midfielder. The Brazilian didn’t seem to rate Coquelin much, but at least the Frenchman got a mention. I’d take Flamini over Song, as the former’s work-rate always far exceeded Song’s, who tended to stroll around the park a bit.
Over recent years, Arsenal have accumulated a large number of strollers, who don’t appear to see the value in running off the ball or tracking back. It is a disturbing trend. Arsenal fans will just have to hope that the current team have enough technique to see of the opponents in the next couple of games, or the season could be further derailed.