5 things I learned 2 days ago: Theo, Poldi, Handbrake, Spots, Giving in

If you give a Theo some room

Theo Walcott is one of the best players on this Arsenal side and we saw that again on Saturday as he set up the Mertesacker header with a delightful chip, kept constant pressure down Tottenham’s right, and eventually got the goal all his hard work deserved. Possibly because of that performance everyone has suddenly done an about face on Theo Walcott and he’s gone from a player who was rubbished by most to a player who is now one of the most important players in red and white.

He’s the same old Theo though. And as I have pointed out in various places these last few weeks, Theo is Arsenal’s most experienced Arsenal player, he’s now the season’s leading scorer with 9 goals, he also leads the team in assists with 7, and he has as many goals in his North London Derby career as Thierry Henry.

Against Spurs, Theo was given room to run and showed what he will do to teams that give him space. It was a huge surprise to see Andres Villas-Boas telling Spurs to press high up the pitch but the result was that in the first half Theo simply abused Kyle Naughton who couldn’t even get close enough to attempt a tackle. This was Walcott in his most comfortable role as a footballer: the wide provider.

AVB slowed Theo down a little in the second half with his switch to a 3-5-1 but Wenger simply moved Theo more centrally and without the ball Walcott was free to run into pockets of space all over the Spurs defense, eventually latching onto an Ox cross for the goal he so richly deserved.

I think what frustrates people is that performance you saw against Spurs is not replicated week in and week out because most teams have figured out that Theo is not a dribbler. But just because he doesn’t dribble constantly doesn’t make him rubbish. Against West Ham he hit the Hammers on the counter for Arsenal’s second goal and he provided an assist through sheer perseverance to seal the win. Those are the qualities that he adds to the team and judging by the early numbers this season, he’s adding quite nicely.

I’ve always held that it’s a shame that Theo was born in this era of the super ego. He’s the kind of player who should be happy to start against teams that will give him space and be a super-sub against teams that sit back and defend. But there are literally no players of Theo’s talent level that are willing to do that at this time because they see it as an affront to this corporate entity that is the player. Theo Walcott as “TW14″ or whatever branding they are doing now.

Both the fans and the player need to learn how to forgive “Walcott” for what he isn’t and accept him for what he is. If Wenger’s words are to be believed, then Theo will be with Arsenal, at least until the end of the season.

Lu lu lu Lukas Podolski!

1 touch, 1 shot, 1 goal.

1 touch, 1 pass, 1 assist.

4 tackles attempted, 4 tackles made.

The thing I love about Podolski is that he has to be Arsenal’s most clinical performer all over the pitch. Think about it. How does it even seem possible that Podolski had both a goal and an assist from that Spurs game? How many touches do you remember him getting? Shots? Key passes?

But when I saw him slipped into space down the left and then look up and see Cazorla bombing forward I just knew that was going to be a goal. And the amazing thing is that his cross was perfectly placed and weighted for Cazorla to finish. I know Cazorla gets all the credit for scoring because, well, I don’t know why but really, watch that pass again (the bitesize is free on the dot com), it’s superb. In fact, I bet Cazorla misses the goal if he gets any other ball than that one, because for all his qualities he’s just not a natural finisher.

Podolski is such an anti-Arsene signing that he seems almost out of place in the pantheon of the last 7 years. Arsene is more likely to sign a Hleb or a Gervinho who want to kiss the ball all night than a Podolski who will skip any foreplay at all and go straight up the duff. For example, so far this season Poldi has 4 league goals and 3 assists off just 18 shots and 15 key passes compared to 4 goals and 3 assists for Cazorla who has taken 41 shots and made 38 key passes.

He’s our efficient little German and I’d like to see what happens to his numbers and Arsenal’s fortunes if he’s given more service than he’s been getting lately.

The Handbrake was off but only sorta

You ever driven a car with the handbrake on? It can be done but only if you’re so oblivious that you don’t notice the smell of the brakes burning up or the fact that your engine is struggling. I once knew a guy who drove 30 miles with the handbrake on. Ruined the brakes on that car.

I think Arsenal played “with a bit the handbrake on” in the first 20 minutes against Spurs. Arsenal took no shots, they allowed Spurs four shots, Arteta was marked out of the game (again), and Spurs could have easily been 2-0 up in that period.

That said, some people confuse “the handbrake” with those little mental lapses that I have come to the conclusion that all players suffer. Watch any of the goals conceded by any of the top teams this weekend and you will see someone switching off. I’m not sure how other fans view their team but “switching off” is something that ruins Arsenal careers among the Arsenal twitterati and it happened to Arsenal twice against Spurs.

For Spurs’ first goal you saw Mertesacker switch off (in the middle of the handbrake period, compounding the error) and actually step up rather than back which gave Defoe the room to get in his shot. And for the second goal I could see it develop the whole way: Sagna switched off and let Bale get the jump on him down the wing and once Bale had a step it was only a matter of seconds before he was in a dangerous area.

Those are Arsenal’s two best defenders, two most experienced players, and two most positionally aware players on the team and yet they switched off. It’s something that happens, even to good players, and something we all have to accept. Just like the fact that teams are going to score goals off corners regardless of whether you use man-marking or zonal defense.

The key question is what do those players do about it after they realized they switched off? Both Mertesacker and Sagna thumped home headers in a North London Derby to get their team back into the game. That’s how you make up for the mistake.

Stepping up like that is critical to the team because as we saw after that goal, Arsenal’s handbrake was off.

An Adebayor can’t change his spots

I really don’t know what goes through the mind of a player like Adebayor but I am certain that whatever he thinks it can’t be trusted to stay consistent for more than a few minutes. I mentioned before the game that Webb had sent Adebayor off twice already in his career and as soon as I saw his lunge on Cazorla I knew what color the card would be.

I can say that  while arguing that both of Adebayor’s previous red cards were very harsh, watch: Adebayor’s first ever red card from Webb was in the League Cup final for a “foul” that Eboue actually committed and the second red card was a second yellow for shielding the ball with what Webb called a “high boot” but was a fairly routine step over.

But this one as a Spurs player against Arsenal was no doubt a red card. Surely everyone at Tottenham knew about Adebayor’s past with Arsenal? That whole run to the other end of the stadium and celebrate in front of the Arsenal fans when he was playing for City? The stamp on van Persie’s face in the same match? If you didn’t know about Adebayor’s ill-tempered past, I can assure you that Howard Webb did. That’s why he sent him off: it was a dangerous lunge from a player with a history of trying to injure his former teammates. If a referee is ever going to have the leeway to intuit intent, that would be the one time.

You (if you’re one of the complainers) can complain all you like about how the red card changed the game. Personally, I would say that Tottenham signing him, Villas-Boas pumping him up before the game, and Adebayor just being mental are what changed the game.

I’ve stopped worrying

When Bale’s goal went in and made the score 4-2 the announcers went nuts saying that this would get Spurs back into the game. And to be honest, I had a brief moment where I thought about the 4-4 result from a few years back and my imagination picked up the scenario from the moment that Bale ran at Szczesny trying to get the ball back to a big celebration at the end of the game culminating with Spurs fans charging the pitch.

Then my mind went to twitter and the shit-storm that would follow that result. 10 men Spurs come back 4-4. Nightmare fuel.

So, as soon as the net stopped rippling I should have been on pins and needles but I wasn’t and for the first time as an Arsenal fan, I gave myself over to the game. I let it wash over me like I was a rock in a creek bed.

Now today I look at the League Table and see that Arsenal are just 9 points off Man City at the top. Moreover, Arsenal are just 5 points adrift of Chelsea. The Chelsea team that was going to run away with the League a few weeks ago, remember? Plenty of time to get back into this.

And I’m just going to let it happen.

Qq

35 thoughts on “5 things I learned 2 days ago: Theo, Poldi, Handbrake, Spots, Giving in

  1. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1vladiziv

    excellent points on Theo and Poldi..

    exactly what I was thinking but can’t say or formulate it as well..

    1. +9 Vote -1 Vote +1Shard

      Yeah. Tim has a habit of doing that. Saying everything you were thinking but didn’t know how to articulate. Happened so many times with me.

    2. -2 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      Thoughts on Walcott

      1) should have been sold in the summer. The closer we get to end of contract, the harder our position.

      2) Wenger must likely be prepared to come close to his asking price to have decided to drag this on into January. I believe they are holding out for 100K. Likely Wenger is waiting for 90K

      3) OTOH, if a buyer comes in in January with the right price, Wenger will likely sell. He has Chamberlain coming good too and Gnabry (Ryo) pushing over the next 2 years.

      4) Plus ultimately, crritical performer for us no doubt, he is replaceable. The way the squad is, we have plenty of wide players. We need another striker with pace up top but preferably someone with presence and size (say a Leandro). Also we need a player who can complement Santi technically (take some of the weight off). Konoplyanka (not cup tied) can play across midfield and as playmaker.

      5) But if for some reason the sell on party is a immediate title rival (I think the board knows it won’t go down well) and if pricing is not adequete, likely Wenger may retain Walcott.

      All in the balance at the moment till January.

      meanwhile good to see him played and putting in meaningful contribution rather than frozen to periphery (as in start of season) to our detriment and for contract leverage. that was absolutely daft.

  2. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1torontogooner

    Haven’t commented here in a while but i thoroughly enjoyed the win this weekend. I got scared when lennon almost made it 2-0 but when ade got sent off i instantly felt that the game was ours. Maybe it’s just me but I’ve noticed that arsenal almost need a catalyst to play their best. We either need to go down by a goal or something like a red card changes the game before we PLAY. We always start games lethargic and almost uninterested but anyways, i’m glad for the win and it makes me rue the draw with fulham. We could’ve been that much further up the table but oh well, this is the arsenal we’ve come to know. Every game is an interesting game. Hoping for 3pts against Montpellier to seal a successful week.

    1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      Lennon = Walcott imitation
      Huddlestone = song imitation
      Parker = old Jack imitation

      Great pretenders. and Redknapp was on MOTD saying Spurs had the better squad…

      as they have had for 17 seasons now and 8 managers, none of whom have helped the hens finish above us (Wenger)

      Funny to see Kompany (he’s an honest lad bless him) tell harry that Arsenal was the toughest team City has faced thus far.

      with regard catalyst, you may be right. seems when the team clicks, we get the best out of Santi, when we struggle he struggles. And when we get the best out of Santi, we are deadly (going forward at least)

  3. Vote -1 Vote +1blazon ohio

    enjoyed the piece, thanks…

    two questions…

    your thoughts on Ramsey…what gives, he looks awful, confidence shot, loses the ball and when he does he jogs back after it…is this the Shawcross effect..or what?

    second…read somewhere last week NBC Universal just paid three times as much as previous holder for U.S. rights to the BPL next season…so is this the end of Fox Soccer and ESPN for us? NBC have also apparently outbid Speed(Fox again) for Formula One next year…they have a new 24 sports channel to fill and it sounds as though we are going to have to live with them like it or not…

    problem is it’s not going to get better surely than what we have now, only worse…currently on Fox via Dish we get pretty much every BPL game plus Rugby, news etc for about 20 bucks a month…much cheaper than the UK i gather…the ESPN2 game/games come in free…plus CL of course…

    so now what? Maybe NBC will give it away in a credibility move?!!

    anyone know?

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Post author

      Ramsey is really struggling with the opposition closing down space on him in midfield. Basically he panics. It’s a confidence thing and could be related to Shawcross but I can’t even begin to guess what goes through a player’s head. The hope is that he will grow in confidence the more he plays with others like Cazorla but I’m not sure. Anyway, I like the kid personally and hopw he does well. I think coming on as a sub is perfect for him at this stage in his career.

      As for NBC, all I know is here:

      http://epltalk.com/2012/10/28/nbc-universal-confirms-acquisition-of-premier-league-rights-in-us-from-2013-16/

      I will try to get more information from them some time later.

      Cheers,

      thanks for reading.

    2. Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

      I hope NBC don’t screw those broadcasts up. They do okay with MLS and showed more Oylimpic football than I can ever remember. I’ll take a wait and see approach.

      As for Fox, you have to think they messed up their bid by not judging the market properly. Fox’s parent News Corp did just buy the Yankees’ Yes Network for 3 billion today and Yes shows Arsenal replays. Fox will still have Uefa and FA cup but they will have a t a BIG hole in lineup

      What does piss me off is that Al Jazeera bought La Liga, Serie A, Ligue Un broadcast rights and did not not cable deals in place before hand. I just can’t be bothered now to stream games that might interest me and I’ll can still watch Ligue Un on Univision and Bundesliga on GolTv.

    3. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      Ramsey is a good player. His strengths are his vision and passing. his best position is just behind the striker (playmaker). he is a little wasted out wide and not combative neough in central midfield.

      If he can be that little bit more aggressive, he will be exceptional. Currently, when he loses the ball, he is not able to compete to win it back as well as say Coquelin.

      With Rosicky likely leaving, Ramsey will probably assume his spot although in that, he will be pushed very hard by Eisfeld and both will likely be behind Santi in pecking order.

      this is the main issue with Ramsey at the moment IMO.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1Eurazian

        I think Ramsey’s chance to be an important player for Arsenal is fading fast. His time out of the game with injury has hurt his career in several ways.

        He had less time to learn the finer points of the game alongside Cesc; in his first season when he looked very impressive, he had a lot of the pressure taken off him by Cesc playing alongside him.
        His year out of the game also gave Wilshere the chance to usurp him as Arsenal’s great young midfield hope. Coquelin has also returned to the first team setup and looks a better prospect in the deeper midfield roles.
        The arrival of Cazorla means that we have a player who is better in Ramsey in pretty much every respect. It drops Ramsey a further spot down the pecking order. That role behind the striker is a position where we need someone with either world-class creativity, or finishing ability.

        Ramsey at the moment is just a middling sort of player and we can’t really afford that.

  4. +3 Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

    Of course now there is the nonsense of how we only won because Ade was sent off. What rubbish. Good teams, winning teams capitalize on any and every advantage given them and that is exactly what we did.

    A good post today, because it has realized some genuine optimism after what has to be in the final analysis, one of the most scintillating and best played matches of the season.

    For this edition of Arsenal we all crave what has been sorely lacking: the ability to be inspired by a good performance like this one and build from it, some degree of consistency.

    PLEASE guys…just keep showing up like you did on Saturday for the next few at least, and the rest will take care of itself.

    Champions League v. Montepellier next and actually looking forward to it! COYG.

    1. +6 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      Webb tried to help them with a couple of deft touches.:D

      Alas.

      AVB looking into his black book was priceless.

      likely inside : 1961. “Dummies guide to soccer” (portugese edition, forward and translations by one J. Mourinho). Toll free number to Harry Redknapp’s travelling manager’s clinic. One return ticket to Togo.

  5. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Yan

    Good times, good vibes! Woohooo..

    Only thing that worries me a little is how we counter the “marking arteta out of the game” plan of our opponents. Plus, Mikel is awesome, but it is a very demanding role, physically speaking. I hope we don’t burn him out by mid season.

      1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Zeddington

        Wenger’s comments made it sound like Diaby is a bit of a Ledley King situation: can’t play twice in a week. Which is worrying, but means he can still be a useful player and provide rotation IF MANAGED CORRECTLY. Which hasn’t happened until now.

  6. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Londoncalling12

    That’s the spirit. Keep calm and carry on. No stress no fuss
    All good points I agree especially Poldi paragraph
    Just an observation : We need reinforcements – a tackler in the middle of the team who is athletic and smart. Do you know of anyone ( a Veira clone)
    Great blog as usual.
    XX

  7. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    Ideally, Wenger should be playing Walcott against teams like Chelsea, Man U, and Man City and Ox against the Stokes, etc who will sit back and defend because he has better dribbling skills.

    What Wenger also needs to do is tweak his formation so as to ‘free’ Arteta to resume his effectiveness. Either move Arteta more forward to pull his defender away from supporting the lone attacker or move him deeper so that his man has less space for attacking support.

    1. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      Arteta.

      we don’t have someone who can perform what he does at the moment.

      Likely why Wenger was keen on Sahin but botched it up selling Song too early.

      Coquelin is the closest we have to someone providing tight screening but he isn’t Arteta with regards positioning and passing precision.

      Other than that (IF) Diaby is fit, he could assume the screening role but again, his assets are very different from Arteta.

      …not sure what the solution is in lieu of contingency for an Arteta knock.

      But we should be thinking very hard about it in January. Maybe a loan if opportunity arises.

  8. Vote -1 Vote +1Daniel

    Excellent post. The ‘switch off’ issue exemplified by Per and Bac is the reason we’ll never be comfortable in games..even at 4-2 against 10 men. Have to think more concentration is all that’s needed. It happens so often, that even us as fans can see it about to happen. why not the players then? also i think theo will stay. even after the examples of cesc, rvp and nasri. this is because as good as he is and as important as he is for us. he’s just not viewed in the same world class bracket as those players were at the moments they left. they had assurances that they could walk into a better team and be assured to play a signficant role. theo’s heavy touch on the ramsey through pass and his hesitancy when he had that chance to make it 3, remind the footballing world that he’s not quite world class at this moment. he knows it too. we’re the best team that’ll give him the chance to create that world class impression in the minds of the footballing public. THEN he’ll leave. for now, he’ll stay.

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      The other issue being all goals are someone’s fault.

      We tend to view our problems in a prism (rightly so I suppose as it concerns us most) but the media tend to harp too heavily upon it because of recent seasons.

      Instead, when opponents leak goals, they tend to be viewed as ‘nothing the defender could have done about it”

      All goals stem from a mistake somewhere.

      And yes, even the best defenders will make mistake which goes back to defending as a collective. The team has to work together to cover each other when that happens. This is the crucial lesson to be learnt.

      Pointing fingers at individuals (flavour of the week) makes no sense. Last week it was Koscielny, this week, its Metersecker.

      As with Adebayor, a Leopard rarely changes spots.Over the long duration, its how we invite the least amount of undue pressure to the back that is important. We are an attacking team. We have to be on the front foot as much as possible.

  9. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1kaius

    The man has a thought-process like 12-year aged whisky, smooth with added bite, love it. The line about Poldi’s bedroom tactics is priceless but then he really does embody a conundrum about a few different players in the team. Namely what would they be able to do if…?

    I’m sure I’m not the only one that daydreams about:

    Ramsey and Diaby without the injuries?
    Chamakh and Arshavin without the baffling loss of form?
    Vermaelen without the captaincy?
    Jack the Lad when he recalibrates his shooting boots?
    Brand TW14 having just a wee bit more ball-shielding ability?
    Andre Saint if he wasn’t a fun-loving Brazilian(an efficient German maybe?)

    Of course I also have the one about sticking Arteta in a Delorean, so this would be his 3rd or 4th season as a Gunner but to be honest if this season and the last has taught me anything it’s to try and be less manic about supporting Arsenal. We all need to be more Zen – the “rock in the creek bed” as Tim puts it so well. Theo is Theo and I’m not his biggest supporter but he has shown enough cojones for me to forgive him the next time he shanks a first touch out for a throw-in to the opposition (anyone remember him doing that in the VERY FIRST MINUTE of the season against Sunderland?). We gotta accept Theo, Poldi, and the rest of our flawed but brilliant team for the football players that they are.

    We don’t however, have to extend the same courtesy to Adebayor. As a fellow African it’s hard to say this respectfully and I hope you’ll forgive the language Tim – but what a c**t he is.

    Great result guys.

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Eurasian

      What if someone taught Gervinho proper shooting technique?

      To follow on from Tim’s sexual analogy, Gerv is the guy who knows the Kama Sutra inside out yet still doesn’t know where the clitoris is.

      1. -2 Vote -1 Vote +1jaymin

        i was going to make an observation about genital mutilation in the Ivory Coast possibly contributing to Gerv’s confusion in this regard. I reflected that it might be in bad taste. so i equivocated.

    2. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      Jack the lad bleed Arsenal red and white.

      In the tunnel you could see his annoyance with the faux pretense put up by Adebawhore.

      And he was the first to confront him (push monkey boy back) when Santi received the two footed challenge.

      He’d run the extra mile for us even if he isn’t quite top of the game yet.

      No one wanted us to win more than jack on Saturday….well maybe Wenger and Adebayor.:D

  10. Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

    Today’s press regarding Theo Walcott’s contract is encouraging.

    WE MUST SIGN WALCOTT.

    He cannot do more than he’s done this month to show that he is loyal and worthy. He deserves this.

    Getting a deal done before the New Year will send exactly the right signals to all concerned and prove to world that when circumstances drive us to do so, we can and do put our money where our mouth is.

  11. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Tumelo aka @Krishaan1st

    Love these articles, as stated before, you have this uncanny knack of being able to articulate the thoughts most of us don’t have the grammatical nous to express.

    I was Impressed with Theo, some say If he wants to leave let him go, I’ve maintained and still maintain, that Theo is one of our most effective players this season, compared to Hazard, look at these figures:

    Eden Hazard: 20 games, 4 goals, 6 assists
    Theo Walcott: 15 games, 9 goals, 7 assists

    He’s been even more effective than Hazard, and at a fraction of the costs the Chelsea player would’ve cost us if we had been so foolish to indulge in that madness!!

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      I think he’ll give Wenger something to think about.

      Likely Wenger is revising the price he’s willing to spend (wage-wise) to keep him.

      He’s simply been extremely effective for us in all corners of the field.

      Like Song, he’s come good for us in the last season and matured. Hard to think we will sell the product when it is finally ripen but OTOH, we have a production line and there is equal product in market at the moment that may afford the squad more balance.

      It’s a tricky decision likely decided on price offered for player over how much Wenger is willing to tolerate with regards his pay. Quite obviously it has to be close to what Walcott’s team are demanding for Wenger not to have sold him in the summer.

      1. -4 Vote -1 Vote +1jaymin

        if we don’t re-sign him, it’ll be the end of us as a serious top 4 club. we’ll no longer get the Cazorlas or the Artetas, let alone the Hazards or the Götzes. the drip drip will be revealed to be an irreparable leak. this is about more than money, if Arsenal sell its last star, the reputation they have developed in the markets they want to grow in, that of a toady, pathetic, prostate bunch of shady businessmen who would, in the words of a famous film “not only sell [their] mother, [but] send her C.O.D.” nobody will want to come to us, and we’ll become like Newcastle: great stadium, lots of history, but Chelsea is where the cameras will go. it’s just so vital we sign him. lose some fucking money on the deal even, just earn us some fucking pride in not being seen as a development squad for every team in the world. we’re hemorrhaging fans because we look pathetic.

  12. Vote -1 Vote +11steved1

    Really like Poldis stats its been a while since we had a players who are clinical with the ball. I’d be interested to see his stats vs Artetas stats after a season just to see how many things they try and the %age they right get of those things.

  13. Vote -1 Vote +1Zeddington

    I’m still pessimistic Walcott will sign on, and frankly, I think its all him. Wenger has loyalty to the players he’s brought through. Walcott has always been a key asset, if not footballistically, then politically, for our club. When we were criticized for not being english enough (before Gibbs, Wilshere, and now Ox and Jenks), Walcott was our token Englishman. He grew into the player he is now – a decent player – at Arsenal. Even if we were looking to offload him, we’d have wanted to do it in a much smarter way, maximizing our return. I’m sure we’re desperate to keep him, but he doesn’t want to stay. And I think, even if we offered 100k and promises of playing as a striker, we’d find him on his way somewhere else.

    I could be wrong, that’s just what it seems.

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