Depth, Goals, and more Internationals Thoughts

Robin van Persie injures his ankle

Today we had still Bendtner, Walcott, offensive players who were not available. We had Denilson who did not start, Eduardo, Rosicky, that’s why I was always amazed when people told me ‘buy buy buy!’ But to do what with the players you buy? … and Carlos Vela I forget.

Arsene Wenger, after the 4-1 win over AZ Alkmaar

This morning, the dot com confirmed the finding that Robin van Persie’s injury was not as bad as previously thought and that he’ll only be out for 6 weeks rather than the 600 months that some initially feared. Owing to the relative time dilation which occurs in the Arsenal infirmary, I wouldn’t be surprised if he isn’t back to play against Everton on January 9th. I’m just happy that there aren’t any Internationals between now and then for him to be healthy for, because we all know that if he’s healthy, he’d play, and if he plays, he’d get injured.

Typically, before Robin’s helicopter had even landed at the hospital the press, and Arsenal’s fans, started speculating that Marouane Chamakh would be coming in January. I’m going to point you to several facts which make this unlikely: 1) Robin will be back in January. 2) Bendtner will be back next month. 3) Walcott will be back by the Chelsea match. 4) Eduardo. 5) Wenger’s own statements (see the quote above) suggest that he’s not interested in Chamakh anymore 6) Chamakh will be playing in the ACN in January, meaning he will not help us until February even if he were able to just step right in to the pace and power of the Premier League, which even world class players like Arshavin took months to adjust.

Will Wenger buy Chamakh in January? Maybe. But it won’t be because he wants him to fill in for van Persie while he’s out injured in December. The other thing that surprises me is the hand wringing about why Wenger didn’t buy him (or Benzema or Klaas Jan Huntelaar or etc) back in August. Why? Because Arsenal have an absolute glut of attacking players! Rosicky, Walcott, van Persie, Eduardo, Arshavin, and Bendtner are all able to play in the forward spot. Maybe not the same center forward in a 4-3-3 that Robin van Persie was able to do, but Wenger will figure out a formation that takes advantage of the players talents that he has available. I could easily see a return to the 4-4-2 when Rosicky and Walcott are both available to play on the wings.

The facts are that we have Eduardo, who scored 2 typical poacher’s goals for Croatia on the weekend, and we should remember that Eduardo was brought in to provide that type of clinical finishing that Arsenal were missing in Henry’s last year. He has the touch to be a sort-of-Robin up front, and the finishing to provide some goals for the magnificent midfield that Arsenal still have.

If Eduardo isn’t to your liking, there’s still Arshavin. Yes, Wenger would have to have a 4-4-2 to slot him in the front line, but striker is Andrei’s preferred position. So, I could actually see a combination of Eduardo and Arshavin up front with Nasri/Rosicky/Walcott on the wings. In fact, that’s kind of a mouthwatering proposition isn’t it?

Oh yeah, and Vela, I forget about Vela.

But whatever Wenger does up front, we can’t forget that Arsenal right now are scoring goals from all over the field: Cesc has 6 league goals, Vermaelen 4, and Gallas has 3 goals. Yes, Robin was crucial to that up front, but this is a real opportunity for a lot of other players to step up and fill his shoes. Does Theo Walcott fancy himself a striker? These next 6 weeks are his chance to show what he’s got.

Further thoughts from yesterday’s post:

A lot of good comments yesterday and I just wanted to respond to one of the more thoughtful comments here so that my response didn’t get lost in the history of yesterday’s post.

<a href=”#comment-10342″>@connolysagent</a>, said:

Tim, having internationals in the Euro off-season would mean that southern hemisphere games are played in the peak of summer. It’s unworkable in Africa, south Asia, south American, Australia. The international calender is already rationalised to provide a global two=week period of international matches every few months or so.

Anyway, no one is putting a gun to European clubs and telling them to sign international players. When they sign foreign players, they’re aware that (if good enough) they’ll be selected to their national teams and be required for X games a year. European clubs don’t create these players. These players are nurtured from a young age by their national associations. When they are old enough (over 18) they are then poached by big clubs in Europe who can provide them with more opportunity and money. But the basis of their talent has been nurtured by the countries of their youth. So why shoudn’t those countries have the chance to see them play every now and then?

Most people aside from Americans and the English are in favour of international sides. We don’t get the chance to see our players very often; in the case of Australia, our national side is scattered to the four winds. It’s nice to see them play every now and then (albeit very poorly).

Tim Responds:

You have made a lot of really good points and I’d like to make a longer response here, so that everyone knows where I stand on the international issue.

First off, as to the idea of when the international period should start, I simply made a suggestion of Spring. Which in the Northern Hemisphere is a temperate time, but in Australia is the hottest time of the year, in Latin America it’s actually fall and very temperate, and in Africa you can’t make any assertions because there’s such a wide variety of climates there — South Africa would be ecstatic to play all of their international games during their winter.

The fact is that no time is really the best time, right now it’s the cyclone season in the Pacific. Can the Philippines or Samoa put out a team right now? More to the point, the vast majority of the countries, the vast majority of the players, and the vast majority of the clubs play their football in the northern hemisphere. I’m not trying to be a hemisphere-ist, rather, suggesting that whoever would make the international season would take all these factors into consideration, but that a single, unified, period of time could be carved out which would serve everyone better than the current system.

As for the national sides nurturing the players, even if you think that an 18 year old is a finished product, there’s a wide variety of means that youth are educated. Jack Wilshere was nurtured by Arsenal from age 9, Messi was instructed by Barcelona, Fabregas was instructed by Barcelona but really bloomed at Arsenal. In fact, if you look all over the world, all the top players, the internationals, are poached by clubs far before aged 18. I am aware that some countries (notably Australia) have a robust youth academy system but you can’t make a case that those academies are where they develop the best players. The best players are developed during their club careers, in Europe. Henry is a great example, educated at Clairfontaine, he became an international through his play at Arsenal.

As for the bit about Americans not liking internationals, you’re wrong. I’m probably the only American I know who can’t stand them. I was talking to someone yesterday who said he might take off time from work for the World Cup. Unthinkable for me, but a lot of American soccer fans love the World Cup.

As for that part about no one putting a gun to their head and signing internationals,  top clubs in England have all got a ton of internationals but it’s a “chicken or egg” situation really. A club either makes your team good enough that the players get noticed by the national teams or you bring in established internationals to compete. No one “puts a gun to their heads” but if you want to compete you need to have the best talent and that best talent will always play for their international teams.

And finally, the thing that I find most odious about internationals is that all the burden is on the clubs and all the benefit goes to the national sides. The clubs nurture the players, they put them on the international stage by playing in the top club competitions, they provide all of the health care and training, and when the player goes off to the internationals and gets injured, it’s never the national side which suffers that injury. It’s the club. So all the benefit goes to FIFA and all the burden is on the clubs. That situation needs to be rectified somehow and I think the best way to do that is to lump all the international games together. Besides, wouldn’t you rather see your Socceroos play for 10 weeks straight than have it spread out all over the year, all over the world playing meaningless friendlies in the middle of the season? You, your national side, and the club we both love would benefit from that situation.

Internationals should only be held in the off-season

Robin van Persie's ankle is stamped on by Giorgio Chiellini

Just 5 days ago, NostraWenger gave his assessment of Arsenal’s poor November record over the last few years and put the blame directly on the door of injuries.

Traditionally November has not been a good month for us but I explain that by the fact we had more injuries, it is the first period when they kick in.  It depends on the fixtures too – you can have two or three difficult games in November. You have decisive games in the Champions League and the players go on international duty. Now we have that break and all the players fly away so let’s hope they all fly back in good shape. After that we go to Sunderland and that is always a difficult place to go.

Though we don’t quite know the extent of the injury, it’s looking a lot like Arsenal lost a key player to what looks like a very serious injury. Robin van Persie seems to have suffered an ankle injury under a heavy challenge by Italian center back Giorgio Chiellini, in an international friendly.

As my regular reader knows, I’m no fan of Nationalism Football. In fact, parsing the Arsenal blogs this morning, it looks like none of us are fans. But I think most of us would be fine with internationals if they confined them to the off season. You could easily shorten the Premier League season by taking out all these international breaks, then give the players some time off in Spring, and get them back in training with their national team for Summer. Or even vice-versa, get them straight into international play in Spring, and then a break in Summer.

To say that having these breaks in the middle of the season is really frustrating, is an understatement.  And it’s not just the ubiquitous injuries: it’s the time away from their club; it’s the two week break as players fly all over the world and put in what is usually some kind of mediocre football; and then it’s the players flying home where some, like Vela, fly 11,000 miles round trip. Then the boss gets one day with his team and they are off to play a team that is well rested because they only have one international, like Sunderland.

But it’s crazy for the players and fans of International football as well. For players in the EPL the months of November through January are insanely scheduled, you’ve got two English cups, the Champions League, the Premier League, International football, the Christmas jam of fixtures, and for the African players, the Africa Cup of Nations which puts stress not only on those players but on their teammates as well.

And if you’re a fan of the International game, look at yesterday’s match between “England” and Brazil in Doha. More than half of the English team were either canny enough to say they had an injury or were actually injured, which left basically the English team playing as Spurs and Villa, with a little Man City, while Brazil fielded a mostly starting team. And then you top the whole thing off by holding the match in Doha; 3,500 miles from London and 7,300 miles from Rio! How is that valuable to anyone? I mean anyone outside of Dubai.

I know that the Internationals are all about making money for FIFA but there needs to be some sense injected into this madness. Clubs and their fans are the ones who support these international teams, we build the players up through our support of them at club level, going to 38+ matches a season. Those supporters shouldn’t have their season thrown into chaos every two months so that the casual International supporters can see James Milner and Wes Brown trundle around in Doha as Brazil give yet another exhibition of the gulf in class between the English team and the Brazilian squad.

It’s madness, these games should be held on their own time, in their own season and not breaking up the season for the rest of the world’s clubs. But like most of what FIFA does, it’s a madness that makes sense to them, and doubtless will never change.

Tekken, Cartwheels, and Women Scorned; vote for your favorite “interlull” video

Three football related videos are blazing their way through the internet at the moment; Jonny Evan’s Fatality on Drogba, some Cartwheeling keeper, and some video chronicling all the hard hits that happened on one high school women’s  football team.

Watch each below and vote for your favorite at the very bottom — the winner gets $100 and a handshake from Bob Saget.

Jonny Evans v. Drogba

Cartwheeling Keeper Capers

Pueblo West High School Girls Soccer team. Hits from the 2007 Season

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