Tag Archives: Momo Diame

Wenger admits Arsenal are in for 2i players but not Zaha and unlikely Diame

Arsene Wenger confirmed in Tuesday’s press conference that Arsenal are interested in bringing in quality players this January stating specifically that the number of players was unimportant. Then later, when asked by a journalist if Arsenal were interested in bringing in two players, Arsene said specifically, yes, two.

This idea that Arsene might be both “after two players” and might be “after a non-specific number of quality players” has caused some consternation among the Arsenal faithful. This is especially the case when Arsene also admitted weakness in the defensive midfield position and follows that revelation up with an admission that the Frenchman is a fan of West Ham’s Momo Diame. However, contrary to reports in the Daily Mail it should not be taken as written in stone that Arsenal will sign two players, nor that Arsenal are interested in a holding midfielder, and certainly not that Arsenal have bid or will bid for Momo Diame — regardless of how sparkling his performance is against the Arsenal today.

Arsene Wenger is well known for his impenetrable press conferences. They are often riddles wrapped in an enigma which may contain many potent quotables but little in the way of actual substance. He rarely names names and often jests with the press, and always does so in a way that generates good copy for their headline writers, especially in the January transfer window.

So, when this presser started Wenger was at his level best, refusing to be drawn on which or how many players that the club are interested in. Instead specifying “It is not the number that counts but the quality.”

Then, literally minutes later, he seems to change his mind and admits that Arsenal are after two players. The exchange goes like this:

journalist: “I know you don’t want to talk about specific players but you said earlier that you are after two targets, is that still the case?”
Wenger: “Yes.” (scratches a spot on his neck)
journalist: “Are you any closer to identifying those two?”
Wenger: “We work very hard on it.”

Rather than a flat out admission that Arsenal will sign two players in the next 8 days, this is the admission of a man who seems to be looking for two players. I don’t think of this as a “real” number, more an imaginary number, 2 players if you will.

No mention of specific names, and no mention of specific positions, more like an admission that “if I can get them, I have two players in mind” or more likely “I have two positions that I think Arsenal need strengthening, but it can be difficult to find the quality we would like.” The reason I like the latter interpretation (that it’s positions and not players) is because it jibes with his earlier statement about looking for quality over quantity.

This interpretation of Wenger’s statements does not preclude Arsenal from buying nor guarantee a purchase, it is simply stating that I believe him when he says he is looking for someone and specifically for two positions.

The “two players” quote, however, is preceded by what seems to be an explosive admission that Arsenal are “short” in the defensive midfield position and followed by what could be interpreted as interest in Momo Diame.

But this shortness in the DM position is in the context of admitting that first choice Arteta is out, that backup Diaby is short of match fitness, and that third choice Coquelin picked up a hamstring injury. Perhaps Arsene Wenger is considering a fresh player there, lord knows many would welcome such an addition, but it seems unlikely. Arsenal are basically in the same position with regards to defensive midfielder as they were when they sold Song. And the only mitigating factor would be if Arteta’s injury is worse than thought, then we might see an addition.

And then when asked about Diame he smiles a bit and says that “[Diame] has a great presence in a game, I’ve seen him in games where he’s had a big impact” and “he can drive the midfield.” Precisely the kind of quote he loves to give (right after saying that he doesn’t talk about specific players) and precisely the type of quote the press love, because it generates such great copy on what would probably otherwise be a slow news day.

Maybe Arsenal are in for Diame. But isn’t it just as likely that the two players are a forward to take over from Theo Walcott on the right and an experienced keeper who doesn’t mind helping young Szczesny out?

Debate will rage, doubtless, but one thing you can count on is that no answers will be forthcoming from Wenger on who the targets are/were until after February 1.


All leg

Arsenal v. West Ham: first half stats and Momo’s “trial”

First off a thank you to everyone for your remarks in yesterday’s article asking “why do you watch sports?” Perhaps the reason I asked the question is, as Gombak Hillbillies posited, because Arsenal are struggling lately. It is true that very few ever question a winning team. But the reality is that the question of why we invest so much time watching sports and arguing about sports is a topic that interests me philosophically and I wanted to get some perspective from the people I trust, my long suffering readers. You didn’t disappoint and fear not your ideas did not fall on deaf ears.

The especially interesting angle in all this is why the Arsenal community is so much more active than virtually every other sports community in the world? It’s not just a question of why does anyone watch sports but rather what is it about Arsenal that engages its fans in such a diverse way but with such equally fervent support? Why does Arsenal have a whole wing of our supporter armada which are just down on the club and down on the other supporters and another wing which supports Arsene Wenger religiously? How can this club simultaneously be revered for beautiful football and have a large contingent of supporters who pine for the George Graham era? Those are but two examples and not meant to be an extensive catalog of dichotomies at Arsenal FC.

Anyway, it’s a topic I’m interested in and I appreciate everyone’s comments.

And speaking of the George Graham days, Arsenal fans who pine for a return to Graham’s 3-5-2 defense-first, long ball system, get to see one up close and personal as the much derided Sam Allardyce brings his West Ham team to North London to face Arsenal this evening at the Grove.

I’m over the critique that some teams don’t play the “right type of football.” There is no right or wrong type of football. If West Ham want to play a one dimensional game and lump the ball forward, rather than moan, it’s our job to deal with that by closing down the more skilled passers in midfield like Mark Noble, who leads all outfield players with 4.2 long passes per game.

Complaining about some ideal of football is silliness of the second highest order, only surpassed by this critique that West Ham’s long ball game are setting back the English national team. I don’t care about the English National team, I only care that Arsenal get all three points today and in order to do that Arsenal will need to gird their lines against an aerial assault the likes of which they haven’t seen since, well, since Stoke.

The other complaint most oft leveled against Sam Allardyce teams is that they are dirty. I accept that criticism. At the very least, Allardyce’s teams like to ride the line of legality: rotational fouling is the rule as are cynical fouls to stop play. It’s up to the official to control this and today’s official is Andre Marriner. Marriner usually doesn’t allow too much kicking, so I expect West Ham to be the ones feeling hard done by the referee.

The Hammers will come out strong in the first part of the game in order to get a sense of both the referee and how the Arsenal are going to play today. It is crucial that Arsenal come out strong in the first half, something that they have not done enough of this season. As you can see from the chart below, Arsenal have the worst first half performances of any of the top seven teams this season.


80% of Arsenal’s goal difference comes in the second half of games, mostly thanks to a much improved defensive record. It’s too early to say that Arsenal focus on defense more in the second halves of games, the better defensive record could just be down to teams getting an early goal and then holding on for the points, more investigation is required. But it is indisputable that Arsenal have a worse record in the first halves of games than the second and Wenger admitted as much in his pre-match press conference.

The consistency of our performances within a game is worrying. When you see us in the first half and us in the second half, it’s difficult to believe that we are exactly the same team.

Part of the problem against Chelsea was that the team is overly reliant on players returning from injury. Wenger praised Diaby saying that he “dug deep” to play against Chelsea as he was clearly not physically fit. But, Arsene also bemoaned the defensive midfield position saying that it is the position the club is most short in (there will be a second article today on that topic). Diaby has a fitness test today and if he fails, Arsenal will probably have to field Frimpong given the fact that Coquelin picked up a hamstring injury in the Chelsea match. Arsene could put Wilshere in the more defensive role, he is the most “tigerish”, and slot Ramsey in the shuttler role. But against a team like West Ham who will probably be tasked with closing down Arsenal’s midfield and in front of a crowd which is, let’s just admit it, hostile toward Ramsey I’m hesitant to name him as a starter.

While everyone moans at every stray pass from the Arsenal midfield, they will be carefully watching Momo Diame’s performance for West Ham today. John Cross has gone so far as to call it a “trial” and that he will probably earn a switch to Arsenal if he puts in a good shift. I’m not so sure.

Diame is a good dribbler and he did score against Arsenal in the first meeting of the two teams. But Diame is also one of the laziest players I’ve seen in midfield and I wonder if his label as a “tough tackler” isn’t entirely because of his first season at Wigan. I know that many will ohh and ahh whenever he dribbles past someone but I would suggest you look at his positioning and his work rate instead of the Hollywood dribbles. I think he’s the kind of player who hides, unlike Ramsey, and yes, I just set myself up for being slaughtered but I have watched him extensively this season and I’m not his biggest fan. I actually like Mark Noble better, he’s much more consistent. Now watch as Diame has the match of a lifetime.

What isn’t debatable is that Arsene will have both Ox and Podolski back from illness. I don’t expect much change from the starting offensive lineup against Chelsea, which is to say that we will probably see Theo and Giroud in the forward spots, but Podolski and Ox coming off the bench is exactly what was missing against Chelsea.

And finally, I just want to point out that Arsenal’s record at the moment is P22 W9 D7 L7 F41 A26 GD+15 PTS34. Should they win today, Arsenal will have 37 points after 23 games and a goal difference above +15. Just for your information, last season after 23 games the Arsenal record was P23 W11 D4 L8 F39 A33 GD+6 PTS37.

So, a win today means this team has improved on Arsenal of last season offensively and defensively?

Maybe, let’s get the win first. And get it with a good first half performance for once.